This week fantasy owners and prospect hounds threw FAAB and caution to the wind as prospects Nomar Mazara, Mallex Smith, and Max Kepler arrived to the Show much earlier than expected. Mazara, who is widely considered to be the one of the best prospects in baseball, has wasted no time impressing those who took a late flyer on him near the end of draft or were able to snag him off waiver wires. On the other hand, Smith has not yet delivered much in terms of fantasy production, but it has only been eight plate appearances. However, the quietest arrival so far has been Max Kepler.
Kepler finally had the breakout that some in the industry were expecting. He hit .322/.416/.531 in AA and was reward with a end of the season call up with the big league club in September. He really improved his plate discipline, pitch recognition, and is starting to turn the natural power into game power. The power has yet to fully develop, but he hit nine home runs last season and his frame and swing project at least 20 homer power. The eighteen steals were a welcome surprise as he is not necessarily known for his speed. His ability to play all three outfield positions and first base was part of the reason for his call up.
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While Manager Paul Molitor has said that Kepler would be used primarily as a defensive replacement during his stint with the Twins, according to Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com, There is a clearer path to playing time than one might expect. Eddie Rosario, and most of the Twins for that matter, has started out extremely slow this season. Minnesota has yet to win a game and Rosario is hitting a paltry .174/.208/.261 to open the season. The Twins also appear to absolutely hate Oswaldo Arcia with the fire of a thousand suns. So, while Molitor states that Kepler will be mostly a late game defensive replacement, it isn’t out of the question that the attempt to throw him in the lineup some point soon to attempt to jumpstart an anemic lineup.
All three of the recent call ups have a bit of risk in terms of season long fantasy value. Whether it is to protect their service clock, a lack of a permanent spot in the lineup, or needing more development time, there is a high likelihood that they may all end up back in the minors once the veteran they are filling in for returns. I would argue however, that Kepler has one of the better shots to stay up once Danny Santana returns. 1) The Twins HATE Arcia and could easily option him or move him to a new team. 2) The veteran Kepler is filling in for has the least amount of talent, upside and role and could easily be supplanted. 3) The Twins need to start winning now. They brought up Sano and Buxton earlier than expected last season to show the fans that they are ready to compete and if they continue to falter, the attendance will plummet.
Kepler is owned in less than 3% of ESPN or Yahoo leagues, so he should be widely available even is some deeper mixed leagues. He could be a very sneaky stash for those in AL only and leagues with deeper benches. Personally, I would much rather own Kepler over Smith and am already highly invested in the former.
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.