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Breaking Down Rookie Playing Time in September (Week Two)

Hello everyone, and welcome to the second edition of RotoBaller’s new series, Breaking Down Rookie Playing Time in September.

In this article series, I will break down several prospects who have been promoted at some point following the July 31 Trade Deadline, and what you all should make of them for fantasy leagues.

Let's get to it.

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Top Performers

Boog Powell (OF, OAK)
In Seattle, Powell did not appear to have much of any path to playing time. He was basically another Ben Gamel — who had already established himself in the Mariners’ outfield — and Mitch Haniger and Nelson Cruz had the other outfield spots thoroughly locked down. But Powell was traded to Oakland as the return in the Yonder Alonso trade. Since the trade, Powell has emerged as the starting center fielder for the Athletics and has jumped out to a phenomenal .338/.407/.521 slash line with three home runs and impressive plate discipline stats. He has also been frequently placed in the leadoff spot for the team, putting him in a great position to score runs. Powell is not the most exciting prospect out there due to his lack of power and speed, but he is off to a hot start with the Green and Gold and should continue to be productive to fantasy owners down the stretch.

Harrison Bader (OF, STL)
Bader had been in the majors earlier this season, but spent only about a week with the big-league club as a temporary fill-in before being sent down. He was added back to the active roster in September and hasn’t looked back as he has started eight games since Sept. 1 and posted a .303/.314/.606 slash line with three home runs, no walks and a 17.1 percent strikeout rate. The plate discipline numbers are not super encouraging, but he’s never been super patient in the minors and has found success in spite of that. If nothing else, ride the hot hand while he’s hitting well and use him to help you in your playoff run.

Yandy Diaz (3B, CLE)
Diaz was not great in his first stint of the majors. Through his first 71 plate appearances, he posted a .203/.268/.219 slash line with a 8.5 percent walk rate and 23.9 percent strikeout rate. So he returned to the minors, tore it up at Triple-A and then was recalled on Aug. 22. It appears he must have forgotten that he isn’t supposed to do well in the majors because so far, his numbers look more like his Triple-A stats than his first taste of the majors. Over those 72 plate appearances since being recalled, Diaz has a .339/.486/.464 slash line with an impressive 20.8 percent walk rate and 12.5 percent strikeout rate. That has been enough for him to grab a solid hold of the starting third base job and shift Jose Ramirez over to second base and put the Cleveland Indians in a position where they’re considering shifting Jason Kipnis to the outfield. Diaz is more of an on-base machine than power or speed threat, but as long as he is seeing starting time, he could be a valuable add in redraft leagues.

Jorge Alfaro (C, PHI)
Largely over his career, Alfaro has disappointed fantasy owners. His inability to take walks combined with disappointing power numbers and poor batting averages have greatly diminished his fantasy stock and prevented him from securing a starting role in the majors. But since being recalled as a backup catcher on Aug. 5, he has recorded at least one hit in all but three of 18 games and placed himself in a position to start seeing several starts per week behind the dish. The power is still largely missing and the plate discipline issues have persisted, but with a .811 OPS, there is enough in Alfaro’s bat to make him more than enticing to add as a catcher. The plate discipline issues make it less likely for him to sustain this success over an extended period of time, but for now, he has hit well enough to warrant ownership in 12+ team leagues.

Dillon Peters (SP, MIA)
Peters has made only two starts in the majors, but both have gone well considering he was called straight up from Double-A. In his debut, he pitched seven scoreless innings against Philadelphia with only six baserunners allowed (three hits, three walks) and struck out eight. Though he gave up three runs over five innings his next time out, the 25-year-old southpaw was matched up against the Washington Nationals, certainly not an easy matchup for any pitcher. Peters is expected to stick in the rotation for the rest of the season, and if he keeps pitching as well as he has to start the season, he could be a solid depth piece in 14+ team leagues.


Worst Performers

Ryder Jones (3B, SF)
Though never considered to be one of the best prospects in the San Francisco Giants’ farm system, Jones has typically been at least a somewhat productive hitter in the minors, at least from a power standpoint. He had 13 homers in 64 games at Triple-A before his promotion this season and totaled 15 the year before at Double-A. However, in 41 games so far in the majors, he has failed to do much of anything, posting an OPS of just .576 with only two home runs. Despite the issues, he has seen plenty of starts at the corner infield positions since his promotion. But with few scouts truly backing his upside and now a decent sample size of poor performance in the big leagues, there is little reason to bank on him turning it around over the season’s final few weeks.

