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The Fringes: April Call Ups

by Brad Johnson
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Welcome to The Fringes, a new column designed to help you identify players on the outskirts – or fringes - of the fantasy baseball scene who could become valuable. When I first pitched this column to my Rotoworld overlords, I described it thusly – “this column will cover low ownership starters, pitchers with favorable upcoming matchups, prospects on the verge, bench guys with the talent to be more, emergent multi-inning relievers and/or closers, and other opportunists.”

 

Any new column is going to experience a little trial and error. As always, I welcome feedback. You can reach me on Twitter @BaseballATeam. For now, let’s group things exactly as I described them in the original pitch.

 

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Prospects on the Verge

 

Ronald Acuna

Nick Senzel

Willie Calhoun

Gleyber Torres

Jaime Barria

 

Acuna, Senzel, and Calhoun may receive promotions by the end of the weekend. At that point, their clubs will have secured an extra season of club control. The Braves are playing well enough to attempt contention. Acuna is an obvious part of the formula. Senzel was recently moved from shortstop back to a third base, a transition that doesn’t occur unless the team plans to have him fill in for the injured Eugenio Suarez. They recently signed Suarez long term so the plan remains to eventually push Senzel to shortstop. Calhoun is the least certain of the trio. As a player with suspect defensive ability, there’s no reason to worry about managing his Super Two eligibility. If he isn’t recalled soon, it’s because the club thinks he has things to improve.

 

Along similar lines, we could see Torres any day now. The Yankees are dealing with an infield injury stack. Once they lock in the extra season of club control by delaying his promotion, the only thing holding back Torres is his own performance. New York obviously isn’t worrying about Super Two considerations.

 

The Angels have activated Jaime Barria for tonight’s game. One of the youngest players at Double-A, Barria is a fly ball pitcher with plus command and control. It’s a profile that usually struggles initially in the majors. There’s far less margin for error against big league bats.

 

Low Ownership Starters

 

Zach Davies

Reynaldo Lopez

Joey Lucchesi

Nick Pivetta

Andrew Triggs

Kyle Gibson

Mike Leake

Tyler Anderson

Hyun-Jin Ryu

Eduardo Rodriguez

Zack Wheeler

Brandon McCarthy

Brent Suter

Tyler Glasnow

Trevor Williams

Andrew Heaney

Yonny Chirinos

 

Graduates: Jake Junis, Tyler Skaggs, Marco Estrada

Removed: Tyler Mahle

 

With more information come more pitcher recommendations. Let’s keep the descriptions to a minimum lest this section turn into its own self-aware column. I’ve removed Mahle for now because he’s getting hammered. The results aren’t nearly as bad as the peripherals though. He could return. Three others graduated due to high ownership. They’re listed above.

 

Davies is a command and control guy similar to Kyle Hendricks. I’ll trust his run support to help him supply useful fantasy numbers. Leake, Ryu, Suter, and Williams have a similar command-first profile. Suter in particular is adept at inducing soft contact.

 

I was initially skeptical of Lucchesi. I’m growing more confident he can perform comparably to Tyler Anderson. Speaking of Anderson, he’s also on the list. Lucchesi benefits from not playing half his games at Coors Field. I compare them due to their repertoires – a minus fastball and plus changeup.

 

Pivetta, Gibson, and Triggs have plus breaking balls. When they’re on, the bendy stuff can lead to about a strikeout per inning. Lopez is a variation on the same theme. All four have hittable fastballs.

 

I’m waiting on Glasnow to oust Steven Brault from the rotation. The Pirates are managing Glasnow’s innings. Heaney should return from the disabled list in the near future. Chirinos need only prove he’s deserving of actual starts. They Rays are giving him roughly four-inning outings for now.

 

Favorable Upcoming Matchups

 

Zack Wheeler @ Marlins (Wednesday)

Trevor Williams @ Cubs (Thursday)

Chris Stratton @ Padres (Thursday)

Chad Kuhl @ Marlins (Friday)

Reynaldo Lopez @ Twins (Friday)

Jordan Montgomery @ Tigers (Saturday)

 

If you have a chance to gamble on Wheeler today, it’s always a good idea to target the Marlins. You can double down by grabbing Kuhl for his start on Friday.

