TDG’S Triple Play: San Fransisco Giants!
The Triple Play is back for a sixth 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!
This week I (@barrington_phil) am joined by Colin Coulahan (@cjc07), and Drew Klein (@aok_fan), follow us on Twitter and send us any questions, feedback, disagreements, what have yous, in the comments.
Michael Conforto, Age: 30, Position: OF
Analysis by: Phil Barrington
Michael “Scooter” Conforto is certainly not an unknown, that’s for sure. A Mets starter for 2016-2021, Conforto had three straight years of 27+ home runs; Mets fans remember, as do those who rostered him through his most productive seasons of 2017-19. A career .356 OBP and .825 OPS has always had him on my list (since way back when I used to write for another site about OPS Leaguers and uniting).
March winds will blow all my troubles away
Conforto had one of the strangest free agent seasons in recent memory; he was supposed to sign, and then never did, as all his suitors must’ve read the reports, or watched the video of Conforto injuring his shoulder on a wicked hard swing (it just looks painful). Thus, he became a free agent at the worst time, and sat out the whole 2022 season recovering from shoulder surgery. Teams shied away this off-season due to the thought he couldn’t play right field with his surgically repaired shoulder, but the Giants weren’t, and they signed him on January 6th of this year.
The Sun will shine, in my back door some day
He was forgotten man in NFBC leagues, taken with the 234th overall pick on average. However, Conforto has started 2023 off with a bang, playing right-field everyday and has already hit three homers in 43 plate appearances as of April 9th, added on 13 Runs + RBI with a helpful OBP of .372 and OPS of .872. Conforto is signed through next year (though if he stays healthy and attains 350 plate appearances, he can elect free agency after the season). Right now, things are looking good for that to happen.
There is some downside though, and he’s definitely in danger of a platoon, as he sat April 10th as the Giants faced the Dodgers ace lefty Julio Urias. His career OBP versus lefties is .314 (compared to a great .372 against righties). Also, Conforto’s K rate has been too high thus far (32.6%) and one could chalk that up to the rust of missing a whole season (if looking on the bright side).
I know you rider, gonna miss me when I’m gone
Conforto is only one month into his age-30 season; so is by no means done as a productive baseball player. Obviously, shoulder injuries give us all pause, and this is his second shoulder surgery (the last one back in late 2017). But if he bounces back this season expect him to get a better deal than he just signed (and he’s getting $18 million per season, so that’s not chump change). In Dynasty, he may have been a free agent this off-season; if not, you held on through 2022, and for that, we salute you. His current managers may think he’s a sell-high, but I bet that cost isn’t too high, even at that. A low second or third rounder in a FYPD for a guy that could 30+ homers is a cost I would pay, especially in a five outfielder league. (lyrics from San Fransisco’s own Grateful Dead, I know you Rider)
Logan Webb, Age: 26, Position: SP
Analysis by: Drew Klein
Sitting at the kid’s table
When I decide who to write about in these features, I try to walk the line between obvious and obscure. I had no idea that would be such a challenge when looking at the Giants’ pitching staff. As they stay committed to their “San Francisco Fountain of Youth” approach to pitching, they’ve created a… mature (?)… pitching staff–it’s intriguing for redraft, but not as appealing for dynasty evaluation. So, I’ve decided to venture into the obvious and talk about the one sitting at the kid’s table during the pitching meetings (held early in the day so the vets can make the early bird special), Logan Webb. I can only imagine what it’s like for the 26-year-old to hear all his pitching teammates start every sentence with “when I was your age…”
How Lo-Gan you go?
In the 2022 fantasy drafting season, there was a great deal of hype around Webb. He had the definition of a breakout in 2021, setting new career bests in innings pitched (148), wins (11), ERA (3.03), and WAR (4.1). I’m not sure how to quantify “internet chatter,” but the helium was there and reflected in preseason rankings and draft boards. In 2022, his average draft position (ADP) was SP20 and he was being taken in the range of 65th to 70th overall, ahead of Rodon, Cease, and McLanahan. Our own pre-season dynasty rankings had him listed as the fifteenth ranked starting pitcher.
Fast forward to the 2023 rankings and drafts, and we see that Webb fell down the rankings and ADP charts. This year he was 28th pitcher taken off the board, chosen about 100th overall, and at The Dynasty Guru we had him ranked as the 31st starting pitcher. This was a drop of sixteen positions, despite setting new career highs in innings pitched (192), wins (15), ERA (2.90), and WAR (4.2). There are a few shiny new toys that jumped up the lists this year, but what could explain this much of a drop after having a better year?
