It’s the most wonderful time of the year, that being the return of The Stash List, of course. I’ve been entrusted to steer the ship known as this year’s list by the Godfather of The Stash List himself, Mr. Bret Sayre, and I hope I’m able to follow in his footsteps, minus the large amounts of Pepsi Max, as well as the footsteps of my favorite captain, Drake—that’s Sir Francis Drake kids, not the former wheelchair bound Degrassi star—who was described as “rapacious in the hunt for treasure, but daring and visionary in exploration.”
The Stash List is now entering its fourth year here at Baseball Prospectus, but if you’ve missed the first three seasons, it’s extremely important to understand the four types (and four types only) of players that are eligible for inclusion in this column, and I’ll paraphrase Bret since these are his rules:
Minor-leaguers: anyone currently in the minors and not on an active 25-man roster. There is no ownership restriction for this category.
Major-leaguers on the DL: anyone currently on the disabled list that is owned in fewer than 25 percent of standard ESPN mixed leagues. The restriction is there to exclude obvious players like Michael Brantley (95 percent ownership), Evan Gattis (85 percent), Yu Darvish (84 percent), Jung Ho-Kang (81 percent), A.J. Pollock (83 percent) and Lance McCullers (61 percent), as these players aren’t floating around freely in most competitive leagues. Also, thankfully, “The Human Yo-Yo” Kevin Gausman (31 percent) is above the threshold, as I’m just not sure I could handle another year of sorting through which level of the Orioles minor league system that they’re shuffling him around to on a weekly basis without becoming further enraged.
Closers-in-waiting: any reliever who is not actively getting saves and is owned in fewer than 25 percent of ESPN standard mixed leagues. This excludes pitchers who are in “committees” and setup men who are widely owned for their own values, like Dellin Betances or Ken Giles.
Others-in-waiting: any other player who is not currently active in the role that would net him the most fantasy value. This includes pitchers who are in line for a rotation spot but are not currently there, and position players who are not receiving regular playing time. These are players who would see a huge uptick in value from a change in role, similar to Carlos Carrasco in 2014, when he was moved from the bullpen back into the starting rotation and emerged as one of the best starters in the American League over the remainder of the year.
Now that we have the rules to the game out of the way, let’s take a look at the first edition of the 2016 Stash List:
1) Javier Baez, UT, Chicago Cubs
Baez, owned in 15 percent of ESPN leagues, will be deployed in a super-utility role this season, and I trust Joe Maddon’s lineup creativity to ensure that he receives 300-400 plate appearances this season and to not stunt his growth by letting him rot on the bench. Semi-regular playing time is all that Baez needs to make a fantasy impact, as he is capable of reaching double-digits home runs and steals without playing on an everyday basis. He should do so this year with tasty multi-positional eligibility that should include center field, as well multiple infield positions, which is always helpful in deeper leagues; an injury to a Cub infielder (or a trade) could open the door for even more. He is eligible to return from the disabled list on Saturday, but readers of last year’s Stash List know that there is only one place I turn to for Baez injury updates: his delightful Instagram account. His latest update from Wednesday said, “Im ok. Will be back soon. (Flexed-bicep emoji).” Good enough for me.
2) Yasmani Grandal, C, Los Angeles Dodgers
Grandal’s forearm injury relegated him to the disabled list to start the year, but Dave Roberts is “looking for him to be ready by the home opener,” which is next Tuesday. Bret looked at Grandal as a catcher to target in January, and I agree that he very well could finish among the top five at the position, which means he should be owned in a lot more than 21 percent of ESPN leagues to start the year.
3) Anthony DeSclafani, RHP Cincinnati Reds
DeSclafani checks in at 23 percent ownership to start the year, a number I feel should be much higher, as he could be a top 50-60 pitcher by season’s end if he continues the good work he did over the second half of 2015. DeSclafani upped his strikeout rate from 17 percent before the All-Star break to 22 percent (8.28 K/9) afterward and trimmed his walk rate from 9.4 percent in the first-half to 4.0 percent over the second half. DeSclafani was placed on the disabled list to start the year for precautionary reasons, as he threw a simulated game on Wednesday and is slated to get the start for the Reds on Sunday.
