After many years in AL Tout Wars, I finally discovered one of the major keys to success – anticipation. Picking up players before their call up who may have a significant fantasy impact is a wise move. I had written down the names of two of these players last week, but unfortunately I once again forgot that we had moved the FAAB deadline to 1 PM from midnight and therefore failed to make any bids. Naturally, both players were bid on, but it probably didn’t matter for me as I likely would have been outbid.
Jalen Beeks | SP BOS | CBS 5% Owned
Last week, I utilized our minor league leaderboards, checking out both the various Triple-A and Double-A leagues. Easily atop the K% leaders for all Triple-A leagues (and fourth in SwStr%) is the Red Sox lefty. He only ranked sixth among Sox prospects heading into the season, with commentary as follows:
He sits 90-93, will touch 95, and flashes a plus curveball and changeup. His command is fringey, his delivery somewhat stiff, and it’s possible these issues funnel him to the bullpen. His command doesn’t have far to go to profile neatly in a rotation. If it gets there, it doesn’t matter if it looks a little ugly as he does it. He’s a near-ready No. 4/5 starter.
That’s not very exciting. But this season, he has laughed at the notion of a number four starter upside by striking out 39.3% of the batters he has faced, only walking 6.7% of them. That equates to an insane 59 strikeouts in just 37.1 innings! Carson Cistulli is a bit of a skeptic though, noting that “an examination of Beeks’ last three starts seems to reveal an inordinately high ratio of strikeouts by way of the fastball and/or the called third strike.” You would prefer the strikeouts to come by way of nasty breaking balls/offspeed pitches, to go along with a high octane fastball. But hey, he’s generating gobs of strikeouts, and you can’t really fake those. So while obviously a near 40% strikeout rate isn’t sustainable, it does suggest he has real strikeout potential in the Majors, just not to this degree.
Word is that he has started throwing a cutter and perhaps that helps his explain his sudden absolute dominance. Right now, of course, the Sox rotation is full, with only Drew Pomeranz really at risk of getting booted, either due to a DL stint or poor performance. His velocity has dipped below 90 mph, so he may be pitching through injury. Remember he missed time earlier with a forearm issue, so he may not be right. For now, Beeks will have to wait his turn, but he should get a chance sooner or later. In deep leagues, add him now before the hype increases and he’s picked up by your competitor.
Christin Stewart | OF DET | 5% Owned
Heading into the season, Stewart was a higher ranked prospect than Beeks, coming in at third among Tigers. That ranking is actually deceptive from a fantasy standpoint as it dings him for his poor outfield defense, which delays his MLB debut, but won’t matter in the near-term once he does arrive. The big improvement during his first taste of Triple-A action is a reduction in both SwStk% and strikeout rate. While his marks were never out of control, they were rather high, and if you assumed an even worse strikeout rate than his Double-A mark, you might be concerned. So a drop below 20% is a majorly positive development.
Impressively, he has paired that improved ability to make contact with a power surge. He has always shown fantastic power with ISO marks in the mid-.200 range, but he’s taken that skill to a new level. This year, he has taken that ISO above .300 and his HR/FB rate has spiked from the high teens to 27.5%. He has also posted a solid batted ball distribution, with line drives and a better than average IFFB% (remember that minor league IFFB% marks are more than double MLB, so you need to cut Stewart’s in half to get an MLB equivalent). He has never posted real impressive BABIP marks, but his batted ball distribution suggests a bit better, with upside a notch above .300.
Stewart has almost exclusively played left field during his minor league tenure, with just two games coming in right. The Tigers opted to recall Mikie Mahtook to patrol left field when Leonys Martin hit the DL, which moved JaCoby Jones to center. But Mahtook hasn’t been much better (.269 wOBA) in his return after he was demoted earlier in the season due to poor offense. And Jones hasn’t done much, posting a .302 wOBA. Let’s not forget that incumbent DH Victor Martinez owns just a .277 wOBA, after a .303 mark last year, and is 39 years old. In other words, there’s amply opportunity for Stewart to receive significant playing time this season in the Majors. While an exact recall date is impossible to predict, it’s worth adding him now to beat your leaguemates to the punch.
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.