New Everyday Players — Sep 29, 2022

Welcome to the potential final edition of new everyday players for the 2022 season…that is if there are no new names worthy of discussing for the final four games of the season next week!

Rob Refsnyder | OF BOS

It’s pretty shocking to me to see Refsnyder is now a near everyday starter for the Red Sox. Typically perceived as a powerhouse offense, one would have thought the team would have better alternatives than a 31-year-old journeyman. But he has now started in seven of the team’s last nine games and has actually been pretty darn good at the plate.

It’s been a true breakout small sample for Refsnyder. Let’s start with the power. Heading into the season, he owned just a 5.2% HR/FB rate and .084 ISO over his career. This year, he has posted a 15.8% HR/FB rate and .193 ISO, both easily career highs. One driver of the increased power is a Barrel% that has jumped into double digits for the first time. So even though his maxEV is lower than last year, he’s barreled up his balls at a higher rate. Whether that will continue is anyone’s guess, but it explains the power surge.

All his other numbers are in line, with the exception of his LD%, which has spiked to 28.4%, significantly above the league average. He has also continued to avoid pop-ups, as he has amazingly posted a 5% or lower IFFB% every year since 2016. That batted ball distribution has boosted his BABIP to a crazy .398. While that’s obviously not representative of his true talent, his current profile does support an inflated mark.

It’s hard to say how real this breakout is at his age and over a small sample, but playing mostly every day and the potential to hit for average as well as knock a couple of homers makes him worth starting in deeper leagues.

Stuart Fairchild | OF CIN

This is actually the third team Fairchild has been a member of this year, but he landed on a good one, because he has now started eight of the team’s last 11 games and five of their last six. Fairchild was last ranked 26th among Diamondbacks prospects heading into the season, but this was before we knew whether his 2021 power spike was real.

Back in 2021, his HR/FB rate jumped above 20%, while his ISO surged over .200, both firsts for him. From his time at Triple-A this season, it certainly appears that the power spike was indeed real. He posted HR/FB rates no lower than 20%, and ISO marks typically in the low-to-mid .200 range. So far in the Majors, mostly with the Reds, he has posted a 27.8% HR/FB rate and .228 ISO. The one caveat is a 107.6 MPH maxEV doesn’t match with the high HR/FB rate. So it’s possible this power output is over his head and regression is coming.

Strikeouts have been an issue at times and he has struck out 32.6% of the time in the Majors this year, while not making up for the lack of balls in play with even a league average walk rate. He did used to be a basestealer, but that has slowed. So he looks to be a potential pickup for power-starved fantasy owners in deeper leagues and that’s it.

Ezequiel Tovar | SS COL

Finally, a real prospect! Tovar was ranked as the Rockies’ top prospect and 36th overall and made his debut last Friday, and starting four straight games. The 20-year-old only recorded 23 PAs in Triple-A before getting the call, but clearly his .405 wOBA at Double-A over 295 PAs was enough to convince the Rockies he was ready.

His HR/FB rate has risen every step of the way, culminating in a 16.9% mark at Double-A, while his ISO also hit a career best at the level, reaching .227. For such a youngster, that kind of progression is exciting. He has also swiped bases, stealing 17 at Double-A and 24 all of last season. His power/speed combination is tantalizing, as he was on a pace for around 26 home runs and 34 steals over a full season. Add a Coors Field home and you get an exciting fantasy prospect!

Unfortunately, the Rockies finish out the season on the road, so there’s less of a need to rush out and pick him up. I would still be cautious next year given his limited Triple-A experience and age, but the upside of the power and speed combined with Coors Field is exciting.

Nate Eaton | 3B/OF KC

Eaton is yet another non-prospect who finds himself with a starting job. Ranked just 40th among Royals prospects, he has started nine of the team’s last 10 games. The 25-year-old finally posted a double digit HR/FB rate this season during his first time at Triple-A. His ISO also jumped back above .200 for the first time since his professional debut in the Rookie league back in 2018. That Rookie league ISO was driven more by his absurd 12 triples than home run power, though, so it seems his power has truly improved this year. Adding to his home run potential is a fly ball tendency, with FB% marks above 40% at both levels this year.

While the increased power is nice, he’s actually more of a speed guy. He stole 23 bases this year and last year and has already swiped 11 in just 104 PAs with the Royals. It’s hard to believe his BABIP is sustainable given his extreme fly ball tendency and he has hit a higher rate of pop-ups in the minors, so those could come back to haunt him as well. I therefore wouldn’t bet on him maintaining anything close to a .365 BABIP, which could ultimately drop his batting average into negative value territory.

Overall, that willingness to run makes him an automatic pickup if you need steals, though it’s possible he fails to contribute in any other category.

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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4 months ago

COL is indicating an interest in (mostly) jumping Tovar over Triple-A and starting him at SS out of spring next year. Aggressive…