2024 Dynasty Baseball RankingsDynasty Baseball

TDG’S 2024 RISERS AND FALLERS: CATCHERS

Every year, we at the TDG office identify Risers and Fallers from our consensus rankings. But how did we get here!? And what’s real and what’s noise? Well, the Gurus are here to help. In each “Risers and Fallers” article, the Gurus will take you on an explanatory journey as to why these players have seen a fortunate rise, or an unfortunate turn toward their demise. Thanks for reading!

Couldn’t fit this one in last week so here it is bright and early!!

RISING: CREED WILLEMS, BALTIMORE ORIOLES (AGE: 20, CURRENT RANK: 46th, PREVIOUS RANK: N/A)

First off, I want to give kudos to Drew (@aok_fan), Brian (@Polar_Bear_Ball), and Daniel (@OrcaBaseball) for putting Creed Willems on my radar by ranking him in their Top 40. I only dug deeper into the kid because they had him on their list, and honestly, I happened to rewatch Creed II earlier in the day I wrote this. By the way, still a great movie, but Michael B. Jordan is just too pretty to be a boxer.

For those not familiar with Creed’s journey, I’m talking about the MiLB prospect, not the pretty boy.  We really need to put aside his first two professional seasons due to a nagging elbow injury that affected him physically and mentally as he candidly admitted to in an interview with the Baltimore Orioles YouTube show, “Fly By” resulting in disappointing stats.

He was an overslotted draft selection in the eighth round of the ’21 draft by the Orioles and at the time was considered a five-tool prospect that was committed to playing at TCU. He was tabbed as both a pitcher and catcher and intended on playing both for the Horned Frogs.  As I previously mentioned, he initially struggled, hitting well below the Mendoza line in his first two professional seasons in ROK and Low-A ball. Heading into the ’22 season, Creed was not in “good” shape physically and mentally after his elbow injury that not only cut short his ’21 season but also “bothered” him in ’22. His struggles at the plate were evident, and coupled with a slight difference I noticed in the load phase of hitting mechanics that probably was due to him compensating for that elbow injury. It all culminated in a disappointing slash line that pretty much knocked him down or off everyone’s rankings at the time with: 

.190/.264/.321/.585 with a .21 BB/K ratio and 4 HRs in 235 plate appearances in Low-A ball. 

Before being drafted, Creed was lauded more for his hitting ability than a masher out of high school. He showed an advanced pull-side approach even though his raw power grade was his highest grade outside of his arm. From what I saw on the tape he was a bit too busy at the plate but his impeccable speed in his hands along with a direct short swing path were able to compensate against high school competition. Like many prospects, the jump in competition forced him to make adjustments which was placed on hold because of his injury. Creed underwent a remarkable transformation before the ’23 season by not only shedding over twenty-five pounds but also refining his mechanics and switching to an aggressive power-first approach that the Orioles’ coaching staff felt would serve him better. The results were:

.315 AVG/326 ISO/.356 BABIP/1.098 ISO/.508 wOBA/202 WRC+ with a 1.34 K/BB ratio and 8 HRs in 116 plate appearances in Single-A Ball.

Both the .508 wOBA and 202 WRC+ ranked him second overall among all MiLB players under the age of 24 while his 1.098 ISO was fourth overall. Thus with those numbers, the Orioles bumped him up to High-A and Creed struggled mightily with another bump up in competition. It looked to have more to do with a lack of experience with pitch recognition and plate discipline than anything else. His 27.7 K% with 86 strikeouts in 302 plate appearances is a cause for concern but the vast improvements he made across the board coupled with the raw talent he possesses and an ability to make adjustments still has me optimistic about his long-term success. “The higher you get, the harder it gets. That’s life.” This was his first season in which he used a power-first approach so it is still a work in progress he still netted 17 HRs so that should at least garner taking a flier for those of you who are looking for a catcher/1B prospect for your minor league roster. That being said, this coming season could be a make-or-break type season for Creed behind the backstop since his arm is his highest grade (65), and does possess a 90-plus mph fastball in his arsenal. Making him the epitome of the high-risk, high-reward type catching prospect in our preseason rankings. You can maybe say he’s a bit of an underdog and “everyone loves an underdog story.”

(Ryan Felix Fernandes)

FALLING: KEVIN PARADA, NEW YORK METS (AGE: 22; CURRENT RANK: 45th PREVIOUS RANK: 25th)

I’ve been told quite a few times in life that I’ve done an “adequate” job at something. In school, at work, my writing, in my third-grade school play when I played shepherd number four. The time in high school when I gave a speech about the women’s reproductive system and passed out a third into it. And how can I forget the many times your Mom said that to me the “next morning”?  I’m just kidding. She says I’m “heaven-sent.” But, seriously there is nothing wrong with being told you’ve done an adequate job. Well, maybe not in the bedroom. But everywhere else? Adequate works just fine, doesn’t it? 

Well, that is how we get to a guy who dropped twenty spots to become our 45th-ranked catcher, Mr. Kevin Parada. In 2023, all he did was advance three levels while amassing 14 HRs, 101 hits, and 54 RBIs with a .248/.324/.428/.752 line with a .327 wOBA in 443 plate appearances isn’t spectacular. It really isn’t even great… What is the word I’m looking for? Oh yeah! Adequate

Parada would have killed for adequate results with his sampled size time in Double-A at the end of the ‘23 season. Instead, he ended up with a 38.3 K% with .185/.250/.389/.639 below adequate line in 60 plate appearances. 

I realize I might come across as contradictory, acknowledging Parada’s struggles in Double-A while still expressing optimism for Willems, despite his own challenges in High-A. However, age and raw talent play significant roles here. Parada’s pre-draft performance showcased his potential, but his subsequent struggles against tougher competition and the demands of his position have dimmed his outlook. On the other hand, Willems, despite underwhelming stats, possesses raw tools that haven’t fully translated yet. While I may be mistaken, this is my process for evaluating prospects. Feel free to interpret this analysis as you see fit.

As for Parada’s future behind the plate, I believe with Francisco Alvarez locking down the Mets’ catcher position and the looming possibility of losing Pete Alonso after the ’24 season. A switch to first base might be in the cards for Parada. This move would not only alleviate the grind of catching but also expedite his path to the majors, given his defensive struggles. This transition might just rescue Parada from his downward trajectory in fantasy value and redefine his projections from a below-adequate catcher to an adequate first baseman. And as I said, there’s nothing wrong with adequate. I’m kidding, but if you paused and thought about that for more than a second then maybe you should look into that instead of focusing on your fantasy team so much. 😉 (Ryan Felix Fernades)

The Author

Ryan Felix Fernandes

Ryan Felix Fernandes

I don't know why they let me write here either...

1 Comment

  1. Elijah
    February 26, 2024 at 5:32 am

    Why did you have to do Parada like that? 😂

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