The Dynasty Guru’s Triple Play: Seattle Mariners!
Welcome to The Dynasty Guru’s Triple Play! This is a series where three of the Dynasty Guru’s nerdier baseball writers – 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 until we cover all 30 teams!
Each team will be covered in alphabetical order. This article we’re covering the Seattle Mariners. 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!
Ryon Healy, Age: 26, 1B
Analysis by: Keaton O. DeRocher
Where’s the Healyum?
I wanted to write about Healy because he was a guy with some track record of production but still seemed underrated in conversations about his value. There didn’t seem to be much consensus on his value, with about ⅓ of advocating sell, ⅓ buy and ⅓ “meh”. We had him ranked as the 24th 3rd baseman coming into the season in our consensus rankings (with the individual rankings ranging between 16th and 36th). This was coming off of back-to-back seasons of 100+ wRC+ and 25 homers, so I wanted to take this opportunity to deep dive into his numbers and maybe move the needle on his value one way or the other.
Heelys On Healy
The biggest negative in Healy’s game is no doubt his defense. Thankfully, defense doesn’t matter in fantasy, because this is his third season in the majors and he’s accumulated a -24 defensive runs saved. So what else is affecting his perception? In his debut season, Healy hit .305/.337/.524 with 13 homers, 37 runs batted in and a 132 wRC+, tying him for fourth among third baseman with his now-teammate Kyle Seager.
Healy followed up his quality debut with a quality first full season in the majors, slashing .271/.302/.451 with 25 homers and 78 runs batted in. His walk rate remained the same and his strikeout rate climbed from 21% to 23%. So far this season, Healy’s numbers look poor but they are driven by a slow, injury-affected start where he was slashing an abysmal .091/.130/.136 with no homers and four runs batted in before going on the disabled list with an ankle injury. Since returning from the disabled list, however, he’s slashing a robust .286/.316/.554 with 8 homers and 18 runs batted in, across his last 29 games. From these numbers he would appear to be a solid option at first, so what about his Statcast numbers?
Even with the poor start to this year, Healy’s xBA is .294 and his xwOBA is .388 which are both far above his current batting average of .254 and OBP of .286. Over the past three seasons, Healy has increased his hard-hit each year, and in 2018 he is posting a career-best HR/FB rate of 21.6% (career average of 16.2%).
This season Healy is also posting a career-best Barrel % and career-best Exit Velocity. The curious note from his Statcast info is that this is his first season with a Launch Angle below league average. But when paired with his career-best hard-hit rate, it hasn’t slowed down his production.
Coming into the season, we definitely had Healy ranked too low. Is he a top 10 option at first or third? Probably not, but he should slot safely in the 10-15 range at either position. His strikeout rate isn’t something that hurts you as 20%-23% seems to be the norm now. He could walk a few more times, but again his walk rate isn’t going to hurt you. Given that his value was so inconsistent in the offseason, he makes for a perfect buy low inquiry but even if you have to pay full price to acquire him, he should be worth the investment.
Keaton’s Artist Selection:
Edwin Diaz, 24, RP
Analysis by Patrick Magnus
Closers are Stupid
I don’t like closers. More often than not, I sell them for prospects, play in leagues where they are not highly valued (saves+holds leagues), or acquire them only when I am completely locked into a contention cycle. If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading “The Only Rule Is That It Has to Work” by Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller (best baseball book of all time written by my favorite baseball writers) do it. Closers are stupid, and Ben and Sam do a much better job at explaining why than I possibly could.
Alright, all that being said. Let’s talk about Mr. Edwin Diaz.
Mr. Diaz… If You Nasty
There’s a young pitcher in Seattle who’s doing some pretty gross things, pitching-wise. According to Fangraphs, Edwin Diaz ranks only second to the absolutely absurd Josh Hader in relief pitcher performance.
Here are some other notable crazy stats
- 4th in K/9 among relievers (Fangraphs)
- 15.9% less Chase Contact than the rest of the MLB (Baseball Savant)
- Inducing 3.1% more weak contact than the rest of the league (Baseball Savant)
- An XBA .079 less than the MLB (Baseball Savant)
- 1st in the MLB in saves (Fangraphs)
Edwin Diaz Started with the Man in the Mirror
This year’s Edwin Diaz is better than the previous versions. 2017 Diaz had shown flashes of dominance, but also was a bit wild and gave up a few too many long balls. So while there has been brilliance, he has also shown some symptoms of relievers who lose the closer job. However, this year we are getting the Diaz that co-author Keaton DeRocher dreamed off during the off-season relief pitcher preview episode on the Dynasty’s Child Podcast.
So what’s changed? Well, he’s throwing all of his pitches harder by approximately one MPH. That will certainly help miss more bats, but missing bats has always kind of been Diaz’s thing. Still, his pitches are doing more of that this season, which is helping some the other minor problems Diaz had last season.
One important note: the growth in whiff rate for his sinker is deceiving. He’s essentially ditched the pitch entirely, and so while the few he has thrown have generated whiffs, there’s likely a greater impact from the decrease in its usage.
Diaz now relies almost exclusively on a two-pitch mix; fastball and slider, and they’re good too! Those two pitches are causing the majority of hitters to miss 17.4% more than the MLB average. You can’t beat what you can’t hit!
