With the free agent catcher player pool being so weak in most leagues, I thought it was time to check in on a young catcher with upside in the minors. Francisco Mejia has 21 hits in his last 41 at bats at AA to raise his already strong batting average from .325 to .371. Over his recent hot streak, Mejia has five HRs, 12 RBI, and two SBs. On the year, he has eight HRs, 27 RBI, and four SBs over 167 at bats. His next stop should be AAA, but a jump to the majors wouldn’t surprise with backup catcher Roberto Perez hitting .143 over 94 at bats with a HR, and 12 RBI. Yan Gomes has only started three of the last seven games for the Indians while hitting .175 over his last 40 at bats with 20 Ks. Francisco would instantly improve the offense at this position for Cleveland.
The Rays expect to activate Wilson Ramos over the next week. His bat showed more life over the last four games (5-for-16 with one HR and two RBI) while catching in two straight games twice over the last week. His next step is catching a full nine innings (eight innings on the June 16th).
The Cubs may have a trading piece with Victor Caratini who’s hitting .346 at AAA over 217 at bats with six HRs and 47 RBI. He’s a career .287 hitter in the minors with 22 HRs, 227 RBI, and four SBs over 1598 at bats. Victor will take a walk (10.7 percent) with low K rate (16.9). His next step is adding more power to his swing.
Trey Mancini just won’t go away, which is good for anyone that owns him. He has an eight-game hitting streak (13-for-31) with seven runs, two HRs, and seven RBI while starting 18 of the last 19 games for the Orioles. His opportunity has been improved with Chris Davis placed on the DL with a hamstring injury. Pedro Alvarez played extremely well over three weeks from the middle of May until June 6th (25-for-81 with nine HRs and 22 RBI), which should have led to a call up when Davis went on the DL. Unfortunately, Pedro lost his rhythm over the last ten games (2-for-39 with no production and 15 Ks).
A couple of times this season, I’ve chased the power of Chris Carter around with Greg Bird on the DL. His bat has tremendous batting average risk due to 64 Ks in 153 at bats, but he did hit 41 HRs in 2016. Bird had another setback at AAA, and he’s going to see a foot specialist over the next week, which clears another window for Carter to find his power stroke. Chris has looked better over the last two weeks or so (.279 with four HRs and nine RBI), but he did strikeout 17 times in 43 at bats. Carter is a power out, but he doesn’t hit in a favorable part of the batting order.
Jose Pirela has started 11 straight games for the Padres at 1B, 2B, and OF, but he qualifies at second base in most Fantasy leagues in 2017. He flashed over a seven-game stretch (15-for-27 with two HRs and seven RBI), but Jose doesn’t have a hit in his last 13 at bats with a stolen base. Pirela crushed the ball at AAA over 181 at bats this year (.331 with 13 HRs, 42 RBI, and eight SBs). He’s far from a lock as Jose is an 11-year vet in the minors at age 27 (.278 with 63 HRs, 428 RBI, and 124 SBs over 3645 at bats). He may surprise while offering some power and speed.
With Kolten Wong on the DL, Paul DeJong will have a window to prove his worth at the major league level. In 2016 at AA, he hit .260 with 22 HRs, 73 RBI, and three SBs over 496 at bats while showing growth this season at AAA (.299 with 13 HRs and 34 RBI over 177 at bats). Over his last three games, Paul had five hits in 11 at bats with two HRs and five RBI. He’ll turn 24 in August, so his future looks bright as a power source at second base.
The A’s parted ways with Trevor Plouffe this week, which opens up a starting job. They called up Matt Chapman who hit .259 at AAA with 16 HRs and 30 RBI. His bat has high upside in power based on his HRs at High-A in 2015 (23 HRs with 57 RBI over 304 at bats) and AA/AAA in 2016 (36 HRs with 96 RBI). Matt is only a career .245 hitter in the minors with 362 Ks in 1364 at bats (26.5 percent), which does invite some early struggles and inconsistent playing time.
Matt Davidson has a six-game hitting streak (10-for-24) with five HRs and nine RBI. He’s started 20 of the last 22 games for the White Sox while hitting .284 with seven HRs and 13 RBI. Over this span, he does have 33 Ks in 74 at bats, which is an insanely high number leading to playing time loss down the road. Yoan Moncada struggled over his last 115 at bats at AAA (.235 with three HRs, 14 RBI, and seven SBs) with a spark over his last four games (7-for-17 with a HR and four RBI), which points to him being the minors for much more games than Fantasy owners expected headed into 2017. Matt will keep his opportunity until Yoan is ready to be called up.
