Welcome to The Fringes, a new column designed to help you identify valuable players on the outskirts – or fringes - of the fantasy baseball scene. When I first pitched this idea 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.
Prospects on the Verge
This edition of Prospects on the Verge features Calhoun and some catch up work. Calhoun is having a weird season. He’s recorded a hit most days, but he’s posted very few multi-hit games. He’s also shown minimal power. Calhoun is eligible for an extra season of club control within a few days. His peripherals say he’s substantially worse than last year. His swinging strike and strikeout rates have increased. The Rangers may opt to give him time to settle down and improve.
Romero tossed 5.2 shutout innings in his major league debut. As of this writing, he was just relieved a moment ago. He showed considerable sinking movement with acceptable command. The sinker is in the 90 to 92 mph range. He’ll also run a 96 mph heater with arm side run. Per reports, his ability to locate may be a weakness. The stuff looks to be major league quality, but we should expect inconsistency.
Soroka debuted last night. The 20-year-old tossed a six-inning gem, recording five strikeouts with zero runs allowed. He mostly leaned upon two fastballs and a slider. I suspect he’ll need to mix up and deepen his repertoire if he wants to have continued success in the majors. The command and control is such that he should be owned in 12-team and deeper – just in case he takes off running. The best case scenario probably involves a sell high trade after a couple more good starts. Plan to continually evaluate as we go.
German debuted last season as a long reliever for the Yankees. The righty has a starter’s repertoire, although he’s not likely to get many chances in New York. He’s presently lined up for his first start due to a Jordan Montgomery injury. German is a solid speculative addition in deeper formats. You probably don’t want to stream him against the Indians.
Low Ownership Starters
Pitchers are eligible for inclusion if they are under 35 percent owned.
Chirinos was bumped from the list due to an elbow injury. Romero and Soroka, both of whom we discussed above, are the new additions. I also popped Gibson back onto the list. I was overaggressive with removing him. He’s going to be inconsistent based on his command. The fastball is still a below average pitch even though his slider has emerged as a true weapon. His repertoire is screaming for a move to the bullpen.
You’ll also notice I implemented a couple tiers. The first includes the guys who are generally performing well. The second is made up of pitchers who I think can provide value even though there’s a serious issue with their profile or current performance. Newcomb, Soroka, Cahill, and Heaney are my favorites to break out.
Favorable Upcoming Matchups
Mike Fiers at Kansas City (Thursday)
Reynaldo Lopez vs. Minnesota (Thursday)
Nick Pivetta at Washington (Friday)
Miles Mikolas vs. Chicago NL (Friday)
Daniel Mengden vs. Baltimore (Friday)
Trevor Cahill vs. Baltimore (Saturday)
The Royals have perhaps the weakest offense in baseball. Fiers is not a world beater, but he’s in a good spot to provide an uninspiring quality start with a chance for a win. It’s a solid streaming opportunity. Kauffman Stadium is pitcher friendly.
Lopez is under 50 percent owned. While I have reservations about his ability – I basically see him as a 4.50 ERA pitcher – a matchup against the Miguel Sano-less Twins seems pleasant enough. He’s reached or exceeded six innings pitched in four of five outings. A quality start is possible. Walks have been an issue.
A few interesting pitchers are available on Friday. Pivetta’s command has taken a big step forward. Combined with a plus curve, he looks like a legit roto asset. He’s currently 45 percent owned. So long as he continues to tamp down on walks and home runs, he’ll be a top 40 pitcher. Due to injuries, the Nationals are a neutral matchup these days.
At 62 percent ownership, Mikolas isn’t available to everybody. He’s a steady mid-tier pitcher akin to the early-2017 version of Charlie Morton. The Cubs offense contains plenty of high strikeout hitters. Busch Stadium is pitcher friendly. This is by no means a safe matchup, but Mikolas is good enough to use against most opponents when pitching at home.
Targeting the Orioles with right-handed pitchers is always a good idea. They’re extremely strikeout prone. They’re also struggling to put runs on the board. Mengden gets first crack at them followed by Cahill. If you’re just picking one Athletic to use, I’d go with Cahill. He looks like the pitcher who cleaned house during the first half of 2017.
Going forward, I’ll use the Fringe Spotlight to look at an interesting bench player. First up is recently promoted utility man Daniel Castro.
The 25-year-old former prospect has been out of the public eye since 2015. During that time, he’s mashed minor league pitching. Castro doesn’t show any power or plate discipline, but he could be a high batting average asset with regular action. Players with pure bat-to-ball skills seem to benefit the most from the current Air Ball Revolution.
A mild injury to DJ LeMahieu has opened up temporary playing time for Castro. The Rockies are currently struggling to get into a groove. The NL West is a vulnerable division. Finding surprise production from a disruptive contact hitter like Castro could fuel a hot streak. Colorado corner outfielders have struggled enough to give Castro a small chance to retain a role. First, he needs to go absolutely bonkers during his current audition.
For now, my goal is merely to highlight an unusual player with surprising upside. Unless your league rosters more than 800 players, he probably isn’t relevant as more than a very temporary streamer. A lack of home run and stolen base ability severely limits his fantasy profile.