Digging for Diamonds: 4 Players You Forgot About
In most dynasty leagues, you need to keep track of at least 300 players. In deeper leagues, you may have to keep track of 600-plus. If you’re in TDGX or a TDGX reader league, you need help and you need to know 800-plus names.
This means that purging some players from your mind now and then can be a beneficial exercise. You need to make room for new players with fewer exposed flaws and a greater chance of impacting a MLB roster, and it’s important to not fall into the “name value” trap once players have proven incapable of producing in the majors.
That being said, sometimes prospects and post-prospects drop off the radar so precipitously that it can be difficult to ascertain exactly what went wrong and if there’s any point to continuing to monitor their status. That’s why this week, I’ve decided to dive really deep and take a look at four blast-from-the-past names who still have a 0.01% chance of achieving fantasy relevancy.
Gary Brown, OF, Giants
Once viewed as the center fielder of the future in San Francisco, Brown now looks a lot more like a fifth outfielder of the future. While Brown has always faced questions about his strength and his ability to hit, he had yet to truly bottom out as he did in 2013, hitting just .231/.286/.375 in 608 PA in Triple-A. He’ll turn 26 this season, so youth is certainly not on his side, and Brown has proven to be an ineffective base runner despite his plus speed as well.
While Brown’s 2013 was an unmitigated disaster, it did represent his first taste of Triple-A, and he was successful in Double-A the previous year. I think it’s safe to say he’ll never be a major league regular, but there’s still room for Brown in the Giants’ future if he proves more successful in 2014, and quite frankly, it would be hard for Brown to be much worse. Juan Perez is currently the fifth outfielder in San Francisco, so it’s not as though there’s much standing in Brown’s path. He’s obviously of no fantasy use right now, but I’m going to keep tabs on him this year before I completely wash my hands of him.
Zack Cox, 3B, Marlins
Drafted in the first round of the 2010 draft, Cox was viewed by most as a safe prospect with a limited ceiling who’d probably see the Majors by the end of the 2012 season. The third baseman did indeed hit quite well in the lower minors but has hit just .250/.292/.414 in 322 PA in Triple-A in 2012, and saw barely any time at that level in 2013. Cox doesn’t hit for power, is a questionable defender and now finds himself as a soon-to-be 25-year-old with no MLB experience.
There are a few reasons for, well, optimism isn’t quite right, but at least there are a few reasons to not completely write off Cox just yet. For one, he’s shown the ability to reach base with regularity in the minors, walking at a decent rate everywhere save Triple-A. His strikeout rate generally hovers around 20%, which isn’t great but isn’t totally awful. And from a fantasy perspective, the best thing about Cox (get your mind out of the gutter) is that Casey McGehee is all that prevents him from seeing regular MLB time. It’s tough to see Cox as anything more than an up-and-down guy, but he could become relevant in NL-only leagues at some point in 2014.
Christian Friedrich, SP, Rockies
Back when I first began writing about prospects on the interwebs, and before I had any contacts inside the game or knew the first thing about scouting, Friedrich was one of my favorite prospects. He had decent stuff and velocity from the left side, with a body built to log innings. He was the next Jon Lester, I had decided, Coors Field, scouting and common sense be damned.
Friedrich as fallen just a bit short of that ceiling, throwing just 84.2 ineffective innings in the majors to this point, and missing a ton of time with injuries in 2010, 2012 and 2013. He’ll turn 27 in August, and while he still demonstrates the ability to miss bats in the minors, there’s little else trending in his favor at this point. The Rockies are short on viable pitching options in the interim, but with Eddie Butler and Jonathan Gray on track for late 2014/early 2015 debuts, that might not be the case for much longer. Odds are Friedrich will get one more shot at seeing some MLB starts before then, but should he fail again a move to the bullpen should be imminent.
Danny Hultzen, SP, Mariners
Yet another player considered “safe” when drafted (sensing a theme here?), Hultzen’s stock has plummeted since he was selected second overall in 2011 thanks to a mix of underwhelming performances and shoulder trouble. Hultzen threw just 35.2 innings last season before undergoing surgery on his left shoulder, and as we all know, there’s nothing scarier than seeing “shoulder surgery” and “pitcher” in the same sentence. Given that Hultzen’s will not pitch at all in 2014, there’s plenty of cause for owners to forget about him all together.
Yet despite everything Hultzen has going against him right now, it’s a bit early to write him off completely. While he won’t throw a pitch until the 2015 season, he’ll be just 25 when that season begins. Assuming he’ll need at least a season in the minors to fully harness his stuff, it’s likely that Hultzen doesn’t see any MLB time until mid-2016, when he’ll be 26. Odds are he never gets there, of course, and Hultzen doesn’t deserve to be rostered in even the deepest of dynasty leagues. But I will watch his comeback with interest, in part because it would be a great story, in part because it could prove to be a step forward for all pitchers with shoulder injuries, and in part because any lefty with a pulse is interesting in Safeco.