New Everyday Players — Aug 8, 2022

It was another exciting trade deadline day with a flurry of deals and a monstrous blockbuster. Lots of trades = lots of new faces entering starting lineups. As we head into the final two months of the season, playing time will continue to be king and active owners will benefit from uncovering those new starters. So let’s review a bunch of new everyday players once again. Today’s theme is going to players who had all debuted previously, were either demoted to the minors or injured, and are now back.

Paul DeJong | SS STL

Gosh, remember him? DeJong had been the starting Cardinals shortstop for years, but was surprisingly demoed to the minors in early/mid-May. After recording 230 PAs at Triple-A, he is now back, returning at the end of July. He has now started eight straight games since his promotion.

Historically, DeJong has been your prototypical slugger, but at a middle infield spot. He hit as many as 30 homers back in 2019, making the best use of a mid-teen HR/FB rate by hitting lots of fly balls, with FB% marks in the mid-40% range. All those fly balls have resulted in his BABIP really bouncing around, so his batting average has jumped around from delivering positive fantasy value, to being negative, to really hurting his fantasy teams. He has stolen a base here and there, so that definitely adds a buck or two to his value, but we’re hoping for home runs here and anything more is just a bonus.

So did he learn anything back on the farm this year? Nope, it looks like business as usual. He continuing hitting tons of fly balls, leading to a weak BABIP, though he did post a professional best HR/FB rate. That put him on a 40+ home run pace over 600 plate appearances. I doubt his power actually improved and was merely boosted by the inferior competition, as none of his other underlying skills got any better. For now, he’s the same as we knew him to be for years now — roster if you’re desperate for home runs, but don’t expect him to contribute much anywhere else. Oh, and be ready for a potential batting average drain.

Seth Beer | 1B ARI

I could only imagine what Beer went through in life with a last name like that. The 16th ranked prospect on the Diamondbacks made his MLB debut last year, but only recorded 10 plate appearances. He actually opened the season garnering the lion’s share of PAs as the team’s DH, but was ultimately demoted in mid-May. He’s now back up from Triple-A and has started four of six games, mostly at DH.

The 25-year-old has shown solid plate discipline in the minors, and raised his walk rate back into double digits at Triple-A this year, the first time since Single-A during his debut season in 2018. He also improved his strikeout rate, though I would caution that his SwStk% is a bit higher than you would expect given the strikeout rate, so I can’t believe he could maintain a sub-20% strikeout rate in the Majors if that SwStk% continues.

He has mostly been a fly ball hitter in the minors, which is excellent for his home run power. His HR/FB rate has really bounced all over the place, so it’s hard to get a good gauge as to his real potential. It did jump to 18.8% during his time at Triple-A this year, which is a nice improvement from his 12.6% mark last year. Combined with the fly ball rate and reasonable strikeout rate could make him a nice home run contributor.

Of course with all the fly balls, it’s not surprise that his BBAIP has also jumped around. As a left-hander who hits lots of fly balls, he’s likely to struggle with his BABIP, so I wouldn’t count on him to be a batting average contributor. He has also swiped just once base during his entire professional career, so it’s safe to say he’s not going to earn any value there either.

Interestingly, he’s gotten hit by lots of pitches during his career. That’s actually a “skill”, so it gives him a nice boost in OBP leagues. As usual, look to him if you need home runs, especially if you play in an OBP league, but I wouldn’t be interested in anything shallower than a deep mixed or NL-Only league.

Mitch Haniger | OF SEA

An ankle injury cost him just over three months of the season, which came immediately after he missed two weeks due to COVID-19. It has not be an easy season for Haniger! He’s now back and has started two games between DH and right field. Haniger has posted two straight seasons with a HR/FB rate of between 20% and 21% and FB% marks over 40%. That makes him a strong home run contributor.

However, along with the increased power has come a jump in strikeout rate. It seems like a conscious decision to give up some contact for more power as his strikeout rate jump aligns with the increases in both FB% and HR/FB rate. Unfortunately, his BABIP also plunged after these changes, so while he has maintained strong fantasy value, the shape of it has changed. He also may no longer be a threat for double digit steals, especially after recovering from his ankle injury.

Haniger’s playing time should be secure, but he might be lumped into that large group of home run contributors and not much else. The good news is he should remain in a good lineup spot for his RBI and runs scored numbers, so he is unlikely to only contribute in home runs. Given how long he has been out for, it’s possible he’s sitting in some free agent pools just waiting for you to pluck him.

Jarred Kelenic | OF SEA

Along with Haniger returning from injury to the Mariners, former top prospect Kelenic was recalled by the team after a demotion to the minors. He made his eagerly anticipated debut last season, but disappointed en route to a .270 wOBA and .169 ISO. This season hasn’t gone any better, as a .227 wOBA earned him a demotion in mid-May. He returned at the end of July and has posted just a .172 wOBA over 17 PAs and has ridden the bench against two of three lefties. Is there still hope here?

First off, it’s only been 490 MLB PAs. That’s nearly a full season, yes, but one season remains a small sample size. It would be silly to use one season to evaluate any hitter, let alone a former top prospect who is still just 23 years old.

At Triple-A this season, he continued to show the skills that excited fantasy owners. He posted a .262 ISO driven by a 20% HR/FB rate, for an over 20-homer pace in a full season. He also posted a .348 BABIP fueled by a hefty 26.1% LD%, which is important given that his MLB BABIP stands at just .207. So this is a good reminder that he still owns strong BABIP skills, they just haven’t yet translated to the Majors. I think they will in due time as he’s clearly better than what he’s shown with the Mariners.

He also continues to steal bases and could be counted on for double digits over a full season. So that’s at least a 20/10 guy with a batting average I would easily bet the over on compared to the pessimistic projections, all forecasting a mark between .215 and .220.

Given the power/speed potential, he’s an excellent target in keeper leagues and deeper mixed leagues. I’m still not sure about the playing time situation to make a call in shallow mixed leagues though, as sitting against lefties would make it difficult for him to earn positive value there.

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 month ago

Are you seriously saying that DeJong’s terrible struggles last year and earlier this year compared to earlier in his career and what he’s doing now are nothing but BABIP variance? How is that even possible?! You don’t through such massive swings in contact ability from being a former star (technically an All-Star, but he was a “every team gets one” pick) to being unplayable and deservedly demoted to AAA (and not just via a small sample size) to then figuring it out down there and continuing the hot hitting back on the big club all through sheer luck!

He’ll probably never post especially high batting averages, but you should at least count on him to hit at least .240 with a good number of HRs and RBIs going forward.

1 month ago
Reply to  Mike Podhorzer

His career average has been dragged down by how he absolutely sucked in 2021 and the beginning of this year, back when he was a completely different hitter, NOT someone who was just unlucky on balls in play like you claimed. Meanwhile, he certainly has improved his contact ability back towards what it was earlier in his career during his demotion.

Now that’s he figured it out again, he should be hitting no worse (going forward) than the .233 mark he posted in 2019, which was his career low up to that point. So maybe .240 as the minimum is a little high, but we can still say at least .230 with the potential of around .260 or so.

As for RBIs, 78 in a season is quite a few, and he’s now back to being close to the hitter he was when he did get that many, plus he’s now hitting just a couple spots behind the excellent trio of Goldschmidt, Arenado, and O’Neill.

Last edited 1 month ago by Lanidrac