by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Even if you have fallen out of 2014 contention, there’s value in paying attention down the stretch. There are a lot of young players getting regular playing time, trying to prove that they deserve an opportunity to start in 2015 and beyond. Let’s take a look at two players who could be penciled into their team’s 2015 Opening Day starting lineup:
Jake Lamb – Arizona Diamondbacks – Third Baseman
When the Diamondbacks traded Martin Prado to the Yankees, it opened up the third base job for Lamb. While he got a taste of Triple-A (21 plate appearances), he spent the bulk of the year at Double-A hitting .318 with 14 HR and 79 RBI.
Obviously we’d like to see a bit more power from a third baseman, but he did have 35 doubles and 5 triples. That equated to a .551 SLG and, at 23-years old, there is ample room for him to grow his power stroke. He has had issues burying the ball into the ground in the Majors, with a 52.7% groundball rate through Monday, but we need to give him time to adjust.
The average at Double-A is also a bit misleading, as he had a 22.6% strikeout rate and .389 BABIP. There’s potential to be a .280ish hitter, but his nearly .320 mark appears to be an aberration.
His defense also could help him get a longer look. Just look at this scouting report from Baseball America prior to the season:
“Lamb’s raw power began to emerge in 2013, and he offers a patient approach from the left side with the ability to go deep into counts, meaning he could hit for both solid average and power. He returned in early August after missing two months and hit .324 the rest of the way. He finished the year with a solid Arizona Fall League showing. He’s a plus defender at third base with an above-average arm, though he can still be inconsistent on routine plays.”
The power is coming, he has the ability to hit for a solid average and the defense could give him a shot right now. He’s definitely a player worth monitoring over these final few days. There’s a chance he’s the Opening Day third baseman come 2015, especially as the team looks to rebuild.
Wilmer Flores – New York Mets – Second Baseman/Shortstop
The Mets have a gaping hole at shortstop, and while they could fill it in the offseason it appears that Flores has started to convince some that he’s the man for the job. Certainly not a plus defender, he needs to produce at the plate if he wants to win the job. Just look at what he’s done this season:
- Triple-A – .323, 13 HR, 57 RBI in 220 AB
- Majors – .239, 6 HR, 28 RBI in 238 AB
Obviously his average in the Majors leaves a lot to be desired, but the problem has been more poor luck than anything. His 19.7% line drive rate isn’t going to wow you, but it should yield better than a .246 BABIP. Strikeouts also aren’t an issue, with a 10.4% mark in the Majors after posting a 16.2% mark at Triple-A.
The power is a different story, though a 6.9% HR/FB is not a number that anyone is going to question. He’s also shown a significant improvement in September, slugging 4 HR. We’d obviously like to see better from a middle infielder with no speed, but if he can hit 12-15 HR with a .290 average, he’d be a viable option.
It will be interesting to see what the Mets do, but a strong final few days could help win him a job for 2015.
Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, Baseball America