Welcome back, Baseball Fans!
As promised, we will be heading out West and specifically, we will be hanging out in the Bay Area this week with a few potential impact bats for this season to keep on your radar. Speaking of the West Coast, I noticed there weren’t any postponed games out there this past 7-10 days. Baseball players are not employees of the United States Postal Service and rain, sleet and snow will keep them from delivering. The East Coast and Midwest got hammered with cold and precipitation over the last week and the Twins had to escape to Puerto Rico in order to actually play a game. Do you still think that building an outdoor baseball stadium in Minnesota was a good idea? Sorry, I make fun because my only weather issues this past week were whether or not to wear a hoody when the sun went down because the temperature could drop into the high 50s at night. Chilly! But I digress, it is an interesting discussion however on whether the early start to the season is a good thing or bad thing considering the weather. First thought is it was bad because you hit more cold, snow and ice by starting a week early. On the other hand, there is a little more space in the schedule to make up games now due to the early start so I guess it is a wash.
Over the last two weeks, we took a look at two players in the East and the Midwest that are worthy of keeping on the radar in all leagues for potential impact at some point this season. Ironically, I was going to discuss Tyler O’Neill (STL) last week but opted to talk about Austin Meadows instead. The irony is that O’Neill was called up on Wednesday and could provide some immediate production to the Cardinals lineup. That ship has sailed and we have arrived on the West Coast and we will be talking about some prospects in the Bay Area. The West Coast likes to boast that they are the best coast. It is bigger and better than everyone else. And now we go the City on the Bay…
Chris Shaw, 1B/LF (SF)
Age: 24, Height: 6’3″, Weight: 226 lbs., Bats/Throws: L/R
Shaw was a first-round pick by the Giants in 2015 based on his power potential for a team that certainly has struggled in that department in recent years. San Fran has been one of the worst slugging teams in recent years and the organization has moved Shaw through the system rapidly to get their best power bat ready for AT&T Park. In 2017, his 24 HRs between AA and AAA in 514 plate appearances was the organization’s best Home Run hitter at any level, including the Majors. They wisely had him go back to AA at the beginning of 2017 until he proved he had that mastered with a slash line of .301/.390/.511 in 154 plate appearance. His 15 extra base hits with 11.7% Walk rate and only 16.9% K rate drove his gaudy stat line including an incredible .396 wOBA. He gets promoted to AAA and the power continues and his average remains respectable (.289), but he was often overmatched as evidence of his plate discipline ratios (5.6% BB rate and 29.4% K rate). Where he was once on the fast track to perhaps an Opening Day gig in LF, the Giants needed him to get these areas back on track and sent him to AAA to start the 2018 season. They further traded for Andrew McCutchen and signed Austin Jackson and Gregor Blanco to fill out their outfield. This indicates that they are willing to give Shaw the time he needs before bringing him up.
His approach at the plate is not the issue despite his propensity to strikeout. He has good pitch recognition but does swing and miss due to a long swing that gives him trouble with making contact on pitches on the fringe of the strike zone. He showed patience in AA and his peripherals showed it. He was then able to crush Right-handed pitching and still handle Left-handers as well. This is his top priority to get under control in AAA this Spring if he wants to make an impact in San Francisco this season. He is capable of hitting (and hitting with power) to all fields which have helped keep his average up over .300 despite a poor start in the BB and K rates. In just about 50 plate appearances, he is still up around 6% BB rate and 32% K rate. His ability to get extra-base hits has kept his wOBA over .385.
The final thing to consider here is his potential contribution on defense. Shaw played primarily RF in college but moved to 1B in pro ball as his frame and tools were prototypical lefty 1B. He has developed into a decent 1B, but he is blocked by Belt and Posey. He moved to LF last season as there was a clear path to the Majors there. He was ok in LF and does have a strong arm, but will at best be an average defender in the OF. The curious decision by the Giants’ brass to bring in four hitters in their 30s (McCutchen, Blanco, Jackson and Evan Longoria) to fill out this roster has once again blocked Shaw. The one thing he does have going for him is the entire lineup except for Joe Panik is in their 30s and there is going to be injuries coming soon. As soon as Pence or Belt goes down, Shaw should get the call. It would be to his benefit to spending a few months in AAA, but a mid-Summer call-up could be a huge boost to fantasy owners in need of power categories. Just be prepared to suffer in any K category you may have. Ideally, he has the skill set to settle in at around 8% BB rate and 25% K rate in the Majors. This isn’t fantastic, but more than enough to roster him. His average won’t hurt you and his power and run production potential is a risk worth taking. Stash him if your roster rules allow it. Be prepared to spend to get him off waivers if his promotion is imminent. He could be a key piece down the stretch for fantasy owners.
