TDG’s Triple Play: Los Angeles Dodgers!
Your senior dynasty analysts enter the second season of the Triple Play! The regular feature breaks down an arm, a bat, and a prospect within each organization for your reading pleasure!
Kenta Maeda, 31 SP
Analysis by Patrick Magnus
Kenta Maeda is typically underrated in my opinion. There are some things holding him back from being a true dynasty ace, but as an asset, he’s generally not given the credit he deserves. Thus far in his career, he’s thrown 502.2 innings, struck out 9.69 per-nine, only walked 2.65 per-nine, and put up a decent ERA of 3.76. The ERA isn’t incredible but those other numbers are great. Thus far this season have been a bit up and down for Maeda, and so we need to evaluate the current value of the 31-year-old. Let’s dig in.
2018: A Tale of Two Halves
The first half of the season was fantastic for Maeda, as he looked to be having the best season of his career. In the first half, he posted an ERA of 3.12 and struck out 108 batters in 86.2 innings. However, things got much worse in the second half when his ERA rose to 5.35. So what happened? First Maeda was primarily in the rotation in 2018 due to the massive amount of injuries that Dodgers suffered. The rotation got healthy, but the pen was struggling. Combine that with incentives in Maeda’s contract to remove him from a starter’s role, and the result was that arguably their best pitcher in 2018 moved to the ‘pen.
However, let’s return to the season splits for Maeda. When Maeda was a starter he used his slider and changeup to put away batters, as these two pitches both generated a whiff rate above 40%. When he was moved to the ‘pen in August, however, he stopped using his changeup as much and became much more of a two-pitch pitcher.
The change in role and pitch selection resulted in a spike in Maeda’s wOBA against. It’s most likely due to adjusting to his new role, but he’s also always had a problem with lefty bats and it’s possible managers pinch-hit against him more in his new role. However, towards the end of the year his wOBA started to even out, and given more time and innings it’s possible he would have returned to form.
2019: Maeda Keeps Doing Maeda Things
Thus far this season Maeda has been his usual Maeda self, but not at the level of 2018. He’s started throwing his change up more again this season, but it has not quite had the same impact as in 2018. The whiff rate on the pitch has fallen by approximately 11%. The results can be seen in his strikeout rate as it’s fallen from 10.99 K/9 to 9.22 K/9, (but which is still in line with his career numbers). The future of Maeda’s 2019 is a bit uncertain, however, as while his ERA is a decent 3.48, other indicators such as his xFIP, FIP, and SIERA all paint a less optimistic view.
His overall swinging-strike rate has increased this year, and therefore we can probably expect an increase in his K-rate. But he seems to be getting a bit lucky with runners left-on-base, and he’s also not generating as many groundballs. So it’s a mixed bag with Maeda. Considering the fact that the Dodgers will most likely move him back to the pen due to the incentives in his contract (more money for a certain amount of games started), well it’s not the rosiest of pictures for Maeda’s 2019.
Current and Future Dynasty Value
There are more strikeouts to come for Maeda, he plays for a great team and has been effective as a reliever and starting pitcher. He makes for a better play in roto leagues than head-to-head, but if you’re competing this year I’d recommend selling Maeda while his stats still look appealing. I’d expect him to remain an effective starter for years to come, but unless you have enough starting pitchers to supplement his role change at the end of the year he’s not a must-own asset in dynasty.
Alex Verdugo, Age: 23, OF
Analysis by: Keaton O. DeRocher
More Like Verdug-OH
The Dodgers nabbed Verdugo in the second round of the 2014 draft and used his signature hit tool to cruise through the minors and debut just two and a half years later. The Dodgers outfield in 2017 and 2018 was more crowded than a clown car, so Verdugo never got his chance to spread his beautiful wings and fly. He dominated Triple-A, getting on base at a clip just shy of .400 while piling up hits. Entering 2018, Verdugo had shown he had nothing left to prove at that level but was blocked by about 3 or 4 different players the Dodgers had to fill the outfield. Then it all changed. The Dodgers sent Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp over to Cincinnati and Verdugo had his chance. Now with a clear path to playing time Verdugo is putting his skills on display on a nightly basis.
We’re Full Verdu-go
Season over season, with more exposure to the majors, Verdugo has gotten better and better. In his first cup of coffee, he struggled to put the ball in the air to the tune of a -4 degree launch angle. He improved that last season up to 3 degrees and has kept those improvements going this season, launching at a 10-degree angle. Along with his launch improvements, Verdugo has increased his hard-hit rate to above major league average, and increased his exit velocity from 81 MPH to 89 MPH. The last–and maybe most impressive–improvement is Verdugo has dropped his strikeout rate from an already well below league average 16% to 9%. He still lacks in the power department but not to the point where it’s unless. Double digits should be consistent for homers and that should also be true for his speed and racking up steals. Some things that really stand out in his batting profile that really show how good his hit tool is, is that his zone contact is well above league average at a blistering 92% and his chase contact rate is a wild 15%(!) above league average. There really aren’t many ways to beat Verdugo besides just keeping him in the park.
