Last week, I took a look at some of baseball’s “other guys.” These are players who can fit a lot of descriptions, but often are afterthoughts at this time of year. In keeper leagues with reserve lists, many of these players have to be activated or cut before the season is over, so it is definitely worth taking a look at this less scrutinized pool of players to see if they are worth hanging onto in 2015 and at what price point.
These recommendations are primarily geared toward AL-only and NL-only fantasy players. Last week I looked at the American League. Today, I tackle the National League.
Adams’s 2015 option won’t vest with the Phillies. Their high payroll combined with some strong, young options emerging on the team means that Adams will be looking for employment elsewhere. If he’s healthy, he’s a solid middle-relief only-league option.
Barrett’s an intriguing bullpen arm, but even if the Nationals don’t pick up Rafael Soriano’s 2015 option, Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard likely block the way for any short-term saves. Barrett’s strikeout rates are impressive, but the jury is still out as to whether or not Barrett can get lefties out or if he is going to be the rare righty specialist. He is a one dollar relief flier in NL-only if he makes it. All of my caveats aside, stranger things have happened and I’d rather pay a dollar for Barrett instead of paying $4-5 for Clippard or Storen as the other one’s backup.
Remember when Bernadina had that good week with the Reds and people were saying he’d replace the struggling Billy Hamilton in no time at all? Good times. Anyway, Bernadina’s speed wasn’t even there this year, and he’s likely to struggle to get another major-league bench job.
Bethancourt might be a decent enough NL-only or even deep-mixed catcher (in two catcher leagues) if he could get an opportunity. He is blocked by Evan Gattis, so unless the Braves eat the last three years on B.J. Upton’s contract and move Gattis to left field, Bethancourt is stuck. Bethancourt didn’t exactly force the issue this year with his bat, so he can safely be ignored in fantasy for now.
Forty to 50 plate appearances is a lousy sample size to justify whether or not a player is major-league-worthy, but Bour’s minor-league output probably tells us this anyway. He was a solid hitter throughout the minors but even in today’s offensive context probably doesn’t offer enough oomph at first base to justify holding down a spot long term. Bour might get the occasional cup of coffee now and again, but is a worst-case replacement scenario, even in -only formats.
Ellis might have secured himself another year or two of major league viability had he performed decently while Kolten Wong struggled. Instead, Ellis couldn’t hit and found himself on the bench when Wong came back. Perhaps someone will add Ellis for his veteran presence on the bench, but even if this happens he won’t have any fantasy value.
If you’re targeting players for 2015, the fact that Erlin hasn’t started this month is a blessing in disguise. Erlin’s 2014 numbers look pretty pedestrian, but the lefty has good stuff, pitches in Petco half the time, and should have a halfway decent shot at a rotation spot in 2015. Erlin could be an interesting late round proposition in deep mixed, but it is in NL-only where I really like Erlin as a decent $4-6 flier who could pay some sneaky dividends.
There was a time where I thought Federowicz might be able to squeeze out 250-300 plate appearances a year as a part-time starter, but now it seems that his ceiling is as a back-up behind a strong catcher who plays 5-6 days a week. You have to have two catchers in NL-only, but even there I think I’d rather have someone better.
We only have a few appearances to look at so far, but my initial impressions are that he looks much rawer than I thought he would for what was supposed to be a polished college pitcher. I think the stuff will eventually play in the majors, but I have found that pitchers who have slower fastballs and work off of off-speed pitches tend to have a longer development curve. Fortunately for Gonzales and the Cardinals, they have a number of options ahead of him on the depth chart and don’t have to feel pressured to move him up next season. At least half a season at Triple-A next year wouldn’t surprise me. This makes Gonzales less appealing in Roto leagues than in dynasty, particularly if your Roto league doesn’t allow you to stash Gonzales back on the farm, because he was already called up to the big club.
I have no doubts that Heaney is going to be a rotation mainstay in the long run, but when that happens is the big question in fantasy. There is an old axiom that it is better to be a year early than a year late when it comes to picking up a player, but on the other hand I dislike blowing a high draft pick or premium auction cash on a pitcher who could take years to develop. Heaney didn’t exactly dominate Triple-A this year and was clobbered in four major league starts. This doesn’t mean that he can never be good, but it does mean that the picture is cloudy next year. My guess is that Heaney goes for $13-15 in NL-only next year in re-auction leagues if he makes the Marlins out of spring training. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but keep in mind that several more reliable and predictable pitchers will cost this much or less.
