What better way to start playing catchup on some of the off-season moves with a duo of catchers.
Wellington Castillo signed a two-year deal with a team option for a third with the White Sox. Castillo will move into the top role in Chicago with either Kevan Smith or Omar Narvaez serving as his back-up. Castillo, 30, had a career year in 2017 with twenty home runs and a .282/.323/.490 slash line. A right-handed hitter with a fairly aggressive approach who strikes out more than a quarter of the time is quite likely to see his derived stats (batting average and on-base percentage) slip a bit as they regress more towards his career norms. The power, however, remains generally real and though a decline in HR/FB could occur, his total count could indeed climb if he manages to stay on the field with fewer injuries in 2018.
Meanwhile back in Baltimore, the move leaves a clear path for Chance Sisco to grab the starting job. A long-time top prospect of the O’s, the 22-year old was a former second-round draft pick 2013. His defense has garnered mixed reviews, though he has made improvements there. While we in the fantasy world are mostly concerned with his bat, it’s his defense that will keep him in the lineup, especially with a manager like Buck Showalter manning the helm. At the plate, Sisco has a patient approach and emerging upper single digit to mid-teens home run power. He was noted for his contact-making abilities earlier in his career, but his strikeout rates jumped significantly at Triple-A this past year (26%) and he produced a very pedestrian .267/.340/.395 line there. If Sisco is going to be the long-term future behind the plate for the Orioles, it may require some patience by both fantasy players and his organization to see him fulfill his high-draft pedigree potential. Right now, to expect better than mediocre output as he adjusts to the gruel of being behind the plate most days as well as having to face MLB-caliber pitching is unreasonable.
The White Sox, pushing towards rebuilding mode, did not aggressively pursue veterans to add to their outfield, instead focusing on minor league invitees and their system’s own depth. Early on, Charlie Tilson was considered one of the front-runners as a rookie candidate to grab a starting job but has been slowed by injuries. In his stead, Jacob May has pushed forward to claim the starting centerfield job, but can he hold onto it and just who is this guy?
May, 25, was a 2013 third round pick out of Coastal Carolina, so not a completely unheralded prospect in this case. He’s a smallish (5’10”) switch-hitter whose standout tools is speed gathering 37 stolen bases in 2014, 38 in 2015, and 19 over his 321 plate appearances in Triple-A in 2016. It should be noted, however, that May is not necessarily a high-percentage stealer with a 69% and 70% success rates respectively over those two seasons. It remains to be seen whether or not he’ll be given the green light and whether or not make the necessary improvements to keep it.
At the plate, May leaves quite a bit to be desired as a potential starter. He has marginal power with a sub .100 isolated power in the upper levels of the minors, and lacks in the plate discipline department, striking out far too often (22% in 2016 in AAA) and fails to get on base (4.7% walk rate). He fared slightly better in the latter two departments in his 2015 Double-A stint but has yet to show that at a higher level of competition.
In summary, May speed tools certainly make him a must-grab in AL-only formats, but he strikes me as someone whose modest skills and talents will be overexposed during a prolonged stay. Long term I see him as a fourth/fifth/Triple-A roster filler outfielder. Extract what value you can from him while he gets some plate appearances.
The Tampa Rays will call up their top pitching prospect, Blake Snell, to make what appears to be a one-time spot start against the Yankees tomorrow. While Snell’s short-term value is suspect particularly since he has yet to work beyond five innings in Triple-A season, he’s certainly a grab and stash type if available in redraft leagues given that he could get a more extended look later this season. It would be highly unlikely to find him available in keeper or dynasty league formats on the free agent market.
Background and Analysis: Snell was a supplemental first-round draft pick back in 2011 by the Rays. The left-hander was considered a fairly middling prospect for the earlier portion of his professional career, battling command issues and owning a fairly unrefined, though projectable, arsenal of pitches. 2015 was a complete break-through. Snell increased the velocity on his fastball, regularly touching the mid-nineties, and elevated his changeup to become possibly his best pitch. That pitch, in combination with what was already a plus slider, gives him multiple swing and miss pitches. All of this occurred as he simultaneously improved his command, dropping his walk rates to the sub 4.0 range at both the Double-A and Triple-A levels.
The end result was a pitcher with a four-pitch repertoire including three-plus offerings including multiple weapons against right-handers, improved command, and the plus sinker to keep the ball on the ground and in the park. As a result, Snell leaped on the prospect radar becoming one of the better pitching prospects in the game today.
Fast forward to 2016, Snell has been fairly dominant in three Triple-A starts with a 13.2 K/9 over 14.1 innings. It should be noted, however, that in two of his three starts he walked 3 batters in under 5 innings of work in each outing and has a teeny sample size walk rate over the 4.0 mark.
Overall there is a tremendous amount to like about Snell, but his control after only a single season of showing some improvement still remains at least a yellow flag to be cautious for those considering activating him or using him in DFS immediately.
In light of the 80-game PED suspension for Chris Colabello, one can expect Jesus Montero to have his contract purchased from Triple-A to become Justin Smoak‘s platoon partner at first base. As I discussed earlier this season, Montero is a player who could do some damage given the opportunity. This could be that opportunity for the former Yankee to finally establish himself as a big-leaguer.