Searching For Value with Latin American Pitchers: NL Central
Unlike the NL East where there are many interesting Latin pitching prospects, the NL Central is a little light on pitching (though if Latin hitting is your thing, the Pirates churn out unknown hitting sleepers fairly regularly. The Cardinals and Cubs have been high on the market of big money Latin pitching, and I would expect to see the fruits of a larger Latin presence begin to show from the Cubs system. This week I have 4 super deep league sleepers and 1 stud pitcher that you need to make sure you have not underrated. Next week we will finish up the NL with the NL West.
If You Have Keepers You Should have Him:
Alexander Reyes – RHP – St. Louis Cardinals
2014 Stats: 109.1 IP 3.62 ERA 82 H 61 BB 137 K (MWL)
There is a section of people looking at that walk rate and the distance from the majors who are slowly walking away from Reyes to let everyone else fight over him. However, Reyes over the second half went 54.1 IP 2.48 ERA 41 H 24 BB 73 K, and was overall just dominating. It wasn’t just the numbers that jumped forward, the fastball was at plus to plus plus and the curveball started to be a consistently plus pitch. I am a big believer that once stuff clicks for a pitcher the path to the majors is much shorter, especially if the profile demands a challenge. Throughout his career every time Carlos Martinez dominated a level the Cardinals promoted him, and given Reyes’ strong second half he may be spring boarding himself for a similar quick jump forward. His ultimate development depends on the development of his changeup, which he has started to gain better feel of, but it may take to AA or AAA before the fastball and curveball don’t just dominate on their own. With Reyes at best you have a front end starter, but the likely outcome is that a year from now you have one of the hottest pitching prospects in baseball who is currently in AA. If Reyes had been an American prospect with a similar risk/reward profile like a Tyler Kolek or Kohl Stewart, we might not be asking all the same questions. My advice right now is if your league has prospect spots without escalating cost Reyes needs to be owned and if anyone is valuing him outside the top 50 fantasy prospects in a shallower league (in a super deep league his value does drop some due to his risk) now is the time to make your move.
Hector Garcia – LHP – Pirates
2014 Stats: 48 IP 3.38 ERA 40 H 19 BB 50 K
A common theme among Latin American pitchers is that their short height makes them overlooked by fantasy players looking for prototypical height. Coming in at 6’0″ and 170lbs Garcia is not large but his fastball is now up to 92, which is plenty as a left handed pitcher. Garcia pitched all of 2014 at age 18, so there is a chance he adds more velocity. The thing that stands out to me is seeing Garcia drop his walk rate from 4.79 as a 17 year old in the GCL to 3.56 in advanced rookie ball. Garcia’s ceiling isn’t huge, but he is worth keeping an eye on if you are in a super deep league because he has the profile to start long term. Garcia should get a start in full season ball in 2015 and if the stuff creeps forward a little, he is a guy who will jump up lists.
Buying Opportunity: Overlook short pitchers at your own peril
Miguel Diaz – RHP – Milwaukee Brewers
2014 Stats: 47.0 IP 4.21 ERA 42 H 20 BB 53 K (AZL)
Miguel Diaz was a surprise on BP’s Top 10 Brewers prospect list, but that is what happens when you strikeout 53 in 47 innings in your stateside debut. But beyond the bat missing in the AZL, Diaz showed some slider progression in fall league. That paired with a fastball at 92-94 touching 96 means that Diaz has some reliever upside (which is nice to have if you are in a really deep league with holds). But the intriguing thing is whether Diaz can harness the fastball and slider as a starter. There is a large gap though between that ceiling and being a major league pitcher. Diaz is only going to be an option in very deep leagues because he is likely to move very slowly as we saw with 2013 hot prospect Devin Williams who spent 2014 in short-season Helena. Don’t look at Diaz as a long term ace, but a #3/#4 upside is pretty good if you are getting into a 30 team league as pitchers with #3 upside are snapped up at a high price. If you are in a shallower league Diaz is a guy to listen to see if he gains any consistency, if he does, it might make sense to grab him on that upswing.
Buying Opportunity: Solid Fastball/Slider
Jacob Constante – LHP – Cincinatti Reds
2014 Stats: 33.0 IP 4.09 ERA 42 H 11 BB 31 K (AZL)
Normally a pitcher allowing 11.5 H/9 and a 4.09 ERA while never pitching more than 5 innings at any one point. But 6’3″ 220 LHPs with a fastball up to 94, with an above average slider, and a feel for a changeup are not common. Constante also has the frame that you could see adding velocity to an already easy delivery. Constante will be 21 to start the 2015 season, which is old for a Latin prospect, but he has the three pitches and the mindset to be a starting pitcher long term. Constante only pitched in 33 innings in 2014 so it is unlikely that he gets a full year of starts in 2015 so he may take another year or two to really emerge out of the Reds system.
Buying Oportunity: Starter’s arsenal and good left handed velocity
Jefferson Mejia – RHP – Chicago Cubs
2014 Stats: 40.0 IP 2.48 ERA 30 H 17 BB 45 K
If you are in a super deep league there is a chance Mejia is already owned because the Cubs handed him $850,000 as part of their spending spree a year ago. On this list Mejia (who is the oldest at 20 years old) probably has the worst chance to be a starter if he makes the major leagues. Right now he is mostly fastball (but that fastball is 92-94 touching 97), but he has shown a curveball and changeup with above average potential. At 6’7″ 195 he gets a lot of plane on the fastball and there could even be a touch more velocity in the arm. There is a ton of upside here, but also a lot of risk. Some of that risk is mitigated by the fast that the stuff should play up nicely in a bullpen. If your league is deep and has holds, an arm like Meija’s is a good one to stash because it opens up a lot more range of impact on your team that a pitcher with lesser raw stuff just doesn’t have. In a standard dynasty league, put Mejia on your follow list, but it is too early to be picking him up.
Buying Opportunity: Quality arm may have been overlooked in Cubs splashy purchases, has some risk mitigated in a league favoring relievers