The Dynasty Guru’s Triple Play: The St. Louis Cardinals!
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 St. Louis Cardinals. 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!
Miles Mikolas, Age: 29, SP
Analysis by: Keaton O. DeRocher
Origin of the Lizard King
The Padres drafted Mikolas in the 7th round of the 2009 Draft out of Nova Southern. There weren’t major expectations for the righty, but he nevertheless moved quickly through the minors, never pitching more than 89 innings at any level. Once he debuted in the majors, however, Mikolas hit a wall. Mikolas’ once-pristine control vanished and he was hit hard. Mikolas then began to make the rounds as he was traded from San Diego to Pittsburgh and then to Texas. The Rangers DFA’d him, and with that Mikolas decided to head to Japan.
Once in Japan, Mikolas rediscovered the effectiveness that lead him to be so successful in the minors. In three japanese seasons Mikolas accumulated a line of 31-13, 2.18 ERA, 1.46 BB/9, 8.01 K/9, and a .99 WHIP. This resurgence lead the Cardinals to take a chance on Mikolas and give him a heavy dose of Cardinals Devil Magic to turn him into a successful Major League regular. Boy, has it paid off.
Lizard King Reborn
The success Mikolas had in Japan has carried over to the majors this time around, with Mikolas posting a 2.43 ERA, .96 WHIP, .95 BB/9, 8.00 K/9. The key to Mikolas’ success this second time around is his control. He’s back to being able to hit his spots with precision, and it’s allowed him to set up his pitches with ease when attacking batters. Here’s some video evidence:
His plus-plus ability to control his pitches allows all of his offerings to play up in-game. He’s able to nibble the edges of the strike zone with ease on his fastball and draw batters into poor swings on his breaking balls.
While in Japan, Mikolas learned how to attack hitters and use his whole arsenal. In 2014, the last season stateside before he went to Japan, Mikolas was throwing his fastball 62.2%. This season, however, he’s dropped the usage down to 49.1%, allowing him to mix in his secondary offerings more and keeping hitters off balance. With the increased mastery of his pitches and approach with batters, combined with the return of his command, has lead to an impressive breakout season for Mikolas.
With his sustained success from Japan carrying over to this season with St. Louis, it seems a safe bet that this is the Mikolas we can expect going forward as well. The time may have passed to acquire him but he’s probably worth the price you’ll need to pay if you’re looking for pitching.
Bonus gif: In case you somehow hadn’t heard how Mikolas got his Lizard King nickname, it’s because he ate a lizard in the bullpen of the AFL in 2011.
Keaton’s Artist Selection
Jose Martinez, 29, 1B
Analysis by Patrick Magnus
A Manifestation of Cardinals’ Devil Magic?
The Cardinals’ organization has a reputation of using “devil magic” to somehow make the most of every player in their system. It’s a quality that might receive higher praise if it were another team that had, let’s say, a “more humble” fanbase. Yet despite an entire internet of baseball curmudgeons, the Cardinals continue to find ways of churning out good players.
Jose Martinez is all the devil magic gone right. The journeyman bounced around minor league organizations since first being drafted in 2006. Yet somehow, in 2017 at the ripe age of twenty-eight, Martinez had a breakout campaign.
Initially, he was treated as a potential super-utility player, but settled into a full-time first baseman in 2018. Now the twenty-nine-year-old is a fearsome member of the Cardinals line-up, and produces advanced metrics that make baseball nerds drool, or need to change their pants. Yet how should dynasty owners value the spontaneity of Martinez’ late breakout?
xStats: The Devil Magic’s Advocate
Grab your calculator, snap that bowtie [Ed Note- hey], check your pocket protector, and get ready to dig into some advanced stats. Don’t worry, I won’t actually be diving that deep, but we do need to note a few things about xStats.
- Calculated by batted ball data provided by Statcast
- The x in x stats is meant to be expected
- They are a work in progress, and they continue to improve
If you’re interested in knowing more about xStats checkout the website, or follow Andrew Perpetua (creator of xStats) on twitter! I am by no means pretending to be an expert on xStats, but I will share how I use them in my analysis, and what that might mean for our good friend Jose Martinez.
According to xStats Jose Martinez is very good. He is among the league leaders in xBA, xSLG, and xWOBA (also among league leaders in WOBA for what it’s worth).
Well, the first thing we’ve got to say is “DAMN.” The xStats are right on the money with Jose Martinez. The xStats don’t seem to indicate any sign of decline for the former minor league journeyman. Small notes from this analysis on what we might expect going forward: an uptick in power based on the difference in SLG and xSLG, and maybe a decrease in OBP due to the difference in WOBA and xWOBA.
Hello Launch Angle, My Old Friend
Jose Martinez is above average in almost every hitting category imaginable. He makes much more contact than your average hitter, swings at fewer pitches outside of the zone, walks more, strikes out less, and the guy makes almost no weak contact.
He sprays the baseball evenly around the field, which means that teams are not employing the shift on him. Below is Martinez’s hit type chart for both his 2017 and the current 2018 season, from Fangraphs.
We can learn a lot from this chart. The first thing, as mentioned earlier, is that he sprays the ball around the entire park. Next, look at those home runs! Martinez has power to all parts of the field! He also owns a 19.4% career HR/FB rate… So what’s up with all the singles?
Unfortunately, Martinez owns a 9° career launch angle, and that means a lot of the balls he hits are not at a high enough angle to leave the park. He also happens to own a career 44.7% groundball rate, and a sad 28.8% flyball rate. Ground balls from a big slow man mean lots of hard hit singles. Also known by some (me) as Yandy Diaz syndrome.
