Pablo Sandoval & Kevan Smith: Deep League Wire

Today’s deep league wire features a blast from the past and a hitter at a position you are almost surely in need of upgrading.

Pablo Sandoval | 3B SF | CBS 9% Owned

He’s alive, alive! You may very well have forgotten Sandoval still exists as a Major League ball player, but not only is he on the Giants active roster, he has become the team’s starting third baseman with Evan Longoria on the disabled list recovering from hand surgery. Longoria’s injury should give Sandoval plenty of time to earn some deep league value.

Sandoval’s offense first slipped in 2015 in his first year with the Red Sox. It was rather surprising, given that he was going from one of the league’s most unfavorable home parks for hitting to one that inflates doubles and BABIP. While all his skills declined marginally, most of his disappointing performance stemmed from a BABIP that tumbled to a career low. He followed that up by missing nearly the entire 2016 season with a shoulder injury that required surgery. He then stunk last season in limited action, whiffing and striking out more than ever before. We all thought he was done. He’s proving now that he isn’t.

Suddenly, his walk rate has spiked to a career high, thanks to a significant improvement in his O-Swing% (see how that works, swing at fewer pitches outside the strike zone and your walk rate rises like magic!). Interestingly, he is also swinging far less at pitches inside the zone, so he’s just become much more passive overall. The passivity is most certainly behind the surge in strikeout rate.

The good news here is that both his Hard% and HR/FB rate have jumped to career bests. So perhaps he’s finally fully recovered from his shoulder surgery. Obviously, the lineup and park will do him no favors, he hasn’t stolen a base since 2012, and the high strikeout rate, coupled with his highest BABIP since 2009 hints at batting average downside. But, he should get ample playing time hitting in the middle of the order and should be more appealing than almost any of your other options.

Kevan Smith | C CWS | 3% Owned

PED suspensions always open up playing time for a lesser known name, and that is exactly what has happened with the White Sox catching situation. Welington Castillo was hit with an 80 game suspension, opening up a spot for Smith. While some may claim that Omar Narvaez is actually the starter now, Smith has started four of the past six games.

Smith is no youngster, as he’s already 30 and certainly not the future for the organization. But in his minor league career, he has done two things well — strike out at a better than average clip and show respectable home run power for a backstop. During his last two stints at Triple-A, he has posted just a 14.5% strikeout rate, which is important for a guy who probably won’t exceed the league average BABIP.

His home run power is also interesting, as he just posted a 16.7% HR/FB rate at Triple-A before his promotion and was at 21.6% during his last 200 plate appearance campaign at the level back in 2016. Boosting his home run potential is one of the league’s best home run parks.

What does one look for in the perfect deep league second catcher? Someone who won’t kill your batting average and will hit the occasional dinger. Smith fits those desires to a T.

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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Can’t discuss Panda without discussing his complete and utter inability to hit LH pitching. That actually dates back to his last season with the Giants in 2014. He even abandoned switch-hitting for a time in 2015.

His LH numbers against RH pitchers are back to well above average this year but they come with a .400 BABIP. Even with the 46.7% hard hit rate, that’s high.

HIs RH numbers at first glance seem to show that he’s continued his trend of just not hitting LH pitching at all as he has a .255 wOBA and 60 wRC+. However his batted balls stats suggest his .174 BABIP from that side is a bit unlucky. From 2014-2017 he totally earned his poor numbers from that side as he hit few line drives, had few hard hit balls and a lot of soft contact. But this year his numbers on that side have trended the right direction – 25.0% LD, 8.3% soft, and a 29.2% hard hit rate that is still kind of low but up a lot from where he has been the last few years. Of course, he hasn’t been allowed to even face many LH pitchers this year with only 34 PA, but the numbers suggest he’s maybe been a bit unlucky from that side.

I’m still leaning toward him being strictly a platoon bat with some downside on his strong side.