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Hot Prospects – Week 20

HOT PROSPECTS 1We have added a new feature to our hot prospect list and will continue this treatment in our team write-ups over the winter.  We have provided a quick tools summary on each player as well as their ETA and fantasy ceiling.  For those of you looking to simply skim the players, this should provide a quick way to view our perspective on the player.

Enjoy the list and please click on the baseball card to visit our partner amazon.com to explore additional information on each player.

HITTERS

1. Julio Rodriguez (Sea, OF, High-A)

Highest Level:  High-A ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 OF

Tools Summary: Plus power who can hit.  Classic right-field profile
Julio Rodriguez was one of the big bonus babies during 2017 J2 signing period and hit the ground running in the DSL in 2018.  He showed a mature approach and an impressive ability to control the strike zone.  Throw-in plus bat speed and average foot speed and it looked like he might be a fast mover.  The Mariners aggressively assigned him to begin the 2019 season in West Virginia of the Sally League where he posted a .857 OPS as one of the youngest players in the league.  Last week, they promoted him to High-A where he’s been five for seven with a home run in his first three games.

Rodriguez has star potential.  The mature approach he showed in the DSL has remained as he moved state-side.  While he struck out 22% of the time this year, you must put that in context based on his age.  I had a chance to scout him earlier this year and he’s selective and doesn’t expand the strike zone.  Also, the bat speed is significant, and he will develop power.  In fact, I think it could be 30 plus home run power.  While he’s currently an average runner, he’s a big kid and as he puts on weight, I don’t think he will be a big stolen base threat.

If you add it all up, the ceiling is an all-star with a .280/.360/.550 slash line possible with 30 plus home runs.  Throw-in a plus defender with a cannon for an arm, the only thing he is missing is speed.  I’m all in and clearly, so are the Mariners.  I expect him to split time between High and Double-A next season with a chance to see the Majors as a 20-year-old in 2021.

2. Jeren Kendall (LAD, OF, High-A)

Highest Level:  High-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 30 OF with extreme risk

Tools Summary: Speed and power but a 36% strikeout rate is holding him back

Drafted in the first round of the 2017 MLB Draft, the Dodgers had Jaren Kendall repeat High-A this season and the results were strikingly similar.  There is double-plus speed, solid power and he is getting his walks.  However, a 32% strikeout rate in 2018 followed by a 36% strikeout rate in 2019 will just not work.  However, when he’s hot like he has been recently, he’s easy to dream on.  In August, he’s hitting .362 with five home runs.  Over the past week, he’s hitting .476.

The Dodgers have been working with his swing as it gets long and has too many holes.  I’ve heard they are happy with what he is doing, but the results are not backing it up.  Things will just get tougher as he moves into Double-A next season (I’m assuming that’s where he will go).  However, if it’s another 30% strikeout rate, he might not move any further, particularly with the Dodgers.

I do hold out hope that the Dodgers know how to develop players and therefore, I have not given up the dream of a potential 20-20 performer on my fantasy team.  But, we need to see some positive results on the swing changes that have been made.

3. Jeremiah Jackson (LAA, SS/2B, Short-Season)

Highest Level:  Short-Season ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 SS

Tools Summary: Athletic middle infielder that is cranking out home runs but striking out a ton

In 56 games in the Pioneer League, Jeremiah Jackson has hit 21 home runs.  While he hasn’t lapped the field, he’s getting close as the second-most home runs hit is 13.  The problem is that the big power is coming with a 31% strikeout rate and unless it’s Joey Gallo power (which it’s not), it’s a problem.

Jackson doesn’t turn 20 until next March and still has time to resolve his tendency to swing and miss.  He’s athletic with great bat speed but the swing is “rare back and swing the pole”.  He needs to get shorter to the ball and tighten up the swing, which was more his profile when he was drafted.  He was never projected to be a 40 home run threat.  Perhaps things have changed, or perhaps the Angels need to have him refocus his tools.

Regardless, I’m still very intrigued as the tools are indeed exciting.

4. Travis Swaggerty (Pit, OF, High-A)

Highest Level:  High-A ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 40 OF

Tools Summary: Double-plus speed with a little pop.  He needs to reduce his strikeouts to reach his potential

I was very high on Travis Swaggerty entering the draft but swallowed hard when the Pirates drafted him.  Would the Pirates develop him properly or would he become 2024’s version of Austin Meadow – a kid with a ton of upside that spent too long in the minors just to become an all-star for another organization?  However, the Pirates changed their organizational approach to hitting over the winter and it seems to be working.  Positional players are performing better, including Swaggerty.

In 112 games in High-A (yes, High-A for 2018 draftee!!), Swaggerty is hitting .269 with nine home runs and 21 stolen bases.  He’s striking out 22.5% of the time and walking 10% of the time.  While the strikeout rate is a little high, he is controlling the strike zone enough for him to get to his secondary tools.  His secondary tools are highlighted by his double-plus speed with enough power to pop double-digit home runs annually.

If it all comes together, I think he’s a better version of Austin Meadow – a top-of-the-lineup threat with 30 stolen bases and 10 to 12 home runs.  However, he needs to continue to work on reducing his strikeout rate to make this a reality.

5. JJ Bleday (Mia, OF, High-A)

Highest Level:  High-A ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 50 OF

Tools Summary: Multi-part swing is concerning but he’s a high pick and we are treating as such

JJ Bleday was taken as the fourth overall pick in last June’s draft and his piggy bank is now $6.6 million dollars heavier.  He played college at Vanderbilt and posted great numbers hitting .323 with a .556 SLG in three years.  He got a late start to his professional career but based on the success he had in college; the Marlins assigned him to High-A.  He initially struggled and really hasn’t got hot until recently.  In the last week, he’s 9 for 25 with two home runs.

I’ve gotten a variety of opinions about Bleday (I haven’t seen him yet).  Some believe he’ll hit with power and others think his swing needs to be simplified for him to find success.  In looking at video, I’m leaning to the latter.  His swing is not short to the ball with a lot of moving parts. He starts high, lowers his bat before a very large load and swing.  With this approach, there could be a lot of holes that pitchers will expose.  It does look like he’ll have average to above-average power, but speed will not be part of the equation.

I’m not sure with Bleday.  He didn’t make our mid-season Top 100 list and at this point, I’m not inclined to put him there yet.  I’m putting his ceiling as a Top 50 outfielder based mostly on the investment the Marlins made.

6. Adley Rutschman (Bal, C, Short-Season)

Highest Level:  Short-Season ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top three catcher

Tools Summary: Plus hit tool and power.  Elite catching skills.

Being selected 1:1 in a draft brings riches but also a ton of expectations.  What are the riches?  $8.1 million dollars.  What are the expectations?  Joe Mauer (when he was a catcher)/Buster Posey type of career.

He got off to a slow start and only hit .230 over his first three weeks and it was amazing how the naysayers came out on my Twitter feed.  But, he got hot and is now hitting .325 in the New York Penn League with 16 strikeouts and 14 walks in 20 games.  Of course, the naysayers are still out saying he should be in High-A or Double-A if he’s that good.  Sigh.

I’m a big fan of Rutschman and believe he will be an elite player at a scarce fantasy position.  He can hit with plus power and could put up a .280/.370/.550 slash line with 20 to 25 home runs.  Sure, his runs and RBIs will be muted a little because he won’t play in 150 games, but if he hits as much as I think he will, the Orioles will find a way to get him more at-bats and with that, the counting stats will increase.

Defensively, he’s a plus catcher and should make the Orioles a better club.  Sure, for fantasy owners…who cares.  But I contend with all the platoon situations occurring in the game now, having a player locked into a position is a good thing.  Plus, I play exclusively in two-catcher leagues and I’m convinced in looking at the math that having a plus player at each catcher slot gives you a huge advantage.  Net-net, don’t back away from Rutschman because he’s a catcher in your upcoming Dynasty League drafts.  Take him with confidence.  I know I will.

7. Peyton Burdick (Mia, OF, Low-A)

Highest Level:  Low-A ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 60 OF

Tools Summary: Double-plus power and showing the ability to hit

Drafted in the third round in last June’s draft, Peyton Burdick has gotten off to a fast start to his professional career.  After a quick stopover in the New York Penn League, he spent most of his time in Clinton in the Midwest League where he hit .316 with eight home runs and three stolen bases.  In August, he’s hit .364 with four home runs.  He has been banged up over the past few days but should be back shortly.

Burdick carrying tool is his double-plus power but as opposed to a lot of potential power hitters, the swing isn’t long, and he also shows some plate patience.  He can expand the strike zone but if performance in Low-A is any indication, a 20% strikeout rate, and a 10% walk rate should allow him to get to his power.   If it all comes together, the ceiling is a .260/.340/.550 player with 25 to 30 home runs and a handful of stolen bases.  While Max Kepler has blown up for more power than that this year, I think that’s a reasonable comp.

8. Victor Mesa Jr. (Mia, OF, Rookie)

Highest Level:  Rookie ETA: 2023-24 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 75 OF

Tools Summary: Average tools but showing the ability to hit

While the spotlight has been on Victor Victor Mesa, his brother Victor Mesa Jr. has been holding his own in his first taste of professional ball.  In 43 games in the GCL, he slashed .289/.366/.410 with a home run and seven stolen bases.  While his brother has more tools, Victor Mesa Jr. is quickly showing that he might have the hit-tool to be a major leaguer as well.

Mesa Jr. doesn’t have a true carrying tool, but instead has a lot of average to above-average tools.  He’s a good runner who should be able to steal double-digit stolen bases.  His power is average at best but still should be able to post a .400 SLG with a handful of home runs.  The encouraging tool is his hit tool as he appears to have an approach with a good understanding of the strike zone.  If it all comes together, he could be a full-time regular in the outfield, although he doesn’t have the power for a corner, and he might not have the chops to play center.  That usually means, he’ll be a fourth or fifth outfielder.

9. Noelvi Marte (Sea, SS, DSL)

Highest Level:  DSL ETA: 2023-24 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 10 SS with extreme risk

Tools Summary: Toolsy middle infielder who is showing the ability to hit

Noelvi Marte graduates from our Hidden Five to the big list as he continues to impress in the DSL.  He slumped in July but is hitting .400 in 15 games in August with three home runs and five home stolen bases.

There’s a lot to get excited about with Marte as he has plus speed with excellent bat speed and a chance to hit for above-average future power.  At 17-years-old and still playing in the Dominican Summer League, it’s hard to get a great read on his hitting ability, but he’s kept his strikeouts under control (19% K/9) while also getting his walks (10% BB/9).  He’s currently playing shortstop and should be able to stay at the position given his athleticism, but if not, a move to second should work as well.

10. Alejandro Kirk (Tor, C, High-A)

Highest Level:  High-A ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 20 Catcher

Tools Summary: Undersized catcher with a solid hit

At 5-foot-9 and 220 pounds, Alejandro Kirk is short and er…has a thick lower half.  He’s always shown the ability to make excellent contact with plenty of walks.  In fact, over his three professional seasons, he’s walked more than he’s struck out.  That continues to be the case in 66 games in the Florida State League.  He’s hitting .296 with an impressive .398 OBP.  He also has shown some power with 23 doubles but has only left the yard four times.

Finding catchers that he can hit like Kirk is hard.  With his ability to control the strike zone, he could profile as a .300 hitter or close to that throughout his career.  His swing though is not geared for power as it’s more contact-oriented but once he starts using the Major League ball, he could hit 10 plus home runs.  While I’ve not seen him play, I don’t get good reports about his ability to catch.  The arm is solid but his ability to be nimble behind the plate has been questioned.  Given his body type, I’m not surprised.  If you’re thinking Willians Astudillo, well, I am as well.

PITCHERS

1. Logan Gilbert (Sea, RHP, Double-A)

Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 SP

Tools Summary: Big kid who has improved in nearly every start this season

Logan Gilbert is a back-to-back member of our list as he continues to shove-it in Double-A.  Three days ago, he pitched five shutout innings giving up two hits and striking out eight.  He continues to impress and has lowered his ERA in Double-A to an impressive 2.50 in seven starts.

2. Luis Garcia (Hou, RHP, Double-A)

Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling:  Back of the rotation starter or bullpen arm

Tools Summary: Good arm but doesn’t always throw strikes

The Astros continue to find and develop good arms that can one day help their major league team.  Sure, Rogelio Armenteros, Jose Urquidy, Framber Valdez, et. al have had their moments, none of them have provided consistent help for the Astros.

Luis Garcia might soon be the next pitcher in line to help the club.  Will he catch on?  Probably not, but he has a good arm and is showing he can miss plenty of bats.

Garcia can run his fastball up to the mid ’90s with a quality curveball that is his primary out pitch.  He lacks a feel for a change-up which will likely point to a bullpen role once he finds his way to the big leagues.  Complicating matters is he doesn’t always throw strikes, but he’s been able to keep the ball in the park and hitters just don’t pick up the ball well.  The ceiling is likely a bullpen arm, but at some point, one of these young pitchers is going to hit and why not Garcia?

