As we close in on the Major League trade deadline, non-contending teams are making moves to open up spots for their prospects. This is a blessing for deep league owners as finally there are more choices available to pick up besides fifth outfielders and the last man in the bullpen. Both the Astros and Cubs are looking toward the future and have recently introduced us to some new faces.
Jonathan Villar | HOU SS | 5% Owned
The Astros gave Ronny Cedeno the boot on Sunday and with Marwin Gonzalez having been demoted in late June, the shortstop job is now Villar’s. The 22-year-old has excellent speed, as he stole 31 bases in just 90 games at Triple-A this season, which follows 39 steals in 86 games last year at Double-A. He also possessed a bit of pop, typically flashing ISO rates in the mid-.100 range between .140 and .165. A speedster who isn’t a complete zero in the home run category (like a Jarrod Dyson) doesn’t come around often, especially for deep leaguers to scoop up for free.
Villar debuted on Monday and was immediately installed in the leadoff slot, where he hit again yesterday. Though he has posted some acceptable OBP marks in the minors, including this year’s .342, it might not last. He strikes out too frequently for a hitter with mediocre power and he required a .358 BABIP to post that BABIP mark. His walk rates look to be about league average, but if he only hits .250-.260, that is going to translate to an OBP in the .320 range which isn’t exactly leadoff material. That said, while he might not last hitting atop the lineup, his speed makes him a must-add in deep leagues.
Junior Lake | CHC SS/3B | 10% Owned
Lake’s position eligibility likely depends on your league. He played in 20+ games at both shortstop and third base last season, 20+ at third base this season and has already played 4 games in the outfield with the Cubs. He could potentially have some nice multi-position eligibility which is extremely valuable in a deep league. David DeJesus‘ shoulder injury and the Cubs desire to clean house has given Lake an opportunity to play every day in the outfield. After hitting sixth in his first three starts, he found himself atop the lineup on Monday and yesterday.
The 23-year old’s skill set isn’t all that different than Villar’s. His primary fantasy contribution will come from his sped, as he stole 14 bases in 40 games at Triple-A this year and a whopping 56 bases back in 2011 with just 6 caught stealings. Like Villar, Lake also doesn’t make enough contact for a hitter with his middling power. Unlike Villar, however, Lake doesn’t have the same plate patience and has posted below average walk rates. This makes him even more ill-fitted for the leadoff spot. He does have some power though and since he has a slightly larger frame than Villar, he will probably be a slightly better contributor in the home run category.