Santa Musings and A List of Five Players to Watch
_Warning This First Part has Zero Dynasty Relevance. Skip to the List for That_
I’m not passing on the myth of Santa to my children. I know, for most of you reading this that might feel like a bit of a gut punch. Santa, after all, is a well-established mythos in our collective culture. I’m just not into it. The whole thing feels weird to me. Lying to our children about a large magical old white man who puts them under constant surveillance so that he can monitor their behavior and then reward them with material goods. Those goods he’s giving to them, by the way, he’s going to need to commit good ol’ B&E to get them to you. No thanks.
Now, I know there’s a counter-argument to be made about the development of children’s imagination, and also the emergent development of foundational rationalizing skills. Eh, I can foster those things without blatantly lying to my children about a magical being who borders on being omnipotent. My children will celebrate with family, and they’ll collect their gifts from family.
For the record, I do not care if you choose to utilize Santa in your celebration of the holidays. You do you. Frankly, I’m trying to figure out how to navigate this whole thing without my children turning into spoiling machines for other children. I certainly don’t wish to infringe on others’ holidays, but my daughter is one and a half, and my son is a little over a week old. There’s a bit of time for me to figure it out.
Anyway, you’re not here to read about my parenting philosophies. You’re here for some holiday dynasty gifts. Some players you can snag in your leagues for a profit. So here are a few players I think can help you out. This list is from me, and not a fat guy in a red suit. They are all, in one way or another, gambles. They come with an ample amount of risk, which I’ve done my best to lay out in the “naughty” section of each analysis. Yes, these players have been both naughty and nice because the expectation of behavioral perfection is stupid. If they end up being awesome, you can thank me. If they suck? Send me some coal.
The List – Check it Twice
J.D. Davis – Bench Bat? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, New York Mets
Oh. My. Goodness. There is a whole lot of good when it comes to Mr. Davis. In 2019 he was a monster with the bat. He ended 2019:
- Top 3% in xBA
- Top 9% xSLG
- Top 8% xWOBA
- Top 9% Hard Hit%
- Top 10% Exit Velocity
You might think, “Yeah but he was a platoon bat,” but not so fast. Due to the injuries of Yoenis Cespedes and Jed Lowrie, J.D. ended up getting 453 ABs last year. Davis, a righty, logged 288 plate appearances against righties, and he batted a cool .305 against them, walked at a 8% clip, and smashed 16 homers. There’s a ton of upside here with J.D. Davis.
Where the hell does this monster play? The acquisition of Jake Marisnik from the Astros most likely pushes Nimmo into the starting gig in left field. Jeff McNiel still needs to get at-bats and there’s also the ghosts of Yoenis Cespedes and Jed Lowrie hanging around. Some polar bear sized baseball obliterator occupies first, and the NL still doesn’t have the luxury of a DH. There is a profound lack of opportunity for Davis in New York. Until injury or roster adjustment, dynasty players wait with bated breath to see what kind of player Davis really is.
Max Fried – Starting Pitcher, Atlanta Braves
He’s only 26, he’s throwing gas (average of 94 MPH) from the left-hand side, and Steamer loves the dude. I’m a big fan of that kind of velocity when it’s coming from the left side of the mound, and Fried has an absolutely beautiful 12-6 curve that he throws along with it. The dude was in the top 7% of the league last year in limiting barrels, he’s kept his exit velos low, and his launch angle last year was a measly 3.1.
In 2019 he managed 9.40 K/9, while limiting his walks to 2.55. I’m super into that kind of control, but what’s even more encouraging was his groundball rate of 53.6%. The dude has enough swing and miss offerings to keep his k-rate above a strikeout per nine, he doesn’t walk people, and over half the contact he does give up is on the ground! Meanwhile, those skills combined with his FIP, xFIP, and SIERA which were all well below his 4.02 ERA, make a strong case for a breakout.
