The Dynasty Guru’s Triple Play: Chicago Cubs!
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 Cubs. 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!
Javier Baez, Age: 25, 2B/SS
Analysis by Keaton O. DeRocher
Javy You Seen This Dude Play?
Drafted 9th overall in the 2011 Draft by the Cubs (right behind fellow Puerto Rican middle infielder Francisco Lindor), Baez exploded into full season ball in 2012 with a slash line of .294/.346/.543, launching 16 home runs, and stealing 24 bags. In 2013, while splitting time between High-A and Double-A, he amassed an even more impressive resume: .282/.346/.578 slash-line with 37 home runs, 111 runs batted in, and 20 steals. Those back-to-back performances earned him ranking as the #9 overall prospect on MLB.com at the end of the 2013 season. In 2014, at Triple-A Iowa, Baez continued to find success at the plate, although his average was lower than previous seasons’. His slash line was still a respectable .260/.323/.510, launching 23 homers and 80 runs batted in and tacking on 16 steals to boot. He earned a spot in the MLB Futures game where he took Lucas Giolito to the opposite field on a outside curve with what can only be described as pure baseball porn (And when you watch that clip stick around for Gallo’s bomb right after it, LORD, have mercy).
Javy Have A Hack
Despite his success at the dish, his very aggressive approach become easier and easier to attack as he progressed through the minors. Baez’ results at the plate were still stellar because of his plus-plus bat speed and natural ability to hit. At the lower levels of the minors that’s all you need to be successful, but facing increasingly difficult competition Baez’ strikeout rate and average really exposed his aggressive approach.
|2012 (A, A+)||4.36%||21.50%||.294|
From A ball up to Triple-A his strikeout rate increased nearly 8.5% and his average dropped 30 points. The silver lining here is that his walk rate actually increased, and he showed an increase in pitch recognition as he advanced. However, that didn’t mean he was laying off of them, as evident by the average and strikeouts.
Time For A Change
Baez would eventually change his approach twice upon arriving in the majors. After his first cup of coffee with the Cubs in 2014, he bottomed out with a .169/.227/.324 slash and a sky high 41.48% strikeout rate in 229 plate appearances. Realizing he could no longer rely on his natural hitting ability to carry him, Baez became more patient at the plate, or, as patient as he could be. The result was gaining back control of his strikeouts, which reached a peak at that 41.48% in 2014. He was able to decrease his strikeout rate each of the next two seasons with the cubs (30.00% in 2015 and 24.00% in 2015). The second time Baez changed his approach was during the 2016 season with his leg kick. Let’s take a look at what his mechanics looked like pre-change. This gif is from the 2015 post-season.
As you can see, there is a ton of movement in Baez’ lower half. A big leg kick allows pitchers to mess with his timing, and at the end of his swing his top half and bottom half are going in opposite directions. This made him particularly susceptible to breaking pitches on the outer half.
During the 2016 season, Baez made an adjustment to his leg kick:
He basically got rid of it all together. Instead of a huge kick, he adjusted it to more of twitch for timing, trusting that his incredible bat speed and raw power would do the rest. With the much shorter stride, Baez remained more balanced and was able to safely cover more of the plate. It also allowed him to have quicker swing path to the ball and the results were rather impressive.
|2016||45.6 %||34.5 %||19.9 %||12.70%||14||59||.273||.314||.423|
|2017||39.9 %||38.1 %||21.9 %||19.70%||23||75||.273||.317||.480|
Baez began to spray the ball to all fields, lowering his pull rate by 6% and increased his HR/FB rate by 7%. His average remained the same but he was able to increase his power production and become a more balanced hitter at the plate.
He’s Just Javy-ing A Good Time
As far as his fantasy value, I expect Baez’ 2017 output to be the norm: 20-25 home runs, .270 average and 70-80 runs batted in. He’s going to strike out but the rest of his profile, his age, and his duel-positional eligibility make him a pretty decent fantasy target. He still has the upside to reach a 30/100 season or two if he continues to make adjustments, and on top of all that he’s super fun to own. If only defensive categories counted in fantasy, because his slick hands lead to one of my top 5 baseball gifs ever.
