I’m a sucker for two things when it comes to dynasty basketball prospects – efficiency and sexy defensive stats. If players are efficient, they’re more likely to get playing time and put up stats. Sexy defensive stats make for a high floor, because the player can be deployed as a useful specialist at minimum.
That’s why when I saw the ease and versatility with which Willy Hernangomez scores and the pace with which Richaun Holmes blocks shots and steals basketballs, I new I had to rip off the baseball writer’s “Digging for Diamonds” column.
Indeed, it does require some digging to find these two on anyones watch list. They only average about 30 minutes per game combined right now, but both have flashed per minute numbers that have piqued my interest.
When a blue chip prospect such as Karl Anthony Towns plays well, we can be reasonably sure that his production is a legitimate reflection of his true talent. On the other hand, when less heralded prospects break out it can be harder to trust their production will hold long term. Here’s my take on some recent lottery picks without the “can’t miss” tag attached to them enjoying career years.
Age: 20 (21 in March)
Rookie WARP projection: 2.6 (8th in 2015-2016 draft class)
CARMELO 5-Year forecast: $50.7M (“Up-And-Comer”)
9-Cat Fantasy Ranking: 12th
Turner had a solid if unspectacular rookie year in 2015-2016, flashing a fantasy friendly skill set including a 95th percentile block rate. Despite falling to 11th overall in the draft, there had been a consensus view among scouts and the stat heads that he was an easy top ten pick in a top heavy draft. I ranked Turner 54th in my inaugural #Dynasty200 back in October. I thought that was aggressive at the time, but Turner has since broken out, hitting the high end of his potential outcomes.
The Toronto Blue Jays are going to have a rough time replacing Edwin Encarnacion after losing him to the Cleveland Indians in free agency. In 2017, they may be able to cover first with some combination of Justin Smoak, Steve Pearce, and maybe Kendrys Morales. Perhaps that potpourri of bats can be used somewhat effectively, but it’s not an incredible, solid, long-term solution. Luckily for the Jays, that amalgamation might just need to avoid disaster until 21-year-old prospect Rowdy Tellez is ready for the big leagues. If Tellez can keep up what he’s been doing, that day might come sooner rather than later. Continue reading
For those who do not know me, I have had the pleasure of writing for The Dynasty Guru for a little over a month now. I am doing a series on sleepers, breakouts, and post-hype candidates at each of the main prospect positions (catchers, middle infielders, corner infielders, center fielders, corner outfielders, starting pitchers, and relief pitchers). Here are some quick links to the posts that have already been published:
Here are five middle-infielders who could rediscover their prospect shine from years past by taking advantage of the opportunities they should be given in the upcoming season to become cornerstones of your future dynasty. Continue reading
Last week I wrote about a few pitchers that could see serious regression in 2017 due to their inflated strand rates. As a follow-up, I wanted to touch on some guys that could see substantial improvement in their numbers if their ability to leave runners on base bounces back to around even league average. Without further ado, the thrilling conclusion to “Using Strand Rates to Snag Value”: Using Strand Rates to Snag Value 2: The Awakening (Ok, that may be overselling just a touch). Continue reading
Major leaguers lacking in either draft or minor league pedigree can be hard to gauge from a fantasy perspective. When these types of players pop up, they are often widely ignored or disregarded as fluky. They are also not discussed as often in analytical circles. Today we will look at a September stalwart and an unlikely top-5 Rookie of the Year finisher to see if they can make the leap into fantasy relevance.
Buster Posey, Willson Contreras, and the already seemingly-immortal Gary Sanchez – all of them are alright to own at catcher in a dynasty league, to say the least. Of course, if you do not happen to own stock in one of these commodities, where else can you look? Sure there are plenty of other good fantasy catchers, but there are more mediocre ones. Maybe when you grew up in a small town, when the rain would fall down, you’d just stare out your window dreaming of the day you could draft the next Pudge in your dynasty league. Well purveyors of the fantasy baseball biosphere, I present to you Chance Sisco.
