It’s an exciting time in the fantasy world when the calendar flips to September, as rosters expand, resulting in call-ups galore. New players get opportunities for playing time and it gives us fantasy owners a chance to plug some holes with a month to go in the season.
Sheldon Neuse | 3B OAK | CBS 4% Owned
The Athletics couldn’t wait until Sept 1 to call up Neuse, as the team jumped the gun by a couple of days by promoting him on the 29th. He has started three of five games since, two at second base and one at DH. Heading into the season, we ranked Neuse as the eighth best Athletics prospect, but noted that it was imperative he enjoys a bounce back 2019 offensive performance after a dismal .295 wOBA at Triple-A last year. That performance was driven by a low walk rate, too many strikeouts, and absolutely no power.
Fortunately, Neuse became a new man this year, making our ranking look good. During his second tour of Triple-A, he boosted his walk rate into double digits for the first time, dramatically reduced his strikeout rate, and raised his HR/FB rate above 20%. He increased his wOBA nearly 100 points! Now that’s a bounce back.
We thought the power potential was always there, despite the pathetic .094 ISO in 2018, as his Raw Power was rated a 60 and future Game Power a 50. Aside from the power, he has shown a strong batted ball distribution for BABIP, hitting tons of line drives, and avoiding the dreaded pop-up. It’s how he has been able to maintain a BABIP above .380 during both his Triple-A stints. An inflated BABIP will also help keep his batting average respectable in case his strikeout rate jumps too high.
Obviously, playing time is going to be a question. While Khris Davis hasn’t been his normal self all year, you figure he’ll remain the every day DH. But Neuse does have experience at multiple positions, so he doesn’t need to be locked into one to see some reasonable playing time. There are multiple paths here and given his power breakout, he’s worth a speculative add in deep leagues.
Ronald Guzman | 1B TEX | 4% Owned
Guzman opened the season as the Rangers’ starting first baseman, but a putrid .285 wOBA earned him a demotion to Triple-A in late July. The interesting thing is his skills actually looked pretty good and much improved from last year. He boosted his walk rate into double digits, while turning some grounders and fly balls into line drives. Normally, that would have a positive effect on BABIP, but instead that mark took a nosedive, declining from .299 last year to just .240 this year. That sounds like some bad luck over a rather small sample size.
The BABIP luck returned in Triple-A, as it settled in all the way up at .383. Obviously, he’s not a true talent .383 guy and he’s not going to get anywhere close to that, especially as a left-handed batter prone to the pulled grounder into the shift. But it does suggest that he’s unlikely to continue being a major BABIP drain, hitting .195.
While it appears that Guzman isn’t going to start against lefties, there’s no reason for the Rangers not to just play him every day against right-handers for the rest of the season. The team isn’t making he playoffs, and it’s pointless for them to play Logan Forsythe there like they had, rather than a guy who could be part of their future.
Given Guzman’s size, I keep expecting him to enjoy a major power spike, but over his career, he has only managed a mid-teen HR/FB rate at best, and he’s never posted an ISO above this season’s .200, which has come over a small sample. There are real flaws here, but with some power and possible strong side platoon at-bats the rest of the way, he’s a worthy guy to plug your corner infield hole.
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.