New Everyday Players — Sep 7, 2023

More new everyday players, more new everyday players!

Xavier Edwards | MIA 2B

Jorge Soler hitting the IL has opened up a spot in the lineup and Edwards might be one of the primary beneficiaries as the team’s new starting second baseman. The seventh ranked prospect on the Marlins, Edwards was given 60/65 Hit and 70/70 Speed grades, which sounds like a recipe for a strong fantasy contributor.

The 23-year-old swiped 32 bases at Triple-A this year in about two-thirds of a season, getting caught just four times. He swiped just seven last year though in only 11 attempts in close to the same number of PAs. I’m not sure why his steals plummeted last year, but it’s a good sign that he’s back to swiping bases again.

With a 60/65 Hit grade, you would expect some high batting average potential too. First off, his plate discipline metrics have been fantastic. He struck out just 6.9% of the time this year and walked nearly double the amount at a 12% clip. He also posted just a 4.6% SwStk%. This is like a dream strikeout and walk rate combo, as often you see guys who make great contact put the ball in play before taking a walk, so both marks will be single digits. It’s quite impressive that he is still walking at double digits while making such strong contact.

He posted a .364 BABIP this year and has posted high marks at most of his minor league stops historically. He posted a weird batted ball distribution this year, though, as it was both heavy on line drives and pop-ups. However, since he doesn’t hit a lot of fly balls, the raw number of pop-ups isn’t alarming, despite the high rate of pop-ups as a percentage of his fly balls. It all led to a .351 batting average, though the projections are obviously less excited.

Batting average isn’t a great metric to bet on over a small sample size, so he’s really only appealing if you need steals right now.

Josh H. Smith | TEX SS/3B/OF

I feel like Smith always has a starting job on the strong side of a platoon, and then loses it, either moving to the bench, or getting demoted to Triple-A. Then the Rangers try alternatives and are apparently not impressed, so Smith gets yet another shot. Welp, here’s that next shot. It appears that Ezequiel Duran has fallen into a short-side platoon with Smith at third base, so perhaps the latter could hold the job this time.

The formerly ranked sixth best Rangers prospect and 78th overall, Smith looks like one of those guys who contributes a bit of everything, or at least has the potential to. He owns a touch of power, peaking at a HR/FB rate just into double digits and generally posting an ISO in the mid-.100 range. He’s apparently upped his power in the Majors this year, though, as his HR/FB rate sits at 12.5% and it’s actually backed by solid Statcast metrics, a 109.8 MPH maxEV and 9.9% Barrel%. He also hits enough fly balls to make it count, as he’s on about a 15-homer pace over a full season.

He possesses some speed too, as he swiped 13 bases last year between Triple-A and the Majors, and this came after 26 steals back in 2021. Oddly, he has only attempted one steal so far with the Rangers this year.

I like his plate discipline as well, as he has walked at a double digit clip everywhere he has played and has never posted a SwStk% higher than 8.7%. That has kept his strikeout rate reasonable most of the time, but it has spiked to 26.2% this year, even while his SwStk% is actually just below his MLB mark last year. I would guess that he has been a bit unlucky to post such a high strikeout rate given the SwStk%, and it should improve.

Finally, he has struggled to post even a league average BABIP in the Majors, but has posted strong marks in the minors. Given his excellent walk rate, it’s pretty clear that has has much more of a chance to provide deep league value in formats that count OBP instead of batting average.

Enmanuel Valdez | BOS 2B

With Pablo Reyes on the IL and Luis Urías failing to seize the everyday job, it appears that Valdez is getting to start most of the time at second base, at least against right-handed starters. We’ll see if he ends up platooning, but the team hasn’t faced a lefty starter since his recall.

Valdez isn’t a highly regarded prospect, ranking just 13th on the team this year. But, his scouting grades suggest there’s some power potential here. Sure enough, his minor league track record backs that up. He has posted double digit HR/FB rates at every single minor league stop, except for a stint at High-A back in 2019. Similarly, his ISO marks have consistently been above .200 in recent years.

This year at Triple-A, he posted a 17.9% HR/FB rate and .243 ISO, and he’s taken full advantage of his power by hitting fly balls at a 40%+ clip. That resulted in 10 homers in about a third of a season, putting him on a 30-homer pace. He has also stolen a handful of bases, though probably won’t contribute a whole lot more than something in the mid-single digits.

His BABIP has mostly been unimpressive in the minors, but he has walked at a high clip at times, mixed with some lower walk rates. So it’s hard to get a handle on his walk rate talent right now. However, it seems clear he’s not going to be a batting average asset, but could get a significant value boost in OBP leagues, depending on how much of that 15% walk rate at Triple-A is real.

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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8 months ago

Rene Pinto likely gets the bulk of catching opportunities in TB.