Welcome to this week’s dive into the wild free agent pool. Let’s find out which two treasures we have uncovered.
J.P. Crawford | SS SEA | CBS 10% Owned
I’m pretty surprised that Crawford’s ownership isn’t much higher given that he was just recalled and will clearly be giving the chance to be the every day shortstop, pushing Tim Beckham to the bench. The Phillies third best prospect heading into the 2018 season, Crawford was traded to the Mariners over the offseason and is now up for his third stint in the Majors.
The 24-year-old always displayed fantastic plate discipline in the minors, walking at double digit rates at every stop except a 68 PA stint at Triple-A last year, and posting single digit SwStk% every stop since Double-A in 2015. On the downside, he hasn’t shown a whole lot of power, just twice posting double digit HR/FB rates (and barely at that), and an ISO that never exceed .162. He doesn’t make it up in speed either, as although he swiped 24 bases back in 2014, that was a long time ago, and he hasn’t stolen more than 12 since.
So what’s there to be excited about? Nothing, to be honest, but excitement isn’t what we need for a deep league find. Instead, Crawford brings the potential for balanced contributions across categories, failing to stand out anywhere, but offering a bit everywhere. It’s the classic undervalued skill set in fantasy, the 10/10 guy that seems too boring to roster. While he has struggled with BABIP for most of his minor league career, it’s possible something clicked in the minors this year driving a spike (or, it could just be some good early fortune). So maybe he’ll be a positive in batting average and obliterate his current projections. Either way, he gets a major value boost in OBP leagues.
Scott Barlow | RP KC | 2% Owned
Let’s take another stab at speculating on the next Royals save! While Ian Kennedy remains the favorite and has posted superb skills in his relief role, he’s still a former starter with the ability to go multiple innings. It really doesn’t seem like the best use of his abilities to pigeonhole him into a one inning role to close out games. Two lefties — Jake Diekman and Richard Lovelady — have been solid enough, but being southpaws, it’s doubtful they were garner more than a save or two because of matchups.
So that leaves the only non-Kennedy righty whose performance merits closing consideration, Barlow. The 26-year-old has struck out nearly 37% of the batters he has faced thanks to a slider he has thrown more than 40% of the time. Combined with his curve, he has thrown non-fastballs about 60% of the time, which is one way to post a big strikeout rate.
There’s some luck in his results so far though, as he has allowed a line drive rate significantly above the league average, yet has somehow managed to keep his BABIP below average. In addition, he has stranded nearly 94% of baserunners, which won’t continue. That said, even with neutral luck, his SIERA sits below 3.00, so he has legitimately pitched well. However, we can’t reasonable expect him to maintain such an elite strikeout rate, but even if that comes down, he should still be good enough to record some saves over the next month.
Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.