New Everyday Players — Aug 10, 2022

Since yesterday’s post was an all-Marlins edition, there are still a number of teams featuring new everyday players. So let’s continue on discussing them.

Terrin Vavra | 2B BAL

The great thing about writing these articles is coming across all the names I never heard of. I clearly scroll down Rotoworld way quicker than I should and miss names like Vavra. The team’s 12th best prospect was recalled on July 26, but didn’t get his first start until July 30 and has been strictly used on the strong side of a platoon, as he bats left-handed. He has earned the majority of his starts at DH, but has also started at second base and left field. He has bounced around the lineup, hitting at or toward the bottom, but actually hitting fifth twice and then third during his last three starts. That would be great for his fantasy value if he hits and can stick there.

Vavra has shown elite plate discipline in the minors, with double digit walk rates everywhere he’s played and SwStk% marks almost always in single digits, leading to mid-to-high teen to low 20% strikeout rates. To go along with the plate discipline, he has posted high BABIP marks most of the time as well, with an absurd .400 mark during his first taste of Triple-A this year. That was driven by tons of line drives and a low GB% and pop-up rate.

Unfortunately, he has shown limited power for most of his minor league career, though he did post a mid-teen HR/FB rate last year at Double-A. He couldn’t carry that over to Triple-A though, as both his HR/FB rate and ISO fell to professional lows. He has offset the lack of power with some speed though and could be good for low double digit steals over a full season.

The lack of power hurts, but he would probably be able to contribute a bit in all categories and gets a nice boost in OBP leagues. If he sticks in the middle of the order, all the better. Still, in batting average leagues, his value is limited to AL-Only leagues.

Ezequiel Duran | 3B TEX

After getting his first taste of big league action back in June, he was demoted back to the minors, but has returned again, mostly starting as the team’s third baseman. The team’s fourth best prospect and 62nd prospect overall was slapped with 60 grade Raw Power and mediocre grades everywhere else. What’s interesting here is that he hadn’t shown the home run power that would match with 60 grade Raw Power, but has hit enough double and triples to boost his ISO into the mid-.200 range which is more in line with that power grade. You would imagine that with time, some of those doubles and triples end up turning into home runs.

He did enjoy a HR/FB rate breakout at Triple-A this year, but it came over just 78 at-bats. It’s hard to get a sense of what to expect given that he posted just a 10.9% mark at Double-A earlier this season and over more than double the at-bats. The good news is he has mostly posted FB% marks over 40%, so he should be a solid home run contributor even if he’s not posting a 20%+ mark.

To go along with the power, he has also shown some speed and willingness to swipe bases. His projections forecast something like a 15/15 guy over a full season. Since he doesn’t walk often and his fly ball ways could cut into his BABIP, he likely loses value in OBP leagues, while being unlucky to contribute positive value in batting average leagues.

Usually batting near the bottom of the lineup isn’t ideal. I think it could be tough for him to carve out shallow mixed league value, but he’s worth speculating on in deeper mixed leagues, and obviously he’s likely rostered in all AL-Only leagues.

Bubba Thompson | OF TEX

Thompson is another new Rangers hitter finding his name in the starting lineup. The 24-year-old is as far from a top prospect as it gets, as he last ranked just 57th and that as on last year’s report. But he was recalled on Aug 4 and has already started four straight games so it’s clear the team is willing to give him a chance, regardless of his prospect pedigree.

Talk about power/speed ability! At Triple-A this year, he jacked his HR/FB rate to a professional high just over 20%, though his ISO actually fell from his 2021 peak. His extra-base hit distribution is odd as he didn’t hit many doubles, so his ISO is well below what you would expect given the HR/FB rate. It makes me suspicious he could come anywhere close to a 20% HR/FB rate again. He also suffered a big decline in FB%, which could cut into his home run total if he can’t regain the batted ball distribution from previous seasons when his FB% was over 30% and even over 40% once.

The fewer fly balls, though, led to more line drives and grounders, which helped his BABIP, something he has usually been adept at posting high marks in. While his BABIP has bounced around from a low of .246 to a high of .396, he has mostly posted inflated marks, suggesting he’ll post an above average mark with the Rangers.

Finally, let’s get to the main course — his speed. In just 375 PAs this season, he had already stolen 49 bases and was amazingly caught just three times. He stole bases at a much higher clip than he did in 2021, and at a much more successful rate, so I don’t know what led to that, but it gives us hope he’ll continue to run wild with the Rangers. The red flag here is the low walk rate combined with the high strikeout rate. It has led to projections of all sub-.300 OBP marks, which could cut into his stolen base attempts.

Thompson is the type that makes fantasy owners salivate and clearly looks like a better fantasy player than real-life player. In these situations, it’s important to remember that he’s at greater risk of losing playing time because of his real baseball skills and fantasy value doesn’t always match real-life value. For now though, he’s a must-add in all formats given his potential to stack the steals and hit a homer or two before he potentially loses his job.

Jose Siri | OF TB

From reserve outfielder to starting outfielder, Siri has now started five of six games since being traded from the Astros to the Rays. The 27-year-old isn’t exactly a prospect, but fits the Thompson mold above of a toolsy hitter with both power and speed, but poor plate discipline.

Siri has posted mid-to-high teen HR/FB rates during his minor league career, along with ISO marks that reached over .200. To go with the power, he has also posted mid-30% FB% marks and sometimes marks over 40%. As a result, Steamer forecasts over 20 home runs over a full season.

He has big speed too, as he stole 24 bases at Triple-A this year for a near-40 steal pace over a full season. He was also quite successful, only getting caught three times. The Rays have always been willing to run, so he likely will continue having a green light.

The problem stems from his plate discipline. He hasn’t walked a whole lot and he has typically posted strikeout rate marks exceeding 30%. It hasn’t been about being too passive either, as his SwStk% marks have always sat in the mid-to-high teens and have sometimes crept up over 20%. That’s a lot of swinging and missing, and that was just in the minors! Not surprisingly, his strikeout rate has jumped to the mid-30% range in the Majors and that has paired with a tiny walk rate. He simply struggled to get on base. It’s unfortunate because over a full season, he has been on a 21 home run and 30 steal pace. Of course, that comes with just a .269 wOBA and .201 batting average.

While his results are likely to be better than they have if given an extended look, only Steamer believes he’ll be good enough to stay in the starting lineup. With all the lineup juggling, it’s sometimes frustrating to own Rays hitters, so be prepared for random days on the bench even if he hasn’t lost his starting role. I think he’s worth giving a chance to over the short-term when counting stats are more reliable, but like Thompson above, he made not remain a starter through the rest of the season.

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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1 year ago

While I am not the biggest fan of the Rangers’ overall approach to drafting, it’s not like Thompson has come out of nowhere. He was their 2017 1st round pick.