 

I actually expected Williams to start the season on a higher note. His solid results aren’t supported by the underlying peripherals. However, I’m modestly confident he’ll have an acceptable outing against the Cubs. Wrigley Field is extremely pitcher friendly this time of year.

 

The Padres are banged up, making Stratton a smart play on the road. While I’m not entirely enthused by Stratton’s lack of standout skills, he’ll be a useful streaming option when he has the right matchups.

 

Lopez has flashed breakout potential. Even if you don’t want to use this start against the Twins, it’s a good idea to stash him just in case he pitches well. Then you can try to sell high or opt to keep evaluating him. And if he flops, you can always send him back to the wire.

 

Montgomery has scuffled a bit through two starts. He’s down to 48 percent owned as a result. The southpaw should be owned in 12-team and larger formats. The Yankees offense should give him a shot at 15 wins. The Tigers make for a soft target.

 

Emergent Relievers

 

Bud Norris

Brad Peacock

Edubray Ramos

Victor Arano

Sergio Romo

Chaz Roe

Josh Hader

Tony Cingrani

 

Last week, we focused on multi-inning relievers. This time, I want to hone in on some saves-adjacent relievers plus a few guys I’m targeting in deeper formats.

 

For what is likely to be a very brief window, Norris is the apparent closer in St. Louis. Greg Holland is back, but he bombed his first appearance. Dominic Leone has been a disaster. Norris is picking up the slack with nine strikeouts and no walks in 5.2 innings. He’s earned one save.

 

Although I have faith in Ken Giles, he’s been randomly unavailable a couple times this year. Peacock may be a better reliever, which is no knock on Giles. They’re both superb. Peacock has added value as a multi-inning guy. They both have only one save.

 

I’ll be closely monitoring Phillies relievers. Hector Neris isn’t the long term closer in Philly. They’ll probably look to promote somebody else later in the season for a test run. I’m betting on Edubray Ramos and Victor Arano as early candidates. Ramos is one of the top performing relievers since the start of last August. Ditto Arano; except over a much smaller sample of work.

 

Alex Colome is crumbling in Tampa Bay. Left-handed reliever Jose Alvarado has the 98 mph fastball of a closer, but there are issues with his command and control. He could struggle in a high profile role. Instead I’m focused on Romo and Roe. They both throw sliders the majority of the time.

 

Hader blends several desirable traits. He’s a multi-inning reliever with superb ratios and a chance to close for a few weeks. First, Jacob Barnes and Matt Albers need to open the door. Even Hader doesn’t earn saves now, his Sean Doolittle-like profile should eventually lead to an opportunity.

 

Since joining the Dodgers, Cingrani has buffed his slider usage en route to a sub-3.00 ERA and a premium strikeout rate. As a Red, Cingrani always shied away from offspeed stuff. It’s funny to see him have instant success in Los Angeles.

 

Talented Benchmen

 

Brian Goodwin

Dan Vogelbach

Brandon Nimmo

 

Goodwin is finding regular reps due to minor injuries in the Nationals outfield. Presently, Adam Eaton is set to miss about a week. He should make all of the starts against right-handed pitching. Goodwin has a fantasy applicable mix of power and speed. Don’t expect much by way of batting average or OBP. His lineup role tends to vary from leadoff to bottom-of-the-order.

 

Vogelbach was a Spring Training hero, but the presence of Nelson Cruz and Ryon Healy blocked him from regular play. With both currently sidelined, Vogey is playing frequently. The early results are a mixed bag. The actual stats are lackluster. They belie a 53.8 percent hard contact rate. His 30.8 percent soft contact rate is also crazy. Nobody makes this much hard and soft contact. If he gets a fair shake, I expect 25 to 30 home run power with a solid average or OBP.

 

Speaking of fair shakes, Nimmo was demoted even though he’s possibly the best leadoff man in the Mets system. Jay Bruce and Adrian Gonzalez are somehow in his way. Go figure. Those in deeper leagues could stash Nimmo until he’s given his next opportunity. Watch for him to eviscerate Triple-A pitching via plus plate discipline and his new understanding of how to attack strikes.

Brad Johnson

You can read more from Brad Johnson on NBC Sports Edge, FanGraphs, and RotoFanatic. Find him on Patreon and Twitter @BaseballATeam.