TDG Roundtable: Hot Starts We’re Buying and Selling
Every week, 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, our staff members dish on some hot starts we’re buying and selling so far this season.
Hot Start I am buying: Michael King, RP, New York Yankees
It might be a little odd leading off with a reliever who’s not holding a closer job but I’ll tell you I’m buying Michael King right now as his stuff is dominating hitters in 2022. Last year King had an up and down campaign but finished the season strong out of the bullpen in September throwing 14.2 innings with a 1.23 ERA and 0.68 WHIP with 14 strikeouts; all those appearances pitching more than one inning. For 2022 appearances he’s gone at least two innings in four out of five times and recently had 7 straight strikeouts on his April 22nd showing vs. the Guardians. He’s the new multi-inning fireman for the Yankees.
Hot Start I am Buying: Jorge Mateo, SS, Baltimore Orioles
This analysis is quite simple, how easy is it for the player to return value, and how valuable is that return. With stolen bases long being the holy grail of roto stats, only now being challenged by saves, any player who can steal double digit bases is worth at least a bench spot except in the shallowest of leagues. Jorge Mateo is one of the fastest players in the game, with 92nd percentile sprint speed per BaseballSavant, and given an 80 grade speed rating as a prospect by ProspectsLive, Fangraphs, and ProspectsPipeline, so steals are his game.
Mateo quickly stood out this spring and earned the Orioles starting SS role, a team with little bench depth or upper minors depth at the position to pressure him even if he struggles. So far the struggles have been minor, hitting .234 with no homers and 3 RBI, but also leading the league with 7 steals. That’s why we drafted him right? He’s on pace to steal over 50 bases easily!
I’m on the side of the fence that Mateo can still improve in his batted ball data and put up a usable batting average and runs scored stats, along with near league leading stolen bases. The downside is the O’s remove him from being a starting SS, and he becomes a utility player getting reps at 2B, OF, and as a backup at SS and pinch runner. He will still be stealing LOTS of bases which again, is why we drafted him (354 NFBC ADP).
Hot Start I am buying: Seiya Suzuki, OF, Chicago Cubs
We all know Suzuki has been the biggest revelation of the 2022 season thus far; some experts are even putting him in the top 50 of all Dynasty players and with good reason. He has produced four home runs, 25 Runs + RBI and a slash line of .327/.463/.635 already in 17 games. Talk about hitting the ground running.
I was a big fan in preseason, and our own Ken Balderston did have him as the top FYPD prospect back in March, because he is the prospect guru. I took him first in two different first year player drafts, as well as drafting him in TGFBI. He was faded a bit this pre-season by two main factors: one, the lockout and the possibility existed that he would not sign and return to Japan (though Suzuki himself and his agent both reiterated he was going to play in the MLB a couple times) and two: many were skeptical as they had been burned by Ha-Seong Kim in 2021. What is weird about that one is that Kim played in Korea, not Japan, and did not have near the profile Suzuki did (shrugs shoulders).
It is true a .419 BABIP is not sustainable, but even as that will come down, that should not make Suzuki that much less valuable in the long run; expecting a 100/30/100/5/.280 season should be a floor. At only 27 years old, as the Cubs put better teammates around him expect his counting stats to rise. I turned down an offer of Aaron Nola for him, and we will see how that will work out, but I am quite confident in Suzuki being a top Dynasty player for the foreseeable future.
Hot Start I am not Buying: Anthony Rizzo, 1B, New York Yankees
If Rizzo can bring back a younger Dynasty asset due to his insanely hot start, I would be moving him. I was not a fan in preseason, making him my first baseman to avoid back in January rankings season. While his BABIP is way low at .214, a .450 ISO is not going to hold up all season. Enjoy his hot start if you are rostering him, but expecting the 32-year-old to keep up is fool’s gold. Trade him while his value is at his highest.
