Still Underwater: Deep-Draft Targets, Part 2

Let’s resume our sweep through MLB in search of deep-draft value without our customary throat-clearing. This week, we’ll finish the AL and start the NL, with the remaining NL coming next week.

Angels. The Angels starter who’s being kind of ignored is Dylan Bundy (NFBC Average Draft Position 308), who’s worth a buck, maybe two if that’s what it takes. He gets plenty of strikeouts, and last season became a ground ball pitcher. Unfortunately, he did this while pitching for the Orioles and their ultra-porous infield. Now we get to see him with an infield of Fletcher-Simmons-Rendon behind him, and if we get our wish, Tommy La Stella plays first base. If not, leaving the position vacant would be an improvement over having it occupied by Albert Pujols.

Houston. We understand why Myles Straw is a reserve-round pick, but not why his ADP is as low as 560. If he plays, he will hit between .250 and .270, and he will steal a lot of bases. We see two ways that he might play some. First, when—not if—Carlos Correa hits the IL, Straw figures to start at shortstop in lieu of Aledmys Diaz, because that’s what happened last year. Second, we think that Josh Reddick is going to lose his job as the starting right fielder. Yes, Kyle Tucker will replace him and should be great. But then what happens when either George Springer or Michael Brantley gets hurt? If Springer goes down, Straw takes over in center field; if Brantley goes down, Springer moves over to left field, same result.

Oakland. In this corner, Sean Murphy, catcher, ADP 236. Elite prospect, great glove, tremendous power. Coming off knee surgery, right-handed hitter who’s had some trouble hitting anything but home runs off right-handed pitching. In that corner, Austin Allen, catcher, ADP 592. Middling prospect, about eight months older than Murphy, supposedly suspect glove but positive dWAR in his brief MLB sojourn last season. Left-handed hitter, better wRC+ than Murphy as a Padres farmhand in AAA last season, not good in 13-start callup with the Padres but .329/.378/.617 combined minors and majors against right-handed pitching. We’re not suggesting anything as audacious as a full-fledged platoon, but we think Allen will get about 200 at-bats, mostly against right-handers, and if he does he’ll hit about .260 with at least 10 home runs, which makes him a good fill-in if you need one.

Seattle. It’s anyone’s guess who’ll be the Mariners’ closer, assuming optimistically that they need one, and our guess is Dan Altavilla (ADP 750). Let’s review the other guys in the Seattle bullpen. Yoshihisa Hirano showed nothing with the Diamondbacks last season to suggest he could close games successfully. Matt Magill ended last season as the Mariners’ closer, but he’s 30 and had never before been conspicuously successful in the majors, and you know what happens to pitchers of a certain age who have brief success as closers. Sam Tuivailala gives up too many walks. So does Rule 5 pick Yohan Ramirez, and so does Carl Edwards Jr., who also has a history of blowing up whenever he inches to the front of the bullpen. Brandon Brennan did indeed have a tremendous September. But Altavilla’s was even better. He gave up a grand slam to Freddie Galvis, and that was it for the scoring against him in 10 appearances, during which he struck out 13 guys per 9. And it wasn’t even that grand a slam: it traveled only 385 feet and had a 97 mph exit velocity.

Texas. We’re long-time fans of Shin-Soo Choo, but he’s 37 and hit .234 in the second half last season (though some of that was attributable to a shoulder injury). We can envision him being replaced as DH by Adolis Garcia (ADP 739), yet another surplus Cardinal (and now former Cardinal) outfielder. Garcia strikes out a whole lot, and will struggle to cross the Mendoza line, but give him 400 at bats and he will get you 20 home runs and 10 stolen bases.

Atlanta. That’s right, Nick Markakis (ADP 450) is 36 and a serious liability in the outfield. The Braves don’t seem to care, and neither do we, not at this draft position. Before he got hurt last season, Markakis was hitting .300/.379/.462 against right-handers. Even if he winds up platooning, he figures to get at least 400 good at-bats with a helpful batting average and a dozen or more home runs, plus whatever runs and RBIs accrue from batting fifth in one of baseball’s best lineups. And this is as good a place as any to give a shoutout and offer profuse congratulations to Ariel Cohen, who last month identified Markakis as a batting average bargain and this month was named Baseball Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

Miami. Very sensibly, they’ve given up on using Jose Urena as the closer after last season’s debacle. Ryne Stanek seems to have worn out his welcome as a high-leverage guy. Yimi Garcia can be unhittable, and gets lots of strikeouts, but gives up too many home runs. Supposedly, the recently-signed Brandon Kintzler will close games, and the season will likely start that way. But Kintzler’s 36, doesn’t get strikeouts, and pitched to a .287/.333/.448 slash line in the second half, which is like saying he turned whole opposition lineups into Nicholas Castellanos, albeit without the doubles. So we like Alex Vesia (ADP 746). He started strong last year and just got better as he climbed through the minors and into the Arizona Fall League. Here are the combined AA and AFL numbers for his last 26 2/3 innings of 2019: 12 hits and 3 walks allowed, 41 strikeouts, and zero earned runs. We don’t know if the Marlins will be inclined to promote him, but wouldn’t you want to use a 50th-round draft choice on the chance that he’s the Nick Anderson of 2020, only better?

Mets. We stuck with the Yankees through the George Steinbrenner years, so heretofore the Wilpons haven’t bothered us inordinately, but Cohengate has us contemplating divorce. Fantasywise, it’s hard to unearth anything exotic here. Their pitchers seem to us to be at full value, and the Mets’ roster of hitters is so clogged and redundant that it’s impossible to say who will play where and how much. If you forced us to choose a Met in the reserve round, it would probably be Dominic Smith (ADP 408). He spent most of the second half on the IL, but when he played he cut down his strikeouts drastically and hit left-handed pitching for a change. He’s not going to supplant Peter Alonso at first base, and even a team that gave J.D. Davis (whom we quite like, by the way) 71 outfield starts doesn’t think Smith is an outfielder, so he has no place to play. If you think he’ll be traded somewhere he’ll play, he’d be worth getting at his current ADP.

Washington. In light of the injury history of the front of their starting rotation and the iffiness of the back, we recommend Austin Voth (ADP 380), who figures to find his way into the rotation eventually and is good enough to stay there. He, too, is an injury risk, since shoulder tendonitis typically recurs. Voth’s fastball jumped way up last year, and we see no reason to think it won’t happen again. He may have some trouble going more than five innings, but with this bullpen he won’t have to.

Philadelphia. We are rooting for Andrew McCutchen to come back strong from his ACL tear, and maybe he will eventually, but it took Adam Eaton a while, and Cutch is older than Eaton was. So his backup should have some value, and that backup is Jay Bruce (ADP 565), who was already looking useful. If Bruce, between playing left field and backing up Rhys Hoskins at first base, gets 300 at bats, half of them against right-handed pitching in Philadelphia, he could be an everyday Fantasy player, and will unquestionably be a useful backup.

We hoped you liked reading Still Underwater: Deep-Draft Targets, Part 2 by The Birchwood Brothers!

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The Birchwood Brothers are two guys with the improbable surname of Smirlock. Michael, the younger brother, brings his skills as a former Professor of Economics to bear on baseball statistics. Dan, the older brother, brings his skills as a former college English professor and recently-retired lawyer to bear on his brother's delphic mutterings. They seek to delight and instruct. They tweet when the spirit moves them @birchwoodbroth2.

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Jay Bruce… you’re going to make me draft him again after all these years of pain and disappointment…