Welcome to week 14 of the minor league report. Each week I will take a look at the fantasy relevance of newly promoted faces while recommending players to trade 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
It is simply amazing how many relief pitchers are called up and sent down on a weekly basis. This week I stopped counting at 30; that’s 10 shy of the 40 from the previous week. This is the primary reason you never see relievers in this section; it’s enough to make your head spin. When one with potential fantasy relevance makes an appearance, I’ll let you know.
New York Yankee fans are getting a sneak peek at Clint Frazier thanks in part to a Matt Holliday injury. He homered in his first major league game, but has done little since. As I stated last week he was slumping prior to getting the call, so this was expected. Once Holliday returns expect Frazier to be back in the minors for more seasoning. He will be back, though — just don’t expect to see him until September.
St Louis promoted Luke Weaver, but he will not assume a role in the starting rotation. Like Carlos Martinez, Weaver will serve as a bullpen arm, but he could get the occasional spot start or maybe take over if someone is injured. Prior to being called up Weaver was sporting a 1.93 ERA, a 0.96 WHIP, and a 9.64 K/9 through 11 starts. He has value as a reliever and should be rostered now in case he gets the opportunity to start.
Alex Mejia will get an extended look in St Louis with the demotion of Aledmys Diaz. He may be a capable real-life starter, but there is very little fantasy value here even in deeper leagues. Don’t be fooled if he happens to put up a few good games in the coming days.
The Phillies promoted outfielder Nick Williams after placing Howie Kendrick on the DL. He was batting .280 with 15 home runs and five steals in Triple-A, very similar to last year’s numbers but with 200 fewer at bats. Williams has 20-plus home run potential, but his ceiling is currently capped due to the high strikeouts. If he hits he could stick even when Kendrick returns. Even so, I would not add him in standard 10- and 12-team leagues just yet.
Oakland promoted yet another starting pitcher — this time it’s Paul Blackburn. He has a career 3.21 minor league ERA, posting an ERA in the mid to low threes at every stop since 2012. The 1.19 WHIP this year represents his three-year average. Blackburn is a control ground-ball pitcher, so expect low walks and limited home runs. He also isn’t much for strikeouts, so don’t expect a K/9 over 6.00. Even without the strikeouts, his ratios and quality start potential give him value as a back-end fantasy starter.
Andrew Moore is back up for Seattle, and his second start was just as dominant as his first. Moore has put up terrific ratios and strong strikeout totals for his entire minor league career. I don’t see him being a staff ace, but he is easily a number two or three starter, making him a future back-end top-30 pick in fantasy. He should be owned.
Miguel Andujar (3B NYY) and Felix Jorge (SP MIN) each made a one-and-done appearance in the majors. They are both names to keep in mind for future consideration. Andujar is only 22 and still growing into his power, but the low strikeouts and high batting average show the bat is ready for the future third baseman. Jorge should be back again given his minor league numbers. He is nothing special, but could be slightly better than most streaming options available on waivers.
Keeper League Trade
Mickey Moniak (Phillies): First off I have no issues with Moniak. I like him as a prospect and think he could make a decent major league player one day. All the scouting reports I have read love his work ethic, power potential, speed prowess on the base paths, and his advanced approach at the plate.
The problems I see:
First, all of this is based on what he “could” do or turn into. We’ve seen the speed, but the success rate needs work. He has 24 extra-base hits in 285 at-bats this year, but just four home runs. The power could come in time, but current ISO is that of a speedy middle infielder. The average should improve with age, currently .270, but a strikeout rate close to 20 percent could go either way.
My second issue, which can be viewed as a positive or a negative, is his age. Most owners would love to have a 19-year-old future star – I usually do — but this 19-year-old first-round pick has already vaulted himself into top 20 without doing a thing. We are not talking about Mike Trout here with rave reviews in Sports Illustrated. Moniak is just a solid hitter who could develop average or slightly better than major league power.
In another year or two Moniak could still be ranked among the top 20 prospects, or he could be in the bottom 50 or even outside the top 100. I don’t see him leaving the top 100 short of a collapse. However, the odds of him remaining a top-20 or even top-15 player — where he currently stands on MLB.com — are slim. Moniak could be at his peak for value, creating a prime sell-high opportunity. Capitalize on that.
Keeper League Target
Brent Honeywell (Rays): The second-round pick of the 2014 draft has garnered a lot of attention over the past year. Last year after dominating in High-A he received a much deserved promotion to Double-A, and the higher level had little effect on his production. This season the Rays started Honeywell in Double-A, but two starts were all it took — he was again off to the next level.
So far in Triple-A Honeywell has a 4.54 ERA and 1.44 WHIP through 15 starts (79 1/3 innings). That’s not exactly the dominant performance we’ve all come to expect. This has created an air of doubt in fantasy owners. The inflated numbers have also created a prime buying opportunity if his current owner is worried that he will not live up to the past hype.
This year’s numbers are a result of bad luck – nothing more. A .396 BABIP and 64.9 percent strand rate are the two primary indicators of this. A spike in line drives (27.3 percent) is the primary culprit. This has forced a decline in ground balls (39.2 percent) and a decrease of infield fly balls (14.3 percent compared to over 20 for his career). The fly-ball rate continues to decline (33.5 percent). Once the line drive rate normalizes the ground balls and infield fly balls should as well, which will assist in lowering the HR/FB rate.
The control is still there (2.58 BB/9) as are the strikeouts (11.05 K/9). His fastball continues to improve, sitting in the mid- to high 90s. The cutter and changeup are also showing improvements and should be plus pitches. He also throws a curveball and screwball, giving added weapons to keep batters off balance.
Take advantage of the recent struggles and try to buy low on Honeywell while you can.
Bo Bichette (Blue Jays) is beginning to make a name for himself and has cracked a number of top-100 lists. This year in Class-A he is batting .392 with 31 doubles, 10 home runs and 12 steals over 273 at-bats. The walk rate (8.3 percent) and strikeout rate (16.8 percent) are both solid. His batted ball profile is split between ground and fly balls. That could change as he fills out and advances, but for now it plays to both his power and speed.
Everything about him rates highly, except for his contact. While things look good now, Bichette does have some holes in his swing. This could lead to more strikeouts in the future along with a lower batting average. Even if this does occur I cannot envision a career any worse than Melvin Upton. Don’t laugh: Upton was a solid power-speed guy before his collapse. That is merely a worst-case scenario; I think Bichette will be much better than that. Invest now!
Michael Chavis (Red Sox) was taken in the first round of the 2014 draft and has done nothing but disappoint. This year, at the age of 21, the stars have aligned for the young slugger. He batted .318 at High-A and led the Carolina League in home runs with 17. An ISO (finally) over .200 supports the power spike. Strikeouts are still high, but he was down to 25 percent.
This has earned him a promotion to Double-A, where he added three more home runs and a .275 average in 40 at-bats. Is he a late bloomer or was he just due for a good year? I don’t know, but he is low enough on prospect rankings that it won’t cost you much to find out.