TDG’s Triple Play: San Diego Padres!
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!
Dinelson Lamet, Age: 27, SP
Analysis by: Bob Osgood
A quick rise to relevance:
Dinelson Lamet signed with the San Diego Padres in June of 2014, shortly before his 22nd birthday, coming over from the Dominican Republic. From his days in the lower minors, Lamet always showed potential with both his mid-to-high 90’s heater and a solid slider, but was always looking to develop a third pitch. There was little interest on the fantasy radar outside of the deepest of dynasty leagues, mainly due to the expectation that Lamet would end up as a reliever. Being an older prospect, he moved relatively quickly through the minor leagues. Save for four innings in Rookie ball to finish up 2014, Lamet debuted in Low-A for the entirety of 2015 keeping his ERA a tick under 3. He made his way through three levels throughout 2016, cruising through 12 starts at High-A with a 2.35 ERA, 14 starts at Double-A with a 3.39 ERA, ending the season with 10 innings at Triple-A. After 8 starts with a 3.23 ERA at Triple-A El Paso to open 2017, Lamet got the call making his Padres debut on May 25th.
Lamet showed two impressive consistencies at all minor league levels: Strikeout and Home Run rates. With the exception of his time at High-A (7.48 K/9), Lamet was over 10 K’s/9 at all levels, including an 11.5/9 at Triple-A in 2017 prior to his call up. He also kept his Home Run Rate low at every level, with an impressive 0.57 HR/9 over the entirety of his 298 1/3 minor league innings. If Lamet could reign in his walks (3.8 BB/9 minors combined) and find an effective third pitch, the potential was there to be an out of nowhere mid-rotation find for San Diego.
Lamenting a year away from the game:
Lamet threw 114 innings in 2017, and while his 7-8, 4.57 ERA was run of the mill, his peripherals suggested he was a low 4’s pitcher. Firmly entrenched in the Padres rotation going into 2018, Lamet found he needed TJ the week before the season started, which often takes two full seasons out of the equation (when found in the spring). Fortunately for Lamet, his rehab was on the shorter end and he began his rehab starts in May of 2019, only 13 months after surgery, and has returned to make 11 starts in 2019 at 2-4 with a 3.95 ERA.
In terms of his trends from the minors transitioning over to the Bigs, the home runs have spiked, allowing 1.37 HR/9 since entering the league. However, the K’s have stayed consistent as Lamet struck out 28.7% of the batters he faced in 2017. In 2019, this number has increased to 30.1% over 57 innings. Using a date range from Lamet’s debut on 7/4 through 9/9 of this year, Lamet’s 30.1% K% ranks 17th among 74 qualified starters. This rate sits within 1% of pitchers like Patrick Corbin, Luis Castillo, Shane Bieber, and Stephen Strasburg; ahead of Trevor Bauer, Aaron Nola, and Noah Syndergaard. Really impressive company for someone who was nowhere to be found on preseason lists.
Ben Clemens of FanGraphs did a terrific breakdown of Lamet recently, highlighting the variance of sliders that he has thrown since returning this year. This has propelled him to have more reasonable splits between RH and LH hitters despite the lack of a useful change-up, as well as a very noticeable improvement the third time through the order in 2019 compared to 2017.
For Lamet, perhaps the idea is that if a third pitch isn’t developing, throw differing versions of your second pitch. As a result, opponents are hitting only .118 against Lamet’s slider (thrown 44% of the time this year, compared to 37% in 2017) contributing to a Hard Hit rate that has dipped from 35.3% (2017) down to 32.4% (2019) in a hitting landscape where baseballs are being hit way harder than ever before.
Whiffs on the cheap:
Judging by the keeper and dynasty leagues I’ve been a part of this year, Lamet was a forgotten name in the preseason who was rarely stashed on a bench or injured spot. He was picked up under the radar during his rehab stint by shrewd owners, and in salary leagues, was usually done so for a $1 free agent bid. Judging by the gaudy strikeouts that Lamet has provided this year, along with the encouraging improvements with his pitch mix, I would be happy to hold on to Lamet on the cheap. I expect that he will be a source of strikeouts available in the middle of drafts in 2020 for a Padres team that should finally be ready to contend, and help Lamet contribute in the Win column, as well.
Josh Naylor, Age: 22, OF
Analysis by: Keaton O. DeRocher
Naylor? I Hardly Know her
Naylor has been one of “my guys” since the moment he was drafted. I was just drawn to the profile: a guy who could hit for average and a lot of power? I was all in. Even when he was drafted he was pegged as a well below-average runner and defender, but when there’s potential for a whole lot of bombs that can easily be ignored (especially by me). Now that he’s making his major league debut, it can’t really be ignored anymore. Being in the National League, his lack of playing time is directly tied to it. There’s a chance for Naylor to be a Daniel Vogelbach with a better average, but much like Vogelbach, it will probably take a trade to an AL team for him to flourish. Allow me to outline why I think he can do so.
