The Dynasty Guru’s Triple Play: Boston Red Sox!
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 to you a succinct analysis of a pitcher, a hitter and a prospect from each organization. We’ll be running this regularly leading up to and through Opening Day!
Each team will be covered in alphabetical order. This article we’re covering the Boston Red Sox. 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!
David Price, 31, SP
Words and Half Baked Ideas by Adam Lawler
It’s the summer of 2019, you and your friends are celebrating the 2019 summer classic, someone will undoubtedly ask, “What the hell happened to David Price?” Because you’re reading this hit piece on David Price, you will simply smirk and say, “I saw this coming.”
David Price’s demise is not something for which I am rooting. Like everyone else, I became enamored during Game 7 of the 2008 ALCS when this happened. He went on to become the model of consistency over the next 8 seasons, averaging over 205 innings pitched with a 3.23 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, an 8.6 K/9 rate, and 15 wins as a member of the Rays, Tigers, Blue Jays, and Red Sox. Through his age-31 season, Baseball Reference compares Price with names like Jered Weaver, Johan Santana, Roy Oswalt, Roy Halladay, and Josh Beckett. Those names comparisons are important, and we’ll get to why in a second.
I am not going to rehash the non-baseball drama surrounding Price last season because it was dumb and could be a plot in a Mean Girls: Baseball movie. Nor am I going to take a deep dive into the painfully adorable relationship he has with Astro because that’s evident and if you disagree you’re either lying or a heartless cold robot.
I will, however, remind you that baseball is a fickle mistress. When pitching the volume of innings that Price has in the past decade, the sport will chew up even the strongest of arms and use them as cannon fodder. Of the names we listed above, only Roy Halladay had a standard level production after his age 31 season. Roy Oswalt had one season and cratered due to injuries and ineffectiveness. Jered Weaver never pitched below a 4.6 ERA again and was out of baseball after three years due to injuries. Johan Santana valiantly tried a comeback bid after his injury and washed out. Josh Beckett played three additional seasons, but never again pitched with any real value for fantasy owners.
Yes, everyone is different: different body types, pitching repertoires, and even standard of medical care all come into consideration when poking holes in the comparison. However, let’s consider a 2016 study investigating the rise of Tommy John surgery, which discovered the common theme among those who had TJS was their usage of the fastball. Now, let’s look at Price’s historical pitch mix from 2011-2017.
Notice that change in pitch mix around 2015? Price, likely because of a hamstring strain, began throwing quite a few more straight four-seam fastballs with his cutter. At that point, Price had amassed over 1400 innings pitched, but increased his fastballs (which we know to be hard on the elbow and forearm) during his age 29 season. Then, during the 2016 season, we saw and read about a dip in velocity. In 2017, Price complained about forearm discomfort and was shelved for a chunk of the 2017 season.
For now, you still have homer Red Sox fans, desperate gamblers seeking to bolster their rotation, and uninformed fans willing to pay for Price based on name value. It’s time to trade him no matter the format and your current window within the league.
It is going to be a sad, frustrating, and roller-coaster ride into the sad state of a fading star. Inevitably, he’s going to show glimpses of his former self, but the durability of David Price is dead. It’s not your fault, damn it. David was old. That’s what old pitchers’ values do… they die.
ADAM’S ARTIST SELECTION
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones are the type of 90’s nostalgia that will get you going in any setting. Sure, they cameo’d in Clueless (1995), but they were so much more than that. Dickey Barrett’s deep, raspy voice coupled with backing of trumpets and saxophones lights up a part of my brain that just makes me want to smile during Rascal King.
Rafael Devers, Age 21, 3B
Analysis by Patrick Magnus
I love, love, love Rafael Devers. Every single thing about this awkwardly shaped human. The gif below of Devers’ pure joy after hitting a play-off home run is a perfect encapsulation of how I feel about the man himself.
Pure joy. *sigh*
Your Regularly Scheduled Analysis
With the bias disclaimer out of the way, let’s really dig in. Devers came up and solidified a position that had become quite a problem for the Red Sox. Pablo Sandoval imploded like an immense panda-shaped black hole, and Devers had performed exceptionally well at every Minor League assignment thrown his way. So, while his arrival to the majors was a bit speedier than anticipated, he did not disappoint.
The young stud third base prospect slashed .284/.338/.482 in 240 major league plate appearances. That success, combined with a large enough number of plate appearances for more reliable analysis, has significantly increased Devers’ price in dynasty leagues. Even though Devers had his fair share of die-hard groupies as a prospect: a co-owner and I moved Prince Fielder for him back when that would have seemed a silly idea. The trade was not my silly idea, and I get zero credit for that move, but still.
Devers has a supremely advanced approach at the plate for his age. He has refused to bat below .280 at any level in professional baseball. He put his knowledge of the strike zone on display in 2014, putting up a double-digit walk rate while making tons of contact in low A. He started to add power in 2015, and the prospect community started to stir. Since then, Devers has put up double-digit home runs, including ten at the major league level in 2017.
Devers only lasted nine games in Triple-A before getting the call, but take a look at some of his ratios at that level compared to some of his ratios in the majors
As you can see, the adjustments Devers made from Double-A to Triple-A carried over to the majors as well. But despite his previous success adjusting, I don’t believe he will deliver significant power. Rafael Devers is going to be a very good hitter, but that .275 isolated power will be much harder to accomplish in the majors. In fact, power is the area of Devers’ offensive game in which I would suggest you temper your expectations.
