Welcome to September!
Fall has always been a time for baseball to get weird and bring all the kids along. The rules will change in 2020, dropping active rosters from 40 players to 28, so I’m thinking organizations might be even thirstier than usual for this last red-rover run through the end-of-summer sprinkler.
The thing about September: it used to be the seventh month, leading into months eight (Oct), nine (Nov) and ten (Dec). Eventually some guy named Greg came along and switched the script, so now the names don’t match the numbers. This reminds me of Fantasy Baseball: a game of numbers masquerading as a game of names, meaning the real game is navigating those gaps among the names and numbers. In that spirit, today’s dispatch will feature some players in that space between perceived and real value. These are not meant as Buy-Low suggestions as much as they are Buy-if-you-Can opportunities.
In 24 AAA games since being traded from the Twins to the Giants for RP Sam Dyson, OF Jaylin Davis is slashing .356/.442/.756 with 10 home runs. The Giants are getting Dodgerish production out of corner outfielders Alex Dickerson and Mike Yasztremski, but Davis appears to have mastered the minors’ highest level and should get a pod of coffee at some point in September.
Oakland 1B OF Seth Brown is already up and hitting .455 after mashing 37 home runs in AAA. Your window to scoop from free agency may have closed, but it’s worth a minute of your time to check all your leagues. Brown has gotten praise for his make-up his whole career, and if we’ve learned anything this year, its’ that we should buy now and ask questions later when a 27-year-old rookie is tearing through opponents.
Staying in Oakland, 24-year-old 3B Sheldon Neuse just got himself promoted. I think he’s more of a Khris Davis (paternity leave) short-term fill in than anything else, but the kid slashed .317/.389/.550 in AAA and has earned this chance and your attention should he carve out a sustained role.
With OF Tyler Naquin recently injured in Cleveland and OF Jordan Luplow on the IL, we may get a look at OF Daniel Johnson, a 24-year-old lefty slashing .311/.376/.497 in AAA. Johnson has crept up most prospect lists throughout the season, aided in part by his invite to this year’s Future’s Game, but he’s still an under-the-radar type who’s likely available in most non-dynasty formats.
RHP Brandon Bielak is a 23-year-old starter cruising through the AAA Pacific Coast League in the Astros system. In his last ten starts, Bielak has seven wins and a 3.54 ERA with about a strikeout per inning. Full disclosure, I have added and dropped Bielak more times across more leagues than I can count this season because I felt certain he’d get a crack at the openings in their rotation. He’s thrown 121.2 innings this year after ending last season at 117, so there’s still some room on the ledger for a September start or two. He’s unlikely to dominate, but he was good this year in Spring Training and is more battler than buckler. With Aaron Sanchez hurt as usual and Houston locked into the playoffs, Bielak might be next man up.
In ten games at AAA, RHP James Marvel is 6-0 with a 2.91 ERA. I know wins and losses are nobody’s fantasy jam, but in the bouncy ball world of the International League, throwing enough good innings to get Wins is no small feat. Mr. Marvel turns 26 this September. As a 36th round pick out of Duke in 2015, he’s found money for Pittsburgh and could be the same for you.
2B SS OF Tommy Edman is so fast your mother wouldn’t let you hang out with him if you asked. High school you, anyway. I’m guessing your mother has less pull these days in terms of friends you’ll call on a Sunday. But even if she does, I think you should sneak out and see if Tommy’s up for a hang. He might even be a free agent in your fantasy league. Just got picked up in a ten-team keeper of mine. Not by me, which is too bad because I could use a guy who plays all the positions, doesn’t swing and miss, hits atop his lineup, and swipes bags like a petty criminal with a hankering for credit cards. Thing is, Tommy’s not a named guy. Not a made man. Not the target of your cousin Frank’s wanderlust. Rookies pacing themselves at .275 with 15 HR and 30 SB are rare enough to warrant an overpay.
If the Edman owners in your leagues are fully converted Ed-Men, maybe Berti’s the word for you: 2B SS OF Jon Berti. This fish has gotten a little helium these past few weeks of hitting and running, but he’s still a Whit-like late bloomer whose owner might be happy to send him packing. I know I sold him along with RP Ryne Stanek in a 15-team dynasty for a first-round pick, which feels light looking back.
2B SS OF Tim Lopes debuted this season at age 25 with three steals in 22 games after nabbing 26 bags in 95 AAA games. He’s showing strong plate skills (13.2% BB, 21.1% K, .368 OBP) and is likely available in your free agent pool despite bringing steady playing time, flexible eligibility and serviceable speed.
I know these guys aren’t typical prospect column fodder, especially as they’re already up and playing, but I mention them here because the law firm of Edman, Berti and Lopes represents a good example of the delta between perceived and real value in both the short and long term. Maybe they all become Whit Merrfield; more likely none of them do, but in this era where a stolen base is equivalent to almost three homeruns in 5×5 roto value, you can’t afford to ignore potential profit-centers like these. If they finish strong, they’ll get some Garrett Hampson treatment next draft season, climbing the draft boards as people get close-up and personal with speed’s supply and demand curve. Plus, they’re not on the Rockies, so they might actually play.
Among the bigger names, LHP Jesus Luzardo and 1B Nate Lowe figure to get some September run and would be must-own in all leagues if so.
2B SS Carter Kieboom got a chance early this Summer and couldn’t stick; however, the Nationals will probably give him another chance in Fall. This time he won’t be playing every day, but that might help him hit the ground running. Kieboom is more beloved than these other names in prospect circles, but some of that shine has dulled, and he’s worth tracking down the stretch.
I don’t have a good feel for what the Orioles will do with 22-year-old 1B Ryan Mountcastle, but he’s slashed .309/.341/.530 across 124 games in the AAA International League, so the only real reason to leave him in the minors is service time manipulation. If he’d help your cause and you’ve got the roster room, I’d say pick him up and wait a few days. If he’s not promoted by this time next week, drop him.
Well that’s my time for today, but I’ll be back Wednesday with more names, numbers and everything in between. Thanks for reading!