August 27, 2014
They Hold No Quarter
If there’s anything we love more than baseball around here on the fantasy staff, it’s collaborating with each other. So, at the behest of myself, we’re going to be doing one final group series of the year to close out the last seven weeks of the season. For this series, we will each select one player who is below 25 percent owned in either ESPN or Yahoo! leagues who could be someone to consider grabbing before the end of the season with an eye toward a keeper spot. Now, given the depth we’re dealing with here, these recommendations are not for owners who can keep five or seven players from season-to-season—it’s more for those of you who play in leagues where keepers take up more than half of your roster (and possibly more, in the case of some recommendations contained within).
Garin Cecchini, Boston Red Sox
“Garin Cecchini has had a down year. His much-vaunted walk rate is down and his strikeout rate is up. Trading walks for strikeouts is not good. The good that might come of this is that his poor performance has potentially made him acquirable. We know that owners hate selling low, but if he has not been claimed or if he has been dropped, then I still think he is worth a shot. Since he’s still only 23 years old, 2014 might prove to be an adjustment year for Cecchini. Of course, it might not. But if it does, you are looking at a cheap third basemen that gives you a little bit of everything while playing half his games at Fenway. On top of that, opportunity is not unforeseeable as only Will Middlebrooks and Brock Holt stand in front of him on the depth chart. Cecchini could also very easily be traded, potentially in a package including Boston’s many outfielders and number five/six starters. The advantage here is that the acquiring team probably likes Cecchini, meaning playing time would be likely. It is not a sexy gamble, but it is a gamble that (depending on your league) might just be cheap enough to be worth the risk.” —Jeff Quinton
David Freese, Los Angeles Angels
“Freese is owned in just 7.6 percent of ESPN leagues in the midst of a lackluster first season with the Angels. Viewed as a potential cheap source of power heading into the season, the former Cardinal has hit just .255/.321/.359 this year, making him just the latest in a long line of disappointing Mr. Freeses. His days of challenging for 20 homers are probably over, but Freese has a chance to be usable in AL-only or mixed leagues deeper than 16-plus teams next season. A lot can change over the course of an offseason, but the Halos don't have anyone who can really challenge him for playing time right now, and Freese could rack up something along the lines of 60 RBI, 50 R and 10 HR over a full healthy season. Obviously there's not a ton of reason for optimism here, but given the dearth of appealing options at third base Freese warrants a look for one more season, even if the upside is quite modest. “ —Ben Carsley
Maikel Franco, Philadelphia Phillies
“A quick glance at Franco’s 2013 numbers and it is easy to think that this was a lost season for the Phillies prospect. The reality is he played most of the year as a 21-year-old in Triple-A. Franco scuffled early, and then had an up and down year. When everything is going right, he looks like a potential 25-30 home run masher with decent batting average potential. The problem is that even with a full year in Triple-A, Franco is still somewhat raw. His offspeed pitch recognition still leaves something to be desired and when he slumps he falls into bad habits that prolong the bad times. He is listed in this space because the competition in front of him at third isn’t awe-inspiring. Cody Asche may have performed better than many expected, but he isn’t part of the next Phillies championship club whereas Franco might be. I’d stash Franco if you can keep him next year. There is a good chance that he is up at some point, and with a hot spring, that some point could be as early as April. Even if Franco isn’t ready right out of the gate, he could still provide more power from third base than many established regulars at the position do.” —Mike Gianella
Mike Moustakas, Kansas City Royals
“Look, I get it, Mike Moustakas has pretty dramatically underperformed his prospect projections and has been by and large a terrible hitter in the Major Leagues. But hear me out for a second here. His BABIP this season is .207. That's not a typo. Even for a lumbering dude with a history of bad contact that's absurd, and it's some 60 points below his already-well-below-average career number heading into the season.
Despite the bad luck holding down his overall fantasy value this season though, there are actually some highly encouraging signs in his performance. Most basically, his strikeout rates the last three years have gone from 20.2 percent to 16.1 percent to his current 14.9 percent, while he's gained almost 1.5 percentage points on his walk rate from last season. The gains are backed up by an overall contact rate that's risen six percent during that time, and to boot he's swing at four and a half percent less balls out of the zone while maintaining a consistent overall swing rate. And the contact he's making is much better. His average batted ball distance of 284.6 feet cracks the top 100 in baseball on the heels of a season in which he checked in at a dismal 231st. All of this is to say he's been making very steady, linear progress in the right direction, and at 25 he's only just now starting to enter his physical peak. He may never be the corner monster some envisioned when he first burst onto the scene, but fantasy owners would be foolish to ignore the real and significant improvements he's made this year. In deeper leagues he warrants attention as a sneaky end-game keeper option as a breakout flyer at the hot corner while he's cheap.” —Wilson Karaman