A Fresh Start, Big Pop and a Flame-throwing Southpaw

It didn’t take long for a team to acquire Oswaldo Arcia after the Twins opted to designate him for assignment. He’ll get a fresh start for the injury-depleted Rays. With the non-waiver trade deadline on August 1st, Joey Gallo could finally get another crack at the majors soon. I’ve also got my eyes on a lefty throwing premium cheddar. James Paxton is lighting up the radar gun and received some love from Paul a few weeks ago.

Oswaldo Arcia – OF – Tampa Bay Rays (CBS: 5%, ESPN: 1.2%, Yahoo!: 1%)
The injury bug has bit the Rays repeatedly, and the outfield has been seriously thinned out as a result. Currently, Kevin Kiermaier, Steve Pearce and Steven Souza Jr. reside on the disabled list. The former duo are weeks away from returning, and the latter is beginning a rehab assignment soon. Arcia might not have a ton of time to carve out a role for himself, but the door is open for him even with Brandon Guyer back in the mix. On Thursday, Arcia served as the designated hitter with Corey Dickerson playing left field, Desmond Jennings playing center and Guyer in right. That could be a common arrangement with Arcia and Dickerson occasionally flip-flopping roles until Souza Jr. returns. When Souza Jr. returns, he’ll likely take over right field duties, but Jennings poor play defensively and offensively could result in Guyer playing some center field. Guyer has played 41 games in center field in the majors. The point I’m trying to make is that the return of Souza Jr. doesn’t necessarily close the door on Arcia’s playing time.
The former Twin struggled mightily at the Triple-A level last year, but in three seasons in which he’s totaled 551 plate appearances, he owns a .246/.321/.466 triple-slash line with 27 homers, a 8.2% BB% and 24.7% K%, per Baseball-Reference. In the majors, his walk rate has dropped and strikeout rate has risen with him sporting career marks of 7.0% and 31.3%, respectively. He also owns a .243/.306/.434 line and 102 wRC+. The outfielder’s punch outs have dragged down his average, but he is the owner of a 20-homer season in just 410 plate appearances in 2014. His power is legitimate and worth investing in.
Tropicana Field isn’t a terrible venue for left-handed power, either. Last year, it played neutral for homers for left-handed batters, and using the three-year rolling average at Stat Corner, The Trop has a park factor of 108 for homers for left-handed batters. A glance at the Rays’ second-half schedule is promising, too. The schedule features a number of road series at homer-friendly venues. Arcia is fringe ownable in 12-team mixed leagues using five outfielders, but he’s a worthy addition in all leagues that are deeper.

Joey Gallo – OF – Texas Rangers (CBS: 42%, ESPN: 6.3%, Yahoo!: 13%)
Now is a great time to speculate on Gallo’s return to the majors. The non-waiver trade deadline is looming, and the Rangers have the best record in the American League and the second best record behind only the Cubs. Although they have a great record, the Rangers aren’t without holes. Their catchers own a .238/.297/.423 line with a .309 wOBA and 84 wRC+ this year, and the bullpen has been dreadful with a 4.88 ERA that’s the third highest in the majors and mostly supported by a 4.87 FIP and 4.45 xFIP. With Adrian Beltre entrenched at third base, Gallo’s primary position is blocked. He also played some outfield last year, but the outfield is crowded and he hasn’t been used there at all this year. The club could opt to move Gallo to shore up some other weak areas. It’s also possible Gallo gets a look with his current club.
Texas isn’t getting nearly enough from first base. Rangers’ first basemen own a slash line of .227/.295/.416 with a .302 wOBA and 79 wRC+ (fifth worst in the majors). Gallo has played a dozen games at first base this year, according to Baseball-Reference, and could provide a shot in the arm for the club should they opt not to trade him. It’s worth noting the club is already having difficulty finding steady playing time for Jurickson Profar, so if Prince Fielder can handle the rigors of playing first base semi-regularly, they could use the designated hitter spot to rotate Profar into the lineup. That scenario playing out would create another hurdle for Gallo to clear for regular at-bats with the Rangers.
Regardless, at this point, the 22-year-old has done enough to warrant another look. In his second tour of duty at the Triple-A level, Gallo has bumped his walk rate up from 11.8% to 17.9% while whittling his strikeout rate down from 39.5% to 29.0%. Swing and miss is big a part of his game, but shaving over 10% off of his strikeout rate is a huge improvement, and as a result, he’s hit .256/.391/.583 (152 wRC+) with 14 homers in 207 plate appearances. The slugger is more valuable in leagues that use OBP instead of AVG thanks to his patience, but his power plays in leagues of all sizes if his strikeout rate doesn’t completely undermine him tapping into it.

