New Everyday Players — Jun 2, 2022

Let’s finish this week’s rundown of new everyday players and decide if they are worth rostering depending on your league format.

Oscar Gonzalez | CLE

When Franmil Reyes hit the IL, the Guardians recalled Gonzalez, and have started him in right field every game since his promotion, totaling six games. You can’t find Gonzalez on our 2022 prospect list and his page shows an FV (Future Value) of just 35. So it’s clear that he wasn’t highly regarded heading into the season, and yet here he is, the current regular starter in right field.

The now 24-year-old enjoyed a massive power spike last year between Double-A and Triple-A, as his HR/FB rate shot up to around 30%, while his ISO surged well above .200. That resulted in 31 home runs, despite a pretty low FB%. What has helped here is surprisingly solid strikeout rates considering the power. Amazingly, his strikeout rates have been either good or average, despite high SwStk% marks. You would expect significantly higher strikeout rates given the inflated SwStk% marks. One look at his puny walk rate and you figure it’s because he swings at everything.

You know who else fit that mold? Guys like Adam Jones, Alfonso Soriano, and currently, Javier Baez. All these guys swung often enough that even if they whiffed frequently, at some point in the at-bat they would put the ball in play, which reduced their walk rates, but also their strikeout rates. They also possessed above average power. Depending on where their BABIP settled, they contributed in both home runs and batting average, even with lots of swings and misses and atrocious plate discipline. It’s not exactly a desirable skillset and probably tough to succeed with, but it does happen. That’s the path Gonzalez could take to deliver out-of-nowhere fantasy value, though without the steals some of those names also contributed.

Taylor Trammell | SEA

The Mariners have dealt with injuries and poor performances, so ya know who’s back? The guy who had a big spring training last year that earned him a starting job and a spot on many sleeper lists. Unfortunately, his Spring performance failed to carry over to the regular season, as he posted just a .270 wOBA and .233 xwOBA. Now he’s back for another chance and has started seven of eight games since his recall, as it looks like he’ll be on the strong side of a platoon, sitting against left-handed starters.

Trammell only recorded 13 PAs at Triple-A this year due to a hamstring injury, so we’ll have to remind ourselves of his performance history. While he struck out a ton during his MLB debut last year, that wasn’t something he had typically done in the minors. He also consistently walked at a double digit clip, so overall, his plate skills looked pretty good. His power has been mediocre, though has risen as he has climbed the ladder, with professional best HR/FB and ISO rates at Triple-A last year. He has also stolen bases, but that part of his game has waned more recently. Still, the potential for double digit steals remains.

For the time being Trammell might get another extended look and has the potential to contribute both home runs and steals. Unimpressive BABIP marks since Double-A in 2019, combined for a possible worse than league average strikeout rate, might mean a weak batting average. But at least with the league recording its lowest batting average since 1968, Trammell’s mark won’t be as poor as in the past, relatively speaking.

Cal Mitchell | PIT

Mitchell was ranked just 37th among Pirates prospects, with no offensive tool grade higher than 50. So he’s another name that fantasy owners likely didn’t have their eye on, and yet, he has already batted first or second in half his starts since being recalled! That likely tells us a lot about the state of the Pirates offense and the confidence the team has in Mitchell’s offensive skills.

Looking at his minor league record, Mitchell is a pretty odd choice as a leadoff guy. He doesn’t walk much, having failed to post a walk rate higher than 8.3% since his minor league debut in the Rookie league in 2017. But, he also doesn’t strike out that often, despite averageish SwStk% marks, likely for the same reason described above about Oscar Gonzalez. Still, until this season, he hasn’t produced very strong OBP marks.

His power spiked during his time at Triple-A this year, but it still doesn’t give us much confidence that he’ll be much above the league average, though he won’t need to be to deliver some home run value. He has a touch of speed as well, but again, it’s not a standout skill. So perhaps a little of this, and a little of that, is what could be expected, which isn’t exciting, but altogether, adds up. As a left-handed batter, the threat of a platoon always lurks, but he’s started against three lefties so far, and was benched against one. So it doesn’t seem like he’s in a straight platoon yet, but if he doesn’t hit soon, he could be. Or, find himself back at Triple-A.

Rodolfo Castro | PIT

Another Pirates hitter, and this one has started in 18 straight games since his mid-May promotion, mostly at shortstop. I had no idea, which shows just how much attention I pay to the team’s roster changes. Like most on this list, Castro isn’t a highly regarded prospect, ranking just 35th on the team. However, he’s shown home run power, except this year, having posted double digit HR/FB rates every stop since 2017 and through 2021. He does strike out though and typically didn’t walk much (hilariously, his walk rate sat between 6.0% and 7.9% at every single minor league stop from 2017 to 2021…that’s consistency!). Interestingly, his walk rate nearly tripled during his time at Triple-A this season before his recall, to an elite 17.2%. That’s quite a skills surge if it’s real.

He, too, has a touch of speed, swiping a handful of bases at most of his stops. He has mostly posted underwhelming BABIP marks and that combines with mid-to-high 20% strikeout rates, so batting average could be a problem. Of all the names on this list, I’m least interested in Castro.

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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Greg Simonsmember
1 year ago

Mike, I definitely appreciate you highlighting these players. Some may work out, some won’t, but just knowing about more options is helpful.