TDG’S Triple Play: Cleveland Guardians!
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 Ben Sanders (@HPBenSanders) and Sam Wirsching (@SamFBB1), follow us on Twitter and send us any questions, feedback, disagreements, what have yous, in the comments.
Andres Gimenez, Age: 24, Position: 2B
Analysis by: Samuel Wirsching
A tale of two hitters
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of sprint speed and .ISO. It was the epoch of playing time and the epoch of being platooned. It was the season of rebirth, it was the season of reburial.
Cornerstone at the Keystone
At one glance when we look at the object of our attention Mr. Gimenez there are so many wonderful things to describe. At the age of 24, when most players are still in the minor leagues, Andres is in his fourth season patrolling a major league infield near you. A gold glove defender, Gimenez has earned full time work since the beginning of 2022 by staying healthy and in his first full season finished the year with a ops+ of 141. Add to it his elite sprint speed and it felt like everything was in place for a strong window of high performance. Leading into the 2023 offseason he and Amed Rosario were huge targets for me in dynasty. I believed in the resurgence of the Guardians and with family in that area (Shoutout Euclid, Mentor, and Parma!) it felt good to acquire them everywhere. Life was good.
Potential for a platooned player
This is where the other side of the coin shows itself, his 2023 performance. Andres has suffered offensively this season and I can’t really find a reason. I might have missed an article about a change in approach. There might be a nagging injury that is not being talked about. But after 78 games this season (where we are at in the season as of me typing these words) Andres is playing like a platoon player. The only place I can find a problem is in his left/right splits. Versus left handed pitching his OPS has fallen from .887 in 2022 to .805 in 2023. Not great, but still well above league averages. Against righties however he has gone from a .822 OPS in 2022 to .625 in 2023. I can’t tell if this is just bad luck but his expected stats have also suffered. He just isn’t making hard contact as frequently as he used to.
Time for the guillotine?
Long term I think this is just something players go through. Not to mistake Gimenez for Jose Ramirez, but the latter struggled for a prolonged time only to come out a perennial top-5 draft pick in redraft. With his defense and speed at second base I wouldn’t bet against him making an impact for your team in the second half of this season. I would look to acquire him if you can get a discount. I can’t stop dreaming on him and believe he will still remain a top-10 second baseman for the next five years.
Logan Allen, Age: 24, Position: SP
Analysis by: Phil Barrington
Allen, the 2017 Florida Player of the Year, was drafted in the 16th round out of high school but decided that wasn’t good enough and moved on to Florida International University in Miami, Florida. There he played three seasons, hitting and pitching for the Panthers. Allen entered his junior season on some preseason All-American lists, and he started hot, starting four games with a 2.45 ERA and 41 Ks in only 25.2 innings. Then covid ended the 2020 season, and Allen had to head home and wait for the MLB draft. There the Guardians took him in the second round (56th overall).
An Auspicious Debut
Allen began the 2021 season in High-A (Lake County Captains) and ended it in Double-A (Akron RubberDucks, compiling 143 Ks to only 26 walks in 111.1 innings. He was back in Akron to begin 2022 for 73 innings until he was promoted to the Triple-A Columbus Clippers. There Allen ran into his first real trouble of his professional career, with an ugly 6.49 ERA and an uncharacteristically (for him) walk rate of 4.37 per nine. 2023 saw Allen start back at Akron but not for long; Allen made his big-league debut on April 23rd and what a debut it was; against the Marlins Allen whirled innings of one run ball with eight Ks to only one walk.
Since then, Allen is looking like most of the rookie starters, ups and downs, to wit; a sparkling 7-inning, 10-strikeout performance against the Orioles on May 29th compared to a rough visit to San Diego, only 3-innings and giving up five runs with only two Ks. He’s been serviceable, though the Guardians just sent him down last week, after an 88-pitch, 3.2 inning, laborious appearance though Allen gave up no runs (just five walks + hits and five Ks). While he has a good 3.47 ERA and 3.72 FIP, on the other hand he has a 1.44 WHIP and a 4.46 xERA. I was hoping his Baseball savant page would yield some red results, but it’s mostly light blue. He needs to get the walks down, so there will be bumps in the road, as there is with any young MLB Starter.
Allen throws for pitches at differing speeds, as his fastball tops out at 92 mph. Baseball savant has his cutter as his worst pitch and the one he’s getting pounded on the most, but it’s the pitch he throws least, so maybe he stops throwing it and he sticks with the four-seamer, sweeper and changeup? We will see what he works on in the minors as he awaits a call-up, which is most certain to happen again this season.
After all this, I feel overall, Allen is (still) a guy to target in Dynasty leagues. A career minor league K-rate of 11.86, walk rate of 2.90 and thus a K/BB of 4.10 (including that bad Triple-A stint in 2022) are all numbers I love to see in a starter. FanGraphs ranked him #57 in their preseason Top 100 Prospect list, with a 50-grade future value and Allen will be just 25 in September. All signs point to a serviceable starter for a while at minimum. I’ve been trying to get him in all my leagues, it’s not a bad idea to try and do the same.
Welbyn Francisca, Age: 17, Position: SS, Level: DSL
Analysis by: Ben Sanders
Well well Welbyn, what do we have here?
Welbyn Francisca signed with the Guardians for $1.375 million in January, and if the early returns are any indication, that price may be a bargain. Fangraphs ranked him as Cleveland’s 13th best prospect even before he had taken the field, calling him “perhaps the most entertaining hitter from the 2023 international class” and “a switch-hitting bat control savant.” So far that looks accurate. He came up a double short of the cycle in his debut for DSL Guardians Blue, and through 18 games is slashing .382/.450/.658 with three homers, 11 total extra-base hits, and six steals in 87 plate appearances.
Francisca is listed at 5’8 and 148 pounds, but he also just turned 17 in May, so he may not be done growing. His diminutive stature certainly hasn’t hindered his power output so far. Hitting and speed are likely his carrying tools anyway, and both are promising enough that he won’t necessarily have to launch lots of bombs to make an MLB impact. His arm strength may force a move from shortstop to second base, but that’s a better position for fantasy value anyway.
Doubting the stat line
Francisca’s numbers have been great, but should be taken with several grains of salt. The DSL is a 50-team league full of teenagers playing a short season, six promotions away from the majors. The best players are gone long before they accumulate a significant statistical sample, and many of the rest will never make it stateside.
Fangraphs has DSL leaderboards going back to 2006, and they aren’t exactly a who’s who of future MLB stars. One of the few names that jumps out is, oddly enough, also featured in this article. Andres Gimenez slashed .350/.469/.523 in the DSL in 2016. The two have some similarities in terms of physical abilities, but Francisca’s range of outcomes is too broad to be making comparisons already.
Don’t get left sans Francisca
Knowing how soon to roster players in the lowest levels of the minors can be tricky. Francisca might be the No. 1 DSL prospect right now, but what does that mean in the grand scheme? TDG is putting together a midseason top 200 prospects ranking, and taking a sneak peek at some of the contributing lists, Francisca seems to be landing around 180. That seems reasonable to me. In the deepest dynasties he’s likely already rostered, perhaps even picked in a first-year player draft. In shallower formats, there are probably too many good players available at higher levels to bother with DSL scouting. But in any league, he’s a name worth knowing, and you’ll want to be ready to pounce if he continues to hit whenever he arrives stateside.