Dynasty Dynamics: Chris Davis, Dexter Fowler, Matt Harvey and Others
Today is the first installment of my newest in-season concoction. In the Dynasty Dynamics series, I’m going to take a look at a few players each Monday who are playing well/poorly and what the effect on their dynasty league value is. I’ll cover major leaguers and minor leaguers here, with no distinction. And since this really requires no further explanation (it’s a pretty simple concept), let’s just jump right into my thoughts on dramatically changing your valuations after two weeks of the season have gone by.
Don’t. Unless there’s a physical reason why you should or unless there’s a real change in role. And this early in the season, there’s really not all that much we’ve seen so far which falls under that category. Just take a look at two of the hottest hitters on the planet: Evan Gattis of the Braves and Matt Adams of the Cardinals. Gattis, the #3 ranked fantasy catcher so far this season, is hitting .324 with 4 HR and 10 RBI in just 39 AB. However, while this is certainly a great story, it’s unlikely to continue for a few different reasons — it’s going to be much tougher sledding once the proverbial “book” is out on him, and he doesn’t exactly have a place to play when everyone’s healthy. If that story sounds familiar, it’s because you could say a similar thing about Matt Adams. He’s absolutely killing the ball — hitting .611 with 3 HR and 8 RBI in just 19 at bats. But clearly he’s not doing that over 100 AB, let alone 400. And speaking of 400, he’s not even getting that many without a major injury to one of the bats ahead of him. It’s OK to be excited about these guys, and plug them in now, but don’t do anything crazy. They’re probably still the guys we thought they were a month ago.
Here are a few more guys whose long-term values are possibly changing:
It’s been a fun ride so far for Davis owners, as he’s been the 2nd most valuable player overall for fantasy. This includes a .366 average, 6 HR and 19 RBI in just 41 at bats. With Davis the power has never been in question, but just about everything else has — and it’s just too early to tell whether or not any of those other questions have been answered. It’s become generally accepted that a player’s strikeout rate starts to stabilize after 150 plate appearances — meaning that after that large of a sample, it’s OK to start drawing conclusions from a potential change in contact rate. So while through Saturday’s games, Davis had a K-rate below 20% (which for him would be amazing and almost career-changing), all it took was one three strikeout day against Hiroki Kuroda to bring that number back up to 25%. Another one or two of those, and he’s back in line with his career numbers (~30%).
But with that said, the way Davis had been valued heading into the season was factoring in that his 2012 was fluky. I mean, the guy did hit .270 with 33 HR and came into his age-27 season with OF eligibility, but you never saw him mentioned in the same breath as Jay Bruce who had similar numbers and is only two years younger. Maybe that’s an industry-wide overrating of Bruce, which could be why I don’t own him on a single team, but there’s no reason Davis can’t replicate his 2012 season again. The .270 may be considered unsustainable by some, but he also had a BABIP of .335, which was actually barely below his career BABIP of .336. If Davis’ value is up now it’s not because he has a higher ceiling, it’s because he potentially has a higher floor than we initially thought.
Fowler is a very interesting case for me, especially in light of a conversation I had with someone whose opinion I greatly trust at the beginning of Spring Training. We all know that stats from the Cactus League are barely worth the internet parchment that their printed on, but sometimes it really helps to have someone on the ground watching these guys. Case in point, I was on the phone with Jason Parks (does this make me a name dropper?) to discuss some guys I wanted to get a fresh opinion on for the Top 100 Fantasy Prospects list I helped with at BP back in March and after I had exhausted my questions, I had one final one: Anyone else out in Arizona catching your eye? The first name out of his mouth was Dexter Fowler. He said that he looked absolutely jacked and that it was causing him to look stronger at the plate. And when Jason says something, you immediately file into the back of your mind as attention worthy.
So what happens so far this year? Fowler is the #8 fantasy player overall through yesterday and with 6 HR under his belt, he’s almost half-way towards his career high of 13. Obviously some of this is fluky (he’s not going to hit 90 HR this year), but when a jarring stat line is backed up by something physical, there’s reason to start thinking about changing a valuation here. I had Fowler ranked at #57 among OF in my Dynasty League Rankings back in January, but if I were re-ranking right now, he’d slide up a few spots. Oh, and in case you were wondering, Fowler has only played 3 games at home so far this season (9 on the road).
To be honest up front, the better Matt Harvey pitches, the harder it is for me to be subjective about the guy. But I’m going to try, you know, for the good of the country. Or something like that. It’s been about a month since I got called out on the Towers of Power podcast by Paul Sporer for telling him in an off-line conversation that he was too low on Matt Harvey coming into the season. He had ranked him outside of the top-50 just for 2013 and I felt that even with his risk, that was too light based on his talent. I’ve been pretty high on Harvey all preseason, as all the way back in the Rotoworld Expert Mock Draft I took part in back in January, I took Harvey as my SP2 in the 12th round of a 14-teamer.
There’s no doubting that Harvey has been nothing short of dominant these first three starts of the season, but for those who pointed to his 81%+ strand rate and .262 BABIP against in 2012 and thought he’d regress, his 94% and .115 numbers for 2013 are probably making their eardrums bleed. He’s also faced San Diego and Minnesota in two of his three appearances so far — he’ll get a bigger test against Washington and Stephen Strasburg on Friday, in what could be the most exciting pitching match-up of the young season. Watching Harvey, he still has some of the same issues which dogged him last year (too much hanging around up in the zone, general command issues). And it’s backed up by the fact that his percentage of pitches thrown in the strike zone is actually lower this year (41.7%) than it was in 2012 (43.0%).
That’s my best attempt to be a wet blanket for Harvey owners, but I’ll be damned if he’s not one of the most fun pitchers to watch in baseball. I think he’s going to have periods this year where he struggles and walks too many guys or gives up too many homers, but maybe Harvey is just a little bit of a lucky guy. In fact, with yesterday’s rain/snow-out in Minnesota, Harvey will now miss the Mets’ one series at Coors Field this year. Over the course of the next few months, he’ll either start throwing more strikes or his walk rate will regress to around his rate last year. If it doesn’t regress (and sticks below 3.0 per 9), he should pretty easily be a top-30 pitcher with potential to finish in the top-15. And it also means that my ranking of him at #30 in my Dynasty rankings is going to seem at least 5-10 spots too low. The only thing we know for sure at this point is that he has become must-watch TV.
If there are players who you would like to see covered in this series going forward, let me know either in the comments here or on Twitter. After all, I am a man of the people and I do take requests.