"There’s a theory I’m partial to that says we need 1,000-1,500 at-bats at the major-league level to know who a hitter really is. Given how early some prospects are being promoted these days, it’s possible we need to be even more lenient. That said, knowing when they’re going to be useful to you is as important as knowing if they’ll be useful. Below are five guys I’d work to keep, given the chance."
I had my people tell Craig Goldstein to write the introduction to this mini-series last week, and that's what he came up with. Unfortunately, it will have to serve. Send any and all complaints to Peter Gammons.
Xander Bogaerts, SS/3B, Red Sox
The Good: April (.278/.387/.378), May (.327/.407/.490), and September (.313/.317/.490). Also, Bogaerts looked more comfortable and better at shortstop as the year moved on, assuaging the fears of many who thought he'd need to move to third early in his career. Also, he still has kind eyes.
The Bad: That whole middle-of-the-season thing. Bogaerts hit .161/.206/.254 from June 1st to August 31st, which is less than ideal. He's going to be challenged by sliders pretty routinely moving forward, and he still has some growing up to do when it comes to the mental side of the game, too. Bogaerts completely collapsed when asked to move to third base, and given his reputation as a mature, high-makeup player, that was strange to see.
The Recommendation: This is going to astonish regular readers/TINO listeners, but I think Bogaerts is going to be just fine. Projecting him for a top-15 shortstop finish last year was clearly aggressive, but we also saw flashes of superstar-level production from Bogaerts, and his power output increased as the year went on. It wouldn't shock me to see him slump at times again next season, but he's got too much natural ability to fall into a three-month funk again, and I think a top-12 shortstop finish for 2015 is in the cards. Think something along the lines of .270/.330/.425, which is a lot like what I projected for him in 2014 but is more reasonable now.
Wilmer Flores, INF, Mets
The Good: Flores held his own as a rookie in 2014, hitting .251/.286/.378 in 274 PA in the majors and crushing Triple-A to the tune of .323/.367/.568. He doesn't walk, but Flores really doesn't strike out either. And while he's not a good defensive shortstop and never will be, he wasn't so bad there that we can rule out the Mets might play him there on occasion in 2015. After all, these are the Mets we're talking about.
The Bad: Flores still profiles best at second base or third base, and the Mets have Daniel Murphy and David Wright at those respective positions right now. Murphy might be traded, but Dilson Herrera looms. Also, while Flores' ultimate projection continues to skid the line between first- and second-division regular, the Mets may decide they don't need to make room for him on an everyday basis.
The Recommendation: It sort of depends on what the Mets do this offseason, but I think Flores can work as an everyday guy if he's not at shortstop. His Triple-A numbers are overstated, but Flores can hit .275 or better with double-digit homers, and when that's coming from a middle infield spot it's not too shabby. I think he could go on to have a Jed Lowrie-like career, though he won’t remain shortstop-eligible for as long, and he'll be relevant in 14-plus-team leagues next season if the Mets don't acquire a big-time middle infielder. He's not what many thought he'd be when he was in the low minors, but he's still a useful major leaguer and fantasy asset.
Jake Marisnick, OF, Astros
The Good: Between Triple-A and the majors, Marisnick hit 13 homers and stole 35 bases, demonstrating the type of power/speed upside he possesses. He also managed not to embarrass himself at the plate in the big leagues, posting a .249/.281/.326 line. Add in a move from pitcher-friendly Miami to hitter-friendly Houston, and there's a strong skill set with which to work here.
The Bad: That 28.3 percent strikeout rate in the majors is disappointing, even if he did a better job making contact in Triple-A. Marisnick's approach has really regressed since his days in the mid-minors, which hurts his OBP and makes him a poor play in points leagues. If you're a BABIP freak, you can argue that Marisnick isn't likely to luck into a .338 BABIP again, though he is fast. Plus, with Dexter Fowler and George Springer assured of everyday spots and Robbie Grossman and Domingo Santana pressing him for playing time, there's a chance Marisnick ends up with something less than regular at-bats.
The Recommendation: I'm down on Marisnick compared to what I thought he'd be back in 2011 and 2012, but I'm still high on him compared to most of the industry. The average won't be pretty, but there's legit 10-plus-homer, 20-plus-steal potential here, and in a good home ballpark and with a sneaky not-terrible supporting cast, he could notch decent run totals, too. I think the power takes a step forward in the future, too. He's more of a name in 16-plus leagues or AL-only leagues, but odds are you can get him for dirt cheap right now, and I'd be looking to buy.
Carlos Martinez, RHP, Cardinals
The Good: Martinez struck out 21.8 percent of the batters he faced, walked 9.8 percent and induced ground balls at a 51.2 percent clip. Those are nice numbers to work with moving forward, and while Martinez's 4.03 ERA isn't pretty, his 3.18 FIP probably better represents his true talent level. Martinez gets hitters to swing more often, swing and miss more often and swing at the first pitch more often than your average pitcher. Add in that his fastball sat around 96 mph, and there's a lot to like.
The Bad: As promising as Martinez's season was, he wasn't terribly useful for fantasy purposes. He made just seven starts before being bumped to the 'pen, but he didn't surpass Trevor Rosenthal in terms of closing. That left him in fantasy no-man's land as a middle reliever, and unless you were in a holds league (he nabbed 17), Martinez was pretty average. The strikeouts were nice, but mitigated by his ERA and his high 1.41 WHIP.
The Recommendation: I covered this on the latest TINO, but I'll reiterate here: either Martinez is going to get traded and start, he's going to stay with the Cardinals and start due to injuries/other moves or he's going to wind up back in a middle relief role to begin 2015. That last option isn't ideal, but given Rosenthal's deceptively mediocre 2014 season, Martinez could close at some point if he's not starting. If the Cards are quiet this offseason it's reasonable to stay away from Martinez in redraft leagues, but now's a good time to buy low in dynasty formats because he should be starting somewhere by 2016.
Josmil Pinto, C, Twins
The Good: Pinto hit .279/.376/.457 in Triple-A, which is pretty cute. He also hit seven homers in the majors, which is a bigger number than at least six other integers. Joe Mauer did not find a regenerative miracle drug that will allow him to resume catching duties any time soon.
The Bad: The .219/.315/.391 line in the majors is maybe not so good, though the last two numbers are actually pretty acceptable for a catcher. Lower back and hip issues plagued Pinto last season, which is never a great sign for a catcher. And Kurt Suzuki pulled a Nate McLouth and suddenly became relevant again, earning significant playing time moving forward. Losing to Kurt Suzuki is never a good look.
The Recommendation: Pinto is actually one of my favorite post-hype guys for 2015. He'll be just 26 for the entire season, has a strong history of production in Double- and Triple-A and, not to beat a dead horse, but Suzuki is the only thing standing (squatting?) in his way. Suzuki is certainly the better defensive player, but it's easy to envision this turning into at least a 50 percent split in terms of playing time as the year progresses. If Pinto can nab somewhere between 300-400 PA next season, he's going to be relevant in 16-plus team leagues, and he could position himself for a more meaningful role moving forward.