In a year full of surprising breakout pitchers, Dallas Keuchel was perhaps the biggest surprise of all. After all, Keuchel had thrown 239 major league innings prior to 2014 and his results were dismal — 5.20 ERA, 1.55 WHIP and a 9-18 career record. Nobody and I mean nobody predicted the 26 year old’s rapid climb up the charts. In hindsight, perhaps we should have noticed that he wasn’t as bad as he seemed. There were some subtle signs that being an average major league pitcher was within the realm of possibility. He had been quite unlucky in terms of BABIP (.340) and strand rate (68%). His 3.58 xFIP and 3.68 SIERA showed that he was actually pretty decent in 2013 and should have been on the radar of deep league team owners. He nearly doubled his strikeout rate from 2012 to 2013. His groundball rate was climbing. His walk rate was dropping. But even if we had noticed all that we still would not have predicted stardom for the former 7th round pick. His fastball velocity of 89 mph is only average and there was nothing in his southpaw repertoire that screamed future star. Continue reading
We’re rapidly approaching the halfway point of the Arizona Fall League schedule, which means most of your everyday players have managed to log 40 or 50 plate appearances at this point. There’s obviously nothing remotely representative about any of these samples, but it’s nonetheless worthwhile to check in on the league and see who’s been doing what so far. The AFL can certainly nudge the up/down/sideways indicator arrows next to a given prospect’s name, and that in turn affects dynasty league value heading into off-season trading time.
First, some league context. The AFL is notoriously known as a great hitting environment, though that hasn’t been entirely the case so far this fall. The three best hitting leagues in the minor leagues this year were the Rookie-level Pioneer League (.773 league-average OPS), the AAA Pacific Coast League (.771), and the High-A California League (.767). For comparison Major League hitters logged an even .700 cumulative OPS by way of a .251/.314/.386 composite line. AFL hitters to date have only been about .10 points of OPS better than that, at a combined .255/.328/.382 across about 3,300 plate appearances, during which they’ve generated exactly five runs a game. The average pitcher has produced a 4.42 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 7.97 strikeouts, and 4.1 walks per nine innings. So while pitchers have been walking a bunch of guys and giving up a ton of baserunners – a not entirely surprising development at the tail end of a long season – the league on the whole has produced runs at a rate that’s a far cry from some of the more extreme offensive environments of 2014.
Given all that, let’s check in on some of the more notable performances in the desert so far, good, bad, and ugly alike.
27 year old Cleveland Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco has a lengthy history of mediocrity, but after an awful start to the season he broke out in a big way in 2014. So how does a guy who started only 14 games end the season ranked as the 22nd best starting pitcher in 5×5 roto leagues? He ended the season with a 2.55 ERA and 0.99 WHIP. He struck out a very impressive 140 batters in 134 innings while walking only 29.
Carrasco began the season in the Indians’ rotation, but was swiftly sent to the bullpen after getting drilled in each of his 4 starts. Once in the bullpen he suddenly became a totally different pitcher. He was lights out for the rest of the season. After switching to the bullpen he began throwing solely from the stretch, even with the bases empty. He threw his fastball less and tripled his usage of his excellent slider and also increased the frequency of his nearly unhittable split-fingered changeup, which looks just like his fastball as he releases it but at the last moment dives down and to the right. Speaking of the fastball, Carrasco wields a true blazing fastball. His heater averaged 96.4 mph this season, which was the 6th fastest in baseball. His fastball is 3 mph faster now than it was prior to his 2012 Tommy John Surgery. Despite the great velocity Carrasco hasn’t gotten consistent results with the fastball. His out pitches are the slider and the changeup, both of which induce stellar whiff percentages. Continue reading
If you gave up on Danny Salazar it might be time to reconsider. He had a brutally bad start to the season but down the stretch he was just as good as he was during his breakout 2013 campaign. This might be your last chance to buy him at a discount.
