Fantasy Baseball

2019 Fantasy Baseball Week 7 Prospect Report: What Comes Naturally

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So, this week is going to be a monster of an article.

We had some HUGE call-ups this past week after a bland Week 6. We’ve got some promotions on the horizon as well that should be of interest to fantasy owners.

In addition to all that, I finally got a chance to catch a Double-A game here in Northwest Arkansas. Life is good!


Well, except for having to write all of this in a night. Excuse me while I go purchase a six pack of Red Bull and crank up the newest album from ALASKALASKA.

We are going to do quick pitches on some of the promotions, demotions & injuries this week so we can go in-depth on a weekend call-up and some prospect videos. Sound good? I don’t want to keep you long, you’ve got places to go and people to see.

2019 Fantasy Baseball Week 7 Prospect Report

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Promoted

Keston Hiura, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers

Wowza, the minors were a breeze for Hiura. The 9th overall pick in the 2017 MLB draft got an aggressive assignment to Triple-A this year and didn’t disappoint one bit. In just 37 games, he had 11 homers and ran a 1.106 OPS. He shows plus skills in power and hit tool as a 2B, which should be extremely valuable in fantasy leagues bereft of second basemen.

Hiura will get his first crack at everyday playing time with Travis Shaw going to the IL due to a wrist injury. I’d be surprised if Shaw gets his job back.

Austin Riley, 3B/OF, Atlanta Braves

The Braves hinted at promoting Riley when they moved him to the outfield in his recent Triple-A games. Once Ender Inciarte was sent to the IL, Braves fans got their wish and Riley was called up. He promptly sent a ball 440 feet in the second at-bat of his major league career. Like Hiura, the raw/game power is real and he should be a Statcast god. He’ll barrel the ball up enough to salvage a decent batting average despite high K-rates.

Long-term playing time will be an issue for Riley on paper if Inciarte comes back swiftly. However, the Braves haven’t been afraid to throw their rookies in the fire and they wouldn’t waste Riley’s time in a utility role. Good players find their way into at-bats and I would bet on Riley’s hitting keeping him in the lineup long-term. With Ronald Acuna Jr. playing serviceable centerfield defense, Inciarte owners should be looking to move on.

Corbin Martin, SP, Houston Astros

Yes, it’s been a whole week since my last prospect report, so Martin qualifies. Look, you’ve probably read 26 articles about Martin by now and why you should pick him up. I’ll make it 27 for you, but it’s likely too late. If only my day job wasn’t so demanding and I could write multiple articles a week…

That was a killer debut for Martin and earned him multiple looks in the rotation. With Collin McHugh reverting back to the bullpen, the Astros are looking for answers out there. Forrest Whitley isn’t ready yet, so they gave Martin a deserved chance and he ran with it. His next start at Fenway Park against a resurgent Red Sox squad should be very interesting to watch. He hasn’t really been challenged at any level so the 23-year-old will be fascinating to monitor moving forward. That said, he’s a must own at the moment because of the upside.

Willie Calhoun, UT, Texas Rangers

I think people are sleeping on Calhoun after they were burned by him in 2018. The Rangers held him down for his defense and his offense didn’t hold up. To be fair, the defense is so bad that he couldn’t just take Rougned Odor’s spot at second. However, they couldn’t wait any longer as Elvis Andrus was sent to the IL. They’ve used him as the designated hitter and left fielder in his first two starts, hitting second in both contests.

It’s interesting to speculate where playing time would come from for Calhoun. It’s funny because the more obvious path to at-bats will come against lefties rather than righties. Against lefties, they can sit Ronald Guzman and throw Joey Gallo at first to get Calhoun in the outfield. Calhoun’s minor league splits against lefties are great, so they can’t afford to sit him there. Versus righties though, it’s hard to sit any of their left-handed outfielders and Pence, who is hitting very well against righties this year (168 wRC+). One thing’s for sure – Calhoun is born to be a fantasy baseball player and should be added just for the four-category ceiling.

