Triple Play

THE DYNASTY GURU’S TRIPLE PLAY: HOUSTON ASTROS!

AN INTRODUCTION

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 Houston Astros. And, 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!

Rogelio Armenteros, 23, P

Analysis by Adam Lawler

Arm-en Hammer

There are times when it’s easy to bask in the glow of Houston’s ascendance. To celebrate it as a testament of a smart front office identifying gobs of young talent and molding them together into a championship roster. It gives hope to dynasty rebuilders everywhere as a real-life example of how to rise like a phoenix from your team’s ashes.

This is not one of those times. This article will underscore the embarrassment of riches heaped upon such a forward-thinking organization. One such gem is a young arm who was pegged as a potential bullpen arm because he is a part of an insanely talented pitching staff. The same one many MLB teams will be clamoring for in the hopes of plucking a hidden gem from the treasure trove and turning him into a long-term asset within their own rotation.

Rogelio Armenteros carries the kind of narrative I love when seeking low-lying fantasy pitching assets. Plucked from relative obscurity and signed for an underwhelming $40k, the Cuban has the prototypical makeup of a starting pitcher. He is a durable 6’1” 215 lbs. with fluid delivery motion coupled with easy arm action. Moreover, he’s grown as a pitcher, and if you are not paying close enough attention (or only relying on last year’s reports) you’re missing out.

Every article you will find within the pages of Fangraphs, Baseball Prospectus, and Baseball America peg Armenteros as a reliever. Why? Not because of the blockade of cannons already within the rotation and bullpen. In fact, most 2017 reports heap praise upon Armenteros’ talent. The fastball, scouts noted, had a velocity band increase from high 88-91 to 90-93. This is notable because the more you can separate velocity bands between your main offering and secondary ones, the more effective you are as a pitcher. His slider was being pegged as a wipeout pitch, breaking all sorts of different planes and eye levels due to his unique arm slot, and has become even more effective with a 13 MPH difference.

However, scouts would go on lament the fact that Armenteros has yet to find a viable third pitch. Namely, the changeup. That’s a fair critique and one to seriously consider.

Well, if this spring training is any indication, it looks like he found it:

HOT DAMN! That fade looks better than Iman Shumpert’s hairstyle. It made Brian Goodwin look like a helpless child. That’s not just a “show me” change. That’s a change I can believe in. Apparently, there are others, more important people than I, who have taken note too.

Let’s get more excited about our boy Rogelio though, shall we?

Arm-en-teros a New One

At the beginning of July 2017, Armenteros was called up to Triple-A affiliate Fresno in the Pacific Coast League. For those of you who are unaware, pitching within the PCL is essentially like pitching on the moon. Most stadiums lack… what’s the word… ah yes, gravity. Because of this, even elite pitchers are regularly chewed up and spit out.

For reference, Noah Syndergaard had a 4.60 ERA his first time through the PCL. Frances Martes sported a 5.68 ERA and David Paulino posted a 4.50 ERA in their recent tours through the PCL.

Armenteros? The numbers speak for themselves:

Rogelio Armenteros, 2017 Triple A Fresno Statistics

IP

ERA DRA K-BB% HR/9

WHIP

58.3 2.16 1.72 13.2% 0.77

1.05

If you need additional context, he was young for the league and in two of his final three appearances he pitched 7 innings and 8 innings of 1 hit ball. So I will happily wave off scouts who hand-wring over “third time through the lineup” concerns.

So let’s recap. Yes, the Astros are good. Really, really good. Championship-level good.

Also, they have a young pitcher. He has a durable frame, fluid motion, command and control, increased velocity on his fastball, a strikeout-per-nine of at least nine at every level, and has probably found a third pitch to match two plus offerings. Talent uh… finds a way.

Sign me up. Everywhere. Immediately.

Adam’s Music Selection

Beyonce. Bey. Queen Bey. Why bother with anyone else? She rules the world.

Derek Fisher, Age: 24, MLB

Analysis by Patrick Magnus

FIsher? I Hardly Know Him.

Fisher appeared in the Majors for the first time last year. In his year he went to the playoffs, won the World Series, and embraced Brian McCann in a moment of pure baseball joy shared between two grown men. Baseball is amazing.

During his brief cup of coffee last year, Fisher had 146 at-bats and slashed .212/.307/.356 with five home runs, and three stolen bases. Not exactly a stellar debut for the young outfielder.

Searching for Derek Fisher

The 24-year old outfielder did continue some of the positive trends that he had shown in the minors. He provided a bit of pop and speed that could contribute useful counting stats over the course of a full season and displayed an above league average walk rate. These are trends he has shown over the course of his minor league career as well.

Year | Level PA BB% K% ISO SB
2014 | Low-A 172 9.3% 20.3% .105 17
2015 | High-A 398 11.8% 23.9% .205 23
2016 | Double-A 448 16.5% 28.6% .215 23
2017 | Triple-A 384 9.1% 19.3% .265 16
2017 | MLB 165 10.2% 32.5% .144 3

We can learn a few things about Fisher by examining these numbers. The first being that he definitely carries a bit of pop, as his Isolated Power (ISO) has steadily climbed as he’s progressed levels. Although it dropped off in a “major” way once he reached the bigs, I’d still expect him to hit for more power going forward.

The next thing we can learn is that he’s quick like a gazelle. While three stolen bases may not make you think “gazelle!”, there’s a strong chance that there’s more speed on the way. He’s stolen double digits in the minors and ranked 17th in the Majors according to Baseball Savant’s Sprint Speed (feet/sec) metric. There’s a real possibility for double-digit steals soon. Behold the gazelle!


