The Dynasty Guru’s Triple Play: Atlanta Braves!
Welcome to The Dynasty Guru’s Triple Play! This is a brand-new series where three very cool dynasty baseball nerds- Adam Lawler, Patrick Magnus and Keaton O. DeRocher- bring you a succinct analysis of one pitcher, one hitter and one prospect from each organization. We’ll be running this regularly leading up to Opening Day!
Each team will be covered in alphabetical order. This week we’re covering the Atlanta Braves. While we here at The Dynasty Guru are primarily baseball obsessed, we’ll also be touching on some music we’ve enjoyed from each team’s home state. Enjoy, and leave us your question and comments below!
Luiz Gohara, Age 21, SP
The beefy Brazilian is an imposing presence on the mound, towering at a listed 6’3″, 210 lbs. There have been comparisons to CC Sabathia, which seems both completely lazy and totally fair. Comparisons in approach are strikingly similar, but this could be due to the fact that they’re intentional: Gohara reportedly admitted to mimicking Sabathia’s delivery and motion to the plate. That is largely (no pun intended) where the comparisons end.
Gohara offers a three-pitch mix. A four-seam fastball which Brooks baseball summarizes as “borderline unfair” and averages 97 MPH, a show-me slider, and a change-up that looks to be at once terrifying, knee-buckling, and a little uncontrollable. All this is to say that it’s understandable how he struck out 31 batters in 29 innings pitched in his cup of coffee, and it’s piqued the interest of the fantasy baseball community.
The Braves pitcher has a current NFBC ADP of 291. For context, he’s the #78 pitcher off the board, being drafted right around names like Jimmy Nelson, Felix Hernandez, Sean Manaea, and teammate Sean Newcomb. That’s a hell of a value in redraft and short-term keeper leagues, for as long as he stays there (which I suspect will not be very long).
For dynasty purposes, it might be best to reference our TDGX2 draft. The venerable Mitch Bannon took Gohara with the 174th pick off the board. Gohara had been drafted just before Kevin Gausman and Mitch Keller and a round after Jameson Taillon, Sonny Gray, and Alex Wood. Those are the types of guys you are hoping produce an SP3-level upside in deeper formats.
This type of optimism is not without merit either. Insert the usual small sample size inferior competition caveats here, but in the minors batters were chasing his pitches outside the zone at a higher than average clip and he provided an average K-BB%. He’s on a young, up-and-coming team with a projected all-star caliber defense at his back. Gohara himself, as previously mentioned, is only 21 and is flashing really high level stuff. Proponents (including myself) will point to him simply “getting a feel” for his stuff before he reaches his full potential.
With that said, let me throw some cold water on Luiz Gohara: he is going to have health issues. Since he’s been on the radar, it has been reported that he’s had three “arm injuries” which were never fully disclosed. During one injury while playing for Double-A Mississippi in mid-May, he was pointing at his bicep. That’s not great, especially when you consider the correlation between big, hard throwing pitchers and injury.
More importantly, those smarter than myself still see Gohara as a reliever. While you might be quick to dismiss that, consider the Braves are generally regarded as a top 3 farm system and a majority of those elite prospects are pitchers. Atlanta may give him a long enough leash to “get a feel” for his pitches, but they may also want to “get a feel” for what they have when they make a push.
From a dynasty perspective, Gohara is an interesting case. At best, you have a high-K SP3 with a penchant for losing focus and a feel for his pitches. At worst, you have an risky, injury-laden but dominant closer for one of the most exciting young teams in baseball. Sounds like a fun play to me.
ADAM’S ARTIST SELECTION
Run The Jewels. Atlanta has a ton of hip hop to pull from, and while one half of RTJ isn’t from ATL (El-P is from Brooklyn), Killer Mike makes up for it with his lyrical hits and drops. They are non-stop energy. If I am trying to boost my confidence, these guys will get me there. They have come out with 3 albums, all fantastic from start to finish. There is not another duo out there I would endorse before RTJ.
Dansby Swanson, Age 23 , SS
Ay, you remember this guy?! Former first overall pick in 2015 by the Arizona Diamondbacks! A top prospect with 80 hair and 80 name, dynasty owners were quick to acquire this new shiny Swanson. Dansby-Boy ascended through the minor leagues extremely quickly. In fact, his whole career has been a blur thus far.
Originally drafted by the Rockies in the 38th round, Dansby decided he would spend some time playing college ball at Vanderbilt. He played 11 games before his season was derailed with a broken foot and torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder.
However, in 2014 Swanson came back with a vengeance: All-Southeastern Conference, College World Series Most Outstanding Player, and a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award the year after that. He put two solid back-to-back campaigns up at Vanderbilt and dramatically increased his draft stock. Swanson was selected number one overall in the 2015 draft, but traded to the Atlanta Braves in the famously unexplainable Shelby Miller deal.
In his first season in Atlanta he played 143 games across three different levels. While I know that it’s not uncommon to see players out of college ascend to majors rapidly, I see this ascension a potential speed bump in his development. One of those levels was a 148-at-bat taste of the show that produced a slashline of .302/.361/.442. The legend and expectations for Swanson grew even higher, with many suggesting that he might be the rookie of the year in 2017. He would not live up to those expectations.
Dansby Swanson’s 2017 campaign was a straight-up disaster. That once beautiful slash line from his 2016 debut turned into .232/.312/.324 over 551 plate appearances. Yuck. Swanson suddenly became the dynasty communities black swan. But why?
