Dynasty BaseballTriple Play

TDG’S Triple Play: Cincinnati Reds!

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 Drew Klein (@aok_fan) and Ryan Epperson (@ppenayr) follow us on Twitter and send us any questions, feedback, disagreements, what have yous, in the comments.

Tyler Stephenson, Age: 26, Position: C

Analysis by: Drew Klein

Tyler Stephenson was a first round draft pick out of high school by the Cincinnati Reds in 2015.  He was touted as a big catcher (6’4” tall) with good bat skills who would develop power as he grew into his frame.  Eight years later we’re still not exactly sure what kind of player he’s going to be, but he’s starting to give us an idea.

Ain’t I rough enough, ain’t I tough enough?

As a minor leaguer, he struggled with injuries early on.  That hasn’t changed much over time, but unlike other players who are tagged with the injury-prone label, Stephenson has had typical catcher injuries (broken finger, concussion) and a freak injury last year (broken clavicle from a foul tip).  There’s not a history of the type of recurring injury that will hamper his development.

As he progressed through the minors, he hit for a good average at every level.  As a 19-year-old in 2016 he was promoted to A ball and hit only .216 in 153 plate appearances, but the following year in a full season at that level, he rebounded with a .278/.374/.414 slash line. In 2018 he played High-A and was named a Florida State League All-star, (.285/.372/.410 slash line) which he followed up by being named Best Defensive Catcher in the Southern League (AA) in 2019, a year in which he posted a .285/.372/.410 slash line. Notably absent from these statistics is the power that scouts had projected.  In fact, his 11 home runs in 2018 is still his career high.

Stephenson is thought by some to be an enigma, but his major league statistics have had a level of consistency. He had 20 at-bats in 2020 (hitting a home run in his first at bat, ironically enough), and in 2021 he played regularly and hit .286/.366/.431 in 402 plate appearances, with ten home runs.

I could not foresee this thing happening to you

In 2022, fantasy managers had their hopes raised when Stephenson got off to a great start before the injuries (concussion, followed by the fractured clavicle), hitting .319 with 6 home runs in 183 plate appearances.  At that rate, he might have hit over 15 home runs over a full season.  This off-season expectations were raised, but not over the top.  In our TDG consensus rankings, we had him as the 13th ranked catcher for dynasty, but even so there was considerable disagreement as our individual rankings ranged from 10 to 23.

So far in 2023, his stat lines have gone down and the glimpse of power in 2022 may have been just a mirage.  A look at the underlying statistics does start to give us a reason to hope, and if we’re seeking power, cause for concern. The good news is, he hits the ball and he hits it hard. His hard hit percentage (40.5%) and barrel percentage (7.6%) are both higher than last year. His BABIP has dropped from an unsustainable .409 to a more realistic .338, which explains the corresponding drop in batting average.  He’s currently hitting .249 which would be a career low, but his BABIP is around his career average so I expect the average to increase.

You can’t always get what you want

So how does someone play in a home run friendly ballpark hit the ball fairly well, hit the ball harder, and yet still hit fewer home runs?  First off, his home run to fly ball rate has plummeted from an above average 16.7% to a below league average 8.5% (League average is approx. 12%).  His fly ball rate the  past two years has been consistent at 29%, considerably below the league average of 37%.  The fact is that he puts a level swing on the ball (average launch angle ten degrees, optimal for home runs is 15-20), has high ground ball and line drive rates, and because he hits the ball hard, those ground balls and line drives result in hits, explaining his relatively high BABIP.  This approach will support a higher batting average, I’d project anywhere from .260 to .275.  The only underlying stat I can see that would account for the drop off in his home run to fly ball rate is that he’s pulling the ball much less and maybe those fly balls to center and right aren’t leaving the park.  Finally, as with any hitter, if he alters his swing to increase the launch angle, expect a corresponding drop in batting average, and maybe he and his coaches have decided against that trade off.

You just might find you get what you need

There’s no doubt that in fantasy we’re looking for more power from the catching position, but look at it this way.  His defense will have him in the lineup regularly.  As the Reds call up their prospects, there will be plenty of firepower in their lineup.  They’ll be happy with a catcher who gets on base and drives the ball hard.  My philosophy on fantasy catchers is that even the best will have days off and therefore fewer at-bats (except for the unicorn that is Sal Perez), so rarely if ever will the best fantasy producer on your team be the catcher. When I’m building a roster, I want a catcher who is not going to ruin my ratios, which is why I favor guys like Stephenson.  If you plug him in your lineup, take the solid average and the counting stats he’ll get playing in that lineup, you’ll be set for several years.  And who knows, in the Great American Ballpark, more of those hard hit balls are going to clear the fences eventually.

Graham Ashcraft, Age: 25, Position: SP

Analysis by: Phil Barrington


Douglas Graham Ashcraft hails from Huntsville, Alabama, and was drafted in 12th round of the 2016 draft by the Dodgers, but passed on signing, instead attending the University of Alabama-Birmingham and entered the 2019 draft. Moving up six rounds, the Reds drafted Ashcraft at pick 174 overall and sent him to Greenville, Tennessee, where he pitched in 13 games that season. Along with many others the 6’2”, 248-pound right-hander missed a developmental year in 2020, and started 2021 at High-A Dayton. After only 38.2 successful innings, Ashcraft was on his way to Double-A Chattanooga. It was a good season for Ashcraft, and there became genuine buzz around him going into the 2022 season.

