TDG’S Triple Play: San Francisco Giants!
The Triple Play is back for a fifth season! This regular feature is broken down by senior writer Phil Barrington and he is joined by a rotating panel of some of the best Dynasty Baseball writers in the business. 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!
Carlos Rodón, Age: 29, Position: LHP
Analysis by: Colin Coulahan
Undrafted Pitcher to League Winner
Going into the 2021 season Carlos Rodón was virtually undrafted in most fantasy leagues and probably only rostered in the deepest dynasty leagues. Rodón had shown the potential of being a good pitcher earlier in his career, but shoulder injuries, Tommy John surgery, and a poor seven innings in 2020 made him an afterthought in the fantasy community…but Rodón quickly became a valuable fantasy asset after stringing together several great starts and finished the year with a 2.37 ERA and 185 strikeouts in 130 innings and became one of the top pitchers in baseball.
There were two main reasons for Rodón’s success. After years of battling injuries, Rodón was able to stay healthy and on the field for most of the year. There was one IL trip for shoulder soreness, but Rodón was able to come back and finish the year with reduced velocity. The velocity on his pitches hit career highs. A curveball added to his arsenal.
Risk vs. Reward
Despite finishing 2021 as one of the top pitchers in baseball, there was a lot of uncertainty on how to value Rodón this off-season. I saw quite a few trades classified as “selling low” on Rodón, and his ADP, until the day he signed with the San Francisco Giants, was 123rd overall. He was the 45th pitcher off the board, after Giovanny Gallegos, Charlie Morton, and Justin Verlander. Just for reference, Verlander was coming back from Tommy John, and Morton was recovering from a broken leg.
After the drop in velocity Rodón experienced towards the end of 2021, the history of shoulder issues and the White Sox not sending him the qualifying offer killed his value. Fantasy baseball players are already scared of risk, and there was too much to take Rodón at his actual cost. Most dynasty owners didn’t want to be caught holding the bag if Rodón were to go down with a severe injury in 2022 and wanted to get whatever they could for him.
A Perfect Landing Spot
On March 14th, Rodón signed a two-year contract with the San Francisco Giants, and his stock immediately shot up. San Francisco was the absolute perfect team for Rodón. It’s a pitcher’s ballpark, and San Francisco has a track record of handling oft-injured pitchers well. The “market” responded to this news, with his ADP jumping up to just inside the top 100.
Three starts into his Giants career, and those who took the chance on Rodón or held on have been rewarded. In 17 innings, Rodón has struck out 45% of batters and has an ERA of 1.06. His stuff has also somehow gotten better. Rodón’s fastball is being thrown at a career-best 96 MPH, the slider has a 56% whiff rate, and he’s throwing the curveball more. The changeup, arguably his “worst” pitch last year, has yet to be thrown.
Rodón is in the midst of his prime and should thrive while in San Francisco. I have the utmost confidence that the Giants will be able to manage his workload. Rodón could easily finish 2022 as one of the top pitchers in baseball. If you bought low on him this off-season, I raise my glass to you.
Thairo Estrada, Age: 26, Position: Second Base/Shortstop
Analysis by: Phil Barrington
Estrada signed with the Yankees all the way back in 2012 for $49,000; not huge money, but the Yankees liked what they saw out of the 16-year-old prospect from Venezuela. They were patient with him, as he played 50 games of rookie ball in 2013 and did not reach Double-A for four years. He exhibited a little speed, almost no power, while showing a top end batting eye, suitable for a good average and on-base percentage. Things were going well for Estrada in 2017; in 542 plate appearances at Double-A Trenton he sported a slash line of .301/.353/.392 to go along with six home runs, eight steals, and 120 Runs + RBI. He was climbing Yankees prospect lists, cracking the top-10 on some and was in the top-20 on all the others.
Then, January 2018 happened. Estrada was shot in the right thigh in his home of Bejuma, Venezuela, in a robbery gone wrong. Even after multiple surgeries, the bullet is still inside his body. Whoa.
Thus his 2018 season was very short; only appearing in 18 games. In 2019 though, he began to break through, and was called up to the big-league club after 60 Triple-A games. While appearing sparingly that season, he still had four steals, three home runs, and 24 Runs + RBI in only 69 plate appearances. In Covid shortened 2020, though, he regressed; while he was a part of the team and earned 52 plate appearances, he did little with them. So, in Spring 2021, the Yankees designated him for assignment in order to sign Rougned Odor (don’t laugh).
Everybody wants to be wanted
The Giants agreed to acquire Estrada for cash considerations; pretty good deal for them, and sent Estrada back to Triple-A, this time close by at Sacramento. Estrada proceeded to have his best minor league season with nine homers, six steals, 77 Runs + RBI and a slash line of .333/.399/.538 in only 50 games before being called up to the big club. For the Giants he was able to fill in at second base, shortstop, and a couple games in left field and third base while also producing at the plate, with seven home runs and a slash line of .273/.333/.479 in 132 plate appearances.
