In the beginning of March I wrote an article on American League outfield prospects that could make an impact on fantasy teams this season. We have already seen a surprising amount of early season call ups and with Memorial Day fast approaching, I thought it would be relevant to update the progress of these players.
Byron Buxton, Min: Coming into the season, I felt that Buxton was a tad bit underrated. He appeared to have a lock on the centerfield job with Aaron Hicks having been moved to the Yankees and prevailing wisdom said that even if he struggled the combination of his defense and lack of other options would allow Minnesota to continue running him out there. Unfortunately, he opened the season hitting .156/.208/.289 while striking out almost 50% of the time in his first seventeen games and the Twins sputtered overall. Minnesota sent him down to Triple-A Rochester as a result. However, since getting demoted, He is hitting .290/.353/.532, has raised his walk rate from 4.1% to 8.8%, cut his strikeout rate to 23.5% and shown some power to the tune of three home runs in 62 at bats. If he can continue to hit, Buxton should return very soon to the majors and those who dropped him after his demotion could be very sorry. If you were ever going to be a believer, now is the time to buy. He is only 9% owned in ESPN leagues and I just picked him up in a 20-team industry keeper (only keep three players.) ETA: End of May
Hyun Soo Kim, Bal: In March, I literally called Kim a “crapshoot” and it definitely has been interesting. The Orioles were so unimpressed with him in Spring Training they tried to talk him into starting the year in the Minor Leagues. When he refused, the kept him on as a bench bat to work behind another guy from this list. So far Kim has been what we thought he would be coming over from Korea. He has controlled the strike zone well and is striking out less than 10%. However, because of Rickard’s emergence in Baltimore, he has only seen 26 plate appearances, which makes it hard to see whether he can sustain his current rates or if he can offer anything other than an empty average and OBP. The question on whether or not it is time to buy him relies less on him and more on whether you feel Rickard can keep him out of the lineup. I am not interested, yet. ETA: Here
Max Kepler, Min: This one falls under the “What the hell are the Twins doing?” category. Kepler was promoted to the big leagues than even I expected and I was pretty aggressive on his timeline. When he did arrive, he was mostly used as a defensive replacement and in his limited plate appearances he did nothing to show he was ready to hit Major League pitching. He was sent down to Triple-A Rochester once Danny Santana returned from the DL and needs to stay there to work on his ability to hit breaking balls. Currently Oswaldo Arcia is hitting well enough to hold down the job in left field and it appears that the Twins are content with the Miguel Sano in right field experiment. Kepler should be back at some point, but I with what I saw and the lack of opportunity, I wouldn’t expect him to be back before the All-Star break. ETA: He was here but… July/August
Joey Gallo, Tex: Things seemed to be coming together for Gallo down in Triple-A Round Rock. He was walking at an astounding 20% clip and had cut his strikeout rate down to 24.7% without giving back any of the power numbers (7 home runs in 85 plate appearances.) The move back to third base seemed to be going well too. Then in mid-April the Rangers agreed to a contract extension with Adrian Beltre, clogging his long term spot, and he injured his groin in early May and is out for three to four weeks. The Rangers already have a roster crunch coming with Mazara performing and Shin-Soo Choo beginning a rehab assignment, so it will be tough for the Rangers to find a spot for him. The best opportunity for this year and beyond appears to be a trade to a new situation. The Rangers have a need for starting pitching and a catcher. In leagues with large benches or keeper/dynasty formats, I am buying in the hopes that maybe he is traded to a situation like Milwaukee (for Lucroy) or Atlanta (for Teheran). ETA: July
Bradley Zimmer, Cle: I still believe Zimmer will be up sooner rather than later. The Indians are going to be competing and they can’t continue to run guys like Rajai Davis, Lonnie Chisenhall, Marlon Byrd and Jose Ramirez out in the outfield. While his strikeout rate (30.7%) has continued to rise, so has his walk rate and his counting stats are off the charts (seven home runs and 11 stolen bases in 127 plate appearances.) His price has risen every year, but if you can still buy, do it now. I am starting to pick him up in redraft leagues I can afford to stash minor leaguers. ETA: Late June/Early July
Nomar Mazara, Tex: Somehow I went from being one of the highest in the industry prior to the season to “super low” on him. People seemed upset by my ranking of him in my latest Tier Rankings, but I still love the guy. I worry the Rangers may do something screwy when they are ready to activate Choo, but with Prince Fielder and Delino DeShields struggling and the AL West appearing to be very competitive it would be foolish for them to bench or send him back down. The hard part is distinguishing where his true value lies. Trading him right now is somewhat impossible until Choo comes back and people feel safer about his playing time. While he has shown he belongs, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him struggle as pitchers and teams get to see him a second and third time. Remember while it is impressive that a 21-year-old has been good, he is only 21. In a redraft, I would explore his value after Choo’s return and see if I could get a really nice return as many people are prospect crazy. ETA: Already in our hearts and minds.
