Welcome to Week 12 of the minor league report. Each week I will take a look at the fantasy relevance of those newly promoted faces and recommend players to trade or trade away in keeper and dynasty leagues. If there are any players you would like to see featured here in the future, feel free to leave them in the comment section below or hit me up on Twitter @TheJimFinch.
MINOR LEAGUE PROMOTIONS
Hector Velazquez has joined the Red Sox rotation. At first, I was dismissive; a 28-year-old with an average career in the Mexican league is hardly someone to consider. However, his numbers through nine starts at Triple-A are strong. Plus, because he was so off the radar, teams have little scouting to go by when it comes to him. That could make Velazquez a sneaky streaming option his first time through the league.
I missed covering Paul DeJong when he got the call a few weeks ago. Considering his ownership is nonexistent it appears I’m not too late to hype him. He had 33 doubles and 23 home runs in 2015, and 29 doubles with 22 home runs in 2016. Prior to his promotion, he had nine doubles and 13 home runs in 177 at-bats. The power potential is real, and now that he has been moved to second base he is in a position to capitalize. Just monitor the strikeouts; they could sink the batting average quickly.
It remains to be seen how long Daniel Gossett will remain in the rotation for Oakland. He was impressive in his second start after a rocky debut, allowing two runs over 6.2 innings with six strikeouts. The 2014 second round pick has been on the fast track to the majors, cruising through three levels last year totaling 153 innings. His strikeouts are higher than average, and the low walk totals will alleviate some of the home run damage. He faces the White Sox on Saturday if you’re looking for a streaming option.
Jesse Winker is receiving a brief audition with Cincinnati with the team needing a DH option. Sadly he will probably be back in the minors soon. It’s probably for the best as the power we anticipated has not returned yet. The high walks, low strikeouts, and .300 batting average say the bat is ready, though. Keep your eye on the Reds outfield situation.
Brandon Woodruff was set to make his major league debut for the Brewers before landing on the minor league DL. He can strike out a batter an inning, and since 2016 he has reined in the walks and become difficult to hit. Remember the name as he is more than likely to be lost in the shuffle of hot arms receiving the call later this year.
Domingo German was speculated to take the rotation spot abandoned by injured starter C.C. Sabathia. Instead, Luis Cessa was given the opportunity. Don’t give up on German yet as he could still get an opportunity to start. He posted an ERA of 3.00 or lower from Class-A through Double-A. This year he has increased his strikeouts, but at the cost of a few additional walks and home runs. Overall he is a solid starting (streaming) option and worth monitoring (but not owning).
Parker Bridwell replaced injured Angels starter Matt Shoemaker, but do not expect him to stick. His home run ways combined with control issues and limited strikeout ability limits his ceiling. Plus, Shoemaker looks to be back sooner than expected. I would just ignore him.
Redraft Watch List
Dominic Smith: Mets (ETA late July) – With every passing day the Mets fall further out of contention. As those playoff hopes begin to dwindle those in the front office will begin to evaluate the team’s future. Jose Reyes, Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce all have expiring contracts and could be shipped out of town at the trade deadline. Luca Duda also falls into this category, and he could easily be shipped off to a contender.
Mets fans and fantasy owners would love to see Smith at first base this year, and it is a real possibility we see that in July. Smith finished the 2014 season with a .305 batting average. He started off rough, but batted over .300 from June through the end of the season. It was the same story in 2016 at Double-A, finishing with .302 average – albeit a little more streaky from month to month. This year at Triple-A Smith is batting .323, batting above .300 each month.
The batting average against lefties has stabilized the past two years in the .260 range. The power, while primarily against righties, has been split this year, further negating any potential for a platoon. The walk rate is solid, and the strikeout rate has been at or around 15 percent each year.
The only real knock on Smith is the power. He only hit 14 homers last year and has just seven this year. Even the ISO is low, averaging .150 the past two years. He does hit a lot of doubles which could turn to homers in the future. Even if they don’t, that average and a ton of line drives equal runs and RBI. Smith could make a nice corner infielder should the Mets make room and give him the opportunity.
Previously Recommended Stashes
- Yoan Moncada: The Tyler Saladino experiment is over, and Yolmer Sanchez is doing just enough to keep everyone happy. Translation, continue to stash Moncada; he should be up in July.
- Rafael Devers: He continues to assault the ball, adding two more doubles (17) and four more home runs (14) since last week. Meanwhile, Pablo Sandoval is back on the DL, and Devin Marrero is filling in – quite badly I might add. Available in 97 percent of Yahoo leagues.
- Derek Fisher was sent back to Triple-A after a brief stop in the majors. He made enough of an impression with Houston that he should be back soon and deserves a stash.
