TDG Roundtable: Who We’re Taking 1.1
Every week on Fridays, our writers here at The Dynasty Guru will be bringing you some quick hit musings about a particular topic so you, the reader, can get a blast of info from a bunch of different writers with some passionate opinions. This week’s roundtable topic is the player we would take 1.1 in a dynasty start up.
Juan Soto, OF, Nationals
This debate has been interesting for the last few seasons… Mike Trout vs Bryce Harper. Mike Trout vs. Mookie Betts. Mike Trout vs. Ronald Acuña Jr. Mike Trout vs. The World. However, we might want to call this Mike Trout: Endgame as the Avengers defeated Thanos. I think there is a three-way race for the top spot: Ronald Acuna Jr., Juan Soto, and Fernando Tatis Jr. To be honest, all three are great players and I would love to have them lead my dynasty team to victory but for me, one rises above the rest…Juan Soto, the Chosen Juan.
Since coming up in 2018 as a 20-year-old, he has quickly become one of the best players in baseball and easily the best hitter right now. He has a Joey Votto-esqe knowledge of the strike zone, the bat to ball ability of prime Miguel Cabrera, and the charisma of Andrew McCutchen. As I said previously, Soto is clearly the best hitter in the major leagues and now he is tapping into 30-40+ home run territory. Yes, Tatis Jr. or Acuna Jr will give you more steals but those seem to taper off with age. You know what does not taper off? Strikezone awareness. Juan Soto seems like the player out of the three that will have that smooth aging curve and not a huge dropoff when he gets into his 30s.
Juan Soto, OF, Nationals
When deciding who to draft at 1.1 in a dynasty league, it’s a question of whether you are satisfied with having one of the best young players of the current generation, or whether you’d prefer one of best young players of all time. In the past 100 years, Juan Soto posted the best season ever for a 19-year-old by wRC+ (145, min. 400 PA). The next best 19-year-old performance was Mel Ott (perhaps you have heard of him?). At age 20, Soto followed up, posting a 142 wRC+. While nobody was better than him at 19, a handful of the hall of fame-caliber talents slightly outperformed him in their age 20 seasons: Mel Ott, Ted Williams, Alex Rodriguez, Jimmie Foxx, Al Kaline, Mickey Mantle, Mike Trout, Frank Robinson, and Ronald Acuña Jr. Age 20 wRC+ for this group ranged from 143 (Acuña Jr.) to Trout (167). Acuña Jr.’s MLB performance essentially tied Soto at 20, but he was much worse than Soto pre-age 20, including in their minor leagues performances incorporating league difficulty and age—not because Acuña Jr. was at all bad in the minors, but simply because Soto was so good. Trout also struggled in the majors at 19 with a below league average wRC+, and his age and league difficulty-adjusted minor league numbers too trailed Soto’s (as did Tatis Jr.’s to an even greater extent; everyone’s age and league difficulty-adjusted minor league numbers trail Soto’s by definition, he has simply been the best). Soto’s 2020 performance does not really need to be described in words: he is breaking baseball at this point and is now the #1 projected hitter for the rest of the season on FanGraphs Auction Calculator (default settings, depth charts ROS projections). When drafting at 1.1 in dynasty, you can either satisfy your fleeting speed obsession and choose one of the best young players of the current generation (Acuña Jr. or Tatís Jr.), or else choose one of the best players of all time up until this point in each of their careers (Trout or Soto). Given Trout and Soto’s major bat-only edge over Acuña Jr. and Tatís Jr, and Soto’s 7 year age gap advantage over Trout, I do not find the choice particularly hard.
Ronald Acuña Jr., OF, Atlanta
A couple of things I like to get out of my first pick in a dynasty startup… youth, power, speed, pedigree, recent success. Ronald Acuna? Check, check, check, check, and check. Only 22 years old, he’s established himself as one of the top players in fantasy baseball. Nearly cracking 40/40 in his age-21 season in 2019 (41 HR/37 SB) Acuna has the athleticism to continue to dominate both categories as long as the Braves let him run. He shows impressive plate discipline, walking over 10% in his career so far, and striking out at a solid rate of 26%. His exit velocity is consistent year to year around 90%, while that is not the best in baseball, his speed combined with that power is what really puts him over the top.