Devers Can’t be Choosers
During his time conquering the minors, Devers carried a line drive rate that hovered around 20% that then dropped to 15% in the majors. I’d expect that to come back up after more plate appearances in Fenway, but more on that later.
Devers also had incredible Home run-to fly ball rates of 22.5% and 33.3% in Double-A and Triple-A, respectively. In the majors, however, it dropped to 17.2%. His power did play to all fields, which matches his overall approach at the plate (he distributes the ball fairly evenly across all fields). My expectations are that his line-drive rate will improve, but that his HR/FB will most likely stay put.
Of course, He is still very young, and will most likely continue to add strength. Despite his Stay-Puft Marshmallow-like added strength of adulthood, he’ll most likely still be limited by his home park. His power is coming from the wrong side of the plate for Fenway, unless he’s the next David Ortiz. This is a bit of bad news for our penguin-looking friend. I doubt Devers ever hits much more than 25-30 home runs, even in the current offensive environment.
Devers at 3B Forevers?
My primary concern with Devers is that I don’t think he’ll stick at third. Scouting reports suggest that he has improved his defense, but I am still very much in doubt. In 2017 Devers made 14 errors in 56 games, and earned himself a -2.8 defensive WAR. I know there is much hesitation over using defensive metrics to measure success, but I watched this rolly-polly human with my own eyes and he currently lacks the defense to stick at third. I would expect the Red Sox to give him another season to make the necessary improvements, but I could see him shifting to first as soon as next year.
“Have I Told You Lately, That I Love You?”
There: between left-handed homer suppression at Fenway and questionable defense, I’ve thrown some cold water on Devers, right? Still, by all accounts Devers is a stud. There are few players I would say are safer dynasty investments than Devers. Is that partially because I’m completely in love with the man? Yes. Beyond my bias though, the numbers, pedigree, age, and playing time speak for themselves. This is a bankable surefire dynasty stud that will anchor fantasy teams for years.
PATRICK’S ARTIST SELECTION
Michael Chavis, Age: 22, 3B – AA
Analysis by Keaton O. DeRocher
*Movie trailer voice-over* IN A WORLD WHERE DAVE DOMBROWSKI RULES… NO PROSPECT IS SAFE. ONE BY ONE, AND SOMETIMES TOGETHER HIS FARM-MATES WERE TRADED… THE ONLY WAY TO AVOID BEING TRADED IS TO MAKE IT TO THE MAJOR LEAGUES AS FAST AS HE CAN… WILL HE MAKE IT BEFORE HIS TIME IS UP?… HE IS: A BOSTON RED SOX PROSPECT.
Prior to getting drafted by the Red Sox in 2014, Chavis put his golden power on display by winning the Perfect Game All-American Classic home run derby. As power-happy high schoolers are want to do when they get to pro ball, Chavis’ used his aggressive approach to create a pull happy spray chart. With that came and a bunch of strikeouts- a 25% strikeout rate over 134 at-bats in 2014 (his pro debut) and a 30% K rate across 435 at-bats in 2015 (his first full season).
In 2016 Chavis gained a little success by changing his approach: he stopped trying to pull every physical object thrown in his direction and let his naturally-plus bat speed carry the ball. He also started recognizing pitches better and became a bit more patient at the plate. The result was a small uptick in walk rate from 6.2% to 7.1% and a huge drop in strikeout rate from 30.6% to 23.9%.
After surviving the purge of the ‘16-’17 off-season, Chavis put his new approach on display for a full season. The results were outstanding-a very tidy .282/.347/.563 slash-line with 31 home runs and 94 runs-batted in. The 94 RBI was tops for a Red Sox prospect and 31 homers was tied for the most in the system, and all that lead to Chavis being named the 2017 Red Sox Top Hitting Prospect by MLB.com. Again, Chavis saw a slight uptick in walk rate to 7.4% and a drop in K rate to 21.6%.
There is no doubt about Chavis’ natural hitting ability, and with the adjustments he’s made at the plate he’s showing that his average is a sustainable fantasy asset. His calling cards are his plus bat speed and plus raw power: they give him the ability to slap fly balls all over the park, generating the most power and contact to the pull side. Chavis was drafted out of high school as a shortstop but has since moved to third base. The presence of the aforementioned Devers at the hot corner prompted the Red Sox to work Chavis at first base in the Arizona Fall League this off-season. There are some scouts who believe he could work the mold of a Dan Uggla-esque second baseman and some who believe he’ll eventually end up as a corner outfielder. One thing we know about productive bats, however, is that they find a place to play.
The Boston lineup is starved for a power bat to settle in the middle of the lineup, and they may not have to look outside their own farm. That is assuming Chavis is the main character of the movie from my intro paragraph and makes it to the major leagues before the Dombrowsk-Axe comes swinging. If he isn’t, then we’re looking at a Ned Stark Game Of Thrones situation, where we think Chavis is the star of the farm system and about to be saved at the last minute, and then brutally traded to the KBO in a stunner no one saw coming. (roll over for GoT spoilers)
KEATON’S ARTIST SELECTION
Guster for the Boston selection was the easy choice because they are my absolute favorite band. Chill vibes for days. Check out: Satellite, One Man Wrecking Machine, Amsterdam, Demons, Mona Lisa, Parachute, I mean, honestly, literally anything they’ve ever done. Everything they touch is gold.
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