The Dynasty Guru’s Triple Play: Chicago White 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 Chicago White 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!
Lucas Giolito, Age: 23, SP
(Analysis by: Keaton O. DeRocher)
Dont Cry For Me Arm-en-Teej-a
As the old saying goes: With pitchers, eventually there comes a point when their arm snaps and they need the Teej . Giolito elected to embrace the old saying before he even reached pro-ball. He was considered the best prep pitcher in the draft class going into 2012, but a sprained Ulnar Collateral Ligament in March of that year forced him into Tommy John. He then slid to #16 in the June amature draft, where he was nabbed by the Nationals. Tommy John isn’t the big bad wolf it used to be, something of which we are all aware, and being a prep arm Giolito wasn’t really missing any development time as he was still just 18 years old.
Don’t Call It A Comeback
Once he finally found himself on the diamond he hit ground throwing… hard. He tore through Rookie Ball and Short A in 2013, pitching to a 1.96 earned run average and 39 strikeouts in 36.2 innings. He similarly wrecked full-season A-Ball in 2014 with a 2.20 ERA and 110 punchouts in 98 innings. Splitting 2015 between High A and Double-A, the barrage continued as Giolito struck out 131 batters in 117 innings, a career high at the time. Part of what made Giolito so successful was his mechanics on the mound. Take a look at his motion in the gif below from a 2013 start:
Giolito’s motion is a highly compact leg kick with a short stride that stays relatively close to his body. His hands stay close to his body as well, and that allows his entire frame to drive forward off of his back foot as one piece. His compact motion and his large build (6’6” and 255 pounds) is what allows him to notch triple digits on his fastball and generate hard 12-6 break on his curve, both of which grade out as 70-or-better pitches.
New Mechanics Who Dis
In 2016 something changed in Giolito’s mechanics, the leg kick being the most notable difference. As you can see below, in this version his kick is loose and much farther away from his body, and he’s taking a longer stride. His hands are farther away from his body as well, combined with the looser leg kick and longer stride he began overthrowing and lost command of pitches.Take a look at his motion from a start in the 2016 season:
This change in motion was evident in his statline; something was off:
As you can see from the table above, there was a jump in Giolito’s walks and earned run average, with a decline in his strikeouts. He seemed to be getting away from a motion that he was comfortable with and that was suited his frame and arm angle.
OK, Now Call It A Comeback
In the offseason prior to the 2017 season, Giolito was dealt to the White Sox as the headliner in a deal that sent Adam Eaton to Washington. Now on the South Side of Chicago, Giolito is making the most of his fresh start by bringing things back to the beginning. Once more, let’s go to the tape:
You can see that he’s back to the motion he was successful with early in his career: keeping his leg kick high and tight to his body, with a short stride and keeping his hands and elbows close to his torso. Let’s also add in some side-by-side to really hammer it home:
It does not get much clearer than that! Leg kick and hands both much farther away from his body on the left than they are on the right. Now one would presume that once a player has had a cup a coffee they are more prepared for the majors the second time around. Couple that with reverting back to the mechanics where Giolito had previous success, and you may have something cooking. Let’s compare Giolito’s stat lines in the Majors with Washington and with Chicago:
That is a hell of an improvement! Granted, it’s one that can’t be contributed solely to the change in his mechanics, but when players make tweaks to their motions and it produces success you can bet it is sustainable. When Giolito was drafted he was billed as an SP1 and with the struggles he faced with his command, those expectations were tempered. With the changes made to his windup, I fully expect that he should be able to reach his ace level potential and I am buying the everloving bajezzus out of him everywhere I can.
KEATON’S ARTIST SELECTION
Rise Against – This is one of my favorite bands. I love their sound, and Savior is my favorite song by them. Some other very highly recommended tunes are: Collapse, Sattilite, Re-Education (Through Labor), I Don’t Want To be Here Anymore and Prayer Of The Refugee.
Yoan Moncada, Age 22, 2B
Analysis by Patrick Magnus
Before there was Acuna, there was Moncada
Those of us who have been playing dynasty baseball for a bit remember that only a short time ago Moncada was considered a can’t-miss top prospect. They hype machine was in full force as Mondada quickly made his way through the minors. At 6’2’, 205 pounds, Moncada is built like a bulldozer. The Bulldozer flopped mighty heavily, and his stock has dropped in many leagues due to a swing and miss approach. That’s just how we in the fantasy community sometimes: bring on the next shiny new toy.