3. Anthony Kay (Tor, LHP, Triple-A)

Highest Level:  Triple-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 SP

Tools Summary: Premium stuff from the left-side.  Still working on control and command

As the Mets strive to make it back to the playoffs, they appear to be moving anything not nailed down in the minors.  Their latest movable pieces included Anthony Kay.  The good news if you are a Mets fan is, he doesn’t have the kind of upside that Jared Kelenic did, but he’s nonetheless, pretty darn good.

Kay has premium stuff from the left side which includes a fastball that will touch 96 to 97 while sitting 93 to 95.  His curveball is his best offering and over time, it could be a knockout pitch as it has great depth and spin.  His change-up is also a quality offering and if you are keeping track, that’s three potential plus pitches in his arsenal.  What he can’t do yet is throw consistent strikes.  Over his professional career, he’s posted a 3.62 BB/9 rate.

While I don’t see Kay having top of the rotation potential, he could slide in nicely behind Nate Pearson in the Blue Jays rotation at some point in 2020.  I don’t think he has an overall number two ceiling, but I’ll take him as a number three.

4. Brady Singer (KC, RHP, Double-A)

Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 60 SP or closer

Tools Summary: Good stuff but a delivery that points to a bullpen role

The Royals 2018 first-round pick (pick 18) is moving quickly through the minors.  He split his time between High and Double-A posting a 3.01 ERA striking out over eight per nine while walking less than three per nine.  He was particularly good in an outing last week when he pitched seven shutout innings striking out nine and walking one.

Singer is primarily a two-pitch pitcher with a solid-average fastball that he pairs with plus slider with tight rotation.  He still doesn’t yet have a good feel for his change-up.

My biggest concern with Singer continues to be his delivery.  It’s far from smooth but more concerning, is he drops his arm down and doesn’t get great extension on his delivery.  Translation…he short arms the ball from a lower delivery point.  While that delivery will likely give right-handed batters fits, he’ll be more prone for injuries and you just don’t see a ton of starting pitchers with that delivery.

If Singer can remain a starter, I see him as a four.  However, I do think he eventually finds his way to the bullpen where he could excel into a high-leveraged reliever.

5. Grayson Rodriguez (Bal, RHP, Low-A)

Highest Level:  Low-A ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 50 SP

Tools Summary: Good size and plus fastball but secondary pitches need work as does delivery

Grayson Rodriguez, the Orioles number one overall pick in 2018 (pick 11) has spent the entire season in the Sally League and has had little trouble.  In 18 starts, he’s pitched to a 2.59 ERA striking out 12.6 per nine while walking 3.5 per nine.  Ok, you can say that the control is not there yet, but the Orioles appear to be handling Rodriguez very carefully.

At 6-foot-5, Rodriguez has the size that teams are looking for in a starter.  He’s got a quality fastball that sits 93 to 94 MPH, but as we saw in the Futures Game, he can run it up to 96 we needed.  His breaking pitch is more of a slurve and when I saw him earlier this year, his change-up needed a lot of work.

Ultimately, I see his ceiling as number four, perhaps a number three starter.  That might be lower than others, but I’ve had a chance to see him live.  In fact, the outing in which I scouted was his worse of the season.  I just don’t see front-of-the-rotation stuff.  Plus, the delivery needs a lot of cleanup.  Perhaps it’s for these reasons that the Orioles have kept him in Low-A.

He makes our list after pitching eight shutout innings over two outings striking out 16 and walking two.

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Week 21 Waiver Wire Pickups

Waiver WireWhile the season might be winding down, the waiver wire this week if full of great names. As guys are getting hurt and being shut down for the season, owners need to act fast. We hope we’ve presented some great names that can help you teams.

Enjoy the list and please click on the baseball card to visit our partner amazon.com to explore additional information on each player.

Nick Anderson, RP, TAM (CBS: 13% owned)

Anderson was looking to be the favorite to gain the closer role in Miami until being dealt to the Rays at the trade deadline. Since arriving in Tampa Bay, he’s made seven appearances, all one-inning stints, and has allowed one hit, no walks and struck out 17. That is not a typo, folks! Kevin Cash does have a history of rolling with the hot-hand, so it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for Anderson to work his way into the mix for saves.

Randy Arozarena, OF, STL (CBS: 5% owned)

Ten homers, 16 stolen bases, and a great .435 OBP will get you a promotion to the big league club. Does it parlay itself into a regular job? The verdict is still out, but until the return of Jose Martinez at the end of the month, Arozarena will get every opportunity to prove he deserves to be penciled into that everyday lineup in September.

Luis Arraez, SS/2B/3B/OF, MIN (CBS: 35% owned)

The kid can flat out hit. Ask Jonathan Schoop, who is now solidly buried on the bench. The question will be can he provide even moderate power or speed numbers to complement that outstanding hit tool. Short-term, he’ll score a ton of runs and provide outstanding BA/OBP numbers in that high powered Twins offense. We’ll worry about the long-term in the off-season.

Dylan Carlson, OF, STL (CBS: 6% owned)

When you have made Rich Wilson’s “Hot Prospect” report not once, but twice this year, there is a reason and a very good one at that. The soon-to-be 21-year-old has amassed a 21 homer, 18 stolen bases, .367 OBP season and has just recently been promoted to Triple-A. It’s worth a quick look to see if he’s owned in your Dynasty/Keeper League. If not, change that right smartly!

Emmanuel Clase, RP, TEX (CBS: 1% owned)

Here’s a player that should have your attention in deep keeper formats. The 21-year-old Clase skipped Triple-A, making the move straight from Double-A Frisco to the Rangers bullpen. He posted a 3.35 ERA at Double-A with an attention getting 39/8 K/BB. He also was 11-of-13 closing out games while allowing only one homer. The only thing standing between Clase and the setup role in 2020 is the $2.5 mill option the Rangers have on Shawn Kelley.

Tony Gonsolin, SP, LAD (CBS: 11% owned)

We mentioned Gonsolin last week and lo and behold after the very successful one-and-done, he’s getting the call today to start against the Braves. Dustin May has been moved into the bullpen. Julio Urias is currently serving a suspension for the next 15 games. If you ignored our recommendations last week, don’t make it two weeks in a row.

Felix Hernandez, SP, SEA (CBS: 6% owned)

Fernandez has been out since the beginning of May, dealing with shoulder issues. He’s looking at a return this coming Saturday against the Jays, a favorable matchup. Sometimes I find it hard to believe that “King Felix” is only 33 years-old.

Daniel Hudson, RP, WAS (CBS: 4% owned)

I was all set to mention Sean Doolittle’s recent struggles when it was announced this morning that the Gnats have placed him on the 10-day IL with right knee tendinitis. There is no shortage of options, but that trade with the Jays for Daniel Hudson is looking to be a very good one right about now. Hunter Strickland, the ageless wonder Fernando Rodney, and recently signed Greg Holland all have the potential to be options, but for now, we’ll stick with Hudson as “Plan A”.

Corban Joseph, 1B, OAK (CBS: unowned)

It looks like Jurickson Profar’s days of being an everyday player in 2019 have ground to a halt. The A’s have turned second base over to the 30-year-old journeyman Joseph. He hit 13 homers with an off-the-charts .371 BA at Triple-A Las Vegas, but it is Vegas so take those results with the usual grain of salt. Joseph will occupy the good side of a platoon, making him worth a look in AL-only and deep Mixed Leagues.

Francisco Mejia, C, SD (CBS: 40% owned)

Since the beginning of August, Mejia has gone 19-for-36 with a pair of homers and four RBI. He has also posted a rather solid 1.358 OPS. He’s on a tear and looking to establish his #1 status behind the dish for the Padres moving into 2020.

Ivan Nova, SP, CWS (CBS: 37% owned)

I don’t know how, but Ivan Nova has all of a sudden become very Fantasy relevant. In his past five starts, he’s allowed a total of two earned runs. He has tossed two complete games during his current hot streak and lowered his ERA from 5.86 to 4.51. At some point, Nova will come down to earth, but it doesn’t appear to be any time soon.

Dillon Peters, SP, LAA (CBS: 29% owned)

The former Marlin has now reeled off three consecutive quality starts in which he has struck out 19 over 19 2/3 IP. He has also allowed but a scant two free passes. Peters has found the West coast to his liking.

Brett Phillips, OF, KC (CBS: 2% owned)

Phillips has demonstrated that he can hit for power and steal bases, but the hit tool has never fully developed and he still strikes out a ton. On a positive note, the Royals have DFA’d speedster Billy Hamilton, so they are prepared to give Phillips a good look and plenty of at-bats as we head into September.

Kyle Seager, 3B, SEA (CBS: 37% owned)

Seager has turned a very disappointing season around in a hurry. Six homers, nope he just smacked another one, making it seven long balls since the calendar flipped over into August. If you’re looking for a hot corner-infielder, he’s your guy!

Logan Webb, SP, SF (CBS: 7% owned)

The 22-year-old Webb started his 2019 in Rookie Ball, and after climbing through four levels and with just one start at Triple-A under his belt, made his MLB debut Saturday. It was a success, as he limited the DBacks to one-earned run over five innings while striking out seven in gaining his first MLB victory. He’s young and relatively unproven, but the upside trumps the risk at this juncture of the season.

Mike Yastrzemski, OF, SF (CBS: 39% owned)

We mentioned “Yaz” back in Week 17 as he was starting to heat up. He has moved it up a notch and is currently on fire. He has gone 16-for-55 in August, with seven of those 16 hits leaving the yard, including a three-homer day last week against the DBacks. It might be time to join the 39% of players that have found a home for him on their roster.

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An early peek at 2020 Top Pitchers

Digging DeepWith the MLB trade deadline in our rearview mirror, and most league’s trade deadlines either passed or near, we should start thinking about next year and beyond – especially if we need to make keeper decisions. Using projections, 2019 performance, and Stat Cast data, we’ve attempted to list the top 30 Starting Pitchers for 2020. Note that this is a redraft list only – only their expected performance for 2020 is considered.

Enjoy the list and please click on the baseball card to visit our partner amazon.com to explore additional information on each player.

1. Max Scherzer

What can I say? Another dominant season for Max. The only caveat is this back issue that keeps flaring up. Even if I knock him down to 180 IP, he is still #1.

2. Gerrit Cole

The former #1 draft pick is dominating again for the Astros. The problem is he might not be slinging in Houston in 2020 (which would ding his Wins a bit). I assume that the stuff he learned in Houston about how to pitch will be mostly retained. Take him with confidence.

3. Justin Verlander

The ageless one just rolls on. Another great season (the player providing the most value in 2019 so far). The only hiccup is that he’s given up a lot of home runs. He’s locked up in Houston so you can count on the wins.

4. Jacob DeGrom

2018’s Cy Young winner quietly is putting up another great season with a sub 3 ERA and FIP and a top 6 xwOBA (SPs with minimum 100 PAs). As solid as they come.

5. Chris Sale

Perhaps the first divisive ranking – the inconsistent Red Sox ‘ace’ has put up a 4.40 ERA and a 6-11 record. Well, he actually has put up a 1.07 WHIP and his 3.40 FIP, 3.00 SIERA, and K-BB% are all better than Verlander’s. What’s the issue? Well, not sure to be honest. He has a 66.7% LOB% (which has been shown to have zero correlation from year to year) whereas league average is around 75%. So, let’s see…2 out of 3 base runners score (whereas it should be more like 3 out of 4)…and he averages 7 baserunners every 7 innings…that ERA of 4.40 should be “more like” 3.87. Maybe he’s hiding some sort of injury – but I would bet not, and buy him here.

6. Walker Buehler

The young Dodger starter will probably still defer the title of Los Angeles’ #1 starter in the playoffs to Kershaw again this year – but don’t be surprised if next year he owns that distinction. With the Dodgers, you never know what they’ll be doing with their starters, but so far this year he has a 1.00 WHIP, 3.08 ERA (FIP and SIERA pretty much the same) and a K-BB% of 24.9%. If there’s a knock on him, it’s that his arsenal indicators are not as dominant as last year (e.g. his SwStrk% is a pedestrian 12.3%) but, that’s really quibbling.

7. Blake Snell

From the top 5 we had a big drop and I’ve got last year’s AL Cy Young winner solidly in this second tier. Just like with Sale, his ERA is an unexpected 4.28, but the FIP and SIERA are both around 3.50. His xwOBA is top 5 and his ‘arsenal’ indicators (SwStrk%, O-Sw%, and Z-Con%) have all been elite this year). Because of the arm injury, I’m estimating 170 IP or so for 2020 (which still might be high) and even then, he’s #7.

8. Shane Bieber

Is he now the Cleveland ace? With Bauer being shipped within-State, Carrasco and Kluber fighting various health issues, and Civale and Plesac not quite ready for primetime, the answer seems to be yes. His calling card is his command (which manifests as low walks) but this year he’s also throwing it past hitters. xwOBA isn’t as convinced (as he’s not as dominant as the pitcher’s above him in this list) but if you’re limiting free passes, you’re putting yourself in a good position to succeed. All the projection systems see him running a 3.50 ERA for the rest of the season with a ~10 K9. That’s easily a top 10 SP in this environment. The AL Central is also a good division to pitch in.