Pedigree? No, he was not a 1st overall pick (he was an international free agent), but he was named the AFL MVP as a 19-year-old in 2017, becoming the consensus top prospect in baseball. The next year he delivered in the major leagues by winning the NL Rookie of the Year award in a landslide (over Juan Soto), while finishing 12th in the NL MVP voting. In last year’s near 40/40 season, he finished 5th in MVP voting. Yes, we only have 2+ years of major league experience, but those are two incredibly impressive years.
In a redraft league, I’d still probably take Mike Trout, as his career is unparalleled in today’s game and we have 9 years of data saying you won’t lose your fantasy league picking Mike Trout. This is not a redraft, this is a dynasty first pick overall. I felt a bit sick to my stomach when I saw Trout is now 29 years old. Not a ton of concern given the talent, but Acuna is 22, and Trout is just about done stealing bases. Others in consideration, Juan Soto would also be a safe choice, but while he’s currently stealing a few bases, that’s unlikely to continue. Fernando Tatis Jr is also a solid choice, but in my dynasty startup this past February, Acuna went #1, and I was able to snag Tatis at #11. Tatis is a great talent and probably worthy of the #1 pick, but I won’t let 150 plate appearances this year deter what we already know… that Acuna is and will continue to be a dynasty stud for close to a decade.
Juan Soto, OF, Nationals
Fernando Tatis Jr., Ronald Acuna Jr., and Mike Trout are all viable options for a 1.1 dynasty pick – and they’re all striking out about twice as often as Soto this season. He has as many walks as strikeouts (13) and almost as many home runs (11) through the end of August. His plate discipline and power are incredibly advanced for any player, much less a 21-year-old, and that’s what makes him the most valuable player in dynasty right now.
Trout is probably still the best player in redraft, but he’s 29. His best base-stealing days are behind him (Soto actually edged him in steals last season, 12 to 11), and I don’t think he has enough of an advantage in other categories to make up for the age gap.
Tatis and Acuna are also young, and both offer huge power and more stolen bases. But steals aren’t the most stable stat from year to year, and eventually, everyone slows down. Soto’s plate discipline gives him the most reliable skill set of the three, and I expect him to be the most consistently excellent hitter in baseball over the next decade.
Fernando Tatis, Jr., SS, Padres
Nando!! What a stud. If I have the first pick in an upcoming startup dynasty league, I take Tatis Jr. and never look back. He can run. He can hit. He can dance! And honestly, you can just tell that he’s having fun playing the game. Aren’t those the traits we want for all the players on our fantasy rosters?
The standout shortstop is the ultimate upside player in any league format, and boy are we seeing that upside play out. He’s currently leading the league in runs and runs batted in and is tied for the league-lead in homers. We’ve also seen him increase his walk rate and decrease his strikeout rate, and while his whiff rate is nothing to write home about, it’s encouraging that he’s hitting the ball harder and more often this season. Plus, he plays for a team that encourages stolen bases, the ever-increasing desire of my heart.
My biggest worry with Tatis Jr. is that he plays the game a little too hard sometimes. He’s shown that his aggressive style can lead to injuries, and I hope that, with age, he learns to protect his health while also maintaining his exuberance. At this point, however, we’re seeing a superstar take the field every night with a fantastic supporting cast around him and management that clearly wants him to succeed. I can’t imagine getting through a dynasty draft and leaving his talent on the table.
Ronald Acuña Jr., OF, Atlanta
If you were to have asked me who the number one dynasty baseball player was before this season, I would have told you either Mike Trout or Ronald Acuña. Fast forward five weeks into the 2020 season, and the possible candidates for this same discussion increases to four, now including Juan Soto and Fernando Tatis Jr. To this point, all four have had stellar seasons. Through August 30th, Trout has 12 home runs, 32 runs batted in, and a .960 OPS. After a slow start to the season and a current hamstring injury, Acuña has accrued 5 home runs, 2 stolen bases, and a .921 OPS. In just 24 games, Soto has hit 11 home runs (two tonight as I write this), has a .367 batting average, and a groundbreaking 1.252 OPS. Lastly, Fernando Tatis has 13 home runs, 7 stolen bases, a .313 batting average, 1.052 OPS, and is my current favorite to win the National League MVP through the halfway mark of the shortened season.
