New AL Everyday Starters — Aug 16, 2021

With a number of new faces showing up in the starting lineup each day over the last couple of weeks, let’s get back to discussing these new everyday starters. We’ll break it up by AL and NL this time. We’ll start with the AL.

Chas McCormick | HOU OF

While McCormick still was relatively active considering he hadn’t been an everyday player, the Astros’ trade of Myles Straw solidified his starting role, vaulting him in the lineup as the team’s regular center fielder. His minor league performance was interesting — he did little offensively through 2018, and then suddenly a light bulb turned on in 2019. That year, his walk rate skyrocketed, more than doubling to an elite 17.5% at Double-A, while his strikeout rate remained as strong as usual…meaning he walked far more often than he struck out. The low strikeout rate was backed by a low SwStk%. He still didn’t show much power. But then upon his promotion to Triple-A that same year, he struck out a bit more often, but his power blossomed. His HR/FB rate nearly doubled, as did his ISO. He also swiped 16 bases, making him interesting for fantasy owners.

With the newfound power, he made the Astros out of spring training and it’s carried over into the season, as his HR/FB rate sits at a professional high of 20%, while his ISO inched even higher to .217. Of course, he has clearly made a tradeoff — more strikeouts…a lot more. His strikeout rate has more than doubled from his Triple-A level, while his SwStk% has come close to doing so, but not quite. He has also somehow hit a high rate of fly balls, but has popped up just once all season. That’s really hard to do.

I have no idea which version to expect moving forward, but while he’s playing every day, he clearly needs to be rostered.

Seth Brown | OAK OF

Brown had been up earlier in the season and eventually wrestled away the starting right field job from Stephen Piscotty, at least on the strong side of a platoon. But ultimately, a low BABIP did him in and he was demoted to Triple-A. The Athletics then went out and got Starling Marte, making it a near certainty Brown wouldn’t earn any fantasy value the rest of the way.

Then Ramon Laureano was suspended for PEDs and the team, not wanting to give an every day job back to Piscotty, recalled Brown again to return to his strong side platoon role. Brown’s plate discipline is no great shakes, but it’s acceptable given his ample power, which is boosted by his massive 52% FB%. That high fly ball rate is great for his home run potential, but has helped kill his BABIP, which sits at .222. It’s made him Joey Gallo without the walks, which means just a .316 wOBA. These types seem to come and go and job security isn’t very high. But he’s certainly got the power, so if home runs is what you need, by all means, Brown is your man.

Yohel Pozo | TEX C

I love when guys are recalled from the minors who I have never heard of (it happens a lot), and then when I review their minor league history, I become intrigued. Heading into the season, Pozo was the team’s 62nd ranked prospect! But he’s got a very interesting profile, though it’s mostly because of his performance this year.

Heading into the season, Pozo rarely walked, but also didn’t strike out often. His power was also limited, so there wasn’t much here to get excited about. But this year at Triple-A, while his plate discipline metrics remained the same, his power surged. His HR/FB rate more than tripled to 18.4%, while his ISO spiked to .271, after just a .111 mark at High-A in 2019. Suddenly, there’s a bit of excitement in the air, as you get all this power, boosted by a FB% over 40%, and with a low strikeout rate. Pozo has already started his first three games at DH since his recall and with the Rangers in last place and sitting with the second worst record in the AL, it would make sense to keep playing him to see if his Triple-A breakout was any sort of real.

Renato Nunez | DET 1B

He’s back! Nunez failed to make the Tigers opening day roster coming out of spring training, but ended up being recalled in mid-April to replace an injured Miguel Cabrera. He lasted less than two weeks before being DFA’d, but cleared waivers and remained in the Tigers system. After a predictably strong Triple-A performance, he was recalled again and has started four straight games, between first base and DH.

We know what Nunez is at this point, as your prototypical one-dimensional slugger. He owns excellent power and takes advantage of it by hitting flies at a 40%+ clip. He owns a meh career average given an above average strikeout rate and below average BABIP and he doesn’t walk a whole lot. Still, I like hitters in the middle of batting orders that have power as batting averages bounce all over the place over small samples. So buy here and hope for a couple of weeks of hotness.

Jorge Mateo | BAL OF

It’s hard to believe that heading into the year, the former top prospect had only recorded 28 PAs in the Majors, and that came last year with the Padres. He’s already with his fifth organization, so it’s clear that teams continue to lose patience, while teams he hasn’t played for are more than willing to hope and pray that his power/speed combo yields results.

Mateo is now getting an extended look in Baltimore, and even with Ramon Urias back, should continue to see ample playing time. Oddly, his plate discipline has gotten worse and worse every season and he has become a high strikeout, low walk guy, which isn’t good unless you’re hitting for a lot of power, which Mateo has only sometimes done.

The key here, though, is his speed. He stole an insane 82 bases back in 2015 and has posted the third fasted Sprint Speed in baseball so far this year. He’s a speed demon, but getting on base to even attempt a steal has been the challenge. We’ll see how long the Orioles give him of not hitting before he’s back on the bench or in the minors, but you might as well pick him up and hope for a couple of swipes.

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.

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2 years ago

Fire Dayton Moore!