Sleeping at the wheel is a losing equation for Fantasy owners. Eduardo Escobar smashed a three-run homer on June 11th, which was a hint of possible upside. Over his last 26 at bats, Escobar has 15 hits with five runs, three HRs, and eight RBI to raise his batting average from .230 to .295. The Twins will ride the hot hand, so Eduardo is worth a short-term ride if you have a weakness at middle infielder or shortstop.
Alcides Escobar has been a dog over the first three months of the season, but he is trending upward over the last week. He has ten hits in his last 31 at bats with five runs, a HR, and three RBI, but he can’t have any playable Fantasy value with without stealing bases (one stolen base over 261 at bats). Over his previous six seasons in the league, Alcides had 148 SBs so he may run with more success with his bat. At the very least, he should have a batting average correction while his only value will come in deep leagues.
The Mariners moved Ben Gamel to the leadoff spot in the batting order over the last week. He responded with a nine-game hitting streak (17-for-37 with ten runs, three RBI, and two SBs). His bat has been special since May 27th (.418 with 17 runs, six RBI, and two SBs). His skill set points to a 15/15 type player while hitting .303 in his career at AAA with 17 HRs, 123 RBI, and 33 SBs over 1042 at bats. He’s here to stay, and his swing looks to be improving.
The Indians do their best to sit Lonnie Chisenhall in too many games. Since returning from the DL on June 6th, Lonnie has started only six of 11 games. Over this period, he hit .385 with four HRs and 13 RBI over 26 at bats with most of the damage coming in his last four games (6-for-12 with three HRs and 11 RBI). His recent success should lead to more playing time, and he has a great resume in 2017 (10 HRs and 35 RBI) despite only having 118 at bats. For the record, Chisenhall has six hits in 20 at bats vs. lefties with two HRs and five RBI.
Joc Pederson has been my boy over the last two seasons, and he’s done nothing but disappoint. He returned from the DL on June 13th after going three for nine at AAA with two HRs and four RBI. Joc has a four-game hitting streak (5-for-14) with four runs, two HRs, two RBI, and an SB. With Adrian Gonzalez out for an extended period, Pederson should be in the lineup every day with Chris Taylor shifted to left field. Solid power source with underlying speed and his game will shine at some point in the future, but I need him in a big way over the last three months of the season in a couple of high dollar leagues.
There’s a chance that the Reds call up Homer Bailey next week or so after looking sharp in his two rehab starts at A and AA (no runs over 11 innings with 11 strikeouts and one walk). He may need another start at a high level before getting called up. The free agent pool remains thin so Bailey may be a second half gem if he maintains his success in the majors.
Brandon Finnegan looks to be about a week behind Bailey after tossing four shutout innings at AA on June 16th. This improves his rehab success to seven shutout innings with two hits, one walk, and five Ks. Walks are the key for Finnegan’s value going forward. His stuff is tough to hit, and the Reds have a solid bullpen with a high-scoring offense, so wins should shine through over the last three months of the season.
If you need to gamble on one arm with some upside going forward, Nick Pivetta could be that guy. He had his best start of his career last week against Boston when he allowed no runs over seven innings with nine Ks. His resume in the majors looks sketchy in 2017 (4.46 ERA and 1.60 WHIP), but he dominated in his five starts at AAA (1.41 ERA with 37 Ks and two walks over 32 innings). In 2016, Nick went 12-8 over 27 starts between AA and AAA with a 3.27 ERA and 138 Ks over 148.2 innings. Pivetta doesn’t have excellent command (3.1 walks per nine in the minors), so there will be many peaks and valleys in 2017.
James Shields is slated to return from the DL on June 18th. Over three rehab starts at AAA, James allowed five runs over 14 innings with three walks and 14 Ks. It supports his start to the 2017 season in the majors (1.62 ERA over 16.2 innings with 16 Ks). I know 2016 was a disaster, but Shields has a long resume of success in the majors so a dance over a couple of weeks may lead to a better than expected long term opportunity.
After pitching poorly in his last three starts in the minors (16 runs and 30 base runners over 13 innings with six Ks), Tyson Ross threw the ball well in his first start in the majors (two runs over 5.2 innings with six Ks). His arm has 200+ K ability if he gets his walks under control, but he may need a few starts to work out some of his downside risk. This will be the week to pick him up if you have room on your bench.
Daniel Gossett will have one more start to prove he belongs in the majors. The Marlins drilled him in his major league debut (six runs and seven base runners over 3.1 innings with a strikeout). Over 11 starts in AAA in 2017, Daniel had a 3.41 ERA with 54 Ks over 60.2 innings. Over four seasons in the minors, Gossett went 19-22 with a 3.55 ERA and 342 Ks over 383 innings. His average fastball came in at about 91 in his first start in the majors, so he’ll rely on his command and the upside of his secondary pitches. His cutter/slider looks to be his best pitch.