Hot Starts I am Buying: Ty France, 1B, SEA & Taylor Ward, OF, LAA
There’s a lot of guys I feel could have fit into this slot. Special apologies to Joe Ryan, who I am a huge fan of as well. Ultimately, I feel the need to talk about Ty France and Taylor Ward. These are two players that I’ve been following for years, waiting for this to happen. This preseason, I highlighted France as a player to target. Now that it appears that they have finally arrived, I’m looking to add them in all the places where I don’t already own them.
My interest in these two players stems entirely from the strength of their minor league breakouts. For France it came in 2019. Often disregarded, the underlying talent that France possesses was on full display at Triple-A in 2019. Juiced ball or not, his nearly 1.250 OPS (in nearly 350 PA) was *well* above even the best in the league, and is practically the stuff of legends. That’s Barry Bonds territory! Yet since he’s 27 and never graced top prospect lists, somehow most people don’t believe he’s capable of reaching another level, that his 1.066 as of this writing is a mirage.
With Ward it began in 2018 and carried through 2019 as well. As I tweeted, between 2018 and 2019, Ward slapped together stellar all-around back-to-back seasons at the highest levels of the minor leagues, slashing .327/.425/.562 with 41 HR and 29 SB. He’s lacked a commitment from the Angels to play him full-time since becoming a pro, though his OPS has improved every year in smaller samples. Joe Maddon committed to giving Ward a full-time opportunity in 2022 and the OPS has gone parabolic in response (1.380 as I write this, in the midst of another fantastic night at the plate). It may look like a small sample size, but the damage he wrought in the high minors was over nearly 1,000 plate appearances.
These are buys, not sells.
Hot Start I am Selling: Merrill Kelly, SP, ARI
I hate to do this to Merrill Kelly, because he’s not a bad pitcher. However, when I heard some hype on him I was taken aback a little. Let’s explore the facts. He’s 33 years old. For the modern game, he’s never had a particularly high strikeout rate. His WHIP currently sits at 1.266, which is almost the same as his MLB career figure. This is a guy that’s going to eat some innings and give you competent but unremarkable returns (and likely has more value in the real game than in fantasy as a result). If leaguemates are expressing interest in him due to his 1.69 ERA, take advantage!
Hot Start I am Buying: Nestor Cortes, SP, NYY
As we approach the end of May, there is a clear cut ace of the staff pitching in the Bronx. This pitcher currently holds a 1.15 ERA and 0.64 WHIP across three starts. His 44.6% K% not only leads all Yankees pitchers, but it also leads all of baseball (among SPs with a minimum of 10 IP). No, it’s not that Cole guy everybody keeps talking about. It’s Nasty Nestor Cortes!
Ok, so maybe I am getting a little carried away, and not even I would bet on Cortes out-performing Cole the rest of the season, but Nestor means business on the mound and fantasy managers need to take notice. He is currently in the top 10 percent of the league in all expected stats and he utilizes a five-pitch mix to induce a large amount of soft contact from opposing hitters. His contact metrics have improved from last year supporting the expected stats, and his Whiff-rate and his O-Zone Swing-rate have increased, backing the increased strikeouts. I do not expect Cortes to lead the league in K%, and he still gives up too many balls in the air, but I do continue to buy into what he is doing when he takes the mound every fifth day. Once he became a fixture in the starting rotation last season, from July on, he posted a respectable 3.35 ERA with over 9 K/IP. I think he was greatly overlooked during draft season with an ADP well into the 300s. Beyond the numbers, I simply believe in Cortes because I have watched him pitch. He is fearless on the mound, attacks the strike zone aggressively, and finds ways to make batters uncomfortable in the box. He may not fit the typical builds and skillsets of today’s dominant pitchers, but he leaves plenty of batters headed back to the dugout shaking their heads.
