TDG’S Triple Play: Milwaukee Brewers!
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 Greg Hoogkamp (@GregHoogkamp) and Chris Knock (@notnotcknock), follow us on Twitter and send us any questions, feedback, disagreements, what have yous, in the comments.
Rowdy Tellez, Age: 28, Position: 1B
Analysis by: Phil Barrington
“I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass, and I’m all out of bubblegum.”
Drafted by the Blue Jays in the 39th round of the 2013 draft out of Elk Grove HS, California, Ryan John Tellez took a long time to marinate; not making it to Double-A until 2016. He made his big-league debut in 2018 with a strong impression in 23 games, leaving hope for 2019. 2019 saw Tellez hit 21 homers with the Blue Jays, albeit a subpar .227/.293/.449 slash line, and he spent time at Triple-A as well. The shortened 2020 season saw Tellez appear in 35 games and while he hit eight homers, he still started 2021 off at Triple-A, before he was traded to the Brewers. Everything clicked for Tellez in 2022, and even with a low batting average (.219) he still hit 35 homers and had 156 Runs + RBI, and Dynasty players everywhere rejoiced! The promise had been fulfilled! Just look at all the red in his 2022 Percentile Rankings:
“You don’t throw rocks at a man with a machine gun!”
2023 has not looked near as red, that’s for sure. Tellez has hit 12 homers thus far (and his last one was on May 22nd, more than five weeks ago), but is mired in a dreadful slump. Tellez was looking a lot better at the end of May when writer Chris Gilligan wrote about Tellez swinging less. It was a simpler time, a month ago. Today? His rostership is down to 82% on Fantrax and 47% in Yahoo leagues. He is way down at #335 overall on the Razzball player rater. Now appears to be a good buy low time, but is it?
“Just when they think they got the answers, I change the questions.”
As we approach the two-year anniversary of the trade that saw Tellez leave the Brewers (for a couple of pitchers) let’s look at the negatives first. Tellez has suffered from recurrent knee injuries that have put him on the IL multiple times; and they often occur in September. For a big guy (6’4”, 270 lbs) the wear on the knees may be the most worrisome part of Tellez’s future. For a power hitter he never really showed it in the minors and the 35 he hit last year were easily a career high. His 2023 Percentile Rankings are full of blue, making us all sad.
On the bright side, he is smack dab in the middle of his prime years and Milwaukee has no first base top prospects (though they do have a lot of Outfield prospects, and any of them could try their hand at first base surely). Tellez isn’t a free agent until 2025 and Milwaukee is not expected to shell out a huge contract either to replace him. My gut feeling, what would one of my favorite wrestlers, Rowdy Roddy Piper, say at a time like this? If you need a first baseman for the rest of this season, see if you can get him on the cheap, but long term, he is an avoid for me…that’s what I said; he would probably say something like, “real men wear kilts,” confusing us all.
For selfish reasons (due to rostering on many teams for his sweet multi-position eligibility) I first wanted to write about Luis Urías, but our own Sam Wirsching already wrote him up last season, almost exactly a year ago today. After reading Sam’s report, I noticed Luis Urías was slumping at that time as well. He recommended making a move for him, and it worked out decently; from June 27th onward, Urías hit ten homers had 60 R + RBI, and slashed .255/.349/.444. He hit 23 homers in a breakout 2021, so the power is there, but do we have time in Dynasty leagues to wait it out? I would if I could but it’s appearing more and more likely that I can’t and need to add a better option on the waiver wire; but first, throwing him out on the trade block.
Aaron Ashby, Age: 24, Position: SP
Analysis by: Chris Knock
If one question most captivates a dynasty baseball player’s mind, it’s “What have you done for me lately?”. We watch highlights, scour box scores, and scroll through Twitter feeds endlessly searching for that dopaminergic rush from seeing our rostered players succeed. Other owners hunting for that rush allow savvy players to find those lesser-mentioned names as opportunities to strengthen their squads long-term. Occasionally I think I’m savvy, and figured a reintroduction to Aaron Ashby could be worth my time. Let’s look!
The Great G-Ashby
Ashby was a household name in the dynasty baseball world just a year ago. The fantasy world was primed for him to be the next big arm to graduate the Milwaukee Brewers pitching development powerhouse. The left-handed pitcher was a community college draftee, taken in the 4th round of the 2018 draft. He made his way relatively quickly through the minors, with the Brewers challenging him with assignments each year. He carved up Rookie League and Low-A batters over the course of 57 innings in his draft season as a 20-year-old. 2019 was continued excellence on the mound, pitching 120 innings across two levels.
