New Everyday Starters — Sep 21, 2021

During these last two weeks of the season, all that matters right now is playing time. And playing time changes a lot at the end of the season as out-of-contention teams look toward the future and veterans on teams that have wrapped things up might get an extra day of rest here and there. So let’s bring back the look at new everyday starters and discuss four of them.

Jose Rojas | LAA 2B/3B/OF

Rojas has been up and down this year, but was recalled last Wednesday and has started against right-handers each game since. He looks to be in a true platoon with Juan Lagares in right field, giving him potential value the rest of the way, depending on how many lefties the Angels figure to face.

Rojas is already 28, so he’s not exactly a prospect. But he has posted double digit HR/FB rates at each of his last three minor league stints and dramatically improved his strikeout rate and SwStk% during his time at Triple-A this season. You wouldn’t know it based on his batting average because of a low BABIP, but that added contact combined with his 40%+ FB% could mean a couple of homers the rest of the way. He’s not much of a basestealer, but isn’t a complete zero, so he could surprise with one or two. In some leagues, that could be the difference of a point, so it’s worth considering.

Given that the Angels have been decimated by injuries, there’s little reason to think Rojas won’t finish out the season on the strong side of a platoon. His multiple position eligibility also means it’ll be easier for you to find a spot for him in your roster.

Jace Peterson | MIL 1B/2B/3B/OF

Peterson has started seven straight games for the Brewers, between left and right fields, and first base. He has been taking the spot of Avisail Garcia, who has been hampered by a back issue. Garcia was potentially expected to return last Saturday, but that never happened, so you have to wonder how much longer the injury will keep him out, giving Peterson more opportunities.

Peterson is the definition of a journeyman, having played for five teams now since his 2014 debut. He owns strong plate discipline skills, walking at a double digit clip and striking out at a lower than league average level, while keeping his SwStk% in single digits. His power is below average, but he has upped his FB% to a career best this year, while posting the second best HR/FB rate of his career (excluding last year’s small sample), so he could at least contribute as an average source of homers for a middle infielder.

His best contribution has come from his speed, as he’s swiped 10 bases and has been caught just once. For as long as he’s starting, he’s a potentially nice little all-around contributor and is eligible nearly everywhere.

Alfonso Rivas | CHC OF

Rivas was recalled at the end of August, but is just now starting to earn significant playing time, earning starts in second of the last seven games. He didn’t start on Sunday against a same-handed pitcher, which makes it tempting to call platoon here. But he started against the previous lefty, so who knows.

Rivas was only ranked as the 57th best Cubs prospect heading into the season (I had no idea we ranked that deep!), so he wasn’t exactly on fantasy owners’ radars. The 24-year-old hasn’t shown much power in the minors, but his HR/FB rate did tick up at each level and settled just below double digits at Triple-A this year. Still, with a sub-30% FB%, that’s just not enough to expect much, or any, power and homers the rest of the way.

He has also stolen just two bases since 2019, so he doesn’t own any speed either. It’s always a surprise to find a minor league who has limited power and no speed. What he does potentially offer is batting average. Although his strikeout rates are nothing special, he has posted a BABIP of at least .351 in each of his minor league stints. That has only resulted in .280+ batting averages because of the lack of power and merely decent strikeout rates, but if his power increases, he’ll be a better source of average.

He has also walked at low-to-mid teen rates, so he’s been a real on base machine in the minors. That gives him significantly more value in OBP leagues, but also means he’ll stay in the lineup more frequently. Depending on your league’s format, Rivas might be one of those dreaded “better in real life” players than in fantasy.

Kole Calhoun | ARI OF

Welcome back…again! Calhoun has been crushed by injuries this year, having missed significant time twice already, so he has only recorded 154 plate appearances. So this is more of a reminder that once again, he’s back. Though with the Diamondbacks sporting the second worst record in baseball, there’s no guarantee Calhoun will be a regular the rest of the way.

Last year, Calhoun posted career bests in walk rate, HR/FB rate, and ISO, so despite his age (now 33), there’s nothing here suggesting age-related decline has begun to severely impact his performance. Of course, that was over half a season, and this year, his power output is down to career lows. But again, the sample is small and between injuries so it doesn’t make sense to conclude anything just yet. Calhoun could play regularly, at least against righties, or be benched more often as the team chooses to start younger players. But the upside is a bunch of homers and RBIs.

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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2 years ago

You do know that Avisail Garcia returned yesterday, don’t you?

Although, Peterson did get another start tonight with Yelich taking a day off.