4) Tyler Skaggs, LHP, Los Angeles Angels
Although Skaggs will start the year at Triple-A Salt Lake, he looked very good in his last start of the spring against the Dodgers, reportedly averaging 94 MPH with his fastball and touching 97 MPH. With Andrew Heaney’s diagnosis of a left “flexor muscle strain” on Wednesday, speculation has centered around the return of Skaggs to fill his spot in the rotation, which could come later this month as he returns from Tommy John surgery.
5) Zack Wheeler, RHP, New York Mets
Wheeler is criminally under-owned at 14 percent to begin the year, and is targeted for an early July return, roughly a month after his 26th birthday. The Mets will handle him carefully as he makes his way back from Tommy John surgery, but he likely possesses the highest upside of any NL starting pitcher currently on the disabled list.
6) Jose Berrios, RHP, Minnesota Twins
The Twins didn’t really give Berrios a shot at securing a rotation spot in spring training, but it’s only a matter of time before he forces the organization’s hand to make room at the big-league level by dispatching Ricky Nolasco or Tommy Milone (or other veteran dreck). Service time implications are the only thing keeping Berrios—who turns 22 next month, pitched to a 2.62 ERA (2.79 FIP), and struck out nearly 10 batters per game in 12 starts at Triple-A Rochester in 2015—in the minors.
7) Trea Turner, SS, Washington Nationals
Danny Espinosa’s best season with the bat, which came back in 2011, featured a .323 OBP, and while a team that has designs on contention should be looking to improve upon his .311 OBP from 2015, it remains to be seen how long of a leash the Natinals will give him this season and resist calling upon Turner, who has done nothing but get on base (.384 OBP) in his brief minor-league career. Turner won’t add much power in the early part of his career, but his wheels could enable him to steal 20 or more bases (particularly if Dusty Baker lets him run wild), even if he only gets in the neighborhood of 300 plate appearances.
8) Joey Gallo, 3B/OF, Texas Rangers
9) Nomar Mazara, OF, Texas Rangers
As of right now, it’s hard for me to get a read on what would happen if an injury were to strike a Rangers corner outfielder, but with Gallo already reaching the majors in 2015 and featuring the ability to play third base as well as the outfield, it stands to reason that he could get the nod first if a short-term injury were to arise. On the other hand, Mazara could receive the call if a long-term injury were to occur at some point. They both will start the year on an absolutely loaded Triple-A Round Rock squad and have the talent to make a large fantasy impact with any type of regular playing time in Texas in 2016. Gallo, of course, boasts immense power potential, and Mazara offers tantalizing four-category prowess.
10) A.J. Reed, 1B, Houston Astros
The 2015 minor-league home run leader was one of the last cuts made by the Astros this spring, and his call to the majors will largely depend on how well the other first-base options at the major-league (Tyler White, Matt Duffy, Marwin Gonzalez, etc.) level produce, rather than how well Reed produces at Triple-A Fresno, where he’ll likely post more video-game numbers at the various bandboxes of the Pacific Coast League. The Astros could choose to promote Jon Singleton (also at Triple-A Fresno to start the year) ahead of Reed if he starts the year hot, but Reed will enter the picture at some point in 2016—either at first base or in a DH platoon role—likely after the Super Two cutoff. He will mash when he does.
11) Hyun-jin Ryu, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Ryu is scheduled to pitch his first simulated game of the year today, and looks to return at some point next month to a Dodgers staff that will almost assuredly have a spot waiting for him with open arms. Shoulder injuries are terrifying, particularly ones that cause a pitcher to miss the entirety of a season, as Ryu did in 2015, but this is a quality pitcher who was ranked as a solid no. 2 fantasy starter prior to his injury at the start of last season and who just turned 29 a few weeks ago. He’s currently available in 92 percent of ESPN leagues and is a solid upside play.
13) Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Glasnow will return to Triple-A Indianapolis to start the year and should surface in Pittsburgh around mid-June, around the projected Super Two cutoff. He could get the call earlier if Ryan Vogelsong pitches like, well, Ryan Vogelsong, and the Pirates decide that he can help better help them fend off the Cubs and Cards for a division title.
14) Lucas Giolito, RHP, Washington Nationals
Giolito, who will begin the year at the Double-A level, likely has the highest fantasy ceiling of any arm in the minors, but will also most likely fall behind A.J. Cole on the team’s organizational depth chart should a need arise at the big-league level at some point. The Nationals almost assuredly won’t call him up before the Super Two cutoff in mid-June, and could choose to limit his innings in the minors before giving him a late-season call-up, if one comes at all in 2016.
