New Everyday Players — Jul 6, 2023

As is typically the case when I return from vacation, there are a number of new faces in starting lineups. Since playing time is king, especially in deeper leagues, let’s discuss some of the hitters who have recently become regulars.

David Fletcher | SS LAA

For some reason, I thought he was a lot older, but he’s still on the right side of 30, with another 11 months to go before reaching that arbitrary cut-off when you morph into an older player. With the Angels’ entire offense hitting the IL, Fletcher was recalled from Triple-A, where he had spent the majority of the year. That’s kind of surprising given how many years he has served as a starting infielder. It’s not like he was going to learn anything at Triple-A and suddenly become a better hitter!

Fletcher has no power, and he didn’t gain any during his time in the minors this year. What he does possess is excellent contact skills. He owns a minuscule 3.8% SwStk%, driving just a 9.6% strikeout rate. Combine that with a barely above league average .301 BABIP, and you get a positive batting average contribution, though with few home runs, the batting average value isn’t exactly high.

He has stolen bases at times, but his willingness to run seems to have declined, so maybe you’ll get somewhere in the mid-to-high single digits over a full year. That means he’s really not much of a contributor anywhere, but can earn some value just from volume alone. He’s an ideal stopgap as an injury replacement in an AL-Only league, though that really depends on your alternatives. Personally, I would prefer someone with more power that could luck into a three-homer week, but when I added him in AL Tout, I didn’t have the luxury of choosing someone else that might play more than once a week.

Jordan Diaz | 2B OAK

The lowly Athletics are given Diaz another try, as he was up earlier in the year. The team’s 15th ranked prospect heading into the season, Diaz has shown excellent home run power at his last couple of minor league stops. His HR/FB rate sat over 20% during his two Triple-A stints, and this year’s was accompanied by a 113.4 MPH maxEV, which is excellent, and suggests the power is real. He has already posted a 111.8 MPH maxEV at the MLB level, to go along with a 16.7% HR/FB rate, so he’s looking like a legit power source.

Unfortunately, his FB% has been low since 2022, which could limit his home run potential. However, over his small MLB sample, he’s actually posted a career best FB%. We’ll see if that lasts.

I also like his relatively low strikeout rate, though that’s definitely not due to his contact ability. Instead, he’s been a free-swinger throughout his career, so his strikeout and walk rates have been low. That’s great for his home run count with more balls in play, but not so great for his OBP. So his value dips in leagues that count OBP instead of batting average.

Overall, playing in a pitcher friendly park in a weak lineup, don’t expect fireworks. But he’s a good gamble if you need power, as he’s the type that could hit the three homers I desired when looking at Fletcher and alternatives.

Brice Turang | 2B/SS MIL

Like Diaz, Turang was up with the Brewers earlier in the year, but was demoted when he disappointed with the bat. He’s back now and has started six of seven games since his recall. Unlike Diaz, Turang was one of the Brewers’ top prospects, ranking 2nd on the team and 68th overall. So he’s less likely to get jerked around as the Brewers are likely to want to play him every day.

His 70 grade speed is most exciting. He stole 34 bases at Triple-A last year and already has nine in about a third of a season’s worth of PAs with the Brewers during his rookie campaign. While he did post a 10.3% HR/FB rate at Triple-A last year, it came with just a .126 ISO and 107.2 MPH maxEV, suggesting he doesn’t actually have a whole lot of power in his bat. Figure an upside of juuuuuust barely reaching double digit home runs. That said, a 10 home run and 25 steal season is quite valuable in our little game.

The projection systems think batting average could be a problem, as someone with such limited power should probably be not be striking out as often as he has. So really, we’re banking on the steals here and just hoping everything else is acceptable enough not to take away any value.

Jared Young | 1B CHC

Young is someone I completely missed on while I was away and only now discovered that he was recalled and has become the Cubs’ starting first baseman against right-handers. At age 27, Young is no prospect, but did everything in his power at Triple-A this year to earn a promotion.

After posting a career high 17.2% HR/FB rate last year, he exploded this season for a 31% mark. However, that’s well above what you might expect from someone with a solid-but-not-spectacular 111.1 MPH maxEV, which is what he posted at Triple-A this year. He also posted the lowest FB% since his 2017 professional debut, so he wasn’t even making the most of his over-the-fence power.

What I do like is that he cut his strikeout rate and also raised his walk rate, along with the increased power. So while the Triple-A breakout results don’t look entirely real, it does seem like he has legitimately improved as a hitter. He probably won’t be anything special in batting average or contribute much more in steals, but he’s a worthy gamble in deep leagues and makes for a better speculation than Diaz if you’re in a deep mixed league, as opposed to a mono league.

Alek Thomas | OF ARI

Thomas is yet another on this list who got his chance earlier this year, disappointed, and is back once again. And this is actually his sophomore season, as he debuted last year and posted weak results. Ranked as the team’s second best prospect and 21st overall, he was pretty good during his time at Triple-A this year to earn his recall, posting a .405 wOBA.

I only say pretty good because it was primarily driven by a .396 BABIP, rather than any real skills improvement. Of course, Thomas might own legit high BABIP skills, as he has a long history of high BABIP marks in the Majors. That hasn’t yet translated to the Majors though, where he sits on just a .268 BABIP. Since his power hasn’t translated either, it’s left him with just a .274 MLB wOBA.

Thomas clearly has power and I would expect his HR/FB rate to rise. The problem, however, is his lack of fly balls. His highest professional mark sits at just 27%, which really limits his home run potential. That’s great for his BABIP though, as those lack of fly balls have instead become line drives or grounders, which fall for hits far more often.

There’s some speed here as well, but he has never swiped more than 15 bases in a year, so there isn’t huge potential here. Overall, I don’t see massive fantasy potential given his low FB% right now, but he could perhaps contribute a bit everywhere, especially if his BABIP bounces back to anywhere close to his minor league marks.

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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