Digging for Diamonds: Round 4
Welcome back to another edition of Digging for Diamonds! A series where we look for players outside our top 100 prospects in order to identify hidden gems for your dynasty rosters. We present a case to you, the reader, as to why our picks are valuable and you, the reader, to vote and ultimately decide which player you believe in the most.
This is our first in-season Digging for Diamonds and it’s a good ol’-fashioned Duel, between Ken Balderston and Bob Osgood. Each author will be trying to sell you on why you should monitor their selection, and at the end of each article, we’ll be asking for you to vote on which prospect you found to be this installment’s “diamond.” Give it a read, and may the best diamond win.
Round #1: Adam Kloffenstein with 45.64% of the vote
Round #2: Peyton Burdick with 51% of the vote
Round #3: Brenton Doyle with 65.74% of the vote
Roansy Contreras, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Age: 21, Highest Level: Double-A
Analysis by: Ken Balderston
Ok, so I’m cherry-picking a bit here, but not enough people are talking about Roansy Contreras. I’d expect him to make our top 200 prospect list when we hopefully update it later this summer, and I’ve also seen him quite high on a few other notable industry lists. As a key part of the trade that sent Jameson Taillon to the Yankees, Roansy was part of a package of players thought to be quantity over quality return at the time. Well, most of the players who the Pirates got have been quite good to start the year, but none as hot as Roansy Contreras. He opened the year as a 21-year-old in AA Altoona and is listed at 6’0” and 175lbs, but this spring he looked like he’s gained some weight especially in his core and upper body. While his fastball sat 92-94 mph in 2019, Roansy has bumped his velocity up to 96-98 mph with an average spin rate of 2,400 + RPMs today. He’s able to consistently spot the pitch high in the zone and seems to have some downward break when thrown low in the zone. As far as secondary offerings, he has a low 80’s curveball with a lot of late downward break he throws for strikes. It’s always been a potential plus pitch, but it had a lot of sweep to it in the Yankees organization, and he’s now made it a sharper pitch with a firmer vertical break. His changeup is, or maybe was, a work in progress, without a ton of run or sink. He’s managed to be more consistent with it and also gain control of the pitch, to the point it can generate weak contract or show as another look to the batter.
What does all this mean on the field? Well, the stats speak for themselves! In 7 games or 40 innings, Roansy has a 2.25 ERA and 0.80 WHIP, along with 57 strikeouts and only 9 walks. That’s better than a 6:1 K:BB ratio, but also a 12.8 K/9 rate. He’s currently getting swinging strikes at a rate of 15.2%, and a 32.6% CSW ((Called Strikes + WIFFS)/Total Pitches). The nine walks (2.03 BB/9) so far are pretty incredible as well, especially for someone with such a high strikeout rate. It gets better though, in 40 innings Contreras has only allowed 2 home runs, he’s already pitched six innings or more in more than half his starts, and 47% of the balls in play have been on the ground. There’s so much to like, but it’s just the bump in velocity that has made Roansy either. He was probably a bit underrated before the trade, as he was not included on the Pipeline’s 2020 Yankees top 25 prospect list, and only ranked in the late teens or lower on many other lists. Prior to 2020, he had thrown 249.1 innings, with a 3.25 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and 207 strikeouts, and only 74 walks. To be fair there was some bullpen concern with him at the time, but conversely, he was also just coming off a season where he pitched 132.1 innings in 24 starts. I’ll admit I didn’t own any shares either, but it just goes to show how underrated he was.
In fact, I still don’t have any Roansy Contreras shares, and nobody in my league wants to help me out with that. It seems those who like him, like him a lot, and who wouldn’t? He’s lighting up the stat line, and with the matured physique, increased velocity, as well as adding sharpness to his curve, and more consistency to his changeup, the improved stats are entirely justified. I’m not going to stop trying to acquire him though, as I really believe this Pirates organization is finally on the right track. Maybe the product on the field is not reflecting that so far, or here either, but the night is always darkest before the dawn. Their minor league system is certainly showing improvement, and Roansy is one of the hottest names they have.
Kaden Polcovich, 2B/CF, Seattle Mariners
Age: 22, Highest Level: High-A
Analysis by: Bob Osgood
A transfer from junior college Northwest Florida, all we truly had to evaluate Kaden Polcovich’s NCAA career were 64 at-bats over 18 games at Oklahoma State. 64 at-bats in February and early March against schools like Grand Canyon, Little Rock, and UT Rio Grande Valley. However, in those 18 games, the switch-hitter batted .344 with 19 walks and 10 strikeouts, good for a .494 OBP. At 5’8”, 180 lbs (he’s listed closer to 5’10’’ these days) without a standout defensive position, you can understand why the now-22-year-old didn’t stick out in our first-year player drafts in the offseason. Digging in a little bit deeper, however, Polcovich’s 2019 performance in the Cape Cod League is what really pushed him up draft boards last summer. The wood bat league provides one of the great summer challenges in the country, and per Prospects Live, Polcovich hit .305 with a 29:27 BB:K ratio with eight doubles and two home runs. “His hands and bat speed really stood out and found consistent barrels and exit velocities above 100.” Remember that quote later.
The Mariners drafted Polcovich with the 78th overall pick in the third round of the 2020 draft before assigning him to their alternate training site for the remainder of the year. Scott Hunter, director of amateur scouting for the Mariners told The Oklahoman, “He’s hit everywhere he’s been. We do think there’s some real power in there for a smaller guy. He’s got tools. It comes in a smaller frame, but if you watch the video on him he is strong as heck and he gets everything out of his body and the game.” The scouting reports backed that up. With a great eye at the plate, Polcovich takes vicious hacks from both sides of the plate and uses his hips and legs to generate power like a young Bryson DeChambeau. Eric Longenhagen touted this spring that, “Polcovich is about 5-foot-8, but he’s also pound-for-pound the strongest prospect I saw during minor league spring training in Arizona.” Once he’s out of the box, Polcovich has 60-grade speed according to numerous accounts, which he’s flashed through a 9-for-12 stolen base rate in the first month-and-a-half of this young minor league season. The obvious drawback for him is his defense, where over the first 37 games of the 2021 season he has made 18 appearances at second base, nine in center field, three at shortstop, and two at third base. Baseball America reported that he has struggled with his footwork in the infield, showing a little more hope for his aggressive approach in the outfield.
In dynasty baseball, we care most about that sweet, sweet bat though. The more I’ve read about Polcovich, the more I see reference to a guy who uses every inch of his short frame to attack the ball with max-effort from both sides of the plate and hit the ball hard. I recently heard Rotowire’s James Anderson referencing their MiLB Batted Ball leaderboards and after a quick review, I knew that I had dug for my diamond this week. At his first assignment with High-A Everett, Polcovich is hitting for a 53.3% hard-hit rate through 149 at-bats! Add in a 15.6% BB%, seven home runs, and 11 doubles (to go with the nine steals) entering play on 6/24 and I see a .262/.389/.477 slash line that I’m on board with. Unless the defense improves, or Polcovich continues to hit the ball this hard at the higher levels of the minors (from both sides of the plate) with a reasonable K-rate (which sits at a tolerable 23.9% at High-A), we may not see an everyday player here. However, in 20-team leagues and deeper where 300-400 prospects are likely stashed, this is a season where we constantly have to evolve and realize that not everyone is who we thought they were after the 2020 season fell by the wayside. I am certainly willing to take a flier on Kaden Polcovich in those types of formats.