On the Bubble Hitters without Options – American League

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

Baltimore Orioles

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

Ji-Man Choi – As one of several 1B/DH candidates, his lack of options will no doubt help him stay on the roster over the likes of a Nate Lowe, who still has two options.

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

Cleveland Indians

Christian Arroyo – Glove-only utilityman.

Kansas City Royals

Brett Phillips – Defensive and speed specialist which isn’t a great fit on the Royals with three starting OF who range from great to solid defensively (Alex Gordon, Whit Merrifield, & Hunter Dozier).

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.

Detroit Tigers

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.

Minnesota Twins

none

Chicago White Sox

none

 

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.

Max Stassi – Should earn the short side platoon with Jason Castro.

Houston Astros

Dustin Garneau – Probably a once-a-week kind of guy behind Martin Maldonado.

Oakland Athletics

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.

Seattle Mariners

Tom Murphy – The departure of Omar Narváez opens the door for Murphy to assume the primary catcher role on the heels of a breakout season (126 wRC+, 18 HR in 281 PA).

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.

Texas Rangers

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

We hoped you liked reading On the Bubble Hitters without Options – American League by Paul Sporer!

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Anon
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Anon

Fun with Baseball Savant: there were 38 guys with at least 3 balls with a 113+ MPH EV last year. Renato Nunez and Jeimer Candelario were 2 of those 38.

I’ve always thought max EV was an interesting stat to look at for guys to keep an eye on. Seems to me if a guy can hit one that hard once, either he’s swinging out of his shoes at everything (I see you there Mike Zunino), or maybe, just maybe, he has the ability to generate more bat speed than most and maybe he can learn to hit more and more balls near that max velo. Ketel Marte is an example. He didn’t have any at 113 and only 3 at 110 in 2017 . Then in 2018 he had 12 over 110, 3 over 113 and 1 over 115. Last year it was 19, 5 and 2.

Anon
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Anon

Just to expand on the thought, here’s the entire list of guys who hit one at 115+ last year, divided into groups:

NO DUH
Vlad, Alonso, Sanchez, Judge, Abreu, Yelich Yordan Alvarez, Schwarber, Cruz, Trout, Harper, Ketel Marte, Avisail, Josh Bell, Tatis Jr, Acuna, Moncada, Soler, Meadows, Gallo, Ozuna, Ohtani, Devers, Franmil

Some names in there might surprise some people (Tatis?), but for the most part these guys’ place is set and nobody is adjusting these guys based on max EV. (Though I will say, interesting factoids on Vlad: He had the 3 hardest hit balls on the year and he hit 8 balls over 115 last year. In the entire Stacast era, the list of guys who’ve hit 8 or more balls in a season at 115+ is Stanton, Judge and Gallo. That’s it. (Well, OK, it also includes Daniel Palka) He’s already tied for 9th for most 115 mph batted balls since 2015 even though he only played part of last year. He had 1 more last year than Mike Trout has since 2015.)

WHO CARES
Carlos Gomez and Justin Bour.

Not fantasy relevant. I’ve always wondered how Bour’s career might have turned out if somebody had given him the every day gig earlier. He posted basically the same stats at every level from rookie ball to the majors and that’s weird.

MIKE ZUNINO
His own category. I can’t put him with the no duh group even though he fits there in some sense. I also can’t put him with the who cares group because he’s still fantasy relevant as a catcher with pop. You just kind of know what you’re getting with him – he might hit 30 HR, he also might hit .180.

THE INTRIGUING GROUP
Aquino, CJ Cron, Tellez, Josh Naylor, Hunter Dozier.

Maybe Avisail belongs here also. Maybe Dozier belongs in the no duh list. Aquino hit one ball 118.3 but none other over 113 and faces a lineup crunch. Tellez hit 3 over 113 but also faces a lineup crunch. Naylor isn’t even projected to make the opening day roster (actually, his teammate Franchy Cordero didn’t play last year so he isn’t on this list but he had 6 balls over 115 in 2018). The most interesting name on here by far is Cron. He tied for the major league lead in 113 mph batted balls with 15 (with Aaron Judge). His ballpark won’t do him favors but he has an unimpeded path to playing time and projects to bat 4th which is valuable no matter how bad the team.

mwallach
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mwallach

Tellez is very interesting. I can see why the Jays signed Shaw and will give him playing time, but at the same time, they should be giving looks to their younger guys right now. Tellez has never had a full season’s worth of ABs in a season, but he’s had interesting batted ball, especially last season

Anon
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Anon

Tellez was the 1st guy that jumped out at me when I started digging into max EV earlier this year. I agree on Shaw – I think that was a savvy signing – and I think that presents a major issue for Tellez because 1B or DH is his only shot at playing time because he can’t play anywhere else and even though Shaw can play 3B and (theoretically) 2B, those are taken. If Shaw hits, Tellez probably isn’t even on the roster because it isn’t like there is some older vet for him to push aside. Their whole starting lineup is under 30 (at this moment that is, Shaw turns 30 right at the start of the season). Even their projected bench is all under 30 with most everyone well under 30.

(As an aside, the Jays strike me as the sleeper team this year. The pitching staff is all duct tape and bailing wire but if it holds and their young guys develop a little, they could be good)

As to Tellez, he’s a tough guy to get a bead on. In the minors he showed decent plate discipline with modest pop. Suddenly in the last year and a half he’s turned into a total free swinger with decent pop. He used to hit few line drives but has turned into a line drive machine, but unlike most line drive hitters he pops up a lot.

carter
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carter

Aquino could be anywhere from a one hit wonder to a first round draft choice next year. His steamer projection is quite nice. And he actually has elite top end speed, and threw the hardest ball in the entire mlb last year. So… There is potential there. Guy could go 40/20 or be in the minors, unsure what the most likely scenario is. Truthfully I’m fading him as much as I like him because I think pitchers figures him out, lots of call ups mash immediately and unsure on pt. A good fantasy rule is draft talent before job, and this goes against my rule.. But here I am. I guess im unsure on his actual talent.