Each week of the Major League Baseball season, I will run down the players recently promoted to the majors along with their potential fantasy relevance.
I will highlight a number of players that could be promoted in the near future, identifying candidates those in redraft leagues should stash on their benches. As the season progresses I will check in on past stash recommendations to see if they are still worth holding.
I will also cover prospects for keeper and dynasty leagues whose value is on the rise that you may want to target, or players on the decline you may want to cut bait on or trade before their value bottoms out.
Welcome to the Majors
Jared Hoying was called up to replace injured Texas Ranger outfielder Carlos Gomez. He had a combined 39 home runs and 38 stolen bases at Triple-A from 2015 and 2016. Prior to his call-up he was hitting .242 with seven home runs and three steals. Hoying has limited value right now, but that could change if he can hit for average and garner more playing time.
Colorado brought Jeff Hoffman back for another spot start and he turned in a strong performance. Odds are he will be sent back down before this goes to print, but he deserves to be in the majors over struggling Tyler Chatwood and Tyler Anderson. Keep him on your watch list.
Hector Velazquez made his Boston debut on Thursday and will get another opportunity this Saturday against the Seattle Mariners. The Red Sox took a gamble on him after his 2016 breakout in the Mexican League, and his numbers this year in Triple-A have been just as good (minus a few strikeouts). He is a wildcard streamer with some upside, but limited long-term appeal with David Price due back shortly.
I normally do not mention reliever promotions, but I’ll make an exception for Houston’s Jordan Jankowski. There is big strikeout potential here, and maybe some opportunities for holds if he proves himself.
Brett Eibner (Dodgers) and Nolan Fontana (Angels) are bearers of organization depth with no fantasy value.
Redraft Watch List
In 2016 fantasy owners were disappointed with the major league performance of Luke Weaver. He posted a 1.40 ERA and 0.95 WHIP over 77 innings at Double-A prior to his call-up. Weaver also posted a 1.62 ERA and 1.11 WHIP the previous year in High-A over 105 innings. A 5.70 ERA and 1.60 ERA over eight starts put owners off in the same fashion we disregarded Jose Berrios. Well, the Weaver we all remember is back.
In five starts (27 innings) at Triple-A, Weaver has a 1.67 ERA and 0.85 WHIP. He has issued just one walk and allowed one home run. There has been a reversal in his batted-ball profile. Weaver now has a ground-ball rate over 50 percent, and his fly-ball and infield fly-ball rates are almost identical at 30 percent. Like Berrios, Weaver could have an immediate impact if given the opportunity.
Currently the St. Louis Cardinals do not have a place for him, but he will be the first to receive a call when one does occur.
I try not to double up on players in this space, but I have to acknowledge what Rhys Hoskins is doing. Over 148 innings at Triple-A, Hoskins is batting .318 with nine doubles, 12 home runs and 36 RBIs. More importantly, his strikeout rate sits at 15.8 percent. Those that doubted his 38-home run breakout performance in 2016 better rethink their views.
When I profiled Hoskins in April, I saw him as someone to target in keeper and dynasty leagues. It now appears he is a major player of interest for redraft leagues as well, and should make his debut in Philly sometime this summer. Tommy Joseph does create a roadblock, but it is a minor hurdle.
- Yoan Moncada was placed on the disabled list with a bruised thumb. Both the X-Ray and MRI were clean. He is batting .331 with six home runs and is 10 for 12 in stolen base attempts.
- Lewis Brinson is batting .313 with nine doubles, four home runs and five steals. The wait may be slightly longer with Broxton, Santana and Perez all hitting well.
- Rafael Devers is batting .320 with seven home runs. Pablo Sandoval will begin his rehab assignment on Friday. Given Sandoval’s bad bat, balky right knee, and the Sox losing ground in the A.L. East, the wait for Devers should not be long.
- Franklin Barreto is holding steady with a .314 batting average, six doubles, six home runs, and three steals over 172 at-bats. The middle infield combination of Lowrie, Rosales and Pinder is only delaying the inevitable.
- Amed Rosario has done everything possible to prove he belongs in the majors. He is batting .360 with 17 extra-base hits and eight steals. Unfortunately, without another injury at the major league level, we may have to wait until July.
Keeper League Target or Trade
Ronald Acuna (Braves) just cracked the MLB.com top-100 list this year. Judging by the early results, we may just be scratching the surface of his future potential. Acuna started the year in High-A, and he showed the organization enough that he earned a May promotion to Double-A.
In 28 games (115 at bats) in High-A, Acuna batted .287 with three doubles, five triples, three home runs, and was 14 for 17 in stolen-base attempts. The walk rate (6.3 percent) fell from the double-digit terrain we previously saw, and the strikeout rate spiked (31.7 percent) from the mid-teens. This was not enough to dissuade the organization from a promotion, though.
So far in Double-A over 51 at bats, Acuna is batting .353 with six extra-base hits and nine steals in 14 attempts. The walk rate is back in double digits, and the strikeout rate is at a more acceptable 21.3 percent. What’s more impressive is the fact that he is doing this as a 19-year-old kid.
There is easily 25-plus stolen-base potential here. The emerging power makes the previous estimations of 15 home runs seem low, and it now looks like he could hit 20 or more annually. The strikeouts are still a work in progress, but everything else looks good.
Veterans Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis represent the present in Atlanta. When the organization feels the time is right – I’m thinking about the summer of 2018 — we could see a changing of the guard. Those in dynasty leagues should target Acuna now while his price tag is relatively low. The above sample sizes are small, but they are very encouraging.
I’ll stick with the Braves organization but shift the focus to the hot corner. Austin Riley may appear on some top-10 positional rankings, but he is not a top-10 player for the Braves, nor is he considered a top-100 player – yet.
Riley showed a lot of promise last year in Class-A. He batted .271 with 39 doubles and 20 home runs. That was enough to give him another challenge, starting the 2017 season in High-A. So far Riley is batting .264 with five doubles and eight home runs over 174 at-bats. The walk rate both this year and last is identical (7.4 percent), and this year the strikeout rate came down from 27.1 to a more respectable 23.2.
He turned 20 years old in April, so time is on his side. There’s still work to do at the plate, as well as some defensive adjustments that need to be addressed for him to stick at third base. I don’t know if Riley will be a star, but he could be a Kyle Seager-type hitter that owners target once those top-tier hitters are gone.
You should be able to get him cheaply in a trade. Depending on the size of your minor league system, he just might be on waivers. Adonis Garcia is 31 and is a stop-gap measure at third base. Recently promoted Rio Ruiz is a decent third baseman, but his bat projects to be average at best. As long as Riley continues to adjust and improve, the third base job will be his when he is ready.