Just over a third of the Fantasy baseball season has been completed, and depending on the number of teams in your Fantasy league, your waiver wire may just about be wrung dry. We all still need to make roster moves but with so many knowledgeable Fantasy managers among us, we need to dig deeper and deeper in order to find that Fantasy player who could help our Fantasy teams finish strong. I’ve identified five players who’ve never played in the big leagues, but are one step away from getting “the call.” Based on their skills, they have a good chance of making an immediate impact on a major league and Fantasy rosters and could be playing at a major league ballpark near you before long.
Brian Goodwin, OF, Nationals
The Nationals are currently dealing with a rotating quartet of struggling outfielders who would probably have a hard time hitting their way out of a paper bag. Bryce Harper is one of the best players in the game and will come around, but has batted just .217 since May 1. Jayson Werth enters Monday’s action batting .220, Michael Taylor is hitting .197 with a .234 OBP and Ben Revere is batting just .167. It looks like it might be time for the Nats to infuse a bit of new blood into the mix.
If the Nationals are going to try to deal with the ineptitude of their outfielders internally, Brian Goodwin, their first pick in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft, is someone they should consider bumping up from their Triple-A affiliate. Goodwin had been compared to the likes of Mike Trout, and was originally expected to be the Nationals lead-off hitter of the future, but injuries and poor play stalled his development. Goodwin worked on refining his craft this past offseason by playing in the Venezuelan Winter League and it seems to have paid off. His star as an elite prospect is beginning to rise again as his .303/.362/.479 slash line with the Syracuse Chiefs, suggests. Goodwin has a quick bat, and he is a disciplined hitter who is selective at the plate. He makes pitchers throw strikes and is not afraid to take a walk, as evidenced by his lifetime .345 OBP. He’s a line-drive contact hitter capable of hitting the ball to all fields, but he’s also got some pop in his bat. As he continues to develop, a future 20-home run season is not out of the question. Goodwin also displays excellent speed on the base paths, and has the potential to eventually steal 30-plus bases. With the three outfielders in the Nationals starting lineup on Sunday batting a combined .212, it might be time to see if Goodwin can transfer his skill set to the major leagues.
Manuel Margot, OF, Padres
With the trade that sent starting pitcher James Shields to the White Sox, it looks as if the San Diego Padres are in rebuild mode, yet again. Who’s next? Maybe … Matt Kemp? Can the Padres find someone to take Kemp, who’s been batting .188 since May 7, and his huge contract off their hands? Centerfielder Jon Jay, who is an excellent lead-off hitter, should command some attention on the trade market. If the Padres find suitors for some of their veteran outfielders, Manuel Margot will have the opportunity to showcase his talents at the major league level.
Margot is projected as the Padres’ lead-off hitter and centerfielder of the future, and he’s been raking it in for their Triple-A affiliate this season. In 54 games, he’s scored 47 runs, stolen 16 bases and he has a .363 OBP. Margot is another outfielder who has excellent bat speed. He has a compact swing which has helped him develop elite contact skills. Margot’s biggest asset is his speed, and most scouts estimate that he has 30-plus stolen base potential. He’s not much of a slugger. Margot’s likely to hit more doubles than home runs, and other than some sporadic spikes, he has demonstrated moderate power. He is able to drive the ball into the gaps. As he matures, his power may increase, but for now it looks like we shouldn’t expect more than 15 home runs per season from him. Playing in Petco Park may hinder him in that regard. If the Padres are able to find a team that will give them fair value for Jay, we could see Margot in a major league uniform before the end of the season.
T.J. Rivera, 1B, 2B, 3B, OF, Mets
The Mets have had several injuries at key positions this season. Catcher Travis d’Arnaud has been sidelined since late April with a strained right rotator cuff, and first baseman Lucas Duda will miss significant time with a stress fracture in his back. Most recently, third baseman David Wright was diagnosed with a herniated disk in his neck, and he could miss at least eight weeks. Although the Mets traded for veteran first baseman James Loney, for the short term, it doesn’t appear as if they’re planning on finding replacement bats from outside the organization. They promoted Eric Campbell and Ty Kelly and had them play first and third base, respectively, but they’ve proven they’re nothing more than career minor leaguers, incapable of hitting major league pitching. The next player the Mets promote from their Triple-A affiliate should be T.J. Rivera.
