The Top 500 In Review: Just Missed

Bret unveiled his midseason update to the top 500 dynasty league players last week and while it may seem like an exhaustive list, there are always good players who are on the outside looking in. Major leaguers who were left out include Chris Heston, Carter Capps, and J.T. Realmuto and you could make a case for any of them in the 450-500 range, in my opinion. Thee are also several prospects who were considered for inclusion but just missed. Here are a few:

Jake Bauers, 1B, Tampa Bay Rays

First base prospects typically need one loud tool in order to force themselves on to dynasty league rankings, as it’s just hard to get excited about them unless they have, say, A.J. Reed’s power. Bauers’ appeal is all about floor and confidence in his eventual ability to hit at the major league level. He was the second youngest player in the Florida State League and hit .267/.357/.433 before being promoted to Double-A. The six home runs Bauers hit as part of that line were  surprising given the league context and the fact that most evaluators didn’t see home run pop in Bauer’s bat. He is now the youngest regular in the Southern League and Double-A will be a great test for him in the second half of the year.

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NPB Mid-Season Update: Top Starting Pitchers

We’re about half way in the 2015 season. TDG Top 500 have been updated. Mid-season prospect rankings are coming. A little to many have changed since pre-season.

Things aren’t much different on the other side of the sea. Here  I going to take a look at some names I mentioned in my pre-season review for weeks to come. In this piece, I examined elite starting pitchers who possess future MLB rotation upsides.

Shohei Otani, RHP, Nippon Ham Fighters

The 6’3″ right hander has become the best hurler in the NPB. He’s leading the Pacific League in ERA (1.47), WHIP (0.79), and K/9 (11.18) by a country mile, not to mention that he’s trimmed the walks from 3.3 per 9 last year to just 2.5 so far in 2015. His 4.50 K/BB ranks 2nd among qualified Pacific League pitchers, only to Ayumu Ishikawa of the Chiba Lotte Marines, who is more than 6 years older than him. Better yet, he still hasn’t given up a single home run in 79.2 innings pitched.

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Grading the Unexpected Aces: Wacha, Liriano, Burnett, Martinez and Odorizzi

Let’s take a look at another batch of pitchers having great years despite low pre-season rankings. All of the pitchers below are currently ranked in the top 25 starting pitchers in baseball in 5×5 leagues. Are they flukes or can we expect them to continue pitching at an elite level?

Michael Wacha, Cardinals — 9-3 Record, 2.85 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 69 Strikeouts in 88.1 innings.

Wacha was not a low-ranked pitcher this offseason. In most rankings he sat in the 35-50 range among starting pitchers. But so far this season he has been a top-15 pitcher in 5×5 leagues. His 7.03 K/9 is a league average strikeout rate. His 2.04 BB/9 walk rate is better than average. Wacha has been a little bit lucky with the .262 BABIP that should rise up to the .295 range. The Cardinals are not a very good defensive team that can maintain his BABIP far below league average. Wacha’s home run rate is low again this year despite having a neutral ground ball profile. We should expect him to allow a few more homers as the season rolls along. His 3.61 xFIP and 3.76 SIERA point toward a bump in his 2.85 ERA, but I think we should continue to see Wacha perform very similarly to what he has done throughout his career. The Cardinals are a strong team who can provide Wacha with plenty of support from the offense and the bullpen, and they play in a strong pitcher’s park. Expect a slight drop in the winning percentage and a slight rise in the ERA and WHIP. We are looking at an above average but not elite pitcher in a great situation to succeed. Verdict: The Real Deal. Continue to roll with him. Trade for him if the price is reasonable. Continue reading

A Ray of Sunshine in Philadelphia: Aaron Nola

Life hasn’t been easy for Philadelphia Phillies fans this year as they have seen their team lay claim to the worst record in baseball at 26-48.  This terrible season has been backed up by a run differential of -122 essentially stating, “Yes they do deserve to be this bad”.  All is not lost though as we have seen a great rookie campaign from former top prospect Maikel Franco and current top prospect J.P. Crawford has been excellent for the Reading Fightin’ Phils.  Without a doubt though the most impressive player in the Phillies organization has been last year’s 1st round selection Aaron Nola.

When the Phillies selected Aaron Nola 7th overall in 2014 I was one of the first people to criticize the pick.  I thought that it didn’t make a whole lot of sense for a team that was so far away from competing to select a quick rising college pitcher out of LSU when they could have taken a higher ceiling less polished arm like the injured righty Jeff Hoffman or three sport stud lefty Sean Newcomb.  Let’s just say that after watching Nola perform this season I have changed my tune.

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The Top 500 Overall Dynasty League Rankings – June 2015

In a perfect world, this update would have come out during the first week of June. But then again, last night I saw a ton of dinosaurs in 3-D, so let’s not blame the world here—it’s pretty freaking great. The truth is, as some of you already know, that I’ve been filling in this summer as Editor-in-Chief at Baseball Prospectus; and not surprisingly, that kind of thing takes up a lot of time. However, there’s no amount of busy that can keep me from updating the 500. And so here we are.

The last three months have seen a ton of movement on the list, and it’s come from multiple areas. First of all, the number of fantasy-relevant call ups have spiked and the upper prospect ranks have nearly been emptied—which also explains why there’s not a single prospect left in the top 60. On top of that, we’ve had many injuries since the February run. It started with Yu Darvish, Zack Wheeler, Jurickson Profar and Marcus Stroman back in spring training. It’s carried forward to Alex Cobb, David Wright, Devin Mesoraco and many, many more. This is all expected, of course, but it’s also been exaggerated this year.

