TDG’s Triple Play: Los Angeles Angels!
The Triple Play is back for a third season! This regular feature is broken down by staff writers Bob Osgood and Paul Monte and a rotating panel of third writers. If you’re new to the Triple Play, this series breaks down an arm, a bat, and a prospect within each organization for your reading pleasure! Follow Bob (@BobOsgood15), Paul (@3cardmonte13) and Joe Drake (@JDrake349) on twitter and read their analysis here at the site!
Pitcher: Dylan Bundy, Age: 27, Position: SP
Analysis by: Paul Monte
Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse
Every week the world around us continues to get worse and worse. As America burns, we try to find things that we enjoy to escape the reality of the world we currently live in. Baseball and its players and owners do not seem to be cooperating and the chance of a season in 2020 shrinks every day. The main draw of a dynasty league for me is that decisions have a long-term impact on your team. 2020 may come and go without a season, but your dynasty roster remains. As writers we are stuck in this purgatory of trying to recap 2019 and present this content as a peek into the 2020 season. Maybe it’s time to focus more on 2021 and beyond?
Tell me a story
I try to avoid narratives when evaluating a player, they are worthless for the most part and draw you away from what is important. But…Imagine going to work every day at a place that was just trash. You knew you were going to lose, management didn’t help, the competition that you faced the most often was consistently at the top of your industry. Add that the place of work was horrible for your skillset, just a poor match. Then you are transferred, a fresh start, a better team to work with. The new place of employment is a better fit and you get to work somewhere new for the first time in your career. How would that affect you? How will that affect Dylan Bundy?
This isn’t a shot in the dark, there are things to like about Bundy, just as there are glaring issues. The former number four pick in the 2011 draft has not lived up to the expectations of that pick. His fastball has continued to trend the wrong way, dropping from 94.4 MPH in 2016 to just 91.1 in 2020. It has dropped every year since 2016 and now sits in the bottom quarter of fastball velocity according to Baseball Savant. To further confuse things, he has an excellent Hard Hit % but managed to give up 1.6 home runs per nine innings last year which was an improvement from a disastrous 2.2 HR/9 in 2019.
So what’s to like? The strikeout rate has sat over nine per inning the last two seasons and leaving Baltimore and the 30 combined losses should make a big difference in his value. Just playing for the Angels instead of the Orioles could add a half a dozen Wins in a regular length season. The thing I like the most about Bundy is his cost. He’s way down the list or missing completely from most industry lists. His ADP is right around the 90th pitcher off the board and he is being drafted behind guys like Adrian Houser, Mitch Keller, and Mark Melancon.
Bundy is still only 27-years-old and will have one more year in Anaheim if the 2020 season is canceled. He will be an unrestricted free agent in 2022. I would love to see the Angels extend him so we would have some clarity for his long-term outlook. As it stands, I will pay the current cost for Bundy in both redraft and dynasty leagues and see what happens.
Hitter: Jason Castro, Age: 33, Position: C
Analysis by: Joe Drake
Just Jason Castro
Castro has long been a serviceable major league catcher. He’s tallied 14.5 WAR over the course of 9 seasons which includes a streak of 5 straight seasons of 2 WAR or more. He hasn’t really stood out on either side of the ball, earning average or so marks both behind the plate and at it. He’s a relatively solid framer per FanGraphs’ metrics and isn’t too shabby with the glove either, notching +9 DRS during his career. In the batter’s box, he’s managed to reach double-digit home runs in 6 different seasons and owns a career walk rate of 10% on the dot. So, as we said from the getgo, Castro has been serviceable throughout his career. No more, no less, for the most part. But something appeared to change in 2019.
Enter: Jason Mashtro
On the surface, Castro’s 2019 line doesn’t stick out much if at all. He stroked 13 dingers with 39 runs, 30 RBI, and a .232 average over 275 plate appearances. Frankly, that’s nothing you’d salivate over, even from a catcher, right? But when we dig a little deeper, you’ll notice that Castro was a little more desirable from a fantasy standpoint than you may have originally thought. His power output exceeded that of many catchers with far more plate appearances and his HR total ranked 17th overall among all catchers with 250+ PAs. Look, we’re not comparing him to Gary Sanchez, but the guy didn’t even crack the top 30 in plate appearances at the position. Managing 17th in homers is an accomplishment. Taking it even further, he ranked 9th at catcher in ABs/HR. The man brought some serious power to 2019, more than we’ve ever seen before from him.
While the juiced ball more than likely played a part in Castro’s uptick in four-baggers, the underlying numbers point to a distinct change in his game. He racked up more barrels in 2019 than he had in any other season since 2015 which, with reduced plate appearances, led to an absurd 17.2% barrel rate. That’s easily the best of his career. That was a combination of both a career-best average exit velocity (91.5) and launch angle (14.0). Combine those metrics with his best outputs in xBA, xSLG, wOBA, xwOBA, xwOBAcon, and Hard Hit % and I would say it’s safe to assume that the Minnesota Twins coaching staff that helped develop the Bomba Squad had some positive effects on Castro, too.