9. Mike Clevinger

Wait, it’s Clevinger who is the Cleveland ace, isn’t it? He’s definitely putting in a good case. He started off 2019 like gangbusters but got felled by a back injury. He’s come back and despite some early hiccups, his fastball velocity is 97 mph (compared to 95 mph in 2018) and has often looked dominant (with an insane 12.7 K9). He’s only one year removed from a 200 IP season, so I’m not particularly concerned that he can’t handle a full season workload, recent injuries notwithstanding. Top 10 easily.

10. Stephen Strasburg

When did Strasburg become 31 years old? It seems like we’ve been waiting forever for him to finally put together his monster year. The bad news is that those days may be in the rearview mirror. The good news is that he’s actually been excellent for a long time and should easily reach 200 IP again (he threw 215 IP in 2014). His K9 is 10.5, his BB9 is 2.3, and his ERA/FIP/SIERA are all around 3.50. The Nationals should still be solid in 2020 (even though they may lose Rendon). Because of the injury risk, he probably has a lower floor than Bieber, but I think that assuming he gets 180 IP in 2020, he is comfortably above the next group of Starting Pitchers.

11. Patrick Corbin

Strasburg’s Washington rotation-mate comes in next. His 2019 season has been a little more uneven than last year’s breakout campaign, but he’s still been excellent so far. His xwOBA is a bit worse than we’d like, and his ‘arsenal’ skills are a bit middling, but he’s solid. If you took him a bit lower, I wouldn’t be offended…

12. Charlie Morton

The ageless Charlie Morton has not missed a beat with the Rays this year, actually improving his K9 and BB9 (and ERA) in the tougher American League East. He should probably hit 190-200 IP (plus playoffs??) too. With his advanced age – and only recent success (though it’s actually been 3 years now) – there could be a cliff-dive. I just don’t think it’ll be next year.

13. Luis Castillo

The Reds made some big moves at the trade deadline and have put together an interesting staff for 2020 – headed up by Castillo (and a couple other names you’ll see a little further down the list). The changeup is still elite (with a ~30% SwStrk%) but where he took the big step forward this year was against lefties (holding them to a 0.300 wOBA, compared to a 0.357 last year). Because of his 2.69 ERA (and youth), expect him to go earlier than here next year. Look at the 3.96 SIERA and feel a bit better about letting him go to your more aggressive redraft league-mates.

14. Jack Flaherty

The young Cardinal starter was taken as a borderline ace this year and he disappointed…until now where his last two months’ performance when he’s redeemed his owners. He’s brought his season statistics up to 1.10 WHIP, and 3.52 ERA (though with a FIP/SIERA of 3.90). I’m possibly being a bit conservative with him here at 14 – and wouldn’t be surprised at all if takes the next step – but even at this ranking, he’s a #1 in a 15 team league.

15. Clayton Kershaw

Coming into 2019, the industry struggled on how to value Kershaw. The HOF’er had been battling some nagging injuries and had a three year average of only 160 IP. Well, this year, the stuff has taken a marginal step back – but he’s going to (probably) get to 180-190 IP plus playoffs and his pitchability has led to face value success. Perhaps we were premature. Well, to be honest, there are some areas of concern: he is 31 years old, his K9 is below his career average (as expected) and his SIERA is over a full point higher than his ERA. Not to mention, a deep playoff run by the Dodgers (which is probably going to happen) will put more wear and tear on his arm than most owners would probably like. Let’s hope he finally gets his ring – and take him at #15 next year.

16. Noah Syndergaard

Thor has had a strange 2019. His agent became his General Manager…and he was the subject of intense trade rumors. Well, he stayed put and despite a terrible season, he’s actually been…okay?? He has a WHIP of 1.21, a FIP of 3.49 (a better predictor of future ERA than ERA is), and an xwOBA in the top 10. I don’t know…does this rank seem low or high?

17. Chris Paddack

The sheriff has exceeded the already very high expectations put on him by the projection systems. Before the season, they aggressively projected a 1.15 WHIP with a 3.48 ERA (with a 9.4 K9) and this year he has thrown a 0.93 WHIP with a 3.26 ERA with a 9.4 K9. Pretty spot on. He will be capped this year (so he will finish with only about 140 IP) but he should be unleashed next year. One of my favorites.

18. Trevor Bauer

Baseball’s smartest pitcher has been smarting owner’s stat-sheets in 2019. Moving from the AL to the NL (but in a smaller park) is probably a wash so we don’t need to adjust expectations there too much. But he has taken a huge step back by almost every statistical measure as he has below average WHIP, ERA/FIP/SIERA, xwOBA, and arsenal metrics. What he does do is rack up the innings (and strikeouts) and tantalize us with his ceiling. Until then, the projections have him higher than the 2019 data would suggest (even though he’s really only had one good year out of six). What that might mean is that owners coming in to 2020 drafts see the 2019 numbers and get scared off. I value him here at #18 but he might fall lower than this.

19. Carlos Carrasco

We are all hoping that Cookie recovers from his leukemia diagnosis and return to the mound. All signs point that way, but we don’t know how effective he will be when he does. That makes him a tough guy to evaluate. The projection systems still love him but his 2019 has not been solid at all (ERA of 4.98). On the other hand, his SIERA is 3.49 and his K-BB% is 24.7%…but his xwOBA in the 65 innings he’s thrown so far has been terrible. Just like with some other pitchers further down the list, his outcomes are probably binary: either he’s a top 10 pitcher or you might end up having wasted a pick.

20. Corey Kluber

Another tough one to rank. He had a fluky injury (getting hit by a batted ball) but before being felled, he wasn’t exactly tearing it up this year. The projections still do not predict a significant decline despite being 33 years old. Never count out the Klubot – but by putting him here at #20, it kind of feels like I am.

21. Luis Severino

Shoulder issues aren’t a good thing to have – but the 25 year old Yankee threw 190+ IP the last two seasons (with a 10+ K9). That’s pretty undeniable. Because of the nature of the injury (and the memory that he tailed off considerably at the end of last year), I’ve dinged him pretty substantially (using 140 IP as his predicted inning workload for 2020). I too think that his 2020 outcomes will be binary: either he’ll be a top 10 pitcher or it’ll be a largely lost season. Let’s split the difference.

22. Aaron Nola

The Phillies ace has righted the ship a bit, but his arsenal metrics are weak. I can easily see this ranking looking terrible next year – for either reason. Lists are hard.

23. Tyler Glasnow

He had the beginnings of a 2019 breakout (continuing his 2018 Tampa Bay rebirth) by drastically reducing his walk rate (over 48 innings) to a 1.68 BB9 and the best xwOBA of any starting pitcher with minimum 100 PAs. But then, as you know, he got an arm injury (and still hasn’t come back). I think he will (knock on wood) be back in 2019 – but am kind of hoping he just gets shutdown to be ready for 2020. Trying to balance his considerable upside (breakout, pedigree, youth) with injury risk (and poor performance history when a Pirate), he lands here at #23.

24. James Paxton

The book on Paxton was that he is elite if he can stay healthy. Well, in 2019 so far he has been on pace for his normal (for him) 150 IP – but he hasn’t met expectations. His ERA and FIP are all north of 4.00, his WHIP is an unsightly 1.41, and his xwOBA is below average. Well, he should continue to get Wins on a strong Yankee team and the Ks and I’m counting on the bounceback. But maybe Big Maple just wasn’t made for the Big Apple.

25. Shohei Ohtani

The first thing I have to say is that this ranking is based only on starting pitcher performance. Because (in most leagues), he also brings tremendous value as a hitter, Ohtani should (and will be) be drafted ahead of a lot of the pitchers on this list. Assuming he picks up right where he left off in 2018, look for about 130 innings of 1.20 WHIP, 3.60 ERA and an 11 K9. Fun to watch this guy.

26. Yu Darvish

Ohtani’s fellow countryman has had a rebirth in the Windy City in the last 2 months. Somehow he harnessed his control which had vastly eluded him in the first half. He still has the stuff and the projection systems believe.

27. Lance Lynn

Lynn has his best K9, BB9 and FIP of his career…at the age of 32. He’s sustained it all year – which makes the sample size approach “meaningful”. I expect a lot of owners to draft him higher than this based on 2019 numbers – but I feel really weird about putting him this high. I won’t be owning him.

28. Matthew Boyd

The Tiger came out of nowhere and has kept it up all year…so much so that I have him just inside the top 30. The projection systems haven’t bought in yet (mostly because of the previous years of middling performance) but for all of 2019, his WHIP is still below 1.20 with a SIERA of 3.44. The ERA is above 4.00 (more a testament to the porous Tiger defense than anything) but the K-BB% of 25.5% is the 8th best among pitchers on this list. I believe it will continue into 2020 – and there are still whispers he will be dealt in the offseason, and Houston was linked earlier. That would be nice.

29. Hyun-Jin Ryu

He’s having an amazing year – but who knows where he’ll be pitching in 2020. Plus, how much of his success has been based on the Dodger doctors being able to diagnose phantom injuries to keep him fresh? His per-inning output is phenomenal – when he pitches… It’s tough to rank a feast-or-famine pitcher (which has been one of the through-lines of this piece). I think he is still a #2 so I’m ok with this rank.

30. German Marquez

Despite Coors, he is still a top 30 pitcher. He didn’t take it to the next level this year but he is only 24 years old. His LOB% has shown he is unlucky…but his xwOBA suggests he’s lucky. I still believe.

31. Sonny Gray

The Vanderbilt alumnus has had a rebirth of sorts in Cincinnati, posting a stellar WHIP of 1.13, an ERA of 3.10, and the highest K rate of his career. The peripherals don’t paint as rosy a picture however, as his SIERA is just under 4 and his whiff metrics are some of the worst of any pitcher on this list. He used to throw 200 innings back in Oakland but hasn’t reached 165 since 2015. This year he looks to hit about 175. In this environment, that’s pretty good.

The rest:

32. Brandon Woodruff

33. Andrew Heaney

34. Robbie Ray

The WHIP isn’t great but the 240 Ks help ease the pain.

35. Madison Bumgarner

36. Dinelson Lamet

37. Zack Wheeler

38. Kenta Maaeda

39. Brendan McKay

40. David Price

Surprises (read, controversies): Mike Soroka, Zack Greinke, Lucas Giolito, and Jose Berrios didn’t make this list. It definitely is puzzling. The model for the ranking weights projections for 2020 (with playing time tweaks) with StatCast data (and some other peripherals) and they don’t grade out well.

For Soroka, his projections have not fully bought into this level of performance yet. One thing is that because FIP is weighted higher than ERA in this, pitchability guys (like Hendricks or Soroka…or Greinke) who don’t rack up the strikeouts get dinged. In aggregate, this is probably correct – but as a result, Soroka is probably too low.

Greinke is not loved by the projections systems either for similar reasons. He doesn’t get that many strikeouts and his peripherals are not dominant. This is probably a weakness of the model.

Giolito is low because he’s had multiple years of terrible performance and one (the most recent) year of great performance. (Weighted) historical performance is a better indicator of future performance than recent performance. But historical performance is blind to real substantive changes. This could be a miss too, especially considering his age and pedigree – but I’ll probably not own him in a redraft.

Jose Berrios is another one like Greinke. His WHIP and ERA look great on the face – but the other peripherals are not strong compared to the others on the list. He is walking a tightrope. He’s still so young so he’s a very valuable asset in dynasties – but I’m nervous (and have been all year).

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Hot Prospects – Week 19

HOT PROSPECTS 1

We were a little late getting our Hot Prospects List out this week, but as the saying goes – “Better late than never.”

Enjoy the list and please click on the baseball card to visit our partner amazon.com to explore additional information on each player.

HITTERS

1. Daulton Varsho (Ari, C, Double-A)

Daulton Varsho continues to fly under the radar in Dynasty Leagues despite showing power, speed and the ability to control the strike zone.  Perhaps it’s because he’s a catcher and owners just ignore catchers.  But, with 19 stolen bases in 2018 and already another 17 in 2019, he has a chance to be a Top five fantasy catcher in the game.

While the offensive profile of Varsho is exciting, I had a chance to see him catch in the AFL in 2018, and he’s only an average catcher at-best.  There was talk of moving him to second or even third, but that has yet to happen.  Regardless, I think the bat will play and for fantasy owners, if he can stay behind the plate, it’s going to be a huge bonanza in value.

While he’s played well all year in Double-A, he’s hitting .433 with a .900 SLG in eight games in August.

2. Kyle Tucker (Hou, OF, Triple-A)

How the Astros were able to acquire Zack Greinke and not have to give up Kyle Tucker was impressive.  No disrespect to the players the Diamondbacks got, but Tucker has a chance to be an impact performer at the highest level.  In fact, in almost any other organization, he would likely already be up and contributing.  However, he plays for the Astros and he’s blocked.  He’s clearly solved the level with 31 home runs, 25 stolen bases, and a .350 on-base percentage.  In August alone, he’s hit five home runs with a .417 OBP.

