TDG’s Triple Play: Arizona Diamondbacks!
The Triple Play is back for a fourth season! This regular feature is broken down by senior writer Paul Monte and a rotating panel of 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!
Madison Bumgarner, Age: 31, Position: SP
Analysis by: Paul Monte
Here I go again
Another baseball season is just around the corner. This time it feels a little more normal than what we all experienced in 2020. We didn’t know if there would be a season at all, how long it would be, or if the players and owners would play nice (they didn’t) and come to an agreement (they did). The world has changed and so has fantasy baseball. You cannot approach the 2021 season the same way you approached past seasons. There will be new strategies to apply with pitchers, more guessing than ever with prospects, and even hitters had such short seasons their stats cannot be fully trusted. Those questions among the normal challenges that fantasy sports present are why we are back to do it all again.
How Will I Know?
If question marks are the focus for 2021, why not kick this off with a big one: Madison Bumgarner. The 6’4” left-hander is still just 31 years old but has racked up 1,887.2 innings over his 12-year career which included several long runs in the playoffs. Playoff heroics aside, the wear and tear on the body and arm of Bumgarner are expected as he continues his career, and the 2017 dirt bike accident that injured his pitching shoulder certainly expedited the decline. After peaking at 92.7 MPH in 2015 his fastball has seen a steep decline as he worked his way back through the shoulder injury. Dipping down to 88.1 MPH in 2018 there was a bit of a bounce-back in 2019 as was able to reach 89.6 MPH. This small increase paired with another 200-inning/200-strikeout season kept him in the discussion as a starting pitcher worth drafting the last offseason.
Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?
He was no longer an ace, but he had sneaky upside depending on his landing spot. 5 years and $85 million was the price Arizona paid and a 6.48 ERA, one win, and 41.2 innings was the return on their investment. The fastball dipped to a career-low 86.1 MPH and a back injury was added to the worry list. Bumgarner became a cut in shallow dynasty leagues and the trade value was gone for owners who had held on. As we enter spring training there a couple of things that we know for sure. Bumgarner will start for the Diamondbacks who are projected to be one of the worst teams in the league. The contract dictates that his rotation spot is safe for now. We also know that he has shown up to camp and has been sitting right around 90 MPH with his fastball, a huge jump from 2020.
In the End
Bumgarner has a current NFBC ADP of 138 among pitchers over the last month. That slots him in just behind the likes of Spencer Turnbull and two guys who may get some save chances in Stefan Crichton and Chris Martin. He is just ahead of Adbert Alzolay and J.A. Happ. His 2020 stats say he deserves this fate, but I am very willing to burn that draft slot on him for the 2021 season. In dynasty, there is no reason to do anything with him. His trade value is non-existent so you are forced to hope for the best. If his renewed velocity sticks through spring training, his ADP will steadily climb as will his contributions to your team.
Ketel Marte, Age: 27, Position: 2B
Analysis by: Aaron Cumming
Our #4 ranked dynasty second baseman is likely still being underrated. Ketel Marte’s consistency, floor, and versatility are nearly unrivaled. No matter your league format, he is going to be a rock in your lineup.
Ketel Me Something Good
Marte’s got something that will sure ‘nough set your stuff on fire. It may have taken a near-MVP performance in 2019 for most fans to notice, but he made an adjustment at the plate halfway through 2018 that has made him one of the best hitters in the game since. His launch angle took a jump up and kept climbing into the following season. When you’re putting the ball in the air more, good things happen under two basic conditions: one- you’re not hitting pop-ups, and two- you’re hitting the ball hard. Ketel managed to stay under the league average pop-up rate in 2019 despite the increase in fly balls, so that takes care of the first part. On to the second part.
Did you know that there were only two qualified hitters in 2018, 2019, and 2020 to hit a max exit velocity of over 115 MPH each year? You probably won’t be surprised to know that one of them is Marcell Ozuna. I’m sure at this point context clues probably told you that the other is Ketel Marte. Still surprising, though, right? His body type isn’t that of a traditional power hitter, but these numbers can’t be faked. In fact, according to Statcast, his 32 home runs in 2019 would’ve been over 35 in a context-neutral setting. The power is real.