Chance Sisco is a 21-year-old catcher in the Baltimore Orioles system from Corona, California. He was drafted in the second round of the 2013 MLB June Amateur Draft and he now ranks as the second best prospect in the Orioles organization (top position player) according to mlb.com. He also ranks fifth amongst all catchers behind Jorge Alfaro, Zach Collins, Francisco Mejia, and Reese McGuire. I suppose his high rankings might have you questioning his sleeper-status, but I’d call him a sleeper because I believe he can be one of the better fantasy catchers in the league as soon as 2017.
Many other rankings have Sisco as the Orioles’ top prospect overall and I think that his number five ranking amongst catchers might not quite correlate to fantasy value either. Sisco is a bat-first catcher. He even played shortstop for most of high school before switching to catcher his senior year just to fill a need on their roster. The catchers that rank ahead of him on MLB are great prospects, but someone like Reese McGuire stands out more for his defensive prowess than his bat (which does not bode as well for fantasy). Mejia is an interesting switch-hitter that has a fantasy outlook fairly similar to Sisco. Alfaro has great power and Collins looks pretty great all-around. These guys deserve to be ranked highly, but if others are biting on these names, I think you can get just as much potential value out of a guy like Sisco and maybe hold out a touch longer to grab him in a draft.
Sisco has not shown an overwhelming amount of power thus far, but he might be able to develop it as he progresses (still, don’t expect Gary Sanchez in the HR category). What Sisco does best is get hits and get on base. He has made adjustments and proved himself at every level so far. In 2016 Sisco played almost exclusively in Double-A before playing four games in the Triple-A playoffs. He had a slash line of .317/.406/.430 over 116 games. He only had six home runs and two stolen bases, but he sure ought to help in nearly every other category you might use.
The future of Sisco might also be coming sooner rather than later. With Matt Wieters as a free agent, the Orioles’ future at catcher is wide open for Sisco. While the recent signing of Welington Castillo may muddle things for the time being, it’s only a one-year deal and talent always finds a way to gain playing time. While Castillo may keep Sisco to Triple-A a bit longer than expected, the Orioles have no reason to play Welington, merely a temporary acquisition, over their top prospect. It’s all coming together sooner or later, and there’s plenty reason to be excited. If you have a new dynasty draft coming up, I implore you, take a Chance. Make a change. And breakaway.
Since my initial #Dynasty200 I’ve ranked these three Russell, Wiggins and Lavine, though I considered placing LaVine ahead of Wiggins in my December update. This is an interesting debate to me because Russell provides the most upside, LaVine has the most present value and Wiggins boasts the pedigree of the first overall pick. LaVine is already a top 50 redraft player thanks to his improved efficiency, play making ability and three-point shot making. Neither Russell nor Wiggins can come close to making that claim.
Here’s some dynamite analysis: a pitcher’s statistics will look better if he doesn’t allow runners to score (Thank you. Looking forward to my trophy for Achievement in Baseball). Ideally, pitchers would probably prefer to not allow base runners. However that would lead to perfect games that go on for infinity, so it’s probably unrealistic. The next best solution is to strand the runners that do get on. The league average strand rate for pitchers is 72.9 percent, a number that has remained relatively static since 2008.
Sometimes great pitchers can get away with higher strand rates without concern for regression. In 2016, Jon Lester led the league, keeping 84.9 percent of baserunners from scoring. Max Scherzer held the third highest rate at 81.7 percent. These two guys are studs and there is no real reason to believe that their ability to strand runners will plummet dramatically back to league average. Lester and Scherzer share the top ten with some other pitchers that don’t quite have the same pedigree. By invoking the ancient wisdom of Sesame Street and playing a game of “One of These Things is Not Like the Other”, it’s easy to bet on regression, both negative (and positive NEXT WEEK! MARK YOUR CALENDARS! GET EXCITED! Or you know, whatever. I don’t care. That’s cool.) when it comes to stranding runners on base.
