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August 12, 2014

Deep Impact

Week 19

by Ben Carsley

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Intro time, you don’t have to go home but you can’t. Stay. Here.

Rymer Liriano, OF, Padres
Liriano has long been a pet prospect of mine, and I was happy to allow confirmation bias to set in when I learned that Craig Goldstein loved Liriano, too. The talented outfielder destroyed High-A as a 21-year-old in 2012, and was productive in limited playing time in Double-A, too. Tommy John then deprived him of his 2013 campaign, but he hit .264/.335/.377 in 415 Double-A PA this season, hitting 14 homers and swiping 17 bags along the way. After a 16-game cameo in Triple-A, Liriano now finds himself in the majors, and he should see substantial playing time immediately.

Please don’t expect Liriano to hit for a good average. Ever, really, but particularly right now. Liriano has a penchant for swinging and missing and isn’t the most patient player in the world, though he’s not allergic to walks. And of his natural tools, his hit tool might be the worst. Generally, that scares me in a player, but in today’s power-starved atmosphere, Liriano can be a relevant fantasy player even if he only hits .240, provided that average comes with 20 homers and steals apiece. That’s not what you should project from Liriano initially, of course, but it’s what he could be producing by 2016.

The Padres are a really bad offensive team, and they don’t have a ton of hope for the future. Maybe Jedd Gyorko bounces back. Maybe Yasmani Grandal finally rounds into form. Maybe Carlos Quentin stays healthy for more than seven consecutive games. But still, Liriano is a rarity in that he could be a competent offensive player in San Diego, and that means he could be batting near the middle of the order come next April. This is a flawed player, but a potentially useful one in leagues with 16-or-more teams next season.

Side note: I made The Internet’s first “there’s no Rymer reason” joke. Don’t let them tell you otherwise.

Jacob Turner, P, Cubs
I’m not going to spend as many words on Turner as I did on Liriano, because he’s simply not worth the effort. Traded from the Marlins to the Cubs last week, Turner will now get a chance to redeem himself in The Organization That Turned Around Jake Arrieta, as it’s now formally known. Despite being drafted in 1985, Turner is still just 23 years old, so in spite of the extreme case of prospect fatigue some of us feel, he still has plenty of years remaining to tantalize and disappoint fantasy owners.

Snark aside, this is a nice pickup for the Cubs. Turner may have posted a 5.97 ERA this season, but his FIP suggests that number should be closer to 4.00. He doesn't miss many bats, but he generates a good amount of ground balls. And with a 6.5 percent walk rate this year, Turner’s learned to limit the free passes, too. He’ll never be a boon in WHIP or K, but he could help in ERA and W in the right situation.

The Cubs gave up nothing of significance to acquire Turner, and there’s a non-zero chance he turns into a cost-controlled no. 4 starter for them for a few years. If you’re playing in a dynasty league, please read that sentence again and take full stock of just how limited Turner’s upside is. Basically, he’s fine as a waiver-wire grab in 20-team leagues. If you need to give up anything remotely substantial for him, though, pass.

Fun fact: He’s still, like, the third-most-promising young pitcher in the Cubs organization.

Zach Walters, UT, Indians
Walters has hit 54 doubles and 46 homers over his last two seasons in Triple-A. The 24-year-old can play second base and left field, and can fake it at shortstop. And with more than 1,000 PA at Double-A or higher, he’s ready for consistent big league playing time right now. Thanks to Nick Swisher’s injury, Walters is getting a chance to play consistently for the Tribe, and he’s worth paying attention to in deeper leagues.

Acquired for Asdrubal Cabrera just about two weeks ago, Walters faced a crowded group of infielders and outfielders ahead of him in Washington. He’s still got some competition in Cleveland, but there’s undoubtedly a clearer path to playing time for him now, at least as an oft-played utility guy. I’m not optimistic he’ll hit for much of an average, despite his .300 average with the Nats in Triple-A this year. But I do think that if he gets 350 PA next season, he could hit 12 homers. That sounds boring, but if he has MI and OF eligibility, he’ll be of note.

Trust me: I’ve started Sean Rodriguez on purpose a few weeks in TDGX this year, and many other players like him are owned and active. Walters doesn’t have a sexy profile, but he does enough things well that he should enjoy a MLB career for the next few years, and it’s possible he even winds up as a second-division starter at second base. His power will make him interesting as long as he retains eligibility at SS or 2B.

Deep League Streamer of the Week: Brett Oberholtzer, HOU
I owe Deep Impact readers an apology. Last week, I suggested starting John Danks against the Rangers. It was my worst streaming suggestion to date this season, as Danks gave up nine earned runs in 4 2/3 innings pitched. So... my bad. But this week, I’ll try to win back your faith as many fantasy writers do: by suggesting you go with Brett Oberholtzer. The 25-year-old has a 4.05 ERA in 97.2 MLB innings this year, though his FIP is about a half-run lower. And while his 14.9 percent strikeout rate isn’t inspiring, he’s going up against the Twins on Wednesday. Minnesota ranks just 20th in the league in OBP against left-handed hitters, and while Joe Mauer is back, Josh Willingham is gone. Oberholtzer isn’t going to grab you a lot of Ks, but he’s going against a feast-or-famine starter in Kyle Gibson and a W is within his reach. I’m not super confident about this selection, but he’s gotta be better than Danks was, right? Right.

Twitter Question of the Week:

Interesting question, Patrick. I understand the temptation here, since Hahn is producing right now and Urias has just as much potential as Wheeler. But as good as Hahn’s been through his first 10 starts ... it’s just 10 starts, and he has less than 100 IP at any level from Double-A on up. And as good as Urias is, he’s yet to reach Double-A, and his ultimate upside as a no .2 fantasy starter mirrors Wheeler’s.

Fantasy owners seem to have tired of Wheeler, apparently because he’s not Matt Harvey. But this is a 24-year-old who pitches in a pitcher-friendly ballpark and who’s already thrown 240 innings of 3.53 ERA ball at an age when many pitchers are just scratching the surface of the majors. I’m keeping Wheeler here, and I think he’s one of the more underrated young studs in the game. I prefer Wheeler to any pitching prospect out there right now, Noah Syndergaard, Archie Bradley and Lucas Giolito included.

Player Namedrop of the Week: Mark McLemore
Random RP Who Will Earn a Win: David Carpenter, Braves
Random Backup Who Will Homer: Jonny Gomes, Athletics
Xander Bogaerts Adjective: Inconsistent

Ben Carsley is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ben's other articles. You can contact Ben by clicking here

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