We are just one day away from having legit “it counts” baseball happening, and I couldn’t be more giddy. I’m getting all of my jerseys ready to put into the shirt rotation, and I’m making last minute add/drops/adjustments to my fantasy teams. Since a lot of my drafts happen insanely early, I have a lot of speculative picks that may not have panned out, and now a lot of answers are pouring in so I can make the right decisions. A lot of these risky picks pertained to impact prospects and whether or not they were going to make the team.
In the last two weeks, we have had a large majority of these prospect position battles settled, so we’re going to take a look at the results of some of these roster moves and what kind of effect they will have on the players’ stat lines. Of course, we will also go over some of the younger prospects who have been sent down, and I’ll give my take on when they come up and what to expect from them. And finally, we will also cover one scenario that appears to be playing out until the last moment and what I think happens there. But first, some good stuff!
Lewis Brinson Will Remain with the Marlins and Bat Leadoff
I’m a big fan of Brinson, and after the bulk of the Marlins’ fire sale had been completed, I thought there might be an outside chance he remains on the team to start the season. Even with his insane struggles in the Majors last year (.106 average in 55 plate appearances), he managed to slash .331/.400/.562 with 13 homers and 11 steals in Triple-A. I’m not saying he’s going to replicate that slash line. In fact, most projections have his average somewhere in the .235 range. That’s fair considering how he struggled against the better pitching last year and how his hit tool still needs work, but this is a kid with a big bat and plenty of speed.
Derek Carty’s The Bat projection system has Brinson down for 584 plate appearances, 18 homers, 13 steals, and a .238/.300/.401 slash line. Most projection systems are bearish on these kinds of players, and I think this is a pretty good floor-ish projection for him. But considering he’s a top-level talent, I think there is plenty of upside here. With the bat this kid possesses and the fact that everyone can hit home runs anywhere, I think there’s a chance for 25 homers, and if the Marlins just have a “do whatever” attitude, 20 steals is on the table, as well. Brinson is in a terrible lineup, no doubt, so discount the runs and RBI. Other than that, though, I think there is a ton of upside to be had here. And if he gets lucky and hits .250 with his standard 9%+ walk rate, why couldn’t a .250/.330/.475 line be in play?
Scott Kingery Signs a Six-Year Deal with the Philadelphia Phillies and Makes the Opening Day Roster
Kingery was a trendy pick coming into the New Year with some speed and batting average potential on a team that was largely considered to be pretty bad. The consensus was that he was advanced enough that he could produce quickly, and he had a very, very outside shot at making the Major League team. First off, I thought that was absurd considering what the Phillies have in their infield (J.P. Crawford at shortstop, Cesar Hernandez at second base, Maikel Franco at third base, and Carlos Santana/Rhys Hoskins at first base), so unless there was an injury or some trades, I didn’t expect much. And to be honest, I was kind of right.
Kingery was signed to this deal and is expected to remain on the Major League team as a kind of “super utility player,” where he will see action all over the field when players need time off or if someone gets hurt. I don’t know if that’s necessarily the smartest move for a player who ultimately needs to play continuously to develop. Instead of getting him 400 plate appearances on the MLB team, why not play him every day in the minors until there’s a spot for him to play full time on the big league club? So then I’m left wondering how confident the Phillies are in the Maikel Franco. I think if he doesn’t show a whole lot of improvement this season, we might just see Kingery take more and more at-bats from him at the hot corner.
Ultimately, what does this mean for Kingery and his numbers this year? Most of the projection systems see him batting somewhere in the .250/.300/.415 range with 10 homers and 15 steals. I think that’s pretty reasonable, but looking at what made Kingery a special prospect in the first place means we should expect a better average and better speed. Both of these things I agree with. If I were to project him this season, I think .275/.330 with closer to 20 steals would be accurate. One thing I want to caution people on … his power.
I think people are going a little overboard on Kingery being able to hit 20+ homers considering it was just 2016 that he had 586 plate appearances and managed only FIVE home runs. His first year as a pro in 2015, he hit only three homers in 282 plate appearances. Of course, last year he busted out for 26 big flies in 603 plate appearances. Growth is always possible for a player and he’s a talented hitter, so I have no doubt he’s better than a five home-run player, but to expect even something like 20 out of him is ludicrous in my opinion, even in this home run-heavy era. At best, I think he hits 10-12 home runs if he gets 450 plate appearances as a super-sub.
I like Scott Kingery. I just think people are getting a bit too amped up for him.
Willie Calhoun Sent Down to Triple-A
The young slugger for the Texas Rangers was informed a week ago that he was going to be sent down to Triple-A to “work on his defense.” And while that’s entirely true, I think we are also looking at a team that likely won’t be contending and doesn’t want to start Calhoun’s service time clock until they absolutely have to. He’s better than all but two of the Rangers’ current outfielders (Delino DeShields and Nomar Mazara), and though his defense is atrocious, it’s not like he’s unseating a gold glove outfielder if Ryan Rua or Drew Robinson sits on the bench. As a result, I believe we see him in a few weeks once the Super-Two cutoff date has passed, assuming he doesn’t tank in the minors.
With that in mind, I think it’s a no-brainer to stash Calhoun provided you have a bench spot for him. Last year in Triple-A for both the Dodgers and Rangers, he hit 31 homers in 534 plate appearances and batted over .300. He doesn’t run, and he doesn’t walk a whole lot, so you aren’t going to receive a five-tool player here, but he is going to hit the ball and hit it hard. With a 450 plate-appearance season, I fully expect to see a .270 hitter with 25 or so homers and potential for a lot more.
Tyler Mahle Gets the Fourth Spot in the Cincinnati Reds’ Rotation
This one went a bit under the radar, in my opinion. While Mahle has never really been much of a strikeout pitcher, his control has been elite (BB/9 generally under 2.00), and he keeps the ball in the yard most of the time. He actually gained a bit of velocity last year and still managed to keep his walks under control. Throw out the 20-inning sample in the Majors because I think there’s quite a lot to like. Against stronger competition, I think he does end up walking more, and that just means more runs, but I think there’s still a ton of value to be had here.
Mahle threw 164.1 innings between three levels last year, so let’s say he stays in the Reds’ rotation and throws 180 innings. If he does that, it’s not out of the question to expect an ERA under 3.50, a strikeout rate above 8.00 K/9, and a really nice walk rate. And if he pulls that off, his current ADP of 365 is going to be one hell of a bargain. I’ve scooped him up in a lot of my leagues, and I think you should, too.
Dustin Fowler is Still Competing with Boog Powell for the Oakland Athletics’ Center Field Job
We all know the devastating injury that Dustin Fowler experienced last year in his first Major League game, and unfortunately, we all know that that kind of injury might take a bit longer to heal than we would hope. It’s because of that — and because of the rust that Fowler has shown this spring — that this is even a question. No offense to Boog Powell, but Fowler is the center fielder of the future. However, until he shows he can play every day, I think this spot goes to Powell so Fowler can ease into it in the minors.
As a Fowler owner, it’s not exactly what I want to happen, but it’s also probably the smartest move. Fowler has an intriguing blend of speed and power, and once he comes up, he should utilize a good enough hit-tool and above average speed to post a solid batting average. I wish he walked more, but I’ll take what I can get out of a 20-20 center fielder. Since I don’t know how long Fowler stays down (or if he even does since this isn’t final), I don’t know what to project. But if he gets the job, I know what kind of player he is, and he’s a player I want on my team.