Bour(n) Again, Part 2: Deep League AL Reserve Rounders

Let’s get back without delay to our quick trip around the majors in search of some reserve rounders with realizable upside. NL was last week; now AL:

Toronto: Although he is 36, Kendrys Morales (NFBC Average Draft Position 442) can still hit, as he proved last season, in which he was one of only about two dozen hitters who qualified for the Quadrinity (as to which see here). We think he will keep his DH job and perform it creditably, though his value is limited because he won’t qualify anywhere else.

Baltimore: Renato Nunez should start at third base and hit .260 with 20 home runs, which makes him worth getting at ADP 455. But if you want a mystical longshot whom no one has drafted, try Ryan McKenna. He was great in high A, weak in AA, but then superb in the AFL (third best OPS). He’s a potential five-tool player, and we can imagine him inheriting the center field job if, as we think might be the case, Cedric Mullins can’t handle it.

Yankees: This is of course a potent lineup, but it’s awfully thin, isn’t it? With that in mind, consider Jacoby Ellsbury (ADP 726). He is a—we almost said “walking,” but part of the problem is that he wasn’t—medical textbook, and didn’t play at all last season. We concede he may never play another major league game. But he’s only one year removed from considerable Fantasy usefulness, and (assuming he’s healthy) all it will take is an injury to Aaron Hicks or maybe Brett Gardner for him to get some playing time. And if they sign Bryce Harper and Ellsbury’s part of a salary-dump trade to a team that can use him, so much the better.

Red Sox: Care to guess whose 2nd half wOBA against right-handed pitchers was third best on the Red Sox? Wrong. It was Blake Swihart (ADP 500). He’s one of those switch hitters who can only hit from one side, but, as people have long asserted, he can hit. We can easily envision a scenario wherein Mitch Moreland’s atrocious 2018 second half signifies doneness and Swihart becomes the strong side of a platoon with the always-underrated Steve Pearce.

Tampa Bay: We’re not so sure that the Rays will wind up with Jose Alvarado as the closer, assuming they even designate a particular guy for the job. Our darkhorse candidate is Chaz Roe (ADP 681). His 2018 was superficially unappealing, and he’s 32, but he’s also one of only four relievers who qualify for both the Trinity and the Quadrinity, as to which see here.

Cleveland: Tyler Naquin figures to be the strong side of a right field platoon, in which capacity he should hit at least 10 home runs and hit at least .260, which makes him better than his 670 ADP.

Detroit: What’s the opposite of star-studded? That’s this roster. Nonetheless, we haven’t given up on Victor Reyes (ADP 742). He got thrown into the shark tank via Rule 5 last season after getting no higher than AA, and though he did badly, he didn’t do that badly. We continue to think that JaCoby Jones isn’t a major league hitter, and that someone will therefore replace him. That someone could be Reyes, who in turn could equal his 2017 Major League Equivalents, which would mean about .270 with stolen bases.

Kansas City: Hunter Dozier (ADP 492) was unlucky last season, had a good second half, hits the ball hard, and increased his fly ball distance last year, which should mean more of the home runs he’s supposed to have started hitting a couple of years ago.

Minnesota: We’re a bit puzzled as to why nobody’s taken a shot with Michael Reed, acquired on waivers from the Braves last October. His minor league stats last season suggest he’s a .300 hitter in the majors, and he’s got some speed (as many as 33 SBs in one minor league season). Since we Yankee fans know that Tyler Austin isn’t an outfielder, regardless of what’s on his curriculum vitae, we can envision Reed as half of a right field platoon with Max Kepler, whose ability to make occasional contact with pitches thrown by left-handers is suboptimal.

White Sox: We haven’t given up on Dylan Covey (ADP 734), even though he was one of the least successful starting pitchers in the majors last season. He keeps the ball on the ground, which will be useful if Guaranteed Rate Field reverts to being the home run paradise it was before 2018. And whereas he was among the hardest-hit pitchers in the first half, he was among the least hard-hit in the second.

Houston: Their starting rotation has taken a real hit. We think Collin McHugh slots back in nicely, but we are skeptics about Framber Valdez, whose career—including his apparently successful stint with the Astros, if you look at the granular numbers—just hasn’t been that impressive. Brad Peacock was one of the unluckiest pitchers in the majors last year, and qualified for the relief pitcher Quadrinity. If you think he’s got a shot at the Astros’ rotation, as we do and apparently he does, he’s worth getting at ADP 386.

Oakland: We share the market’s skepticism about this team and most of its players, which makes it hard to find value in them. We do kind of like Chris Bassitt (ADP 707). Towards the end of the season, they started using Bassitt more or less the way the Rays use Ryan Yarbrough, and he did well and started, unprecedentedly, to get strikeouts.

Seattle: Dylan Moore is 26 years old and will be playing with his fourth organization in five years. He hasn’t been taken in any NFBC drafts, but he plays all over and we can imagine him taking over at at first base after Edwin Encarnacion and/or Jay Bruce gets traded and the disappointing Ryon Healy gets the job. If he gets 400 at bats, he will hit .250 with 10 home runs and 10 stolen bases. Not wonderful, but not bad with a late-round pick if your lineup desperately needs caulking.

Texas: We like Delino DeShields (ADP 356), who was completely undone by injuries last season, to return to his 2017 level. If that’s too pedestrian for you, try Eli White, taken by no one in NFBC. He qualifies at 2B but also plays SS and 3B and was excellent at AA and in the AFL. It’s easy to see him playing if the Texas infield cavalcade of injuries kicks in, and if he plays he should reach double digits in home runs and SBs.

Angels: Justin Bour (ADP 443), whom we plan to discuss in mind-numbing detail next time you and we foregather.

We hoped you liked reading Bour(n) Again, Part 2: Deep League AL Reserve Rounders by The Birchwood Brothers!

Please support FanGraphs by becoming a member. We publish thousands of articles a year, host multiple podcasts, and have an ever growing database of baseball stats.

FanGraphs does not have a paywall. With your membership, we can continue to offer the content you've come to rely on and add to our unique baseball coverage.

Support FanGraphs

The Birchwood Brothers are two guys with the improbable surname of Smirlock. Michael, the younger brother, brings his skills as a former Professor of Economics to bear on baseball statistics. Dan, the older brother, brings his skills as a former college English professor and recently-retired lawyer to bear on his brother's delphic mutterings. They seek to delight and instruct. They tweet when the spirit moves them @birchwoodbroth2.

newest oldest most voted

Naquin’s projection seems overly optimistic to me. His 2016 was a big fluke, he played well above his true talent for five months and then cratered in September. Then he’s been injured frequently, and ineffective when he has played.


And he can’t hit fastballs.