Every Thursday I publish the Stash List, an ordering of the 25 players I think can come up and help fantasy baseballers in standard-depth mixed leagues. It’s fun to put together and I enjoy the ensuing conversation that typically takes place in the comments.
That said, I acknowledge the limited utility of telling you that Yoan Moncada is good. He’s certainly owned in any competitive league with conventional lineup settings. Additionally, for those of you in deep and mono formats, the standard weekly column can be a helpful thought exercise, but it isn’t always actionable. With that in mind, I’ll plan to use my space every other Monday to discuss some names that might actually be available in deeper player pools. These will be performers in the high minors, prospects without the kinds of ceilings we need for standard-depth usefulness, and speculation on who might fill roles for teams who’ll start stripping down come mid-summer. Unlike the Stash List proper, these aren’t necessarily the best deep-league stashes at any given time, just some players and situations I’m watching.
As always, feel free to ask me bout omissions or guys you think might qualify in the comments. Reader feedback has been an invaluable piece of how I shape the weekly Stash List.
How many of the four teams that Arcia played for last season can you name? I had the Twins and Rays, but spaced on the Marlins and Padres. I’m not sure I ever knew he played for the Marlins in the first place. In any case, the Diamondbacks picked Arcia up on a minor-league deal this offseason and he’s currently raking in Triple A. He’s slashing .324/.400/.662, and his .343 TAv ranks 23rd at the level (50 plate-appearance minimum). Considering Arcia’s 31.5 percent strikeout rate over more than a thousand major-league plate appearances, I’m keeping a closer eye on the whiffs than I am the surface stats. Arcia is currently at an even 20 percent, bettering the 26.4 percent mark he posted in 2015, his last significant stretch at Triple A. There’s a decent chance this is just a misleading early season line from a player with a Quad-A skill set, but there aren’t a whole lot of still-young guys bouncing around that had above-average offensive seasons in the major leagues at ages 22 and 23.
Among the four starters who have thrown more than 20 innings for the Padres, Clayton Richard’s 4.45 ERA is the lowest. As a starting staff, the Padres 4.55 ERA and 6.8 K/9 both rank as the fifth worst. It’s probably fair to say that they don’t care about the short-term results, but at some point San Diego might be well served to stop giving the ball to retreads day after day and see what they have in players in the upper minors. One of those players is Lamet, who has allowed one earned run in 20 innings while striking out 28. Lamet didn’t sign until he was 21 years old, and the Padres moved him quickly in 2016, his age-23 season, pushing him from High A to Triple A. Lamet’s fastball and slider could both be plus pitches, but a nascent changeup and below-average command lead many to believe he’s ticketed for the bullpen. His 11.1 percent walk rate thus far in 2017 doesn’t do anything to alleviate that last concern, though the Padres have the luxury of seeing Lamet fail as a starter before moving on to a less-valuable outcome. He’s not the obvious next man up—Jake Esch and Zach Lee have already been up and down this year, Matt Magill and Tyrell Jenkins each have a cup of coffee on their resume—but the strikeout potential makes Lamet the only one worth any fantasy investment.
Ryan O’Hearn (1B)—Kansas City Royals
It’s no secret that the Royals are going to be sellers. With a 7-16 record in April and playoff odds already approaching zero, that time could come sooner rather than later. For Eric Hosmer, it might have to come later rather than sooner, as there aren’t a whole lot of first-division clubs for whom Hosmer represents an upgrade—unless he turns around his current scuffling at the plate. Whenever Hosmer’s time comes, the beneficiary might be O’Hearn, who has been solid in his first taste of Triple A, slashing 312/.361/.571 with five homers in 19 games. The big lefty creates power to all fields with a long, leveraged cut, and his current 21.7 percent strikeout rate would be his lowest at any of his full-season stops. So would his 6 percent walk rate, and if you doubt that his aggressive approach allows him to get to useable power at the highest level, that’s the mark to focus on. O’Hearn is making it work for now, though, and as long as he doesn’t sink in the coming months, he’s in line for a shot an extended audition for an everyday job for 2018.
Eric Skoglund (LHP)—Kansas City Royals
Where it’s relatively easy to sketch out a path to eventual playing time on the Royals’ offense because of all the concurrently maturing contracts, you have to make a few more assumptions in order to find space for a back-end pitcher like Skoglund. Jason Vargas is the only expiring starter, and there is a pair of high-ceiling prospects that could get a shot at the rotation before Skoglund. Matt Strahm’s 2017 usage indicates that the Royals might have accepted his destiny as a bullpen arm, and Josh Staumont’s ongoing problem throwing strikes is beginning to make his eventuality clearer too. If Skoglund does indeed jump them in the pecking order, you’re hoping for an innings-eating type who’ll provide value from volume and competence, rather than stuff. Skoglund’s 156 1/3 innings led the Texas League in 2016, and his 1.95 DRA was 12th-best among starters across all of Double A. Whereas most of the guys in front of him impressed the computers with gaudy strikeout totals, Skoglund did it thanks in large part to his ability to throw strikes and limit free passes. He walked only 38 batters in 27 starts a season ago, tallying an impressive 2.2 BB/9. His first four starts in Triple A have been more of the same, preventing runs by forcing batters to put the ball in play. Skoglund hasn’t been burned yet by a ground-ball rate that’s lower than you’d expect given his size and plane. That’s something to keep an eye on as the competition gets better and the contact presumably gets louder.