New Everyday Players — Jul 21, 2022

Let’s post one more new regular faces article as we return from the all-star break. This should also help you get through next week without me, as I’ll be North of the U.S. border on vacation!

Michael Stefanic | 2B LAA

With both David Fletcher and Matt Duffy on the IL, the Angels have turned to Stefanic to serve as their regular second baseman. Since being recalled at the beginning of the month, he has started 10 of 12 games. He wasn’t exactly a top prospect, as he ranked just 25th in the Angels system with a Future Value grade of just 35+. What’s funny though is that he’s the most Angels-y player and looks almost like a Fletcher and David Eckstein clone. He makes elite contact, posting SwStk% in the mid-single digits in the minors, and has kept his strikeout rate no higher than the mid-teens.

That’s not super exciting, but he did even better at Triple-A this year, which is what earned his promotion. He actually walked just over double the number of times he struck out, cutting his strikeout rate in half into mid-single digits, ala Eckstein, while walking at a double digit clip for the first time over a reasonable sample. Oh, and he posted a .333 BABIP on the heels of a strong LD%, ground ball tilt, and low IFFB%. That led to a fantastic .410 OBP, which continues a trend of .400+ OBP marks in the minors.

Unfortunately, he hasn’t shown much power outside his 2021 season, when his HR/FB rate suddenly skyrocketed to 20.5% and ISO to .171. Besides that season, he hasn’t posted better than a mid-single digit HR/FB rate or even exceeded a .100 ISO. I’m not sure what happened last year and why his power has immediately cratered back to his pre-2021 Triple-A performance level. Obviously, if he is able to show any part of that new power again, he’s going to surprise a lot of people.

The hope is that if he’s not hitting for power, he would swipe bases, but this hasn’t been a big part of his game either. He stole six bases in 2021 and three this year, so he’s probably not getting into double digits over a full season. At least Eckstein was a basestealer and stole 50 bases over his first two seasons. Even Fletcher stole 15 bases last year, but was more of a single digit guy before that.

So from a fantasy perspective, Stefanic looks like an Eckstein/Fletcher hybrid, who might get a little boost in OBP leagues. Without the counting stat potential, he’s a deep league only guy, and could lose his job once the incumbents return healthy.

Vimael Machín | 3B OAK

After the team jettisoned Matt Davidson, they recalled Jonah Bride to many third base, but it didn’t take long for him to get hurt, which resulted in Machín earning a promotion. Since his recall at the end of June, he has fallen into a strict platoon, playing every day against right-handed starters. Machín has been up and down the past couple of seasons, never really earning an extended look. He’s as Oakland-y as it gets, with strong plate discipline, often walking more than he strikes out, but with middling power.

He kind of reminds me of Moneyball famous Scott Hatteberg. Like Stefanic, Machín should get a boost in OBP leagues, but doesn’t bring enough counting stat potential to get excited, and he’s not worthy of speculating outside of AL-Only leagues. He’s a perfect stopgap though as he shouldn’t kill you in batting average or OBP, and hitting leadoff, even for a weak lineup, is a good spot.

Since he does seemingly have more power than Machín, he might have a bit more fantasy upside over the short-term, though Bride will seemingly be returning soon and is likely to take his job back.

Robinson Canó | 2B ATL

Say it ain’t Canó! Seeing him as the Braves’ starting second baseman now is really odd. With Ozzie Albies still out for a while, Canó will likely remain the team’s starter unless/until he hits his way off the team.

Unfortunately, hitting his way off the team is something that has a real chance of happening. He has always made excellent contact, especially for someone with that kind of power. His SwStk% first reached double digits last year, and his strikeout rate was almost in the low-to-mid teens. However, this year over a small sample, his already low walk rate has tumbled even further to his worst mark since his rookie season, while his strikeout rate has skyrocketed over 20% for the first time. His SwStk% has also remained in double digits, jumping even higher.

It’s obviously too small a sample to draw any definitive conclusions, but given that he’s 39 years old, it’s reasonable to assume that age has caught up and his plate skills have deteriorated. The good news is that he does still seem to have some power, and certainly more than his results suggest. A maxEV of 112 MPH is excellent and he’s probably deserving of better than just a 5.6% HR/FB rate.

He doesn’t steal bases though, so the power’s gotta improve if there’s any chance he delivers fantasy value. I have to think the Braves could find someone better and with the trade deadline approaching, it’s possible they find a better stopgap. I wouldn’t be against picking him up in an NL-Only league, but I would be surprised if he was still the team’s starting second baseman by the beginning of August.

Jason Delay | C PIT

A pirates catcher?! I hope he’s as good as Jason Kendall was for fantasy owners! Since his recall in early July, he has played most games, about as much as you would expect a non-elite starting catcher to play. As a 27-year-old, he failed to make the Pirates top prospect list and his underwhelming minor league numbers tell us why.

I’m not sure how he managed to earn a recall after posting a .270 wOBA at Triple-A this year, so maybe his defense is superb. He’s been better historically, of course, but his performance has really been all over the place. His small sample Triple-A performance this season saw improved walk and strikeout rates from typical marks previously, but he failed to hit a home run in 82 at-bats and posted just a .085 ISO.

He did hit for some power back in 2019 at Double-A and it showed up again over a tiny sample at Triple-A last year. But it’s hard to get a grasp on what his true power potential is given his inconsistency. He obviously doesn’t steal bases, and his BABIP marks have been weak. I can’t believe I’ve already typed this much about him, so I’ll end this blurb now by saying if you have no choice but to add him, your catcher situation is in pretty bad shape!

Jeter Downs | SS BOS

Finally, someone exciting! Downs was ranked as the team’s 13th best prospect, but has lost some luster after a weak 2021 showing in which he posted just a .273 wOBA. With Trevor Story down, Downs was the choice to take over second base duties after rebounding offensively at Triple-A this season.

The exciting aspect about Downs is his combination of power and speed. His HR/FB rates have ranged between the low double digits up to just over 20%, with his current Triple-A mark the highest of his professional career over a reasonable sample. Similarly, his ISO marks have now exceeded .200 twice. He takes full advantage of his over-the-fence power by hitting tong of fly balls. His FB% had been above 50% at four straight minor league stops, and while it has fallen a bit since, he was still well above 40% and actually just below 50% this year. That’s potentially a lot of home runs with a 20% HR/FB rate.

In addition to that power, he’s got speed and has been a good basestealer. He stole 18 bases last year, and has already done that in essentially half a season. That’s like a 30/30 pace! The concerns are two-fold. First, his strikeout rate spiked at Triple-A last year and while improved this year, has remained well elevated compared to his pre-Triple-A years. And two, his BABIP marks have been seriously poor at Triple-A at just below .250. That’s because of the high FB% and combined with a serious penchant for pop-ups. It doesn’t bode well for a good BABIP in the Majors, which when combined with his strikeout rate, could result in quite an ugly batting average.

Still, given his power and speed potential and the fact that rates like AVG and OBP fluctuate wildly over small sample, he’s absolutely worth taking a chance on in deeper leagues for as long as he’s starting every day.

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

I added Delay because my catcher situation is indeed in bad shape!

1 year ago
Reply to  asaw780

Best not to Delay the- oh.