Despite the somewhat disappointing start to the season for Ronald Acuña, if we were drafting tomorrow, he would still be my 1.1 dynasty pick. In the history of baseball, there have only been four players that have joined the 40/40 club (40+ home runs, 40+ stolen bases). The fact that Acuña missed this accomplishment by a mere three stolen bases as a twenty-one-year-old helps make this decision only slightly easier. With the ability to hit for average and get on base at free will, provide massive power and cause havoc on the base paths, Acuña is the textbook definition of a generational player and a kingpin of dynasty baseball squads for years to come.
Juan Soto, OF, Nationals
Since the start of the 2018 season, Juan Soto ranks 6th in wRC+ behind stalwarts such as Mike Trout, Christian Yelich, Alex Bregman, Mookie Betts, and Nelson Cruz. He is at least 4.5 years younger than the youngest player on that list (Bregman). At just under 22 years old, we already have a track record of more than 1,000 MLB plate appearances while simultaneously being able to dream on nearly a full decade of future seasons before he’s “old.” Need I say more?
Okay, I should probably say a few more things, at least. Yes, I know, he “doesn’t run” and I’m sure some will scoff at me for passing on speed at the first overall pick because it is 20% of scoring, but let me tell you why I’m not concerned. First of all, Mr. Soto does run a little bit — he stole 12 bases in 2019. More importantly, though, it feels like steals have become more and more unpredictable as teams run less and less. Stolen bases seem to depend more on team philosophy than a player’s ability these days and for that reason, I’m out. The absolute last thing you want is for a managerial change to turn your stolen base stud into a station to station slug. For that reason, I’m going to lean a little heavier on the batting skills rather than the total package.
Soto has already shown incredible feel for the zone (16% career walk rate, 4th in MLB since 2018), feel to hit (.293 career AVG, 15th in MLB since 2018), and power (.263 career ISO, 67 HRs – 15th and 26th in MLB since 2018). And there’s a chance he gets even better.
Mike Trout, CF, Angels
Did you know that salmon migrate upstream to complete their life cycle? They go back upstream to spawn and then they die. A trout, on the other hand, must swim upstream for the purpose of breathing. It may feel like I am going upstream like a salmon in what I am about to say, but I am actually going upstream as a trout. Why does it feel like the former? Because we want the shiny new toy. With Mike Trout, we aren’t talking about a new toy or a fish. We are talking about a future first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee whose last name also happens to be a type of fish.
Mike Trout, 29, is seven years older than Acuna and eight years older than Tatis Jr. and Soto. And while age is definitely a factor that needs to be considered, it doesn’t have to mean you are a salmon swimming upstream. More than likely there will be a day when Trout moves from CF to a corner outfield position or designated hitter, but that doesn’t scare me either. If Mike Trout is anything like Nelson Cruz as a designated hitter at 40, then I am in for the long haul if you sign me up today.
You may think I am crazy, and that is fine, but my mind can be changed in a few years when Acuna, Soto, or Tatis have an OPB of .400 or higher for five straight years while in that same time frame having an OPS above .990. I understand the unfairness of that given that they are barely out of their teens, but my point is career consistency. Soto has finished with an OBP of .400 or higher in each year he has played but he hasn’t had an OPS over .950 yet, so he would be a close second. Tatis and Acuna haven’t finished a season with an OBP of .400 or an OPS of .990, but they are still studs. Of course these two stats don’t tell the whole story but they do help tell a story. I will draft Mike Trout first in roto leagues. I will draft Mike Trout first in redraft leagues. I will draft him first in dynasty. I will draft him first here and there. I will draft him first anywhere.
Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, Padres (in leagues deeper than 14 teams)
Juan Soto, OF, Nationals ( in leagues shallower than 14 teams)
This isn’t an easy one by any means- in recent years, it was the easy-peasey Mike Trout pick to open your dynasty draft, automatic, no brainer. But things have changed nowadays- Trout is entering the wrong side of 30, father time has arrived (literally), and we have some young tantalizing options out there (Acuña, Soto, Tatis Jr., Betts). If I have to choose between these talented guys, Juan José Soto Pacheco would be my pick, aside from positional value, and my second one by a thin margin would be Tatis Jr.
There’s maybe a misconception about quantity- you can argue that the SS position is a thin one compared to the OF (“there are more outfields out there, I’ll pick the SS”) but there is only one Juan Soto out there (yes, I know, also only one Tatis Jr., and only one Brandom Crawford too). Let’s take 2019 as an example to demonstrate similar production between OF and SS, I’ll only take LF as the sample size for equality because a ~3:1 ratio isn’t a fair comparison
2019 LF average numbers
2019 SS average numbers
As you can see, aside from power output, there’s not a dramatic difference in league average production between SS and LF
Now, let’s look at Soto’s and Tatis Jr’s numbers from 2019 to 2020 included, in parenthesis the difference with the average relative to each one position.
