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August 19, 2014

Deep Impact

Week 20

by Ben Carsley

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525,600 intros.

Mookie Betts, OF/2B, Red Sox
For the third time this season, Betts finds himself as a member of the Boston Red Sox. This time, his promotion very well could be permanent, as the 21-year-old has continued to mash at the Triple-A level while his MLB counterpart, Jackie Bradley Jr., ranked as one of the worst hitters in the majors. Bradley should be stuck in Pawtucket until September, and even then, the Sox are unlikely to want to stifle Betts’ development, so it looks like fantasy owners have been gifted an interesting, useful outfielder for the remainder of the season.

There’s nothing in Betts’ minor-league numbers that suggests he won’t get on base and run a little bit in the majors right away. He’s walked in about 13 percent of his PA between Double-A and Triple-A this year while striking out about 11 percent of the time. Betts has a swing geared for consistent, hard line-drive contact, and he has excellent plate discipline to boot.

Those are skills that generally translate well to the majors sooner than later—as opposed to, say, extreme power or speed. I don’t expect Betts to leave the yard often this season, but if he gets 100 PA the rest of the way, two homers, six or seven steals, and a dozen-plus runs and RBI are well within his reach. There aren’t a lot of outfielders likely to be promoted with more upside remaining, so feel free to bid a significant portion of your FAAB on him.

Trevor May, RHP, Twins
May was a big-name prospect back with the Phillies a few years ago, and when you see his pure stuff, it’s not hard to understand why. May has the arsenal to miss bats and get outs at the big-league level, and his move from Philadelphia to Minnesota before the 2013 season was generally a positive one for his fantasy value. After a pretty decent year in Triple-A, May’s now earned some starts in the Twins’ MLB rotation.

This does not, however, mean you should be buying May in deep leagues. Yes, his 23.5 percent strikeout rate and 2.84 ERA in Triple-A are attractive. But May is still far too prone to losing the strike zone at a moment’s notice, and while he comes with considerable strikeout upside, he comes with massive, WHIP- and ERA-crushing downside, too. We saw a bit of that in May’s first start, when he walked seven batters in two-plus innings, and he’s already walked four more in 4 2/3 innings tonight as I write this.

Sooner or later, May is going to transition into a bullpen role, and he’ll likely flourish there as a late-inning reliever. That makes him worth holding on to in dynasty leagues, if you have the space, but he’s not worth a bid in redraft deep leagues right now. Other, safer options will emerge, and while you might miss out on a gem or two by avoiding May, you’re going to miss out on a lot of heartache, too.

Matt Szczur, OF, Cubs
It feels like Szczur has been in the minor leagues forever. After gaining some prospect helium in 2012 following a successful High-A stint, Szczur’s ascent through the minors has slowed as he’s hit Double-A and Triple-A. Regardless, he’s finally made the majors as a 25-year-old, and while he won’t have an everyday job handed to him, he’s in line for some playing time down the stretch.

Fantasy owners should primarily be interested in Szczur for his speed. The right-hander nabbed 30 bases in 37 tries this year, improving greatly on his 22-for-34 record from a year ago. He’s not an absolute burner, but he’s certainly fast enough to swipe 25-plus bags over a full season. Unfortunately, Szczur’s utter lack of power may prevent him from ever seeing that much time in a season.

Arismendy Alcantara figures to play in the outfield for the Cubs every day, but other than the rookie, Szczur’s biggest challenges for playing time are Chris Coghlan, Ryan Sweeney, and Justin Ruggiano. You’d think that’d give him a chance to szcz some playing time this year, and he’s capable of grabbing some steals without a terrible average for the truly desperate.

Deep League Streamer of the Week: Roberto Hernandez, Dodgers
Listen, I’m not here to tell you Hernandez is a good pitcher. But that might not matter this week, as the righty formerly known as Fausto Carmona faces off against the Padres in Dodger Stadium on Wednesday night. Hernandez has had a pretty uninspiring season, striking out just 14.9 percent of the batters he’s faced while walking 10.3 percent. But he’s induced ground balls at an above average rate and he’s kept the ball in the park, which has let him skimp his way to a 3.72 ERA despite a 4.42 FIP.

But enough about Hernandez—this is as much about the Padres as it is the pitcher. I’m not going to look this up, but I think the Padres have scored, like, 32 runs this season, and you have to like the Dodgers’ odds of defeating Eric Stults in the matchup of stalwarts. If you don’t need strikeouts but do need ERA and W help, Hernandez is a nice play this week.

Twitter Question of the Week:

I feel like I start off every weekly query with the “this isn’t really a deep league question, but,” caveat, but that’s on you for not asking me better deep league questions, internet.

This isn’t really a deep league question, but since it’s a dynasty format and we’re looking at what’s likely a solid pool of players kept, let’s answer anyway. I get why this deal is tempting. Sale is far and away the best player in this deal right now, but Machado has massive upside and Arrieta has morphed into a respectable no. 3-4 fantasy starter this season. Theoretically, you could grab a potential top 30 hitter in Machado and only lose 25-30 percent of Sale’s value by replacing him with Chicago’s most famous reclamation project since the shoreline.

But with Machado’s shaky knees and Arrieta’s limited track record of success, I think I’m holding on to Sale here. I really, really like Machado, so this is tough, but Sale is a fantasy monster who shows no signs of slowing down, and I’m just not confident we’re going to see a true breakout from Machado for another few years. You’re not crazy for taking this deal, and I get the hitters are better investments than pitchers logic, but I can’t tell you to sell Sale.

Player Namedrop of the Week: Akinori Iwamura
Random RP Who Will Earn a Win: Ken Giles, RHP, Phillies
Random Backup Who Will Homer: Brennan Boesch, OF, Angels
Xander Bogaerts Adjective: Self-Loathing

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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