Projecting Playing Time: 4 Players Being Overlooked

Ryan Venancio dives into four players who are being overlooked in in terms of playing time and how they could give you an edge in fantasy leagues.

Projections are great for looking at players with a track record. Based on age and peripherals they can give you an idea of how a player’s future performance will turn out the following season. What projections tend to be poor at are projecting playing time. Today, we will look at players who have clear paths to playing time and how their skills should keep them in the lineup. 

Tyrone Taylor, OF, Milwaukee Brewers

ADP: 418
Average Projected PA: 373 

Tyrone Taylor was a pop-up prospect from a Brewers system that has seemed to have mastered player development. Though it’s not great to spend over 200 games at Triple-A, he has seemingly put it all together as a complete player recently. He hits the ball in the air frequently and makes enough contact to make it work as a .250ish hitter with 25 home run pop. 

Taylor’s profile matches up similarly with someone like Eduardo Escobar. He doesn’t hit the ball particularly hard or have good plate discipline, making up for it with plenty of batted balls hit at the right angle and making just enough contact. 

Where he separates himself is on the defensive side of the ball. Taylor was able to be well above average at all three outfield positions last season, that’s where he will get most of his playing time. He recorded three outs above average in a limited time. Additionally, Taylor is fast enough to sustain his success in the outfield with an 87th percentile sprint speed. 

Assuming that the MLB will add the designated hitter to the National League, that benefits him. There is a significant gap in defense between Taylor and the corner tandem of Hunter Renfroe and Christian Yelich. Milwaukee acquired Renfroe to help their offense this off-season, not their defense. Additionally, Yelich and Lorenzo Cain have had issues staying healthy lately. 

Projecting plate appearances is tough but my guess will be somewhere around 500, nearly 150 more than what projections have him down for. Taking his current projection and prorating the stats to 500 plate appearances, we get 20 home runs, 65 runs scored, 64 RBI, and seven stolen bases. Though the potential for Taylor to steal more bases is there, six for seven in attempts in 271 plate appearances last season. It’s hard to find a more well-rounded outfielder in the 400s of drafts.  

Chas McCormick, OF, Houston Astros

ADP: 385
Average Projected PA: 319 

This is a much more straightforward path to playing time than Taylor, Chas McCormick is going to be the starting center fielder for the Houston Astros on Opening Day. McCormick broke out in a big way during the 2021 season. Judging by his minor league numbers, you wouldn’t think he had as much power as he showed last year. There could have been an adjustment sometime in the 2020 COVID-shortened season. 

Though the strikeout rate may seem scary on the surface, 32-percent, it had never been above 16-percent throughout his entire minor league career. Playing devil’s advocate, if McCormick did make a swing change in the 2020 shortened season, more strikeouts would result in a power trade-off. 

Here is where McCormick stands out, power and defense. Despite the rough strikeout rate, he showed promise in the power department. McCormick posted a 10-percent barrel rate, 48-percent hard-hit rate, and a 94 mph exit velocity on fly balls and line drives. For context, all of those numbers compare almost identically to Nick Castellanos. The upside in McCormick is that his strikeout rates regress positively to minor league rates and he gets it down to 25-percent, becoming a real threat to become an above-average big league bat. Pair that with elite center field defense and we have a potential three to four-win player here. 

One of his competitors for playing time is outfielder Jake Meyers. The issue for Meyers is that he had off-season shoulder labrum surgery and won’t be ready for Spring Training, possibly not even Opening Day. As we saw from Cody Bellinger this year, recovering from a shoulder surgery could become problematic and isn’t generally easy to bounce back from right away. 

McCormick’s other competition is speedy center fielder Jose Siri. While Siri is unbelievably fast, has 99th percentile sprint speed, and is likely a good defender in center, he doesn’t project to be more than a fourth outfielder/pinch-runner. The strikeout rate for Siri generally runs in the low 30s and that is over several seasons in the minor leagues. He projects to be a well below league average bat in the big leagues. 

That leaves McCormick with a pretty clear path to 500 plus plate appearances, maybe even 550. If we prorate McCormick’s projections to 550 plate appearances, it spits out 20 home runs, 70 runs, 65 RBI, and eight stolen bases. Even if he hits around .240, there is room for potential profit at this point in the draft. 

Connor Joe, OF, Colorado Rockies

ADP: 332
Average Projected PA: 410 

Looking at the projected playing time of 410 plate appearances, you may ask, why would you project Connor Joe to play that much more? Well, he’s one of the five best players on the Colorado Rockies, it isn’t even a debate. 

When Joe came over to the Rockies he was a part-time player until some injuries occurred. Once he got that playing time, Joe went on to start 33 of the next 36 games for Colorado until he suffered a season-ending injury due to a hamstring issue. Not only was he an everyday player for Colorado, but he also lead off the final 24 games that he played. During this stretch, outfielder Ramial Tapia was injured, which is likely the reason Joe was able to get the role. 

When comparing the two leadoff options for Colorado, Joe projects to be a far superior bat to Tapia. Joe is projected to hit .263/.351/.442, 101 wRC+, while Tapia is projected to hit .280/.330/.391, 82 wRC+. The gap is even larger if you look at their numbers from the 2021 season, Tapia is a career 78 wRC+. Joe is far more likely to leadoff for the Rockies than Tapia is, for the sole reason that he is a better hitter with a better on-base percentage. 

Even if Joe doesn’t leadoff, which isn’t necessary for him to return value. He’s no doubt going to be an everyday player. Projecting for him to play 110 games, unless you view him as a legit injury risk, makes no sense. 

Let’s say he has one stint on the injured list and plays 11 out of 12 games as he did down the stretch. That comes out to 140 games played and 550 plate appearances if he were to hit fifth or sixth in the lineup. If Joe were to come out of the gates and hit leadoff as he did at the end of the year, we are talking about 620 plate appearances. A potential value compared to where he is going in drafts. 

If we average the two and prorated Joe’s plate appearances to 585, we get 19 home runs, 75 runs, 70 RBI, and a batting average that should be somewhere between .265 and .280. With the potential that those runs scored become much higher if he were to regularly hit towards the top of the Rockies lineup, as he should. 

Rougned Odor, 2B, Baltimore Orioles

ADP: 433
Average Projected PA: 383 

We are going to keep this short and to the point. Who else do the Orioles have? A lot of their middle-infield prospects are still a year plus away from even being considered to play in the big leagues. Rougned Odor was signed to play an everyday role, hoping he will play well enough to trade at the deadline. 

Not only is there a gaping hole at second base, where Odor projects to be. The Orioles likely start Jorge Mateo or Kelvin Gutierrez at third base, another gaping hole. Even then, Jones was hardly league average in Triple-A last year, if he were to get called up to the Majors that would likely push Odor to third base. 

Rylan Bannon is another prospect that could come up and get a chance if he hits any better than .176 in Triple-A next year. Similar to Jones, Bannon isn’t in Baltimore’s long-term plans. Both Jones and Bannon are likely Quad-A type of players, or even worse because they haven’t produced in Triple-A. 

Odor has shown decent power metrics the last few seasons despite being a .200 hitter. From 2019 to 2021, he has a 12-percent barrel rate, 41-percent hard-hit rate, to go along with a 113 max exit velocity. That should play in the friendly confines of Camden Yards, especially in the American Least as a whole. 

If you increase his plate appearances to 550, the projections say Odor is capable of 30 home runs, 70 runs scored, 75 RBI, and six stolen bases. I don’t think that’s crazy for Odor to attain if you consider that he just did something similar in 2019. 

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