Peripheral Prospects, Ep. 1.11

Sorry for the late post, y’all. With Memorial Day, spending time with nieces and nephews, and then getting sick because of said nieces and nephews, it has been a bumpy week.

It’s a good mission statement, Brad. The mission statement in question: Peripheral Prospects seeks to identify obscure future fantasy contributors. That seems good, right? Let’s roll with it.

I missed last week with travel and then subsequent illness. There’s a lot housekeeping to catch up on!

  • Last week, I made a joke about never playing a day of baseball in my life as a way of poking fun at guys who criticize nerds like me. I just want the record to show I have, indeed, played a day of baseball in my life. I suddenly felt very self-conscious about that.
  • Cavan Biggio (Week 3, W4) got the call on May 24 and should become an everyday fixture in a mostly depleted lineup. He’s a power-speed-contact threat, but his patience makes him more of a low-average, high-OBP hitter at the onset.
  • Frank Schwindel (W2, W5) was released by the Royals and signed by the Tigers May 28.
  • Mike Tauchman (W1) was optioned May 15.
  • Zack Granite (W1) was recalled May 29, presumably as a more effective bench bat and fourth outfielder until Willie Calhoun returns from the Injured List. Granite could easily join the ranks of Willians Astudillo and David Fletcher as extremely contact-oriented high-average hitters if the Rangers let him.
  • Myles Straw (W1) was recalled May 29 in the wake of the Carlos Correa rubdown. They had been giving him reps at shortstop in addition to in the outfield. He’s primarily a stolen base threat who possesses the kind of contact skills/plate discipline that could make him more than a one-dimensional speedster.
  • Drew Anderson (W2) was optioned May 24.
  • Garrett Cooper (W3) was reinstated from the IL May 11 and has been batting cleanup in a pathetic Marlins lineup.
  • Luis Rengifo (W3) was recalled May 21 in the wake of the Andrelton Simmons injury. He’s more bat than run at this point, somewhere in between David Fletcher and Myles Straw on the contact-speed spectrum.
  • Erik Swanson (W5) was optioned May 17. His first start was good, but the rest were terrible. I’m keeping the faith. Remember how bad Jose Berrios‘ debut was? (I know Berrios was in another world in terms of prospect quality. Just trying to view this with rose-colored glasses.)
  • Tyler Beede (W6) was recalled May 30.
  • Josh Naylor (W6) was recalled May 24 to serve as designated hitter for a 6-game road trip in the American League. As a 21-year-old in AAA, he synthesized his plus power with identical numbers of strikeouts and walks (a good thing). His first cup of tea has been rocky, but in a sea of fringy Padres prospects, his promotion is a good measure of the Padres’ faith in Naylor as a part of their future.
  • Devin Smeltzer (W9) made his debut May 28 and torched the Brewers, notching six shutout innings with seven strikeouts and no walks. Granted, Swanson’s debut was solid, but Smeltzer was in complete control. It remains to be seen if his deceptiveness can get him through the order three times repeatedly.

Whew. Some hits and misses in there, as is bound to happen in small samples with relatively unknown quantities.

Here are your Week 10 peripheral prospects.

Austin Allen | 25 | SDP | C (MLB)

1st appearance

Allen just recently got the call by the Padres. A 25-year-old catcher theoretically buried by Austin Hedges and Francisco Mejia, Allen caught my eye the past couple of years hitting 44 home runs in just over 1,000 plate appearances. Although his plate discipline left something to be desired — he struck out roughly thrice as often as he walked — his swinging strike rate (SwStr%) was right around league-average, and an above-average batting average on balls in play (BABIP) kept his overall slash line afloat (.287/.352/.501, 129 wRC+).

The BABIP element of this discussion is fairly important. In any given season, MLB catcher BABIP is 10 to 20 points lower than the rest of the league. Allen has demonstrated a satisfactory line drive stroke that could play up, in relative terms, at the big-league level. In pairing it with a 25-homer power, he becomes pretty interesting given full-time playing time — something he is far from possessing.

