With fantasy regular seasons approaching the end, it’s time to find guys who can provide a few hot weeks to help you in the stretch run. If you’re a borderline team you may have to be aggressive dropping struggling veterans in favor of new, less established names. Who are some candidates?
Zack Gelof is a 23-year-old 2nd baseman drafted by the Athletics in the 2nd round in 2021. FanGraphs has him as the team’s 5th-ranked prospect with average tool grades across the board. Throughout his minor league career, he has had K% in the high 20s and BB% around 10%. He displayed inconsistent power, but it did seem to be blossoming as he had 12 HR in 308 PA in AAA in 2023. His wRC+s have been around the 130 mark. Despite his slightly above-average FanGraphs speed grade, he has been a fairly aggressive base stealer. He has 27 SBs across AAA and MLB in 2023. This number makes more sense when you see his 93rd-percentile Sprint Speed.
Gelof has been excellent in his first taste of MLB action in 2023.
Verdict: Temporarily Legit. While I have little confidence he can maintain anything close to this over a long period of time, I’d be willing to ride out this hot stretch at this point in the year. A 14.1% Barrel% is good, but not .308 ISO good. He is athletic and has a decent track record in the minors so I wouldn’t expect him to completely fall apart. If he’s still available and you’re desperate take the chance. He’s available in 40% of Yahoo leagues.
Mitch Garver is a 32-year-old catcher who started his career with the Twins before spending the last few seasons in Texas. He had a tantalizing breakout season with the Twins in 2019 when he hit 31 HR in 359 PA. It’s been difficult to judge how close that season was to his true talent level because he has been very injury-prone since. Over the next 3 seasons, he totaled just 539 PA. However, when healthy in 2021 and 2022 he was a good hitting catcher.
Garver missed most of the first 2 months of 2023, but since coming back he has played a lot, splitting time between C and DH. A catcher who also frequently DHs in a good lineup tells you something about what the Rangers think of his bat.
Verdict: Legit. Those are sneaky strong numbers for a catcher. Sometimes I find myself sticking with a questionable catcher because I assume there is nothing better out there. Missing the first two months of 2023 is likely contributing to his 23% Roster% in Yahoo. Garver is a good hitter getting a lot of PAs in a good lineup. There is a good chance he is better than the catcher you currently roster.
Zach Eflin certainly isn’t a new name, but he’s been better than in the past. The Rays have a reputation for making pitchers better. It looks like they’ve done so again with Eflin. A 29-year-old who spent his first seven seasons with the Phillies, Eflin was a talented, but underperforming and injury-prone SP. He signed a 3 year, $40 million contract with the Rays before the start of the 2023 season. He consistently posted ERAs around 4.00, variable K%, and good BB%. This year his ERA and WHIP are by far his career-best at 3.58 and 1.03, respectively. Last year he had a 1.12 WHIP, but prior to that, they were consistently around 1.30. What have the Rays done to stimulate these improvements?
For starters, they’ve decreased his sinker and four-seamer usage in favor of his curveball and cutter. Ironically, his GB% is a career-high at 51.6%. It was always in the mid-40s% prior to this year. The primary reason for the increase is the decreased usage of the four-seamer. It’s always generated a lot of fly balls.
Verdict: Legit. The only real difference I can see in Eflin is the pitch usage changes. He wasn’t a bad pitcher prior to 2023 and he isn’t a great pitcher now. He’s a decent strikeout pitcher with great command who gets a lot of groundballs. Such modest changes make me think this is sustainable, both for the rest of 2023 and going forward. It even looks like he’ll throw the most innings of his career. I’m cheating some because he is only available in 8% of Yahoo leagues, but it’s worth checking.
Aaron Civale was traded to the Rays on July 31, 2023, for 1B prospect Kyle Manzardo. It’s always been difficult to fully trust Civale because of his low K%. Last season he had a career-best 24.1%, but this year it is back down to 18.4%. He doesn’t walk a lot of guys so that helps mitigate that somewhat, but why is his ERA (2.44) so good this year?
He’s only had three starts with the Rays so it’s hard to see any trends there, but his pitch usage has changed in 2023.
He’s thrown his four-seamer and cutter more and the curveball and sinker less. The cutter gets pretty good results across the board, but PLV and Stuff+ don’t like it much. Stuff+ really doesn’t like the four-seamer, coming in at 73, but PLV views it as average. It gets a lot of Called Strikes and it generates a lot of lazy fly balls with 92nd percentile Under%. This explains how he has managed to not allow a HR on it this year. Despite the decreased usage, Civale still throws a lot of slow, high-spin (98th percentile) curveballs. It’s a solid, but unspectacular pitch, with a 34.7% O-Swing% and .233 wOBA. PLV has it as 70th percentile and Stuff+ loves it with a 150. Both PLV and Stuff+ hate the sinker. It has only generated a 40.4% GB%, but with only a 19.2% Hard Contact% it limits damage.
Verdict: Not Legit: It’s just hard to see someone with a low K% that does an OK, but not a great job of limiting hard contact continue to have such success. With four decent pitches and good command, he has a high floor. If your pitching is in good shape and you need some bulk he is an acceptable choice. If you need to drastically improve he’s not the answer. He’s available in 25% of Yahoo leagues.
Featured image by Doug Carlin (@bdougals on Twitter)