TDG’S Triple Play: San Diego Padres!
The Triple Play is back for a fourth season! This regular feature is broken down by writer Phil Barrington. He joined by a rotating panel of some of the best Dynasty Baseball writers in the business. This week, the excellent Ken Balderston pulls double duty, breaking down a pitcher and a prospect! 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!
Dinelson Lamet, Age: 29, Position: SP
Analysis by: Ken Balderston
In honor of the calendar turning to September, and many fantasy players turning their attention to football, I’ll highlight a pitcher whose production has plummeted in 2021 and could be someone to target when you turn your attention back to baseball in 2022: Mr. Dinelson Lamet.
Coming off a breakout 2020, Lamet had a 2.09 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, and 12.13 K/9 in 69 innings. The strikeout rate was a step up from previous highs, but his career-low was 10.94/9, suggesting Lamet might have broken through to elite starting pitcher level. Then in the off-season, Lamet was suffering elbow troubles at the same time teammate Mike Clevinger was slated for Tommy John surgery. Dinelson was prescribed plasma-rich platelet injections, and the fantasy community feared a second career Tommy John surgery in store for Lamet. The Padres seemed to want to find a ‘handcuff’ in case he didn’t recover as well, making blockbuster trades for Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, and Joe Musgrove. With Chris Paddack already in the rotation, and uber-prospect Mackenzie Gore seemingly on the way, fantasy owners rightfully wondered where Lamet would fit in.
The Padres were right to invest in some extra starting pitching, as Lamet started the season on the IL for a three-week stint. He was activated April 21st and was promptly put right back on the IL the next day again with forearm inflammation in his pitching arm. Whatever confidence the fantasy community had in Dinelson seemed to have totally deflated. He was being dropped in redraft leagues, and sunk to the bottom, and sometimes off, mid-season dynasty rankings. Then, like déjà vu, went to the IL for a third time with the same injury, this time for over a month.
So why would you care? The main takeaway is, despite looking like he would fall under the knife for TJ a second time in his career, he did not. In fact, he’s back pitching again here in September. On the season his strikeout rate is still up over 10/9 IP, with a walk rate very close to his 2020 breakout, and a solid ERA of 3.57. His fastball has always had a great spin rate, is still ranked in the 90th percentile, and his main pitch, the slider, still flashes elite. The thing that’s keeping him under the radar at the moment, is the lack of innings. Dinelson has started nine games this season, but the Padres only let him go two or three innings in the first seven starts, with relatively great success. He had worked his way up to four or five innings per start in June, but then of course he went back on the IL, and now seems to be in the bullpen.
Still only 29 years old, Lamet will have the rest of September to show what he can do and try to help the Padres into the postseason, and regain some hope for 2022. He has the repertoire to be an elite bullpen arm, but he’s also already shown he can be an elite starter too, so I would expect the Padres to give him a shot at the latter if health permits. Dinelson would have had multiple MRI’s this year, and so far no doctor has recommended Tommy John surgery. If you’re looking towards next year, or towards the gridiron, grab Dinelson and see how time treats him. I’m sure anyone who is rostering him would be willing to talk trade, and it will be interesting to see how the off-season treats him. Several months rest and (hopefully) a regular spring training allowing him to build up his innings. He may never be a pitcher with an ERA slightly over 2.00 again, but the peripheral data is still very good. If you like making low-risk (relative to the cost of acquisition), high-reward moves, this one should be right up your alley.
Trent Grisham, Age: 24, Position: OF
Analysis by:Phil Barrington
Trent Grisham is on none of my ten fantasy teams, dynasty or otherwise, so I come into this with no bias, and since these Triple Plays are written 1/3 for me, 2/3 for you all out there, let us see what we do with him in Dynasty and Keeper leagues.
First, a bit of History
Drafted by the Brewers way back in 2015 with the 15th overall pick out of high school. As such, the left-handed Grisham slowly worked his way up through the Brewers system, starting in Rookie ball in 2015, Single-A in 2016, Single-A+ in 2017 and Double-A in 2018. He suffered hamstring injuries that put him on the shelf for almost 2/3 season in 2016 (We will see more hamstring injuries to come, sadly). He never did that well at any of those stops, but, while still young for each level, he did alright, and made some top ten lists of Brewers prospects, but not all. What stood out were his walk rates, consistently above 14%, with a strikeout rate around 20% for those early minor league seasons. Still, even MLB.com only included him in their top 10 Brewers Prospects once, in 2018 (#8), and they factor in defense, which Grisham does well, being able to play all three outfield spots. While those hammies prevented him from stealing a lot of bases in 2015 and 2016, in 2017 Grisham stole 37 bases, though high steals numbers at Single-A+ should always be taken with a grain of salt.
2019 was a good year, 2020 even better
In 2019 Grisham began the season at Double-A, and finished in the majors, playing in only 34 games at Triple-A before getting the call from the big-league club. In the 97 games he played between Double-A and Triple-A, he hit 26 homers, stole 12 bases, compiled 142 Runs + RBI, with a slash line of .300/.407/.603. Grisham proceeded to help the Brewers down the stretch, albeit more modestly; in 51 big league games, he had six homers, only one steal, and 48 Runs + RBI with a slash line of .231/.328/.410. Overall though, Grisham was healthy and on the upswing at only 22 years of age.
Then in the off-season, the Brewers curiously traded their apparent centerfielder of the future to the Padres for Luis Urias (with pitchers Zach Davies and Eric Lauer switching teams as well). The deal was panned at the time, as Urias had slumped badly after a blistering hot start to 2019, and Grisham was on the upswing.
