Who Are These Guys?

As we push through the dog days of the summer, the backend teams of the league are churning through their reinforcements, and it is not uncommon to come across someone you just don’t know that well. You might’ve forgotten about them if they were once notable, or they may be deep on prospects lists (if they are listed at all) and you are just wholly unfamiliar with them. Let’s take a closer look at 10 such hitters and see if there might be some fantasy value to uncover.

Jorge Mateo | BAL, OF – 71 wRC+, 2 HR, 8 SB in 129 PA

Mateo might fall under the Yankee Prospect Hype Machine wherein a prospect gets a bit more juice than they deserve simply by being in the Yankees org. He was traded over to Oakland in the Sonny Gray deal where he continued to generate interest but failed to get a chance (even with a rabbit ball-fueled 19 HR season at AAA in 2019). He was traded to a worse situation when the A’s flipped him to San Diego, though he finally debuted in 2020 with a meager 20 wRC+ in 22 PA. A 57 wRC+ in another 57 PA was all San Diego needed before he was selected off waiver by Baltimore.

He started every game for the Orioles last week and has 3 SB in 9 games with the club. He still has a disastrously bad plate profile with a 28% K rate and 0% BB rate in 36 PA (in line with his 29%/2% season marks), but if you are desperate for speed, he could deliver. The key will be sustaining at least a 90-something wRC+ (he’s at 106 with them thus far) as I think the O’s would turn elsewhere if he sinks to his career 62 wRC+.

Bradley Zimmer | CLE, OF – 101 wRC+, 4 HR, 8 SB in 206 PA

If you have listened to the podcast for a while, you will have no doubt heard Justin’s love of Zimmer at some point. The 28-year-old has battled injuries throughout his career (a lot like his brother, Kyle Zimmer) limiting him to just 716 PA across parts of five seasons. If he plays through the end of the season, he should set a new high in playing time (332 PA in 2017).

He has played like a 20-20 player since the All-Star break with a .278/.333/.481 line, 4 HR, and 3 SB in 87 PA (27 HR/20 SB pace). He still has worrisome plate skills in that time, though, with a 32% K rate and 6% BB rate, but a .375 BABIP is helping him stay afloat. He should remain a strong side platoon option for Cleveland the rest of the way and while the batting average will remain a risk, the power and speed are likely worth it in 12+ team formats.

Renato Núñez | DET, 1B – 96 wRC+, 4 HR, 7 RBI in 44 PA

We aren’t that far removed from Núñez smacking 31 HR back in 2019 (100 wRC+) and even his 12 HR campaign from last year was quite good (120 wRC+) but you might have memory holed him as he was trapped in Triple-A Toledo until recently. Weirdly enough, the Tigers couldn’t really use him despite the fact that he posted a 152 wRC+ and hit 20 HR in 311 PA. OK, they could have used him, but he was a poor fit with what they have on the team.

Miguel Cabrera was the primary DH and Jonathan Schoop had been holding down 1B most of the time while Willi Castro shifted from SS to 2B. Recent injuries to Akil Baddoo, Daz Cameron, and Derek Hill have seen Castro move to the OF, Schoop back to 2B, and then Cabrera and Núñez can share 1B/DH. Núñez did play seven games back in April during which he hit 2 HR in 29 PA and he has doubled the home run total in just four games since being recalled. He almost certainly won’t match the .291 AVG he had in Triple-A, but if he can maintain something in the .230s with his power, there is value in several formats.

Yohel Pozo | TEX, C – 149 wRC+, 1 HR, 3 RBI in 12 PA

Pozo is the first guy on our list to have debuted this year so you may be fully unaware of him as opposed to simply forgetting him like the three previous entries. Pozo is a catcher-eligible bat who was tabbed with Astudillo-esque plate skills in the Rangers Prospect List back in May, but tapped into his raw power during his first go at Triple-A and posted a 126 wRC+ with 19 HR in 280 PA. He fanned just 12% of the time, too.

Pozo is the latest in a long list of DHs in Texas this year as they look for something to stick for the remainder of the year. He started each of the three games this weekend, facing two lefties and a righty. If the Rangers keep him in the role, he could be a C2 boon as a non-catching catcher which both keeps him healthier and affords him more playing time as he doesn’t need as many days off. Even if all of the Triple-A power doesn’t come with him to the majors, his hit tool could sustain his value. A big week against Seattle and Boston will make him a target in 2-catcher leagues this weekend.

Alex Jackson | MIA, C – 37 wRC+, 3 HR, 8 RBI in 68 PA

The former #6 overall pick for the Mariners back in 2014 has had an interesting pro journey. He was immediately moved off catcher because his bat was seen as too good to wait on the backstop development. He slotted 20th on our Top 200 list back in 2015, ahead of another would-be catcher moved off for his bat, Kyle Schwarber. The bat didn’t advance as expected and then his body took him out of the catching realm altogether.

He showed up to 2021 camp in much better shape and once again catching was back on the table. His defense was markedly improved and he tore the cover off the ball at Triple-A (169 wRC+, 11 HR in 123 PA) enough to garner some trade value. He was swapped 1-for-1 for Adam Duvall and now finds himself in the majors catching for the Marlins. He has popped 3 HR and even pushed Jorge Alfaro to LF, but a 46% K rate is terrifying. Can the one-time top prospect tone the swing-and-miss down enough to be a valuable C2 in deeper leagues? It won’t be easy as the 26% SwStr makes clear, but catcher is bleak enough that he will at least remain on my watchlist.

