Baseball in 2015 has finally begun! Well, the version that actually counts has. So it’s time to dig deep and uncover those hidden gems that could lead you to victory. As usual, the deep league wire will include names owned in 10% and less of CBS leagues and usually be players whose value is confined to deep mixed or mono leagues, unless otherwise noted.
Trevor Cahill | SP ATL | CBS 10% Owned
The Diamondbacks entered spring training with about 67 starting pitchers battling it out for just five rotation spots. They also had Tommy John surgery returnees to look forward to later on in the year in the form of both Patrick Corbin and Bronson Arroyo. So it wasn’t too surprising that the D-Backs chose to reduce some of that serious depth by trading away Cahill last week. After a fortunate BABIP-fueled breakout season back in 2010 with the Athletics, Cahill has oscillated around league average levels, before bottoming out with a 5.61 ERA last year in Arizona.
But if we look past the surface stats, we find that his overall peripherals package remained similar to where it has always been. He was done in by absolutely atrocious defense this time around, which also deflated his LOB%. But his strikeout rate actually jumped to a career high, likely boosted by his relief appearances. Both his changeup and curve ball were fantastic at inducing swinging strikes. The move to Atlanta should benefit Cahill, as he gets out of a difficult environment for pitchers to a much more pitcher friendly park. He’s obviously not going to get much run support, but his ratios should improve significantly.
Of course, he has apparently changed his mechanics which Eno has already discussed. So we cannot necessarily rely on his historical skill metrics to get a good idea of what to expect from him. But he’s got the extreme ground ball profile and shown the ability to punch out hitters at around a league average clip. So the seeds are there and perhaps the new mechanics could help him improve the last piece of the puzzle — his control.
Ryan Rua | OF TEX | 7%
The Rangers entered spring training with literally five candidates for the starting left field job. Rua was the lucky man to win out, though fantasy owners don’t seem so enthused. Last year, our own prospect guru Kiley McDaniel rated him as just the 21st best prospect in the Rangers system and considered him having “corner utility/platoon” upside. His power is his best tool, though outside his monstrous 2013 performance at Single-A where he posted a .308 ISO, he hasn’t exceeed a .192 mark at any other level.
The projections suggest that a full-season would yield about 15 homers, which is nothing special for an outfielder. But he does pair that with a touch of speed. He swiped 14 bases in 2013 and seven last year, which isn’t anything exciting to be sure. But it means that perhaps he could steal 5-10 bases over a full season. If his ultimate upside over a full season is 15 homers and 10 steals, that’s pretty darn valuable in a deep league.
Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the greatest of job security. Jake Smolinski is no standout, but he remains on the roster as a bench bat, while former prospect Michael Choice toils away in the minors. If Rua stumbles, either of those two could conceivably take over. But that’s why Rua is strictly a deep leaguer at this point.
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.