Aaron Judge, NYY: So far in Triple-A Judge is as advertised. He is hitting for a ton of power (seven home runs in 118 at bats), but he is still striking out about a quarter of the time. The struggling Yankees could use a spark to their aging, struggling team with Alex Rodriguez injured and both Aaron Hicks and Carlos Beltran struggling. However, we are probably going to have to wait a bit for him to arrive. Judge is only walking at an 8.4% clip, the lowest of his career and there are major concerns about his contact rate. If the Yankees do fall out of the race, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them move the likes of Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury and pretty much anything not nailed down. That is best case scenario for Judge. I still believe he will be up at some point this season, but it may be a tad bit later than I predicted earlier. Still, Judge has immense power which will play in the AL East and the defense to stick in right field. He could easily hit ten-plus home runs in the final two months of the season. ETA: August
Lewis Brinson, Tex: I wish Brinson walked more, but the talent is still undeniable. The power hasn’t shown quite yet, but it is there with speed to match. The tool that will get him to the Majors is the one that is the one fantasy owners care the least about; defense. Defensively, he is ready for the show and is much better than the current incumbent Delino DeShields. I’ve been yelled at for my hate of Delino, but the more I watch him, the more he appears to be a fourth outfielder. Once the Rangers accept this reality, Brinson could be up in short order. If they were willing to bring up Mazara, they will do the same with Brinson. Maybe the roster crunch holds him down until after the trade deadline, but at some point he will be up. I am not buying him in a redraft yet, but he is a guy to keep an eye on in case he forces his way up. ETA: August
Reymond Fuentes, KC: The thought process was right and then the Jarrod Dyson injury really opened up the opportunity, but at some point you have to hit. Fuentes has speed and is the fourth outfielder of the future. I know it’s not sexy, but Jarrod Dyson has been able to have value with a similar skill set. ETA: Sooner or later
Joey Rickard, Bal: Rickard is becoming one of my better calls of the season. He is already showing a bit more power than I thought he would and is sporting an adequate .284/.325/.414 line. While his offensive and defensive skills don’t jump off the page, he has quickly become and organizational and fan favorite, which means something in terms of holding off Kim for playing time. I would like to see him walk more and start stealing, as speed is his best tool. It doesn’t appear that his job is in jeopardy, so I am holding pat if I am playing in a league deep enough to be owning a player of his caliber already. ETA: Holding down the corner like an episode of the Wire.
Justin is the co-host on The Sleeper and The Bust Podcast and writes for Rotographs covering the Roto Riteup as well as random topics that float into his juvenile brain. In addition to his work at Rotographs, Justin is the lead fantasy writer/analyst and co-owner for FriendswithFantasyBenefits.com, owner of The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational, and a fantasy football and baseball writer for Fantasy Alarm. He is also a certified addiction treatment counselor. Follow Justin on Twitter @JustinMasonFWFB.