Dynasty Dynamics: Justin Upton, Jarrod Parker, Tony Cingrani and Others
With the nearly frightening number of injured players who were being relied upon for fantasy so far this season, the age old question gets brought up again and again: How much should your return be diminished for a currently injured player in a dynasty format? The answers are obviously variant depending on where your team is on the contention spectrum or whether it’s a rotisserie or head-to-head format (currently injured players are slightly more valuable in H2H because they will be in your lineup down the stretch, when it matters most). But if neither of those are an issue, where is the line of demarcation?
Say you are one of the lucky Zack Greinke owners in a dynasty format and another owner offers you Mike Minor for him. If I’m the Greinke owner, I do not make that trade, but as you work your way up the list, you will get to players with less side-by-side talent and more “value”. Someone asked me on Twitter if they would deal Jeff Samardzija for Zack Greinke in a dynasty format, and honestly, I think that I would. Greinke’s injury is not something which was to his elbow or shoulder, and he should make a full recovery without a particularly high risk of a setback. Yes, it stinks to be without one of your best pitchers for an extended period of time, but the difference in value for future years outweighs that (especially for pitchers, who are much more replaceable than hitters.
With that said, let’s move onto some more players who are possibly seeing their dynasty league values change over the first few weeks of 2013:
More than anyone else in the game, when Justin Upton gets a hold of one, he really gets a hold of it. And he’s been doing it a LOT so far this season. Upton hit his 10th and 11th HR of the year Tuesday at Coors Field, which means in 20 games, he’s nearly 65% of the way to his 2012 power output (17 HR). Now clearly this pace will not continue, as he currently projects for more than 90 homers, but there are some signs which are potentially positive as he moves through the 2013 season.
First of all, Upton is hitting fly balls at a much higher rate than he has at any point in his career—which is a great thing for a power hitter. Right now he has a 51.1% fly ball rate, 11 percentage points higher than his career average of 40.1%. After all, it’s no coincidence that his previous career high in a full season (44.8%) came in 2011, when he hit a career high 31 bombs. Also, his swing rate (which is one of the first things to stabilize, after around 50 plate appearances) is at a near career low, which means he’s being more selective at the plate. On top of that, despite a much higher strikeout rate so far this season, his swinging strike rate is actually below his career mark.
Coming into the season, I had Upton ranked as my #7 outfielder and #11 overall player—which was certainly considered high at the time. However, it’s not tough to make the argument that, even merely three weeks into the 2013 season, he’s jumped straight up into the Giancarlo Stanton tier as a top-6 player. The magic appears to be back in the younger Upton’s bat and, as someone who owns him on his most important team, I’m going to be intently watching just how fun this ride gets.
It is certainly easier to make an educated guess about whether a hitter is for real after 20 games than whether a pitcher is after around four starts, but that won’t stop us from evaluating. And with pitchers, there are a few different things that I like to look at when trying to see if there’s an underlying issue affecting performance. Fortunately for all of us, a lot of that great information is located at Brooks Baseball, and if you haven’t checked out their pitcher cards, you’re missing out on a ton of great information.
With Jarrod Parker, you get some positive signs and some negative ones. First, the good. Parker is not losing velocity from 2012, which is one of the most important things to look for, especially in younger pitchers who you would not expect to see a velocity loss from. He’s also not using a noticeably different mix of pitches on the whole this season, and that can sometimes be a sign of uncomfortability or dwindling confidence. On the negative side, he’s been getting lit up to the tune of a 7.50 ERA and is both allowing nearly three times as many homers as 2012 and walking more batters than he’s striking out. But that’s the obvious stuff.
Digging deeper at this point can be interesting, but not necessarily informative. So, while I can tell you that Parker has already given up four home runs on his two-seam fastball, which is one more than he gave up in all of 2012 on that pitch. Is he still getting a feel for it early in the season? In his most recent start, Pitch FX data only registered him throwing seven two-seamers—and that is particularly interesting, given that he’s been at 30% for his career. Regardless, he was much better in that outing, and hopefully it’s the start of a rebound in performance. If you own Parker, don’t be tempted to sell him low.
- Tony Cingrani was fantastic again last night, throwing seven innings and striking out nine, while only giving up two runs on only five hits with no walks. This makes two impressive starts for him, if you’re counting at home. With that said, I believe his dynasty league value may never be has high as it is right now. He’s throwing 84% fastballs, and still has no reliable breaking ball to get him through once teams have a good look at him. If that aspect of his game doesn’t improve, he’s likely to be destined for the bullpen in the end.
- David Ortiz returned this weekend and is hitting .500 now through three games. That, of course, doesn’t really mean a whole lot, but the fact that he’s healthy and in the majors is. For those, like me in five different leagues, who bought in on Papi during draft season because his value dropped so much, prepare to be rewarded handsomely.
- I was very high on Dustin Ackley in my rankings, slotting him 8th among second basemen, but he’s been brutal so far this season, hitting .206/.239/.235 as I’m typing this. There is so much more talent here that I’m not close to giving up on him, but he’s really going to have to step it up and soon, or else he may find himself back in the minors.
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