James Paxton – SP – Seattle Mariners (CBS: 72%, ESPN: 25.8%, Yahoo!: 31%)
Paxton’s 4.15 ERA and 1.67 WHIP through a half-dozen starts aren’t helpful. However, we know those stats aren’t the best measures for predicting future performance. His 2.87 FIP and 3.28 xFIP are far more impressive. The lefty owns a career-low 6.8% BB% this year with a career-high 25.5% K%. The strikeout rate might even be a touch low when compared with his 12.3% SwStr% that ranks 11th highest among starters with a minimum of 30 innings pitched this year. He also adds a healthy 47.7% groundball rate to the mix. An unsustainable .415 BABIP is killing him, and a 65.1% LOB% (73.8% in 30 starts prior to this year) isn’t doing him any favors.
What’s changed with Paxton? As Paul noted in the linked article in the intro, he’s throwing much harder this year. Among starters with a minimum of 30 innings pitched this year, Paxton’s average fourseam fastball velocity (97.1 mph) is second only to Noah Syndergaard (98.1 mph), and his sinker’s average velo (96.6 mph) leads the way. He backs the hard stuff with a cutter (89.5 mph), knuckle curve (82.8 mph) and changeup (88.0 mph).
He’s blowing his fastball by hitters, and the pitch ranks 44th out of 137 in whiff/swing among those thrown a minimum of 200 times by starting pitchers this season, according to Baseball Prospectus. The pitch has a useful 8.97% whiff rate, per Brooks Baseball, and he does an even better job of avoiding contact with his curve (13.95% whiff rate), changeup (15.07% whiff rate) and cutter (21.9% whiff rate). Paxton has only thrown 37 curves this year, per Baseball Prospectus, and its 40.0% whiff/swing is tied with Jake Arrieta’s for the 25th highest out of 199. The changeup has been an even better bat-missing weapon and ranks second out of 136 thrown a minimum of 50 times with a 55.0% whiff/swing rate. Finally, his cutter is his nastiest put-away pitch and has the highest whiff/swing (37.5%) rate among those thrown a minimum of 100 times by starting pitchers in 2016. The sample sizes are small, but the bat missing ability is tantalizing. Paxton should be universally owned, and his underwhelming ERA and WHIP make him a great trade target if he’s already rostered in your league(s).

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You can follow Josh on Twitter @bchad50.

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Been tracking Gallo closely and there is no question they are grooming him to play 1B – he’s made about half his starts at 1B since being sent back down. Makes sense with the Beltre extension, Prince’s contract, Profar’s bat being more middle infield than corner and Moreland’s impending free agency and otherwise nondescript record over 6 years. Loved that Gallo had cut his K% so I started tracking him every few days and he’s trending the wrong way unfortunately:
April 254/400/642, 21 K in 67 AB+17 BB = approx 25% K rate
May 385/529/692, 7 K in 26 AB + 8 BB = 20.6% K%
June 221/341/506, 32 K in 77 AB + 13 BB = 35.6% K%

(His MILB.com page doesn’t have HBP and sacrifices but AB+BB is a pretty good proxy)

Loved him at 25% K rate, not so much at 35%. . . .