Keaton’s Artist Selection:
Early Kanye West – The College Dropout, Graduation and 808s and Heartbreak are three plus-plus albums. Whenever I think of Kanye I keep coming back to those. The recent stuff has been…… interesting, but those those albums hold true. [Ed. Note- Keaton O. DeRocher’s views on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy do not necessarily represent those of his editor or The Dynasty Guru]
Yu Darvish, Age 31, RHP
Analysis by Patrick Magnus
Well It Happened Again, the Cubs Acquired a Starting Pitcher
Before we dive into player analysis, just an interesting thing to note about the Cubs and their player development philosophy.
|Kyle Hendricks||Acquired via Trade- 2014|
|Jon Lester||Signed as a Free Agent- 2015|
|Jose Quintana||Acquired via Trade- 2017|
|Tyler Chatwood||Signed as a Free Agent- 2018|
|Yu Darvish||Signed as a Free Agent- 2018|
Similar to many dynasty teams, the Cubs steer away from developing pitchers. They’ve created a core of incredible X-Men-like position players, and pursue already-developed or mostly-developed starting pitchers. This method has been very effective for the Cubs, and it will be interesting to compare the future results of a team like the Braves, who are all-in on developing pitching in-house.
Anyway, back to business. Was Darvish a smart investment for the Cubs, and should we be investing or selling in dynasty leagues?
“Dat Slider Doe” – Keaton O. DeRocher, TDG Podcast #21
Darvish has been, in a word, nasty. The Japanese pitcher has been stateside for five years now, and has been nothing short of stellar. As mentioned on The Dynasty Guru Baseball Podcast, I have not given Yu Darvish nearly enough credit in previous analysis. In my head, Darvish was still the version of himself in 2013 with the Rangers. Equipped with a diverse repertoire, and an absolutely devastating slider, but an inability to locate said slider. I was wrong.
This is why doing analysis is important, because clearly Darvish has dramatically improved his walk rate. He’s done this while still relying on his slider as a secondary go-to for whiffs.
Yu Better Watch Out
Many will remember the 2017 version of Darvish as the implosion that was his 3.1 innings in the World Series. However, Darvish had struggles prior to his disaster piece in the most important game of his career. Darvish had his worst season since his first year in the Majors in 2012.
As surprised as I was by Yu’s decline in walks, I am even more surprised to learn that he was “bad” last year. By almost all measures Darvish had the worst year of his career in 2017. Another red flag for Darvish was his career-high 15.1 home run to fly ball rate. You might be tempted to say “Well he was in Texas, Patrick!” True, true, true, however he gave up homers at a nearly identical pace in his short stint with the Dodgers, who play at a pitcher friendly park. Combine his bad year with his age and his 2,127.2 career innings pitched (all levels, all leagues), and you’ve got the recipe for some genuine concern.
Yu, Yu, Yu Outta Know
There are, however, some positive indicators for Darvish. In 2017 he maintained about average velocity on his four-seam fastball, above average spin rate, and above average perceived velocity. Despite his strikeout rate being a career low, it was still elite. Darvish also continued to walk batters at a very respectable rate of 2.80 per-nine innings.
While the National League has caught up to the American League in offensive prowess, he gets to face a pitcher every 9th batter and he doesn’t have to face a DH. I would expect his K% to tick-up a notch because of that, and I would also expect his ERA to drop some as well.
Yu Can’t Always Get What Yu Want
The Cubs felt like they got Darvish at a discount due to his World Series performance. Truthfully they might have received a discount because of his overall year. Still, they (and most projections systems) believe that Darvish will be an asset to their team for the near future. Darvish has been so elite that even if he is starting to decline, he’s starting from such an elite level that it’s likely they are correct in their assessment.