Hot Start I am Selling: Jazz Chisholm Jr., 2B, MIA
I admittedly was not in on Chisholm Jr. during draft season this year and therefore do not have him rostered in any of my leagues. Watching some early highlights and seeing nightly box scores have definitely made me waver some, but digging a little deeper into his stats makes me question the sustainability of his numbers. He is making plenty of hard contact, but his barrel percentage of 17% is almost doubled compared to last season, and it seems unreasonable to believe it will continue at this rate. I believe his average exit velocity under 90 mph and max exit velocity of only 108 mph so far this year back up this claim. Chisholm Jr. is striking out almost 30% of the time and his walk rate is slightly down this season, at just below 7%. A regression in barrel rate and sustained strikeout rate should soon cause his .286 BA to fall back to somewhere around .250. In fact, Jazz is currently over-performing all of his current expected stats by considerable margins (BA – xBA = .036, SLG – xSLG = .121, wOBA – xwOBA = . 053). I do think Chisholm Jr. is an excellent athlete who offers a true power/speed combo (albeit with only a 74% SB success rate in 2021), but I don’t think a next level breakout is upon us just yet.
Hot start I am buying: Will Crowe, RP, Pittsburgh Pirates
I’m always the fan of players who can come off the wire and just become valuable fantasy contributors, and Crowe fits the bill for me. He was an afterthough coming into the year after posting an ERA of 5.48 in 2021 and being demoted to the bullpen. The move has breathed new life into him, as he’s yet to allow an earned run in 13 plus innings and struck out 31% of batters faced.
What’s the key for Crowe’s improvements? The stuff has simply gotten better. He’s added almost 1 MPH to his fastball, 1.5 inches of drop to his changeup, and 1.6 inches of drop to his curveball. He’s also changed his pitch mix, throwing the fastball less and his changeup more. Batters are chasing the new stuff more than last year, putting Crowe in the 80th percentile for chase rate.
Despite the great start, Crowe’s future role is a bit up in the air. Despite getting work in the later innings he’s only earned 1 save and 1 hold. Spoiler alert, Pittsburgh is not a very good team so saves and holds may be tough to come by. However, with the Pirates being short on talented starting pitchers it’s very possible Crowe gets another shot at the rotation sooner rather than later.
Hot Start I am Selling: Dylan Bundy, SP, Minnesota Twins
Bundy has gotten off to a great start, with a 0.59 ERA in 15.1 innings, giving some hope that the former top prospect may be on the verge of a bounceback season. And while I doubt he will be better than his 2021 numbers, there are some warning signs that regression is coming.
First, the 90% LOB% is ridiculously high. That will surely come back down to his 71.5% career average which will inflate the ERA. The 1.7% BB% isn’t sustainable, along with the .222 BABIP. Bundy also isn’t missing many bats, with a 20% K% and is in the 20% percentile of Whiff%. His fastball velocity is also towards the bottom of the league.
Bundy could finish the season as a serviceable pitcher but I see him coming back to earth soon. If there was a contender willing to offer something valuable for him I would take it and run.
Hot Start I’m Buying: J.P. Crawford, SS, Seattle Mariners
You really have to love this Mariners team. After years of underachieving, they’ve started to climb out of the depths and I couldn’t be more here for it. Leading the charge are Ty France (who I won’t speak on as he’s named above, but who I also love) and one J.P. Crawford.
Crawford’s had an interesting career at the plate. I won’t lie – I haven’t always been enamored with his bat. His game’s typically been a bit too slappy for me in a fantasy sense, without much else exciting to lure me in. This year, however, is a different story.
This year, he’s slashing .343/.444/.567 with 3 homers and a lone steal. I know, it’s 77 plate appearances, but hear me out. Since 2019, Crawford has shown an ability to not strike out, but this year he’s also really upped his strolling game, bringing his walk rate up to a career-high 13%. Not only that, but in this small sample, he’s already smacked 25% of the amount of his 2021 barrels, in only 12% of his 2021 plate appearances. Translation? Well, it appears we’re seeing a player (who’s still just 27 years young, mind you) take a strong developmental leap here. Plate discipline is improving, he’s barreling balls more frequently than ever, and he’s now backed by a team poised to win quite a few games. He’s quickly becoming a target for me in leagues of all sizes.