Daniel Mengden - SP, OAK
Owned in 0% of Yahoo leagues
Sometimes we use this column to dive very deep, uncovering players with some promise that might only appeal to owners in leagues where waiver wire talent is excessively thin. Daniel Mengden is one such player. He's owned virtually nowhere, and his is hardly a household name. But there are definitely some things to like here.
As a 23-year-old who hadn't pitched above A-ball, Mengden wasn't really on the prospect radar heading into 2016. However, his dominance at Double-A and Triple-A this season has been hard to ignore. In 11 starts between the two levels, he posted a 5-1 record with a 1.32 ERA and 0.95 WHIP prior to last week's promotion to the majors.
Mengden joins Oakland's rotation in place of Jesse Hahn, who was shipped back to the minors following another short and ineffective outing last week. The last-place Athletics are desperately seeking quality innings so they'll surely be open to sticking with Mengden if he can provide them. He displayed a few positive signs in his MLB debut on Saturday.
Facing the Reds in their hitter-friendly home yard, Mengden came up just short of a quality start, yielding two runs over 5 2/3 innings before being pulled for a reliever with two runners in scoring position in a tight game.
Some control problems were present for Mengden, who issued four walks in the outing, but he ultimately threw a respectable 69 of 104 pitches in the zone and induced 12 swinging strikes on his way to punching out five batters.
The righty has averaged a strikeout per inning in the minors with his solid four-pitch mix and it would be no surprise to see him hang around that rate in the big leagues. He'll benefit from pitching home games in Oakland's spacious Coliseum. And he can pretty easily put himself ahead of rotation-mate Erik Surkamp (6.41 ERA) in the pecking order, so there's no assurance Mengden will head back down when Rich Hill (groin) comes off the disabled list, whenever that occurs.
If you're among the first to snag Mengden in a fantasy league, you may end up looking pretty smart.
Zach Eflin - SP, PHI
Owned in 3% of Yahoo leagues
How long will Vince Velasquez be sidelined by his bicep injury? No one seems to know right now. The right-hander has stated that he hopes to return when his mandatory 15 days on the disabled list are up, and manager Pete Mackanin said that an MRI on Velasquez's arm came back "pretty clean," but the hurler was flashing some seriously diminished velocity in his last outing before being pulled after just two pitches. Prior to that game, he had stalled out in the fifth inning of four consecutive starts.
While Velasquez is out, 22-year-old righty Zach Eflin gets a chance to show his stuff. The former first-round draft pick has put up some impressive numbers while rising steadily through the minor-league ranks. In 11 starts at Triple-A this year, he has gone 5-2 with a 2.90 ERA and 55-to-11 K/BB ratio, with only two homers allowed in 68 innings.
The numbers at Lehigh Valley were obviously quite strong across the board, but the most encouraging was a substantial uptick in strikeouts. His inability to miss bats has always been a mark against Eflin's case as an impact prospect. Last year, at Double-A, he averaged 4.6 K/9 in 23 starts, and that's the kind of sub-mediocre rate that speaks to a low ceiling in the majors.
This year at Triple-A, though, Eflin has gone bumped his strikeout percentage up to 20.9 percent, a dramatic increase from last year's 12.6 percent. This has come attached to his typical excellent control and avoidance of home runs, leading to resounding all-around success. Opponents in the International League have batted just .199/.240/.272 against him.
Can he bring it to the majors? That will be the rookie's big test. He is set to make his major-league debut on Tuesday night with a fairly challenging match-up in Toronto that should prove telling. Obviously Eflin's spot in the Philly rotation is far from stable, especially if Velasquez is able to return somewhat quickly, but a few good performances could allow him to dig in.