Location in your contention cycle will help you determine if Darvish is an investment you should make. Those of you with a window for the next year or two should see if you get the World Series bias discount in your leagues. However if you’re not competing within that window I would advise against acquiring Darvish.
Patrick’s Artist Selection:
I am selecting late Kanye. Life of Pablo and Yeezus are both criminally underrated. Of course College Dropout, Late Registration, and Graduation will most likely always be peak Kanye, these later albums are still very good. Certainly better than 808 and Heartbreak. [Ed. Note- Patrick Magnus’ views on 808s and Heartbreak do not necessarily reflect those of his editor or The Dynasty Guru]
Brendon Little, LHP, 22
Analysis by: Adam Lawler
Little Sample, Big World
Meet the future “biggest riser” in the Cubs farm system. What’s more- you can likely get him at a dirt-cheap price right now. His status as the biggest riser in the system could be because the system has been badly depleted with promotions and trades (most notably as told by Patrick Magnus was Isaac Paredes and Jeimer Calendario to the Tigers for Justin Wilson) It might also be, however, be because he’s a viable, durable arm and that is something every dynasty owner should be seeking out in the late rounds.
The former Manatee of State College of Florida was a 27th overall pick in 2017 and one of several high draft picks the Cubs expended on arms that year. He played short-season ball in Oregon last year and he put up a – HOLY GOD IT WAS SO BAD. No, really it was awful. 9.37 ERA/8.41 DRA and a 1.33 K/BB ratio in 16.1 innings.
That last bit is important to keep in mind. 16.1 innings pitched during short-season ball. Moreover, it had been almost three months between when he threw his last pitch as a Manatee and his first pitch for the Cubs organization. That’s a long time for anyone, let alone one who’s acclimating to the professional climate. If you were to flip through Baseball Prospectus’ 2018 Dynasty Top 101 Prospects List, the top pitching names are littered with examples of small sample size qualifiers that shouldn’t shy you away from believing in “the stuff.” Are they as bad as Little? No. God, no. However, the distance between games and the acclimation to professional ball should be considered.
Little Bit o’ Love
His debut was bad, but progression is not linear and talent should be considered over numbers when players are so early in their trajectory. That point is underscored when you see that people much smarter than myself list Little as a top prospect in the Cubs organization (Baseball Prospectus- #4, Fangraphs- #5, Baseball America- #7) and say things like, “one of the best left-handers in this past draft class” and “I’ve grown more optimistic about Little’s chances of starting since June’s draft.”
Before the bad start to short-season, Little provided some tantalizing lines during his stint as a Manatee. He provided a 2.5 ERA and strike out-to-walk rate of 28.8%. Outside of ‘durable’, which seems to be everyone’s takeaway about Little, there are other things to like in his makeup. The southpaw provides a big-league fastball (albeit average) and a plus curve.
Additionally, Little had two important markers in his development. First, he simplified his mechanics during his Cape Cod League and junior college stints in order to make his delivery and arm action more repeatable and manageable. Second, during his progression from college to the pros he figured out a way to mimic the arm action between his fastball and change-up which is now projecting to above average and helps the fastball garner more whiffs and bad hacks.
All in all, this is a guy you want to either (a) take a flier on at the end of your 16+ dynasty minor league roster or (b) flag in your 12+ leagues as an arm to watch. His progression this year should end somewhere between Advanced-A and Double-A. If reports start trickling in that show numbers similar to what everyone has always expected out of Little, it might be worthwhile to pick him up before the Cubs hype train leaves the station.
Adam’s Artist Selection:
When people discuss the idea of attending a hologram concert, I quickly become somewhat uncomfortable. The essence of music is to sit back and feel something real and raw. Having a hologram projected and getting hyped over it just seems cheap and completely missed the point of “live music”. That said, my wallet and I are here for the Muddy Waters hologram GoFundMe, should it ever come to pass.
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