Welcome to another exciting edition of the deep league waiver wire! Today, I discuss two youngsters getting their first tastes of big league action.
Josh Rojas | 1B/2B/OF ARI | CBS 7% Owned
The Diamondbacks acquired Rojas as part of the trade that sent Zack Greinke to Houston on trade deadline day, and he was subsequently recalled to make his MLB debut on Monday. The 25-year-old wasn’t a highly regarded prospect, and was ranked as just the 38th best prospect of the guys moved at the deadline. However, it’s hard to argue with his minor league performance.
Heading into the year, he displayed excellent plate discipline, but minimal power. Oddly, he was a fly ball guy, but didn’t have the power to take advantage of all those flies. That all changed this year, as his HR/FB rate tripled during his second tour of Double-A, and then rose again at Triple-A. He ratcheted up his power while maintaining splendid plate discipline.
That plate discipline is why I’m so intrigued. He has never posted a walk rate below 11.3% since his Single-A debut in 2017, and his strikeout rate has remained in the mid-teens. Aside from the plate discipline and budding power, he has also been a speed demon on the basepaths. He stole 33 bases in the minors this year and 38 last year. Since he hit 23 long balls in the minors, that means he had already gone 20/30 with only about 75% of a typical full season plate appearance total.
Obviously, his playing time outlook is cloudy right now, but I’m intrigued by the skills, so he’s a guy to buy now and hope for a chance to play regularly.
Patrick Sandoval | P LAA | 3% Owned
Sandoval was a better prospect heading into the season than Rojas, but he still ranked just 16th overall on the Angels pre-season list. He was described thusly:
There’s enough of a changeup here for continued development in a rotation and if everything clicks, Sandoval will be a No. 4 or 5 starter. If not, he’s a lefty with a good breaking ball and is a fine bullpen candidate…
That’s not very exciting and a guy I’d typically avoid, given the risk of ratio destruction. But given that the blurb also mentions he sits 88-92, and he has already averaged 93.2 MPH with his fastball over his first 9.2 innings, I’m thinking he has enjoyed a velocity bump, which might totally change his future outlook.
What draws my attention most is his historical SwStk% marks. He has been consistently in the mid-teen range at every minor league stop, including absurd 22.8% and 18.8% marks at Double-A over small sample sizes. He has had the strikeout rates to go with them too with marks in the mid-to-high 30% range. That strikeout rate plummeted to just 21.9% over 60.1 innings at Triple-A this year, which would normally be a major red flag. However, his SwStk% was still 14.2%, which is elite. It’s bizarre that his strikeout rate was so low given his ability to induce whiffs.
Usually, the answer is a lack of called strikes, if it’s not just random bad luck with sequencing. Whatever the cause, I care more about minor league SwStk%, because you can’t fake that. If you’re generating your strikeouts with called and foul strikes in the minors, I’m not going to have high hopes that you’re going to maintain a similar strikeout rate in the Majors. My optimism skyrockets, though, if those strikeouts are coming from swings and misses.
You don’t often find pitching prospects with little hype posting such consistently strong SwStk% marks. So the cost of his acquisition should be low to non-existent. I’m not sure he’s even guaranteed another start, but he’s someone to monitor for when that next start does come given what’s clearly some exception stuff.
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.