All throughout the minors, Naylor rode his two carrying tools at every level, accumulating a slash line of .288/.351/.439 and reaching double-digit dingers in every season. Proving that his profile and swing were almost tailor-made for the juiced ball, in just 54 games in Triple-A he reached ten homers before getting called up to the majors. Being used sparingly in a bench role and playing mostly outfield, Naylor has been able to give fantasy owners a small taste of what could be if he’s given the leash. His current line through 77 games stands at .251/.316/.411 which isn’t all that overwhelming, however, his quality of contact is wildly impressive for a 22-year-old getting his first taste.
What stands out is that he simply mashes the ball. An exit velocity of 89 MPH, a barrel rate of 7% and a hard-hit rate of 33% are all above the major league average. What’s just as impressive is his strikeout rate of 21% and a walk rate of 9%. Again while those rates may not be overwhelming, the fact Naylor has kept the strikeouts in check so soon at the major league level is a testament to his approach at the plate and his above-average hit tool. Through these 77 games, however, the thing that has held him back at the plate and contributed to his only 7 homers is his 3-degree launch angle. It’s not all that inconceivable for Naylor to reach his 30 homer potential with a .280-.290 average with even just a bit of improvement on his launch angle.
One of the two things holding him back right now is a much more easy fix than the other. Since being traded to the AL is not really within his control Naylor can really only focus on the launch angle. We have seen several examples of players making improvements on their launch angle and then breaking out, and I actually think Naylor could do this with relative ease. However, even if he makes the improvements, the lack of a clear path to playing is an absolute killer. If you own Naylor, I’d hold and hope for the best. If you’re curious he’s worth a look but keeping his defensive limitations in mind.
Xavier Edwards, Age: 20, SS
Analysis by: Jonathan Merkel
A New Hope… for Stolen Bases
San Diego selected a switch-hitting speedster named Xavier Edwards 38th overall in the 2018 MLB Draft. The infielder gained notoriety for his 80-grade speed, but wheels aren’t the kid’s only tool. In fact, the only tool Edwards doesn’t possess is power. The shortstop is still only 20 years old, but he is a high-floor talent with a unique skill set. Heading into 2020, Xavier Edwards will be one of dynasty baseball’s most intriguing young players to watch.
Before moving on, let’s assess the statistical environment Edwards will be entering. He’s a special player with special speed but, as we know, it’s home run hitters who are having their day in the major leagues. Meanwhile, prolific base stealers are quickly becoming relics.
You can see there was nearly a 1:1 ratio between players who either hit 30+ home runs or stole 30+ bases in 2010. This ratio remained fairly consistent until 2015. That’s when everything changed. As of today–September 8th, 2019–there are about six 30+ home run hitters for every one 30+ base stealer.
The number of stolen bases have also plummeted across the league. 2019’s stolen base total is down over 30% since 2010. While the season is not yet over, it seems unlikely the league will even crack 2,100 stolen bases for the first time since 1981. Is there any reason to believe this decline will not continue?
And while the pro game is quick to adapt to new developments, fantasy baseball is not. That’s why pitcher wins, despite the valiant protests of many frustrated owners, are still a featured category in almost every league. This is also why stolen bases, despite their diminishing role in the pro game, will continue to be an important stat for owners to consider on draft day.
Enter Xavier Edwards. The kid is currently sitting on 756 career minor league plate appearances, and he has already swiped 66 bases between Rookie and the High-A level. That’s one stolen base about every eleven plate appearances. Even against low-level competition, it’s fine to get excited about that rate of success. It certainly bodes well for his value in rotisserie leagues and in deeper head-to-head formats.
To reiterate, right now, there are six players hitting 30+ homers for every one player swiping 30+ bags. It’s easy to imagine Edwards becoming a regular member of the smaller pool, and it’s even easier to imagine owners jumping at the chance to draft him year after year simply for this ability.
But there’s more to like from Edwards than stolen bases. He shows an advanced feel for hitting, uses a contact-oriented approach from both sides of the plate, and gets down the line quick enough to maintain an inflated batting average. His ability to get infield hits will keep his average elevated while helping him make the most of his contact, even if it’s not the loudest contact.
Edwards has also managed to produce a nearly 1:1 BB/K ratio thus far. While one can expect his strikeouts to go up and his walks to go down as he climbs the ladder, seeing him display a strong approach already bodes well for his future outlook. This year will be a major test for Edwards as he should crack Double-A right away, or shortly after the season begins. It seems fair to expect that the Padres will take a long look at Edwards at this level to see how he’ll handle more advanced arms.
Our own Ross Jensen and Jordan Rosenblum currently have Edwards projected for a .352 wOBA at peak based on what he has accomplished thus far in his minor league career. Against the field of six players with 30+ steals, that puts Edwards ahead of everyone not named Ronald Acuña or Christian Yelich, and even with Trea Turner.
|Ronald Acuna Jr.||34||0.365|
Xavier Edwards isn’t another Billy Hamilton, folks. If he can continue to develop and keep hitting, he has the makings of a dynasty stud who could maybe win owners the stolen base category each week on his own. Don’t sleep on him just because he doesn’t have power; give him a chance because his speed is rare and should pay much greater dividends.
PREVIOUSLY COVERED TEAMS
|NL WEST||NL CENTRAL||NL EAST|
|AL WEST||AL CENTRAL||AL EAST|