Prior to the start of the season, I pursued a handful of players who I thought were due for big seasons. Some of these players – Brandon Moss, Julio Teheran, Chris Tillman among them – served me quite well. But some others – Jason Heyward, Danny Espinosa, Shane Victorino are all in this group – have had less success.
Three of these players, however, have suffered so badly that their teams sent them back for more seasoning in the minors. I expected Ike Davis, Dustin Ackley and Lonnie Chisenhall to play key roles on teams for me, and all have been major disappointments. But the season isn’t even half over, and in ottoneu we are always looking towards the future, so is there value to be had here?
These players all have slightly different back stories.
Davis was probably the least touted of the three as a prospect, but he has the most Major League experience and the most Major League success. His 107 wRC+ comes across more than two seasons worth of playing time, totaling 1541 PA. As bad as he was during his time in New York this year (.161/.242/.258) he was just as good in the second half of 2012 (.255/.346/.542). Before the season, I saw Davis as a potential MLB leader in HR, and now it looks like he’ll be stuck on 5 for quite some time.
Ackley may have been the highest regarded prospect, considered among the best college hitters of all time before putting up solid minor league numbers. But now he has also had nearly two full seasons of MLB playing time (1215 PA over 288 games) and his numbers are pretty ugly (85 wRC+ and .237/.307/.344 line). And as bad as that is, the Mariners would have been thrilled to have gotten that from their second basemen in 2013, at least compared to .205/.266/.250 line he posted.
The Indians signed a pretty good 3B this off-season, in Mark Reynolds, but planned to put him at 1B and eventually moved him to DH, all to make room for Chisenhall. The youngest of the three, Chisenhall has also had the least MLB experience. Despite getting time in three different seasons, he has accrued less than one season’s worth of PA (473) and games played (135). His career .250/.286/.406 line is buoyed by a decent 2012, in which he hit .268/.311/.430 over 151 PA. It’s a small sample size, to be sure, but it was enough to convince the Indians that he was ready.
Since going to triple-A, two of the three have really thrived, demonstrating perhaps a readiness to return or at least validation that they have nothing left to prove in the minors. Chisenhall has a .390/.456/.676 line in 125 PA while Ackley has posted a rather similar line (.390/.495/.532 – a bit less power, a few less outs). Both have been the beneficiaries of some batted ball luck (.443 and .444 BABIP’s respectively), but there are definite reasons for excitement. Chisenhall’s six HR and nearly 10% walk rate are both good signs for a player who has shown no patience and limited pop in his MLB time. Ackley has drastically improved his plate discipline, as well.
Davis is another story. Granted, he has only appeared in six triple-A games, but he is somehow posting almost as bad a line in Las Vegas as he was in New York – .174/.296/.217 line with no HR and a 42 wRC+. His k% is currently the worst of his minor league career.
For fantasy owners, these three are a rather frustrating group. The one with the best MLB track record is having the worst season and shows no signs of improving, while the two who found themselves in the minors are not showing us much that they have not shown us before. If you are deciding whether to keep these guys, cut them, auction them, trade them, trade for them…well, it’s tough to make a call.
For 2013, I would have guessed that Davis had the best chance to get called back up, but his struggles and Nick Swisher‘s ailing shoulder may change that. Ackley owners hopefully handcuffed him with Nick Franklin as the youngster has put a pretty strong grip on a MI job in Seattle (he hit another HR while I was typing!), so the two opportunities for Ackley are either for Franklin to fall off or for him to do enough that the Mariners decide their best bet is Franklin at SS and Ackley at 2B.
For Chisenhall, a call-up could be around the corner. Swisher is banged up and may be facing a DL stint. When Chisenhall got demoted, Mark Reynolds moved to 3B. With Swisher hurt, Reynolds has been back at 1B and John McDonald has been manning third. If Swisher hits the DL, the natural move would be to recall Chisenhall and re-install him at the hot corner.
Davis will not be blocked if he shows he is ready to return…but he isn’t showing it.
Beyond 2013, things are not much more clear. Davis has the biggest upside, but also plays the deepest fantasy position and the replacement level for 1B is awfully high. Ackley has the strongest pedigree and plays the weakest fantasy position, so he doesn’t have to do a ton to prove valuable. Chisenhall falls somewhere in the middle.
In the leagues where I own these guys, I plan to sit on them for the rest of the year and punt any decisions until the off-season, when I have (I hope) more data. The exception are leagues in which they are overpaid (I already cut a $14 Davis in one league – the cap space was just too valuable).
In leagues where I don’t own them, I am testing the waters to acquire them (again, as long as they are not overpaid – more than $5 or so, and I am out). All three have shown enough in the past to believe there is a chance for something big. And it would not surprise me at all if one (or more than one) of the three put up a big second half.
But if the second half is as ugly as the first – for any of the three – they will be kicked off my roster before the 2014 auction season.
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