Dynasty BaseballTriple Play

TDG’S Triple Play: Milwaukee Brewers!

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!

Follow Phil (@barrington_phil), Sam Wirsching (@SamFBB1), and Patrick Magnus (@TheGreenMagnus) on Twitter and read their analysis here at the site!


Luis Urias, Age: 25  Position: 2B/3B/SS

Analysis by: Sam Wirsching

Luis Urias is a young infielder who plays everywhere but first base. In most leagues, he has eligibility at 2B, 3B, SS, MI, and CI, and that makes his potential as a glue guy for a fantasy roster huge. He plays for a good team offensively and he generally hits in the top half of the order so opportunities for counting stats are there. This season however he is not making the regular contact he needs to stay relevant in 15-team leagues or even rostered in 10-team leagues. As one of my dark horses coming into the season I am hopeful he can find his groove at the plate.

Not to be confused with Luis Arraez

Luis is a right-handed hitter who, this season, has hit lefties better than he hits righties, which is a problem because he isn’t doing a whole lot against lefties. Overall in the majors he has a batting line of .236/.330/.385 which is just under league average. So far in 2022 he is under-performing his career line and his OPS this year is just .663 Not good, and certainly not a starter in a roto settings because he doesn’t steal bases. In fact in 320 games played he has nine total steals been caught five times. Not good. At all. So why was Luis one of my targets in dynasty this off season, and why am I hopeful he will turn it around?

Let’s start with his foundation as a prospect and a player. Urias was a hit-first prospect who didn’t strike out often and generated a good number of walks. He had a good feel at the plate early for what he wanted to do and in the minors regularly had an OPS north of .800. He also had good splits against righties and lefties. He really didn’t have one glaring weakness… except for his power. He made a lot of contact, just not hard contact. A number of people wrote about that when Milwaukee traded for him with San Diego. Eric Longenhagen wrote a nice piece on Fangraphs about how others with his profile (Mookie Betts, Jose Ramirez) came around and developed in ways the industry missed. Luis had a chance to be special if he developed power and kept his strikeout/walk rates where they were.

Not to be confused with his brother Ramon.

The 2021 season is when I became a believer and was all in! His batting average started to perform like it should have and he started hitting home runs. By the end of the season his totals were .249/.345/.445 with 25 HR, 77 Runs, and 75 RBI. He kept his patience (11.1% walk rate), looked for his pitches (20.4% k rate), and hit them hard when he did (40.5% hard hit rate). He was looking like the perfect glue guy for any roster coming into 2022. The breakout was happening!

So 2022? And Beyond?? He started the season in the IL with a nagging quadriceps injury that kept him out all of April. He hasn’t found his groove yet at the plate. His biggest problem is breaking balls. His average against those pitches in 2021 was .262, but in 2022 it has fallen to .122. Yikes. I think there is going to be regression and he will adjust. He is only 25 years old and is still being patient at the plate (his walk rate is the only improvement this year at 11.6%). I think that as the calendar turns to July and he gets some distance between himself and his nagging injury from March and April he will look like the 2021 version of himself with a good chance for more. I believe he is a buy low anywhere you play in 12-team leagues or bigger. Cheers! 

 


Eric Lauer, Age: 27, Position: Starting Pitcher

Analysis by: Patrick Magnus

Wait, I’m Writing about Eric Lauer?

Let me be clear, I was not expecting this. Throughout the off-season, I do think I hear some rumors about there being upside with Lauer, but it was nothing I ever took seriously. That appears to have been a rather big mistake on my part. We’re 74 innings into his 2022 campaign, and he’s been very, very good. The guy has single helped keep many of my fantasy/dynasty teams a float this year, and I am very thankful. 

Team/YearIPK/9BB/9ERA
SDP/2018112.08.043.704.34
SDP/2019149.28.303.074.45
MIL/202011.09.827.3613.09
MIL/2022118.28.873.113.19
MIL/202374.09.362.803.89

Sliding Slider Scales

While I mentioned the 74 innings he’s spun this season, you can actually take a look back to his 2021, and see the start of his improvements. In 2021 he began throwing his slider more often, and it became a powerful pitch for him. MLB Trade Rumours states that Lauer’s slider is in the same class and even more effective than the sliders of “Dylan Cease, Shohei Ohtani, Max Scherzer, Tarik Skubal….” That’s some pretty damn impressive company. 

In 2021 his slider held batters to a .197 WOBA and ended up being his putaway pitch 25% of the time. Those results built confidence in Lauer and he spent his off-season working strength training. 

“It was more a focus on strength training and finally getting used to my body being synched up like it is now. I spent a lot of time this off-season focusing on upper body movement and strength so I think we’re finally seeing everything line up.” MLB Trade Rumours 06/06/2022

The results? An increase in velocity for just about every pitch he throws. 

Baseball Savant

These two factors are what have led to Lauer taking the league by storm this season. As of now, his fastball is now an average pitch. It’s no longer the meatball hitters can sit on and wait for. The pitch has become effective enough that it’s kept hitters off guard.

