I like to think I know most rosters pretty well, but on occasion, I come across a name in a box score or in a deep league draft that has me scratching my head. That happened a couple of times during our RotoWire Staff League draft recently, and I thought it would make a good primer for today’s column. Keep in mind that our league is comprised of 18 teams and it’s a mixed 5 X 5 format in which we have a 23-man starting lineup each week plus seven reserves and 10 minor leaguers for a total of 720 rostered players. It’s also a two-catcher league, so six teams are starting backup catchers and nearly every team is using setup guys in their pitching lineup. It’s a league in which inflation is so pronounced that keeping a $74 Clayton Kershaw wasn’t that big of a headscratcher, and when I won Paul Goldschmidt at $61, I was actually pleased at the price tag.
Anyway, with that, here are some of the names that either went for $1 in the auction or fell to the post-auction reserve draft. We have big names (Pablo Sandoval), former elite prospects (Tim Beckham), and guys it’s hard to believe that anyone has heard of…
These guys used to be valuable
Pablo Sandoval (3B-BOS) – Like many, I rolled my eyes upon hearing Sandoval being in the “best shape of his life”, but we heard similar stories prior to the 2011 season, and Sandoval then went out and batted .315/.357/.552. Of course that was five years ago, so take the news with a grain of salt and look for production at the plate this month. So far, so good, as he’s batting .370 in 27 at-bats this spring, and in a loaded Boston lineup, a fantasy renaissance is at least a possibility.
Howie Kendrick (OF/2B-PHI) – Kendrick batted under .279 (.255) for the first time in his 11-year career last season, but that can probably be attributed to the lack of consistent playing time. In some leagues, he’ll qualify at four positions and given the favorable ballpark and consistent playing time, a return to the .280s with double-digit HRs is possible.
Joey Gallo (3B-TEX) – Flash back to 2014, and if I told you then that you could have a $1 Joey Gallo, you’d have been ecstatic. Unfortunately, strikeouts continue to be a huge issue, and in 153 big league PA’s, Gallo is batting just .173/.281/.358 with seven home runs. Gallo seems destined for Triple-A to start the year where he’ll likely hit in the .240 range with a ton of power. Whether he ever makes it in the big leagues is an open question, though he is still just 23.
Zack Wheeler (SP-NYM) – Wheeler has thrown all of one minor league inning in the two years since undergoing Tommy John surgery in March of 2015, and he again won’t be ready to help the Mets at the start of the season. The 26-year-old appeared in his first game of the spring Friday and tossed two innings of one-run ball, but at least he appeared to come out of the game healthy. He’ll open the year in extended spring training to continue to build arm strength, and could be of help to the Mets as early as May. Remember, Wheeler was once an elite prospect who threw 32 big league starts of 3.54 ERA ball in 2014, so if he’s healthy at some point, he can be a contributor in all leagues.
Shelby Miller (SP-ARI) – My faith in baseball’s antiquated arbitration system was restored a bit when Miller lost his case for $5.1 million coming off a season in which he put up a 6.15 ERA and 1.67 WHIP in 20 starts for Arizona. Fortunately for Miller and his family, he’ll probably learn to live off the $4.7 million he was awarded. Miller was shelled for six runs in 2.2 innings in his last spring outing and now has a 9.39 ERA in 7.2 innings this spring. I’m not counting on a sub-4.80 ERA this year.
Miguel Montero (C-CHC) – Montero is a solid addition for Willson Contreras owners in deeper two-catcher leagues, as he serves as insurance and he still has some power. It’s hard to see him getting more than 200 at-bats.
Glen Perkins (RP-MIN) – If you didn’t spend big on closers and want to take on some risk, Perkins and his surgically-repaired shoulder could be for you. He may have an inside track on the closer job if he’s healthy, but that speaks more to the lack of viable options in what could be one of baseball’s worst bullpens this season.
Tim Beckham (SS-TB) – After whiffing on all other shortstops, I wound up with Beckham and Luis Sardinas with the hope that one would emerge as a starter. Beckham of course was a No. 1 overall pick (ahead of Buster Posey….ouch) who at age 27, I’m hoping is a late bloomer. He’s hitting .333/.462/.714 this spring and with Matt Duffy still recovering from a heel injury, Beckham could be the Opening Day shortstop. Given Duffy slumped to .258/.310/.357 last year, perhaps Beckham will even take the job and run with it.
Tony Cingrani (RP-CIN) – He’s working on a cut fastball, which can only help. Given that the Reds may go with a committee approach headed by Raisel Iglesias, Cingrani has value in deep formats, particularly if his control improves (drastically).
Austin Barnes (C-LAD) – Barnes should be the team’s backup catcher and could see time at multiple positions this year, though he’ll only realize real value with a Yasmani Grandal injury. Barnes has put up lofty minor league numbers the past few years and would have much value if he ever finds his way to regular playing time.
Byungho Park (1B-MIN) – Park bombed in his first look at big league pitching in 2016, batting just .191/.275/.409 for the Twins and .224/.297/.526 in the minors. After launching 105 home runs over the previous two years in Korea, Park did show some power in the U.S., totaling 22 homers in 331 total at-bats for a rate of 37 per 550 at-bats. The power is nice, but a 32.8% K% for the Twins is something that’s difficult to see turning around given he fanned in the 25% range against Korean pitching. Park is competing with Kennys Vargas for the DH role, and while Vargas is considered the favorite after batting .230/.333/.500 in 177 PA’s with the Twins last year, he’s also just 1-for-16 this spring while Park is batting .409/.481/.909 in 27 PA’s. You never know.
