One of the position players in this week’s Deep League Report has taken the mound in an MLB game, and his average four-seam fastball velocity is about the same as one of the pitchers profiled this week. That’s kinda neat. And I saw one of the players profiled below in High-A last year before his first appearance on any Top Prospect lists, which is also kinda neat. But most importantly, I answer the question posed by Ayn Rand nearly 60 years ago: Who is John Gant?
AL-ONLY POSITION PLAYERS
The injury to Jose Bautista has left Ezequiel Carrera as the Blue Jays’ primary option in right field. The main thing he brings to the field is speed—he has two minor-league seasons with 40-plus steals on his resume. However, the Blue Jays don’t run much, since you don’t have to be in scoring position to score on a home run. Still, the regular plate appearances should make Carrera worth starting until Bautista returns. Tolerate the otherwise mediocre offensive production and hope the Blue Jays give him the green light more often than they did last year. Just make sure that the Achilles soreness that kept him out of Wednesday’s game doesn’t turn into something more serious that it appears to be right now.
[insert same comment as Carrera’s above, but replace “speed” with “power” and “Jose Bautista” with “J.D. Martinez”]
Okay, it’s not quite that simple, but it’s close. J.D. Martinez’s broken elbow has given Steven Moya the opportunity to get regular plate appearances in the majors for an extended period of time. He hit 23 home runs between High-A and Triple-A last year and 35 in Double-A in 2014, so he has the pop to put plenty of balls over the fence for the Tigers.
His 30 percent strikeout rate and five percent walk rate in Triple-A last year highlight the reasons to be skeptical of Moya. He doesn’t make a ton of contact and he doesn’t have much plate discipline, giving him a lot of AVG downside to go with the HR upside. Take a shot if you need power, but be aware that his stat line could end up looking like a poor man’s version of a bad Chris Carter season.
Traded to the A’s a few weeks ago for Chris Coghlan and called up a few days ago, Arismendy Alcantara could end up getting a fair amount of playing time in Oakland thanks to his defensive versatility. Multi-position eligibility doesn’t hurt his value in roto, either. He offers a little bit of pop with a few walks and way too many strikeouts, but the main category to keep an eye on with Alcantara is the steals category. He had already stolen 26 bases in Triple-A without being caught at the time of his callup. If he can come close to that in the majors, he’ll be plenty useful in roto.
Several years removed from back-to-back Cy Young Awards, Tim Lincecum has a fastball that maxes out around 90 MPH and averages less than that. He’ll fit right in with the Angels alongside the soft-tossing Jered Weaver and his not-so-blazing fastball. Lincecum won’t strike many guys out any more, but if he stays healthy, he should be a halfway decent option for the back of your rotation, especially considering that he plays in a favorable home park in a division with a few more pitcher-friendly stadiums. If he gets a little good luck on batted balls, he could even turn a modest profit.
The Tigers are giving Daniel Norris the opportunity to secure the spot in the rotation that Matt Boyd couldn’t lock down. Recovering from a back injury, Norris struggled at the start of the season, but has been rounding into shape over his last few starts in Triple-A. He has good strikeout potential but walks a few more hitters than he should and allows more hits than you would expect for a pitcher with his stuff. If you need a starter, and especially if you need strikeouts, Norris is worth a shot, although he does present some risk in ERA and WHIP.
It sounds like Bruce Rondon has turned over a new leaf. He has lost some weight and made some changes to his mechanics to help his control. Those mechanical changes might also boost his velocity, as if the problem with his upper-90s fastball was that it needed more giddy-up. The improvement in control certainly isn’t visible in his overall numbers from Triple-A this year, as his 6.8 BB/9 in Toledo is cringe-worthy. Manager Brad Ausmus likes what he has seen from Rondon, though. If Rondon can limit the free passes without hurting his stellar strikeout rate, he could carve out a prominent role in the Detroit bullpen in short order.
NL-ONLY POSITION PLAYERS
He’s not an everyday player any more, but Ichiro Suzuki is having a bounceback year after a forgettable 2015 season. He made the most of some injuries to Miami’s starting outfielders earlier this season, hitting .350 with the highest walk rate of his long career while playing nearly every day. With the Marlins back at full strength in the outfield, he won’t get as many plate appearances, but when he plays, he should be able to keep doing what he’s always done and pas that 3,000-hit milestone before the season is over.
In keeper leagues, Willson Contreras will not be available. Promoted to the best team in the majors earlier this week, he’s worth a pickup in any format. While the Cubs will carry three catchers for the time being, Contreras will get more playing time than the fragile Miguel Montero or the grandfatherly David Ross. In fact, Contreras has already started picking up additional playing time at first base, spelling Anthony Rizzo. That won’t happen too often given Rizzo’s value to the Cubs, but it gives you an idea of how highly the Cubs value Contreras’ offensive contributions. He should provide value to roto owners in every category besides steals immediately.
28-year-old Ryan Schimpf didn’t make BP’s Top 101 Prospect list this year. He didn’t make anyone else’s list, either. That doesn’t mean he can’t help your team, though. He has legitimate power, hitting 23 or more home runs in each of his last three seasons in the minors. He’s also versatile defensively, filling in at both second base and third base for the Padres since his debut two years ago. Strikeouts were a problem for Schimpf in the minors in 2013 and 2014, when his strikeout rate fell in the 23-26 percent range, but he managed to reduce his strikeout rate to the 17-19 percent range since then. He won’t put up numbers anywhere near the crazy .355/.432/.729 line he put up in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League earlier this year, but he doesn’t have to do too much to slug his way into a more regular spot in the Padres’ middling lineup.
I’m no scout, but I saw Cody Reed pitch last year in Wilmington for the Blue Rocks against Nationals’ super-prospect Lucas Giolito and he looked great. He found a few extra MPH on his fastball last year, helping him rocket up prospect lists going into this season. He has maintained that velocity bump in 2016, earning himself a promotion to the big leagues and a spot in the rebuilding Reds’ rotation. The big lefty should strike out a lot of batters and keep the hits and walks low enough to post decent rate stats. Cincinnati’s hitter-friendly park might cause him to give up a few more runs than he would if he played for a team that called a more neutral park home, but that shouldn’t scare you off.
As a starting pitcher in Atlanta, John Gant won’t be getting many wins. Beyond that, Gant has more to offer than most pitchers available in deep leagues. With his unusual delivery, he should strike out more than a batter per inning with a league-average walk rate and acceptable rate stats. If you need innings, he’s worth a shot, although if the league acclimates itself to his delivery quickly, things could get ugly.
After a few seasons in the minors as a mediocre-at-best starter, the Phillies moved Severino Gonzalez to the bullpen this year. As a result, Gonzalez added roughly four miles per hour to his fastball. That development has helped Gonzalez boost his strikeout rate to well over a strikeout per inning without impacting his better-than-average BB/9. Since the rebuilding Phillies are likely to deal some of their better bullpen options before the deadline, Severino could end up in a prominent role in the Philadelphia bullpen if he can sustain this newly established level of performance.