Fernando Tatis Jr.(-277 PAs than Soto)
Using a naive point system, taking each one differential with the positional average (using ISO instead of SLG) we have:
Soto: +37+79+80+50+105 = 351
Tatis Jr.: +50+61+88+59+122 = 380
So, it’s pretty clear to me seeing those guys numbers that we can’t conclude anything hahaha-Tatis beat Soto in my naive point system. But I don’t care; the point here is don’t pick Tatis Jr. over Soto only for his position eligibility if you like Soto more (like me). But we can say that as the league’s number of teams increases, shortstops are scarcer, and for that reason, I would take Tatis if the league is greater than 14 teams; if not, Soto is my choice because he is my favorite one.
P.S. Dad Trout is still a good option. Who dares to say otherwise?
Juan Soto, OF, Nationals
In fantasy baseball, the two most coveted “currencies” are ace-level starting pitching and stolen bases. Unfortunately, these are also two of the more fickle beasts of the game to try and wrangle. Starting pitchers are the position most oft to suffer injuries that result in significant time missed, and stolen bases are very difficult to predict even amongst the elite base stealers (e.g. 2020 Trea Turner). So when it comes to picking 1.1 in a start-up draft, the two things I look for are youth and consistency, and the name that I go with is Juan Soto. The Nationals’ outfielder is 21-years-old and already in his third major league season. His current Statcast page literally could not be redder as he is in the 99th or 100th percentile in all of exit velocity, hard-hit percentage, xBA, xSLG, and xWOBA. Soto is currently second in the majors with a .453 OBP, putting him in a strong position to finish his third season over .400 in this statistical category. His power numbers have increased each season, and he is currently on a 162 game pace of 66 home runs in 2020. I don’t expect totals like that in the future, but consistent 40-plus totals are definitely in play. This increased power will help to keep Soto’s runs+RBI totals in the 220-plus range for years to come. I predict he should also be good for chipping in about 10 stolen bases per year. The high on-base percentages will also be maintained due to his impressive contact skills, low strikeout percentage, and elite walk rate. This is the area that separates him from the rest of the new kids on the block, as both Acuna and Tatis strikeout significantly more and walk significantly less. The only other option who can match these stats and make the strikeout and walk rates is Mike Trout, who is nine years older than Soto. So if given the chance to select 1.1 in a start-up draft I will happily take the 21-year-old Soto, a model of continuous improvement and consistency for years to come.
Juan Soto, OF, Nationals
At no time in the past decade have there been so many players that one can make the argument for the #1 pick in dynasty baseball. For me, the debate is between the two 21-year-old superstars, Juan Soto and Fernando Tatis Jr. Tatis, on the playoff-bound team, maybe heading towards an MVP season and is getting more buzz at the moment. Taking 2019 and 2020 combined stats into account (Soto 176 Games, Tatis 122 Games), the two are nearly identical in countless metrics. WAR: Tatis 6.2, Soto 6.1; wOBA: Tatis .409, Soto .407; Exit Velocity: Soto 92.3 MPH, Tatis 92.2, wRC+: Tatis 157, Soto 151.
If we are picking nits, I’ll have to give the slightest of nods to Juan Soto. Although Tatis has a clear edge in speed, Soto has a clear edge in his contact rates and eye at the plate giving him a safer floor. Using the same ’19-’20 time frame, Soto’s O-Swing% (swings outside the strike zone) is 23.0% compared to 30.6% for Tatis, while making contact with 62.4% of such pitches to Tatis’s 49.3%. Soto holds the same edge on pitches inside of the zone. Soto’s excellent 16% BB/19.2% K-rate is as good as it gets, while Tatis has a 9% BB/28.1% K. Soto enters play on 9/4 with a preposterous .354/.453/.758 slash line with 11 HRs in only 28 games. His ability to handle the moment, as shown by the then-20-year-old’s go-ahead hit in the Wild Card game, and three home runs in the World Series, would also put him on the list as my #1 player to build a franchise around. However, the number of correct answers to this question should put the future of “on the field” baseball in good hands for this entire decade.
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