Dynasty BaseballTriple Play

TDG’S Triple Play: Miami Marlins!

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 Bob Cyphers (@FZX_cyph21) follow us on Twitter and send us any questions, feedback, disagreements, what have yous, in the comments.

Luis Arraez, Age: 26, Position: 2B

Analysis by: Drew Klein

In appreciation of Luis Arraez

First a word from our sponsor, Batting Average.  If you’re like many of today’s statistics-driven fantasy players, you’ve been looking past batting average and focusing on on-base percentages, OPS and all the stats with a “+” after them. And there’s nothing wrong with that, I do it too, but let’s remember that in the long history of this glorious game, it’s the player with the highest batting average who has been crowned batting champ.  And when you get right down to the essence of the game, walks and OBP are fine, but hits drive in more runs than walks do, and a player who gets more hits gets more opportunities to steal a base, score a run or flip his bat.  And while many of our leagues are using OBP in place of BA, there are still many including NFBC that use batting average, so it’s a category, therefore, it’s important to many of us.

And speaking of the history of the game, we’re about to witness Luis Arraez make history.  Many players have won consecutive batting titles, the latest being Christian Yelich in 2018-19.  Two men have won batting titles in each league, Ed Delahanty in 1899 and 1902 and DJ LaMahieu in 2016 and 2020.  (I grew up reading baseball history books, and that last sentence will always amaze me. And yes, Ed won in 1902, Lajoie didn’t qualify and I’ll die on that hill.) No man has ever put the two together and won consecutive titles while switching leagues, which Arraez will likely accomplish this year.

Arraezing Star

Luiz Arraez has always hit well at every level he’s played.  He debuted in Rookie ball at the age of 17, and in 135 plate appearances hit .348.  In 2018, at the age of 21, he split the year between High A and Double A.  The .298 in 195 PA in Double A was only level in his minor league career where he hit under .300, and the part of the year he spent in High-A he hit .320 and averaged .310 across both levels for the year. He followed that up by playing in three levels in 2019, starting in Double-A, a brief stay in Triple-A where he continued to hit the ball and was promoted to the Twins where in 356 plate appearances he hit .334.  After battling injuries in 2020 (.321 average) and 2021 (.298), he was healthy in 2022 and led the league with a .316 batting average.  At this writing, his chase of .400 may be over, but he’s still leading the league with a .367 batting average.

Arraez-ipe for Success

How does he do it? Glad you asked. First of all, he hits almost every strike he swings at. Over his career, he has a 7.8% K%, so even though his BB% is a low 8.2%, he still walks more than he strikes out.  His K% is lowest in the league, and only two other hitters, Keibert Ruiz and Tony Kemp, have K% under 10%. Furthering the point, since entering the league, his zone contact rate is 94.9%, with a low of 93.5 (2021) and high of 96.0 (2022).  Please read that sentence again. Now consider that his career contact rate when he swings at pitches out of the zone is 89.3%, so the contact rate for all of his swings is an unreal 92.8%.  That’s over his career, not a hot week or month.

Does he hit it hard?  No, not most of the time.  His average exit velocity (EV) is 87% (166th of hitters with at least 300 PA).  The question to ask is where does he hit it, and the answer to that is line drives up the middle.  He is second in the league in line drive percentage and hits a majority of his hits to center and right, so he is not susceptible to the shift (even the modified shift), and line drives are much more likely to fall in than fly balls to the outfield. In short, he has the ability and confidence to hit it where he needs to in order to get on base.

Can he hit it hard?  You tell me  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0IARtCQ5tYA! By the way, I have a theory about contact hitters and their ability to hit home runs if they chose to do so, with stories about Rod Carew and Wade Boggs (and Ichiro for the millennial crowd-Ed.) to back me up. (Leave a comment if you want me to share that, I’ve already blown past our word limit here).

Arraez My Case

OK, he’s fun to watch and about to make history, but what does that mean for our fantasy teams?  Maybe not so much for your points league teams, but in head to head and especially in rotisserie formats, you want a player like this to lock down your average so you can keep a Rowdy Tellez type on your roster. And you can have confidence that he’ll be in the lineup every day, so you can set it and forget it. If Arraez hit for power more often and stole bases, he’d be extremely valuable, but even as he is, he’ll be an important part of your roster.  Don’t overpay or overdraft, but don’t let him slip by either.

Sandy Alcantara, Age: 27, Position: SP

Analysis by: Bob Cyphers

Not Your Ideal Day at the Beach

Everyone loves a day at the beach, right? Sure there is some prep work that might go into it, but it can really all pay off in the end. Imagine that you planned ahead and devised a solid strategy to arrive early enough to beat the crowds and find that perfect spot down by the water. Now you are sitting in your beach chair enjoying the warm air, sunshine, and watching the waves crash on the shore right in front of you. You sit back with an ice-cold beverage in your hand and think, “Man, this worked out perfectly, nothing could spoil this day.”

