TDG’S Triple Play: Boston Red Sox!
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!
Alex Verdugo, Age: 26, Position: OF
Analysis by: Phil Barrington
The Executioners Song
Alexander Brady Verdugo was the key piece of the deal that brought Mookie Betts to the Dodgers; before that, he was a top-50 overall, 50 Future Value prospect; and before that he was a second-round selection of the Dodgers back in 2014. He rose through the Dodgers system quickly, making his major league debut in 2017. He played in 109 games in 2019 for the Dodgers, putting up unspectacular but solid numbers; in 377 ABs totaling 12 homers, four steals, 87 Runs + RBI and slashing an above average .294/.342/.475. Back injuries popped up a couple of times, even ending his 2019 season early. Then he was off to Boston. He put up good slash lines for a guy that does not hit many home runs; going into this season, over his MLB career (1313 plate appearances) he had a .290/.348/.444 slugging, good for a .791 OPS, and an above-average OPS+ of 110.
Since Verdugo has never been a major source of home runs, and does not steal many bases, when his batting average suffers, his value drops to that of an average, replacement-level player. That is what has happened in 2022 thus far, with his worst stat line to date; in 584 plate appearances, he only has nine homers and one steal, 132 Runs +RBI help salvage a little value, and the .281 batting average helps in those leagues, but the .330 OBP is the lowest of his full season big league career thus far. He has become pull-heavy in the power department, hitting all of his 13 home runs this season to right or right-center field, after being more democratic in prior seasons.
Execute the plan!
A good defender, only 26-years-old, with an above-average batting average is going to find himself starting in big league lineups. Verdugo will not be a free agent until after the 2024 season, at a reasonable cost (this season his salary was $3.55 million), and by then he will only be 29 years old.
There are some bright spots in 2022 as well. A 12% K rate is good for the top 94th percentile in the league, and the 35 doubles is already a career-high. His advanced stats still show a lot of red; it is below his normal BABIP that has led to a dip in his batting average, and thus OBP as well. It is easy to think Verdugo’s best years are ahead of him, as his 96% ownership in Fantrax, would attest, even though he is only the 93rd overall rated hitter on the Razzball player rater this season.
On the few teams, I roster him, I am going to put him on the block, as I no longer see a guy who will even go 15/15. However, a well above-average batting average and decent Runs + RBI hitting in a (usually) good lineup will have a place on most Dynasty League teams, as a bounce back to his pre-2022 form seems likely. As a fourth or fifth outfielder, one could do worse. If you have an overabundance of OF, trading him for a 1st round FYPD is an idea as well. I would rather move him for many of the guys after his ranking in our most recent Top 500 for AVG and OBP leagues, where Verdugo ranked 199th and 189th, respectively, so do what you have to do.
Nathan Eovaldi, Age: 32, Position: SP
Analysis by: Aaron Cumming
Nobody, including everyone in the Baltimore Orioles organization, expected the Boston Red Sox to be in last place in the AL East mid-way through September. This is basically the equivalent of Dr. Strange holding up one finger saying we are in the least likely timeline. Injuries, bad play, and a poorly timed and executed rebuild have all conspired to have this team lose more games than they’ve won so far. The shining example of all of those troubles is Nathan Eovaldi. After he pitched the most heroic losing effort in World Series history during the 2018 Fall classic, the cult hero signed a four-year deal with the BoSox that has been, in the most flattering of terms, uneven. A free agent this offseason, it remains to be seen what he will be moving forward.
Eovading Injury Is No Easy Task
I was told I have a word count limit, so I don’t want to list off all of Eovaldi’s injuries. Suffice it to say that he keeps a tab open with several doctors. Despite those injury concerns, Eovaldi’s electric fastball has made him an appealing option throughout his career. After recovering from his second Tommy John surgery, he was regularly throwing that offering above 100 MPH. He lacked elite movement on the pitch, though, so it didn’t play up to its reputation as much as his employers would’ve liked, but he was still able to dot the strike zone and work his breaking pitches off of it.