While Tucker has all the tools to become a star in the major leagues, I still must point out that there is a hitch in his swing.  Yes, longtime readers, I’m sure are tired of me pointing this out.  But, it does bother me.  I do not attribute this to his poor major league debut as the sample size is just too small to make any determination.  The power is real and early in his career, he’s going to steal bases.  In fact, he could be a 20/20 contributor through his mid-20’s before a trail off in speed is likely.  But that speed could be replaced by home runs as he’ll fill out and get stronger.

With the necessary caveat, Tucker has star potential.  He could easily become a top 30 pick in a Fantasy Draft.  When will that be?  I just don’t know, but I can’t see him spending a ton of time in Triple-A again next season.  What would be the point?

3. Evan White (Sea, 1B, Double-A)

After an off July, Evan White is back to hitting well as he’s slashing .320/.346/.680 in six games in August.  I’ve come full circle on White this year as he’s hitting, hitting for power and when you combine that with exceptional defense at first, I’ve become very intrigued.  I think there’s a chance for 20 to 25 home runs with a solid batting average and on-base percentage.  Perhaps the power will not be enough at first, but let’s see what he does next year when he starts using the Major League ball.

4. Francisco Alvarez (NYM, C, Rookie)

One of the sexy pickups this summer in Dynasty Leagues has been New York Mets catcher, Francisco Alvarez.  It’s been for good reason.  The 17-year-old started the year in the GCL and after posting a 1.395 OPS in seven games, the Mets moved him to the Appy League where he has continued to play well.  It should be noted that he is the youngest player in the league as well as being the only 17-year-old in the league.

There’s a lot to like about Alvarez from both an offensive and defensive perspective.  He has a very nice compact swing with excellent bat speed that he gets from great hand and forearm strength.  I like players that generate power this way as the power will look like it comes out of nowhere.  Alex Bregman has great hand and forearm strength and at 6-feet and 180 pounds, he doesn’t look like he has 35 to 40 home run power, but he does.  While I don’t think Alvarez will have that kind of power, I think he hits with a chance for 20 home runs annually.

While on the surface, Alvarez has years until he will make his debut in the Major Leagues.  However, given what he has done in 2019, he could easily start Low-A in 2020 and be in Double-A by 2022 with a chance to be a Top 100 player.  Therefore, now is the time to invest.

5. Brett Baty (NYM, 3B, Rookie)

Brett Baty made quick work of the GCL and was quickly promoted to the Appy League.  As the 12th overall pick, it made sense.  The problem is he’s hit .180 in 28 games including striking out 27% of the time.  He’s better than this and has played better in August.  I liked the pick at the time and continue to be bullish on the young third baseman.

Josh Smith (NYY, SS, Short-Season)

Drafted in the second round last June, Josh Smith has gotten off to a fast start to his professional career.  He’s hitting .404 in 14 games in the New York Penn League with two home runs and three stolen bases.  The LSU product also has walked 12 times while only striking out three times.  If it weren’t for him starting late, the Yankees likely would have already promoted him to Charleston.

Smith has always demonstrated an ability to make good contact and control the strike zone.  In his junior year at LSU, he posted a 15% strikeout rate and a 10% walk rate.  He has a compact swing but his swing lacks loft, so the power will likely be more doubles than over-the-fence.  He’s also a solid runner and should be able to 15+ bases annually.  The ceiling is a full-time regular with solid across the board skills but without a standout tool.  If you’re looking for a comp, I’m thinking Kevin Newman, the young shortstop with Pittsburgh.

6. Lewin Diaz (Mia, 1B, Double-A)

Lewin Diaz was part of the return when Sergio Romo was traded to the Twins in July.  He didn’t waste any time impressing his new team as he went on a power tear hitting five home runs in the first 10 games of August.  The power outburst wasn’t a total surprise as he hit 20 bombs across High and Double-A while with the Twins earlier in the season.

At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds (he looks heavier), Diaz is a big kid with a swing that will naturally have holes.  However, he’s always made good contact, averaging 17% throughout his minor league career.  He’s got solid power and that in combination with his ability to make solid contact gives him some intrigue for fantasy owners.  While I’m not ready to add him in most Dynasty League formats, he’s on my watch list.

7. Tristen Lutz (Mil, OF, High-A)

Tristen Lutz has put up an almost identical year to what he did in 2018.  In Low-A, he posted a .742 OPS with 16 home runs and so far in 2019, he’s put up .783 OPS with 13 home runs in the Carolina League.  His calling card continues to be his double-plus raw power but contact issues remain.  In 113 games, he’s struck out 136 times or a 29% K/9 ratio.

So, net-net, Lutz is the modern-day player.  The big raw power that is starting to translate into plus in-game power with a lot of strikeouts.  He’s not overly aggressive at the plate, so he could potentially put up a .240/.340/.500 slash line in the big leagues.  The average and on-base percentage will be affected annually by his BABIP.  Speed will be minimal, but he could steal a hand full of bases annually.

He makes our list due to hitting .381 in August with four home runs.  Unfortunately, he’s also struck out 11 times in 10 games.

8. Nick Schnell (TB, OF, Short-Season)

Nick Schnell was selected in the first round of the 2018 MLB Draft as a toolsy high-school kid that was very raw at the plate.  He didn’t get a chance to contribute much in his draft year as he was limited to 19 games due to injury.  He’s healthy now and playing very well in the Appy League where he’s slashing .292/.372/.533 with five home runs and five stolen bases.  He’s been particularly hot in August as he’s slugged .865, hitting three of his five home runs.

He has plus bat speed but his current swing lacks loft, so he’s currently more a doubles-hitter.  The concern continues to be his approach at the plate and his ability to make contact.  In 152 plate appearance, he’s posted a 30% strikeout rate and if it weren’t for a .410 BABIP, his average would have been more .230 than .290.  He’s not yet on my “own” list in Dynasty Leagues, but I am watching as I do like the combination of power and speed.

9. Josh Rojas (Ari, 2B, Majors)

Josh Rojas was the least discussed player in the deadline deal that sent Zack Greinke to the Astros.  What has Rojas done since the trade?  In eight games in Reno, he hit .514 with three home runs and a stolen base.  The Diamondbacks liked what they saw and promoted him to the Major Leagues on Monday where he made his debut on Monday night where he went 2 for 4.

So, who is Rojas and is he any good?  In short, he can hit with plus speed and a little bit of power.  Across three stops in 2019 in the Minor League, he stole 32 bases in 42 attempts with a 15% strikeout rate and a 12% walk rate.  That’s not Jose Altuveish, but it’s still pretty darn good.  He’s played all over the field this year and will likely continue that utility type role in his promotion to the big leagues.

PITCHERS

1. Joe Ryan (TB, RHP, High-A)

One of the best pitchers in 2019 has been Joe Ryan.  He started the year in Low-A and in five starts, he posted a 2.66 ERA striking out 41 in 23.2 innings.  The Rays quickly promoted him to the Florida State League where he continued to have no problems with the competition.  In 16 games, he pitched to a 1.32 ERA striking out over 12 per nine and walking just a shade over one per nine.  He might have had his best start last week when he pitched seven one-hit innings striking out 13 without walking anyone.

Ryan doesn’t have overwhelming stuff but can still run his fastball up to 96 MPH.   His curveball is already a plus offering, and it plays up because he’s able to throw it for strikes.  The change-up is not there yet but he is throwing it more and more to improve the offering.  The ceiling is a number three starter but given the improvements, he’s made this season; it could be even higher.

2. Cristian Javier (Hou, RHP, Double-A)

Signed in 2014 from the Dominican Republic, right-hander Cristian Javier is having a nice season for the Corpus Christi Hooks in the Texas League.  In 17 games, he’s pitched to 2.02 ERA striking out 13 per nine and giving up only 33 hits.  He doesn’t always know where the ball is going as he’s walked 4.6 per nine but the low hit rate suggests that batters are not picking up his pitches well.

Javier doesn’t light up the radar gun with a fastball that sits in the Low-90s, but his high spin rate provides extra life on the pitch.  The delivery also provides some funk with a fast arm action.  But the delivery also is the source of his control issues as it’s far from smooth with little semblance of a consistent release slot. But, it’s working as the hit rate tells the story.  Ultimately, I think Javier moves to the pen and that should allow his fastball to play up and provide an even better profile.

3. Kris Bubic (KC, LHP, High-A)

In an organization with surprisingly deep pitching depth, Kris Bubic continues to shine.  He started the year in the Sally League where he had no trouble.  In nine starts, he pitched to a 2.08 ERA striking out 14 per nine while walking less than three per nine.  It has been more of the same with his promotion to the Carolina League where in 13 starts, he’s pitched to a 2.62 ERA striking out 10.4 per nine while walking 2.5 per nine.  His last outing might have been his best.  On August 8th, he pitched a complete game, three-hitter, where he gave up one earned run while striking out 13 and walking one.

He has good stuff with a fastball that sits in the low-90s with a lot of downward action.  His best secondary pitch is his change-up and has proven too much for young A-ball hitters.  His third pitch is his curveball that grades out as at least average as well.  If you add it all up, he profiles as a high-end number four, perhaps a number three starter in the big leagues.  That should be plenty good enough to give him a long career and help fantasy owners alike.  Plus, with such a good change-up, he could have some early success as has been the pattern of other recent similar pitchers.

4. Matt Manning (Det, RHP, Double-A)

I continue to be very high on Matt Manning, the Detroit athletic right-hander.  This season in Double-A, he’s had no trouble with the level of competition.  In 21 starts, he’s posted a 2.57 ERA, striking out over 10 per nine while keeping his walks to a minimum (2.7 per nine).  Last week, he tossed six shutout innings, giving up four hits, striking out 10 without issuing a free pass.

While Casey Mize is the higher-rated pitcher, it’s not by much.  In fact, on our mid-season Top 100 list, Manning was only 13 spots behind Mize, checking in a number 18.  He’s got the size, premium arsenal and athleticism to pitch at the top of the rotation.

The delivery has also really taken shape.  I had a chance to scout a game in June and the extension he gets is impressive.  It reminds me of the extension that Tyler Glasnow gets and given his size, it looks like he’s on top of batters.  There’s plenty of 6’s and 7’s on the radar gun with a plus curveball and a change-up that has really improved.

He’ll likely start 2020 in Triple-A and given the injuries that Mize has endured, he could be the first one up.  Regardless, the Tigers have a great 1-2 in Mize or Manning…or vis, Versa.

5. Levi Kelly (Ari, RHP, High-A)

Drafted in the eighth round of the 2018 MLB Draft, Levi Kelly had a strong 2019 campaign.  Pitching the entire year in the Midwest League, the 6-foot-4 right-hander posted a 1.96 ERA striking out over 11.5 per nine while walking 3.3 per nine.  In his two starts in August, he’s been even better.  In 11 innings, he’s given up one earned runs, seven hits, while striking out 15 and walking four.

The Diamondbacks have managed his innings very effectively not allowing him to pitch over six innings in any one start. After April, he never gave up more than two runs in any one outing.  He’s got solid stuff across the board with a fastball that sits 92 to 94 MPH, a slider that is his primary outpitch, and a feel for a change-up.  The control is not always present and there is some effort in his delivery.  However, the Diamondbacks think he could develop into a mid-rotation starter and given his progression to-date, that seems totally reasonable.

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Week 20 Waiver Wire Pickups

Waiver WireAs we come down the backstretch, the waiver wire starts to get a little thin. But, there are still many quality players that could help your team now.

Enjoy the list and please click on the baseball card to visit our partner amazon.com to explore additional information on each player.

 

Aristides Aquino, OF, CIN (CBS: 64% owned)

When we mentioned Aquino last week, he was owned in a scant 1% of Leagues. I checked Saturday morning and he was owned to the tune of 29%. He hit three homers Saturday night against the Cubs, and lo and behold this morning he’s owned in 64% of the Leagues using CBS. That’s a lot of Leagues that have daily pickups.

Jon Berti, 2B/3B/SS/OF, MIA (CBS: 3% owned)

In the past week, Berti has gone 10-for-23 with a pair of stolen bases and five runs scored, hitting at the top-of-the-order. He qualifies at every position other than first base and catcher. If you’re looking to fill your “need for speed”, and provide solid injury depth, go get him!

Lewis Brinson, OF, MIA (CBS: 7% owned)

16 homers and 16 stolen bases in 296 at-bats at New Orleans. A strikeout-to-walk rate of 100/32. It’s the same Lewis Brinson that we’ve come to expect, but the Marlins will wheel him out there on a regular basis over the duration of 2019. If the BA isn’t a concern, the counting stats could come in handy.