We all know 2020 was a mess of a season, but Grisham did pretty well in 59 games, hitting 10 homers, stealing 10 bases, with a slash line of .251/.352/.456, a marked improvement over his 2019 big league numbers. Analysts and fans started extrapolating those numbers out, seeing a future 25/25 hitter with a passable batting average and the opportunity for lots of Runs + RBI in a loaded San Diego lineup.
Living in the Now
In spring Grisham suffered another hamstring injury, but recovered in time to take over the leadoff spot on April 9th. He started the season well, hitting fie homers and stealing five bases in his first 37 games. Then on May 22nd he went on the IL for a hamstring injury (a sad pattern is developing) until he returned on June 12th. Since then, Grisham has stolen four bases and hit seven home runs. In 411 plate appearances (as of this writing) this season, he has 13 home runs, 11 steals, 99 Runs + RBI, and a slash line of .253/.343/.436. Not what one was expecting from the 20th overall OF drafted in NFBC leagues this season (oof, #21 was Nick Castellanos), good for 174th on the Razzball player rater.
Lastly, there is a danger of the Padres sitting him against lefties and entering a platoon. The Padres have sat him against lefties twice in the last two weeks, and going back the past two months have sat him against lefties seven times. The Padres have a deep roster, and with Fernando Tatis Jr. moving to the outfield, there is one less spot for a hitter who cannot hit lefties well. His career stats against them are not terrible as a career .260 average against LHP versus .244 against RHP, but, as Padres have better options, Grisham is going to sit against LHP.
Where do we go from here?
Grisham has never had a high batting average, but .250 is not going to cut it if he does not hit a lot of home runs, steal a lot of bases, or take a lot of walks. We know he can take the walks, but the home run power appears to be lacking. A history of hamstring injuries does not bode well for future steals either. Grisham plays a great center field, that much we know, but hamstring injuries occur when running, and a center fielder runs a lot (duh).
Furthermore, 20/10 guys with low batting averages can be found on the waiver wire in most leagues, even 16 team Dynasty ones, so that has me worried. His mostly blue stat numbers on his baseball savant page also have me worried, after a mostly red 2020.
Going into the 2021 season, the Padres had high hopes for their lead-off hitter, especially after the production he showed in the prior two seasons; San Diego looked like they got a steal from Milwaukee. However, now it is looking more like the Brewers traded him while his value was pretty high, and Urias’ was low, and neither player may be who we thought they were.
I always try to look at the positive when writing up players, and I was surprised as how much there is not to like about Grisham. He is still young enough to improve, but there is not enough in the profile for me to see him as anything more than a OF3 at best, and as such, Grisham is not on my target lists for acquiring this off-season. If he is rostered on your dynasty team, you should explore options, as there are other managers who may still be high on him and you may be able to get a good return.
CJ Abrams, Age: 20, Position: SS, Level: AA
Analysis by: Ken Balderston
Scholars maintain that the translation was lost hundreds of years ago, but more recently San Diego had one of the best and deepest minor league systems in baseball. They’ve made plenty of moves the last year to 18 months, and combined with some major league graduations the Padres system is not quite as deep, but they still have some of the best minor league talents at the top.
He’s kind of a big deal, people know him
After falling to the Padres at the 6th pick in the incredible 2019 first-year player draft, Abrams was instantly a top 100 prospect and a player to target in dynasty leagues. He has a plus hit tool, with a quick bat and advanced plate approach, consistently putting the good part of the bat on the ball to maximize what power his super-athletic 6’2” 180 lbs frame can muster. He’s an 80-grade runner and is the type of guy who could steal 50 or more bases without setting you back in power categories. Basically, he has the makings of a rotisserie stud, the type of prospect that’s illegal in nine countries, and stings the nostrils in a good way.
That Escalated Quickly
Shortly after signing, Abrams hit .401 in rookie ball and won the Arizona League MVP award. After spending the 2020 season at the Padres alternate site, he was given an aggressive assignment of skipping high A ball and promoted to Double-A San Antonio as a 20-year-old. Abrams was ready for the challenge and was hitting .293/.363/.420 with 13 steals in 42 games, and a 19.7% strikeout rate, and an 8.2% walk rate, looking like a promotion to Triple-A could be right around the corner. And then the worst happened: he was involved in a collision at second base, fracturing his tibia and sprained his MCL. He was ruled out for the remainder of the 2021 season. The good news is he should make a full recovery, but let’s face it, we want to see this guy on the field.
Don’t just read the teleprompter
Abrams’ stats jump off the page, and so do his tools, as he’s a talent that both scouts and stat hounds love. It’s possible we haven’t seen the best of him yet, as he continues to develop as a hitter, we could see up to 20 home runs along with 50 or more steals, and a .300+ batting average in a peak season. Despite his improvement defensively, it’s likely CJ will have to move off short due to the presence of Fernando Tatis Jr., possibly to second base or more likely center field. While traditionally that would lower Abrams’ fantasy appeal, shortstop has become an incredibly deep position, and I’m sure we could all find a spot in our lineups for CJ if he did move to the outfield.
You Stay Classy San Diego
The Padres have proven to be capable of developing prospects, but in CJ’s case, it looks like he’s a natural and is destined to be a star. How quickly he gets to the majors has been slightly clouded, but assuming good health, Abrams could start next season in Double-A, get bumped up to Triple-A by June, and see the major leagues by August 2022. I’m not even sure that’s a ‘best case’ scenario, as he’s already shown he can compete against older competition, so the Padres might just start him off in Triple-A if he has a good spring. Once he is back on the field, his tools really stand out, and he could quickly become the #1 prospect in baseball. If the owner in your dynasty league is open to the idea of dealing Abrams, you won’t feel it was a bad choice to take them up on it.
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