The first full year Eovaldi spent in Boston was a truly inauspicious start to his tenure. He spent months on the IL and was bounced back and forth between the rotation and bullpen, even getting demoted out of the closer role at one point. In 2020, he started to find his groove and was named as the team’s Opening Day starter for the first of what would be three consecutive seasons. His performance stabilized and (despite yet another IL trip) became Boston’s best pitcher. 2021 is when he really announced himself, though. He topped 182 innings across 32 starts and struck out 195 batters en route to a 4th place Cy Young finish. So far in 2022, he has had two 30+ day stints on the IL, and is teetering on the verge of not making another start this year. While on the field, he has seen diminished velocity and has slightly underperformed projections across the board, currently sitting 9th among Boston pitchers in fWAR.
Nathan For You
This certainly isn’t the showing Eovaldi was hoping to have entering free agency. And despite the Red Sox not trading him at the deadline, it appears that they aren’t setting themselves up to bring him back. The time missed in the second half of the year must have them scared of even extending a qualifying offer, let alone a multi-year deal. His recent comments about his frustration following the release of catcher Kevin Plawecki seems to have sealed the fate of this divorce. Plawecki’s rumored signing with the Texas Rangers has all the makings of setting the table to bring Texas native Eovaldi back to the Lone Star State. While Globe Life Stadium has played more homer-friendly than expected this year, it would still be a marked improvement from the cozy confines of Fenway.
Regardless of where Eovaldi takes his talents, he’s also taking his injury history. Entering his age 33 season in 2023, he will be an innings risk for any fantasy roster. But with supreme zone rates, he offers a nice WHIP floor, while still giving you surprising upside for a veteran player. Depending on the cost and his Spring Training velocities, he could be worth a flier for a team looking to compete.
Blaze Jordan, Age: 19, Position: 1B/3B, Level: High-A
Analysis by: Phil Barrington
Blazing a trail
Drafted in the third round (pick 92 overall) of the 2020 draft, coming out of DeSoto Central in Southaven Mississippi, Jordan signed for more than $1 million over slot. Some thought he had the most power in the draft; he currently has a 60 future power grade (from FanGraphs and mlb.com). The Red Sox moved the corner infield prospect along slowly, and he started 2022 off at Single-A Salem. Most of his age 19 season was spent there and he produced well enough; in 415 plate appearances, he hit eight homers, stole four bases, 105 Runs + RBI, and slashed .287/.357/.446.
The batting average was surprisingly higher than expected, albeit with a little less power. Though it is possible Jordan’s reputation for power (he hit a 394ft homer as an 11-year-old, and 500+ as a 15-year-old) and his solid frame at 6’1” and 220 pounds, made some evaluators see a three true outcomes power hitter. Jordan has previously said, “I’ve never really had swing-and-miss in my life so I don’t know where a lot of that stuff was coming from, because I was even seeing some of that stuff, too, and it was really confusing to me.”
Catch a Fire
The good slash line continued once he was promoted to High-A Greenville in the Sally League; in 106 plate appearances (as of this writing) Jordan has slashed .301/.387/.441 with four home runs. His K rate at Low-A was only 16.1% and his walk rate was 8.9%. In the limited 106 plate appearances at High-A the K rate jumped a bit to 25.5% though the walk rate slightly improved at 10.4%. A full season of High-A and a promotion to Double-A in 2023 is more than likely.
2022 has seen him split his time between third base and first base, giving him multiple paths to big league playing time. Coming into the season Jordan ranked in the top 150 on most lists; of the lists I track two ranked him inside the top-100. Expect him to rise after a solid season at Single-A, a warranted promotion, and holding his own in a league he is 3.7 years, on average, younger than his fellow league mates.
While Boston has more well-known prospects (like his Greenville teammate and friend Marcelo Mayer), Jordan is worthwhile if one can have patience; he may not make his major league debut until 2024 (when he would only be 21 years old), or even 2025. Our recent Top 500 OBP Dynasty players ranked him at 443, and 426 on the AVG list, so a lot of room to improve, but also with the possibility of bringing back a quality asset if necessary. Jordan has a fire first name which will only add to his hype if 2023 follows his current career trajectory.