Tony Gonsolin, SP, LAD (CBS: 7% owned)

Gonsolin got the call last Monday and proceed to toss six innings of two-hit ball with seven strikeouts in gaining his first big league win. The reward for that outstanding effort was a quick demotion back to Triple-A Oklahoma City. Don’t fret, as the Dodgers will be resting their regulars down the stretch. Buy now cheap and reap the rewards in September.

Derek Fisher, OF, TOR (CBS: 3% owned)

The return for Aaron Sanchez in the trade deadline deal with Houston has looked a lot better in the past week. He has hit a couple of homers and with the injury to Lourdes Gurriel, should see regular at-bats down the stretch.

Derek Law, RP, TOR (CBS: 4% owned)

Ken Giles could be on his way back to the 10-day IL. Derek Law is now up to three saves on the season, after his successful Saturday effort against the Yankees. He hasn’t allowed a run in his last 11 appearances, dating back to July 21. The phrase, “I fought the Law and the Law won” is definitely a very relevant one.

Jorge Mateo, SS, OAK (CBS: 9% owned)

An ankle injury currently has him sidelined, but here’s hoping he recovers in time to flash some of that amazing speed for both Oakland and our Fantasy squads in September. In 454 at-bats at Triple-A Las Vegas, he has 17 homers and 21 stolen bases. We can take the homers with a grain of salt, being that he calls Las Vegas home. The stolen base potential shouldn’t be ignored.

Mark Melancon, RP, ATL (CBS: 28% owned)

The Braves made the right moves to strengthen their bullpen at the trade deadline, but they simply haven’t worked out. Shane Greene has struggled and has been replaced by former Giants veteran Mark Melancon. In his second appearance since being named closer, he allowed four earned runs, getting only one out in a loss to the Marlins. He still has the job, but his hold on it is tenuous at best.

Joe Ross, SP, WAS (CBS: 12% owned)

He’s now pitched back-to-back scoreless outings totaling 11 1/3 innings. The walks are still a concern but the strong Washington offense combined with the Reds, Pirates, and Cubs next up on the schedule, make Ross an intriguing streaming option in deeper formats.

Pedro Strop, RP, CHC (CBS: 16% owned)

Craig Kimbrel hits the IL with right knee inflammation. Brandon Kintzler hits the IL with a right pectoral injury. Brandon Morrow hasn’t tossed an inning since July 2018. Steve Cishek, who was supposed to be filling in for Kimbrel, was placed on the 10-day IL on Saturday with left hip inflammation. Things are currently so bad, the Cubs are longing for the days of Carl Edwards and Brad Brach. In a case of “the last man standing”, Pedro Strop who was just this past week activated off of the 10-day IL due to neck tightness issues, is the go-to guy in the ninth for the Cubs until the return of Craig Kimbrel.

Mike Tauchman, OF, NYY (CBS: 51% owned)

Tauchman has now mashed five homers while driving in 14 runs since the calendar flipped over to August. Yes, at some point there will be playing-time issues, but that time isn’t anywhere close-at-hand.

Rowdy Tellez, 1B, TOR (CBS: 7% owned)

Since his demotion in mid-July, Tellez has raked at Triple-A Buffalo. In 89 at-bats, he has mashed seven homers, driven in 21 runs, and is sporting a 1.154 OPS. It appears that whatever was ailing him earlier in the season has been resolved and we will see him back in Toronto come September.

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Hot Prospect – Week 17

HOT PROSPECTS 1I received a twitter request to include a name on the Hot Prospects list that I’ve not heard of.  Well, that’s hard as many of the great performances are coming players that have already appeared on the list OR are just great talent.  But, I’ve dug pretty deep to give everyone a handful of “under-the-radar” names.  Remember, you can also listen to our weekly “Just Prospects” to get the really deep, super young players during that podcast.  You can listen to the podcast here.

Enjoy the list and please click on the baseball card to visit our partner amazon.com to explore additional information on each player.

Hitters

1. Isaac Paredes (Det, 3B, Double-A)

After Isaac Paredes split his time in 2018 between High and Double-A, the Tigers had him return to Erie in the Eastern League where he has had little trouble.  In 100 games, he’s slashed .279/.364/.405 with eight home runs and three stolen bases.  As he’s always done, he controls the strike zone very well and has walked as much as he’s struck out.

While Paredes carry tool is his approach and ability to put “barrel on ball”, he lacks plus secondary tools (speed and power) and therefore that will scare off many fantasy owners.  However, he did hit 15 home runs in 2018 and added another eight so far in 2019.  As he gains strength and works with the Major League ball, a ceiling of 20 home runs could be in the cards.  While that might not be incredibly exciting to fantasy owners, when it comes with a .280/.360 average and a handful of bases, he will have sneaky value in 15-team mixed leagues.

He’s been red hot over the past couple of weeks hitting over .500 with only two strikeouts.

2. Canaan Smith (NYY, OF, Low-A)

Drafted in the fourth round of the 2017 MLB Draft, Canaan Smith has really come into his own in Low-A.  Since July 1st, he’s hit over .400 with a .520 on-base percentage and more walks than strikeouts.   While he’s only hit eight home runs, he has plus bat speed and therefore projects to hit for plus power.

He’s also a solid runner and has stolen 11 of 15 bases.  However, he’s already 215 pounds, so as he continues to fill out, the speed will likely regress.  Overall the profile is very exciting with a chance to be a full-time regular as a corner outfielder with 20 plus home run potential and a high on-base percentage.

3. Alexander Canario (SF, OF, Short-Season)

After crushing AZL pitching in June, the Giants promoted Alexander Canario to the college heavy Northwest League and he has continued to play extremely well.  In 29 games, he’s hit .291 with a .377 on-base percentage with five home runs and three stolen bases.  He has shown a penchant to strike out too much (30% K/9 ratio) but he just turned 19 and is extremely young for the league.

While the tools are still very raw, the upside is a power hitter outfielder with a chance to add a handful of stolen bases.  As mentioned, the approach will need to be refined and the strikeouts reduced, but there’s a ton to like in the 19-year-old outfielder.  I expect him to begin 2020 in Augusta of the Sally League.

4. Jesus Sanchez (Mia, OF, High-A)

In the excitement of the trading deadline, I initially missed that the Rays traded Jesus Sanchez to the Marlins for relief pitcher Nick Anderson.  While I think Anderson has closer potential with five years of additional team control, Jesus Sanchez has the higher upside.  He has elite bat speed with a chance to hit for plus power at the highest level and he’s currently a solid runner.

The Rays worked hard with him on his approach and being more selective at the plate, but after seeing him several times, he just knows how to make contact.  In fact, he reminded me of a young Adam Jones at the plate.  He’s up there looking to swing the pole and has such great hand-to-eye coordination that it works.  I’m guessing the Marlins will not try and change that it hopes that he will see the Major Leagues sometime in 2020.  Once he fully arrives, he could hit 20 to 25 home runs with a .280/.320 average with a handful of stolen bases.  That’s a solid fantasy player.

5. Steele Walker (CHW, OF, High-A)

It’s been a big all or nothing for Steele Walker this year.  When he’s on like has been over the past week, he has some of the most exciting tools in very good White Sox system.  So far in August, he’s hit .571 with a home run, a stolen base and more walks than strikeouts.

6. Abraham Toro (Hou, 3B, Triple-A)

Abraham Toro was drafted in the fifth round of the 2015 MLB Draft with a lot of average to above-average tools across the board.  However, until this year, he was a .260 hitter with 10 home runs and a handful of stolen bases but with a good strikeout and walk ratios.  Through the magic of BABIP, his .260 average has moved to .300 this season and his power has started to tick up.  With his recent promotion to Triple-A, he’s still hitting and people are starting to take note.

How good was he in Double-A?  In 98 games, he slashed .306/.393/.513 with 16 home runs and four stolen bases.  He posted a reasonable 17.7% strikeout rate and walked 11% of the time.  Sure, the BABIP was .346, but the profile suggests he can slash .280/.340/.450 with 20 home runs and a handful of stolen bases.  That’s a pretty solid player but of course, he plays in the wrong organization.

The Astros are stacked at all positions in the Major Leagues and particularly at third.  The Astros have had him play some first and second, but he’ll be blocked there as well.  If he continues to hit, they will find a place for him or move him.  Regardless, fantasy owners need to take note and start rostering him in teams that have 200 plus minor league slots.

7. Brennen Davis (CHC, OF, Low-A)

Brennen Davis was a sexy pickup in many Dynasty Leagues this year and for good reason.  He’s been one of the better performers in the Midwest League showing an intriguing speed and power combo with a semblance of an approach.  He just got put on the 7-day IL again with continued problems with his finger after getting hit trying to lay down a bunt.

The Cubs selected Davis in the second round of the 2018 MLB Draft based on his great athleticism, plus bat speed, and plus running ability.  The bat speed has already started to translate into in-game power as he slugged .509 with seven home runs in 2019.  He hasn’t attempted to steal many bases yet, but the speed is at least 65 on the 20 to 80 scale.  The approach is still a work-in-progress, but he has shown some plate patience with the ability to not expand the strike zone.

He’s likely three years away from contributing at the Major League level but could start to be in the discussion of our Top 100 list as early as mid-season 2020.  If he’s out on your waiver wire, now is the time to make the move.

8. Brandon Marsh (LAA, OF, Double-A)

Brandon Marsh continues to be more of a “tools that you can dream on player” but starting in 2018 and continuing in Double-A in 2019, we saw a definitive improvement in his approach at the plate.  The walk rate is a solid 12% and his strikeout rate, which is still on the high side at 24% has also improved. While some might ask where the power is, it’s in there and as he matures and adds more loft to the swing, it should emerge.

While there is a risk, the ceiling is a 20-20 performer with upside on both the power and speed.  If he can continue to cut down on his strikeouts, he could become a monster performer at the highest level.

Finally, for fantasy owners, few people are talking about Brandon Marsh.  Why?  When you have a stud performer like Jo Adell in the organization, you get lost.  Look at Vlad Jr and Bo Bichette.  Sure, most people knew who Bichette was, but all the talk was about Vlad.  Guess what?  Bo Bichette can really play and so can Marsh.

9. Gabriel Moreno (Tor, C, Low-A)

The Blue Jays signed Gabriel Moreno out of Venezuela in 2016 and assigned him to the DSL in 2017 and then the GCL in 2018.  He had modest success at both levels but has really broken out in 2019.  In 60 games in Low-A, he hit .303 and slugged .516 with nine home runs.  The most impressive thing is he rarely strikeouts, posting an impressive 8.9% strikeout rate as a 19-year-old kid playing in full-season ball. As a receiver, he does a very good job framing pitches with an above-average arm.

The upside is a full-time regular backstop with a chance to hit for a high average with 50 points on top of that in on-base percentage.  His swing is more contact-oriented, but he has plenty of bat speed and strength to profile for at least 15 plus home runs as the highest level.  While he’s still only a teenager, he’ll start 2020 in Dunedin and if he has a similar year, could even see Double-A before year-end.

He was red hot in July but has cooled off in August.  However, based on his .330 batting average with four home runs in July, he makes our list.

10. Jameson Hannah (Cin, OF, High-A)

While the Reds traded Taylor Trammell at the deadline to the Padres, they did receive Jameson Hannah in return when they shipped Tanner Roark to the Athletics.  As one of my readers exclaimed: ”Isn’t Jameson Hannah simply a poor-mans version of Trammell?  As a big supporter of Trammell, my first reaction was “no way”, but if I squint, I can see his point.

Hannah was selected by the A’s in the second round of the 2018 MLB Draft out of Dallas Baptist as an athletic outfielder with plus speed who could hit.  He’s been just fine in the field showing an ability to track balls well and run down most anything.  Offensively, it’s just been ok.  He hit .283 with a .341 OBP in 92 games Stockton prior to the trade with six stolen bases but was also caught seven times.  He also struck out 21% of the time and with limited power, that’s a troubling statistic.  Since the trade, he’s gotten off to a great start with his new team hitting .313 with a .421 OBP.

The ceiling for Hannah continues to be a full-time regular, likely at the corner who with his speed, should be able to steal a lot of bases.  Based on his swing mechanics, I doubt there will be much power.  However, the more likely scenario is that he’s a fourth outfielder and a part-time player.  Is that Trammell?  I hope not, as Trammell is a better defender with superior all-around tools.  However, if he doesn’t hit, well he too could become a fourth outfielder.

PITCHERS

1. Forrest Whitley (Hou, RHP, Double-A)

The season has not gone the way Forrest Whitley imagined as he entered the season.  He was the topped ranked minor league pitcher entering the season and after his impressive performance in the Fall League, looked like he would join the Astros rotation as early as May.  But a 12.21 ERA in eight games in Triple-A quickly derailed his season and then a “shoulder injury” that followed assured him that his Major League debut would have to wait another year.

Early in the season, Whitley never developed a feel for his pitches and then likely lost confidence.  He was wild, walking over five per nine and became home-prone, giving up nine home runs in 24.1 innings.  Sure, the juiced ball and PCL surely played a role, but when you’re considered the best pitching prospect in the game and have four plus pitches, well, you have to do better.

