Josh Shepardson’s Staff Picks Runners-Up

As the season is nearly upon us, there are picks abound around the baseball industry. RotoGraphs partakes in the picks fun, too. I personally enjoy putting my picks out to be ̶p̶r̶a̶i̶s̶e̶d̶ criticized. In fact, it’s so enjoyable I’ll open myself up to further criticism by sharing my runners-up for each category. The criteria for each category is listed below the table and mirrors the criteria used for the RotoGraphs Staff Picks.

Hitters

Sleeper Deep Sleeper Undrafted Rookie Sophomore Steal Bust
Hunter Renfroe Travis Shaw Delino DeShields Hunter Renfroe Corey Seager Tommy Joseph Dee Gordon

HITTER CRITERIA:
Sleeper: 201-300 overall, per NFBC ADP
Deep Sleeper: Roughly 301-400
Undrafted/Free Agent (UDFA): Outside top 400
Rookie: Best rookie hitter (< 130 PA)

Sophomore: Best sophomore hitter (> 130 PA)
Steal: Best value pick outside top 200
Bust: Limited to top 100

Renfroe’s name appears twice in the table above, and man do I love the thump. He sent four balls into the stands in just 36 plate appearances for the Padres after hitting 30 in 563 plate appearances in Triple-A. He’s not a patient hitter (3.9% BB% at Triple-A in 2016), but his aggressiveness has helped keep his strikeout rate at a palatable mark of 21.9% in the upper minors. I don’t believe he’ll be an asset in batting average, but I don’t think he’ll be a complete disaster. The young outfielder is capable of adding a few steals to the ledger, too.

Speaking of power hitters, Shaw smacked 29 homers in 778 plate appearances with Boston while falling a tiny bit short of a .200 ISO (.191, to be exact). Now a member of the Brewers, he plays in one of the most homer-friendly parks in the Show. I like the thump, ballpark and potential to earn a spot in a run-production-friendly lineup spot for the rebuilding Brew Crew.

DeShields is a guy I was head over heels for last year. He face planted and tallied more plate appearances in the minors than majors in 2016. DeShields has performed well in the spring, and manager Jeff Banister has taken notice. The 24-year-old looks poised to play regularly in left field, and his ability to work walks and create havoc on the bases makes him a candidate to leadoff. DeShields is only one year removed from hitting .261/.344/.374 with 25 steals in 492 plate appearances as a Rule 5 of the Rangers. It his cost, there’s almost no downside and plenty of upside.

Seager was awesome last year, and I expect him to be awesome again this year. Joseph has already received my praise once this offseason, so I’ll refrain from rehashing why I’m buying into him this year. Gordon rounds out the hitters featured above. He’s coming off of a season shortened by suspension in which he was awful before and after the suspension. He’s a burner, but he’s a huge drag in homers and RBI. I’m also skeptical of how much he’ll move the needle in runs and average after hitting .269 last year with a .305 OBP.

Pitchers

Sleeper

Deep Sleeper

Undrafted

Rookie

Sophomore

Steal

SP Bust

RP Bust

Carlos Rodon

Brandon Finnegan

Charlie Morton

Robert Gsellman

Seung-Hwan Oh

Matt Shoemaker

Cole Hamels

Jim Johnson

PITCHER CRITERIA:
Sleeper: 201-300 overall, per NFBC ADP
Deep Sleeper: Roughly 301-400
Undrafted/Free Agent (UDFA): Outside top 400
Rookie: Best rookie pitcher (< 50 IP)

Sophomore: Best sophomore pitcher (> 50 IP)
Steal: Best value pick outside top 200
Bust: Limited to top 100

Rodon suffered a scare in the spring, but he was diagnosed with biceps bursitis after an MRI showed no structural damage. The Pale Hose were going to monitor the lefty’s innings anyway, so a late start to the season isn’t overly concerning. Rodon finished the year strongly in the second half with a 3.45 ERA (3.49 FIP, 3.66 xFIP and 3.69 SIERA), 1.22 WHIP, 7.2% BB% and 25.3% K%. The 24-year-old should benefit from the White Sox moving on from terrible pitch framers Alex Avila and Dioner Navarro.

Rodon’s not the only lefty who finished the 2016 season nicely, Finnegan did as well. In the second half, Finnegan ripped off a 2.93 ERA (4.45 FIP, 4.29 xFIP and 4.25 SIERA), 1.29 WHIP, 10.6% BB% and 24.6% K%. The fielding independent numbers don’t come close to supporting his sub-3.00 ERA, but his stuff and ability to miss bats is enticing enough for me to suggest rolling the dice on him and hoping for a bit more skills growth.

Morton’s 2016 season was cut short after four starts spanning 17.1 innings, but the new found velo he sported last year was on full display this spring — as I noted last week. I have Morton and Wily Peralta back-to-back in my starting pitcher rankings, so it was essentially a coin flip for who to choose in the undrafted category for pitchers.

Gsellman fit the definition of a pop-up prospect last year. He ranked 39th in Eric Longenhagen’s top 100 prospects for this year. Couple that ranking with his stellar work in 44.2 innings for the Mets last year, and he’s the rookie pitcher I like the second most this year.

I opted for a sophomore starter, but Oh isn’t far behind. Oh was lights out last year recording a 1.92 ERA (2.13 FIP, 2.88 xFIP and 2.42 SIERA), 0.92 WHIP, 5.8% BB% and 32.9% K%. His sky-high strikeout rate was backed by an obscene 18.0% SwStr%. If there was a fly in the ointment, it was his 34.2% Hard%. That’s just a small ding in an otherwise pristine profile.

Shoemaker’s season ended prematurely after being struck in the head by a line drive. He toed the rubber in the spring and showed he had at least cleared the mental hurdles of pitching after such a terrifying incident. The 30-year-old’s decision to ramp up splitter usage turned his season around in 2016, and it makes him a high-upside investment after pick 200 who’s actually already delivered the goods. If he picks up where he left off prior to being hit by the comebacker, he’ll be a steal.

It’s not that Hamels is bad, but it does appear he’s being over drafted. Since the Rangers acquired him prior to the non-waiver trade deadline in the 2015 season, he’s made 44 regular season starts for Texas. Those 44 starts have spanned 284.1 innings in which the lefty has earned a 3.42 ERA (3.92 FIP, 3.77 xFIP and 3.88 SIERA), 1.27 WHIP, 8.4 BB% and 23.3% K%. Those aren’t bad numbers, but I don’t believe they make him worth a top-100 pick.

Can a pick after 150 really be a bust? Maybe not. Johnson’s the 23rd reliever going off the board in NFBC drafts, though, and he shouldn’t be drafted as an RP2. Johnson’s 7.7% SwStr% last year comes nowhere near supporting his 25.6% K%. Oh, and in the two years before last season, Johnson was awful. He pitched in 126 games totaling 120.0 innings, and he was crushed to the tune of a 5.63 ERA (4.33 FIP, 4.17 xFIP and 3.79 SIERA) with a 1.68 WHIP, 9.9% BB% and 16.6% K%. If Johnson’s bad, he’ll lose his closer job and all fantasy value. If he’s good and the Braves aren’t in the wild card race, he’s a prime candidate to get dealt and serve as a setup man for a contender.

We hoped you liked reading Josh Shepardson’s Staff Picks Runners-Up by Josh Shepardson!

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You can follow Josh on Twitter @bchad50.

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Spudchukar
Member
Spudchukar

If Rodon throws strikes his predictions are valid. However, he still hasn’t shown that ability with any degree of consistency.

evo34
Member
evo34

Hence, “sleeper”.