Franklin Barreto, SS/2B (OAK)
Age: 22, Height: 5’10”, Weight: 190, Bats/Throws: R/R
I debated for a while which Oakland infield prospect to write about this week: Barreto or Jorge Mateo. Originally, I was leaning on Mateo and even did a full research session on him. In the end, I went with Barreto because he will definitely see some action in the majors this year and his more tools that can help fantasy teams than does Mateo. In fact, Barreto was technically called up recently while Chad Pinder went on the DL and Franklin only managed to get in one game with no plate appearances. I’m not sure what the point was of bringing him up to sit on the bench when he could have been getting reps in AAA. I get that they are going to play Semien and Lowrie since they are healthy. If you are just looking for an emergency backup, why not bring up Steve Lombardozzi the veteran utility infielder. Anyway, this isn’t what the article is about. Let’s talk about what Barreto can do for you.
He is a legitimate four-tool player and can help in many areas of your fantasy lineup. Plus power (especially for a middle infielder), plus run and plus arm. He also projects an above-average hit tool. He falls short of plus hit tool largely due to his lack of plate discipline and swing and miss potential. He did get 76 plate appearances with Oakland last year and flashed some power potential but also struck out a staggering 43.4% of the time. Nearly one of every two plate appearances sent him to the dugout with the bat still in his hands. He needs to spend some time honing in on this at AAA before he can really be expected to contribute at the Major League level.
Despite his age (22), Barreto is a veteran pro ball player. He was signed as an International Free Agent at the age of 17 by the Toronto Blue Jays and has now completed five seasons over six different levels including the Majors. He was always the youngest player on the field in the lower levels and held his own and excelled. He is doesn’t have anything left to prove regarding his tools, he just needs to show the Oakland organization that he can improve his approach at the plate to have more productive at-bats which will allow his talent to be showcased. He has a short and quick swing which in a vacuum is often a sign of a plus hit tool, power potential, and great plate discipline. Unfortunately, his extremely aggressive approach, poor pitch selection and swinging strike rate (13.5% in AAA in 2017) is holding him back.
In a perfect world, he would improve these areas and be a perennial All-Star Shortstop. We certainly don’t live in a perfect world and the aggressive approach may be too ingrained to change. If I was his hitting coach, I would not discourage him from being aggressive. I’d encourage him to swing early and often, just make sure its a strike. If he can improve his pitch selection of what he swings at, he may be able to grab a few extra walks and cut a few strikeouts. If I could get him between 7-8% BB rate and down to 25% K rate, I think he would be ready to do some damage in the Majors. Despite not drawing walks, he has always managed a high batting average. He projects as decent average, a low on-base guy in the Majors too, but the rare power and speed combination from a middle infielder gives him great value.
The final piece of the puzzle is an opportunity. Barreto has primarily played SS because, until last season, he’s always been one of if not the best player on the field. Despite his strong-arm, his glove and defensive approach leave a little to be desired. His frame and arm suggest 3B, but Oakland has Matt Chapman penciled in there for a long time. His speed and athleticism could allow him to play CF. That is a position of need as Mark Cahna is playing there out of position right now. It doesn’t appear that Oakland is taking this option very seriously as they have not been playing him there at all in the upper levels. They must be content with giving Dustin Fowler the next shot before grooming Austin Beck to take over in a few seasons. Ultimately, his strongest position could be 2B. Jed Lowrie is playing well there now, but it is all but given that he will be traded this summer and when he does, Barreto will likely become the everyday 2B for the Athletics going forward and into next season. With a little improvement on pitch selection, he could regular give a slash line of .280/.330/.450 with 20 HRs and 20 SBs. Most fantasy owners sign up for that from their 2B.
Unless you are in super-deep leagues, Barreto and Shaw don’t need to be added now, but you should be monitoring their progress in AAA and listening for rumors of promotion. They both have chinks in their armor but have enough upside to significantly help fantasy teams down the stretch in Summer promotions.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Thursday April 19th, 2018 from 8-9:30pm EST for episode #116 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. We will the latest information in the world of fantasy baseball.
Our guests this week are Tim McLeod of prospect361.com and Cole Freel. Cole is one of the newest writers with the majorleaguefantasysports.com and one of the more popular. Cole’s articles publish every Saturday at 1pm EST and his focus is Buys/Sells from the hitters side of the ball. Tim is one of the most respected minor league scouts in fantasy baseball. Be sure to check out his website linked above.