As we move into heavy trade season in dynasty leagues, there’s a curiousness to values. A desire to destroy struggling veterans. A desire to deify the latest crop of young stars. And while a shift is certainly to be expected, a seismic one isn’t quite in the cards for most of these players. Robinson Cano has been terrible this year, but pretending that he jumpstarted his decline phase early and it’s going to continue to tumble further and further downhill from here is not an assumption that you’ll find here. He’s still clearly a top-100 player, and nearly a top-50 one. There are many more examples, but as you’ve noticed in previous years, the jumps up in the first in-season update are always much larger than the drops down. As they should be.

As always, we hope you enjoy the site and the content we’ve created, and if you’d like to show appreciation for that work you can do so through this link, or via the donate button on in the upper right-hand corner of the homepage. All donations are truly appreciated, and help to keep this place alive.

Now that the shilling is over, the ranking shall begin. See you on the other side.

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Digging for Diamonds: Starting Pitching Prospects

A couple of weeks ago at Baseball Prospectus, I looked at eight pitchers who have gone up in value in dynasty leagues since the beginning of the season. The pitchers looked at were all pretty well known and are certainly owned in almost all dynasty leagues. I had quite a few guys left over that weren’t profiled, so let’s take a look at a few pitchers that might not be owned in your league that have seen their values rise since the beginning of the season: Continue reading

On Matt Moore’s Return

Today was a special day, mostly because I got to take in a game with my son on Fathers Day, but also because Matt Moore returned to the Triple-A Durham Bulls. Moore is making his way back from April 2014 Tommy John surgery and this was his fourth rehab start. The first three have been at the High-A level, so today represented not just an increase in his pitch count – he threw 78 on Tuesday and was scheduled for 90 today – but a big jump in the quality of competition.

The Bulls faced the Columbus Clippers, an Indians affiliate. It’s too bad (for me) that Francisco Lindor made it to Cleveland just ahead of Columbus’ appearance in town but today’s roster was abnormally interesting for Triple-A. Jose Ramirez, a preseason favorite of mine, was demoted when Lindor was called up. As the driver of the Giovanny Urshela bandwagon, Lonnie Chisenhall is not a favorite of mine but he is just 26 years old and has 1400 major league appearances. Tyler Naquin and James Ramsey will both play outfield in the majors not long from now. Jesus Aguilar won’t, be he is a quad-A kind of guy, a nice test for Moore at this stage of his rehab.

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Trader’s Corner: Time to Take Action

This is the time of year when many team owners decide to start building for the future. As soon as you realize your team is not going to win the championship it is time to start hustling for trades. If you are going to sell you need to do it while there are still several teams in the race. The more potential buyers there are the better trade deals you are going to get. If you wait too long not only will there be fewer buyers, there will be more sellers too. If you sell early you are likely to get a better deal than if you sell late. But be careful, I have seen a lot of teams go into rebuild mode when they still had a realistic chance of winning the title. Sometimes you just have to forget about tomorrow and go for the win today!

If you are going for it this year, upgrade your team now. Don’t wait. The earlier you bring in those veteran producers the more time they will have to fill up  your stat sheet. If you have a hole in your starting lineup fix it today. Don’t wait for the trade deadline. Make something happen. You don’t win by watching, you win by grabbing better players.

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Why Kyle Schwarber should give up Catching

If the season were to end today the Chicago Cubs would be heading to the playoffs for a wildcard showdown with their division rival Pittsburgh Pirates.  As it stands right now the Cubs own the fourth best record in the National League at 35-29 and boast a +16 run differential.  The Cubs are not a pretender they are in fact a good team and one that should keep any club that has to face them in the playoffs up at night.  Recently another one of their stud prospects Kyle Schwarber made his way up to the big league club and is in the midst of a six-game audition.  With a home run, triple, four-singles, five runs, and four RBI in just 10 at-bats I think they should change his position and keep him up.

In baseball it has been proven time and time again that it is in your best interest to be strong defensively especially up the middle.  Sacrificing offense at catcher, shortstop, and center field in favor of a stellar glove has been happening for about 100 years now and with good results.  As we have begun to realize the catcher position may actually be the most important of all from a defensive standpoint since they are required to call the game and frame the pitches which makes them for all intents and purposes the on the field leader in preventing opposing offenses from scoring.

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I Hate Relief Pitchers

Unfortunately, every single one of the dynasty leagues that I am a part of require ‘Relief Pitcher’ as a position that has to be filled on a given roster. As an extension of that, these leagues also all have ‘saves’ as a category and almost all of them now include holds. As a dynasty league owner, this requires a certain amount (hopefully very little) of attention to be paid to relievers. In shallower leagues, the major league relievers are the focus, but in deeper leagues where the top two or three guys of each bullpen are owned in some capacity, often times owners have to turn to the minor leagues to find the next batch of relievers that will step into high-leverage situations at the big league level in order to be remain competitive. It certainly is not advisable to look at relievers in the lower levels of the minors in the same manner that you can with other positions, because of the volatility of relief pitchers in general, and it is almost certainly not a good idea to invest with regularity in relievers at any level. They should be viewed purely as a necessary evil.
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