Lester, Scherzer, and Ian Kennedy, and led the league in strand rate in 2016. Which one of those names looks out of place? Kennedy quietly had a totally decent year last year, posting a better than average ERA (3.68) and WHIP (1.22). He was even better than average with his strikeout (8.49 per nine innings) and walk (3.04 per nine innings) totals. The problem, however, is that the rest of his numbers indicate that this is highly unsustainable.
Kennedy stranded runners at an 83.1 percent clip in 2016. His fly ball rate spiked by nearly 10 percent from his 2015 totals, settling at 47.3 percent, the eight highest total in the league. It could be argued that the Royals’ defense (a massive upgrade over the statuesque 2015 Padre outfield) and Kauffman Stadium played a huge role in turning those fly balls into outs. While that’s true, Kennedy’s home run per fly ball rate dipped to 12.8 percent, falling nearly five points from his 2015 total. He gave up significantly more fly balls, yet yielded far fewer home runs. Add his .268 BABIP to the mix, and Kennedy’s 2016 campaign appears to be more façade than for real. The 195.2 inning workload still has value in some places, but don’t hang on or look to acquire Kennedy with hopes of him repeating his 2016 performance.
Don’t get me wrong, Hendricks is awesome, and at 27 years old, he would typically be the kind of guy you would target in dynasty leagues. However his underlying numbers indicate that his breakout 2016 season might not be replicable. Hendricks stranded runners at an 81.5 percent clip, nearly 12 percent better than his 2015 totals. He has never been a big strikeout guy, hovering around league average fanning around eight batters per nine innings, which means most of his outs come from batted balls. He was also the beneficiary of a legendary, record-breaking season for the Cubs defense, as the team somehow held opponents to a .255 BABIP. Normally, it would be easy to predict that Hendricks’s .250 BABIP would regress closer to league average, but I guess that would discount the wizardry going on at Wrigley.
So maybe it is better to just call Hendricks’s 2016 campaign confusing. He doesn’t walk anybody (2.08 per nine innings, good for 12th in the league), so that’s good. But he also faces similar questions laid out above for Ian Kennedy. Hendricks gave up five percent more fly balls in 2016, yet lowered his home run to fly ball ratio by three percent, making it better than league average. His 3.34 DRA would also indicate that something has got to give. That said, even if Hendricks does regress slightly next season to an ERA in the mid threes, that’s still pretty good for around 200 innings of work. The problem is that for a Cy Young finalist carrying the “Cubs-tax”, you probably will have to pay a lot more to acquire a little less.
The curious case of J.A. Happ started with a promising young prospect in Philadelphia. He bounced around from Houston to Seattle to Toronto before landing in Pittsburgh. We all know the story from there. Pitching oracle Ray Searage got Happ to throw his fastball and sinker more, his changeup less, and before you know it, Happ was signing a $12 million per year deal with the Blue Jays. As a 34-year-old, owners might not be rushing out to acquire him in dynasty leagues, even though he has posted two straight seasons of decent production. I tend to agree with that sentiment.
Happ stranded runners at a rate of 79.7 percent in 2016. Like Hendricks, Happ is a low strikeout pitcher. Unlike Hendricks, Happ strikes out around one batter fewer per nine innings, and hovers right around 7.5 punchouts per nine. He also carried a .268 BABIP, good for 15th lowest in the league (tied with our boy Ian Kennedy). Without the Cub defense and positioning, it’s unlikely that number will hold in the future. Despite a very good 3.18 ERA, Happ’s DRA was a hefty 4.42. Combined with a slightly below average cFIP of 104, Happ’s overall totals appear to be propped up by smoke and mirrors. As mentioned before, you’re probably not knocking anyone over for Happ, as if he’s a 32-inch TV on Black Friday. However if you already have him on your roster, now might be the time to use his 3.18 ERA in nearly 200 innings as bait for a prospect (or two, if you’re good).
Follow Mark on Twitter @hoodieandtie