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April 24, 2013

Free Agent Watch

National League, Week Four

by Josh Shepardson

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Devin Mesoraco, C, Cincinnati Reds
Ownership: ESPN: 0.3% Yahoo!: 1% CBS: 10%
2013 Stats: 6 R, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 0 SB, .281 AVG

Often in the fickle world of fantasy baseball, yesterday's highly touted prospect is tossed aside for the newest shiny toy. In the case of Mesoraco, it is more understandable than in the case of many others. Mesoraco struggled last year, hitting just .212/.288/.352. Meanwhile, incumbent starter Ryan Hanigan was coming off a solid season where he held his own at the plate, largely due to his .365 OBP, but he was even more valuable to the Reds because he cut down 48 percent of attempting base stealers. Hanigan was placed on the disabled list on April 21, and according to Drew Silva of NBC Sports, he could miss about three weeks.

Mesoraco is playing much better this season than he did last. He has reached base in all nine games he's played in this year, and has tallied multiple hits in three of his last five games played. It took a while for Mesoraco to get his bat going in his minor-league career, and he did his best work in the upper minors, triple-slashing .294/.363/.594 at the Double-A level and .279/.359/.472 at the Triple-A level. Our prospect staff here at Baseball Prospectus, namely Mark Anderson, liked Mesoraco enough coming into the season to rank him fourth on the Reds top 10 talents 25-and-under list. That fourth-place ranking is one spot ahead of everyone's favorite burner, Billy Hamilton. The list takes defense and position into consideration, which have little to no fantasy value, but Anderson noted Mesoraco's potential to pop 15-20 homers. 

Brandon Belt, 1B, San Francisco Giants
Ownership: ESPN: 16.1%, Yahoo!: 33% CBS: 52%
2013 Stats: 6 R, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 2 SB, .222 AVG

I swear, Belt was included in this week's article prior to his homer heroics last night. With that out of the way, on to the analysis. Belt's ownership has plummeted across all major fantasy baseball providers since draft day. His draft stock rose in some leagues that drafted late as a result of a sizzling spring. Spring stats mean very little, but that doesn't mean that Belt was bad candidate to project to improve this year.

He'd gotten off to a slow start this season, but some poor luck was at least partly to blame. Prior to last night, Belt put 47 balls in play and 15 (31.9 percent) were line drives. However, despite the hard contact, Belt's BABIP sat at .255. Highlighting Belt's lin- drive rate isn't meant to suggest he'll continue to rip them nearly one-third of the time he puts the ball in play, but rather to point out that he's making hard contact. Belt has been on the bench at the beginning of the Giants' last three games, but they've faced three consecutive left-handed starters. The days off are likely matchup-based, and Belt will sit on occasion against southpaws. If Belt was cast aside in your league, and the league is a 12-team mixed league or larger with a corner-infield position, add him. He's not a conventional slugging first baseman, but 10-15 homers become acceptable when they are accompanied by a dozen or so stolen bases. 

Jedd Gyorko, 2B/3B, San Diego Padres
Ownership: ESPN: 30.1% Yahoo!: 28% CBS: 64%
2013 Stats: 6 R, 0 HR, 6 RBI, 0 SB, .229 AVG

Gyorko has suffered from the same roster-trimming fate as Belt in many leagues, and it is too early to cut bait in most formats. A small-sample-size warning and a warning about the time it takes for batted ball data to stabilize is in order, but Gyorko's .229 batting average belies his 29.4 percent line-drive rate. Gyorko is walking at a rate that lines up with his work in the upper minors, and his strikeout rate isn't alarmingly higher in the majors. He has unique position eligibility, and that flexibility has value if he starts hitting, which I expect him to do. He doesn't pack as much punch as his numbers in the Pacific Coast League last year would suggest, but he's not completely punch-less either. Double-digit homers with an average north of .270 the rest of the year would be playable at the keystone position in larger leagues, and both are attainable for Gyorko. Owners that are in need of help at second base or third base should kick the tires on Gyorko's cost in leagues in which he's rostered, and those playing in leagues where he's available should scoop him up.  