Browsing the Webb
As much as I’d like to build the suspense, here’s the spoiler: it’s all about the strikeouts. After 2020, Webb all but abandoned the four-seam fastball. He threw it over 31% of the time in 2020, and only 9.6% and 3.1% of the time in the next two years. In 2021 he threw the sinker 38% of the time, the slider 27%, and the changeup 24%. In 2022 the distribution of those three pitches was nearly even, all between 31 % and 33%. His pitches do not induce a lot of swinging strikes (88% contact on pitches in the zone), nor do they result in hard-hit balls (5.5% barrel rate). As long as his defense doesn’t let him down, that’s a great way to get outs. Webb may have teased us with a K/9 of 9.59 in 2021 before regressing to 7.63 last year, and even though he’s racking up strikeouts in his first two starts this year, he’ll likely continue to strike out less than one batter per inning going forward.
Still a LOt to LOve
Just like Joanie loves Chachi, and Selena Gomez loves you like a love song, fantasy managers love strikeouts. This is the only reason I can find for Logan Webb sliding down rankings in spite of a career year. I know that strikeouts are a valuable stat, but don’t forget: ERA is a stat. WHIP is a stat. Wins are a stat. Logan Webb probably isn’t quite a SP1 in a 15-team league, but I have him pretty high on the SP2 list. Take a look in your league, and if the manager with Webb on the roster is poised for a rebuild, make an offer. You’ll enjoy having a 190-200 inning starter keeping your ERA and WHIP low, and even with a lower K-rate, the volume alone will provide enough strikeouts to make it worthwhile.
(author’s note: as this goes to press, Webb has 22 strikeouts in 17 innings (yay!) and an unacceptable ERA and WHIP (yikes!). I make no edits based on a sample size this small, but wouldn’t it be something to see the high strikeout rate all season?)
Vaun Brown, Age: 24, Position: OF, Level: Double-A
Analysis by: Colin Coulahan
The Breakout of Breakouts
Giants prospect Vaun Brown came out of nowhere in 2022 to have one of the best seasons in minor league baseball. Coming into the season he wasn’t on any top prospects list, he was a 10th-round pick in 2021 and signed for almost $140,000 under slot. The outfielder went on to hit 23 home runs, steal 44 bases, and finish with an obscene .346/.437/.623 slash line. Our very own Ross Jensen’s Scout the Statline model has Brown as a top 10 prospect. Nelson Cruz and Corbin Carroll are among the players to have had similar seasons. Is Vaun Brown on his way to becoming an impact MLB bat or top prospect? Or is this just a season wonder?
A Boy Among Men
Brown went to Sarasota High School, which has one of the top baseball programs in the country. Coach Clyde Metcalf (retired in 2022 after 41 years) has won two national titles, six state titles, and 14 appearances in the State Final Four. Almost 70 players from this program have been sent to professional baseball. Brown was craving to make the team, but this was a kid who was cut from fall ball. He didn’t even make his eighth-grade basketball team. Plus he was currently being picked on for being one of the smallest and skinniest kids in school.
The first step to making the team was to put on weight. Every day Brown was eating peanut butter waffle sandwiches for lunch and protein shakes. He would make the team thanks to his speed and defense but he never did much with the bat. Brown would lose his senior year to COVID but was able to return as a fifth-year senior. The time off from COIVD was used to become more muscular and flexible, to help with his hitting. He returned to the field in 2021 and would win Sunshine State Conference Player of the Year, hitting 13 home runs and a .793 slugging percentage. This was the first time in his school career Brown had hit any home runs. Games were closed to the public at this time, so this breakout was totally unnoticed.
Swingin’ for the Fences, Livin’ on a Prayer
There’s a lot to love about Brown but there are two red flags that must be mentioned. First is the age. Brown was 24 years old in 2022 while playing at Single-A, almost three years older than the rest of the players in the league. I’m not taking anything away from what he did, but he was a man playing against boys. He should be dominating the way he was. This ties into his second issue, his approach. Brown is clearly an aggressive hitter, evidenced by his 26% K% and 16% swinging strike rate. While the strikeout rate isn’t that bad, we really want to see better numbers when you look at his age and level.
But there are real tools here, tools that any top prospect possesses. He can hit to all fields, he can hit high fastballs, plus-plus speed and there is legitimate power in his bat. Brown’s .255 ISO would have been top 10 in MLB last year, matching Austin Riley. His 44 stolen bases would have led the league. And while there are legitimate concerns we have to look at what Brown has gone through. He had to work hard to hone these tools and become the player he showed last year. He went from a skinny 5-foot-7 kid to a 6’0 215 pound monster. This year is the first real test of Brown’s pro career as he starts at Double-A. If he plays the way he did last year Brown could end up as one of the top prospects in all of baseball.