MASTER NOTES: Endgamers

I’ll be embarking on my first draft of 2018 on Tuesday night, when the brand-new 15-mixed HQ-WONK league kicks off with an online auction of 15 highly skilled expert writers and analysts from BaseballHQ.com.

Well, 14 highly skilled expert writers and analysts, plus me.

This league is a keeper format, and Year One figures to be very important in setting up for a decent run of success. With that in mind, I’ve been focusing my attention and research on picking out $0 players for the endgame and reserve rounds. I enter the guys I find as “Targets” in the RotoLab draft software I use and like (full disclosure: I don’t pay for it, presumably because I’m an “influencer,” like those gamers, fashionistas and seven-year-old toy critics who make millions of dollars from YouTube and Instagram).

I’ve been tagging players now for a couple of weeks, whenever I have a few minutes away from real life. Today I turned on the filtering mechanism in the RotoLab draft screen, and saw to my amazement that I have amassed at least one endgame target at every offensive position and about a dozen starting pitchers.

So I thought I’d share some of them with you, and then wait for someone to send me a check for $6-million because of the influencing that will result. I might not be 100% straight on how that all works.

The valuations are based on BaseballHQ.com’s projections and RotoLab’s valuations, which in turn are based on the HQ-WONK league scoring rules, which are a little different from standard 5x5:

  • OBP instead of BA
  • Net Steals (SB-CS) instead of SB
  • IP instead of Wins
  • K-BB instead of strikeouts
  • Saves-plus-Holds instead of Saves

I’ll do these position-by-position. Prospects are important as the HQ-WONK is a keeper league. There are no relief pitchers, because no closer is valued at $0 or less, and so many non-closing relievers are.

Catcher: Francisco Mejia, SD. I forgot to mention that HQ-WONK is a one-catcher league, so Mejia will probably have to be a reserve-round stash. But in two-catcher leagues, he could be worth a look. His MLB-level performance so far—.174/.250/333—will not get anybody’s drool glands working, but he has shown that he can get the bat to the ball, with ct% near and often over 80% in almost every season at every minor-league level, where he’s been young for the level (he’s still just 23). His BA and OBP have been restricted because of a pretty pronounced GB tilt, which he’ll have to get past as it has flat killed his h% at MLB. One possible fly in the long-term ointment is that Mejia has struggled defensively, and the Padres might feel obliged to move him to the OF, where he is not skilled, or 1B, where he’s blocked by Eric Hosmer. His bat will clearly play better behind the plate. For a reserve slot, I’ll chance it.

1B: Ryan O’Hearn, KC. O’Hearn stroked 12 HR last season in 170 PA at MLB, and logged a .950 OPS. That puts him in the mid-30s, pro-rated to 600 PA, but even if he gets the PAs, which is not a given considering O’Hearn’s difficulties with LHP, he’ll not get that kind of power. Still, paying a buck for the potential of mid-20s with mid-70s RBI (he’ll probably hit fifth or sixth behind all of KC’s rabbits) makes O’Hearn at least a little intriguing, and maybe a better bet than paying $14 for Justin Smoak.

3B: Hernan Perez, MIL. In three seasons in MIL, Perez has 36 HR and 58 (!) SB in 1222 PA. On a per-600 PA basis, that’s close to 20-30, albeit with a sub-.300 OBP. The main issue here is with playing time—a nominal 2B who is also eligible at SS, 3B and OF, Perez faces competition from Travis Shaw (a nominal 3B who could be shuffled around depending on whether MIL makes any acquisitions) and top 2B prospect Keston Hiura. Perez has a path to PT as a super-utility, but even there faces the likes of Cory Spangenberg and OF reserves like Eric Thames and Ben Gamel. Still, if he gets any kind of PT, and your BA or OBP situation can absorb the hit, Perez could be a very valuable chip when the injuries hit.

2B: Keston Hiura, MIL. I know, I know: I just bet on Perez at 2B. Call this a hedge, or a flowering shrub, but I can see Hiura fast-tracking to MLB on the strength of great bat-to-ball skills and enough of an eye to generate a .313 BA/.374 OBP in two full minor-league seasons that went from Rookie ball to Double-A. I won’t be shocked if Hiura gets a while in Triple-A for “seasoning,” which means service-time manipulation, but even if he’s not up til summer, he’s still got an excellent chance to rake, and might even throw in some bags, although he’ll have to work on not getting caught (17-13 in 2018).

SS: Bo Bichette, TOR. This is almost surely a longer-term prospect play. In the off-season, the Blue Jays signed Freddy Galvis and appear determined to stick his career .664 OPS into the lineup regularly. They also have holdovers Lourdes Gurriel and Devon Travis (whom the Jays might be grooming as a super-ute) angling for PT. But none of these guys can match Bichette’s bat, which has produced a .906 OPS in three minor-league seasons as he has shot up through the minors. That record has included double-digit HR and SB last season at age 20 in AA New Hampshire, and a 15-30 combined mark per 600 MiLB PAs. He’s not likely to be an impact hitter in 2019, and that shouldn’t matter with MLB so loaded at the position for fantasy, but he’s a great stash for the future.

OF: Roman Quinn, PHI. Interesting tidbit here: Quinn had 1,592 MiLB PAs, and 159 SB. That’s eerily close to exactly a bag per every 10 PAs, so 600 PAs means ... a big step toward winning the SB category. Of course, Quinn is in tough looking for big PAs in an OF that features newcomer Andrew McCutchen and Odubel Herrera as locks. But Nick Williams looks like he could be vulnerable, perhaps to a platoon, which could give Quinn at least some PT vs LHP, in addition to whatever pinch-running opportunities might arise. Give him, say, 250 PAs and you could still be reaping 20-30 SBs, with a BA (.266 in MiLB) and OBP (.340) that could help your team and at least not harm it.

Starting Pitcher: Andrew Heaney, LAA. Since I started making notes for this Master Notes edition, Heaney seems to have been “discovered.” Or maybe I just wasn’t paying attention. He rates as a -$2 starter in HQ-WONK, but he went in the 11th round of this week’s LABR-Mixed draft, a pick with an implied value of five or six scoons. The secret is out. I still like Heaney, maybe not so much at that price. I also will be looking at Yonny Chirinos, TAM, who went well into the LABR-Mixed reserve after a nicely skilled $4 season last year.

I don’t know how many, if any at all, of these players will end up on my roster on Tuesday night (or whenever we end up finishing). But I have a few more to look at, and I’ll keep tagging them as I find them. If you have any ideas, put them in the comments below. That goes double for all you HQ-WONKers.

Consider yourself influenced!


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