Finally, we can also note that this young man punches out on the regular. The most promising strikeout-rate came at Triple-A in 2017 when he managed to get it below 20%. He’s made adjustments over the course of his time in the minors, and let’s hope he continues to do the same in the majors.

Gone Fishering

Unfortunately Fisher’s K% is not his only issue. His plate approach is a blessing and a curse, but the contact he makes is mostly just the latter. Fisher launched balls at an ugly average angle of 4°. That is gross and indicates that he’s probably hitting the ball on the ground a lot. Sure enough, the right fielder hit the ball on the ground 54.4% of the time with the Astros in 2017. Here’s Fisher’s spray chart breaking down his ground balls, line drives, popups, and fly balls (Images from Baseball Savant)


Notice a pattern? He not only hit those balls on the ground, he pulled them to the first base side. Even with his gazelle-like sprint speed, he was unlikely to beat them out for base hits. Now let’s take a look at the location of the pitches he hit.

Mmm, more bad news. The vast amount of the ground balls our gazelle hit were in the zone. Pitchers threw them with good reason though, as Fisher was well below league average at swinging at pitches outside. If only he’d hit more of those pitches in the air.

Sleeping with the Fishers?

Fisher is an interesting player, and we can’t draw any real conclusions from the small sample of last season. A player equipped with power, speed, and a strong walk-rate is typically the kind I endorse. The ground ball rate is rather concerning though, and moreover I’d prefer he spread them around. He’s certainly worth a flyer at the end of redraft leagues, but he may be a bit pricey in dynasty due to the recent debut. He has the tools to be a fantasy contributor, and if he starts hitting the ball in the air more there’s perennial double-digit homers and steals here for years to come.

Beyond hitting the ball on the ground to the left side, playing time could be a concern for Fisher in 2018. Yuli Gurriel’s injury has presented an opportunity for several players, including Fisher, to claim a spot on the 25-man roster for 2018. Post-hype dynasty favorites, such as Tyler White and AJ Reed, are also in the mix. However, Fisher was considered likely to be the starting left fielder prior to the first baseman’s hand injury. I’d consider him a near-lock for the gig to start the season now. I’m not entirely sure how much patience they’ll show with him, as they will likely be in contention this year, but he’ll at least get a shot. Let’s see if he rises, like a fly ball, to the opportunity.

Patrick’s Music Selection

Beyonce. Bey. Queen Bey. Why bother with anyone else? She rules the world.

Gerrit Cole, Age: 27, SP

Analysis by: Keaton O. DeRocher

Cole Train, Choo Choo

Every now and then in the draft, there is a polished college player who zooms through the minors. In the 2011 draft that player was Gerrit Cole. Drafted first overall by the Pirates out of UCLA at age 21, Cole made it through Single-A, Double-A, and reached Triple-A in his first year of pro-ball in 2012! Then in 2013 it only took 68 innings for him to be promoted to the Majors, and Cole train pulled into Pittsburgh.

Ace’s Wild?

He was the ace of the staff at UCLA for a team that included fellow 2011 top draft pick Trevor Bauer, and was the opening day starter the last three seasons for the Pirates. Yet, the general view of Cole is that he isn’t one of the top pitchers in the game. I wanted to dig a little deeper into his numbers to see if the consensus has merit or if he is being undervalued on the mound.

In the Engine Car Of The Cole Train

When I’m digging into a pitcher I first evaluate their strikeout and walk rates, HR/FB, GB%, FB% and FIP numbers. Let’s take a look at Cole’s career numbers so far and see where they land:

Stat Result Fangraphs Rating
BB/9 2.34 Above Average
K/9 8.44 Above Average
LOB% 73.80% Above Average
FIP 3.27 Great
xFIP 3.47 Above Average
GB% 47.40% Above Average
HR/FB 10% Below Average

Well, the Fangraphs conclusion seems pretty definitive: Cole as an above average pitcher. The one negative being that Cole has been below average in HR/FB. That rate was actually above average at 7.8% prior to last season, when it ballooned to a very poor 15.9% and really skewed his overall average.
These numbers only tell part of the story, and requires further discussion. What exactly does being “above average” in these categories mean? Let’s take a look at some of his stat rankings vs other pitchers from 2012-2017 who had at least 600 innings in that five-season span:

Stat

Result Ranking 2012-2017

BB/9

2.34

30

K/9

8.44

27

LOB%

73.80%

44

FIP

3.27

12

xFIP 3.47

19

GB% 47.40%

37

HR/FB 10%

25

After looking at these ranks it would appear that there may be a lot more above average pitchers out there than I had originally thought. It’s just a subset of stats, but if you average Cole’s rankings in these categories you get 27, which is almost exactly where we have him ranked in our consensus rankings (24).
Although having several above average marks, the gap from above average to ace is wider than I would have thought. I originally came into this piece with the mindset that Cole is closer to the ace tier than he is to the tier below, but after digging to his numbers, I’ve convinced myself he is actually properly ranked.
The good news is that the Astros already have an ace and Cole slots in as their #3 starter. Cole is not an SP3, and he is certainly better than the bland SP3 mark that gets tossed around on many pitchers these days. However, that just speaks to the depth of the loaded Astros rotation. He may be as far below SP1 as he is above SP3, but as long as he keeps performing at an above average level, he’s an arm I would target in dynasty.

Keaton’s Artist Selection

Beyonce. Does this really need to be explained?

AUTHORS’ PLUGS!

Follow us on Twitter for baseball, jokes, Keaton’s trolling, and other very cool opinions!
Adam Lawler: @thestatcastera
Keaton O. DeRocher: @TheSpokenKeats
Patrick Magnus: @TheGreenMagnus

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Adam Lawler

Adam Lawler

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