Rivera is eventually expected to fill a potential utility role, but the Mets abundance of injuries and his ability to play several positions make him an intriguing option as a player who can fill a big role right now. He’s played first base, second base, third base and in the outfield, and that will only help elevate his Fantasy value. He is currently lighting up Triple-A pitchers with a .365/.400/.529 slash line, and his career .323 batting average and .370 OBP show that this season’s offensive production is no fluke. Rivera’s a high-contact hitter with gap power who owns an outstanding 12.5 percent minor league career strikeout rate. The Mets have been starting Wilmer Flores at third base over the past several games, but he is batting just .214. If Flores continues to struggle or if the Mets are faced with additional injuries, I see no reason why the Mets wouldn’t give the versatile Rivera a chance at strutting his stuff at the major league level. Who knows? Fantasy wise, he could be “that guy” (think of Danny Santana circa 2014) who fills the gaping hole in your Fantasy roster and completes your team.
Jorge Bonifacio, OF, Royals
With Kendrys Morales batting just .191 and owning a .320 slugging percentage and the Royals missing OF Alex Gordon and 3B Mike Moustakas from their everyday lineup, the defending world champs are having a hard time scoring runs. They’re averaging just 3.96 runs per game, as compared to 4.47 from last season. Career minor leaguer Paulo Orlando and the fleet footed Jarrod Dyson have been filling in nicely and getting regular at-bats in the outfield, but they lack the firepower needed to offset the loss of Gordon and Moustakas. With that in mind, some were surprised when the Royals recently recalled light hitting, but speedy outfielder Reymond Fuentes from the minor leagues, instead of potential run-producing outfielder Jorge Bonifacio.
Bonifacio is just 23 years old, but he’s tearing the cover off the ball in his first season in Triple-A, as evidenced by his triple slash of .311/.376/.568. He has quick hands and has worked on shortening his swing, which has allowed him to hit more line drives. His swing adjustments have also helped his batting average, as he is able to spread the ball to all fields. It took a few seasons in the minor leagues for Bonifacio’s power bat to develop, but he now projects as a 20-plus home run hitter who can drive in runs, something the Royals desperately need. Although he has become more selective at the plate, Bonifacio is still a free swinger and it may end up eventually capping his batting average to within the .250 to .260 range. Although the Royals may want to get Bonifacio a full season of Triple-A ball under his belt before they call him up to the majors, their depleted lineup may leave them no choice.
Tim Anderson, SS, White Sox
We mentioned that the James Shields trade signifies that the Padres may be back in rebuild mode, but that trade could also mean that the White Sox realize that even though they are within striking distance of first place, their roster may need a bit of tweaking. The shortstop position may be a good place for them to start. Jimmy Rollins and Tyler Saladino, who have seen the majority of action at short for the White Sox, are batting a combined .236 with an OBP below .290. Coincidentally, Tim Anderson, the Sox’s number one position prospect, plays shortstop for their Triple-A affiliate, and looks like he’s major league ready. Many of you astute Fantasy players are already familiar with Anderson as he lost his battle against Saladino for a spot on the White Sox’s major league roster during spring training. He stole 49 bases in Double-A ball last season, and he has a lifetime .300 minor league batting average. He isn’t without his faults. His current 3.3 percent walk rate needs to improve if he is going to take advantage of his plus speed, and he is susceptible to breaking balls that are out of the strike zone. He simply strikes out too much for a player who doesn’t possess a power bat. The White Sox could use a little more electricity in their lineup and Anderson has the skill set that their roster needs. Right now, Rollins and Saladino are standing between Anderson and a major league clubhouse. Their performance makes them expendable. As soon as the White Sox realize that, Anderson will be wearing a White Sox uniform.