Jordan Luplow (OF, PIT)
Luplow had not been considered much of a prospect before this season, but he made quick work of both Double- and Triple-A on his way to a quick rise to the majors. So far though, he has not made the most of his playing time. With only a .205/.262/.410 slash line with two homers, a 7.1 percent walk rate and 35.7 percent strikeout in 15 games, Luplow has failed to live up to the recently-acquired hype. He has been receiving semi-regular playing time with Gregory Polanco still recovering from his injury, but he has not made the most of it.

Sandy Alcantara (SP, STL)
Alcantara comes with plenty of name recognition as he built up his prospect stock after an outstanding 2016 campaign at Class-A and High Class-A. However, he has endured a painful season at Double-A where he has a 4.31 ERA and 4.62 FIP through 125.1 innings. So it came as a shock to many that he was promoted to St. Louis in September. He has made one appearance out of the bullpen, surrendering a run on a homer, two hits, a walk and a strikeout over two-thirds of an inning. Alcantara has the stuff to develop into a solid Major League starting pitcher, but the value for redraft leagues is completely absent. If he’s on the waivers in your league, he is where he belongs.

Eric Skoglund (SP, KC)
Considered one of the top prospects in a depleted Kansas City Royals’ farm system, Skoglund appeared as a starter earlier in the season and really struggled outside of his debut. After pitching 6.1 scoreless innings against Detroit in his debut, Skoglund allowed six runs over his next 3.1 innings (two starts) before being sent back down to the minors. He was recalled a couple days before rosters expanded, and has since given up 10 runs over 4.1 innings (one start and a relief appearance) on 10 hits, five walks and only three strikeouts. Skoglund has the control and decent enough stuff to at least become a No. 5 starter in a big-league rotation, but he has really struggled to this point and has not done enough to warrant ownership in any fantasy format.

Jack Flaherty (SP, STL)
The second of two high-floor, medium ceiling pitching prospects St. Louis has recalled this season, Flaherty has not been quite as solid as his teammate Luke Weaver. Through two starts, he has a 6.00 ERA and 5.48 FIP over nine innings. Five of the six runs he has allowed came in his first start when he gave up eight hits over four innings, but four of his five walks came in his last start (though he only allowed one run on three hits over five innings). Flaherty shouldn’t be expected to have lingering control issues as they were never a problem for him in the minors, but pitchers often struggle with control over their first few outings in the big-leagues. But with him likely headed back to the bullpen with Adam Wainwright coming back, he only has so much upside for fantasy owners.


Guys Who Will See the Most Playing Time Moving Forward

Willie Calhoun (2B/OF, TEX)
For a time, it appeared Calhoun was not going to be promoted to the big-league club this season. But the top acquisition in the return for Yu Darvish is now up in the majors with a chance to start on a semi-regular basis following lingering injuries to Carlos Gomez and Rougned Odor. The 22-year-old prospect has been impressive throughout his Minor League career for his ability to keep the strikeouts extremely low (usually close to 10 percent) while still displaying explosive power potential (at least 20 homers each of the past two seasons). The question has always been what position he will call home as he grades out as well below-average at both second base and the outfield. He is probably a designated hitter or left fielder long-term. But for this season, he will probably fill in at both second and the outfield, which will only give his fantasy value a major boost. He is probably one of the highest upside fantasy prospects to own and should be a starter in 12+ team leagues as long as he is starting in Arlington.

Phillip Ervin (OF, CIN)
When Billy Hamilton was around, Ervin was little more than a spot starter for the Reds. But since Hamilton broke his hand on Sept. 6, Ervin has filled in as the Reds’ primary center fielder and has continued what had been a strong start to his MLB career. Through his first 17 games in the majors, the former first-round pick owns a .333/.400/.556 slash line with a pair of homers, three stolen bases, a 7.3 percent walk rate and 17.1 percent strikeout rate. Ervin has demonstrated at least average power in the minors to accompany above-average speed, so as long as he keeps starting in center field for the Reds, he could be a solid add in 14+ team redraft leagues.

Jeimer Candelario (3B, DET)
There was probably no one who benefited from a trade more than Candelario. The third base prospect was stuck as a backup in the Chicago Cubs’ system, but has been a starter at the hot corner since being arriving in the Motor City. Once he was promoted during the roster expansions on Sept. 2, Candelario has started every game at third and has never hit lower than sixth and has hit as high as second. During his time as a starter, he owns a .375/.459/.500 slash line with an impressive 13.5 percent walk and strikeout rate. With Nick Castellanos now in the outfield, expect to see Candelario starting regularly at third base for Detroit. And with his raw power and ability to reach base at a high clip, the 23-year-old prospect should be a solid own in 14+ team redraft leagues.