Let’s take a surface-level look at our boy.
- 2016 MLB -145 PAs 9.0 BB% 23.4 K%
- 2017 MLB – 552 PAs 10.7 BB% 21.8 K%
Those numbers aren’t terrible, and they certainly don’t indicate the kind of change we saw in Swanson’s slash lines. Digging deeper though, we begin to uncover what might be going on. Early scouting reports praised Swanson’s approach at the plate, and that seems warranted with those BB and K rates. But take a look at some batted-ball changes between Swanson’s polar-opposite seasons:
- 2016: 46.4 GB% 29.6 Pull% 34.7 Hard Contact %
- 2017: 47.4 GB% 42 Pull% 29.3 Hard Contact %
In 2017, it would appear that Swanson pulled the ball onto the ground, and did so with less authority than he did in 2016. While I know the latest trend is to disregard BABIP as a way of identifying anything, the lack of hard contact lowered Swanson’s luck significantly- his 2016 BABIP was .383, and it dropped to .292 in 2017.
More data supporting this hypothesis comes from Statcast: he had a below average launch angle, generated velocity, home run distance, and exit velocity in 2017.
Singing his Swansong?
If you’ve sold Swanson, you might feel pretty good after reading all that. While 2017 was a bad, no-good, ugly year for Dansby, there are some positive indicators that point to potential success.
- Pre All-Star Break: .221/.296/.324
- Post All-Star Break: .249/.338/.323
There was some marginal improvement in his game during the later portion of the year. Swanson, while not making hard contact, still had a contact rate of 78.4%. “Yeah, but, Patrick, what does it matter if he’s hitting it into the ground?” Great question, glad you hypothetically-asked.
Dansby Swanson is fast. He ranked 46 on Baseball Savant’s Sprint Leaderboard. That’s good enough to be the 3rd quickest shortstop in 2017. His ranking puts him in the same company as players like J.T. Realmunto, Will Myers, Chris Taylor, and Ian Happ. Those are guys are pretty good, and they’re also reliable sources of steals!
“I’m a simple man. I like pretty dark-haired women and breakfast food”
In my opinion, Dansby-boy’s previously heralded approach at the plate is still there. His speed is going to allow him to run out some of those ground balls, the walk/contact rate will improve his average and OBP, and he should be a decent bet for double digit steals.
The disappointment with Swanson comes mostly from the hype of his draft position. However, scouts have praised his approach at the plate, not his power or tremendous speed. A realistic future for him is probably more in line with Orlando Arcia’s 2017, but with better on-base skills. He may not necessarily make all of his needed adjustments in 2018, but I certainly believe he can.
PATRICK’S ARTIST SELECTION
While writing this piece I went and listened to Atlanta’s own Ludacris. He is stupidly underappreciated, and his newest single “Vices” is worth your time. Luda is still Luda.
Sean Newcomb, Age: 24, SP
The 6’5”, 255-pound lefty from Middleboro, MA has had a track record of high Ks and high BBs dating back to his college days at the University of Hartford in CT. In an injury-shortened freshman season in 2012, he was named to the All-Rookie Team. In his sophomore season he struck out a staggering 92 batters in 72 innings (a K/9 ratio of 11.5). The 92 strikeouts were the most in the conference and that performance lead to an America East All Conference First Team nod. He was 3rd in the conference with a .213 BAA and lead the team in wins with 5. If there was one blemish on his record it was the 4.63 BB/9. Despite the high walk rate, he was a top 50 prospect coming into the 2014 draft, according to MLB.com.
His success in college lead to the Anaheim Angels making him the 15th overall pick in the 2014 draft. As he began professional ball his performance on the mound was much of the same: 11.58 K/9 ratio and a 4.57 BB/9 ratio through 114.2 innings of A ball, then a promotion to AA in 2015. In the off-season between 2015 and 2016 he was dealt to the Atlanta Braves as part of a package along with Erick Aybar in exchange for Andrelton Simmons.
Now with the Braves, Newcomb continued to show the ability to power pitches past batters by accruing a K/9 of 10.31. At all levels, though, he as been able to limit the damage from his walks with a minors ERA of 3.23 (including 2.93 in AAA). His command woes continued however with a BB/9 of 4.75. In 2017, Newcomb made his debut with Braves and was able to work 100 IP with a 4.32 ERA, 9.72 K/9 and a sky-high 5.13 BB/9.
Newcomb’s success as a starter in the minors (and his large frame) indicate he has the durability to remain a starter in the majors. His fastball touches the upper 90s, and his repeatable delivery gives him easy velocity. Newcomb’s secondary offerings of a change-up and a curveball both project as average or better major league pitches. However, his lack of command shows most on his fastball and it limits his ability to be a top of the rotation starter. As a result his safe ceiling is as an SP3.
If you play in a league that doesn’t count walks, you could do worse in terms of a young fantasy pitcher. Command issues have followed him throughout his playing career but his ability to work around them is almost heroic. Limiting batters to a 5% HR/FB rate and a FB% in the high 20s. If he is able to reign in his command, even a little, he has the ability to be a very exciting fantasy option. If he can’t, Atlanta has a run-of-the-mill SP3.
KEATON’S ARTIST SELECTION
How can we talk about Atlanta and not talk about Outkast? How about: Roses, Ms. Jackson, Hey Ya, Rosa Parks or ATLiens. Regardless of how your day is going it needs some Andre3000
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Previously Covered Teams