TDG Roundtable: Players we were wrong about
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. Last we took victory laps so for this week, our staff discusses players they whiffed on.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B, Toronto Blue Jays
At the end of last season we did a roundtable on early round targets we probably wouldn’t invest in and Vlad Jr was my pick. Through #MockDraftSZN Vlad was going ahead of guys like Mookie Betts, Trea Turner, Trevor Story and Rafael Devers which seemed like just too high a price to pay at that early draft spot for a guy who was supposed to be still developing. Well I was super wrong about that. On a recent Dynasty’s Child podcast Shelly, Jake and Jordan explored the case for Vlad Jr at 1.1 and it’s pretty compelling and making me look like a fool for thinking he wouldn’t be worth the early investment. I thought it would take another year for him to reach something close to the level he’s producing at right now, and now I’m just sad I missed out on an opportunity to roster him in any of my leagues. Just like the good ole game of baseball, sometimes your takes are a swing and miss and sometimes they’re Javier Baez facing Aroldis Chapman.
Target Jorge Soler and Josh Bell and Avoid Bo Bichette
Thank gosh we all have a short memory, amirite? At least I wasn’t the only one wrong on Bell as the Nationals front office was wrong on him too. 11 home runs and a .727 OPS would be fine at second base but not as your starting first baseman. There is some brightness shining in the form of Bell being in the 94th percentile or above in Avg Exit Velocity, Max Exit Velocity, and Hard Hit%, but that just shows he hits the ball hard when he hits it, which isn’t often enough. At least he is doing better than his 2020 season, but that is not saying much. Bell is 202 overall on the Razzball player rater, but way better than Soler, who has been plain awful in 2021, he’s number freaking 677 there. Soler is not doing anything that terrible, yet his average is in the dumps, due to a career low BABIP and ISO. He is walking and striking out at his same career rate, and his baseball savant page is similar to Bell’s in Avg Exit Velocity, Max Exit Velocity, and Hard Hit%, all above the 98th percentile. I still see Soler as having the potential to bounce back, but in annual and shallow keeper leagues there is no time to wait. Lastly Bichette has proven he’s more than his stunning hair as he is currently #5 on the player rater. A lot of that is due to 12 steals and 119 Runs + RBI hitting in the stacked Blue Jays lineup; he still is not walking much with a 6% rate and a league average 22% K rate, but no matter, the L on saying to avoid him is all mine.
Tim Anderson, SS, Chicago White Sox
Back in January I wrote a piece highlighting a few shortstops I would be avoiding in 2021 which included Tim Anderson of the Chicago White Sox. Well, swing and a miss on that one. I warned that his top tier batting average may have been bolstered by a high BABIP and could come crashing back down at any given moment. It did come down, but only to .369 which is still quite high. Anderson is batting .293 so far which is just outside the top-10 in the American League. His average exit velocity and hard hit percentage are both above league average so far in 2021 for the first time in his career. Anderson is also on pace for career totals in runs, RBI, home runs, and stolen bases. Assuming he gets there, it will only be the second time in his career of surpassing 20 steals, which I also incorrectly predicted he would fall short. So overall his 2021 performance looks as good, if not better, than it has in the past and he will likely continue with the success that I did not believe in prior to this season. Also, doesn’t hurt that he bats at the top of one of the best teams in baseball. At least I passed on him for a player I predicted to have a big bounce back year…Gleyber Torres.
Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros
I missed the Victory Lap roundtable last week because I’m just way too humble to join a piece of that nature. Or because I was on vacation, I can’t remember which. It wasn’t hard for me to remember who I was most wrong about in 2021, however. I went on the illustrious Join The Ranks Pod back in January to chat second basemen and my “spiciest take” was that Jose Altuve would not be in TDG’s Top-20 Dynasty 2Bs entering 2022. Hell, he wasn’t a Top-20 second baseman over 60 games last year. It didn’t seem too crazy. Some of my points included the fact that such a great deal of Altuve’s value at his peak was based on stolen bases and he had gone from 32 (in 2017) to 17 to 6 to only 2 steals in the short 2020 season. Entering his age 31 season, I had no reason to believe that the steals would come back even though the Sprint Speed still hovered around 80th percentile, and they haven’t as he only has three steals at the exact halfway point of the 2021 season. I didn’t believe his .219/.286/.344 short season slash line was too much of a fluke, as his xBA was .230 and xWOBA was .280. His 4.6% barrel rate was down from 8.1% in 2019, and was the lowest it had been since 2015. Sure, his playoff performance at the plate showed some promise but he also had The Yips in the field and who knows how that would affect his career in the short and long term.
Not only is Altuve a top-20 dynasty second baseman long term, but he’s in the Top-20 hitters overall in the Razzball Player Rater through the end of June, worth $28.3 in fantasy value with less than $1 of that coming from the Stolen Base category. Quite simply, his eye at the plate is better than ever, the lineup behind him is a wagon, and, perhaps most importantly, the bat speed has returned. Altuve enters July with a 12.2% BB-rate (previous career high: 9.2%) to assist with his .373 OBP, and has scored an incredible 59 runs in only 69 games played as the leadoff hitter for Houston. While his Exit Velocity is up across the board, specifically he’s getting around on everyone’s fastball this year to the tune of a .343 BA and 88.7 MPH exit velocity on the pitch in 2021 after a .242 BA and 86.8 EV against fastballs in the short season. 12 of his 17 HRs are on the pitch as Altuve is on pace for a career high in home runs.
I’ll try not to go five-alarm hot pepper spicy takes next year on Join The Ranks, and keep it mild. I was wrong about the demise of Jose Altuve, I just hope he finally got that tattoo finished.
Aaron Judge, OF, New York Yankees
I’ll keep this short and sweet, and not just because I really whiffed on Aaron Judge heading into 2021. Case in point, as I detailed in our 2021 Dynasty Outfielder Rankings write-ups this offseason: “…a cornerstone player in pretty much any format…at least on a per-game basis. But therein lies the elephant in the room: his health, that which he has not been able to maintain over the last few seasons. In fact, he hasn’t eclipsed 500 plate appearances since 2017, his breakout campaign…To make matters more convoluted, Judge has been sent to the injury list for various reasons at this point…[which] has ultimately led to over 160 days riding the pine since 2016. We know that he still has a monster bat – trust me, I’m not arguing that. And maybe there’s even another 600 plate appearance, 45 home run season lurking in there somewhere if he can stay healthy. But at this point, it’s difficult to even imagine a 120-game season for the slugger, and he’s fading down our rankings appropriately.”
I tend to be ultra-conservative when it comes to inviting injuries onto my fantasy rosters, but in this case, I admit I took it too far when considering Judge for my fantasy outfields. How I regret not having his .285/.382/.522 slash and 18 homers as a part of any of my teams…he’s just so dang good every time he takes the field. And his traditional 5×5 stats aren’t the only thing he has going for him this season. His 26.3% strikeout rate is a career-low, and while he’s not hitting homers at a 2017-esque pace, he’s still crushing the ball with a 58.1% hard-hit rate (119 mph max exit velocity).
Not booking a ticket on the Judge Express won’t be my last major fantasy whiff – not this season, not ever. But I’ll leave you with one final note as we head into trade season: it’s never too late to adjust your offseason process. I’m finding that there were quite a few players this offseason that I, for one reason or another, had labeled as more injury-prone then the next. Jacob deGrom. Max Scherzer. Shohei Ohtani. Aaron Judge. All players I’d love to have on my teams now. Luckily, I’m doing fine in my leagues, but I now know that this is a bias holding me back from being a better fantasy player.
In any case, here’s to making adjustments and kicking ass the rest of the season. Have a great weekend, everyone.