This season thus far, Estrada has been the everyday second baseman, usually as the seven-hole hitter but also appearing in the fifth or sixth spot a few times. While only hitting two home runs and stealing three bases thus far, and slashing only .259/.302/.397, though that is with a below-average .271 BABIP. Still though, those steals should keep coming, and some homers to boot.
Estrada is really dialed into hitting fastballs early this season (.435 average) when last season those were his bugaboo (.250 average). Last season, he had over a .300 average against breaking balls and off-speed pitches, this season it is less than .200. So if he can get back to his normal, good hitting self, with the added better hitting of fastballs, watch out.
Estrada or Nada
Currently ranked in top-30 of all players on Yahoo! and 23rd on the Razzball player rater, Estrada is already paying dividends to the savvy managers who know that Tommy LaStella will never stay healthy.Now will he finish that highly? Magic Eight-ball says “not likely.” But Estrada can still provide a lot of value if he can reach a 15/15, .300 season, which is possible. Qualifying at both middle infielder positions (as well as Outfield in Yahoo!), he is rostered in 64% of Fantrax leagues and 62% of Yahoo! ones; so it is possible he is gone in your league…but maybe not. I was able to add him in a couple 16-team dynasty league teams this season; it is definitely possible he is available in your league. If you need middle infield help by a player still young enough to continue to improve, Estrada is your guy.
Hunter Bishop, Age: 23, Position: OF, Level: High-A
Analysis by: Aaron Cumming
Hunter Bishop has been a highly regarded athlete since lettering in two sports at Junípero Serra High School. Despite his power/speed combo, he slipped to the 24th round in the 2016 amateur draft due to concerns about his hit tool. He decided against signing with the Padres at that time, and instead bet on himself and the coaching staff at Arizona State University. His first two seasons gave new life to those hit tool concerns, as he had a 28.7% strikeout rate across those campaigns. His junior season saw him cut that rate by almost a quarter, dropping to 21.8%. That improvement sparked an eruption that allowed him to spend most of the year leading all of the NCAA in home runs before tailing off in the second half of the season. He impressed enough people to earn First Team All-American honors, and catapulted to the top of the 2019 draft, where the Giants selected him at pick 10 overall.
Not Much of a Gatherer
Since being drafted almost three years ago, Hunter has appeared in just 48 professional games coming into this season. Turf toe, COVID, and a shoulder injury have limited his opportunities to gain experience or momentum in the minor leagues, and his performance has suffered horribly. He struggled his way to a .200 batting average, with a 30.1% strikeout rate in those games. And after coming back from the shoulder injury in 2021, his arm strength was significantly worse. With his speed, he was able to hold his own in centerfield, but a depleted ability to make the needed throws may limit him to left field in the long run. The Giants have some experience with an athletic left fielder from Serra High who went to college at ASU, but you’d be hard pressed to find many other similarities between Bishop and Barry Bonds.
When he’s been healthy and on the field, Bishop has been anything but aggressive at the plate. So in addition to his struggles to gather at bats, he hasn’t shown a willingness to hunt for his pitches either. His passivity has propped up his walk numbers due to the simple fact that pitchers in the low minors don’t possess the level of control to consistently attack a hitter with this approach. So his paltry line begets even further concern than the surface numbers might indicate.
Rookie to Bishop ‘24?
As a recent first round pick with lots of physical tools, Bishop still has his believers. His fans will point to his Arizona Fall League performance as proof that he can improve his hit tool. In an interview with Fangraphs’ David Laurila, Hunter highlighted his need to get more playing time and see more pitches before he will truly feel comfortable. He has been disappointing to start the 2022 season, poking two home runs last week, but only holding a .130 batting average through his first 12 games. If he can stay healthy and get to that comfortable state in the batter’s box, he will likely finish the year in Double-A, and hopefully progress to get a taste of the majors at the end of ‘23 before graduating the following season. Unfortunately, without making significant improvements, he may only have the upside of someone like Adolis García. If Bishop is hovering around the Mendoza line, he will struggle to find regular playing time and won’t be a serious contributor for the Giants or any fantasy rosters. Despite the potential and pedigree, I think it’s safe to move on from Bishop in most formats.
A True King
As an aside, Hunter Bishop and his brother, Braden Bishop (an outfielder in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization), created and run a charity to support Alzheimer’s research called 4MOM. The non-profit was formed after their mother was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s, before she passed away in 2019. They’ve done excellent work to help combat the disease, and have also partnered with SABR Baseball Memories to generate reminiscence programs for baseball fans who suffer from Alzheimer’s and other cognitive diseases.