Post-pandemic, the Brewers had Ashby skip Double-A, and he did not disappoint their assignment. 63 Triple-A innings resulted in a 3.05 xFIP and 36% K-rate and a 13-game run on the MLB roster. Used mostly in relief that year, Ashby the rookie was unfazed on the big stage. His K% and BB% held steady compared to his MiLB numbers – he struck out 29% of the batters he faced in the bigs while walking 9%. Coupled with role questions, his struggle with command became the biggest concern when entering the 2022 preseason.
Ashby to Ashby, Dust to Dust
A young pitcher with elevated walk rates is not rare. While the risk was known, Ashby was a sought-out dynasty baseball asset entering the ‘22 season. Entering the draft season, he was generally considered a top 150 player OVERALL. He performed solidly, but not spectacularly, mainly using four pitches each carrying a 30% CSW% or better. He struck out plenty of batters with a K-rate of 26% over his 107.1 innings. Though his overall success was negated by his almost 10% walk rate. So while that year wasn’t a full disappointment, he did drop to a rough top 200 player entering 2023.
The problem is, he hasn’t yet made it to the mound in 2023. ‘Shoulder Inflammation’ shelved Ashby back in late August of ‘22 for a month on the IL. A bit of R&R during the off-season didn’t help heal the shoulder either. Platelet injections in February were followed by arthroscopic surgery of a newly reported ‘labrum tear’ in April. That bit of news brought an updated timetable – Ashby would be missing all, or at least a large chunk, of the 2023 season.
Ash-Buy? Or Ash-Sell?
I won’t try and hide this longer, Aaron Ashby is definitely someone I would not continue to hold on my roster. Usually, I try and butter up the bad news bread and consider league IL sizes and rules. But this injury doesn’t bode well for pitchers – ask Mark Prior, Michael Pineda, or Tim Lincecum. There are various severities of labral tears, not all are career-enders. But the odds of a successful return are minimal. With the grim outlook, I would be quick to move him if anyone in your league is asking about Ashby’s availability. Which is a bummer to recommend, many of us were obviously excited to watch him develop. My fingers are crossed for him to prove me wrong, I just don’t recommend you to take that dynasty chance.
Tyler Black, Age: 22, Position: 3B, Level: Double-A
Analysis by: Greg Hoogkamp
The Brewers have a number of very intriguing prospects in their system which made my selection a challenge, but Tyler Black looks to be a fast riser and someone you need to know about…plus he’s a Canadian! Tyler has extra significance to me because his father Rod is a sportscaster who covered the Blue Jays, Raptors and the Olympics when I was younger. Black was a Competitive Balance selection (33rd overall) by the Brewers in the 2021 draft out of Wright State where he produced a .353/468/.612 slash line with 21 home runs, 19 steals and an 18.4 BB%/10.4 K% in 500 plate appearances.
I feel it coming
The Toronto, ON native has always had a great plate approach; he has regularly posted .400+ OBP’s during both his college and professional career while keeping his strikeout rates at a respectable level (21.5% this season). He has made some significant swing changes over the last couple of seasons and the results are beginning to show. He is lifting the ball a lot more; his fly ball percentage has gone from 19% in 2021 (Low-A) to 31% last year (High-A). This season, at Double-A, it is even higher at 41.4%. The extra loft in his powerful left-handed swing has increased his ISO in a big way and over the weekend hit his 10th home run (in just 58 games). Keep in mind that he has done all of this damage in the Double-A Southern League where they have been using a pre-tacked baseball that has led to serious increases in strikeouts.
He has also exponentially improved his stolen base success. Black has always been a fast runner, but this season he already has 40 steals (his previous career high was 13 in 2022). He’s always put up good run times so the speed is not a surprise. However, there is a difference between being fast and being a good base stealer, it is an art that needs to be learned and mastered. Black now understands the nuances of stealing bases and this part of his game becoming a serious weapon.
Another interesting change for Black is that he has moved from second base to third base this season. It’s not a foreign position to him as he played some third base in college, but it is a departure from his natural position. Whether the Brewers see him there long term or this is a strategy to streamline his path to the major leagues, remains to be seen. Black has the lateral quickness to play either position, but his arm is average to slightly below average at this point so third base may present some challenges. The Brewers seem committed to at least trying Black at the hot corner, so time will tell if he’s a legitimate fit there. It’s something to keep an eye on, if he has a regular position where he is comfortable, his offensive game will have the opportunity to flourish.
Black is growing as a player and his skillset will be an asset to your fantasy team, especially in OBP leagues. He is rising up prospect lists as we speak, so get in before the rest of your league realizes how good he is.