I’m still very bullish on Whitley and after he recovered from his bout with shoulder stiffness, he’s been much better.  In his last two outings, he gave up one run in nine innings, striking out 14 and walking two.  The stuff is still elite but the control is not yet there.  That’s understandable as he’s 6-foot-7 with long levers that will take time to completely coordinate.  Plus, he’s still only 21-years-old.

Assuming health, I think it will come together, but Astros fans and fantasy owners will simply have to wait another year, or perhaps even two.  The arsenal still points to a front-of-the-rotation potential.

2. Luis Patino (SD, RHP, High-A)

I’m still scratching my head wondering why Luis Patino is still toiling in High-A.  In fact, you can argue his last outing on July 31st was the best of the season.  In 8.1 innings, he gave up three hits with nine strikeouts, no walks, and no earned runs.  It’s time for Double-A.

3. Jorge Guzman (Mia, RHP, Double-A)

Jorge Guzman has one of the highest fastball velocities in all of baseball.  I’ve personally clocked him at 102 in 2017 but have heard that he’s touched 103.  But man cannot live on fastballs alone.  His slider is still a work-in-progress and he has yet to show a feel for a change-up.

Throughout his career, Guzman has struggled with his control.  In 2018, he posted a 6.0 BB/9 ratio in 21 starts in High-A and while it’s been better in 2019, he’s still walking 4.67 per nine.  Plus, his strikeout rate has gone down this year and that is concerning.  However, when it’s all working like it was on August 3rd, he can be lights out.  In seven innings against Biloxi in the Southern League, he gave up one hit, struck out seven while walking two.

While it’s easy to fall in love with Guzman’s raw stuff, there are enough warning signs out there to suggest a move to the bullpen is in order.  I think the slider will develop and that combined with his 100 MPH fastball could make him a force at the backend of the bullpen.  Having seen him, I believe the slider develops quickly.  If that happens, I further believe that the Marlins should then move him to the bullpen and get his arm to the major leagues.

4. Jackson Kowar (KC, RHP, Double-A)

Jackson Kowar was my top-ranked pitcher in the Royals organization entering the 2019 season.  While Daniel Lynch has moved ahead of him, I’m still a big believer in Kowar.  He split his time between High and Double-A in 2019 pitching to a 3.33 ERA, striking out 8.7 per nine while walking 2.7 per nine.  Last week, he pitched eight shutout innings, giving up four hits, striking out six while not issuing a walk.

At 6-foot-5 and 180 pounds, Kowar has the size and stuff to be a number three starter at the highest level.  He has an above-average fastball that sits 92 to 94 that he can throw for strikes with some command.  His money pitch is his change-up that A-Ball hitters had no chance against.  While his curveball has improved, it still is lacking in depth and movement.

If it all comes together, Kowar has a ceiling of a number three pitcher on your fantasy team.  There is a risk given his lack of an above-average breaking pitch, but there are a lot of other building blocks in which to build.

5. Shane McClanahan (TB, LHP, High-A)

Drafted in the first round by the Rays in 2018, Shane McClanahan has had a quiet, but impressive season so far in 2019.  He started the year in Low-A and while he struggled with his control (5.26 BB/9 ratio), he showed great swing and miss stuff striking out over 12 per nine.  The Rays promoted him in early June and he’s been even better.  He’s been pounding the strike zone striking out over 10 per nine while posting a miniscule walk rate of 1.46 per nine.

McClanahan is not a big kid at 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, but still touches the upper nineties with this fastball.  He has solid secondary pitches that clearly can miss bats.  The delivery is not great as he comes from a lower three-quarters delivery that suggest he could eventually move to the bullpen.  But, the Rays believe he’s a starter and the stuff and improving control is starting to lean that way.

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Week 19 Waiver Wire Pickups

Waiver WireCan you believe we are in August? The season is more than two-thirds over but it feels like it just started. In the final push with your fantasy team, we’ve got a number of options that might just help you fill in for an injury or the once-hot player that is no longer hot.

Enjoy the list and please click on the baseball card to visit our partner amazon.com to explore additional information on each player.

Aaron Civale, SP, CLE (CBS: 9% owned)

Civale made a successful debut against the Tigers at the end of June, tossing six shutout innings. It’s time for a second look, and the 7-1 won/loss record between Double and Triple-A, combined with a 2.35 ERA and strikeout-per-inning makes for an intriguing option. Toss in the two-start week and it seals the deal.

Johnny Cueto, SP, SF (CBS: 7% owned)

The first stage in the recovery from TJS has now been completed with Cueto now scheduled to commence the rehab part of the program. If you have the bench space, he could be back pitching meaningful games in September.

Trent Grisham, OF, MIL (CBS: 17% owned)

The 22-year-old outfielder has enjoyed a monster season down on the farm, mashing 26 homers with 71 RBI, 12 stolen bases, and a stellar .407 OBP. The question yet to be answered is will he be able to garner enough at-bats to demonstrate that stellar all-around skill set.

Jose Leclerc, RP, TEX (CBS: 42% owned)

After a wait of more than three full months, Leclerc finally got his sixth save. Albeit a shaky effort, the Rangers seem at least for now committed to giving him opportunities moving forward. It beats the heck out of waiting for the Mariners to sort out their bullpen.

Dustin May, SP, LAD (CBS: 55% owned)

Was it a stellar debut? No, it wasn’t, but the fact that he made it through 5 2/3 innings while allowing only three earned runs and no walks were more than enough to get my attention. It will take a strong bid this evening to secure his services for the balance of 2019.

Wil Myers, 1B/3B/OF, SD (CBS: 53% owned)

Franmil Reyes is now a member of the Indians freeing up regular playing time for Myers and over the past seven days going back to July 27, he’s gone 10-for-27 with a homer and five RBI. It’s time to get him active and rolling in all formats.

Kevin Newman, 2B/3B/SS, PIT (CBS: 38% owned)

Newman has three stolen bases in the past week and is still batting .300+ on the year. Jung Ho Kang is no longer in the mix, meaning a steady diet of at-bats should be in order for the middle-infielder.

Daniel Norris, SP, DET (CBS: 11% owned)

In his past two starts against the Angels and Mariners, Norris has allowed only two earned runs while striking out 13 in 11 1/3 IP. Can he make it three successful outings in a row?

Scott Oberg, RP, COL (CBS: 39% owned)

Finally, the Rockies tired of the inconsistent and poor play of Wade Davis and have removed him from the ninth-inning role. Enter, Scott Oberg and that stellar 1.56 ERA. He successfully shut down the Giants Friday, earning his fourth save of the 2019 campaign. It’s now Oberg’s job to lose, and I’m betting he won’t.

Emilio Pagan, RP, TAM (CBS: 36% owned)

Kevin Cash moved Deigo Castillo into the opener role on Saturday. Emilio Pagan got the save. Jose Alvarado is still on the DL. One would have to think that Pagan is going to see the lion’s share of save opportunities until at the very least the return of Jose Alvarado.

Miguel Rojas, 1B/3B/SS, MIA (CBS: 6% owned)

Rojas has now moved into the leadoff role for the Fish and has responded in fine form. He has at least one hit in each of his past six games and even flashed a little power with two homers. A decent average, position flexibility, and runs scored are there for the taking.

Aaron Sanchez, SP, HOU (CBS: 31% owned)

On Saturday, Aaron Sanchez tossed six innings of no-hit, two walk ball, combining with three relievers in attaining the 14’th combined no-hitter in the history of Major League Baseball. Welcome to Houston!

Matt Thaiss, 1B/3B, LAA (CBS: 10% owned)

Andrelton Simmons has found his way to the 10-day IL with an ankle sprain. David Fletcher should move into the shortstop spot creating a vacancy and opportunity at third for Matt Thaiss. It’s a great opportunity for Thaiss to build on those five homers he has amassed in those first 50 at-bats.

Ben Zobrist, 2B/OF, CHC (CBS: 6% owned)

In a bit of a surprise, Ben Zobrist has dealt with the personal issues that have kept him sidelined in 2019 and is returning to the Cubs. He’s at least a couple of weeks away from a return, but in NL-only Leagues, an early buy-in will be cause to save a buck or two of that precious FAAB.

Five Under Five%

Aristides Aquino, OF, CIN (CBS: 1% owned)

The Yasiel Puig trade to Cleveland has created an opportunity in the Reds outfield and it didn’t take long for Aquino to get that first bomb under his belt. He did demonstrate the ability to hit the ball a long way and often by mashing 28 homers in 294 at-bats at Triple-A Louisville. He should be a regular fixture in the Reds outfield moving forward.

Yonathan Daza, OF, COL (CBS: 1% owned)

The high ankle sprain suffered by David Dahl could make the Daza promotion a lasting one. He hasn’t fared well in limited at-bats earlier in the season but has torn it up at Triple-A Albuquerque. In 387 at-bats, the 25-year-old has hit 11 homers, stolen 12 bases, and scored 67 runs. That .404 OBP has the potential to play very well with steady at-bats.

Travis Demeritte, OF, DET (CBS: 3% owned)

The Tigers have wasted no time in giving the rewards from the Shane Greene deadline deal with the Braves a good look. It only makes sense being that Nick Castellanos has moved on and Demeritte had very little left to prove in the Minors. The power, combined with the solid on-base skills makes for a very intriguing option for both Detroit and our Fantasy squads.

Jake Rogers, C, DET (CBS: 4% owned)

Acquired from the Astros in the Justin Verlander deal, Rogers has been deemed ready to fill a full-time role behind the dish for the rebuilding Tigers. In deeper two-catcher sets, the power displayed down on the farm (14-52) could prove to be an asset.

Stephen Vogt, C, SF (CBS: 4% owned)

Vogt has quietly been flying under-the-radar, but if one is looking for a second catcher in two-catcher sets that three-homer, 8 RBI, and .375 OBP production in July should have your attention. The fact that he’s off to a 5-for-10 start in August only reinforces that strong July.

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Digging Deep – Buy Low hitters the rest of the way

Digging DeepWith about four months of the season in the books and the trade deadline in the rearview mirror, we’re hitting the final home stretch in fantasy leagues.  Let’s try to help find some ‘hot rods’ for you (and also hopefully identify some ‘lemons’ for you to avoid or trade).

To get a robust sample size, I took the StatCast data for hitters since June 1st (about 2 months) and downloaded their xwOBA and wOBA. As a reminder, wOBA is essentially the hitter’s overall production (and correlates highly with their dollars earned…but that’s a whole other article). xwOBA is what their StatCast data (exit velocity, launch angle) would have expected their production to be. Because wOBA is what players have done (and, as mentioned, is essentially “how good they’ve been”), most fantasy owners have a good idea of who these guys are. The inefficiency we can potentially exploit is (a) who actually should have been good and (b) who has been recently good (which might be lost in the overall season numbers). The reason we go back 60 days is that someone whose recent production is either better or worse than their overall production may not be generally known to the fantasy owner community at large. This is the edge we want.

So let’s do some quick back-testing first to attempt to show that wOBA (and/or xwOBA) is predictive, or at the very least sticky. In other words, let’s check if someone’s wOBA (or xwOBA) over a two month period correlates to (and/or has any ability to predict) their wOBA (or xwOBA) over the next two month period. After all, we are trying to predict wOBA over the final two months of the season.

So I took the wOBA and xwOBA data for all players with 100 PA from the start of the season to May 31 (aka “Apri-May”), and the wOBA and xwOBA data for all players with 100 PA from June 1 to July 30 (aka “June-July”).

When comparing the expected wOBA for April-May, it weakly correlates with expected wOBA for June-July (R2 of 0.30). What this means is that xwOBA can be generally considered to be (a) a representation of a player’s true offensive ability because (b) it is (reasonably) sticky. In other words, a .400 xwOBA player for 60 days will (generally) continue to be a .400ish xwOBA player over the next 60 days.

Dylan July 31

Interestingly, a player’s two-month (April-May) expected wOBA is a better predictor (R2 of 0.18) than their actual April-May wOBA (R2 of 0.12) of his next two-month (Jun-Jul) wOBA. In other words, it seems that in this case, expected stats are actually somewhat more predictive than actual stats. But as I said, only weakly predictive. But, remember, this is in aggregate. If a player has truly changed (broken out, changed swing path, a new approach, become injured, etc.) expected statistics would signal this to us much more quickly than using projections (which are slower to react to real changes – due to their reliance on historical – that is, old – performance. And, we as fantasy owners are looking for any incremental edge that we can use

So what have we concluded? Well, two-month xwOBA seems to be a so-so proxy for a player’s “true” ability. And also that actual performance (wOBA) has quite a lot of variance. Well, how can we use this?

Let’s look at whose xwOBA for the last 60 days suggests that they are good bets (and bad bets) as hitters for the final two months. Even better, let’s find the hitters whose xwOBA is significantly better than their wOBA…as these are the players who owners may have soured on – but which we think are only randomly underperforming due to noisy variance. (Also, whose performance may be more smoke and mirrors than anything?)

