Shuffling the Deck: Post-Prospects in the NL East
As Ben has so graciously introduced this series, I’ll dispense with the lengthy introduction and move right to the good stuff:
Atlanta Braves: Evan Gattis, C
We’re in a weird place with Gattis in the fantasy/online community. He was so hyped early on, and then became overrated and then stunk for a bit and I’m not sure he’s underrated as a player right now, but he’s… something. As of now he’s Atlanta’s starting catcher and while they had the ability to protect him given his super-sub role last season, he actually faced RHP a majority of the time, and only did nominally worse against them (757 OPS vs 808 against LHP). On top of this, he’s got the one thing that every fantasy owner is craving: power.
Given a full slate of at-bats, 25+ homers can be anticipated even if it’s not always pretty. The OBP will hurt, the average will too, but not enough to ignore the power potential. He’s better than the second coming of JP Arencibia, and owners can’t afford to undervalue him heading into 2014.
One more to remember: Alex Wood, SP
Miami Marlins: Derek Dietrich, 2B
It’s not a sexy name in any capacity. Then again, post-prospecting isn’t about sex appeal. Dietrich bombed upon his callup, to the tune of a .214/.275/.405 slash line in 233 plate appearances. Blegh. He was also reportedly involved in a physical altercation with Marlins hitting coach Tino Martinez, which can’t help his value with the club. But Dietrich was a steady performer his entire way through the minors, with a career .277/.348/.476 slash line, and even better numbers at Double-A Jacksonville, where he was called up from.
This isn’t the type of guy who will set your world on fire, but when you’re in 20-team dynasty leagues, this is a worthwhile name to know, and have as a bench/fill-in type. Solid pop, a decent batting average, mediocre on-base skills. Overall it’s a meh package, but again, given the position he plays and the depth of the league, that can be enticing.
One more to remember: Marcell Ozuna, OF
New York Mets: Zack Wheeler, SP
Sometimes it’s best not to overthink things. Wheeler was barely above a league average pitcher in his 100 innings at the MLB level, posting a 104 ERA+. He “only” managed 7.6 strikeouts per nine while allowing a hair over eight hits per nine innings. His walks were high at just over four per nine innings. None of that hints at future greatness.
While his star may appear faded next to (what was) the supernova that is Matt Harvey, Wheeler still projects as a front end of the rotation starter. He might not be the ace that Mets fans were hoping for, but he should still be a capable second banana to Harvey if/when he returns to form.
It’s hard to call above league average innings an underperformance, but what Wheeler did failed to live up to the hype. That’s your opportunity to get value. Just because a prospect reaches the major leagues doesn’t mean he is finished developing. Far from it. Wheeler will have to adapt and adjust at the major league level, just as he did previously in the minors. These adjustments are crucial to his long term development, and while the question remains as to whether he can make them, the answer isn’t suddenly more clear after his debut last season. If you believed previously, believe now.
One more to remember: Jenrry Mejia, P
Philadelphia Phillies: Cody Asche, 3B
Like there was anyone else? Asche garnered 179 plate appearance and produced a .235/.302/.389 slash line. Not good. That said, he’s a solid hitter and a mediocre defender playing for a team that needs a body at third. Asche is more of a second division type player than anything, but not being a star isn’t necessarily a bad thing for owners looking for value.
Asche will try to get classy in 2014, and there’s reason enough to be optimistic he at least makes it to casual. Asche walked at an 8.4% clip in his debut season, and while the strikeouts were voluminous at 24%, the hope is that he can adjust. If he doesn’t, he’ll have to start hitting for more power to compensate. Asche can be something around a league average bat, and considering his wRC+ from 2013 (86) there’s some profit to be made if another owner is regretting their investment.
One more to remember: Jonathan Pettibone, SP
Washington Nationals: Anthony Rendon, 2B
Rendon experienced an up and down season that averaged out to, well… something average. He was ice cold upon his debut, returned to the minors and came back on fire, before cooling off once again. When the dust settled he was sporting a 100 wRC+, which, for a rookie is pretty solid. It’s something to build on. His 8% walk rate couple with a 17.5% strikeout rate bodes well for future production. Add in that he handled second base solidly (positive defense metrics) and we can hope he can stick at the keystone for a few more years, enhancing his value.
He’s not a home run guy, but something in the 12-15 range seems reasonable if we give him some credit for his aptitude as well as a full season’s worth of at-bats. He’s best at barrelling up baseballs though, and wearing out the gaps to record extra base hits. So while he may not win you over with his home run numbers, he should make up for it in doubles. One might look at his .307 BABIP and think that’s fair, but I actually think there is room for improvement here, despite a lack of footspeed. Rendon stung the ball in his rookie season, recording a line drive percentage of 25%. If he can reproduce that (or something close), a BABIP north of .307 would be at all surprising.
This might be aggressive, but I consider him a top 7 second sacker heading into 2014.
One more to remember: Tanner Roark, SP