The latest episode of “The Sleeper and the Bust” will not go live in this post. We convened on Thursday, but the audio was substandard. We’re working on a solution to roadblocks in our recording setup.
Eno Sarris and I talked about some of the higher-level newsworthy items of the past couple of weeks. We also talked about a couple of requests. This post will give you the gist of the content we covered in what would have been Episode 185. I’m saving the requests so that you’ll get to listen to them, eventually, though. Look for the newest episode in the coming week.
We’d been skeptical of how Jung-Ho Kang’s game, particularly his power, would translate stateside, to MLB. He hit 40 home runs in the KBO last year but was basically an above-average player prior to that season. Reviews of the Korean are mixed, and a KBO position player has never played in the majors.
An evaluator whom Eno trusts really likes Kang, though, so Eno is a little more enthused. Eno figures that Kang won’t hit for average because he’s struck out too frequently, but 20 to 25 homers, even as a PNC Park resident, may be doable. Eno might place him in the “J.J. Hardy if he’s healthy” bucket.
Now that we know Pittsburgh won the Kang sweepstakes, the Korean has a good chance to be a regular, even if Josh Harrison isn’t a bust at third, Neil Walker remains healthy at second, and Pedro Alvarez isn’t a bad play at first. Shortstop Jordy Mercer’s defense is close to average (if we’re being kind), so that’s all Kang as to be because he offers his club more upside with the bat. The import could be an interesting sleeper in mixed leagues.
Jordan Walden’s arrival in St. Louis probably won’t matter. Trevor Rosenthal was effective even in a season in which he walked 13.6% of the hitters he faced. He should be better in that area, given his track record, so a lot would have to go wrong in order for him to lose his job. Just remember, of course, that stranger things have happened, especially when it comes to saves.
Jayson Werth’s shoulder surgery seriously affects his 2015 outlook. Eno wonders if it won’t result in an overreaction in fantasy drafts, so keep that in mind. Projection systems like Steamer don’t know that players played through injury in a given year, so if this is something that affected Werth in 2014, perhaps his power isn’t as much in decline as it appears. Eno allows that Werth’s career bell curve may forecast this kind of rapid departure from relevance, though. I think that’s true mostly because of Werth’s checkered injury past, especially early on. When he returns to action, how reliable will he be?
Alex Gordon’s wrist surgery doesn’t seem to be a big deal. At worst, he may have a bit of a slow start. Eno notes that Gordon is a fitness fiend. The Royal’s dependability is of some value.
In your draft: Marlon Byrd, in Cincinnati, or Oswaldo Arcia? Eno opted for the latter in the RotoGraphs slow mock, but he considered Byrd. I’d have gone Byrd. Eno points out that Byrd has changed as a hitter in the past couple of years (swing hard, to all fields, forget strikeouts), and so far, it’s worked, but he’s 37, and Arcia is 23.
Asdrubal Cabrera to Tampa Bay is … pretty unexciting. It seems likely to result in Ben Zobrist’s departure. We speculate about where he’ll end up, including D.C., but there isn’t much reason to explore those possibilities yet.
Eno figures that Justin Ruggiano will replace Seth Smith for defensive purposes in late innings, and the Mariners may have other options in the outfield, so Smith’s outlook is no rosier than it was in San Diego. It should be a better team, at least, but Smith isn’t exciting, either.
Tim Hudson’s ankle surgery is also not major news, primarily because of the type of fantasy asset he is. Eno labels him something between a mixed-league bench guy and streamer.
The Braves’ acquisition of Manny Banuelos makes him a potential sleeper. He’s two years and three months removed from Tommy John surgery. Atlanta’s recent history with TJS guys, including recurrences, might be worth noting, though. Eno likes David Hale more for the fifth spot than Banuelos, but perhaps the latter’s left-handedness will be a tipping point.
Stephen Drew is back with the Yankees. Eno thinks that Robert Refsnyder, whose development path puts him on track to be in the majors this year, is still a threat. Eno thinks so especially because Drew has been thoroughly unimpressive for the past year-plus and thinks that the job may still be up for grabs in ST. I’m willing to give Drew a pass for the time he missed last year and think he’ll be much closer to the plus defender and slightly above-average bat he was in 2013. The contract helps to keep him in place even if he’s coming up a little short of those standards. I’d probably spend, not $10, but at least $5 on him in an AL-only league, and he could still be an asset in OBP leagues. Eno is skeptical.
Emilio Bonifacio isn’t a good real-life player, but he’s an OK fantasy one because of his specialty. In both cases, he seems to fit with the White Sox, where he should end up with his semi-usual 450 plate appearances, give or take. Eno likes Carlos Sanchez to stick at second base and sees Bonifacio’s signing as more of a threat to Conor Gillaspie. Besides, any of the South Siders’ outfielders could miss time. Bonifacio looks like a safe fantasy buy for another year, at least, although age is becoming a factor in his stolen-base output.
Dan Uggla seems to be an insignificant addition in Washington, but last month we learned that he played through some portion of 2014 with an undetected concussion. It’s not entirely (or even much) to blame, but it’s important to note that he may have some excuse for his paltry output – last season’s, anyway.
The Yankees believe that Luis Severino could make a 2015 impact. The right-hander is really interesting, and not just because of his shiny minor league numbers. Eno points out that Severino has slightly above-average velo for a righty and a good changeup in terms of separation and movement, as well as a reputation for using deception in his delivery. In the past year, the 20-year-old went from kind of a borderline No. 10 prospect in the Bronx Bombers’ system to, basically, their consensus No. 1. He’s a name to keep in mind for those in deep leagues.
Nicholas Minnix oversaw baseball content for six years at KFFL, where he held the loose title of Managing Editor for seven and a half before he joined FanGraphs. He played in both Tout Wars and LABR from 2010 through 2014. Follow him on Twitter @NicholasMinnix.