Top xwOBA, last 60 days:

Mike Trout 0.464
Nelson Cruz 0.438
Josh Donaldson 0.421
Christian Yelich 0.421
Jorge Soler 0.414
Evan Longoria 0.410
Anthony Rendon 0.409
Mookie Betts 0.407
Pete Alonso 0.406
Max Muncy 0.400

Wow, Mike Trout. But also, look at Josh Donaldson, Jorge Soler, and…Max Muncy.

Lowest xwOBA, last 60 days (of only the players who are likely rostered in leagues)

Adalberto Mondesi 0.223
Andrelton Simmons 0.224
Billy Hamilton 0.245
Niko Goodrum 0.247
Dee Gordon 0.247
Michael Chavis 0.256
Cesar Hernandez 0.264
Adam Jones 0.274
Elvis Andrus 0.275
Jean Segura 0.278

Ouch, Adalberto Mondesi…and I’m not just talking about his sub-luxated shoulder. We expected regression, but this is ridiculous. A bunch of other shortstops surprisingly show up on this list too: Andrelton Simmons, Elvis Andrus, and Jean Segura.

And poor Niko Goodrum…he was identified earlier in the season as a potential sleeper because of his impressive hard-hit rate and his xwOBA of 0.348. But he has since fallen on hard times. You can’t hit on all of your lottery tickets.

OK, so that’s out of the way. Let’s look at the hitters with the biggest differences between their expected statistics and their actual statistics.

The biggest positive differences between xwOBA and wOBA (of players with positive xwOBA):

i.e. Players to target:

Name xwOBA wOBA Diff
C.J. Cron 0.363 0.308 +0.055
Lorenzo Cain 0.342 0.293 +0.049
Wil Myers 0.346 0.298 +0.048
Dan Vogelbach 0.386 0.352 +0.034
Jason Kipnis 0.341 0.308 +0.033
Brandon Belt 0.340 0.312 +0.028

A couple of interesting names. Lorenzo Cain and Wil Myers have both had well-documented struggles this year. The underlying statistics tell a slightly more optimistic story as they are both hitting the ball in an above-average way – unfortunately, the results aren’t coming in for them. In Myers’ case, San Diego might be looking at the same numbers and expect a return to form – hence, informing their decision to ship Franmil Reyes to Cleveland and open up an outfield spot.

Dan Vogelbach has quietly been putting up big offensive numbers all season. The underlying profile suggests it’s real. Always bet on the athlete 😉

 The biggest negative differences between xwOBA and wOBA (of players with positive xwOBA):

i.e. Players to avoid:

Name xwOBA wOBA Diff
Danny Santana 0.338 0.429 -0.091
Daniel Murphy 0.294 0.376 -0.082
Eric Thames 0.305 0.387 -0.082
Fernando Tatis Jr. 0.347 0.429 -0.082
Yuli Gurriel 0.343 0.416 -0.073
Kris Bryant 0.322 0.389 -0.067
Andrew Benintendi 0.310 0.376 -0.066

Danny Santana and Yuli Gurriel have been some of the hottest names right now. As you would expect, regression is coming and they “should” be slightly above league-average hitters. This is how most of us value them – and the numbers support our suspicions. They have likely not become all-stars (but they have it in them).

Fernando Tatis Jr. is an interesting name to see here as he has been out-performing expectations all season. In fact, in the April-to-May interval, his expected wOBA was 0.326 while actually posting a wOBA of 0.382 (difference of -0.056). I’m at a loss as to what this means – but what I do know that even though he is “over-performing”, his expected performance is still of an above-average hitter. Don’t sell, just temper expectations.

Daniel Murphy, Kris Bryant, and Andrew Benintendi are all players who earlier in the season had some struggles that frustrated fantasy owners. So far in June and July, it may seem like they have turned it around (with wOBA’s all around 0.380 area or ~30% better than average). Unfortunately, all three of them actually have expected wOBA’s below average. I hate to say it – but don’t be surprised if they stumble in the final months.

 

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Hot Prospects – Week 16

HOT PROSPECTS 1As with approach the final month of the minor league system, the dog days of summer are starting to have their effects.  Many guys will start to wear down, especially the teenagers who are in their first year of full-season ball.  But, there are still plenty of guys raking and this week we highlight a number of catchers who have played well recently.

Enjoy the list and please click on the baseball card to visit our partner amazon.com to explore additional information on each player.

HITTERS

1. Sean Murphy (Oak, C, Triple-A)

When we wrote about Sean Murphy entering the 2019 season, we thought he would be manning the backstop for the Athletics at some point during the year.  Unfortunately, he tore his meniscus in May which required him to miss nearly three months of the season.  He’s back playing and showing the offensive potential that we always saw.  In four games in July, he’s hitting .500 with five home runs.  Sure, it’s Triple-A, but he has a chance to be an impact offensive weapon still at some point in 2019.

Despite missing over half of the 2019 minor league season, Sean Murphy is one of the best catching prospects in the game.  He’s always been a plus defender, but his hit-tool has developed very nicely and given his power outburst, the power is starting to show in games. He does remind me of the development path of the Dodgers young catcher, Will Smith.  Both started off as defensive backstops with empty bats but have developed their hit-tool and power as they have worked through the system.

Given his ability to control the strike zone and his growing power, the ceiling is a Top five fantasy catcher.  The fact that he’s a plus defender will only enhance his playing time.  Once he gets acclimated to the Majors, I think you could see a slash line of .270/.340/.470 with 15 to 20 home runs.  That’s an impact player performer at a position where finding a bat that won’t hurt you is a plus.

2. Luis Campusano (SD, C, High-A)

While the Padres want Francisco Mejia to be their catcher of the future, they are so deep with prospects, if it doesn’t work, there’s another kid who will challenge for the role. Luis Campusano could be that kid.  He is quickly being mentioned in the conversation of the best catchers in the minor leagues.

Drafted in the second round of the 2017 MLB Draft, Campusano arrived with solid defensive skills (catch, throw and block) but has improved his game-calling by working with some of the best young pitchers in the minor leagues. After a solid offensive season in 2018, he’s backed it up with an even better season in the California League.  In 85 games, he’s slashed .326/.395/.514 with 11 home runs and nearly as many walks as strikeouts.  The swing has improved as has his pitch recognition.

After a solid season in High-A, Campusano should begin 2020 in Double-A with a chance to see Major League at-bats in 2021.

3. Corbin Carroll (Ari, OF, Rookie)

Many believe that the Diamondbacks got a steal when Corbin Carroll dropped to them at pick 16 in last June’s MLB Draft.  Based on my Top 100 mid-season ranking, I did as well.

Part of the argument I heard for him dropping was his size.  He’s a 5-10 outfielder and teams just didn’t want to invest in a high first-round pick on a high school player of that size.  There was just too much risk.  I don’t see it that way as Carroll has great tools and even reminds me a little of Alek Thomas, also of the Diamondbacks or even the Red Sox, Andrew Benintendi.  Do two inches really make that much difference?

In Rookie ball, Carroll is starting to flash those skills.  In 25 games, he’s hitting .295 with two home runs and 10 stolen bases including going 3 for 4 on Monday night.  He’s struck out more than I would have liked (20.4%) but has also walked as many times.  It’s so hard to get a read on a player’s hit tool in Rookie Ball but in reviewing the swing, I think it works.  Time will tell whether his high walk rate is a skill or whether he is being tentative at the plate.

While he’s only 18, the upside is a Top 45 outfielder in fantasy with a chance to become a 20-20 performer.

4. Gabriel Arias (SD, SS, High-A)

Another Padres that has been performed very well all season is Lake Elsinore shortstop Gabriel Arias.  He played the entire season as one of the youngest players in the league and showed nice offensive skills to go with his plus defensive ability.  In July, he hit .371 and slugged .567 with four home runs.

When the Padres signed Arias in 2016 for an impressive $1.6 signing bonus, they saw a young kid with great defensive instincts that could really pick it at short with a swing that worked. Since then, he developed into a plus defender with a growing offensive profile.  He has added loft and that when combined with the great hitting environment of the California League, some over-the-fence power has surfaced.  The hit-tool though is still very raw as he strikeouts too much and is very aggressive at the plate.

The upside is likely a utility player at the highest level, but some evaluators believe he could develop into a little more.  Remember, he was very young for the level.

5. Jairo Pomares (SF, OF, Rookie)

Jairo Pomares gets the promotion from our hidden five lists (only heard on our weekly podcast that can be found here) to the main list.  He’s been one of the best performers in the AZL this season hitting .382 with a .618 SLG in 26 games.

Pomares is yet another young tooled up player that is starting to transform the San Francisco Giants minor league system.  He has plus raw power, is an above-average runner who appears to have a semblance of a hit-tool.  His power is generated out of strong, quick hands and a compact swing. While the approach is still raw, the early returns are positive with a 16% strikeout rate and a 6.7% walk rate.

He’s still four years away, but if the hit tool develops, he could be a Top 45 outfielder in the game with solid power and speed.

6. Mason Martin (Pit, 1B, High-A)

Mason Martin spent the first three months of the minor league system destroying Sally League pitching, leading the league in home runs with 23 while batting a respectable .262.  In July, he was promoted to the Florida State League where he continued to pound the ball.  In 22 games, he’s already hit seven while posting a .681 SLG.

Martin doesn’t have the athleticism that will allow him to move off first, so he’s going to have to continue to hit to make it the big leagues.  The power is significant, but more born out of brute strength than elite bat speed.  If he can improve his approach and make enough contact, he could develop into a solid first base prospect.  However, if the approach doesn’t improve, the upside might be more AJ Reed.

7. Ryan Mountcastle (Bal, 1B, Triple-A)

A lot of fantasy owners pay little attention to a player’s defensive ability because all they care about are the offensive stats.  While that’s totally understandable, sometimes defense matters.  In Ryan Mountcastle’s case, it has in part, slowed his progression to the big leagues.

He was drafted as a third baseman but never had the arm or athleticism to play there.  This season, the Orioles have played him at first and left field with first his logical defensive home.  While many believe his bat is ready, I have questions and when you combine that with his defensive struggles, I’m not sure he’s ready.

Major League teams care about defense unless of course you have the kind of raw power and hitting ability that it appears Yordan Alvarez has.  It’s hard to promote a 22-year-old to the big leagues and put him at bat (aka, DH).  When you consider Mountcastle’s very aggressive approach, the decision to promote him becomes difficult.  In looking at his 3.4% walk rate, there’s a good chance he’ll post a sub .300 OBP and when you combine that with poor defense, it’s a problem.  Plus, don’t the Orioles already have that guy in Renato Nunez?

I know it sounds like I’m bashing Mountcastle and perhaps I am.  However, from a fantasy standpoint, owners need to understand the risk.  Sure, there is 30 home run potential, but it’s going to come with a low batting average and low on-base percentage and no speed.  In my opinion, you can get that anywhere.

While he’s hit .324 in 21 games in July, he’s struck out 24 times while only walking three times.

8. Ronny Mauricio (NYM, SS, Low-A)

A lot of people are confused about what the Mets are doing as we enter the trade deadline.  Are they really trying to corner the market on pitching, much like a friend of mine did in a fantasy league where he drafted the top five quarterbacks in the league with his first five picks?

His thinking was that the other teams would come crawling to him in desperate need of a quarterback and overpay.  Well, they didn’t, and the guy wound up dropping most of the other quarterbacks because he needed to field a team.  Needless to say, the season ended sub-optimally.  Want another example, go review the Hunt Brothers attempt to corner the Silver Market in the ’70s.  While the plan initially worked, the price of Silver collapsed causing the Hunt Brothers to file for bankruptcy.  I’m not saying that will happen to the Mets, but the strategy of bringing in veterans is causing a significant drag on their farm system.  With the team looking to get younger, it’s definitely a contra-approach.  Will it work?  Maybe, but I wouldn’t count on it.

With that as a backdrop, one prospect that Mets fans should hope doesn’t get moved is Ronny Mauricio.  Assuming he stays with the Mets, there is a good chance he will be their top prospect.  As the second youngest full-time player in the Sally League, he’s holding his own quite well.  In 91 games, he’s hit .283/.324 with a .383 SLG with three home runs and four stolen bases while playing an excellent shortstop.

There is plenty of bat speed but his swing lacks loft, so it’s more doubles-power than over-the-fence power currently.  He has very good bat control with a good understanding of the strike zone.  The approach is very aggressive, but given his age, I think he grows into some plate patience.  He’s currently an average runner but not that adept at stealing bases as he’s been caught in 8 out of 12 attempts.

The bottom line is that the scouting report is well ahead of his performance.  If it all comes together, I see a .270/.330/.430 with 15 to 20 home runs playing a great shortstop.  While there is clearly some utility risk, we thought that about Andrelton Simmons before he started to show his power as he matured.

He makes our list with a strong week going 12 for 28.

