It’s a long season. Players get traded. Some lose their positions to youngsters from the minor leagues. This is the second installment in our “The Replacements Are Coming” column, where we at Moxyball talk about fantasy baseball prospects to stash and future big league transactions that will have considerable fantasy baseball impact. Get ahead of your league mates by having this information before they’ve even thought about it.
Situation #1: Chicago White Sox, Second Base
We’ve talked a lot about Chicago second basemen this year, but more so about what was happening on the Cubs side of things. As we turn our attention to the White Sox, it’s pretty clear that Gordon Beckham isn’t the long-term solution at the keystone. With the trade deadline around the corner, we could be looking at a changing of the guard in the south end of the windy city.
We’ve already seen him in the majors, both at the end of 2013 and to start the year in 2014. Marcus Semien should be back on our radar, as he’s likely to get the call if Beckham is moved. Semien doesn’t have massive fantasy potential, but he does possess power and speed skills that make for a decent flier for those in need of a fill-in should the time and opportunity come. He hasn’t been hitting the cover off the ball since heading down to AAA earlier this year, but has 9 HR in 50 games and is walking at a great clip (12.3%) and striking out at a respectable 16.4%.
Another infielder that is likely to get an extended look in Chicago before the end of the year is Carlos Sanchez. Sanchez is much less of a prospect than Semien, but is a plus defender and has a bit of speed on the bases. Think of him like an Eric Young Jr with less speed – from an upside perspective. He’s looking at a career as a utility infielder at best, but may play enough to be relevant in deep AL-only leagues.
The guy in the group with the most fantasy upside is speedster Micah Johnson. Drafted in 2012 as a 9th round selection (291st overall), Johnson is doing all the right things at the minor league level. After finishing 2013 at AA for a nice 5 game audition, he managed to start the year where he left off and saw himself promoted to AAA after only 37 games. This promotion was well-deserved, given that he was hitting .329 with 10 steals and a 12.4% walk rate in Birmingham. Since joining Charlotte (the White Sox AAA affiliate), he’s kept things rolling with a .303 average and another 10 steals. What’s a bit concerning is his walk rate, which has shrunk to a measly 4.8%. On the plus side, he’s managed to keep his strikeouts down (11.5%), which is something he’s managed to do his entire minor league career. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Johnson get a look in September so he can have a taste of the major leagues heading into the offseason. However, I’m expecting the White Sox to give him a real shot at significant playing time at the major league level in early 2015.
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Situation #2: Arizona Diamondbacks, Infield
The situation in Arizona should be a fairly entertaining one to monitor over the next few days. Both from a fantasy baseball perspective, but also for the impact it will have across the league as contenders try to shore up their squads heading into the home stretch.
There have been a number of rumors in the air recently, with the likes of Aaron Hill and Martin Prado being tossed around as potential movers. It makes perfect sense, as the D-backs are out of contention once again and both players have considerable chunks of change remaining on their respective contracts. Hill is due $12 million each of the next 2 years, while Prado checks in at $11 million for the same term. It’s hard to imagine Arizona hanging onto both of these players moving forward, especially with their ability to replace both guys from within.
Didi Gregorious and Chris Owings are both capable of playing every day, but they currently can’t coexist with the way the roster is today. Shipping out Hill for example, would open up an opportunity for them both to play every day – and would save the Diamondbacks a ton of cash.
Prado is currently manning the hot corner for Arizona, and is heating up at the dish. He’s a rock solid baseball player and would be an asset for just about any major league squad. Down on the farm, we don’t have to look too far to see who the long-term solutions are at third base.
Jake Lamb and Brandon Drury are the two names that you need to know. Lamb is the closer of the two to the majors, as he’s currently in AA playing quite well. Through 100 games he’s hitting .315 with a .392 on base percentage and is slugging .553 at 23 years of age. He has 14 HR and a whopping 35 doubles to go along with 5 triples and another 61 singles. He’s already at 54 extra base hits, and there’s still another couple of months left in the season. A promotion to AAA before season’s end is realistic, and he’s on track to make his major league debut in mid-2015.
Drury is a couple of years younger (21) than Lamb and is currently in high-A. He’s having quite a year himself, with a .296 average, .361 on base percentage and is slugging .515. With 18 home runs and 34 doubles, the extra base power is there and will help carry him up prospect lists as he continues to advance. Expect him to start 2015 at AA and likely spend the entire year there before moving up to do the same in AAA come 2016. He’s more likely to be a 2017 option for the Diamondbacks, but is another nice prospect in the Diamondbacks’ system worth watching.
Sources: Fangraphs.com, Baseballreference.com