But as we all know, sometimes all of that prep work and planning does not mean we always get the outcome we want. Sometimes dark clouds roll in to block that sunshine you were enjoying. Sometimes the winds start gusting and blow away your beach umbrella and the ridiculously oversized inflatable unicorn raft that you “just had to have” at the beach today. And with that wind comes the sand. Oh, how that sand gets everywhere. There is nothing that can ruin a day at the beach like getting sandblasted with those hot little particles of silica. You try to power through, but after feeling the gritty texture of a mouth full of sand with the first bite of your sandwich, you have had enough. 

But the problem is, it doesn’t end when you get back to your truck to drive home. Even after spending 15 awkwardly long minutes rinsing yourself at the outdoor shower as you come off the beach, you cant get all of the sand off of you. It has worked its way into every crevice on your body and just continues to irritate you to no end. It itches. It scratches. It’s in your hair. And every single other item you had at the beach that day is still covered as well, serving as a reminder, perhaps even weeks later, that you just can’t escape the sand.

The way that sand can serve as a long-lasting and very irritating reminder of how a great beach day can go wrong, is how I feel after drafting Sandy Alcantara in a start-up dynasty league earlier this spring. Maybe I am being a little dramatic here, but hear me out. All of my prep work and strategy seemed like it was going to pay off after I landed my preferred drafting position after a unique Invisible Hand System was used to determine the overall order. Things went perfectly in the first round as I was able to select the hitter at the top of my list – I was again sitting there in my beach chair with my beverage just soaking it in. But as the draft board came back to me in the second round, the dark clouds started rolling in as my list of targeted starting pitchers quickly shrunk. As I scoured my rankings spreadsheets for the next highest-ranked SP, it hit me – Sand-y Alcantara. I figured, “Why not?” He has been an innings monster with elite ratios and enough volume to make up for his subpar strikeout rate. So, I went for it, and I have been irritated since!

Waves of Regression

Alcantara has been dubbed an “ace” in our game of fantasy baseball over the past few years, but he has done it differently from what is considered traditional. He posts elite ratios over a league-leading amount of innings pitched but does not carry the strikeout rates which are normally attributed to an ace. The caveat is that he pitches enough innings to make up for the lower K-rate, still making him a viable strikeouts source, at least in roto formats. It just takes him 200 innings pitched to match the total strikeouts that other pitchers in the ace tier accumulate in 150 innings. It was always a bit of a conundrum as to why Alcantara didn’t get more strikeouts as his “stuff” was always very good. This led to the hope that he could put it all together one year and give us 200-plus innings of elite ratios with at least above-average strikeouts. 

Alcantara has spent the past few seasons rising up rankings lists while consistently out-performing his peripheral numbers. Between 2020 and 2022, on average his FIP was 0.22 lower than his xFIP. Similarly, his SIERA was a full run higher than the ERA he actually produced those seasons. So far in 2023, his FIP and xFIP match almost exactly (3.79 versus 3.82), as does his ERA and SIERA (4.09 versus 4.08). So the question now begs itself, is this a “down season” or is it signs of regression that maybe we should have seen coming?

At a high level, Alcantara’ stats looks to be similar this year to what they have been over the past few seasons. His pitch velocities have not dropped, remaining above average compared to the rest of the league. He has kept a solid ground ball rate of 50%, which is in line with past seasons as well. His BABIP is about .020 points higher than last season, but that is not completely unexpected with the change to the shift rules. I also noticed that his LOB% dropped to 68.6%, which is down about 10% from last year. This can be a volatile stat, but it seems like it could be worth noting as there was a more significant change from last season. His BB% increased by half of a percent to 6.2% and his K% dropped by almost three percent to 20.8%. This puts his K% at 44th among qualified starting pitchers in the league and his K-BB% at 38th; neither of these is elite or ace-like. So, overall Alcantara is allowing more baserunners with his higher BABIP and BB%, striking out fewer batters, and leaving fewer of them stranded. All of this trends towards explaining his ERA currently sitting above 4.00, but we haven’t really found a driving factor. 

Before chalking this season up completely to regression, let us take a look at some of the more advanced analytics to see if anything else has changed with Sandy. I mentioned before he has always had good “stuff”, so I figured a good place to look is at his actual Stuff+ (numbers from the models of Eno Sarris and his team which are now available on Fangraphs). Overall Alcantara has a Stuff+ number of 111, which is above average. He has four pitches that grade out as above-average by individual Stuff+ numbers, ignoring his curveball because he throws it <1% of the time.  While they are still above average, the values on his slider and changeup are each down compared to last season.

Looking closer at these two pitches finally shows more definitive change this year as both pitch values (runs above average) have dropped this year and are actually now negative. His slider only dropped by about two runs, but his changeup has dropped by over 29 runs! In 2022 Alcantara’s changeup had a pitch value of 24.5 runs above average whereas this year it sits at -4.9. In 2022, his changeup had a .148 BA and .195 SLG with a 34.6% whiff-rate, but this season it has a .299 BA and .422 SLG with a 30.6% whiff-rate. This feels meaningful and significant in explaining the difference in results for Alcantara this year as his changeup was always regarded as his best pitch. Obviously, a veteran pitcher of his caliber can likely work through any issues he is having to find his changeup again, but if his go-to pitch is becoming less effective then so will he as a pitcher overall.

