Mining the MLB Depth Charts — 4/21/14
Looking through the waiver wire haphazardly is a waste of time. As a fantasy manager you need to scour MLB depth charts to find the next hidden gem. This series will assist fantasy managers by identifying players completely off the radar that will produce fantasy gold at black-market prices. Specifically managers need to consider current incumbent production (or lack thereof), talent level, and organizational status (i.e, tendencies to promote, arbitration clocks, and/or financial considerations). This week’s picks include a pitcher known for hitting triple digits, third baseman with helium and a former first round pick hoping to reinvent himself.
This Week’s MLB Depth Charts Gems
Rubby De La Rosa, P, Red Sox (Triple-A)
Currently Red Sox pitching is leading the league in overall WAR (3.0) sporting a top 8 K/9 rate (8.50), a top 3 BB/9 rate (2.54), and a top 5 first-strike percentage (62.6%). Unfortunately Felix Doubront is skewing the stats posting a 6.75 ERA with a K/9 under five and a walk rate over four per nine innings. Pressed into regular service after Ryan Dempster’s unexpected announcement not to pitch in 2014, Doubront has been a mess at the back end of the rotation. He is struggling with his mechanics, resulting in less movement on his sinker, forcing him to rely more on the cutter and changeup. The results have been terrible
Rubby De La Rosa is the pickup here. Tommy John surgery and a subsequent trade to the Red Sox have limited De La Rosa to 72.2 MLB innings at age-25. He was a legitimate top 100 prospect, throwing 60 innings for the Los Angeles Dodgers, logging a strikeout per inning in 2011. The same year Mike Newman said that De La Rosa had a “power arsenal” with “the best fastball (I’d) ever seen in person.” According to @redsoxstats De La Rosa is currently doing this at Pawtucket:
Rubby De La Rosa through his 3rd AAA start today: 16.7 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 0 HR, 3 BB, 14 K 28 ground balls 8 fly balls 5 line drives
— Red Sox Stats (@redsoxstats)
A year removed from T.J., he is returning to form and appears to be fully healthy.
Doubront is out of options and a demotion to the bullpen to work long relief is a possibility if he cannot right the ship. Chris Capuano is a rotation option too, but the upside play is De La Rosa. He’s already on the 40-man roster and is forcing the front office’s hand. He has the power arsenal, and aggressive demeanor to take the job and run with it. Last year Newman questioned the road to playing time for De La Rosa, but those concerns will be alleviated if Doubront’s struggles continue. Buy quickly before the opportunity is gone..
Maikel Franco, 3B, Phillies (Triple-A)
In 46 plate appearances this season, Cody Asche is slashing a .195/.283/.317 line with an above-average walk rate (10.2%). In almost 500 career innings at 3B he has also posted an underwhelming -6.1 UZR, The Phillies currently have the third worst run differential in the league (only the Astros and Diamondbacks have been worse), ranking in the bottom third of MLB for runs produced.
Franco will need to answer questions about his future position (3B or 1B), and show that he can continue to hit over larger samples against advanced pitching to rank amongst elite MLB top prospects. At this rate, he’ll push his way to Philadelphia by summer.
This comes on the heels of a breakout campaign in 2013 in which he slashed .320/.356/.569 with 31 home runs across High-A and Double-A. Rated as the #52 overall prospect by Baseball Prospectus this year, Eno Sarris sees reasons to believe in Franco as a fantasy commodity. Although he’s not knocking down the door with his slow start at Lehigh Valley, his glove work at 1b and 3b is more than making up for it early in the year.
In the NL East, the Phillies are forced to promote aggressively to compete with the Braves and Nationals. An Asche demotion clears the way for Franco. Plus, Ryan Howard is atrocious against left-handed pitchers leaving the top prospect a possible platoon partner. If Darin Ruf comes back healthy, the Phillies may DFA John Mayberry, who is out of options, to make room on the 40-man roster. In a lineup with two true right-handed hitters, Maikel Franco would be a welcome addition. The power potential alone could force the Phillies hand. Scoop him in Fantasy Baseball leagues as Franco’s slow start has created a small window of opportunity.
Ian Stewart, 3B, Angels (MLB)
Incumbent David Freese was acquired by the Angels this off-season in a move that had mixed reactions league wide. While the Angels clearly had a need to improve at the hot corner, Freese has done little to justify his five million dollar contract. He currently sports the worst WAR (-0.4), third highest K-rate (25.6%), third lowest ISO (0.57), and worst wRC+ (18) among 3B (min. 50 plate appearances). All small sample size caveats aside, his weak glove (-13.1 career UZR), and declining power and batted ball distance (-30 feet from 2013 to 2014) leave little room for optimism (despite his .184 BABIP).
Speaking of optimism, infielder Ian Stewart parlayed a good spring training into a roster spot this year. Currently the primary backup to Freese at third base and Albert Pujols at first base, he has slashed a more than respectable .286/.318/.714 line with 2 doubles, 2 triples, and a home run in just 22 plate appearances. Although he’ll never be a great OBP guy (current 8:1 K/BB ratio), he has power potential when compared to Freese.
At 29-years old no one expects him to repeat his 2008 totals of 25 home runs and seven stolen bases but 15 home runs are possible with 350 plate appearances or more. Freese’s current quad injury and abysmal production may result in even more playing time given injuries and a need to win the American League West. Add the fact Albert Pujols may need to sit or play designated hitter to remain healthy and 2014 will be the year for an Ian Stewart rebirth if it’s at all possible.
Considering the slow starts of corner infielders Mike Olt, Mike Moustakas and Justin Smoak, Stewart is a deep keeper option. Expectations are huge in Los Angeles with given the money Arte Moreno has poured into this team. Low risk, moderate reward is the name of the game here.
Mining MLB depth charts is the way to beat the competition in fantasy. Analyzing present production with an eye on future opportunity is the way to stay a step ahead of your league mates. Knowing organizational trends will give you the confidence to make moves in your fantasy league before they happen in real life. That’s the key to winning fantasy championships.
21 Apr 2014 / Joseph Pytleski /
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