Ryan Schimpf (2B-SD) – Schimpf is battling Corey Spangenberg for time at either second base or third base. Schimpf exploded for 35 home runs (20 with the Padres) between Triple-A and the big leagues last year, though a 31.8% big league K% led to his interesting .217/.336/.533 stat line. Considering Schimpf’s power output compared to Spangenberg’s 20 pro career home runs (in over 2,000 PA’s), the decision seems obvious.
Tyler Saladino (2B/SS-CHW) – Saladino is expected to be a placeholder at second base for uber-prospect Yoan Moncada. That said, he’s shown flashes of 15/15 type ability and is batting a robust .480/.552/.920 through 29 plate appearances this spring. He could find playing time at multiple positions even once Moncada is deemed ready for the big leagues.
Ryan Pressly (RP-MIN) – Brandon Kintzler is expected to be the closer initially and perhaps Glen Perkins will regain his health at some point, but Kintzler had a subpar 5.8 K/9 in 2016 and Perkins’ status is shaky at best after reoccurrence of the shoulder woes that limited him to just two games last year. Pressly and his 95-plus mph fastball could be next in line.
Adonis Garcia (3B-ATL) – Could eventually be pushed by Rio Ruiz, but for now he’ll provide value as a below-average regular.
Cheslor Cuthbert (3B-KC) – Battling Raul Mondesi for second base and could take over at third should impending free agent Mike Moustakas be dealt this summer. Has some upside with the bat after hitting .274/.318/.413 last season.
Luis Sardinas (SS-SD) – Sardinas is competing with veteran Erick Aybar for the starting shortstop gig, and since this is my pick in the Staff League, I hope he wins it. He’s never going to be an offensive force, but given regular at-bats, he could swipe 20-plus bags.
Trayce Thompson (OF-LAD) – Competition at the outfield corners in LA would seem to favor Yasiel Puig and Andrew Toles for now, but Thompson could eventually carve out a role somewhere. He’s shown starter ability at times, but the injuries continue to be a problem.
Matt Chapman (3B-OAK) – When Trevor Plouffe is the projected starter, that signifies that the job is wide open. Chapman blasted 36 home runs between Triple-A and the big leagues last year, but he also hit .244 in Triple-A and .197 in Oakland. He’ll never hit for average, but that power…
Koda Glover and Blake Treinen (RP-WAS) – Joe Blanton wasn’t selected in our league (mild surprise), but three other Washington relievers (Shawn Kelley) were, which makes sense given the lack of a “proven closer” on the roster. I still think the Nationals will trade for a closer at some point, but if they haven’t by July and they are getting production out of someone, perhaps the deal won’t happen. Manager Dusty Baker is old school and won’t go with a committee, so while Kelley is the current favorite, the opportunity is there for a guy like Glover (5 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K this spring) or Treinen (3 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K this spring).
Chad Green (SP-NYY) – I think he’ll win one of the final two rotation spots, and after putting up a 10.3 K/9 last year, he’s worth owning in many leagues.
Patrick Corbin (SP-ARI) – After his 2014 Tommy John surgery, Corbin is looking like the poster child for guys who never get back to their prior form. It’s easy to forget that he struck out 178 batters in 2013, but this year, a bullpen role may be in the cards.
Seth Lugo (SP-NYM) – Robert Gsellman will probably win the No. 5 starter job, but Lugo is the next man up.
Luke Weaver (SP-STL) – Michael Wacha should win the No. 5 starter job, but Weaver is probably the first man up when someone gets hurt.
Who ARE these guys?
Chris Devinski (P-HOU) – What if I told you this guy posted a 2.16 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and had a 104:20 K:BB in 108.1 innings for the Astros last year? The only issue is that he may be used as a middle reliever, giving him little value outside of crazy-deep leagues.
Charlie Tilson (OF-CHW) – He’ll open on the DL, but with the White Sox rebuilding, it’s easy to see him getting 500-plus at-bats. Tilson swiped just 15 bases overall in 101 games last year, but in 2015, that number was 46.
Bruce Maxwell (C-OAK) – I’m pretty sure the guy that drafted Maxwell in our league had never heard of him. He put up a .932 Triple-A OPS last year and then hit .283/.337/.402 in the big leagues. Who know, perhaps he’ll push Stephen Vogt for playing time at some point.
Aaron Altherr (OF-PHI) – Off to a nice start this spring and could be the team’s No. 4 outfielder. Has some upside if healthy.
Zack Burdi (RP-CHW) – It seems unlikely David Robertson will last the year in Chicago, and Burdi was last year’s No. 26 overall pick. He fanned 51 batters in 38 innings in the minors last year and could be a closer option at some point in 2017.
Jeimer Candelario (3B-CHC) – Being behind Kris Bryant doesn’t bode well for his future in Chicago, but perhaps Bryant will eventually move to the outfield or sustain an injury. Candelario put up a .959 OPS in 75 Triple-A games last year, and he has the distinction of being Mr. Irrelevant as the final pick in our draft after a whopping 719 players had already been selected.
T.J. Rivera (2B-NYM) – Could earn a utility role for the Mets after batting .333/.345/.476 with three homers in 113 PA’s for them last year.