Now He’s Chasin’ Astro(s)
Now, to the most important and exciting part of this writeup, in my opinion. Jason Castro is no longer hiding in the shadows of Mitch Garver (who had a breakout 2019 himself). Castro headed west over the winter and landed himself the starting gig for the Los Angeles Angels. I wouldn’t expect him to suddenly rack up 500 PAs, but I do think he’s a good bet to eclipse the 270 he had in 2019.
I’d also like to note that this isn’t the same anemic Angels attack we’ve seen in the last few years. LA has made it clear that they’re making a push to knock the Astros off the top of the NL West by adding Anthony Rendon to the middle of the order. They’ll also be able to add a healthy Justin Upton back to the lineup, too. The 2020 Angels lineup will feature significantly more punch than we’ve seen lately. And that’s not even factoring in Jo Adell’s eventual call-up.
Conclusion: Jason’s Cash, bro
To bring this all to fruition, I’m very much in on Jason Castro this year – for however many games we get. We saw him breakout in 2019, but he flew under the radar due to his understudy role to Mitch Garver, whose breakout stole the spotlight. Now, Castro is ready to shine in the leading role for the Angels. And here’s the kicker: since March 1st, Castro is still being drafted as the 23rd catcher off the board in NFBC leagues, at pick 356, behind the likes of Robinson Chirinos, Kurt Suzuki, and Danny Jansen. There’s practically zero cost to throw him on your squad for this year. Heck, you can pretty much draft him as a second catcher who has the potential to take over the starting spot for you.
Prospect: Brandon Marsh, Age: 22, Position: OF, Level: AA (2019)
Analysis by: Bob Osgood
A Long Marsh towards Los Angeles
Five tools. The most elusive of prospect descriptions. A five-tool prospect who’s improving at each level but not receiving the hype of other five-tool prospects? Sounds like a buying opportunity. A distant relative of South Park legend Randy Marsh, Brandon Marsh was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels in the second round (60th overall) of the 2016 draft, but due to a back injury, did not make his debut until 2017.
Marsh’s first two stops showed promise, netting nearly 200 plate appearances each at Advanced Rookie ball (2017) and Low-A (2018), sporting a 125 and 143 wRC+ respectively. As Marsh moved along to High-A, he no longer could feast on bad pitchers’ mistakes, and his coaches worked with him on a swing change. Chronicled in detail at The Athletic by Fabian Ardaya a year ago, the goals were to shorten Marsh’s swing and alter his bat path to unlock power and high contact skills. As Marsh outlined, “I was a 19-, 20-year-old stubborn dude that thought I was good enough to play where I was at when my swing that I had wasn’t going to play at where I was at, especially with pitchers as good as they were. I was stubborn, and they know it. I was saying no, that I was doing okay, doing fine. We butted heads a little bit last year, but now we’re on the same page and we’re going in the right direction.” The 2018 season in High-A with Inland Empire may have appeared rocky on paper thanks to a .256 average, 102 wRC+ and a 27.7% K-rate, but was essential to Marsh’s growth.
Last season, as Marsh moved along to double-A Mobile, he played 96 games, missing some time with an ankle injury. The average moved back up to .300 and the K-rate dropped over five ticks at a new minor-league level to 22.3%. He was 18-for-23 on the base paths and added seven home runs, the area that has lagged the most despite a future 60-grade raw power number on Fangraphs. The 52.6% ground ball rate will certainly be a point of emphasis as he moves up the ladder. Marsh then moved along to the Arizona Fall League in October, where, in 19 games, Marsh posted a .328/.387/.522/.909 line. He finished in the top-five in the entire AFL in average, slugging, and OPS while adding four more steals and two home runs, with a hair and beard combination that looked more and more like Russell Brand each day.
There is not a Marsh article or post-game write up around that does not speak glowingly about his defense. “More than his offense, though, Marsh displayed excellent range to both his right and left in Monday’s game with a pair of running catches in both gaps,” wrote Baseball America last fall, during a game in which Marsh homered twice, no less. A true center fielder who is understandably blocked by Mike Trout, Marsh will likely man one of the corner outfield spots, alongside Trout and Jo Adell for the foreseeable future. “I’ll play on the corners. Anywhere to be able to be up there with the guys,” Marsh has said. Add Anthony Rendon and Shohei Ohtani to a lineup with those three outfielders, and the Angels have a super bright future ahead of them if they can find a way to keep their pitchers off the operating table.
Great athletes usually find a way to get in the lineup in baseball, and having the safety net of elite defense and speed while going through growing pains at the plate has been the difference for so many players over the years. We hear it with Atlanta’s Cristian Pache all the time, but Marsh is in the same tier for me as a top-50 fantasy prospect. Sure, the power has not been unlocked yet, but if it had he’d be a lot higher up on prospect lists. The time to buy is now.
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