15) Jhonny Peralta, SS, St. Louis Cardinals
Peralta is expected to be out until late-May to mid-June after injuring his thumb in spring training action, but could serve as a quality MI stash for deeper-league teams in need of middle-infield depth, as he finished last season as a borderline top-10 option at shortstop. If your squad is currently rostering the Adeiny Hechevarrias of the world, don’t forget about Peralta, who is being rostered in less than 14 percent of leagues to start the year and could provide solid production over the season’s second half at a position that features more depth than in years past, but still isn’t overflowing with quality fantasy options.
17) Keone Kela, RHP, Texas Rangers
In our fantasy staff picks piece last week, I picked Shawn Tolleson as the first closer to lose his job this season, and the meltdowns have already started. He blew the save on Wednesday against the Mariners, allowing five runs on five hits without retiring a batter. Sam Dyson could also factor in the saves picture should Tolleson continue to falter, but I like Kela to take the job and run with it if the opportunity is given to him. For more closer talk, check out Matt Collins’ good work with the Closer Report, because as you may already be aware, I hate relievers.
18) Jurickson Profar, SS, Texas Rangers
Profar has as much talent as anybody on this list, but will likely need to show production (and health) over at least a few months at Triple-A Round Rock to earn a promotion, and it would be hard to blame the Rangers if they kept the former no. 1-overall prospect in the game at Triple-A for the entirety of the year and let him get a much needed full season’s worth of at-bats.
19) Max Kepler, OF, Minnesota Twins
If Eddie Rosario continues his sub-.300 OBP act this season, the Twins should turn to “Mr. Oktoberfest,” but Kepler will have to show that he can handle left-handed pitching at the Triple-A level before the Twins would likely pull the plug on Rosario and turn to the 2015 Southern League MVP.
20) Nick Williams, OF, Philadelphia Phillies
Eight. That’s the number of walks that Williams drew over his last 43 games of the season at the Double-A level between Frisco and Reading, and while his approach showed improvement in the first half of 2015, I’m cynical about his ability to make a fantasy impact at the major-league level in 2016 (or 2017 for that matter) until more headway is made in the area.
21) Blake Snell, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays
22) Cody Reed, LHP, Cincinnati Reds
23) Sean Manaea, LHP, Oakland Athletics
Each member of this trio comprised of powerful lefties will start the year at the Triple-A level and patiently await for their opportunity to come, but all three offer impact ability in the strikeout category.
24) Tim Anderson, SS, Chicago White Sox
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Jimmy Rollins stands in the way of a potentially dynamic fantasy option at shortstop. If Rollins hits as he did for most of the 2015 season, or is injured—only four shortstops, Omar Vizquel, Ozzie Smith, Derek Jeter, and Mike Bordick have played 100 or more games at the position in their age-37 seasons, as Rollins will attempt to do in 2016—utility man Tyler Saladino would likely be the one to step into a starting role. It’s hard to see Anderson getting an opportunity before the Super Two cutoff at the earliest, as he’s received less than 600 plate appearances above the High-A level, but if he does get the call at some point, be ready to pounce as he offers elite stolen-base potential unrivaled by any shortstop on this list. Anderson appears ahead of other talented shortstops like Orlando Arcia and J.P. Crawford, because if he produces at Triple-A and Rollins and Saladino prove to be incapable of holding the position down, the White Sox will have greater incentive to give Anderson a shot if they think he can help them win in 2016 than the rebuilding Brewers or Phillies.
Honorable Mention (in alphabetical order):
Orlando Arcia, SS, Milwaukee Brewers
Homer Bailey, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
Aaron Blair, RHP, Atlanta Braves
J.P. Crawford, SS, Philadelphia Phillies
Jose De Leon, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Aaron Judge, OF, New York Yankees
Tom Murphy, C, Colorado Rockies
Jose Peraza, UT, Cincinnati Reds
Dalton Pompey, OF, Toronto Blue Jays
Roman Quinn, OF, Philadelphia Phillies
Gary Sanchez, C, New York Yankees
Richie Shaffer, 1B/3B/OF, Tampa Bay Rays
Jameson Taillon, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Jake Thompson, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies
Julio Urias, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
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