The “Whiff-dy” City
The pilots which flew Moncada to Chicago were thankful. They saved fuel by simply coasting on the wind generated by Moncada’s strikeouts… Did I just whiff on that joke? [Ed. Note- yes]
Moncada strikes out a lot. In the minors he did not post a strikeout rate below 20% at any level. During his brief tenor with Boston, which generated most of the breeze to Chicago, he managed to strikeout at a ludicrous 60% clip. Despite the small sample size of a whopping 20 plate appearances, Boston fans and many others felt nervous.
Moving to the Windy City did not help Moncada with his plate discipline. Moncada spent a large chunk in Triple-A attempting to polish up his game. The results, at least strikeout-wise, were not all that great, but he did manage to make some improvements.
|Team | Level||K%||BB%|
|Red Sox | AA||30.9%||13%|
|White Sox | AAA||28.3%||13.6%|
|White Sox | MLB||32%||12.6%|
As you can see, nothing too dramatic. He’s pretty consistent with the whiff-rate, but also consistent with his walk rates. The strikeout is not nearly as criticized as it used to be, as long as you can maintain a decent walk rate. Generally though, this kind of profile is associated with power hitters (think Joey Gallo or Miguel Sano).
Moncada Don’t Want None Unless You Get Home (Runs)
We don’t have to limit plate discipline to the big boppers, and if you haven’t noticed Moncada has some muscles of his own. He’s a growing young man with tremendous tools. Last year he actually put up a 20 home run/20 stolen bases season between the minors and the majors. Moncada also boasted an above average exit velocity, and an above average launch angle, and his home runs in the majors went to all parts of the park. Another encouraging fact is that he ranked higher in average exit velocity than Nicholas Castellanos and Randal Grichuk. (Sidebar: Once you’re done reading our work here, go read Jim Melchair’s piece on Castellanos)
Besides the eyeball test and his statcast metrics/rankings, he also owned a 36% hard-contact rate, which I could see climbing even higher. In 2017 Moncada had a 49% medium-contact rate, and I’d expect some of that to move over to hard contact as he adapts to major-league pitching. His line-drive rate is also lower than his minor league average, which might mean a bit more average for Moncada in the long run.
Post-Hype Sleeper, “It Means No Worries!”
While the prospect-hype machine may be cooling on Moncada, you should be actively trying to acquire him anywhere you can. Look for owners with prospect fatigue, but don’t be shy to pony up what is necessary to make the trade. Players with top 5-10 fantasy player upside rarely come at a discount in dynasty leagues. Check in with your owners to see how they’re feeling, and if you are a owner make sure you don’t move him on the cheap.
The strikeouts are concerning, but Moncada is so much more than his ability to hit for average. Plenty of players are making it work with high strikeout rates, and he will not be an exception. Trust that he will slowly move away from his rate of 30%, but don’t ever expect him to hit .300 either. The elite power/speed combination that Moncada owns is worth a lot in today’s game. It may take a season or two before you start getting the returns you expected, but they will come. Remain patient… Just like Moncada at the plate.
Patrick’s Artist Selection
This was a rather easy choice for me. In high school I listened to a lot of punk rock and emo bands. I’m certainly not proud of my love of many of the bands I endorsed at that age, but from 1998 to 2003 Alkaline Trio was an obsession. From Goddammit to Good Mourning, Alkaline Trio was constantly being played for anyone I could get to listen.
Today being the beginning of both Chinese New Year and also Valentines Day, I found myself feeling nostalgic for this past love at the beginning of a new year. Here’s a sweet little Cure cover that represents my feelings on Alkaline Trio and what they’ve become. “ If only…is a wish too late”
Alec Hansen, 23, P
(Analysis by Adam Lawler)
Alec Hansen shoves. The the former Sooner and 23-year-old was the second-round pick of the 2016 Draft, is somewhere around 6’7” – 6’9” and simply dwarfed the competition in 2017. The right hander amassed 141.1 innings pitched with a 12.2 strikeouts-per-9 innings and a 2.80 ERA/2.52 FIP.