Other Notable Players

  • After a month and a half of uninspiring at-bats by Cleveland outfielders, Oscar Mercado finally gets an opportunity to shine. It’s hard to tell what his playing time will look like after two days, but he’ll at least platoon against lefties.
  • Another underrated prospect with great Triple-A stats, Nicky Lopez will get to man second base for Kansas City. His playing time seems more clear than Mercado’s though, making him an interesting pickup in deep dynasty leagues that run a points format.
  • In a surprising call-up, Cole Irvin dazzled and razzled Royals hitters in a winning performance. With subpar minor league numbers and no strikeouts, I can’t imagine this will last too long though. I would still bet that Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez will have more starts than him rest of season.
  • Touki Toussaint was called back up to take on a bullpen role. It may not be in the rotation, but he at least has the chance to produce against major leaguers and back his way into a rotation spot down the road once again.

Optioned

Garrett Hampson, 2B, Colorado Rockies

Everyone’s (including mine) favorite stolen base target in 2019 drafts just never showed up. 31 games of a 14 wRC+ are just not going to cut it. Look, he’s had a great minor league career and I don’t believe it’s time to give up on him completely. However, with a certain uber-prospect getting called up (more on him later) and the rest of the lineup locked up for a while, Hampson could be struggling for playing time in the foreseeable future.

Jon Duplantier, SP/RP, Arizona Diamondbacks

I really have nothing else to say here other than this reminds me of an episode of The Office. It’s the dinner party one where Michael laments to Jan the challenges of getting multiple vasectomies. “Snip, snap; snip, snap!” That’s gotta be how guys like Duplantier and Toussaint feel when they get jerked around between the majors and minors.

To my non-Office fans who didn’t understand that at all, I’m sad for you.

Injury Update

Hitters

  • A thumb injury halted was a great showing at Spring Training for Austin Hays. Now, he’s finally back to baseball and should get Triple-A looks this weekend. This is a player that has sneaky potential in rotisserie leagues and should have ample playing time in Baltimore once called upon.
  • Nick Gordon has not enjoyed his 2019 season thus far. After being on the brink of playing time in 2018, he’s dealt with multiple injuries in the early going this year. His latest issue is a left adductor strain, which should hamper his best tool – speed. Thus, he will need a couple of weeks before getting back to game action.
  • Micker Adolfo joins the list of White Sox players that will be out for 2019. He will be undergoing “arthroscopic surgery on his elbow” according to GM Rick Hahn due to damaged nerves and scar tissue. This is the second time in as many years that an elbow injury has ended Adolfo’s season, leading most to wonder what hellish jinx has befallen the White Sox organization.

Pitchers

  • This is one of those strange situations regarding minor league injuries that get underreported. Beau Burrows was placed on the IL on May 2nd with an MRI in play on his shoulder. Apparently, there was no major damage, but it’s still weird and it feels like no news is not good news in this case. Let’s hope for the best because he could be a factor in fantasy circles toward the end of this year.

Player Spotlight

 


Brendan Rodgers, SS, Colorado Rockies

With Hampson’s demotion and a recent injury to Trevor Story, Rodgers will get a crack at the majors this weekend. This further amplifies the 2015 draft as one of the most loaded drafts ever. Sure, it may be a little early to decide that, but I’m going to throw a hot take out there for once.

Anyway, Rodgers was dominating Triple-A with a 157 wRC+ and a 0.289 ISO. It was only a matter of time before he took over for the struggling Hampson and McMahon combination. With the injury to Story, the Rockies have no choice but to give him a shot. Colorado is 4th in the division right now and Rodgers could provide them a much-needed spark. His plate discipline has improved greatly this year (0.56 BB/K), but historically he’s been a little antsy at the plate. I’ll be curious to see if he can continue the hard-hit rate with his ridiculous contact percentage, but Coors Field will help him regardless.

Just like Story when he was first coming up, you can’t ignore any Colorado prospects that can lift the ball and run. Therefore, even in the most shallow of redraft leagues, he’s gotta be picked up.

Live Looks

Alright, my first minor league game of the year sadly came a month and a half into the season. I’ve been so swamped with home-buying, family events, and collegiate baseball games that it’s been hard to catch a game. The first game didn’t disappoint though with the Naturals taking down the Drillers in a back-and-forth 12-10 barn-burner. The pitching was expected to be bad and they outdid themselves.

Before we get into video, I have a couple of notes for readers to remember. There were only three umpires, which is standard, but lots of calls were missed that I could see from my seat on the third base side. Secondly, the scoring in minor league games is VERY friendly. I counted four occasions where an infield hit was given in lieu of an obvious error. This gives me inner turmoil – what do we trust in minor league stats?