Thus far the Braves have deployed Fried in the starting rotation and the bullpen with some fluidity. Also, you may have heard, but they’ve collected a staggering amount of arms that are now either reaching the majors or are in the higher levels of the minors. Thus, Fried comes with a hefty amount of bullpen risk. I’m also a little bit worried about his fastball. While I do like the velocity, the pitch has very little spin on it, and only generated 20.4% whiffs last year. He’ll need to prove that last year’s development of a slider wasn’t a fluke if he’s going to stick in the rotation.
Luke Voit – First Base, New York Yankees
An injury-laden season for the pop-up power bat led to a rather uninspiring stat line for the 28-year-old. However there are many positives to take away from the 2019’s shortened season. Voit finished in the top 9% of the league in barrels and top 6% in walks, and that illustrates exactly the kind of hitter Voit has the potential to be. A patient hitter who makes pitchers pay when they attack him in the zone. I would stop short of saying that Voit is a true three outcome hitter, as he has shown the ability to hit for some average in his limited time with the Yankees. He promises to be a force in OBP leagues, but as someone who’ recently spent some time with first base rankings, his services will be viewed favorably by those in average leagues as well. The position just kind of stinks.
Voit ended up needing surgery for his sports hernia. That’s bad news as the most recent examples I can think of “core muscle repair surgery” are Justin Verlander and Miguel Caberra. Now I am not a doctor, and most of the reports I’ve read about Voit’s recovery indicate that the slugger should be a go come spring training. The industry as a whole doesn’t seem overly concerned with Voit’s recovery, and Aaron Boone indicated that he sees Voit as “an impact player” for them. Still, I remain skeptical due to the injury and a display of solid skills from Mike Ford in limited at-bats last season.
Dansby Swanson – Shortstop, Atlanta Braves
Swanson already gives you double-digit speed and double-digit pop. Last year he rewarded owners with 17 homers and 10 steals. However, the slash line was a bit lackluster ( .253/.325/.422), yet there are some signs that he may have been underperforming. The 25-year-old’s xBA was .271, he barreled a sexy 10.1% of pitches, posted above-average exit velocity, and had an XWOBA that was .030 higher than his actual WOBA. Thus there could be a fairly significant uptick in performance from Swanson. Something like .270/.335/.480 with 20 homers and 10 steals.
The floor here is pretty much established for Swanson. Something like .230/.310/.400 with double-digit speed and homers. A top 20 shortstop in his mid-twenties with years and years of mediocre performance is really the worst of it for the Braves middle infielder. With there being so many other exciting and talented shortstops that might make you feel like you’ve been gifted some coal.
Brendan Rodgers – Second Base, Colorado Rockies
In dynasty baseball, second base sucks. The talent pool is very shallow, and if you can lock it up for the long haul, you need to do so. Rodgers has hit at every minor league level, but he sure did struggle in his brief cup of coffee in 2019. That bad showing, prospect fatigue, and the absolute mess that is the Colorado Rockies middle infield situation may provide a buy opportunity for the middle infielder. According to Fangraphs, Rodgers has an average exit velocity of 91 MPH, which is good for 12th of the 107 prospects they provide that data for. Combine that exit velo with his hit tool, and the friendly confines at Coors field, and there’s a large amount of upside for a player that hopefully settles in at second.
The Rockies have not proven themselves to be the kind of organization to let their young talent play. They have been notoriously loyal to their veterans to the frustration of many dynasty players. So much so that their current roster is already flush with players who need to get playing time. At second base alone you already have Ryan McMahon and Garret Hampson who deserve to get time in. The good news is that Rodgers has proven himself adept at handling most infield positions in the minors, but he’s most valuable in dynasty if he sticks at second.
Along with playing time, there’s the scouting concern of Rodgers’ pitch recognition, a flaw that seemed quite pronounced in his brief stint in the majors (33% K rate in 81 PAs). The profile isn’t perfect, but the payoff could be huge.
Welp, happy holidays! There’s a handful of players that could benefit your dynasty teams. Yes, they’ve all appeared on the naughty list for one reason or another, but, hey, who hasn’t? Don’t acquire them for their potential value, but if an owner feels like they’re too risky then, by all means, snag ’em.