9. Diego Cartaya (LAD, C, Rookie)

During my Dynasty League rookie drafts last season, while everyone was taking Marcos Luciano in the first round, I decided to draft Diego Cartaya several rounds later.  BTW, I drafted Luciano in one draft and I’m very happy.  But, I’m equally pleased with the value that I got with Cartaya and further pleased that I’m being rewarded with a strong start to his 2019 season.

He started the year in the DSL, but his bat was too advanced, so the Dodgers brought him over to the states so he could play in the AZL.  After a week or two of adjustment, he started stinging the ball and has gone 8 for 22 over the past week with a home run.  Not bad for a 17-year-old who has lived in the states for less than a month.

Cartaya brings a lot of offensive and defensive skills to the table.  His swing is short to the ball which should generate a lot of natural power.  He has an understanding of the strike zone and with his short swing, should be able to hit while keeping his swing-and-miss under control.  Defensively, he projects to be a least an average, if not an above-average receiver, including a cannon for an arm.

While a lot of Dynasty League owners will not hold a 17-year-old catcher for the four to five years it will take before he sees the Major Leagues, I dance to a different tune.  I think Cartaya has a chance to be an outstanding player and given how hard it is to find catchers with fantasy Top 10 upside, I’m willing to be patient.

10. Kristian Robinson (Ari, OF, Short-Season)

Playing at 19-years-old in the Northwest League, Kristian Robinson doesn’t appear to be phased.  In July, he’s hit .322 with eight home runs.  He’s quickly climbing up rankings with a chance to be Top 45 fantasy outfielder.

PITCHERS

1. Brailyn Marquez (CHC, LHP, Low-A)

Brailyn Marquez has had a solid season in the Midwest League show great swing and miss stuff but inconsistent control.  In 16 games, he’s pitched to 3.91 ERA striking out nearly 12 per nine but walking over five per nine.  In his outing on July 25th, he showed his true potential by pitching six innings of one-hit ball, striking out 14 without issuing a walk.

There’s a lot to like with Marquez.  It’s premium velocity from the left-side with his fastball sitting 94 to 95 MPH and scraping higher.  He’s ditched his curveball and is now throwing a slider that is starting to miss bats while also showing a feel for a change-up.  His delivery still needs work as he doesn’t always repeat it which is causing control issues.

At 6-foot-4, he’s got the size and velocity to at least be a mid-rotation starter.  There’s still a lot of work left to refine his delivery, but he’s young and athletic, so there is a lot of time.  If he never achieves average control, he can always move to the pen where his velocity will likely even play louder.

2. Nate Pearson (Tor, RHP, Double-A)

I first saw Nate Pearson in the Fall League in 2018 after he spent most of the season on the Disabled List.  He was clearly rusty but showed premium stuff with his fastball scrapping the upper nineties.  As he’s gotten stronger and knocked the rust off, he has blossomed.  The upper nineties fastball is now scrapping triple-digits and even hit 101 MPH in the Futures Game.

Not only does Pearson have the big fastball, but he also has a hard slider that he throws in the upper nineties.  When he can throw it for strikes, is just a nasty pitch.  He also throws a curveball and change-up with his change-up showing nice depth.  As his 10 strikeouts per nine shows, the arsenal can miss bats.  This year, he’s also showed much better control of his arsenal, walking less than three per nine.  The command is not always there but that should improve as he gains more experience.

Assuming health, he has at least number two starter upside with a chance to be an ace.  Just remember, the baseball Tommy John gods have not been kind to hard throwers and while you can never predict when and if a guy can blow out, just know the profile.

3. Ian Anderson (Atl, RHP, Double-A)

Ian Anderson continues to shine in 2019.  In the month of July, he’s thrown 19.1 innings with 25 strikeouts and three walks.  It’s premium stuff with an athletic delivery.  We should see him sometime in 2020.

4. JB Bukauskas (Hou, LHP, Double-A)

2019 has not been the step-up year people expected from JB Bukauskas.  In 19 games, he’s pitched to a 5.22 ERA with 94 strikeouts in 81 innings but also 49 walks.  He’s also given up nearly a hit an inning and with his stuff, I find that puzzling.  When he’s on like he was on the 24th, it can be flat out nasty.  In a five-inning start against NW Arkansas, he gave up one hit, struck out seven and walked one.

I had to chance to see him the Fall League in 2018 and liked what I saw.  He’s primarily a fastball/slider pitcher with his fastball touching 96 MPH and a plus sider.  In fact, the slider was so good, a scout told me during the outing that the pitch could get major leaguers out now.  I then added: in the bullpen.

While I like Bukaukas, there is reliever risk.  He doesn’t repeat his delivery and that is leading to control problems.  While he will continue to work on that, his current arsenal will get guys out in the Major Leagues…NOW.  Since the Astros are in a win-now mode, if he’s still in the Astros organization, there’s a good chance he could get promoted as a bullpen arm and if he has success, he could stay there long-term.

5. Seth Corry (SF, LHP, Low-A)

Seth Corry has had a terrific season while pitching in the Sally League.  The 2017 third-round pick has pitched to a 1.97 ERA over 20 starts striking out over 12 per nine while allowing 53 hits in 86.2 innings.  He was particularly effective in his last two starts where he gave up two hits in five innings over 10.2 innings, striking out 17, while walking three.

Corry has good stuff with a fastball that he can run up to 95 MPH and a nice 11-5 curveball that is his primary swing and miss pitch.  He’s also showing a feel for a change-up but it’s clearly his third pitch.  While the arsenal is solid, if not a touch better, he has yet to show he can throw consistent strikes.

His control problems are coming from his inability to repeat his delivery.  The delivery is simple without a lot of effort, he just hasn’t been able to find a consistent slot for his release.  If he can solve that, he has a chance to be a solid mid-rotation starter.  If not, it’s more of a back-of-the-rotation profile.

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Week 17 Waiver Wire Pickups

Waiver WireWith the trade deadline just hours away, it’s hard to put together a waiver wire pickup that could easily change in a few hours. However, our Tim McLeod, our senior fantasy baseball writer has provided you with a list of names to consider for your fantasy teams.

Enjoy the list and please click on the baseball card to visit our partner amazon.com to explore additional information on each player.

Matt Adams, 1B, WAS (CBS: 10% owned)

Ryan Zimmerman is back on the 10-day IL with a recurrence of the plantar fasciitis that has had him sidelined for most of the season. The Nats will be looking at Matt Adams and Howie Kendrick to pick up the slack, with Adams on the better side of the platoon. When left in a lurch, there’s nothing wrong with turning to the Adams family for respite.

Nick Anderson, RP, MIA (CBS: 4% owned)

Sergio Romo is hitting the road, moving on to the Twins where he’ll provide bullpen depth and torment Taylor Rogers owners. Someone is going to be inheriting the closer role in Miami and I’ll wager that it’s Nick Anderson and those 66 strikeouts in 42 1/3 IP receiving the first shot at the gig.

Bo Bichette, SS, TOR (CBS: 45% owned)

As I was watching the Jays game on Saturday, the discussion between Pat Tabler and Dan Shulman was focused on Freddy Galvis and the expectations once Bo Bichette arrives in Toronto. Maybe I was wrong and the Jays will bring up their young phenom this year? The potential return in having an elite-level prospect on your active roster for even September makes a small bid and stash a worthwhile endeavor.

Willie Calhoun, OF, TEX (CBS: 24% owned)

A 4-to-6 week stint on the IL for Joey Gallo has opened the door for the return of Willie Calhoun. In addition to the Gallo injury, it’s well known that the Rangers will be looking to move Hunter Pence at the deadline. There will be plenty of opportunities over the balance of the season for young Mr. Calhoun to display his wares.

Adam Duvall, OF, ATL (CBS: 3% owned)

The fractured left wrist suffered by Nick Markakis has forced the Braves to turn to one-time Red, Adam Duvall. In his Braves debut he went 3-for-5 with two runs scored, two RBI, and a homer. That’s not a bad way to introduce yourself to the Braves faithful. The power is very real and could prove to be a nice boost to your Fantasy squads offense down the stretch.

Ian Happ, 3B/OF, CHC (CBS: 10% owned)

The good news is that Happ hit 16 homers, drove in 53 runs, and swiped nine bases at Triple-A Iowa. The bad news is that he struck out 113 times in 359 at-bats. Since getting the call on Friday he’s 0-for-6 with a pair of strikeouts. That’s not the start we need to see, but the power/speed combination is such that he shouldn’t be ignored when planning your FAAB spending this evening.

Pablo Lopez, SP, MIA (CBS: 35% owned)

The rehab assignment commences at Double-A Jacksonville this Sunday for the 23-year-old righty. Lopez has missed significant time and is likely to be looking at a minimum of three rehab starts, so the price will be much better this week as compared to next when he’ll be that much closer to returning to the Marlins rotation.

Seth Lugo, RP, NYM (CBS: 11% owned)

I know that Jeurys Familia is the “supposed” setup man for the Mets, but let’s face it….he’s not having a real good year. The rumour mill has the Mets potentially moving closer Edwin Diaz, and if that comes to fruition, we’ll put our money down on Seth Lugo. He’s currently sporting a great 2.84 ERA with 67 strikeouts in 50 2/3 IP. That more than qualifies him for the ninth-inning gig.

Andrew Miller, RP, STL (CBS: 22% owned)

Carlos Martinez hasn’t lost the closer job, but very quietly Andrew Miller has stepped it up lately and is looking more like the Miller of old. Since the calendar flipped to July, he’s sporting a 2.00 ERA in nine innings with 13 strikeouts, one win, two saves and six holds. There’s no coincidence that his hot streak has coincided with the surprising Cardinals march to the top of the NL Central.

Austin Nola, 1B/SS, SEA (CBS: 1% owned)

The left quad strain that has forced Dee Gordon to the 10-day IL has created an opportunity for Austin Nola. In his past seven games, he has gone 8-for-25 with a homer and six RBI. Is an everyday role in his immediate future?

Cal Quantrill, SP, SD (CBS: 15% owned)

In his past three starts (17 IP) against the Cubs, Braves, and Giants he has allowed a total of one earned-run and lowered his ERA to a very respectable 3.57. It’s high time that he started getting a bit more love in Mixed Leagues.

Anthony Santander, OF, BAL (CBS: 23% owned)

Called up at the end of the first week of June, Santander showed some potential with three homers, 12 RBI, and a respectable .274 BA in 84 June at-bats. He has now upped the ante, going 23-for-65 with four homers, 15 RBI, and 12 runs scored since the All-Star break. It’s time to believe in the young O’s outfielder.

Will Smith, C, LAD (CBS: 25% owned)

The Dodgers finally tired of the anemic bat of Austin Barnes and dispatched him to Triple-A Oklahoma City. Will Smith gets the call and announced his presence in rather spectacular fashion, going 3-for-3 in his debut with a home run and six RBI. Yeah, he’s good….real good. It’s time to spend like a drunken sailor.

Julio Urias, SP/RP, LAD (CBS: 47% owned)

Ross Stripling finds his way to the 10-day IL with a stiff neck, necessitating Julio Urias being inserted into the Dodgers starting plans. Adding Urias is recommended, but starting him next week in Coors, would be a pass. In addition to the short-term value, the Dodgers will look to Urias for further work down the stretch as they rest some of the regulars heading into the playoffs.

Gio Urshela, 3B, NYY (CBS: 26% owned)

While scrolling through the players who have heated up over the past couple of weeks, Gio Urshela was near the top of the list. The five homers, 10 RBI and 12 runs scored with a 1.033 OPS in July should have your attention. Those lesser lights in a high powered offense like the Yankees can occasionally sneak under-the-radar. Don’t let Urshela be “that guy”.

Josh VanMeter, 2B/SS/3B/OF, CIN (CBS: 3% owned)

VanMeter has now homered in back-to-back games with three homers in the past six. He’s on one serious tear, and combined with his ability to play all over the field will be caused to see him consistently penciled into the Reds lineup.

Jason Vargas, SP, NYM (CBS: 27% owned)

Vargas has now made nine starts since the beginning of June. He has only allowed more than three earned runs in only one of those starts. He has five wins in those nine starts. He’s far from an “ace”, but we do need 5-to-6 starters on our Fantasy squads. He has and will continue to get the job done in that capacity.

Asher Wojciechowski, RP, BAL (CBS: 20% owned)

Marc Rzepczynski now has a challenger for the nickname “scrabble”. Wojciechowski, the one-time Jay, Astro, Marlin, Red, Oriole, WhiteSox, Indian, and finally Oriole (again) has enjoyed his second stint in Baltimore. He’s been on quite the roll, allowing only five earned runs in his past three starts, including the shocking seven-innings one-hit ten strikeout effort against the Red Sox on July 21. In deeper formats, it’s time to spend a couple of bucks.

Alex Wood, SP CIN (CBS: 42% owned)

The much anticipated 2019 debut of Alex Wood finally will occur this Sunday when he goes up against the Rockies at home. The potential demonstrated as a Dodger in 2017 and 2018 simply can’t be ignored.