Hernandez is a utility/bench guy, but he’s on the right team to get lucky and get 450-500 plate appearances in the right situation. The power boost in the minors intrigues me even though I doubt it is sustainable. This type of player needs to run more to capture our interest in NL-only, and even though Hernandez has some speed, I don’t think he’s going to steal enough bases in a backup role to be worth our time.
Once a prospect in the Nationals organization, Jaime lost two years after Tommy John surgery and became a reclamation project for the Braves. He throws really hard, so the Braves decided to try him in the bullpen. Unfortunately, Jaime looks like the wild version of Carlos Marmol on a good day, so it’s hard to predict future success. He’s worth keeping an eye on if the command can improve even somewhat; in 5×5 NL-only, I prefer getting strikeouts from relievers who won’t kill your ERA/WHIP instead of slogging along with bad starting pitching. But Jaime isn’t there and is a long way from being there.
Surprise, surprise, Junior Lake collapsed his second time around the league. He’s going to be worth something in fantasy if someone gives him a chance to start but he is poor enough in real life that it is unlikely he gets that chance. This is the rub with players like Lake. I would rather see someone else get lucky in NL-only than spend $10 only to see Lake lose his job after a month. There should be a good name for this principle (like “The Junior Lake Effect”), but unfortunately, nothing like this has caught on just yet.
I get it. The stuff isn’t anything special, and the Cardinals seemingly have dozens of superior arms in front of Lyons on the depth chart. But we have now had almost 100 innings of Lyons to look at and while the ERAs haven’t been great, the peripheral numbers have been surprisingly okay. Lyons is in the right organization to surprise everyone and turn into a capable back end starter. This still shouldn’t mean much for fantasy, but I wouldn’t be afraid to stream Lyons or stash him on a reserve list if he gets another opportunity.
It’s a shame that Dice-K’s control isn’t just a little bit better, because he is hard to hit. I mention him because had Matsuzaka landed on a team with thinner starting pitching like the Phillies there is a good chance he could have put together a string of 15-20 tolerable starts. At a rate of eight strikeouts per nine innings, this would have made Dice-K an asset in the category and mitigated his deficiencies. He’s still a longshot to contribute in an only format next season, but if he makes a National League team, I would be okay with stashing him on a reserve list just in case.
It is hard to believe, but Montero might not be able to crack the Mets rotation next year, particularly if Matt Harvey starts the season healthy. Montero will probably be the first guy called up if there is an injury, but he might merely be holding down a spot while Noah Syndergaard puts the finishing touches on in Triple-A. Some have speculated that Montero’s future is in the bullpen, but I suspect that the Mets will give Montero one more chance as a starter. I’m on the fence about what Montero’s future role should be, but without the opportunity, his fantasy value is long-term anyway.
It would be interesting to see what Moore could do with a full season’s worth of at bats, but he is completely blocked in Washington. His value in OBP leagues is intriguing, but like a number of the first base candidates on this list, Moore doesn’t offer quite enough power to overlook the high strikeout rates and other deficiencies in his game.
Motte is lesson no. 4,274 in “don’t blow your FAAB on closers-in-waiting.” Speculation was rampant earlier this year that once Motte was activated from the DL that he would be the obvious next-in-line candidate behind Trevor Rosenthal, but it didn’t work out that way. Motte’s velocity was down this year, and while 94 miles-per-hour shouldn’t be taken lightly, pitchers typically go through an adjustment period if their velocity is down from previous levels. Motte is a free agent this winter, and he will probably wind up on another team in a middle relief role. He’s okay to throw a dollar at in NL-only or stash on a reserve list, but he’s far down my list for save speculation at the moment.
Nelson’s lofty Triple-A numbers this year unfairly heightened expectations for the 25-year-old rookie, but he’s not nearly as bad as his major league starts this year would indicate. Nelson has solid stuff, and should slot in as a reliable no. 3 or no. 4 for the Brewers next year. His disappointing season will make him a bargain next year in mixed formats, but I’d be comfortable shelling out $7-9 in –only formats, which might get him.
The power is legitimate, but everything else is a mess with Olt. If you are not ready to completely move on from a 26-year-old with 30-plus home-run potential I get it, but it is hard to see how anyone can succeed with a 35 percent or higher strikeout rate in the majors, even in today’s high-strikeout environment. The Cubs won’t have room for Olt at the inn anyway, so a fresh start with a new organization is in order. You can drop him everywhere but the deepest of formats.
