One potential avenue to finding a playing time gem is searching for those who are out of options and thus cannot be sent down to the minors without having to clear waivers. Some of these guys would clear waivers and wouldn’t be great even with some playing time, but I’m still including them just to be thorough. I’ll obviously highlight my favorites. The new 26-man roster will definitely save quite a few of these guys.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Renato Núñez – It might seem odd to call someone coming off a 31 HR-99 RBI season “fringe” but tell that to Chris Carter. That said, he’ll be on the club, likely the full-time DH, and a safe bet for another 25+ HR.
Hanser Alberto – Coming off an insane out-of-nowhere season, Alberto has a secured spot after hitting .305 in 550 PA, but it was heavily influenced by short-side platoon domination. He hit .398/.414/.534 against lefties with a .435 BABIP and .238/.269/.340 against righties with a .237 BABIP. Don’t overpay.
Pedro Severino – Backup catcher with some AL-only 2C appeal.
Richard Ureña – Glove-only utilityman.
Boston Red Sox
Tzu-Wei Lin – Glove-only utilityman.
New York Yankees
Mike Tauchman – The 29-year old OF isn’t going to get sent down but playing time could be a bit challenging if they favor Miguel Andújar’s bat over his. He will make the roster, but let’s keep an eye on Spring Training for news on his playing time.
Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto Blue Jays
Anthony Alford – It’s sink or swim for the one-time Top 100 prospect and he might find himself on the short side of the platoon to start the season because…
Derek Fisher – …is also out of options and frankly has been much better in the minors recently and has 360 more MLB plate appearances than Alford (419 to 59).
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
Christian Arroyo – Glove-only utilityman.
Kansas City Royals
Bubba Starling – Former Top 5 pick made his debut last year which is almost a feat in itself after the trajectory of his minor league record, but the bat just wasn’t there and it’s hard to see the 27-year old surging at this point.
Jeimer Candelario – The 26-year old just capped off his winter with a Dominican League MVP and has shown some flashes in the past only to be slowed by injury. If his swing from the left side is working, there’s 25-homer potential in this bat as the playing time path is wide open.
Dawel Lugo – He was the headliner in the J.D. Martinez deal… neat. A 63 wRC+ in 389 MLB PA says there isn’t much to get excited about here while Candelario and Jonathan Schoop block him off from regular time.
Chicago White Sox
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Los Angeles Angels
Brian Goodwin – He had three months with a 1.000+ OPS and three months at .651 or lower. The bottom line was a passable .796 in 458 PA and it was likely enough to give the Angels confidence that he can be a reasonable placeholder for Jo Adell.
Dustin Garneau – Probably a once-a-week kind of guy behind Martin Maldonado.
Jorge Mateo – Here we go, finally something to sink our teeth into. His blazing speed has seen his steal 46 bases per 500 PA and he even flexed some of his raw power with the bouncy ball in Triple-A last year, clubbing 19 HR in 566 PA (33 in 2534 before that). Unfortunately, there is some competition for Mateo and they are in the same situation as him as you’re about to find out.
Franklin Barreto – Let’s not freak out on a 209 PA sample spread out over three years, but Barreto has just a 57 wRC+ and 41% K rate in that time. He has held interest by continually hitting well at Triple-A (.861 OPS in 1285 PA). He has a diverse set of skills with some power and speed in his profile. Can he overtake Mateo and this next guy for second base, the lone available spot in the A’s starting lineup?
Tony Kemp – The A’s trading for Kemp a couple weeks ago was a major wet blanket on the Mateo and Barreto hype trains and not necessarily because Kemp is markedly better, but rather because it’s just another body fighting for that limited time. Kemp has spent most of his major league time in the outfield, though it’s hard to see him getting much time out there with Mark Canha, Ramón Laureano, and Stephen Piscotty firmly situated in the outfield.
While Mateo is my favorite because of his potential upside with a role, he’s arguably third in line here as he’s never made the majors. Of course, maybe that makes him a candidate to get traded to a team where time won’t be an issue.
Daniel Vogelbach – Vogey probably would’ve been a better comparison for Chris Carter as Nunez can actually get on the field at 1B or 3B while Vogelbach and Carter are true DH-only types. Vogelbach’s power is unquestioned, though he’s a batting average sinkhole and should probably only play against righties, but his role seems safe.
Sam Travis – This might not be the worst landing spot as Ronald Guzman hardly has a firm grasp on first base, but at the same time, Travis hasn’t shown enough with the bat to really drive interest, especially at an offensive position like first base.
My favorites for deep league drafts: Candelario, Tauchman, Mateo, Fisher, and Murphy