TDG 2023 PLAYERS TO TARGET: OUTFIELD
There are always a lot of outfielders to choose from, as a vast majority of leagues start between three and five, you have to be prepared to go deep to find those prospects, and look for value to find players to help win your leagues. Here is a vet, a young player, and a far-off prospect that should be available for less than their future value, in this writer’s humble opinion.
ALEK THOMAS, ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS (AGE: 23, RANK: 53)
When predicting where Alek Thomas would play a majority of his games in 2022, most would not have said, at the beginning of the season, that they would be at the big-league level. The DBacks called him up on May 8th after 27 games at Triple-A; he was their Centerfielder for the rest of the season, playing almost every day and hitting second, seventh, or eighth in the lineup. However, Thomas really struggled in his first full big-league season against his fellow left-handers, hitting only .198 against them in 96 Plate Appearances. The last month of the season he hit .127 with no homers or steals in 17 games. It was a rough, rough end, there is no doubt about that. We also are not sure if he will even start the 2023 season with the big league club. That’s the bad.
Thomas worked his way up after being a second-round pick in 2018 out of Mt. Carmel High School in Chicago, though missing the 2020 season cut short a year of development. Focusing on his 2021 minor league season; he started at Double-A, ended at Triple-A, while hitting 18 homers and 13 steals (though was caught nine times), and slashing a .313/.394/.559 in 495 plate appearances. Thomas has been consistent with a walk rate about 10% and a strikeout rate under 20% in the minors, and he did well in the bigs, striking out only 18% of the time, while walking 5.4%. He also had a low .263 BABIP, when in the minors he was consistently above .350.
Right now, Roster Resource has Corbin Carroll platooning in centerfield, and Thomas in the minors. The recent trade of Daulton Varsho, who played in the outfield last season, opens up more at-bats for Thomas. Also, Carroll played 25 games in left field last season compared to only five in center, which leads me to believe that they prefer Thomas in center…if he hits, that is. He is one to monitor in spring because if he does poorly there, more than likely he starts the 2023 season in Triple-A. If you have Thomas on your roster, I would hold, and if not, see what the cost entails to add him to your team. It may be less than you think, just be prepared to wait out an up-and-down 2023.
AUSTIN MEADOWS, DETROIT TIGERS (AGE: 27, RANK: 58)
Meadows had a tough end to the 2022 season, which I am sure he wants to forget. Physical ailments combined with mental ones lead Meadows to prematurely end his season, though he remained with the team on a day-to-day basis. It is commendable for Meadows to admit his struggles with mental health and let us hope he comes back better in 2023, both physically and mentally.
That though, is at the heart of the issue. Do you believe that Meadows can come back and at least put up numbers like he did in 2021; where he hit 27 homers and compiled 185 Runs + RBI; or his breakout 2019, where he hit 33 homers and made the All-Star team. Meadows turns 28 a month into the 2023 season, so age-wise he is right in his prime. The good take aways from 2022: Walk and strikeout rates of about 11%, leading to an OBP of .347. The bad: no home runs or steals, a Slugging of .328. Let’s throw out the good and the bad, and pencil him in for 500+ AB, with 20+ homers, a few steals, and 150+ Runs + RBI, with a .250/.330/.430 in an improved Tigers lineup, with room to grow.
Meadows has an ADP as the 71st OF off the board in early NFBC leagues, so while I believe in him, at the cost of a bench OF, the chance is there for a rebound at a low entry point this upcoming season. It’s the same in Dynasty leagues as you may be able to acquire him for the cost of a lower draft pick, or prospect; for example, this off-season I made a 1-for-1 deal in a 16-team dynasty league straight up for Twins prospect Austin Martin (trying to put my money where my mouth is with these posts). Be like Drew Carey, and make sure the price is right, before overbidding on that new dishwasher.
JOSUE DE PAULA, LOS ANGELES DODGERS (LEVEL: SINGLE-A, AGE: 17, RANK: UNRANKED)
Coming in at #51 on our Dynasty Prospect Rankings, and not making the top 150, there is still a lot to like about De Paula’s profile coming into 2023 and beyond, and I didn’t want any non-Dodgers fans to miss out on the opportunity to add him in your leagues. The cousin of former NBA point guard Stephon Marbury, de Paula was born in Brooklyn and moved to the Dominican, where he performed well enough to be signed by the Dodgers last international signing period; but did not make the top 50 international prospect list by mlb.com nor featured amongst the Dodgers international signings.
De Paula hit the ground running, and never stopped, once he started the 2022 season. He was a Post-Season All-Star in the DSL, after playing 53 games. In 186 AB, de Paula had a 42/5/30/16 stat line, with a slash of .349/.448/.522, and that planted him firmly on the prospect map. The young lefty slugger was even slightly better hitting against left-handed pitching compared to their right-handed counterparts. A strikeout to walk rate of 31:32 intrigues us even more.
With size already (he is listed at 6’3” and 185 pounds); De Paula will only be 18-years-old a couple months into 2023 season. Though he is at least a few years from the majors, a solid first season (returning) stateside will vault him up prospect lists. Currently his is rostered in half of my Dynasty leagues (the deeper ones), so the opportunity may be there to add him to some of your teams when the upcoming season gets underway.