Reynaldo Lopez (SP, CWS)
Lopez was sidelined for some of late August with an injury, but since he’s returned, he’s turned in three straight quality starts out of the rotation. The strikeouts have not exactly been there for him as he has just 10 over those 18 innings pitched, but he’s only walked three batters in that time. The strikeouts will come eventually as his high-octane stuff is good enough to miss bats effectively in the majors. What will aid his fantasy value the most is that pitching with the White Sox, he should be expected to be a regular in their starting rotation. He is expected to face Detroit, Kansas City and Los Angeles (Anaheim) in his final three starts of the season, which should not be an impossible schedule to go through. His upside is worth stashing in 12-team leagues and his performance lately warrants starting in 14+ team leagues.

Amir Garrett (SP, CIN)
Entering the season as one of the more exciting prospects reaching the big leagues, Garrett saw his prospect shine dim just a little bit as he posted a 7.41 ERA and 7.30 FIP over 58.1 innings before being demoted to Triple-A to improve on his command and work on limiting the home runs. He appeared to do at least a respectable job of both as his walk rate dipped 2.9 percent from the 10.9 percent rate in the majors and the HR/FB rate went from being 28.9 percent in the majors to 10.1 percent at Louisville. However, Garrett struggled again with both as he allowed four runs to score on three homers and two walks over five innings in his first start since being recalled. But for better or worse, Garrett is expected to remain in Cincinnati’s rotation until the end of the season. Start at your own risk.


Guys Who Will See the Least Playing Time Moving Forward

Victor Robles (OF, WAS)
This likely comes as a disappointment to many, but Robles does not seem a viable candidate for playing time moving forward. Robles saw only 37 plate appearances above High Class-A, though he did post an impressive .324/.394/.489 slash line with three homers and 11 stolen bases while there. The upside for Robles is tantalizing and his dynasty value remains extremely high. But the 20-year-old is unlikely to displace Michael Taylor in center or Brian Goodwin, Jayson Werth and Howie Kendrick in the corners. Don’t be suckered in by the name value, Robles is probably not going to see enough playing time to warrant an add in any formats beyond the deepest of leagues.

Carson Kelly (C, STL)
Another high upside prospect without a clear path to playing time, Kelly had put together the best season of his professional career at Triple-A before his promotion to the majors in August. However, he just so happens to sit behind one of the best catches of this generation in Yadier Molina, who appears to show no signs of aging. Kelly has the glove to stick behind the plate, some budding power that could eventually make him a 20-homer hitter and the plate discipline and ability to make contact enough to hit for a high average. That all makes him a valuable asset in dynasty leagues. The presence of Molina makes him a desperate backup catcher in extremely deep redraft leagues for 2017.

Alex Verdugo (OF, LAD)
The third consensus top-100 prospect to land in this section, Verdugo suffers from the same problem plaguing Robles and Kelly. He plays at a position of strength for his respective team and has not done enough to force a change. Verdugo is a glove-first, contact-heavy outfielder who could effectively play all three outfield spots if they weren’t filled by players like Curtis Granderson, Chris Taylor, Yasiel Puig and Cody Bellinger (from time-to-time). The Dodgers also have enough players like Trayce Thompson, Andre Ethier and Joc Pederson who will steal playing time every now and again. The Dodgers have too much outfield depth for Verdugo to really have a shot at regular playing time, especially since he has just three hits through his first 18 plate appearances. He is another case of a fine player to own in dynasty leagues, not redraft leagues.

Dan Vogelbach (1B, SEA)
Fantasy owners have been waiting practically all season for Vogelbach to be promoted to the majors, and he finally was when rosters expanded. He probably earned the promotion a long tie ago as he had put together another solid Triple-A campaign with a .290/.388/.455 slash line with 17 homers, 14 percent walk rate and 18.1 percent strikeout rate. However, the reason Vogelbach has been stuck in the minors is because Yonder Alonso and Danny Valencia have held first base pretty much on lockdown all season long. And based on how much Vogelbach has struggled in the majors since his call-up, it doesn’t appear he’s really forcing the issue. Expect Vogelbach to be more of a spot-starter/platoon player going forward than a regular.

Cody Reed (SP, CIN)
Like Alcantara, Reed is a high-upside starting pitching prospect being used almost exclusively as a reliever in September. Reed has struggled with control throughout not only his time in the majors, but also his time spent at Triple-A Louisville this season. With more walks than innings pitched and an equal total to strikeouts (16) in the majors, Reed certainly has some work still left before he is able to reach his lofty ceiling. For now, he will be occupying a bullpen role where he can work out some of his issues while still pitching in the majors. He can be avoided in all but the deepest dynasty formats for now.

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