Travis Jankowski & Kaleb Cowart: Deep League Wire

In just a couple of weeks, deep league waiver wires across the land will be overflowing with options as rosters expand. But you don’t have to wait until September as a pair of minor leaguers will be making their debut and are expected to get near regular at-bats for the time being!

Travis Jankowski | OF SD | CBS 0% Owned

WHO??? Yeah, I had no idea either. Yesterday, Wil Venable was traded to the Rangers, which created an opening in center field for the Padres. Rather than let Melvin Upton Jr. (I can’t believe I finally allowed myself to call him Melvin for the first time) continue to prove that he is done as a hitter, the team will recall Jankowski to man the position. But as a left-handed batter who posted just a .652 OPS versus southpaws in his career, he’ll likely only start against righties. That’s fine though as that will be the majority of games.

Jankowski made our list of top Padres prospects heading into the season, ranking at 11. The key quote is that “scouts are hoping for a 4th outfielder speed/defense fit”, which doesn’t exactly sounds exciting for fantasy owners. But, we know that standard fantasy league scoring vastly overvalues stolen bases. And guess where Jankowski excels? That very category! His immense speed has made him one of baseball’s most compelling fringe prospects. Although his hit and power tool grades are poor, that 70 speed score is fantastic. And he has parlayed that excellent speed into steals. He has stolen as many as 71 bases in a season, which came back in 2013, and had stolen 32 so far this year over 434 plate appearances.

The speed alone should get him a look in nearly any format, but he may even have some batting average potential. Aside from some inflated strikeout rates (for a guy with no power) back in 2012 and 2013 at Single-A and High-A, he has generally posted strikeout rates in the low teens and was at just 8.8% at Triple-A this year, with more walks than strikeouts. Plus, his career minor league BABIP is .341 and he hits a ton of ground balls, as he should. Since he has shown some ability to take a walk, it’s not inconceivable that he finds his way to the top of the lineup. He’s an under the radar callup who will be much better in fantasy than real life and deserves an aggressive bid.

Kaleb Cowart | 3B LAA | 2% Owned

Conor Gillaspie’s release (who was filling in for David Freese at third) opened the door for Cowart, who debuted last night. Before discussing Cowart’s offensive/fantasy potential, let’s take a step back here. So if I understand this correctly, the Angels now have Kole Calhoun, Kaleb Cowart and Collin Cowgill?! Fun times. My head is spinning. Freese has been sidelined with a finger injury and might return sometime soon. Which means that Cowart’s value is more of the short-term variety.

Cowart was a first rounder back in 2010, but he stopped hitting after 2012, which resulted in him being ranked just 18th among Angels prospects this preseason. But he has turned things around somewhat this year, as his walk rate has improved and the power that vanished in 2013 and 2014 has popped back up to say hello. It’s not the type of power that will excite anyone, mind you, but a rebound back to prior levels.

But power wasn’t exactly his primary fantasy asset, it was the fact that he had some of it, but mixed that with good speed. He stole 29 bases last year and had 12 this season before his promotion. I love the power/speed combo guys because it provides some downside protection. Since he should play regularly until Freese returns, he’s a nice short-term stopgap to replace your injury or sucky hitter.

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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Emcee Peepants
Emcee Peepants

The Angels could also recall Kyle Kubitza.


don’t forget Christopher (CJ) Cron!