Danny Salazar came out of nowhere late in the 2013 season, brandishing his blazing fastball to deadly effect. In 10 starts over 52 innings he struck out 65 batters while walking only 15. His 3.12 ERA and 1.13 WHIP opened some eyes and suddenly the 23 year old rookie with the 97 mph heater was on the map as a popular sleeper pick heading into the 2014 season. Well… those predictions didn’t turn out too great. Salazar began this season by getting blown up at every opportunity. He put up a horrific 6.04 ERA and 1.66 WHIP in April and was well on his way to another terrible month in May when he got demoted to the minors after three more bad games. His mechanics were out of whack, his release point was too high and his velocity was down. It looked like his breakout 2013 was just a fluke. Continue reading
Yes, the MLB playoffs are heading into Championship territory right now, and that’s all well and good. But from a dynasty league perspective they’re really nothing more than an idle distraction from the most important of pursuits: finding the next Big Thing. Thankfully the Arizona Fall League has also kicked off its annual parade of aspiring prospects, and there’s a particularly robust field of talent in the desert this year. We’ll be taking a look at each of the squads here at the Dynasty Guru over the course of the month to examine potential and check in on the progress of notable dynasty league names as the 32-game season rolls along.
Today we’re going to kick things off with a look at the Scottsdale Scorpions. This club features prospects from the Mets, Yankees, Phillies, Pirates, and Giants, and it’s one of the more loaded rosters in the league. In the interest of keeping things manageable I’m going to spend a bit less time focusing here on the better-known prospects who are likely already owned in shallower dynasty leagues. I for one am much more interested each fall in using the AFL to keep tabs on the guys who haven’t quite exploded onto national top 100 lists just yet but may just do so in due time. I’ve split up what follows into three tiers:
- The No-Doubters – these are the top prospects in the league and the guys who are likely to take up residence high on off-season rankings
- The Hangers – these are the most interesting guys, the juicy prospects with tantalizing potential who haven’t quite reached the masses just yet but may just be poised to rocket up lists next year
- The Guerreros – these are the lottery tickets. They’ve got a carrying tool that warrants attention, but in the realm of fantasy prospects they’re longshots best left for deep league attention. Like a slider so far outside the strikezone only a Guerrero could square it up, there is only a very small likelihood these guys pan out as strong present investments in your league.
So let’s explore the Scottsdale roster and see if we can find ourselves a couple diamonds in the desert.
TDGX is the nation’s premier dynasty league. The Dynasty Guru Experts’ League pits some of the industry’s best fantasy baseball writers against each other in a high-profile competition. The league’s inaugural crown goes to Team McKahn, co-managed by Ian Kahn and Tim McLeod. Ian Kahn not only a fantasy baseball writer, he is also a well-known actor who currently portrays George Washington in AMC network’s hit show “Turn”. Tim McLeod writes for RotoRob and Patton & Co and shares his thoughts on the Prospect361 podcasts. You can also hear him on SiriusXM radio on Sunday mornings. In addition to his TDGX title, Tim also won the championship in this year’s Tout Wars Mixed Draft league. The Canadian is clearly a fantasy baseball force to be reckoned with.
Ian and Tim didn’t just win the league, they absolutely thrashed the league. They won by 20.5 points over the 2nd place team. Dominating this league by that margin is pretty darn impressive when you consider the caliber of the competition. Every team in this league is owned by a respected fantasy baseball expert. Nearly every major fantasy baseball website is represented in this league. Defeating this formidable lineup is certainly an accomplishment to be proud of. Congratulations Ian and Tim for a very impressive season!
As you know by now, all of the writers here at TDG have been playing in an epic 20-team dynasty league with fantasy baseball writers from all over the Internet. Matching wits with some of the best players in the country has proven to be quite a challenge and a ton of fun — exactly the way a fantasy league should be. Below you will find the complete final standings as well as plenty of enlightening comments from the team owners themselves. Continue reading
Back at the outset of the season our Great Leader Bret had all of us here at Dynasty Guru jot down some bold predictions for the season. You can find my original list with context and argument here. Then I checked in on how things were progressing in June, and you can find my cares, worries, hopes, and dreams from the halfway point here. And now, with the regular season officially in our rear-view mirror, it’s time for the final chapter. The Samurai Showdown. Let’s see how I did…