Jose Martinez Destroyer of Worlds… In June, So Far
I’ve suspected that Jose Martinez is good at hitting baseballs, but the dude has been on a monster tear this first half of June.
Month PA HR BB% K% ISO OPS
April-May 213 4 9.9% 14.6% .134 .764
June 44 5 9.1% 9.1% .450 1.400
It would appear that the Cardinals’ first baseman has seen some positive regression in the power department, closer to what his xSLGing would indicate. Below is a visual of Martinez’s launch angles and velocity for June from Baseball Savant. He seems to be heading in the right direction.
Half a month is not exactly a sure thing for a trend, but it’s at least worth monitoring. If he has made an adjustment to his swing, and now is breaking out in power, well then we really have a fantasy monster. One that will be unaffordable in many dynasty leagues soon.
On His Dynasty Death Bed, But He’s Full of Devil Magic!
If you’re all in for this year, then sell whatever you have to acquire Martinez. He’s already a fantastic hitter, and he has the potential to be an elite player. Late breakouts, while uncommon, do happen (think Jose Bautista). At 29 there’s a possibility that Martinez is contributing to your fantasy team for several years. I typically stay away from hitters in this age range, but Martinez has a lot of intangibles, and I’d love to own a few stocks wherever I could.
If you’re trying to acquire Martinez, then point to his ground ball rate and tell the owner that his power is capped, and he’s on his dynasty deathbed of 29! You’re pretty much dead at the age of 30 in dynasty leagues (please see mass Paul Goldschmidt hysteria). If you’re selling Martinez, then point out his xStats and his recent power surge. Either way, Martinez’s value is high, and it has the potential to get even higher. I’m buying if I’m contending, and selling only for very valuable assets.
Patrick’s Artist Selection
Ryan Helsley, 23, SP
Analysis by Adam Lawler
Let’s pretend for a minute that Cardinals devil magic, something that undeniably exists and perpetually plagues baseball, didn’t exist. Ryan Helsley would likely still be one of the most interesting, under the radar arms in all of baseball’s farm systems. Let’s also pretend that “the best fans in baseball,” a self-described moniker that seems a little too insistent when acknowledging overwhelming evidence to the contrary, were tolerable. Ryan Helsley would be a likeable and intriguing prospect I would be looking to buy at every turn.
The Cardinals organization has a weird, Shakespearean paradox when it comes to prospects. One the one hand: tragedy. Their prized jewels befallen by bad decisions and burnout. On the other hand: comedy. Think Skip Schumaker, Rick Ankiel, Allen Craig, Stephen Piscotty, and Randal Grichuk. I’ll be honest: I don’t know which side of the coin Helsley will fall, but I can guarantee you there will be at least 2 months of his career where he looks like Cy Young, Don Drysdale, and Kirk Gibson. If you’re lucky, as with all arms (see TINSTAPP), it will be longer.
Helsley is a lanky 6’1″, 23-year-old righty drafted in 2015 out of the hilariously generically named directional school called Northeastern State. The Cardinals, as they do with most pitching prospects, have been aggressive with him since coming into the organization. His 2015 rookie ball stint, his 2016 A-ball offensive, and his 2017 campaign – a season where he marched like Caesar through three levels – was dominant. It should have gotten armchair scouts like me out of our lazy boys to take notice. Unfortunately (?), we were too overwhelmed with other redbird prospects like Reyes, Jack Flaherty, Luke Weaver, Dakota Hudson, and Sandy Alcantara.
Well, this is your shot across the bow. A warning shot to buy in now. Now, before the masses become keen on his skillset. Now, before he returns from his current swoon ( likely due to a mixture of DL-inducing shoulder fatigue and boredom in Double-A). Helsley has a tantalizing repertoire. The foundation is built upon some mid-90s heat that travels across two planes making the batsmen hack it into the ground as exemplified by consistent ground ball rate in the mid-40% range. Helsley’s 11-6 curveball is also deceptive and generates plenty of whiffs. The sum of the parts equate to a 23.6% K-BB rate in his second time through the Triple-A system.
Warts are there but not insurmountable. One could have pause when considering the slightly above average HR/FB rate. This is potentially a product of the Florida State League being notoriously hitter-friendly. In addition, his strand rates make it seem as if he has a horseshoe up his butt. During his coming out season, he averaged 78.6% over 131 innings. That won’t continue. One could also have concern about the lack of a third pitch, namely his work-in-progress-for-the-last-two-years changeup. There’s also the consideration of any number of previously named, highly talented arms ahead of Helsley, which could relegate him to the bullpen.
As I mentioned before, Helsely is on the cusp. The previously mentioned DL stint is largely about managing his innings more so than managing a severe injury or strain. I think they’re on the verge of calling him up. Perhaps late this season to get him used to a spot in next years rotation. Imagine a better Jack Flaherty or Luke Weaver, a future SP3, a cog in your rotational depth for the 2019 season and beyond. His name is Ryan Helsley. Go out and get him now before he becomes the next overvalued Cardinals arm.
Adam’s Artist Selection
St. Louis’ music scene is almost as bad as Cincinnati’s. That means to say it’s borderline a crime against eardrums. In lieu of being forced to pick a musician from St. Louis, I’m picking a song about a guy who used to live near said city. Thanks, Sufjan for bailing me out.
[Ed. Note – Adam Lawyler’s apparent animosity towards T-Bone Burnett do not reflect the views of The Dynasty Guru or his editor]
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Previously Covered Teams
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