Deep(ish) League Early Off-Season Targets Part One
I doubt the title left much to the imagination. The good news: I don’t have to write anything here. If your league allows trading this late into the season, read the title as”Deep(ish) Late Season Targets for 2017″.
Jorge Polanco, SS, MIN – Polanco has been on the radar for a while now without making a Baseball Prospectus Top 100 list. Since Eduardo Nunez was traded to San Francisco, he has basically been the everyday short stop in Minnesota. He’s put 155 balls in play and only one has been classified as a popup. His absurd line drive rate of over 33 percent would lead the league by a mile over a full season and his plate discipline has been an even bigger and more pleasant surprise. He’s always had very quick hands and it looks like he’s added muscle to his wiry frame. The 11 home runs he’s hit in AAA and MLB combined are a career high and do not look accidental as he’s just stopped hitting ground balls. Combining a sub 2 percent pop up rate and a sub 35 percent ground ball rate over the course of a season is rare and difficult to do. Brandon Belt is the only batter to combine the two. It would not surprise me at all to see an Odubel Herrera type of break-out in 2017.
Wily Peralta, SP, MIL – Since returning from a well-earned demotion, Peralta has been a different pitcher. He’s not different in the sense that he’s still a fastball/slider guy, he’s just changed the amount he’s used the two pitches. He’s less predictable and it seems to be working. He’s managed at least 6 innings pitched in all but one of his eight post-demotion starts and he completed five innings in the other. His five percent decrease in fastball usage paired with his seven percent increase in slider usage has led to significant improvements in his contact and swinging strike rates. He’s nearly doubled his strikeout percentage while somehow lowering his walk percentage. He wasn’t a true talent 6.68 ERA guy before the demotion, but his ERA estimators suggested that he was pretty terrible. Very few starting pitchers throw their slider over 34 percent of the time because of the obvious risks, but the ones who do typically perform better for it. This season, only four qualified starting pitchers have thrown their slider as often as Peralta has after being promoted; Michael Pineda, Chris Archer, Ervin Santana and Jason Hammel. The new Wily Peralta looks an awful lot like 2016 Ervin Santana and I’d bet he’s on your league’s waiver wire or about to be. If you are the visual type, watch his 10 strikeouts from his August 30th start vs the mighty Cardinals. He’s only had one other double-digit strikeout performance and that came against a AA lineup rolled out by the Cubs on the next to the last day of the 2014 season. You know, the ones that just swing at everything so they can go play golf.
Scott Schebler, OF, CIN – Since the trade deadline, Schebler has been a full-time player and he’s hit .284/.356/.457 while earning his manager’s trust against same-handed pitching. What turned me on to Schebler was the fact that he doesn’t hit anything softly. When he makes contact, it screams. He’s a strong man, we know this. He hit 27 home runs in High-A in 2013 and 28 in AA in 2014. The issue was supposed to be his ability to make consistent contact. Well, that hasn’t been an issue and his strikeout and walk rates have remained consistent with his minor league numbers. Since settling in as a full-time player, he’s sitting on a roughly league average contact rate and out of the zone swing rate. He looks almost exactly like the outfielder he is replacing in Cincinnati, Jay Bruce. He’ll almost certainly get a full season’s worth of plate appearances in 2017 for a very bad Reds team.