Let’s go deep down into the depths of your free agent pool. It’s where the risks are great and hidden treasures may emerge. Today’s theme is speculating on two guys that could remain worthless, but will cost you next to nothing to find out.
Mike Zunino | C SEA | CBS 4% Owned
Remember him?! The former top catching prospect was one of the best pitch framers in both 2014 and 2015, but his whifftastic ways, without enough walks to offset all the strikeouts, have made him a disappointment so far. It led the Mariners to sign Chris Iannetta to open the year as the team’s starting catcher, pushing Zunino to the minors.
Now 16 games and 68 plate appearances in, Zunino is mashing Triple-A pitching. He has already hIT seven home runs to go along with five doubles, which has equated to an insane .419 ISO. Of course, Zunino always had power, so this isn’t something to get overly excited about. What is worth getting excited about is his 14.7% strikeout rate. His Major League strikeout rate is a grotesque 32.1%, supported by an inflated 16.6% SwStk%. Encouraging is the fact that he hasn’t had to sacrifice power to make better contact.
Given his defensive skills, one would surmise that Zunino could find his way back into the team’s plans soon. Steve Clevenger isn’t going to keep him down and although Iannetta is solid, he’s 33 and has eclipsed 400 plate appearances just twice in his career, and the last time was back in 2011. There should be an opportunity here and if you have catcher issues (don’t we all?), it’s worth preemptively stashing Zunino now before there’s a battle to pick him up when he’s promoted.
Jerry Sands | OF CHW | 0% Owned
This recommendation is more about Avisail Garcia than Sands. Through Monday, Garcia is sporting a pathetic .246 wOBA and 30.6% strikeout rate. He doesn’t walk a whole lot, owns middling power, and relies on an outsized BABIP just to finish with an acceptable batting average. Without any defensive value, he needs to hit to be worth slotting into the DH slot. He didn’t hit last year and he’s not hitting this year.
Enter Sands. The 28-year-old has shown excellent power throughout his minor league career, but has now joined his fifth organization since 2012! That’s literally a new team every single season. Clearly Major League Baseball as an entity is confused about his potential. Nobody wants him, but everybody wants him. He, too, isn’t exactly a defensive wiz, but his career wOBA is actually higher than Garcia’s, and his minor league record suggests there’s significantly more upside.
Obviously, strikeouts are a bit of an issue, especially this year, though it’s come in a tiny sample. But he has significantly more power potential and is far more patient at the plate. Plus, this is the first year he’ll get to show off his power in a favorable hitting environment. So the speculation is that perhaps Sands start to steal some at-bats away from Garcia, and he ends up with some reasonable playing time until the White Sox see if they have anything here or find a better long-term solution. Or, he could be released by the time you finish reading this sentence.
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.