Playing For Next Year — Bench Bats to Consider

If you’re in a keeper league and have no shot at the money, you are playing for the future. That means potentially dropping overpriced veterans and picking up as many youngsters for cheap as possible, hoping you hit on a couple who open next season with a full-time job. If your keeper league has a minor league roster, you may even be able to keep those hitters in your minors if they don’t win a starting job next year. So let’s review five hitters who don’t currently have an every day role and wouldn’t help a contending team this year. That means it’s very likely they are still in your league’s free agent pool, depending on its depth, and they could be plucked cheaply to load your roster with potential keepers, despite not helping much, or at all, over the remaining weeks in the season.

For this exercise, I’m going to ignore the team situation and if the prospect is currently being blocked. I want to just focus on the skills and fantasy potential of the hitter, as we’ll have all Winter and Spring to see how playing time is sorted out.

Jose Siri | HOU OF

Siri was recalled at the beginning of the month, but has only started once over that time span. So he’s only accumulated nine plate appearances, which means there’s a good chance he’s available in the majority of leagues. The 25-year-old isn’t a highly regarded prospect and in fact wasn’t even ranked among the Astros top 33 heading into the season. He was merely included under the “Older, Potential Role Players” bucket, which isn’t typically where a keeper league owner would shop for a prospect.

But Siri does own some hitting skills appealing to us fantasy nerds. With 55 grade Raw Power and 60 grade Speed, that’s the kind of power/speed mix we salivate over. Since 2016, he has posted HR/FB rates in the low-to-mid teens, but ratcheted it up to a professional best 18.6% at Triple-A this season. Similarly, his ISO marks have exceeded .200 a bunch of times and sat at .235 before his recall. So it’s clear his power has translated into results and hasn’t just been promise. He has also swiped as many as 46 bases in a season and stole 24, at an excellent success rate, during his time at Triple-A this year.

Like many prospects oozing with tools, but without a high prospect ranking to match, Siri’s weakness is his ability to make contact. He has posted mid-to-high teen (or higher) SwStk% everywhere he has played, which has resulted in strikeout rates over 30% in each of his last four stints. He also doesn’t walk enough to compensate all those strikeouts.

Siri is exactly the type of prospect it’s easy to take a chance on. We know he has the power and speed to be an impact fantasy player and it’s not unheard of for prospects to suddenly make significantly better contact. So stash him if you have the room.

Jake Meyers | HOU OF

Meyers is the second Astros prospect, but unlike Siri, who at least got a mention on their top prospects list, the former was nowhere to be found. That’s because through 2019, his minor league numbers were mediocre at best and quite inconsistent. He had only recorded 100 plate appearances at Double-A in 2019, but posted just a .271 wOBA.

But then something apparently happened this year. During his first taste of Triple-A action and over a not-so-tiny sample of 304 PAs, Meyers surged to a .421 wOBA, as his power took off (20.8% HR/FB rate and .255 ISO) and his BABIP spiked to .389. Since we don’t know what happened in 2020, I take these performance improvements seriously, especially since the sample is small, but not so small as to ignore it. While his MLB sample is small, all of his improvements have carried over, with both the increased power and inflated BABIP. He also steals bases, though not to the same degree as Siri.

Weeks ago, Meyers had been playing every day, but now the Astros have a plethora of outfield options and he has mostly started against left-handed starters. The Astros probably didn’t expect him to be in consideration for their future plans, but his Triple-A performance and MLB performance so far might have them thinking there’s at least a possibility. That should be enough for you to stash him in your keeper league in case he lands a starting job next year.

Seth Beer | ARI 1B

Beer ranked 16th among Diamondbacks prospects heading into the season, so he’s the best prospect so far of the three discussed. With 60 grade Raw Power and not much else, his leash may be short if he doesn’t hit the ground running.

His power has been inconsistent in the minors, as his HR/FB rate has jumped between the low teens and at least 20%. His ISO has also bounced around, but has reached over .200 during three different minor league stints. The good news is that he has hit for respectable power while posting a better than average strikeout rate that has typically sat in the high teens. He has also posted a high rate of fly balls to make the most of that HR/FB rate.

As a left-handed hitter who is fly ball oriented, I’m going to guess his BABIP, and therefore batting average, isn’t going to be very exciting. But since he doesn’t strike out a ton, he shouldn’t be too much of a negative in average, if at all, and that’s important. I’m not sure why the Diamondbacks aren’t committing to playing him every day as the team is clearly looking toward the future. But his lack of playing time means he’s more likely to be available. I don’t think he has any chance of being the keeper of the year in your deeper league, but he has a better chance than Siri and Meyers at a full-time role next year and any regular in a deep league is going to yield nice profit compared to a couple of bucks in salary.

Andrew Young | ARI 2B

Along with Beer, Young is up with the team, having been recalled at the end of August. He actually debuted last year, earning 34 plate appearances. Young was ranked just 29th among Diamondbacks prospects, with power really being his only above average tool. But man, he has really turned on that power during his time at Triple-A both in 2019 and this year. His HR/FB rates sat in the mid-to-high 20% range, while his ISO sat at .331 in 2019 and .282 this year. Even though he’s a bit old to be a legit prospect, these are power results you need to pay attention to.

Before this season, Young never had issues striking out, posting a professional high of just 24.5%. But this year, that mark spiked to 35.4%, backed by a surge in SwStk%. It could have been a small sample fluke or perhaps an attempt to maintain his increased power, and the only way he felt he could do so is by giving up some contact. That’s just a speculated story based on the stats and not based on any actual evidence. But that he has continued to strike out often in the Majors this year suggests something may have changed.

He continues to hit for big power though, so it’s all about getting those strikeouts under control. If that happens, you have a home run hitting middle infielder for cheap.

Matt Vierling | PHI OF

Vierling was last mentioned on a Phillies top prospect list back in 2019 when he was included in the “Bat-only Types” bucket. In the minors, he has shown solid plate discipline, with double digit walk rates between Double-A and Triple-A this season, single digit SwStk% marks and sub-20% strikeout rates since 2019. That’s a good foundation.

He didn’t show a whole lot of home run power in 2018 and 2019, but his power did surge during his short time at Double-A this year before being promoted to Triple-A. Unfortunately, he couldn’t maintain that power surge and it regressed back to previous, or worse, levels. Aside from the middling power, he has also stolen some bases and generally done so at a good clip. So the potential over a full season is there for a bit of a power and speed contributor, while not being a standout asset in either category.

I think out of the five on this list, Vierling is the least exciting fantasy prospect.

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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Looking at Meyers’ Savant page this morning I was surprised to see that he’s currently 96th percentile in sprint speed, as you said, hes never run much, but the potential is there.