TDG’S Triple Play: Toronto Blue Jays!
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 Colin Coulahan (@cjc07), follow us on Twitter (I will never call it X) and send us any questions, feedback, disagreements, what have yous, in the comments.
Cavan Biggio, Age: 28, Position: 1B/2B/3B/RF
Analysis by: Greg Hoogkamp
Growing up as the son of a Hall-of-Famer has its perks; getting to be on the field and in the dugout before your dad’s games, meeting all of your heroes and receiving professional instruction on a daily basis; what a cool childhood! With those perks, however, there were definitely challenges, among them, facing the pressure of following in your father’s footsteps and living up to the high standard he set. Cavan Biggio lived his formative years in Houston going through all of these things as the son of Craig Biggio, the Astros great. Biggio was drafted in the 5th round of the 2016 amateur draft (162nd overall) out of Notre Dame. Because of his last name, he became a popular player right away and began his minor league ascent with two other sons of big league greats, Vladimir Guerrero Jr (Vlad Sr.) and Bo Bichette (Dante). After 4 seasons of development, Biggio made his major league debut in May of 2019.
“All that I’m lookin’ for”
Biggio has always been a very patient hitter, bordering on passive. His swing percentages over his career have always been among the fewest in the league, between 36% and 41%. This season he has a slightly above average zone contact rate (83.2%) and an elite chase rate (2nd in baseball at 16.3%) which leads to a high walk rate (11.6 BB% in 2023, 13.6 BB% career). Biggio has average power and speed, but shown flashes that there is more in his 6’ 2, 200-lb frame. There is a camp of Jays fans who think that if Cavan can be a more aggressive hitter, he can break out and become a star. Let’s take a look and see what the numbers say.
Since the All-Star break, Biggio has posted a wRC+ of 127 (75 wRC+ before the break) and has seen his playing time become much more regular. His positional versatility allows him to fill in around the infield (1B, 2B, 3B) and also in RF. For the first time in years, the Jays are able to maximize platoon splits and Biggio helps to play a huge role in achieving this as a left-handed bat. September has been Biggio’s best month this season (135 wRC+, .814 OPS), a month where he has swung at just 34.5% of pitches thrown to him, easily the lowest swing percentage he has had in any month this season. What’s most interesting is that when he swings more, his production declines. Biggio swings at strikes; his in-zone swing percentage in September is 64.5% while his O-swing (chase rate) is just 12.6%.
Based on the numbers, Biggio is at his best when he is taking pitches, working the count and attacking pitches in the zone he can handle. The less aggressive he is, the more productive he seems to be, which is a bit counterintuitive, but the numbers do not lie. The Jays are hitting him right in the heart of their order right now (anywhere from 2nd through 6th in September) so they believe he’s a key hitter to help them get to the playoffs. As far as your dynasty rosters go, Biggio won’t win any batting titles or home run crowns, but he’s a good player to roster if you are in deeper leagues (15 teams or more) as he provides a blend of power/speed along with great positional versatility.
Jose Berrios, Age: P, Position: SP
Analysis by: Colin Coulahan
Coming into the 2023 season, Jose Berrios was a pitcher I was determined to avoid. He had finished his first full season in Toronto with an ERA over 5.00 and the second-worst strikeout rate of his career. There wasn’t much in his profile that screamed bounceback candidate. Yes, he was formerly a high fantasy pick, and the stuff has always been good, but 2022 was so bad I (among others, I’m sure) forgot all that. Berrios has rewarded those who stuck with him this year, raising his K% to a much better 23% (up from 19%), and he will finish with an above-average ERA (3.58 as of this writing). What changed? Was 2022 just a bad year?
“Bad or Bad Luck?”
In short, yes. We forget that sometimes players just have bad years. There aren’t many red flags when looking at the reasons for Berrios’ poor 2022 performance. His pitches had similar movement and velocity to previous seasons. His BABIP last year was .323, about 30 points higher than his career average. That could explain a higher ERA, especially when looking at his BABIP with runners in scoring position – .305, which was not a career-worst but much higher than previous seasons. Going back to 2019, they were .287, .192, .250. This year, it’s back to a career norm of .250. Even Berrios’ ERA estimators believed 2022 was a lousy year – his xFIP, FIP, and SIERA all said he was about league average last season (4.21, 4.55, 4.13).
“Will the Real Jose Berrios Please Stand Up?”
So who is Jose Berrios? Is the guy getting obliterated in 2022, or is he the solid pitcher we have in 2023? I think he’s somewhere in between. While his 3.58 ERA this year is inside the top 20 for qualified pitches, his ERA estimators have him closer to a 4.00 ERA, which I think is more comparable to his skill set. The K% rate is good, but not great. And while he’s not a heavy groundball pitcher, the sinker he throws requires good fielding behind him, and the Blue Jays were only slightly above average last year and below average this year. Still, Berrios is someone who’s going to pitch close to 200 innings with decent ratios. That’s a pitcher any team would want to have.
Alan Roden, Age: 23, Position: OF, Level: Double-A
Analysis by: Phil Barrington
Alan Eric Roden (Pronounced Row-den, like a certain French sculptor) was a 3rd round pick in the 2022 draft from Creighton University. After a redshirt 2019 season and only getting a few games in 2020 (shortened by Covid-19), Roden came out firing in 2021 making the First-Team Freshman All-American Team and Big East First Team. 2022 was even better as he was named co-Big East player of the year. Roden finished his time at Creighton with a Super Baseball 2020-like (that game was great, why we don’t have robot players is a failure of modern tech) slash line of .383/.484/.640 with 14 homers and 13 steals over 91 games.
The Age of Bronze
The solidly built 5’11, 215 pounds, and by solid I mean dude looks like he could jump into the WWE ring:
Thus, he projects as a below average corner outfielder (though with a plus arm), meaning, as we all know, he has to hit to rise to the majors. Funny enough, that’s exactly what he did in 2023. Roden started the season at High-A Vancouver, and after 69 games, where he slashed .321/.421/.460 with 23 doubles and 15 steals he was on his way to Double-A New Hampshire. The party didn’t stop there, as Rodon did just as well, hitting six homers with nine steals and a slash line of .310/.421/.460 in 46 games.
Mlb.com currently has Roden ranked as the #7 Blue Jays prospect with a 45 overall grade, with a 55-grade hit tool. Fangraphs, on the other hand, made their ranking before the season back when we only had a third-round pick and an average 2022 debut, so they gave Rodon a 35 FV and ranked him 29th on the Jays; needless to say he will be much higher in next year’s list.
Rostered in only 4% of Fantrax leagues, Roden was a late season add for me in my deepest league, so he is probably available in yours (that’s if you can still make moves). I bet he’s a second round pick by the time Milb drafts get going, or at least he should be. The Middleton, Wisconsin native had a career goal back in college to be a physics professor, specializing in astrophysics, as one does. But it doesn’t take a physicist to see that taking a chance on Roden is good science for your dynasty team.