A Man with a Plan?
Two outstanding pitches, and not a lot of contact. But here’s where things get interesting with Diaz. While he’s been a dominant pitcher throughout the season thus far, he hasn’t been maintaining his dominance with the same strategy. Sure, he’s still using the same two pitches, but he’s altering his usage of the pitches in-season.
This caught me be by surprise. Generally, or at least I’ve always assumed, your stuff works the way you planned until teams respond, and that cycle continues. Hitters adjust to pitchers based on the data that is available to them. However, Diaz appears to change his usage on a monthly basis. He has even changed where he is throwing his pitches.
He’s been throwing the ball in the strike zone a bit more since the beginning of April. When most players can’t touch what you’re throwing, why not throw in the zone more?
Out Of This World: Contact
When opponents are able to make contact, they are hitting the ball hard. Despite being statistically spectacular thus far, Diaz has a few red flags. Batters are making better contact off him, meaning more barrels, less weak contact, and an above league average launch angle. The launch angle is sufficiently better than the previous year, but I’d expect him to give up home runs at a greater pace than his current 10% HR/FB would indicate.
While generally giving up more home runs is a bad thing for closers, I don’t believe it will be a true detriment to Diaz this year. He has been limiting the free passes, as well as the contact. Thus fewer base runners, which means less damage done when contact is made.
Diaz actually gave us a pretty good example of what we can expect going forward in his debut season back in 2016. While his home run rate was similar to last years (14%), his walk rate was actually even lower than it is now, while still producing a similar strikeout rate. I expect Diaz to produce similar results for the remainder of the year.
Closure on this Closer
First a reminder: closers are stupid. There’s a reason Andrew Miller became a verb for a bit, and there’s a reason the Rays are conducting what seems like an insane but cool experiment with starting relievers, and there was a reason Gabe Kapler made headlines for using an insane amount of pitcher changes earlier this year. You don’t necessarily need to use your best pitcher in the final innings. Teams are moving away from this strategy, and there are plenty of elite relievers to snag every year off of waivers in your dynasty leagues. Go read Adam Lawler’s stuff on relievers, because he’s smarter than me. END OF CLOSER RANT.
All that being said, Edwin Diaz is very good. He’s using his two best pitches, and now he’s being even more aggressive in the strike zone. While relief pitchers are tricky assets, the most reliable ones get Ks, induce ground balls, and limit their home runs and walks. Diaz is doing all of these things and should be a lock as a top-five closer for the foreseeable future.
Patrick’s Artist Selection
I can never get enough of this album.
Wyatt Mills, Age: 23, RHP
Analysis by: Adam Lawler
When analyzing a team’s farm system to pluck out a legitimate prospect, it’s hard to look at Seattle and find the “Aha!” player. It’s bad; downright awful. Max Povse? Trash. Mike Ford? Blech. Their best prospect, Kyle Lewis, is a 22-year-old hobbling around on some bum wheels. He’s a torn ACL away from the local softball beer league.
You should take with a grain of salt, but: Wyatt Mills might be ok. He’s a 23-year-old in the Cal league high-A ball affiliate who hasn’t thrown more than 20 innings of professional ball in the last two years. Let’s acknowledge that 23 years old in high A all is not remarkably young, but not awkwardly old. However, 20 innings pitched in any season, after being a college arm, seems both remarkable and awkward. Well, that’s because Mills is a reliever.
You know what else is remarkable and awkward? His delivery.
Watching Wyatt Mills and wow is he impressive. Will move very fast in Seattle's system. pic.twitter.com/B9loXqsDop
— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) July 3, 2017
H/T to LookoutLanding, a great follow for those interested in Seattle baseball.
Mills is a sidearm deliverer. Sporting a 2.39 ERA / 3.14 xFIP / 2.90 DRA through his initial stint in High-A is something of which to take note. More interesting, however, is his insane 58% ground ball rate: a testament to his delivery style and being able to generate downward plane angles with a heavy fastball so long as he stays on top of it. The K/9 is something that can be intriguing and is largely attributed to the arm slot’s ability to generate a complete nosedive of the pitch away from the batter, thereby generating a ton of swings and misses.
Yet, there were still questions about whether Mills is all smoke and mirrors. After all, out of college, it seems like a high 80’s fastball was peak Pat Venditte more so than Pat Neshek. Well, it looks like professional strength and conditioning may be paying off a bit here.
Modesto down 6-0 but Wyatt Mills popping 94 with his FB in the 9th.
— Mariners Minors (@MiLBMariners) April 25, 2018
Now buoyed by a career-low 21.4% K-BB, a great groundball rate, and some pretty interesting velocity, Wyatt Mills has all the makings of a player you sneakily pick up on your waiver wire to bolster the bullpen during a title run. That’s about all Seattle has to offer these days when casting your eyes upon the arms in the system.
Adam’s Artist Selection
It makes me feel old to think The Colour and The Shape is over 20 years old at this point. It was an absolutely transcendant album of the mid-90s. Coming out about two years after Kurt Cobain’s suicide, Dave Grohl recorded with fellow Nirvana bandmate Pat Smear (not to mention Nate Mendel). The album from start to finish is great and worth throwing on when attempting to exhaust yourself in a workout.
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Previously Covered Teams
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