Courtesy of a trial version of software from a fantasy baseball website, I was able to get a downloadable copy of the 2014 stats for pitchers and hitters. In addition to the usual metrics, I got curious to identify people who were in the upper echelon of the league in terms of HR/AB and RBI/AB to see if there were some undervalued players out there. Most turned out to be outliers and a check of their previous major and minor league history suggested that they really don’t have much potential to improve. However, three names came up that looked like they were definitely worth pursuing further:
Oswaldo Arcia, Minnesota Twins
It’s unlikely you could pry the 23 year old away from the Twins, particularly with the other power threat in their outfield, Josh Willingham, likely to depart via free agency. The .231 average doesn’t jump out at you as a must-have kind of guy, but a closer look at his minor league career and his power numbers – 20 HRs and 57 RBIs in just 372 ABs -- suggest he's worth considering. In fact, baseball-reference.com projects him to average 28 HRs and 81 RBIs over the course of a full season.
Dive a little deeper into his minor league numbers and you see he’s a career .314 hitter in the minors with numbers NOT inflated by the PCL high altitude ballparks. In his last full year in 2012 split between AA and AAA he his 17 HRs, drove in 98, hit .320 and only struck out 107 times. His OBP was a healthy .388, he slugged .539 and had an OPS of .938.
When a team has room on its roster for the likes of a Mike Pelfrey, they would probably be very interested in the pitching the Mets could offer.
Darin Ruf, Philadelphia Phillies
It seems every team now and then has a guy who has potential but doesn’t produce enough to warrant a regular place in the lineup. Maybe it was the publicity coming in that raised expectations to an unrealistic level or maybe it is a case of AAAA disease, but Ruf seems to have bounced around the big club for quite awhile without ever establishing himself. Towards that end, let’s look at Mr. Ruf. His power is prodigious. He hits HRs at a high frequency per AB and did have a minor league season in which he delivered 38 HRs, 104 RBIs while hitting .317. That represented an improvement over his previous season in A+ when he delivered 17/82/.308. Baseball-reference.com has him projected for 24/57/.251 over the course of a full season. Considering he has a career .295 average in the minors, it suggests he has room to improve. The big red flag is that he’s now 27 and playing for an inferior team that could use all the help it could get, so if they’re willing to let him go in trade you might have to ask why? They could use starting pitching and a new catcher with Carlos Ruiz already 35 and having missed a lot of time due to injury.
Michael Taylor, Washington Nationals
For all of the publicity Joc Pederson has gotten playing in the Dodgers farm system has received, Taylor has flown somewhat under the radar while producing at a similar level for the Division Champion Washington Nationals. In his last season in AA/AAA he produced 23HRs, 64 RBIs and hit .304 while stealing 37 bases. For comparison’s sake Pederson delivered 33/78/.303 with 30 SBs, but did so in the hitter-friendly PCL . Now Taylor has not yet had a full year of AAA but had a cup of coffee with the Nats and struggled a bit. Like the Dodgers, there’s no room at the inn for outfielders in DC with Bryce Harper, Denard Span and Jayson Werth occupying the three slots, so it’s possible you could pry him away though I’m not sure what you could offer that would be an upgrade for them. Initially I thought Kevin Plawecki would be a centerpiece but Wilson Ramos isn’t exactly chopped liver nor ready to start collecting Social Security. Here might be an example of where a Juan Lagares could make sense as trade bait, thus letting the Nats sever ties with Span and the Mets sliding Matt den Dekker into CF.