This year’s MLB Amateur Draft started last night. With draft hype in the air, now’s a great time to highlight how great last year’s number-two pick has been. Also, saves are always of need in fantasy leagues, and a temporary committee closer is widely available and worth some attention from saves-starved gamers.
Alex Bregman – SS – Houston Astros (CBS: 30%, ESPN: 4.5%, Yahoo!: 6%)
With the second pick in last June’s MLB Amateur Draft, the Astros popped LSU product, shortstop Alex Bregman. Scouting reports lauded his bat, but they didn’t project more than average power. Well, it’s time to reevaluate Bregman’s power potential with a dozen homers and a .269 ISO through 45 games at the Double-A level. In Baseball America’s All-Prospect Team for May, Matt Eddy noted Bregman led all minor league shortstops in ISO for the month with a .319 mark. Bregman’s new found power isn’t accompanied by the typical high strikeout rate of a slugger. Instead, the shortstop’s exceptional control of the strike zone has resulted in a 12.9% walk rate and just a 9.4% strikeout rate. Furthermore, Bregman has struck out just seven more times than he’s homered with 19 punch outs and 12 long balls.
As a middle infielder, Bregman is blocked by Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve, right? Yes, he would be, if he wasn’t getting reps at third base. In the May 20th Prospect Hot Sheet at Baseball America, Matt Eddy noted Bregman is seeing “spot duty” at third base. The 22-year-old has played seven games at third base, according to Baseball-Reference. The hot corner has been anything but hot — unless we’re talking hot garbage — for the Astros this year. Luis Valbuena has tallied a .339 OBP, .162 ISO and 104 wRC+, which is meh, but Marwin Gonzalez (78 wRC+), Colin Moran and Matt Duffy have all been offensive drains. Valbuena is barely adding any value with his glove, and he’s the owner of a 0.9 WAR. The position could use an upgrade, and Bregman doesn’t look like he needs anymore minor-league seasoning. Bregman is a worthy stash option in 12-team mixed leagues that use a middle infielder or larger formats.
Brandon Kintzler – RP – Minnesota Twins (CBS: 6%, ESPN: 2.0%, Yahoo!: 18%)
Saves are always in need in fantasy leagues, and it looks like Kintzler will be providing some in the short term. With Glen Perkins sidelined by a shoulder strain and Kevin Jepsen struggling mightily in his absence, manager Paul Molitor has announced he’ll use Kintzler and lefty Fernando Abad in save situations. Kintzler holds the handedness advantage and nabbed the first save among the duo. Unfortunately for Kintzler, the Twins current active roster features two left-handed relievers (Buddy Boshers and Taylor Rogers) other than Abad, so Minnesota doesn’t necessarily have to use Abad in the first late-inning, high-leverage situation that calls for a southpaw. Abad also isn’t a train wreck against right-handed batters with a .323 wOBA ceded to the 597 of them he’s faced in his career. Oddly, for their careers, Abad is better against right-handed batters than Kintzler by the smallest of margins, and Kintzler is better against left-handed batters than Abad. Having said that, that doesn’t factor in the platoon splits of the opposing hitters, and I’d expect Molitor to lean on Kintzler in righty-heavy save situations and Abad to vulture some saves when multiple lefties are due up.
Perkins threw a bullpen session earlier in the week (I see you RotoGraphs colleague, Brandon Warne), so the opportunity for saves for the current committee could be limited. If you’re scrounging for saves, you take them now and worry about finding more when this door closes. When looking at Kintzler’s player card, my first thought was “his statistical profile looks kind of like former closer Jim Johnson’s.” Little did I know how eerily similar their profiles are. Take a gander here. Kintzler isn’t your modern day closer who blows hitters away with an upper-90s fastball. He’s sitting in the low- to mid-90s with his sinker, and he’s relying on grounders (67.4% GB in 2016) and great control (1.7% BB) with a below average strikeout rate (18.3%). He’s coughed up three homers this year, but his 0.92 HR/9 and groundball tendencies should prevent his saves chances from being stripped from him due to an untimely long ball or two. That’s the good news. The bad news is that he’s reliant on his defense to record outs, and the Twins rank 26th in team defense. There’s one reason to own Kintzler, and it’s saves. He’s unlikely to move the needle anywhere else.
You can follow Josh on Twitter @bchad50.