With consistent playing time Verdugo is reaching the potential he displayed in the minors. The Dodgers have a gross amount of depth just about everywhere on the roster so there is always the looming threat of lost playing time if he stumbles. The good news for Verdugo is that he definitely has the skills to avoid that. The window to acquire Verdugo has all but shut at this point. The best chance was while the outfield was clogged and sitting on him until it cleared up. If you’re looking for a young outfielder, though, he is probably worth the cost to acquire. In just about, any format he’s a multi-category stud and should be played every day he’s in the lineup.
Gavin Lux, Age: 21, 2B/SS
Analysis by: Adam Lawler
Full disclosure, the author of this article traded Gavin Lux away this past offseason in a deal for Mike Cleavinger and has a serious case of FOMO.
This is his story.
Way back in 2016, on the heels of the Dodgers front office becoming a belle of the ball, they elected to draft a young high school bat out of Wisconsin with their first-round pick. Now, in the past, Dodgers first-round picks were a hazardous trail to venture down. While there were the Walker Buehlers and Corey Seagers of the world, there were also Chris Andersons and Zach Holmeseseseses. Still, we’re all lemmings, and if you’re going to bet on an organization knowing their talent the Dodgers are better than most.
Lux’s initial reports were fine, but not very sexy for a fantasy player. A defensive-first shortstop that doesn’t actively hurt you in any one category but doesn’t necessarily stand out. A player who will have a slow burn throughout the system because there was an already young, cost-controlled superstar on the big-league club. What the scouts might call a projectable second-division starter.
In 2016 and 2017, Lux did the things you figured he would. He hit for a solid average in Rookie Ball during his initial run of the 2016 campaign and was summarily promoted to A-ball for 2017 where he had a few bumps in the road but showed a wee bit of pop in the bat. Reports were that Lux was…fine. The spray chart below for 2016 (top) and 2017 (bottom) were fine.
The hope was that he unlocks something within the swing plane. Holy moly, did he ever.
To begin 2018, Lux was promoted to High-A ball where he spent most of the season. Prior the start of the season, the Dodgers brought in new hitting coaches in Robert Van Scoyoc and Brant Brown. Van Scoyoc, a 33-year old, hitting whisperer who unlocked JD Martinez and Chris Taylor in previous years, absconded from Arizona and came to LA during the offseason for a more official role after Andrew Friedman backed up the Brinks truck.
The crux of Lux’s approach didn’t change from the previous year. A respectable double-digit walk rate with a reasonable strikeout rate. The quality of contact, however, is what really made all the difference. This was likely attributable to the coaching changes and the offseason regimen which added muscle onto an already sturdy frame.
The HR/FB% increased from a previous career high of 10.4% to 17.4%. The pull % increased to 51.7% (2017 was 38%). Meanwhile, the Oppo% dropped about 10%. The changes have borne out a player that fantasy managers and scouts are salivating over as he neared the majors. But was is sustainable?
2019 has magnified the breakout in different ways. Through his second stint in Double-A, Lux has continued to show out the strength and swing change. Lux has now dropped his HR per plate appearance to 21.6 from last year’s 26.25. In addition, his strikeout rate has increased quite a bit while the walk rate has fallen off. Something you wish for the inverse in when a player is making his second tour through a league. All of this had led to a small falloff in OBP.
The fielding continues to be an issue for Lux as well. Lots of errors in the field have led scouts to question his ability to stay at short. Again, it doesn’t help when Corey Seager sits in your spot too. If Lux is going to be called up this year, I fully expect him to start taking reps at second base for a couple of weeks once the Dodgers have had their fill of the Chris Taylor experience and they’re ready to roll the dice on Lux.
In the end, we’re looking at a 2B with 20 HR pop with a handful of steals who may wind up batting 2nd every day. I want to emphasize the importance of that sentence, so it’s not lost on the reader. The Dodgers love to play games and protect their players from a hand that may hurt them. Perhaps the most revelatory aspect of Lux’s growth in 2019 is that he seemingly has resolved a splits issue. In fact, he’s been stronger against southpaws this year than against righties. In the past, his struggles against lefties had led me to fade him more than others. In addition, the speed which had been propagating his value across sites has fallen off a bit as he’s aged. That may not wind up being the most valuable part of his game moving ahead.
Previously Covered Teams
|NL WEST||NL CENTRAL||NL EAST|
|AL WEST||AL CENTRAL||AL EAST|