Well, rather than go down that rabbit hole, let’s get into the fun stuff!

Gavin Lux, SS, Tulsa Drillers (LAD)

I wrote about Lux last week and was very excited to get to see him in person. Long story short, I’m totally sold on Lux making an impact at the major league level and in fantasy leagues as soon as next season. He’s got that”it-factor” about him that is infectious. He was the fastest player on the field and should consistently run a high BABIP with that speed combined with his approach.

Be ready for more grainy footage! Homie needs a better phone.

Anyway, Lux beat out two infield singles, which I believe he would have been 0-fer on in the majors. However, he earned a triple on the swing above and constantly worked himself into hitters’ counts. The baseball gods also took an at-bat away from him when he was wrongly called out by an umpire that didn’t hear him tip the ball in a 2-2 count. The catcher knew it, the fans knew, and Lux stood there in the box dumbfounded.

Regardless, it was an impressive game from Lux and I’m all aboard the bandwagon. Excuse me, coming through, ah yes there’s a spot…

Keibert Ruiz, C, Tulsa Drillers (LAD)

You know – you do all of this research and video analysis and stuff for hours and hours. Then, you show up to the game and see a player at the plate and say “that’s what it looks like from this angle”? Well, that guy for me on this night was Ruiz.

via GIPHY

That stance is crazy! It doesn’t look like he pidgeon-toes his front foot in that much on TV, but that could just be me. I felt like it didn’t mess with his timing at all and he was very impressive at the plate. All of his at-bats were competitive and he was persistent no matter what the count was. He had a competitive walk where he showed great patience despite being ahead in the count from the get-go. Later on, he battled back down 0-2 and flared a single into left. I didn’t see much loft in his swing, but he looks powerful from the eye test so maybe that develops later.

His stats may not be all that impressive at Double-A right now, but the 20-year-old should require patience among fantasy owners. I believe there is plenty of potential here for a high-contact, great plate discipline hitter that gets consistent playing time because of his excellent defense. (By the way, he was busy behind the plate in this one. He took a few foul balls off the face mask and was dealing with some shoddy pitchers.) Catching prospects are tough to trust in fantasy leagues, but I would be finding a way to stash this one in your deeper dynasty formats.

Khalil Lee, OF, Northwest Arkansas Naturals (KC)

I mean, anyone who has followed my work in the past knows I love Khalil Lee. I’ve seen the 20-year-old play here in Northwest Arkansas at least ten times and he showed the same traits as always in this game. His lightning speed was on display when he made it to third from first on a flare to left center. The ability for him to wait on offspeed pitches is impressive as seen by the GIF below.

via GIPHY

Those quick hands at the plate came in handy when he singled against fireballer Shea Spitzbarth for the Drillers. It hopped up on him, but even his awkward swings get the job done.

via GIPHY

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While I’m not buying some of the power grades I’m seeing out there at the moment, I believe in Lee’s ability to drive the ball the other way and become an effective hitter with elite centerfield defense to boot. If that power does come with experience, he’s going to be a dangerous hitter.

Other Notable Players

  • The most physically dominating player on the field was actually DJ Peters, whose luscious locks and wide frame reminded one of Madison Bumgarner. The power potential is easy to see here as he had a couple of very strong doubles pulled down the left field line. However, he also looked lost in a couple of other at-bats and was unable to work counts very well.
  • Between both teams, the player that surprised me the most was Zach Reks. I had never heard of him before Tuesday night, but I had an entire page full of notes for him by the end of the game. The lefty has a natural uppercut with fantastic plate awareness. On this night, he blasted a homer to straightaway center, which had scouts frantically writing notes behind home plate. After the game, I went and checked out his stats and was appalled that no one is talking about this dude. Now, at 25, he is old for the level, but I would expect him to get a quick promotion to Triple-A.
  • For the Naturals, one player other than Lee stood out to me. Gabriel Cancel had a great night topped off by a tater into the home run porch behind left field. His swing from the right side is very smooth and didn’t require a ton of effort. It was a full-on pull approach, which was apparent on a weak opposite-field RBI single off the end of his bat. Some nights, things just go your way and Cancel had it going.

Check out the rest of our 2019 Fantasy Baseball content from our great team of writers.

About Tyler Thompson

Follow me on Twitter at @therealwody. For all the latest news and best advice out there, like us on Facebook, Google+ and Instagram.

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