I can’t say it feels like baseball season looking out my window at empty trees and snow-filled streets, but just a few states to the south, human beings are playing the real game (for practice).
One of my favorite traditions as a young fan was Peter Gammons profiling each team’s spring training focus points.
I loved the spittle and shake of his voice, the depth of his details, and especially how he always shot the segments in front of people playing catch, gloves popping symphonically as Gammons explained how Bill Pulsipher, Paul Wilson, and Jason Isringhausen were going to re-define the New York Mets.
It’s in that spirit that I begin our next prospect series—one that works in concert with Razzball’s Gammonsian team previews and one that involves a few nods to some non-prospects. Graduating from eligibility requirements doesn’t mean you’re a known quantity, nor that you’ve graduated to an everyday opportunity. Yesterday’s failed prospects are often tomorrow’s sleepers, so let’s take a lap around the division looking for some fantasy profit.
Atlanta left third base up for grabs, so Austin Mary Riley and Johan Camargo can become part of the long-term plan if they maximize this opportunity. Riley strikes out too much at 36.4 percent. Camargo is free. Neither was good last year. V exciting.
Players have bounced back from bad rookie seasons, but that’s not really the full story with Riley, who was good early and awful mostly to the tune of a .276 on base percentage.
From June 17 onward, Riley hit .170/.237.336.
How long will he hold the gig if he can’t dig his way out of that?
Not long, is the easy answer. I thought Camargo might break out last year and wouldn’t be surprised to see him steal this job and run with it. In 14 AAA games, he hit .481/.531/.690. Might be the mythical 4A player but likely just needs a sustained opportunity.
Are we going to Miami?
We’re going to Me om ee!
¡Bienvenido a Miami!
But before we leave, let’s consider the possibility that Alex Jackson, former top Mariners pick and converted outfielder, could break his way into the lineup. He’s earning elite grades on defense these days, and while he doesn’t make enough contact for my tastes, he has plenty of power, and the Braves are ancient at catcher.
In Miami, we party. It’s all about the young Marlins, and I’m watching everyone but the good players. By which I mean Villar. He’s the list of good players, fantasy-wise. Which means I’m watching everyone. Isan Diaz, Lewis Brinson, Monte Harrison, Jesus Sanchez: what could they really do? I’m not watching C-Dick, but I’m not judging if you are. They’re moving fences in. Maybe we should watch C-Dick, but I feel awkward already.
Jon Berti is kind of a must-own for me at his price. What if he’s real?
Monte Harrison, too, is an interesting buy right now in case he goes crazy this spring. He feels like the type to lead Spring Training in stolen bases. (Update: he stole two bases right after I put this piece in the system.)
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Edward Cabrera, Sixto Sanchez and Alex Vesia, who I love as a closer dart in deep leagues. Even Humberto Mejia could get some looks as he’s already on the 40-man roster.
Most of the New York Mets’ prospect group will be busy during the day but gets out of school around 3:30 p.m. They do have a couple adult lefties in David Peterson and Kevin Smith, and they’re both pretty interesting to me. If anything breaks, I think it’ll be one of these two before we see Gsellman or Lugo back in the rotation.
Even on the streets of Philadelphia, Spencer Howard is not a big name, but he’ll be the ace of this staff sooner than later. He came into camp with a balky knee and seems a smart target for a few feeler offers. Once he’s seen on a national stage, the price will not be right. Buy window closing in 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . .
Roman Quinn and Adam Hasely will compete for the centerfield job, but if they don’t hit, I think Scott Kingery steps out there to open 3B for Alec Bohm. Interesting dominos all, but perhaps none more so than the mighty Quinn. His exit velocities have been anything but strong, but that’s not an automatic negative for an 80 runner. One way to look at this might be: it’s not a big deal if you miss out on Haseley and he’s good for someone else. If Quinn pops, he’s going to toggle the standings all by himself.
Which reminds me of our next focus point: Washington Nationals post-prospect Victor Robles. The Twitterati took potshots at Robles all winter long, deriding his 81 mph average exit velocity as worse than Stephen Strasburg’s.
I loved it.
I remember a conversation with a friend early this winter in which he was farting in Victor’s general direction due to batting order placement. I loved that, too. Couldn’t refrain from telling him so–that it was hilarious to me that people thought Robles was stuck in the 8-hole.
We’ve since received word that Robles is lined up to lead off, with Trea Turner sliding into the three spot. I actually wanted Robles to hit fifth or sixth, but I’m just as excited about him in the leadoff spot.
Robles turned 22 on May 19 last year. If you tell me I can draft a 22-year-old starting center fielder who was five tallies shy of a 20/30 campaign the season before, I’m highly unlikely to care how softly he hit some grounders in his rookie year.
15-team fantasy math suggests a stolen base is worth three times as much as a home run. Robles hit 17 actual homers and stole 28 bases, so standings wise, he was worth about 101 home runs playing almost half the year as a 21-year-old.
Sorry I got a little carried away there. There’s just a lot of profit to be made in this stats-crazy age for the context-focused fantasy player, and I’m very grateful to the Statcast Twitterati for suppressing the price on Robles.
On the dirt in the capital, Carter Kieboom has an invitation to take third base and is a fine pick to return value at his near-300 average draft position.
Still, shortstop and third base feel deep enough that he’d be more interesting if he were lined up at second base, where my eyes are locked onto Washington super sleeper Starlin Castro (best read with lisp). Starlin hit 16 second-half home runs in Miami by lifting and pulling the ball. He’d tried this once as a Cub and had no problem lifting and pulling but didn’t have his man strength or the juicy ball going for him then. I’m buying now and wondering if he lands near the middle of that order in a great park for power. Manager Dave Martinez has said Castro will focus on second base.
Kieboom looms. Howie handles business. Assdribble . . . happens, but it sounds like they’re more likely to play third than second, meaning most roads lead to Starlin almost every day at the keystone.
On the bump, Austin Voth was excellent in 2019, posting a 1.05 WHIP and 3.30 ERA while striking out more than a batter per inning across 43.2 frames. Nobody’s expecting a repeat of that from the 27-year-old, but his command of a four-pitch mix gives him a chance at holding the 5th spot in that rotation. Solid deep flier.
Thanks for reading! Enjoy the deluge of actual (practice) baseball!