Has the Tide Turned or Is It Time to Abandon Ship?

So, now for the all-important topic of, “What do I do with Alcantara in my dynasty leagues?” Well, I am not going to tell you what to do, but I will tell you what I tried to do, and that was to trade him away while his name still carried ace value. Notice, I said tried as he still remains on my roster to date. I admit he has been better in the second half of the season, but I still can’t wash myself of all of that irritation that I picked up from the early months of 2023.

Looking at the mid-season rankings updates put together by the amazing TDG team, Alcantara sits at SP-11. A solid ranking for sure, still in that ace tier, but I think that is a little high for me personally. I see five or so names I would put over him bringing him down somewhere between 15 – 20. Still not a bad ranking, but not quite where most would have had him coming into 2023. Names I was targeting in trade offers were along the lines of George Kirby, Hunter Greene, and Joe Ryan, hoping other owners still valued Alcantara higher. These were not necessarily one-for-one flips, but the main pitching pieces offered. I also looked at aiming to acquire one of the rookie pitchers like Eury Perez or Grayson Rodriguez in a package deal but failed to get anything done. Side note: Grayson Rodriguez is more of a red flag for me now due to him favoring a changeup similar to Alcantara. I’m not out on him, just more wary. Despite not being able to swing a deal, I think even more telling was the fact that in a competitive and active 20-team league, I received very little interest in Alcantara even after advertising his availability. No one really jumping on the chance to potentially buy low on a top pitcher seems to say others have similar feelings towards Alcantara after his performance so far in 2023. I understand this is a “micro” example that may not reflect the “macro” line of thinking, but I have a feeling I am not the only one feeling this itch right now.

Alcantara has pitched better of late, with a 2.45 ERA over his last 44.0 innings pitched, so perhaps things have turned back favorably for him. Or perhaps this is a sell-high window after his recent complete game, giving up one earned run with 10 strikeouts against the lifeless Yankees. Rest-of-season projections at this point in the season are typically a good starting point for looking ahead to next year. The various models agree reasonably well giving Alcantara an ERA around 3.60 while striking out eight batters per nine innings pitched and walking over two. This puts his line closer to what we have seen in 2023 instead of what we grew accustomed to in the previous three seasons. Not a bad pitcher by any means, but if it holds I do not think we will be talking about Alcantara in the ace category for much longer.

Javier Sanoja, Age: 20, Position: SS/OF, Level: Single-A

Analysis by: Phil Barrington

The Hitters of the Marlins Farm System have not had a good 2023. I was looking at their top prospects, and it took a while to find one that was having even a decent 2023 (I also only look at hitting prospects. Pitching prospects are too volatile for my blood). The Marlins #19 rated prospect (by mlb.com) and #14 by FanGraphs, Javier Ernesto Sanoja is actually having a decent season, earning a promotion just last week.

Take a chance on me

Signed in July of 2019 for only $90K, the Venezuelan didn’t make his pro debut until 2021 due to the pandemic, and that was a pretty forgettable debut in the Dominican Summer League, though he did only strikeout in 4.5% of his 2444 plate appearances. 2022 saw Sanoja start at the Complex where he tore it up and it was only 28 games before he was promoted to Single-A Jupiter. He wasn’t as good there, so he began the 2023 season back in Jupiter.

Even though he’s small in size, he can(t) move mountains (yet)

The diminutive, almost slight Sanoja checks in at 5’7, 150 pounds and that, as they say, may be soaking wet. Even still, he has hit 11 homers in 1020 MiLB At-bats, so he’s not completely devoid of power…but currently it’s not part of Sanoja’s game, with 30 and below grades in the power department by both scouting reports. That can always change (not always), but scouts are projecting that currently. Though things are looking up in that department, as Sanoja was promoted last week to High-A Beloit. He must be enjoying the cooler summer temps in Wisconsin, hitting this rocket shot this past Saturday, part of a 5-for-6 day.

Give him a chance

Not every prospect can excel immediately at every level, but what I look for is guys who improve in their second season at the same level. Sanoja has pulled that showing improvement at Single-A, earning a 69 wRC+ his first go around and a 106 this season. He also has a career minor league K rate of a great 8.3%, which he can lean on as he climbs up the system. The soon to be 21-years-old Sanoja (he turns 21 on 9/3) has been playing Centerfield this season, but can also play SS, 2B and 3B. He has a good arm and high baseball IQ according to mlb.com. We may be seeing a future bench/utility bat…but remember, prospecting is playing the lottery, and if Sanoja is able to add even a modicum of power over the next couple seasons, we could be looking at a 15/30 guy who hits better than .280; that’s a starter in larger leagues. Sanoja is less than 1% owned on Fantrax, so there is no rush to add him, but he’s another guy to monitor and may be more enticing based on how he finishes 2023.



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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