New Everyday Players — Sep 7, 2022

Let’s continue running through the teams and discussing more new everyday players.

Tyler Freeman | 3B CLE

Before diving into his performance, he might be eligible at multiple infield positions, so check your league’s eligibility rules, as he could gain some slight additional value thanks to the flexibility he offers. Freeman was last ranked as the Indians’ seventh best prospect and 103rd prospect overall. He has actually been up since the beginning of August, but has suddenly started three straight games, rotating between shortstop and third base. Obviously, he’s not going to supplant the incumbents at those positions, but with the DH slot open, it’s possible he could carve at near everyday at-bats.

If you need power, Freeman is not your man. He has posted single digit HR/FB rates every minor league stop he’s been, plus a High-A stint back in 2019 where he failed to hit a single homer. His HR/FB rate did rise to a career best of 8.3% at Triple-A this year, but his ISO plummeted below .100, so his overall power output didn’t actually improve.

Instead, he knows his strengths and weaknesses and has made excellent contact throughout his career. Sporting mid-SwStk% marks which have led to high single digit to low double digit strikeout rates, he should be a solid batting average contributor, even without the need for an inflated BABIP. He does have some speed, stealing as many as 19 bases in a year, but he’s unlikely to be an elite contributor there. Walking more often would provide some additional opportunities.

He clearly doesn’t appear to a fantasy difference maker, but could make a nice stopgap solution as someone who shouldn’t kill your average.

Jerar Encarnacion | OF MIA

Recalled in mid-August, Encarnacion has started all but four games, shuffling between left field, right field, and DH. The Marlins have been rotating players often, so it’s hard to call him a guaranteed everyday player, but the playing time should be enough to at least warrant consideration in deep mixed and NL-Only leagues. While he was only ranked 31st among Marlins prospect, he was slapped with a 60 grade Raw Power score, which gives fantasy owners something to be intrigued by.

That power seemingly finally showed up beginning at Double-A last year, as his HR/FB rate surged to 20.9%, the first time it finished above 20%. His ISO, though, sat in familiar territory, so his overall power seemingly remained stable. However, his power did spike between Double-A and Triple-A this season. He maintained a HR/FB rate above 20%, but this time his ISO jumped above .200.

Unfortunately, he swings and misses often, with mid-to-high teen SwStk% marks, resulting in strikeout rates anywhere from mid-20% to high-30%. During his short time in the Majors, he’s already showing that combination of power and tons of strikeouts. His HR/FB rate won’t stay above 30%, of course, plus he will hit more fly balls than he has. So when that drops and the power output declines, he’s going to have to improve upon that 40%+ strikeout rate and cut down on the swings and misses. It’s hard to imagine him remaining a near everyday starter if he continues to swing and miss so frequently. But for now, he’s worth a speculation in an NL-Only league if you’re desperate for home runs.

Triston Casas | 1B BOS

Another top prospect that was recalled after rosters were expanded, Casas is the Red Sox top prospect and ranked 14th overall. However, he hasn’t exactly hit like such an uber prospect or one that fantasy owners should be rushing to add.

His HR/FB rates have been amazingly consistent, as he has posted marks in a tight range between 15.3% and 16.9% during his three minor league stints with a large sample size. Similarly, his ISO marks have narrowly ranged between .200 and .218. The HR/FB and ISO marks are perfectly solid, but I would have expected better from a top prospect with 50/60 Game Power and 60/60 Raw Power grades. The good news is he has typically been a fly ball hitter, so at least he takes advantage of his over-the-fence power. This year, he swapped out some flies for line drives, which hurts his home run total, but is a positive for his BABIP, even though his BABIP actually finished at an identical mark to what he recorded in 2021.

The most impressive part of his game so far has been his plate patience. He has always walked at a double digit clip, but it’s been over 14% at both Double-A and Triple-A the last two seasons. That gives him a big boost in OBP leagues, while he may not be of much help in batting average.

I would hope the Red Sox would play him ever day, but it remains to be seen whether he takes a seat against left-handers. I’m not too impressed with his fantasy upside, so at least in the short-term, he looks like a better real-life prospect than fantasy one, assuming you’re not in an OBP league.

Spencer Steer | 3B CIN

The Reds continue to give new players a chance at everyday playing time, and Steer is the latest beneficiary. Acquired as part of the trade for Tyler Mahle, Steer was the Twins’ ninth ranked prospect. He was recalled when rosters expanded and has started in three straight games, rotating between first and third bases.

The 24-year-old has posted double digit HR/FB rates everywhere he has played since 2021, but hasn’t gotten that mark higher than 18.8%. His ISO peaked as high as .285 while at Double-A last year, but it fell below .200 for the first time since 2019 during his time at Triple-A while in the Reds organization, after posting a .242 mark while still with the Twins. Typically an extreme fly ball hitter, his FB% also fell precipitously to just about 31% with the Reds. Whether it was small sample size randomness or a change in approach, that power and FB% combination is going to determine how much he might contribute in home runs.

He has made pretty darn good contact during his minor league career, only once posting a SwStk% in double digits. That’s a major plus, as he has posted some weak BABIP marks and needs to ensure his batting average isn’t a killer.

Overall, he’s kind of a mystery to me, as I’m not sure what to expect for his FB% and his HR/FB rate needs to increase to match with his more impressive ISO marks. He doesn’t steal many bases, so hope the decline in power with the Reds Triple-A team was the fluke and his new home park boosts his output. He looks like an NL-only play right now.

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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