Owings is one of those players who might come at a moderate discount in mixed leagues and offers sneaky 15/15 potential, but I worry that he’s going to be too expensive in only leagues. That power/speed combo will entice many to pay or keep him at double digits, but he’s a free swinger whose batting average is going to be prone to moderate to severe fluctuations. I’d keep Owings in the high single digits in an auction format and hope for a profit, but I suspect if he’s available someone is going to push him to $13-15 at auction. He could earn it, but with the potential to drag down a team’s batting average I don’t like the idea of paying for what could be a ceiling and not a floor.
On any other team, I’d yawn at a career minor league first baseman with Paulsen’s numbers who received his first big league opportunity at the age of 26. But Paulsen plays for the Rockies, so if he gets an opportunity, there is a good chance that he can replicate most of his Colorado Springs numbers. Justin Morneau is signed through 2015 with a mutual option for 2016, but if the Rox decide to do a complete teardown this winter, Paulsen could get a shot to play. He could probably put up most of the numbers Morneau put up this year without the batting average, which would put Paulsen in the $14-16 value range in NL-only. These are all big ifs, though, and if I had to guess I’d assume that Morneau stays put this winter.
Perez has been pretty bad this year, but that can be attributed to sporadic use. The more pertinent fantasy question is where’s the speed? Perez’s decent minor league steal numbers haven’t translated to the majors. Without 10-15 steals off of the bench, you can walk on by Perez, even in NL-only.
It is hard to believe that two years ago Ross put up an unreal 22 home run, 81 RBI line with a .481 slugging percentage. The power has completely evaporated, and at the age of 33 there is a good chance that this might be the end of the line for Ross. He might not even latch on as a backup next year.
If the Pirates don’t bring back Russell Martin (and finances might mean that they cannot), then there is a possibility that Tony Sanchez is their starting catcher in 2015. He has worked hard on his defense in the minors, but my concern is whether or not his bat can stick. His 235/337/422 slash line isn’t great, and unless you’re in an OBP league those stats aren’t going to translate into anything terrific. You might be looking at Chris Iannetta post-Coors as a ceiling for Sanchez. This isn’t terrible, but even in NL-only is likely only worth a $5-7 bid.
If Satin had even a moderate amount of power, he might be a useful bat off of the bench against left handed pitching. He doesn’t, though, so assuming he makes it back to the major leagues again, he will only be an emergency replacement in case of injury. He turns 30 in December, so Satin is a do-not-draft guy at this point.
Entering 2014, Shreve looked like organizational depth, with the upside of a lefty specialist in the majors if everything broke right. His raw numbers (ERA/WHIP) were solid, but he hit a wall in 2013 and hitters started teeing off on his stuff. Shreve had been pitching to contact and throwing about 91-92 MPH and holding back. His pitching coach at Double-A Mississippi, Dennis Lewallyn, encouraged him to throw harder this year. The results were phenomenal, with a significant jump in strikeouts. Some pitchers lose command/control when they rear back and fire, but Shreve actually saw a dip in his walk numbers. The result was a fast rise to the majors. He’s in the wrong organization to supplant the closer, and being a lefty won’t help him, but Shreve looks like he could be more than just a specialist, and should have back-end NL-only value going forward.
The prospect and fantasy staff has already spilled thousands of words on Soler so I’m not going to rehash all of their work here. It is a shame in redraft leagues that Soler had such a strong performance because no one is going to be able to sneak him in late in a draft or auction. The opposite situation might occur; Soler might go too early or cost too much auction money because some will see 30-35 home run potential. J.P. Breen‘s excellent caveat still applies, even though Soler didn’t struggle out of the gate. Brett Lawrie went in the upper $20s in AL-only auction leagues after his initial burst in his first taste in the bigs and subsequently has been viewed as a bust because of his cost, not because of his production. Soler could still be very good, but if you draft him in the first five rounds or pay $25 for him, you’re probably paying for his ceiling, if not more.
Souza is old for a prospect, but he’s not so old that he should be completely dismissed in the long term. Souza is blocked at the major league level, though, and unless the Nationals decide to flip Denard Span in the offseason, Souza is probably going to have to start 2015 in Triple-A once again. He’s an interesting stash in Roto leagues with deeper reserve lists, but he’ll need an injury to get an opportunity. Outfielders with 15/15 potential are worth tracking.
We now have over 1,700 major-league plate appearances to look at for Tabata, so it’s pretty clear by now that he is unlikely to ever emerge in a starting role. He doesn’t have enough power to contribute at a corner outfield spot, and even if Tabata could play center he’d still have to have a very strong defensive profile to cut it there. He doesn’t, though, so Tabata is not likely to survive in the big leagues. Maybe a power surge will come in Tabata’s late 20s, but it seems very doubtful that it will happen.