by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
With the Cardinals sending Tommy Pham to Tampa Bay, there’s an opportunity for someone to step up and deliver. Who is most likely to take advantage? Let’s take a look at the candidates:
With Pham having been holding down the centerfield job, Bader would appear to be the most likely candidate to absorb his AB initially (though both Dexter Fowler and Marcell Ozuna do have experience at the spot). That said, in 223 AB in the Majors he’s hitting just .265 with 6 HR and 9 SB. Considering that you can argue that he’s benefited from luck (.364 BABIP) and struggled to make regular contact (12.4% SwStr%) so it’s hard to get overly excited.
He does have some speed, stealing 17 bases last season, but as the old adage goes you can’t steal first base. If he’s not getting on (8.1% walk rate) he can’t take advantage and doesn’t represent a great fantasy addition.
O’Neill has strikeout concerns, but he tries to offset them with ample power. In 260 PA at Triple-A he’s slugged 26 HR, a year after hitting 31 HR over 557 PA. Ultimately it’s going to come at the expense of his average, as everything points towards it being nearly impossible for him to hit above .250-.260:
- Fly Ball Rate – 47.6%
- SwStr% – 15.5%
The swings and misses have been even more prevalent in the Majors, with a massive 23.5% mark, while he’s also struggled to stay inside the strike zone (43.1%). He could have a Joey Gallo type impact, for what that’s worth, but there’s going to be plenty of growing pains. Unless you are in desperate need of home runs, he’s a tough sell.
Here’s a wild card entry, but he’s on the 40-man roster and has been impressive at Triple-A (.285 with 8 HR and 31 SB). He’s showing a good approach at the plate, with a 15.0% strikeout rate and 8.4% walk rate, while making not only consistent contact (8.4% SwStr%) but hard contact (22.2%).
He also has plenty of speed, with at least 26 SB every year since 2014 (and at least 33 in each of the past four seasons, including 50 SB in ’15). He also has spent the bulk of his outfield time in CF, including 89 games there this season. A potential spark at the top of the lineup, he seems a step closer to the Majors today and could really catch people by surprise. The savvy owner should grab him now and then capitalize when his time ultimately comes.
Sources – MILB.com, Fangraphs
Make sure to check out all of our Midseason Prospect Rankings: