TDG’S TRIPLE PLAY: MINNESOTA TWINS!
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 Greg Gibbons (@midsports10) on twitter and read their analysis here at the site!
Pitcher: Jake Odorizzi, Age: 30, Position: SP
Analysis by: Bob Osgood
Izzi breaking out?
After spending the majority of his twenties in the “serviceable starter” category, Jake Odorizzi ramped things up and delivered an all-star season for the Minnesota Twins in his 29-year-old 2019 season. Entering the season, Odorizzi had a career 47-48 record with a 3.95 ERA who, save for a 3.35 ERA in 2015 (8th in AL), had a solid, yet unspectacular, career profile. There’s nothing wrong with a back of the rotation fantasy asset who provides durability, and Odorizzi has started 28 games or more in every full season in the Bigs, beginning in 2014 with Tampa Bay. Once 2019 was complete, Odorizzi found himself signing a one-year, $17.8 million contract to stay with the Twins and has garnered a lot more buzz in fantasy circles. What changed in 2019, and is there another level that can be reached with Odorizzi’s success to “Breakout” status?
Odorous the third time through
2019 featured improvements across the board for Odorizzi, many of which were career bests including 15 wins, 10.1 K/9, 0.91 HR/9, and a 3.36 FIP. Most importantly though, an increase in average velocity to 92.9 MPH (per Statcast) on the fastball was accompanied by increased usage and even better results.
Just as importantly, the Twins continued to be judicious with when to pull Odorizzi out of the game. In his two seasons in Minnesota, he has only pitched more than six innings on five combined occasions, including only twice in 2019. His performance on the third time through the order, as well as RHB/LHB splits both contribute to the careful managing once Odorizzi reaches the sixth inning. Paul Sporer has been a big proponent of the third time through factor with Odorizzi, and while the 1.159 OPS in 2018 came down to .883 in 2019, it is still a glaring difference.
(source: Baseball Reference)
While the right-handed Odorizzi actually entered 2019 with better success against left-handed batters than right-handed (.232 and .241 respectively), the splits went in the other direction last season.
2019 vs. LHB: .277/.335/.426/.761
2019 vs. RHB: .194/.266/.319/.585
Izzi a Buy or Sell?
In a short 2020 season where pitchers are going to have lower expectations of pitching deep into games, Odorizzi should be able to contribute to any staff as an SP4, on a Twins team that features an excellent lineup with a sneaky strong pitching staff. Beyond this year, as he enters his 31-year-old season next year, it is difficult to see him as a staff anchor who has another breakout level that he can reach. As a result of the managed innings, Odorizzi did not even qualify for the ERA title in 2019, throwing a total of 159 innings in 30 games started. On the other hand, his ten start finish to last season was 4-2, 2.89 ERA, .239 BAA. Odorizzi has significantly outperformed his Statcast Expected ERA in every season in the majors, so the “Blue” indicators on his page do not indicate much of a concern. On a rebuilding team, I would be in favor of selling Odorizzi. If competing in 2020, I would hold Odorizzi’s high floor and hope for a solid 11 to 12 start “short-season” run like he showed to end 2019, and sell in the offseason.
Hitter: Byron Buxton, Age: 26, Position: OF
Analysis by: Paul Monte
So, we are definitely (maybe) getting baseball in 2020. The first scheduled game between the Washington Nationals and New York Yankees has been released, the rest of the 60-game schedule is coming soon. Dynasty players and commissioners are scrambling to decide what to do with this shortened season. Will 2020 be ignored completely and the focus will shift to 2021 (my preferred choice), will leagues play doubleheaders, triple headers or worse, switch to Roto from Head to Head? If you play in enough leagues, one will be playing in 2020 and although it feels funny and there may be an asterisk at the end, a title is still a title.
Once you get over the frustration of the 3-month long bickering match between the players and the MLB it’s easier to start focusing on this fantasy baseball season. Yes, it will be a sprint and not a marathon. One DL stint will cost you 25% of the season. One bad start or blown save will severely affect your ratios and a prolonged slump of one week will do the same for batters. Dynasty rosters are set, so now what do we do with the guys we roster? Are you making trades, being aggressive, or are you going to play it conservative in 2020 with an eye towards 2021? So many options.
High Risk, High reward
I’m naturally drawn to the high-upside, high variance guys, and that will be even harder for me to avoid in a 60-game season. Your studs will still be studs, but there will be guys who come for the middle of your roster that put up huge numbers and carry you to the championship. One of those guys is Byron Buxton, one of the most frustrating players to roster in dynasty baseball. Dripping with upside, you can dream on a 30-30 season in a full 162 game season. He is an incredible defender in center field which means he will get a longer leash than most to work through his hitting woes. The problem is he just cannot stay healthy, and his defense plays a big role in that problem.
When he is on the field, he has shown the ability to grow at the plate. 2019 was a big year for Buxton even though the raw numbers are not all that impressive. He lowered his K% from 35.6% in 2016 to 23.1% in 2019. He was also able to double his BB% to 6.4% in 2019 which is important because he may have the best sprint speed in baseball, ranking in the 100th percentile on Baseball Savant. Despite dealing with multiple injuries, including a torn labrum that ended his season in August, he managed to hit a career-high .262 and added 10 home runs and 14 steals. Unfortunately, he may bat at the bottom of the order in 2020 as the lineup is loaded in Minnesota.
Projecting health is nearly impossible. Some guys get fluke injuries, some have chronic soft tissue injuries, some like to run into outfield walls while displaying their 100th percentile sprint speed. As a fantasy manager, you are left to hope that Buxton sees the value of being on the field as he ages and matures and plays a little less recklessly. If he does that and can stay healthy, he can put up a massive season in 2020. His price will be all over the place. There will be owners that have held him since he was drafted second overall by the Twins in the 2012 draft behind another guy who cannot stay healthy, Carlos Correa. If they have held him for this long, they are either going to go down with the burning ship or throw him overboard. It’s worth checking in and seeing if you can find an owner who has had enough and is willing to move on. One thing is for sure, it’s good to be talking about fantasy baseball in 2020 again, let’s hope we can all stay healthy enough to enjoy it.
Prospect: Marco Raya, Age: 17, Position: SP, Level: Rookie
Analysis by: Greg Gibbons
Marco let me see ya Raya-ya-ya
The year 2020 has been as unique as they come, and the MLB draft was no different. This year was both exhilarating and disheartening, with thousands of promising futures tuned into the five-round draft hoping to fulfill a lifelong dream, only to be left in the deafening silence of waiting for their names to never be called. For 160 young ballplayers lucky enough to hear their names, it will be a moment they never forget. One of those names is Marco Raya (pronounced RAI-UH), a prep pitcher from Laredo, Texas who was selected in the fourth round, 128th overall, by the Minnesota Twins. Raya stands 6’0’’ and tips the scales at a whopping 160 lbs. and like all high school draftees, he had his senior season cut short due to the pandemic. Fortunately for the Twins, a mid-March scouting trip showed them everything they needed to see about Raya and they felt confident enough in his package to use one of this year’s three selections on him. Previously committed to Texas-Tech, the Twins were able to sign him away for a $410,000 bonus, landing a prospect with considerable upside who is already receiving comps to José Berríos.
Rayasing through the ranks
Heading into the draft, Raya was unsure of whether he would be selected. Baseball America ranked him #291 overall on their Top 500 draft prospect list and no other major publications had him ranked at all. Based on his physical frame and lack of experience many scouts pegged Raya as college-bound. He currently features a four-pitch arsenal including a fastball that sits low-to-mid 90’s, a power curveball, slider, and developing change-up. While Raya is not big, he is lauded for his ability to produce spin on his breaking pitches with both his curveball and slider already being considered “advanced.” Further, his delivery and mechanics are very clean and repeatable, and he mixes in a bit of deception while generating a significant amount of arm whip. While it’s hard to project a 17-year-old, especially one with limited in-game experience, Raya has all the tools scouts look for in a starting pitcher, and the Twins intend on developing him as one.
Credit: Perfect Game
There will be concerns surrounding Raya at every stop he makes on his quest to the big leagues, led by his shorter stature and lean build. Similar sized pitchers include aforementioned José Berríos as well as Marcus Stroman. The righty will certainly need to add weight as he ages if he is going to hold up over the course of a full major league season, and another inch in height won’t hurt either. Some scouting reports envision Raya in the bullpen, but we are too far away from concluding on his long-term position.
From a fantasy perspective, there is a lot to like here; he will be built up as a starter, already possesses a mid-90’s fastball and two above-average secondary offerings, and most importantly will be uber cheap to acquire. Raya is unlikely to show up on any first-year player draft rankings and for that reason, you can wait to acquire him in the late rounds of your draft or even as a free agent if your league allows. There is a (very) long lead time here, at minimum three to five years and the Twins are notorious for bringing their prospects along slowly. However, there is little to no risk around your acquisition and the immense upside may be worth the wait. As Raya was quoted by Twins Daily, “everyone is going to know my name.”
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