Hansen’s repertoire consists of a big fastball that sits between 90-95 MPH and a curveball, changeup, and slider as work-in-progress secondary offerings. All of these traits seem typical for a prospect working his way up. However, if Hansen were to arrive in the MLB today, he would likely be the tallest starting pitcher in the league. This is where you and I need to make a judgment call on Hansen. You see, the common thought is that the bigger the pitcher the more durable and throw harder. This notion, however, was largely debunked by Glenn Greenberg’s piece for SABR wherein he answered the question if pitcher’s height truly matters.
Yes, giant men have a harder downward bite on their fastball and they can seem more imposing with their perceived velocity as they release the ball closer to the plate. However, giant men with big arms largely have two common markers when assessing development and success. First, can they develop an arsenal of legitimate secondary pitches? Second, can they hone their large frames to repeatedly deliver with the same control and arm action to become frontline starters?
History is not kind to our friendly fireball giants. In fact, recent examples make it seem like it’s a lost cause. First in the minds of most of our readers is former top prospect Tyler Glasnow (6’8”), who is trending towards a bullpen washout. I could go into more names and more examples (John Rauch, Chris Young, etc;), but a majority of active MLB players who are taller than 6’5 are either bullpen arms or sad-sack starters. In fact, when reviewing the projected starting rotations around the league, only 11.3% of pitchers (17 of 150) are above 6’5”. Of those names, there is one legitimate ace who has not had a significant injury (Chris Sale, 6’6”) and one near-ace who has (Noah Syndergaard, 6’6”). Every other name has been average, too young and with control issues, chronically injured, or not worth rostering in leagues with more than 14 teams.
Now, what do we do with this information when analyzing the prospects of Alec Hansen? Well, first let’s look at back to the repertoire. He checks all the markers when considering a raising the big man caution flags.
The fastball has a definitive bite which moves levels as it crosses the plane. However, scouting reports identify that the velocity loses a tick and the command wavers as he works later into the game. We can chalk this up to his first full season on the farm pitching more than 50 innings, but it’s something to keep an eye on as you move ahead. The secondary offerings, as we mentioned, are works in progress (read: lacking consistency). That said, the curveball has reportedly been viewed as a plus pitch and the changeup is at least good enough as a third offering. Meanwhile the slider needs honing as it has been viewed as flat or hanging. If we were to answer the two questions I posed earlier (First, can they develop an arsenal of legitimate secondary pitches? Second, can they hone their large frames to repeatedly deliver with the same control and arm action to become frontline starters?) the answer to both would be a definitive “No”. All in all, you could be reaching for the eject button as you read this assessment as a big man with consistency issues. But not so fast, because there are more words after these.
As James Fegan at the Athletic found out in his interview with Hansen, his Winston-Salem pitching coach, and fellow prospect and catcher Zack Collins, he is very aware of the ceiling a big man has when becoming over-reliant on his fastball. As we discussed about David Price in our TDG Boston Triple Play column, over-reliance on the fastball correlates to a higher incidence of Tommy John Surgery. More importantly, it can lead to a pitcher being just plain hittable. As Hansen says, “There’s no trying to work on it. No matter how hard you throw. I’ve seen guys that throw 100 mph get hit around. If you don’t have a secondary pitch you can throw for a strike, or pitches beyond that you can throw for a strike, you’re going to get hit.”
So take heart in the fact that Hansen is self-aware. He’s working in earnest in the minors to hone his craft with an eye on making a major impact in the show. He’s intriguing and has the work ethic to achieve his ceiling, which is just enough to get me to bite. He’s in my top 100 SP for dynasty pitchers rankings. There are a dozen or so other prospect arms I would take ahead of him, but he will easily fly past those names if reports about improved control and secondary pitchers start to leak out of Birmingham and Charlotte.
Adam’s Artist Selection
The White Sox most notable fan not named Barack Obama is rapper Chancelor Jonathan Bennett, otherwise known as Chance the Rapper. The man knows how to produce a fantastic album that is at once lyrically enlightening and a joyful noise. Not to mention the fact that he just seems like a genuinely good dude who is legitimately funny. Did you see his hockey skit on SNL? Take the 5 minutes to watch it. If you want a music recommendation related to Chance, listen to his verse on fellow Chicagoan Kanye West’s Ultralight Beam. It’s soooo good.
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