Bryan De La Cruz | MIA, OF – 113 wRC+, 2 HR, 7 RBI in 60 PA

Sticking in Miami, De La Cruz came over in the Yimi Garcia deal and immediately joined the Marlins where he has been installed in rightfield. He is hitting a bit with a .298/.333/.439 line, but strikeouts are a concern. He has a 32% K rate with a 38% O-Swing rate being the biggest issue in his profile. His 11% SwStr rate is about average so there could be some strikeout improvement if he stops chasing so much. De La Cruz hit 12 HR with a 112 wRC+ at Triple-A, though the .324 AVG stands out. At his best, he can curb the strikeouts and hit .270 or better with a little pop.

Frank Schwindel | CHC, 1B – 152 wRC+, 5 HR, 16 RBI in 69 PA

Schwindel is a 29-year-old journeyman who found himself on the perfect team to get a shot in his late-20s. As a 1B “prospect” with a .193 career ISO in the minors, it’s not too surprising that Schwindel never emerged as a big-league option. The 18th rounder has held on long enough to find a real chance in Chicago, and he is making the most of it thus far. In two weeks with the Cubs, he is hitting .370/.408/.739 with 4 HR and 13 RBI in just 49 PA (he had 3 H, 1 of them his first MLB HR, in 20 PA with OAK earlier this year).

He seems to be selling out for the power with a 53% flyball rate and a .406 BABIP is allowing him to sustain a good AVG despite that many balls in the air. There is only deep league appeal here, especially because he only slots in at 1B, CI, or DH/UT, but with the playing time in hand and a commitment to his newfound pop (.279 ISO in AAA), he could be a useful plug-in the rest of the way.

Hoy Park | PIT, 2B/OF – 98 wRC+, 1 HR, 5 RBI in 49 PA

Park was destroying the ball in Triple-A for the Yankees, hitting .327/.475/.567 with 10 HR and 8 SB in 223 PA, but never found an opportunity in the Bronx despite their many injuries (he had 1 PA with them). He also had equal strikeout and walk rates at 21%. The Pirates got him back in the Clay Holmes deal and have slotted him into a super-utility role that saw him leading off all last week while bouncing around 2B, SS, and the OF.

He has a decent .273 AVG with the Pirates and 5 of his 12 hits have gone for extra bases, though his minor league plate skills are nowhere to be found. This year’s incredible skills at Triple-A weren’t out of nowhere as he has a 19% K rate and 14% BB rate in 2440 minor league PA. His 8% SwStr rate says he deserves better than a 29% K rate and he doesn’t chase much at all with just a 19% O-Swing rate. He also had 30 SB per 600 PA in the minors so this could be an AVG/SB profile with multi-positional eligibility.

Daulton Varsho | ARI, C/OF – 92 wRC+, 6 HR, 4 SB in 171 PA

You might have missed the Varsho excitement last year as he was wildly overdrafted (including by yours truly) in hopes of being a full season non-catching catcher for the D’Backs. He did play most of the 2-month season but didn’t produce anywhere near expectations (3 HR/3 SB, 76 wRC+ in 115 PA) and as often happens with overhyped rookies who don’t perform, he was pushed to the side by the fantasy community.

And with good reason.

He hit just .143 in disjointed playing time across 96 PA in the first half, further clearing his already sparse bandwagon among fantasy folks. But look who is once again making waves in 2-catcher leagues! Varsho has a .317/.427/.619 line since the All-Star break with 5 HR and 3 SB in 75 PA (35/21 full season pace). He has a 21% K rate and 16% BB rate in that time and while his .375 BABIP almost certainly won’t hold, there is some legitimacy to this run that has reinvigorated his fantasy outlook. He has caught enough to retain C-eligibility for 2022 and his power/speed profile behind the dish is providing real value in 2-catcher setups.

Connor Joe | COL, 1B/OF – 108 wRC+, 6 HR, 24 RBI in 138 PA

You may remember Joe from a brief call-up with the Giants in 2019 or you are an avid OOTP Perfect Team player and enjoy the Joe lore in that community (IYKYK). This one is simple: he is taking full advantage of hitting in the game’s best park ever. He has an 1.119 OPS at home with a .370 AVG and 4 HR in 52 PA while hitting to just a .652 OPS on the road in 86 PA (though it is a more palatable .771 since the All-Star break).

The Rockies get a full week at home and three of the next four road series are in relatively favorable matchups with the Cubs, Rangers, and Phillies all being either decent venues to hit at, weak rotations to pick, or a mixture of both. The only rough road trip is against the Dodgers. This is a 5th OF or UT fill-in kind of player and while you are likely always looking for a replacement if you are using Joe, he is hitting enough to be on the radar.





Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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Anon
9 months ago

Joe seems like one of those guys who wasn’t a big prospect and struggled in the low minors and was immediately written off. But we’re on year 4 of him hitting at every level of the high minors and the majors. Love him with a week of games in Coors but the Rockies’ schedule after this week is not great. Yes they get some weak pitching staffs but they have proven to be the worst hitting team in baseball on the road by a pretty wide margin and after this week they have 19 of their next 26 games on the road (and 3 of the 7 at home are against a tough Giants staff).

Even the end of the year when they have 9 of 12 at home comes with tough home series against the Dodgers and Giants.