Anthony Rendon, 3B, Washington Nationals
Ownership: ESPN: 9.0% Yahoo!: 21% CBS: 36%
2013 Stats: 0 R, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 0 SB, .091 AVG

The Nationals trailed the Cardinals by two runs, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning and Bryce Harper standing on second base. The former Rice Owl was due up in the order, and it was time for him to make his mark with a big hit—or not. Manager Davey Johnson lifted him for pinch hitter Chad Tracy. I was surprised, and while I don't know this for certain, I'm guessing the fact that Tracy was 3-for-5 with a homer off of Edward Mujica probably played a role in the decision. I don't recall ever suggesting rostering a hitter that was removed for Tracy, but here I am doing just that.

Rendon is a talented hitter who has been plagued by injuries. He's healthy now, and colleagues Nick J. Faleris and Bret Sayre wrote about him after his call-up. Bret hit the nail on the head in his fantasy writeup, and I suggest clicking on the link above and reading what he wrote. What I can add to Bret's analysis is that a slow start shouldn't deter gamers from rostering him. Rendon can flat-out hit and his bat is good enough to make an impact in leagues of all sizes while he's playing.   

Eric Young Jr, OF, Colorado Rockies
Ownership: ESPN: 0.3% Yahoo!: 1% CBS: 5%
2013 Stats: 7 R, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 2 SB, .302 AVG

The Rockies have played 20 games this year, and Young has played in 16. He's tallied 53 at-bats, the eighth most on the team, and played all three outfield positions. Todd Helton isn't getting any younger, and when he's not on the field. Michael Cuddyer will often move into the infield to replace him at first base. When that happens, Young's playing time stands to benefit. Helton is hopeful that treatment and reduced swelling in his forearm will keep him off the disabled list. He's still nursing the injury, though, and a trip to the DL hasn't been completely ruled out.

Young is a speed demon that is capable of making a huge impact in stolen bases. He's hitting well, and if he's on base, he'll wreak havoc. Young understands his value is tied to his legs, and he's demonstrated a willingness to work walks in his big-league career (8.7 percent walk rate) and put the ball in play (16.4 percent strikeout rate). He should be owned by speed-starved owners in mixed leagues of 14 teams or larger and in NL-only leagues.   

Carlos Quentin, OF, San Diego Padres
Ownership: ESPN: 1.2% Yahoo!: 16% CBS: 35%
2013 Stats: 2 R, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 0 SB, .192 AVG

Think what you will of him, but Quentin has served his suspension, and when he's on the diamond, he's proven he can hit at a high level. It's possible that owners cast him aside as opposed to stashing him on their benches while he was suspended. If Quentin is still available in those leagues, he's a must-add in leagues as shallow as 12-team mixers. It's rare that a hitter with Quentin's pedigree and lineup slot is available for free in as many leagues as he is; take advantage of it.

Andrew Cashner, SP/RP, San Diego Padres
Ownership: ESPN: 0.1% Yahoo!: 8% CBS: 29%
2013 Stats: 13.1 IP, 0 W, 0 SV, 14 K, 4.05 ERA, 1.20 WHIP

Cashner made his first start of the season serving as a spot starter in place of an ill Clayton Richard on Saturday night against the Giants. He pitched well, but was limited to four innings of work as a result of starting the season in the Padres bullpen. He looked sharp in the start, dialing up his fastball in the mid-to-upper-90s range. He mixed in his changeup and slider, and finished the game with five strikeouts and just three base runners allowed in four innings pitched. He was a hard-luck loser because Pablo Sandoval deposited one of his pitches into the stands for a two-run homer. Cashner is slated to get another turn in the rotation against the Giants on Friday, and he may remain there beyond that start while Tyson Ross is on the disabled list. Cashner is a talented enough strikeout pitcher to have relevance in leagues of all sizes. Owners in need of pitching help should gamble on Cashner's electric arm earning him a full-time rotation spot.   

Related Content:  Ownership,  Andrew Cashner

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Premium Article The Prospectus Hit Lis... (04/24)

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