Welcome to Player-A-Day. The purpose of this column is to identify interesting major league players who may be fantasy-relevant in 2014. We will discuss the real-world roles the player may fill, set a range of potential expectations, identify any wild-card factors in play, and comment on how this affects the player’s fantasy value.
The high level
The Tampa Bay Rays recently agreed to a two-year contract extension with David DeJesus that includes a club option for 2016. DeJesus likely welcomes the perceived stability of a multi-year contract since he spent time with five teams over the past three seasons. His 2013 season featured an August trip from Chicago to Tampa Bay with a brief layover in Washington, D.C.
DeJesus is mostly known for his nondescript play. He swings a league average bat. His power is league average. His speed is league average. In center field, he’s ever so slightly below league average, but he’s above league average in the corners. So the story is “league average.” At the high level, the only thing that jumps off his stat page is a below-average whiff rate, which is always appreciated.
He’s always shown a fairly sizable platoon split, but in recent seasons he’s performed terribly against left-handed pitching. The Rays are comfortable with using platoons, so you can expect DeJesus to get very few plate appearances against same-handed foes.
Playing time shouldn’t be an issue for DeJesus. Desmond Jennings, Wil Myers and Matt Joyce make the outfield lineup against right-handed pitchers a bit crowded, but Joyce will likely slide to designated hitter.
What we have here is another platoon story. DeJesus does everything worse against lefties—he strikes out more, walks less, hits for less power, etc. This shouldn’t bother the Rays since they often hire these types of players on purpose.
Against right-handers, DeJesus is a solid player. He hit .266/.345/.427 in 379 plate appearances this season. That’s only slightly worse than his career numbers and most of the difference can be accounted for by an 11 point drop in BABIP.
Digging deeper with the above table, we learn that DeJesus largely thrives on fastballs while struggling with breaking balls and off-speed pitches. This is a common occurrence for hitters, but the degree of difference seems to imply a vulnerability that can be exploited.
Below, we see that his whiff rates spike for non-fastballs. Not displayed in this chart is that he swings more frequently against non-fastballs too. Surprisingly, despite this weakness, he still saw 64 percent fastballs last season.
He’s generally passive at the plate, with a swing rate that tends to be about seven percent below league average both in and out of the strike zone. Over his career and also in 2013, his best results came on pitches over the middle of the plate, so the patient approach is definitely necessary.
Altogether, DeJesus is a solid hitter who is able to maximize his skill set by being patient and facing right-handed pitching.
DeJesus is the type of player who’s built for streaming. Only owners in the deepest leagues will want to roster him outright since he has a standard platoon split AND shows weakness against pitchers who rely on breaking balls. However, in the right match-up (and especially on a Thin Thursday), DeJesus can chip in with a little bit of power and a little bit of speed.
Counting stats can be an issue with DeJesus as he has just enough power and speed to say they exist without making much of a fantasy impact. Unless the Rays use him at the top of the lineup, his runs scored and RBI totals will remain tepid.
We also know how the Rays handle these types of platoons. Joyce found himself in a similar usage pattern. When opposing teams brought in the left-handed specialist to face Joyce, manager Joe Maddon repeatedly went to the bench. This made it hard to recommend Joyce as a streaming option. Since the use case is similar with DeJesus, we can expect a similar pattern.
Because he puts so many balls in play, BABIP can be his friend or enemy. That’s something to keep in mind as a tie breaker if the Rays happen to be facing a Joe Blanton type pitcher and you happen to need a streamer that day.
Ultimately, most of you won’t need to use DeJesus. I tend to find myself giving him about four starts per season, and this is probably the ideal relationship for owners in 12-team, deep roster leagues. Shallower leagues can forget him altogether, while owners in deeper leagues like Ottoneu might consider using $1 and a roster spot for the odd platoon start.