With only four days left in the regular season, I’m going to do a slightly different take on our usual Free Agent Watch column before we morph into off-season mode. But speaking of off-season mode, I know even the most loyal BP readers are used to the fantasy section taking a couple of months off when the season ends. So my deepest apologies to those of you who were looking forward to time away from us—under my reign of terror as Fantasy Content Manager, you will be subjected to year-round fantasy analysis. And that includes some new things that I am very excited about.
But back to the task at hand, we are going around the diamond to spot players who are worthy of picking up in dynasty and high-volume keeper leagues with an eye squarely on 2014. And if the names I’m highlighting aren’t deep enough for some of you, I’ll be including a deep sleeper at each position as well (and if those aren’t deep enough for you, then you’re just going to have to be OK with that). In the words of future Poet Laureate Mike Skinner, let’s…push…things…forward.
Catcher: Welington Castillo, Chicago Cubs
Overall, it was a decent season for Castillo, but not one that saw him owned in very many single-catcher formats. In September, however, he shown what he’s capable of, hitting .311/.367/.667 with four homers and nine RBI in 45 at-bats. Of course it is September, so this all must be taken with a grain of salt. The question is whether he can translate the power he has shown in the upper minors. Between his time at Double-A and Triple-A, Castillo had 51 homers in 1,145 at-bats. Given his ability to hit for a decent average, that could be an attractive package for a backstop.
First Base: Ike Davis, New York Mets
If you had told me before the 2013 season that Yuniesky Betancourt would be a more valuable fantasy first baseman than Ike Davis, I would have spent a whole week comparing in-patient mental facilities. Padded walls aside, Davis actually came back from the minors a changed man on July 5. From that point until his season-ending injury, he hit .267/.429/.443 with four homers and four steals in 170 plate appearances, including 38 walks to 35 strikeouts. If he can just bring back more of the previous power he’s shown at the major-league level, he could still become the hitter we though coming into the year.
1B Deep Cut: Tommy Medica, San Diego Padres
He’s old for a prospect (turns 26 in April), but let’s not rule out that there’s something here. Yonder Alonso is still the future in San Diego, but he hasn’t had the greatest time staying healthy recently (only 95 games played in 2013).
Second Base: Kolten Wong, St Louis Cardinals
There continue to be whispers that David Freese is going to be on the trade block this off-season, and the natural replacement in the Cardinals’ lineup is Kolten Wong. All Wong did this season was hit .303 with 10 homers and 20 steals. If he can secure an every day spot in St Louis, he has the skills to do Daniel Murphy-like things. In case that doesn’t sound impressive enough for you, Murphy was a top-five second baseman this season.
2B Deep Cut: Leury Garcia, Chicago White Sox
He’s not looking at a starting job right now, but when the three middle infielders likely ahead of you on the depth chart are Alexei Ramirez (trade candidate), Gordon Beckham (non-tender candidate), and Marcus Semien (third-party candidate), it’s not tough to envision a scenario in which his speed will come in handy.
The track record of middle infielders (or any hitters not named Kyle Seager for that matter) getting to the majors with Seattle has not been great recently, but Miller will look to buck the trend by building off his solid 2013 campaign. He may not have star-level ceiling for fantasy, but it’s tough to turn away a player capable of hitting for a pretty good average and adding double-digit homers and steals—especially at two very weak positions (shortstop and second base).
SS Deep Cut: Chris Owings, Arizona Diamondbacks
He’ll have to overtake Didi Gregorius, but Owings is a solid prospect on both sides of the ball. Plus, Chase Field should help bring out more of his power potential.
Third Base: Mike Olt, Chicago Cubs
The former top prospect role can be a tricky one, as Olt proved in 2013. His performance was well below expectations and he was dealt to the Cubs in the Matt Garza trade in July. Will he get a more clear shot in his new organization? There is not a single player on the Cubs’ roster who should get in the way of Olt at the hot corner on the North side, but hasn’t stopped teams before. His 25-homer potential still rings true.
3B Deep Cut: Lonnie Chisenhall, Cleveland Indians
I don’t hold out too much hope for Chisenhall, but the bottom drops out of the third base position extremely quickly, and guys like Matt Davidson and Cody Asche are too widely owned for this spot.
Outfield: Cameron Maybin, San Diego Padres
Outfield: Ryan Ludwick, Cincinnati Reds
I’m combining the write-up for these two National League outfielders because they both have a very similar story. Both suffered injuries which drastically limited their playing time in 2013—Ludwick separated his shoulder on Opening Day and Maybin battled both knee and wrist injuries. However, given their depressed values, I expect nice returns should you choose to invest in them for 2014. Maybin is still capable of stealing 30-plus bases and Ludwick is likely to once again hit in the middle of the Reds lineup, given that the Reds are unlikely to re-sign Shin-Soo Choo.
OF Deep Cut: Tyler Colvin, Colorado Rockies
With Todd Helton retiring, don’t forget about the 28-year-old former first-rounder. After all, he is just a year removed from hitting .290 with 18 homers in 420 at-bats.
Starting Pitcher: Robbie Erlin, San Diego Padres
Starting Pitcher: Erasmo Ramirez, Seattle Mariners
Like Ludwick and Maybin before them, Erlin and Ramirez share a write-up because
I’m lazy they have common traits. They both pitch in friendly home environments and when they’re most successful, it stems from their ability to put the ball exactly where they want. And with both Erlin and Ramirez likely to stick at the end of their respective rotations to start the 2014 season, they make for great stashes heading into the off-season—especially in light of their recent performance. Since being reinstalled into the rotation on August 28, Erlin has a 1.80 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 17 strikeouts in 25 innings, including a start at Chase Field and two starts against playoff teams (Atlanta and Los Angeles). And since August 1, Erasmo Ramirez has a 3.62 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 40 strikeouts in 54 2/3 innings despite a difficult schedule (TB twice, TEX, STL, BAL among the opponents).
SP Deep Cut: Taylor Jordan, Washington Nationals
Jordan’s been effectively forgotten at this point because he wasn’t a hyped prospect coming into the season and he had some of his “new guy” spotlight stolen by Tanner Roark, but Jordan did two things very well this season: limit walks (5.0 percent rate) and get ground balls (57.5 percent rate). He’ll be in the mix for a rotation spot next season.
Relief Pitcher: Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians
I know, you get it—I really like Cody Allen. The stats this year speak for themselves, but this is not just about continued high-level performance, it’s about ability to enter the closer role. Chris Perez has been good enough to keep his job this season, but that’s about the highest compliment he can be paid. In the meantime, former Indians’ closer of the future Vinnie Pestano has fallen off the face of the Earth after walking more than five batters per nine innings. Of all the relievers likely to head into the 2014 season without a closer job, I like Allen’s chances of netting 20-plus saves more than anyone else’s.
RP Deep Cut: J.J. Hoover, Cincinnati Reds
Since a six-run blowup on June 9 against the Cardinals, Hoover is 5-0 with a 0.95 ERA, 0.84 ERA, and 38 strikeouts in 38 innings. If anything were to happen to Aroldis Chapman, Hoover could be pretty valuable—and if your league counts holds, even better.