Per our Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel: “It’s All-Star offensive ability for a catcher, it’s just that most of the industry doesn’t like him at the position.” Meanwhile, Hedges is a superior framer but poor hitter, and Mejia is, I don’t know, stuck in limbo? It makes Allen interesting in an injury-stash kind of way.

Will Craig | 24 | PIT | 1B (AAA)

1st appearance

Sure, Kevin Cron hit 21 home runs in Triple-A before the end of May. Sure, Josh Bell has hit nearly as many as the Pirates’ actual primary first baseman. But what about Will Craig, hypothetical Pittsburgh first baseman of the future?

In all seriousness, Craig’s 15 home runs through 200 PA and change are nothing to sneeze at. The overall production is not otherworldly — a 126 wRC+ is very adequate for someone hoping to produce consistently at the big-league level, and especially so for a first baseman. The profile is nonetheless interesting: a 12.0% SwStr with a nearly .300 isolated power (ISO) is a solid combo, and the elevated fly ball rate (40.6% FB) helps the power play up. I’m not the first RotoGrapher to take notice of Craig (Shelly Verougstraete wrote him up here).

Per McDongenhagen: “we like Craig’s chances of hitting for enough power to profile at first base more now than we did a year ago. His profile is almost exactly like that of Astros 3B/1B J.D. Davis.” Ultimately, the question becomes: Will Craig, or won’t Craig? (Don’t worry, I hate me, too.)

Luis Arraez | 22 | MIN | 2B (MLB)

1st appearance

Arraez is the quintessential Peripheral Prospect. At Double-A this year, he hit… well, he hit zero home runs. Zero! In 164 PA. He did steal three bases, though. What he did do, in earnest, was control the strike zone, walking 18 times (11.0%) and striking out only 13 (7.9%) while hitting a robust .342/.415/.397 (146 wRC+). There’s virtually no pop here, but the bat-to-ball skills plus the batted ball efficacy creates valuable results, even if those results are not flashy.

Arraez is not quite as aggressive as Astudillo or Fletcher, which makes me think more fondly of a Jeff McNeil type, albeit with less power. (The irony of me saying that, of course, is McNeil has just two home runs this year in 189 PA, whereas the allegedly powerless Arraez hit one in his fourth game.) Ultimately, it might be empty average, but it’ll be average nonetheless, in a way that has made hitters like Nick Markakis and Ben Zobrist underrated fantasy produces for the better part of a decade.

Per McDongenhagen: “The type of contact Arraez makes is unique. He employs a punchy, minimalist swing […] leading to lots of opposite field contact. […] Arraez has hit for enough contact to outweigh the total lack of game power.” Yep, sounds about right. As far as statistical comps ago, I envision a discount Fletcher or, again, a poor man’s McNeil, which is somewhat interesting in deep (especially AL-only) formats.

Jack Mayfield | 28 | HOU | SS/2B (MLB)

1st appearance

Mayfield warrants your attention for reasons beyond Correa breaking his rib. In 41 games at Triple-A, Mayfield hit 10 home runs with a .283/.365/.572 slash line (124 wRC+). Will it surprise you? No, it won’t: he walked a lot, and struck out a little. The 15.7% strikeout rate (K%) and 11.2% walk rate (BB%) suggest sufficient polish for a .289 ISO at Triple-A to play up. While Straw is perhaps the more intriguing fantasy play from youth and contribution perspectives, Mayfield is interesting in his own right.

There’s not much written about Mayfield historically, although he made Chris Mitchell’s KATOH Guide to the 2017 Rule 5 Draft, and I swore by KATOH during its lifetime (RIP). That list happened to include Mike Ford, Schwindel, Erick Mejia (a probable future Peripheral Prospect), Josh VanMeter (a quintessential Peripheral Prospect), and Franmil Reyes (the GOAT), by the way.

Ljay Newsome | 22 | SEA | SP (A+)

2nd appearance

Newsome is still at High-A Modesto. Since I last wrote about him, 15-plus innings ago, he has struck out 21 hitters and walked just two. His line for the season stands at 2.95 ERA (2.39 FIP), 35.0% K, and 2.9% BB in 61 innings.

