Digging for Diamonds: Ockimey, Chavis, Demeritte, and Andujar
I previously wrote an article in which I described a method to identify future fantasy assets before they rise up prospects lists and become commonly known to other others using ISO, age, and draft position. Out of the six minor leaguers I identified, I believe that five have proven to be worthy pickups in reasonably deep dynasty leagues – Tyler O’Neil, Bobby Bradley, Derek Fisher, Cody Bellinger, and Jake Bauers – while K.J. Woods has certainly not. Perhaps Woods is afraid of knife wielding teammates and will regain the promise he showed last season. Perhaps he won’t, regardless, five out of six isn’t bad at all. The use of draft position was fairly controversial but in my analysis I found that the majority of productive major league hitters were drafted in rounds one through ten. So yes, if you restrict yourself to this range you might miss out on the next Matt Carpenter or J.D. Martinez, but you’re also cutting your universe of players to consider by about 75 percent. Due to the sensitivity of ISO to low batting averages with some power, I also incorporated wOBA to my criteria. This time, I looked for an ISO above .200, wOBA above .375, players younger than league average, and draft position in the first ten rounds. Restricting the list to full season A-ball, I came up with four intriguing targets.
As if the Red Sox don’t have a large enough glut of minor league talent, another slugging prospect will soon be rising up prospect lists. Josh Ockimey, a fifth round pick in 2014, had an acceptable if not impressive full-season debut in 2015 as he posted a .257/.356/.415 slash line. However, despite playing up a level to start 2016, Ockimey has tapped into his reported power potential to slash .290/.425/.519. Even better, he cut his strikeout rate by a third from 34 percent to 23 percent while doubling his walks from 11 percent to 20 percent. Anecdotally, he was prescribed contact lenses for the first time this winter. I can’t promise that the lenses have made an impact but he believes that they have. Also, passengers feel much safer in my car when I wear my glasses than when I don’t, or so they tell me. Regardless, Ockimey has begun to show the power potential that led the Red Sox to draft him out of high school and a best case scenario results in him becoming a middle of the lineup bat. Despite the Red Sox’s depth in elite minor league prospects, the aren’t particularly laden with slugging corner infielders. Sam Travis is perhaps the best first base prospects the Red Sox possess and the power advantage Ockimey yields over Travis might make him their long term answer at first base if he continues to progress. Verdict: Add him tonight.
The Yankee fan in me sighs in disappointment as the next player, once again, resides in Boston’s farm system. It’s like Dave Dombrowski has a genie’s lamp that he goes to whenever he gets bored. Michael Chavis did not impress in his inaugural attempt at full-season A but it’s important to consider his pedigree, age, and the fact that he entirely skipped low-A. Chavis was a first round pick due to his overall athleticism and elite power potential. Even in an unimpressive season, he was able to post decent power numbers as evidenced by 16 home runs. Strikeouts were an issue as he posted a rate of over 30 percent. To date, in 2016, Chavis looks like a different player. He’s cut his strikeout rate in half, from 30.6 percent to 14.5 percent, resulting in an excellent slash line of .324/.395/.515 with an ISO of .191 and wOBA of .415. It’s still early in the season and Chavis only has 74 at-bats, but the improvement to his strikeout rate corrects his biggest deficiency and its one statistic that normalizes quite quickly. Chavis isn’t someone that you need to rush out and pick up immediately in dynasty leagues, but he should be on your radar as a talented hitter who has shown significant improvement over the previous season. Verdict: Wait and see.
Travis Demeritte, a second baseman in the Rangers’ organization, offers a unique skill set for his position. Power is in decline throughout major league baseball and a player who offers it in spades, particularly at a weak offensive position, is always going to be valuable. Demeritte comes with with the usual caveats, led by a very low contact rate, in addition to a bust for PED’s. So far in 2016, Demeritte has raked, posting a slash line of .255/.339/.566. He is reported to be a good fit for his position so his value will come down to whether or not he can keep the strikeouts under control. If he can cut them to 25 percent or less he’s got a good chance to provide power at fantasy’s arguably weakest position. So far he has not shown much improvement with regard to controlling the strike zone as his strikeout and walk rates remain similar to last year. However, his three year trend shows slight progress from 36 percent to 34 percent to 32 percent. It’s not enough but it’s not hopeless. Verdict: Wait and see.
My last player, Miguel Andujar, is the rare Yankee who has exceeded expectations. After holding his own and then some during his age-18 season in class A ball, Andujar turned in a seemingly uninspiring 2015 at high-A. However, considering his age, he performed perfectly fine. Fast forward to this year and he is repeating high-A as a 20-year old and showing signs of blossoming into a difference making player. He’s slashing .275/.331/.472 and has already exceeded his 2015 home run output in less than half as many at bats while cutting his strikeout rate from 17.3 percent to 11.4 percent. He’s still not walking very much but considering the other gains he’s made, it seems silly to nitpick. At this rate, he will likely be promoted to AA, at which point we will see if he’s on the fast track to the majors. It’s not uncommon for minor leaguers to struggle when first promoted, and if Andujar does, it’s not the end of the world. He’s shown that he can adjust to the league. But if he retains his power and strike zone discipline gains after being promoted, this is a player that you will want to jump on. Verdict: Add him if you have a sufficiently deep bench and can afford to wait.
I also am afraid of knife-wielding teammates.