In 2020, Marte managed only two home runs. His launch angle dipped slightly, but he was mostly in line with his 2019 batted ball profile, and still produced a .287 batting average while experiencing that slight regression. His sprint speed has always been in the top third of the league, so with his plate skills, he will always be a contributor in batting average. In points or OBP leagues, his skills actually play up; his career walk rate is nearly 8% with a strikeout rate under 15%. That profile has no equal at the top of the maxEV standings.
Ketel Me That You Love Me
The problem is Ketel ain’t been loved like he should; what he’s got to give will sure ‘nough do you good. Going into his age-27 season, there are several peak years left. He has a skill set that should age well and a relatively clean injury history. Depending on where you host your league, he may have positional versatility, and if he doesn’t, he will likely get it back this year with some time in the outfield. He contributes across the board in every category, regardless of your league type. In spite of the doubters, his power surge in 2019 is backed by real skills, and it is more likely that the performance of 2020 was the fluke. Even if he experiences another “down” year, he has shown that his floor is a high average hitter. This is the type of stable contributor that championship teams should be building around. If anybody is selling scared after last year, scoop him up and let him launch your team to the top.
Pavin Smith, Age: 25, Position: 1B/OF, Level: Double-A, MLB?
Analysis by: Phil Barrington
If you happen to see him, wish Mr. Smith a belated happy birthday, as he turned 25 on February 6th (we all get another birthday due to Covid-19, right?) The left-handed Smith was General Manager Mike Hazen’s first pick as Arizona’s GM, at seven overall, back in 2017. Smith reached the Majors in 2020 (in part due to Covid-19) and held his own: in 44 plate appearances, he hit .270 but only one home run. I wanted to discuss him here as Smith is currently in camp, battling to take at-bats that were going to go to Kole Calhoun, who is on the shelf for a while.
Smith had a very good college career playing first base and outfield for the University of Virginia where he was lauded for his batting eye and lack of strikeouts; in his final college season he struck out only 12 times in 274 plate appearances with a .342 batting average. Coming into the draft, John Sickels wrote “Teams picking at the very top of the draft may want a player who has more speed or who plays a premium defensive position, but overall few players offer the combination of safety and upside possessed by Smith.”
Smith carried over his very good walk and strikeout rate from college throughout his time in the minors thus far. Smith’s minor league stats in 294 games: 23 home runs, a slash line of .281/.341/.405, a strikeout rate of 12.3%, a walk rate of 11.9%, and 69 doubles. He has progressed from Low-A (2017) to Single-A (2018) to Double-A (2019) with Arizona being conservative in his promotions.
One of my favorite research tools is looking at the prior season doubles leaders to see if there is any potential un-tapped home run power. Smith seems like an ideal candidate to turn some of those doubles into home runs in a good hitter’s park in Arizona (depending on the humidor or lack thereof, of course). As a left-handed hitter, there is often the danger of being platooned, and in Double-A in 2019 Smith had a .248/.320/.373 slash line against lefties compared to a .314/.396/.516 against righties. Early on, that may be the case in Arizona, but as the team is not expected to compete with the Dodgers or Padres in 2021, they may allow Smith to get some experience versus lefties.
Why Should you Care?
The reason I wanted to talk about the 6’2, 210-pound, ginger-haired Smith is that being an older prospect, he may be overlooked. While he has a good batting eye, the home run power has simply not come yet, which is a basic requirement of starting Major League first basemen. However, Smith also can play the outfield, and that may be his clearest path to playing time in the Major Leagues in 2021. If Smith can produce a good average (the easy part) and begin to turn some of those doubles into home runs (the hard part) we may be looking at a starter for Arizona. While he has a lot of competition to fill-in for Calhoun, if Smith gets a starting job out of camp, he is most definitely worth a flier in 14-team and greater leagues. Though Smith may need seasoning at Triple-A that should not turn you off to stashing him in Dynasty leagues.
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