After compiling 230 Ks in 203 minor league innings (10.92 K/9) with a 3.33 ERA in 44 Starts, Ashcraft was on his way to the show, where he made 19 starts for the Reds in 2022. His strikeout rate was nowhere close to his minor league number (6.09 K/9) though he did keep his walks down (2.57 BB/9) and while he finished with a 4.89 ERA, a better looking 4.21 FIP gave some hope for 2023.


The thickly built Ashcraft throws two pitches, a slider and cut-fastball. He hits 96 regularly with the cutter and the spin on cutter puts him in the top 90th percentile of the league in 2023, and his velocity in the top 87th. Most starters throw at least three pitches, so for Ashcraft to succeed as a starter, those two pitches need to be elite. Ashcraft experimented (with poor results) throwing a sinker last season, but has just about abandoned it in 2023.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. (Graham) Cracker

The first six starts of the 2023 season couldn’t have gone better. In 36 innings, Ashcraft pitched to an ERA of an even 2.00 and struck out 27 while picking up two wins and never giving up more than two runs to any one opponent. While two of his opponents were the Pirates, the other four were not slouches: Atlanta, Philadelphia, Texas and San Diego. For those who invested a late round pick or added Ashcraft off the waiver wire, things were going swimmingly. Though under the hood, a low strikeout rate and 3.55 FIP and xFIP of 4.33 pointed to signs of trouble ahead.

The next seven starts the wheels came completely off. Starting with giving up eight runs to the White Sox on May 7th, Ashcraft lost any kind of goodwill he had earned during those first six starts and then some; posting an ERA of 12.72 (really), though a “better” 7.03 FIP and xFIP of 5.24 made it not look so “bad.” After giving up only one home run during the first six starts, Ashcraft gave up eight over the next seven. There is no way to trust Ashcraft until he pitches a few good games in a row, and who knows when that will happen next, as a comebacker on June 8th put him on the IL with a left calf contusion.

That’s the way the Cookie Crumbles

The calf injury isn’t an arm/shoulder injury, and that’s great…but then we can’t point to that as an excuse why he has been so bad. Ashcraft’s home park is such a hinderance to success, but his division provides so many below average opponents (all of them so far this year it seems), so is there room for Ashcraft on your Dynasty teams? Right now, being injured, he hopefully can be stashed, but long-term, I do not see a path for success as a starter, unless he discovers that K rate he posted in the minors.

With his pitch mix down to two, becoming a reliever may be the way for Ashcraft to keep a big-league job long-term. The Reds already have a lights-out closer in Alexis Díaz and a solid setup man in Lucas Sims, but there is definitely room for Ashcraft, especially if the team chooses not to return him to the rotation…however that just about kills his fantasy value in the near term. Ashcraft’s rostership is down to 53% in Fantrax leagues and while he is rostered in all of mine (he is on two of my teams) if he returns from injury and continues to pitch like he has, watch that percentage drop into the teens. Hard to advise jumping in then, as it is recommended to play the wait and see game with our favorite Graham Cracker.

Carlos Jorge, Age: 19, Position: 2B, Level: Single-A

Analysis by: Ryan Epperson

“The Way You Make Me Feel”

Mama, those bad men are at it again. It seems like recently the Cincinnati Reds have been an infield prospect factory with India, Steer, McClain, and Elly all be being promoted and showing that they can thrive in the Majors with more seemingly on the way in Encarnacion-Strand and Marte.

Let me clue you fellas in on a secret, there may be another infielder in the Reds org that is not even on anyone’s top-10 prospect lists about to make a big splash and his name is Carlos Jorge. You may have heard about him in passing in ’21 when he signed as an international free agent for a little under $500k. He stands at a listed 5’10” (he’s probably a shade under) with a strong frame.

I also write for Scout the Statline and love their leaderboard tool, especially for prospects and if you are interested in being ahead of the curve on rising prospects, I would recommend a subscription over there (as well as here, duh). The leaderboard clued me in to Jorge and you should head over there after you`re done checking out all our articles here at TDG.

“Speed Demon”

So let’s get to the meat and potatoes portion of this dive into Carlos Jorge. Keeping it simple, this dude is fast, grading out at a 65 on the 20-80 scouting scale with good instincts. He has swiped 72 bags in just under 140 games. Carlos is not just a speedster though as he pairs quick feet with a strong core and a fierce uppercut swing that may grow into more power as he matures, although his frame looks to be maxed out already and may only ever produce 20 home run pop at his max. He’s currently listed as a second baseman but reports on him are mixed on if he will stay there long term or may eventually have to move to a corner outfield spot which would make his bat have to carry more value.

“Ease on Down the Road”

With a 26% strikeout rate last year, there were some concerns about his ability to maintain contact as he moved up the ladder, but through 200 at-bats this year his strikeout rate dropped to a mere 20% while maintaining a double-digit walk rate. As of this writing he sports a .301/.399/.477 slash line, paired with four home runs and 19 steals. I would expect Jorge to spend the rest of the year at Single-A as he is only 19-years-old and the Reds usually take a patient approach with international prospects (not named Elly De La Cruz, to be fair) letting them cook a full year at each level.

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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