More Fantasy-Relevant Prospects on the Way?
by Eno Sarris //
Last week, we started going down Baseball America’s mid-season Top 25 list looking for prospects who might actually accrue some significant playing time in the major leagues this year. Though the risk with all prospects getting their first shot at the bigs is significant, the upside is also very enticing. Staying on top of these players may be a boon to your team, especially if your league standings are close enough to be impacted by a big final six weeks.
Eleventh on Baseball America’s list is a very interesting name that dovetails with a piece R.J. Anderson just penned. Michael Pineda is a great prospect in the Mariners organization, the team is playing for next year, and Seattle recently traded away Cliff Lee, so it would seem that there might be a place for Pineda. Unfortunately for Pineda, David Pauley was the one who got the call first. But the fact remains that the fifth starter for the Mariners right now, Luke French, owns a poor 59/39 K/BB ratio in 100+ major league innings. French also owns underwhelming rates in the minor leagues (MiLB career 5.8 K/9, 2.7 BB/9), so he could leave the rotation at any time.
If he does, Pineda could immediately become the newest impact pitching prospect, and an immediate pickup in most leagues. Right now, he’s putting up 8.9 K/9, 1.9 BB/9 and a 2.40 FIP in Triple-A, and that’s the worst strikeout rate he’s shown since he was 18 and in rookie ball. At 21, he’s always been precocious for his league, and the only (very slight) blemish on his record is a groundball percentage that has fallen slightly as he’s advanced levels. Still, at 43.4% right now, and 45.7% career, he could be fine. Just look at Tommy Hanson, who put up similar groundball rates (actually lower) in the minors, and is doing well with a 40% rate in the majors. Bryan Smith took a look at the evolution of groundball rates on FanGraphs recently, and it seems that the takeaway is that it’s not certain that Pineda will have the same struggles as flyballer Brian Matusz in Baltimore, just because they both had similar groundball rates in Triple-A. In fact, Bryan Smith provided this quote when asked about Pineda’s groundball rate: “It’s a normal trend for a right-handed power pitcher.”
It’s also worth noting that Pineda plays in a home park that suppresses home runs on flyballs, and that few teams can match the Mariners great outfield defense. Watch for his pickup and pounce if you need pitching.
Next on the list is the Kansas City Royals’ Mike Moustakas, who has had a roller-coaster minor league ride. You might consider him in a dip right now, with a .266/.285/.432 battling line in Triple-A Omaha. But if you use MinorLeagueSplits.com to neutralize that line for bad luck (such as on balls in play) and park effects, it looks a lot nicer at .317/.333/.496. Moustakas once hit a trough like this before, as a 20-year-old in High-A ball (.254/.303/.432), but once again his adjusted line was much more palatable (.288/.334/.495). It looks like he runs into some park- and luck-created problems every once in a while, but the power has been there all along.
Two things you will notice when looking over his minor league record are his power and plate discipline. His isolated power for his minor league career is .209, which is already solid; it was an even more impressive .279 at Double-A last year, so his peak power is well above-average. The other thing you might notice is that he doesn’t walk much. His 7% rate in the minor leagues got as high as 8.7% in Double-A, but after the usually inevitable drop in the major leagues, he may not be a great option in leagues that use OBP. Given his intermittent struggles in the minor leagues – luck-oriented or not – Moustakas may also not take the league by storm in his debut. He makes for a better keeper league choice than short-term pickup.
For more on Michaels Pineda and Moustakas and the rest of the top prospects in baseball, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.