TDG 2022 RISERS AND FALLERS: THIRD BASEMAN
RISER: JOSE MIRANDA, MINNESOTA TWINS (AGE: 23, CURRENT RANK: 19, PREVIOUS RANK: NR)
There may not have been a hotter prospect in baseball than Jose Miranda. He absolutely flew up prospect boards everywhere. He went from being completely unknown in 2020 to becoming a top 20 ranked third baseman in dynasty fantasy baseball. It is not shocking to understand why when you look at his numbers. He slashed .344/.401/.572 between AA and AAA with 30 home runs, 94 runs batted in, and 32 doubles. He was just flat-out a hitting machine. The one area he will need to improve on is his walk rate which was at 6.7% in AAA. Even with that low walk percentage, he has always shown great pitch awareness and an ability to get the barrel to the ball.
The Twins currently have Josh Donaldson locked in at third base and we all know his injury history so there is a chance a spot opens up for Miranda. The Twins are also lacking a designated hitter so there is an obvious fit for Miranda there as well. He could easily crack the roster after spring training. Even if he starts the year in the minors it won’t be long before we see Miranda make his debut in 2022. Don’t hesitate to take a shot on this bat first prospect in 2022. He might go higher than you want in your fantasy drafts, but he could still see enough playing time to provide a ton of value. (Jared Perkins)
FALLER: EUGENIO SUÁREZ, CINCINNATI REDS (AGE: 30, CURRENT RANK: 23, PREVIOUS RANK: 10)
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Eugenio Suárez really took a dip in this year’s rankings and it is not hard to see why. His hard-hit percentage was below 40%, his line drive percentage was down to 17%, and his batting average was below .200. His walk rate (9.8%) was the lowest he had since 2016 and only had an 85 wRC+. Then you look at his strikeouts and see that only Javier Báez and Wil Myers had higher strikeout rates than Suárez’s 29.1% in 2021. Suárez wasn’t much better in 2020, but when you look at his 2019 numbers you are just left wondering what happened.
The one highlight for Suárez was that he had a solid barrel percentage and was able to pop 31 home runs as well as drive in 71. If he could’ve just cut down on some of the swing and miss he probably could’ve tapped more into that power and brought his average closer to his 2019 numbers. He becomes significantly more valuable if he can hit 50 home runs compared to his 31. That said, Suárez is probably worth a late-round flier to see if he can get back to 40+ homers and 100+ RBI. I wouldn’t count on it, but hey, you never know. (Jared Perkins)
RISER: AUSTIN RILEY, ATLANTA BRAVES (AGE: 24, CURRENT RANK: 4, PREVIOUS RANK: 20)
There were signs of a breakout in 2020, and Phil Barrington was all over it in last year’s write-up. It had been a year where Austin Riley hit .238 with eight home runs in 51 games, but his expected BA was .263 and his batted ball metrics were all above average. Fast forward to 2021 and Riley maintained the short season’s gains in BB and K%, hitting cleanup for a Braves lineup that would go on to win the World Series. The 24-year-old dropped 33 home runs, 107 RBI, 91 Runs, and a .303 batting average that you could argue is as misleading as the year before (xBA of .279). Even if the average settles around .280, you’ll take this profile all day.
Riley showed 70-grade Raw Power throughout the minor leagues, so the power should not be a surprise to anyone. He dropped his GB% at the plate from 41.7% to 38.1%, increasing his line drive and fly ball rates. A 13.3% barrel percentage and 114.2 Max Exit Velocity are great signs for a slugger who has not even entered his prime yet. Riley’s greatest improvement came on off-speed pitches, where he bumped from .074 BA in 27 ABs in 2020 up to .341 BA with 7 home runs in 88 ABs in 2021. He started 156 games, all at third base, handling a heavy workload on both sides of the field, totaling 662 plate appearances. Jumping from 20th to 4th is very significant in dynasty but the majority of our rankers are believers and had him in the top-5. Drafting early helps shine a light on how scarce third base is in fantasy this year, with many of the reliable options entering their late twenties. Riley is one of the few on the good side of 25 who can be comfortably targeted in dynasty leagues. (Bob Osgood)
FALLER: GIO URSHELA, NEW YORK YANKEES (AGE: 30, CURRENT RANK: 36, PREVIOUS RANK: 18)
The drop for Gio Urshela all the way to 36 feels a bit strong. 2021 was not an ideal season by any means but a .275 average with 11 home runs and 38 RBI at the all-star break was not that far off from his pace over the previous two seasons. COVID and second-half injuries hampered him down the stretch, hitting just .248 with 3 home runs and 11 RBI while starting only 33 games after the break. His plate discipline on the season certainly regressed. The 10.3% short-season walk rate sure seems like an outlier from his 5.7% career rate, as Urshela had a putrid 4.5% rate in 2021 landing in the bottom third percentile of the league. His short-season 90th percentile strikeout rate of 14.4% ballooned to 24.7% (28th percentile).
Urshela played 96 games at third base and 28 games at shortstop, now providing that elusive Corner/Middle eligibility combo. It’s not unreasonable to throw out the bumpy second half last year and think of Urshela as a late-draft option for either corner or middle infield in leagues larger than 12-teams. He enters his age-30 season with a likely spot at the bottom of the Yankee lineup. The Steamer projection of .262/17/73 RBI/67 Runs seems reasonable, with a slight bump down in value in OBP leagues. If you need to plug the Kyle Seager retirement hole on your dynasty squad, Urshela seems like a solid buy-low target if he is in fact thought of as the #36 third baseman. (Bob Osgood)