With four home runs and a stolen base in his first seven games, Randy Arozarena finally bloomed this week. Better late than never.
One highlight of my winter was plucking Randy Rose atop the 2nd round of a 30-team First-Year-Player-slash-Supplemental Draft.
The pre-Rona times were a mood, man. We had plenty of stuff to be indignant or cosmically fearful about, but we kinda weren’t, you know? Like on the day-to-day basis? We were mostly thinking about Randy Arozarena’s flashy spring in the fantasy factory that is Tampa Bay. Or maybe that was just me.
But Tampa’s the pivot-slash-segue here, if such a thing exists when a conversation wanders among the Rona thoughts. Tampa’s Rays have been getting a lot of winter shade the past few off-seasons because the front office there would prefer to platoon the planet. The reticence to embrace young Rays makes plenty of sense, but on the other hand, a lot of what Tampa touches turns to gold.
Arozarena will cool off soon enough because nobody could sustain his pace, but I think he’s here to stay as an impact bat for our game. He posted 16 home runs and 19 stolen bases in about 400 plate appearances between AA, AAA and MLB in 2019, slashing better than .300/.400/.500 at every level. Only the Cardinals would look at a guy like that and say no thanks. The “industry” in general loved the trade for St. Louis because we can dream on LHP Matthew Liberatore for a long time. Maybe it’ll still break their way, but Arozarena is a perfect fit in Tampa as a lefty masher who’s been improving against righties the past few seasons to the point where I think he’ll be above average against same-siders. He’s also a plus defender across the outfield. If I have to pick between Arozarena and Dylan Carlson in 2021, I’m feeling Randy enough to pluck the rose. Might even prefer him over the balance of their careers, partly because I’ve always loved the guy, partly because I just trust Tampa’s touch.
So who else do we need to monitor in Tampa?
LHP Seth Johnson, for one. He just got added to the player pool and is pumping 98, per MLB pipeline. He’s a late convert to pitching who’s climbing fast within the organization as an outstanding athlete taking to outstanding coaching.
SS Taylor Walls fits the bill as an under-the-radar, sum-of-his parts type who’s a solid defender with a solid stick. Nothing to get obscene about but certainly worth a look.
1B Nate Lowe is with the big club and blasted two bombs the other night. Now is the time to grab him in just about any league. With Yandy Diaz on the IL and Tampa a results-oriented organization, Lowe could solidify his spot with a hot stretch.
I should mention 2B Vidal Brujan, but that’s an obvious one. He’s on the taxi squad as I type this and could be promoted just in time to be an option for the playoff roster. Per mlb.com, “Players must be on a club’s roster by Sept. 15 in order to be eligible for postseason play. In a typical season, any player who is on the 40-man roster or 60-day injured list as of 11:59 p.m. ET on Aug. 31 is eligible for the postseason.”
Important to note for our purposes: this deadline applies to Padres LHP MacKenzie Gore. He’s throwing at the training site and will get his long-awaited promotion this week if San Diego thinks he could help in October. Might be a nice Sunday night faab scoop in any sized league if you’ve got a spec spot available.
In Texas we find an intriguing 6’7” righty who hadn’t pitched since 2018. Kyle Cody was on few fantasy radars entering this short season. Saying he’d pitched in 2018 feels generous, considering it was just five innings in rookie ball. His last game in high A came on September 3 of 2017, so when he took the mound on August 21 of 2020, well, you can run the numbers on how rusty a guy this big might be after three years without facing similar-age competition in a game setting.
Back in 2017, Cody allowed four home runs in 136 innings across A and A+. Or to be more specific, he allowed four bombs in 95.1 innings at low-A Hickory and zero on the Down East Ducks in high A, inducing a 45 percent groundball rate as a Hickory Crawdad and 50 percent as a Duck while striking out 25.5 and 27.8 percent of the batters he faced, respectively.
Hickory is a homer haven, so his 0.38 HR/9 stands out even if he was a little old for level as a 2016 college draftee.
Last week, I mentioned that he looks nasty enough this year to be ownable in any format. Here he is painting with 96 and burying 86.
One start later, three walks in 2.1 innings has me less bullish on his 2020 prospects. Pitching is an art of repetition, deception, balance and power. Cody has the power and deception down, but he’ll need time to refine his balance and master of his delivery. 2021 and beyond looks bright to me. The new park is Texas is playing pitcher-friendly, and the Rangers have some openings in the rotation for 2021. If Cody’s on your waiver wire in a dynasty or keeper, snap him up if you’ve got the room.
At the Red Sox alternate site, LHP Jay Groome is back on the mound after a long layoff and reportedly looking every bit the top-tier talent he seemed on draft night, when many thought he was the best talent available. At this point, he’s an excellent flier in deepish dynasties.
Astros RHP Luis Garcia has stepped in for injured Lance McCullers and delivered consecutive outings of relative brilliance. Pick him up if you can, but if he’s already owned, I think he makes a great trade target this off-season as long as his owner doesn’t request a ransom.
Last week, I was touting Orioles RHP Michael Baumann when I should’ve been championing Dean Kremer, who looked excellent in his debut. My bad on that. Kremer made perfect sense on his own merit for the promotion, but we also got some bad news about Baumann shortly afterward. He’s been shut down with elbow soreness. Bated breath over here.
Thanks for reading! I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter and Reddit.
Best of luck down the stretch!