So, just reminding the Mariners that Newsome has nothing left to prove at High-A, fellas. Let’s pit this kid against superior competition. Thanks!

* * *

The Board

Peripheral Prospects
Name Age Team Pos Level Weeks Points Notes
Zac Gallen 23 MIA SP AAA W4, W6, W8 3
Jacob Wilson 28 WAS 2B AAA W6, W7, W8 3
Cavan Biggio 23 TOR 2B MLB W3, W4 2 Recalled 5/24
Jake Cronenworth 25 TBR SS AAA W4, W5 2
Frank Schwindel 27 DET 1B AAA W2, W5 2 Released by KCR, signed 5/28
Ljay Newsome 22 SEA SP A+ W9, W11 2
Mike Tauchman 28 NYY OF AAA W1 1 Optioned 5/15
Zack Granite 26 TEX OF MLB W1 1 Recalled 5/29
Myles Straw 24 HOU OF MLB W1 1 Recalled 5/29
Nick Neidert 22 MIA SP AAA W1 1
Matt Swarmer 25 CHC SP AAA W1 1
Ildemaro Vargas 27 ARI 3B MLB W2 1
Drew Jackson 25 BAL OF AAA W2 1
Spencer Turnbull 26 DET SP MLB W2 1
Drew Anderson 25 PHI SP AAA W2 1 Optioned 5/24
Garrett Cooper 28 MIA 1B/OF MLB W3 1 Reinstated from IL 5/11
Ryan Hartman 24 HOU SP AAA W3 1
Luis Rengifo 22 LAA 2B/SS MLB W3 1 Recalled 5/21
Brett Sullivan 25 TBR C AAA W3 1
Enyel De Los Santos 23 PHI SP AAA W4 1
Luis Barrera 23 OAK OF AA W4 1
Erik Swanson 25 SEA SP AAA W5 1 Optioned 5/17
Denyi Reyes 22 BOS SP AA W5 1
Nick Solak 24 TBR 2B AAA W5 1
Rhett Wiseman 24 WAS OF AA W6 1
Tyler Beede 25 SFG SP MLB W6 1 Recalled 5/30
Lucas Sims 24 CIN SP AAA W6 1
Josh Naylor 22 SDP 1B/OF MLB W7 1 Recalled 5/24
Matt Beaty 25 LAD 1B MLB W7 1 Recalled 4/30
Josh Rojas 25 HOU 1B/2B AAA W7 1 Promoted to AAA 5/29
Eli Morgan 22 CLE SP AA W7 1 Promoted to AA 5/10
Rylan Bannon 23 BAL 2B/3B AA W8 1
Jorge Ona 22 SDP OF AA W8 1
Zach Plesac 24 CLE SP AA W8 1
Devin Smeltzer 23 MIN SP MLB W9 1 Recalled 5/28
Parker Markel 28 SEA RP AAA W9 1
Garrett Whitlock 22 NYY SP AA W9 1
Danny Mendick 25 CHW 2B/SS AAA W9 1
Vince Fernandez 23 COL OF AA W10 1
Jake Rogers 24 DET C AAA W10 1
Kevin Cron 26 ARI 1B MLB W10 1 Recalled 5/23
Daniel Palka 27 CWS OF AAA W10 1
Austin Allen 25 SDP C MLB W11 1 Recalled 5/12
Will Craig 24 PIT 1B AAA W11 1
Luis Arraez 22 MIN 2B MLB W11 1 Recalled 5/17
Jack Mayfield 28 HOU 2B/SS MLB W11 1 Recalled 5/26
Blue = exhausted rookie eligibility
Yellow = MLB active

We hoped you liked reading Peripheral Prospects, Ep. 1.11 by Alex Chamberlain!

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Currently investigating the relationship between pitcher effectiveness and beard density. Biased toward a nicely rolled baseball pant. Reigning FSWA Baseball Writer of the Year and 5-time award finalist. Featured in Lindy's Sports' Fantasy Baseball magazine (2018, 2019). Now a Tout Wars competitor.

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Totally agree, RE: Newsome that he needs to be challenged in AA. Such a pleasant surprise this season for we Mariner fans!