Where the Lauer Meets the Rub

The good news is just about everything I’ve written thus far, AND he is with an organization that has helped get the most out of numerous pitchers. The Brewers are an org I trust with arms. I think one clear reason his pitch mix has changed so much within the last few seasons has been his interactions with his new club. I’d guess they are partially the reason he’s completely ditched his change-up (it’s garbage). 

HOWEVER, the projection systems don’t seem to believe this back-end starter to frontline starter narrative. They expect a rise in BABIP, and that Lauer will be unable to maintain his current LOB% of 78. There are some data from Baseball Savant that helps back this up as well. Our boy here generates A LOT of hard contact. Max EV of 116, barrel% of 7.4, and an average EV of 89.4 (don’t @ me nerds). These are all above league average and certainly, support the xERA of 4.42.

The good news is that between 21-22 we have 192 innings of a 9.12 K/9, 78.9% LOB, and a .253 BABIP. So while the projection systems don’t seem to believe it, we’ve got a good amount of innings here with him beating the odds. 

My biggest issue with Sir Lauer as a frontline starter is that he really only possesses one plus pitch, and one average pitch. The curve and cutter have not been getting the job done. The curve offers very few swing-and-miss opportunities and is generally hit into the air. If this Brewers pitcher wants to remain a weapon in that rotation, I think we’ve got to put some hope that he turns his cutter into a decent weapon. Brooks Baseball has this to say about his cutter “His cutter is thrown at a speed that’s borderline unfair, has good ‘rise’ and has little cutting action.”

In my opinion, if we’re gonna get this new Lauer we all love and want to succeed, this is the pitch that keeps him from middle-rotation/bullpen arm. I think if you nabbed Lauer off waivers and have someone desperate for pitching, he’s not a bad player to trade. Though maybe wait for some strong outings. If you’re attached to players and their narratives like some people (me), maybe ride it out and see where Mr. Lauer takes us.

 


Antoine Kelly, Age: 22, Position: SP, Level: Single-A+

Analysis by: Phil Barrington

Antoine Jermaine Kelly was born in Chicago, Illinois, and being from Chicago as well, I have a soft spot for guys from my hometown. Originally drafted from Maine East High School in Park Ridge, Illinois by the Padres in the 13th round; Kelly did not sign and instead attended Wabash Valley College in Mount Carmel in the southern part of Illinois.

Down in the Valley

He started 13 games in college, putting up video game numbers: 112 strikeouts compared to 31 walks, only 21 hits enroute to a 1.88 ERA and 0.99 WHIP in 52 2/3 innings pitched. That led the Brewers to draft Kelly in the second round (61st overall) in the 2019 draft, moving up 316 picks in only one year. He was able to pitch 28 2/3 innings that year in Rookie ball, striking out 41 to only five walks with a 1.26 ERA and 0.91 WHIP. Then Covid happened and he had the 2020 season off.

Valley So Low

Kelly had thoracic outlet syndrome in November of 2020; here is a quick summary courtesy of mlb.com:

The thoracic outlet lies at the lower part of the neck, beginning just above and behind the collarbone and extending into the upper arm and chest, and thoracic outlet syndrome results when the nerves and blood vessels in this area are compressed. The result is pain, weakness, fatigue and numbness or tingling in the arm or hand, particularly with activities in which the arm is elevated.

The result was a pectoralis minor release surgery and a first rib resection surgery (removing part of the rib, which Kelly has in a jar, in case you wanted to know that. I didn’t but when I read it I would be remiss not to share it.) This limited Kelly starting the 2021 season until late July, and he only threw 18 1/3 innings the rest of the season.

Hear the wind blow

Kelly has a killer fastball, and that was the (main) reason for all those Ks. The issue was that he did not really have much in the way of secondary offerings, so the Brewers main job was to help develop those. First, the slider. Once he was able to pitch in 2021, the slider looked like a plus-plus pitch, earning a 60-grade on FanGraphs and a 55 on mlb.com. The Brewers have been working with him in 2022 on adding a changeup, with the plans on Kelly being a future starter.

Well, 2022 has gone as well as it could thus far. In 64 2/3 innings pitched (as of this writing), Kelly has started 13 games; over 64 2/3 innings he has 84, walked 33, with an ERA of 3.34 and WHIP of 1.13. In nine of those 13 starts he pitched at least five innings. A better start one could not ask for.

Build me a castle forty feet high

The six-foot-six lefty has a a great fastball and slider, and, with the need to develop a third pitch, reminds me a bit of Aaron Ashby. The way 2022 is going Kelly should reach Double-A by season’s end, and if he does well there, maybe he starts 2023 at Triple-A. When asked, our top prospect analyst Ken Balderston brought up that Kelly has only given up three home runs, but also the biggest test for Kelly will be as he climbs levels, how he does against right handed batters.

Knowing the Brewers, Kelly will head to the bullpen first to make his major league debut; expecting him to start before 2024 is a long time to wait. But you know what they saw about what comes to those who wait, right? At present Kelly is rostered in only 8% of Fantrax leagues, but if he keeps putting up numbers like this, he is going to sneak onto some top 100 prospect lists for 2023, and that percentage is going to reach double digits in no time.

The Author

Phil Barrington

Phil Barrington

Fantasy player since 1999, specializing in OPS leagues. Accountant by day, fantasy writer by night. Spreadsheets are life.

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