- Franklin Barreto: At least the batting average has stabilized (.279), but the rest of his offensive numbers have stalled. With Jed Lowrie hitting and Marcus Semien heading out on a rehab assignment the potential of a June/July promotion are slim (outside of another injury).
- Amed Rosario: The team has publicly stated Rosario won’t be up anytime soon. Take that for what it’s worth. All I know is he is batting .326 with 26 extra-base hits (seven homers) and 12 steals. A summer promotion is possible, but no longer probable.
- Clint Frazier: He has kept up the .270 batting line from May, the power is still there, and the strikeout rate remains high but manageable. This month the speed has shown itself; Frazier is six for six in attempts. Sadly, he is blocked at the major league level on multiple fronts.
Barreto, Rosario and Frazier can be safely dropped in 12-team leagues as well as 14-team leagues with small benches.
Keeper League Trade
Francisco Mejia (Indians) is currently the top rated catcher in the minors. After showing minimal power his first two minor league seasons and dealing with batting average regression in 2015, Mejia broke out in 2016. He hit .347 at Class-A with 17 doubles and seven home runs over 239 at-bats. That earned him a promotion to High-A where he tacked on 12 more doubles and four homers over 168 at-bats while batting .333.
This year, at Double-A, it has been more of the same. The batting average is an elite .366, and he is over .300 each month as well as against lefties, righties, home and away. The 15 doubles, eight home runs and improved ISO (.250) show the power is here to stay. A nonexistent strikeout rate is just an added bonus.
So why should fantasy owners trade him? That’s simple, at least in my mind. How many “can’t miss” catchers have we seen come up over the years that did not amount to anything? Some turned into quality backstops, but nothing that screams top-5. Then there are those power hitters who took years to develop, and still they possess a batting average that can turn milk sour.
For years the catcher rankings have consisted of Buster Posey and then everyone else. Who follows Posey each year has fluctuated. There are some safe options, but no guarantees. Maybe Mejia could be great, but odds are he’ll be one of those “safe” guys. Right now his value is at its peak, and you can get more than a “safe guy” value for Mejia now than you will be able to get once he is that safe guy. Basic economics – the ceiling will never be higher.
Keeper League Target
Chance Adams (Yankees) appeared on the back-end of some top-100 lists to start the season. Considering he has continued to excel in Triple-A, I would not be surprised to see him closer to the top-50 when midseason rankings roll out.
Adams has yet to post and ERA above 3.00 and a WHIP above 1.00 at any level, and he has given up just 14 home runs over 238 minor league innings. He started the year in Double-A. After six dominating starts (1.03 ERA, 1.09 WHIP) he was promoted to Triple-A. In seven starts he has a 2.43 ERA, a 0.93 WHIP and a 9.74 K/9. Walks are still a minor issue, and how his game leans (grounders or fly balls) will dictate how much of an issue that will be in the future.
Teammate Justus Sheffield is still in Double-A, but like Adams, he has taken that next step. In 13 starts this year, Sheffield has a 2.99 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. The rise in WHIP has been due to more hits and not an increase in walks which is a positive. Like Adams his profile is split between ground and fly balls; he will need more ground balls in his game given the home run issues this season. Overall the strikeout rate is solid (7.65 K/9), but below what we expected early in April.
The arsenals for both pitchers are works in progress, primarily their secondary offerings. If they continue to fine-tune them throughout the season, there is little reason we don’t see both men in the majors in 2018.
I would target both pitchers, just for the fact that they are very similar and the odds of both working out are slim. This way you hedge your bets and are guaranteed a winner.
It’s never too early to look at prospects. With the 2017 draft in the books, those of us in large dynasty leagues will be looking for that next big thing. One of my personal favorites from this year’s draft is Jake Burger, taken by the White Sox with the 11th pick.
First off I’m a college guy. Give me a prospect that has spent three to four years playing in college over a high school kid any day. College players progress faster through the minors, giving you a better idea if your investments will pay off sooner. Finally, with at least three years of playing time under their belts, we have a general idea of what type of players they could be.
Burger batted between .328 and .349 during his three years at Missouri State. In 2015 and 2016, his at-bats were nearly identical, an average of 241 at-bats. He posted 13 doubles each year with 21 and 22 home runs. The walk rate increased each year, and the strikeouts sat in elite territory each year. That kind of patience and power is what I look for and playing the hot corner adds to my enthusiasm.
Todd Frazier is one his way out after the 2017 season. Moncada could man the position for a year or two, but could easily slide over to second once Burger is ready. The Sox could even sign a one-year stopgap to plug things up for 2018 giving Burger a little time to adjust. Yes, I see Burger being able to compete for the third base job as soon as 2019. He will force his way through the system quickly, and because of this, he should be targeted now.
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