Hitters I Like More Than The Dynasty Guru

One of my favorite fantasy baseball-related days of the year is when Bret Sayre comes out with an updated “top 500” list. The task of ranking 500 players must be overwhelming at times, with multiple factors to consider, especially when you start considering prospects. Ultimately, it’s impossible to come up with a one-size-fits-all list. Owners at different points in the competing/rebuilding cycle will value the same prospect quite differently. A rebuilding owner should prioritize ceiling over proximity while a competing owner has the flexibility to do either. From my perspective as an owner competing in my dynasty league, these are a few hitters I place more value on than our own Dynasty Guru. In fact, all of these hitters were left off the list completely.

 

Adam Engel

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“We both know that Dallas Keuchel is an ace, right?”

“We both know that Dallas Keuchel is an ace.” Or so my potential trading partner claimed. The message in question was in regards to a trade-block entry I submitted indicating my interest in making one last blockbuster move towards a title push. I was offering what I considered to be a plum set of prospects, Tyler Glasnow and Rafael Devers, plus, if necessary my early first-round pick in which all 2015 Rule 4 draftees were first eligible. My request was a legitimate ace and a quality closer. I had hoped to acquire a Jose Fernandez, Jacob deGrom, Stephen Strasburg- type but had not received the interest I anticipated. So I began to wonder, is Dallas Keuchel an ace? My instinct is to be suspicious of breakouts without solid evidence of skill growth. So, did Dallas Keuchel grow into an ace or was he just the recipient of a lucky season?

Keuchel broke into the majors in 2013 and showed no indication that he was ready to be a frontline starter. Owners that were fortunate enough to add him in early 2014 after a fast start were likely pleasantly surprised as he finished the season with an ERA of 2.93, down from a ghastly 5.15 in 2013, driven by a rebound in BABIP, which dropped from a ridiculously high .350 to a near league average of .295. Owners who believed in his breakout were richly rewarded as his stats from 2015 were absolutely worthy of being considered ace-calibur. He was the fifth overall pitcher on ESPN’s Player Rater. His strongest category was wins, a notoriously fickle statistic, but he was extremely good across the board. The increase in performance seemed to be driven by two factors, strikeout rate and BABIP.

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The Case For The Franken-player

Fantasy championships are often won on the margins. In a competitive league, getting every last at-bat and maximizing every position on your roster can be the difference between finishing in the money or missing out. In my dynasty league, the perennial winner is able to maintain his crown with a dominant pitching staff and a deep bench full of good-to-acceptable hitters that he mixes and matches with. One way to get a little extra out of your hitting categories is through playing splits, just like a major-league manager does.

For the purpose of this exercise, I will focus on batters who have significant positive splits against right-handed pitchers. I am not looking at positive splits against left-handed pitchers due to the relative infrequent number of starts they make. It would be difficult to justify a roster spot to a player who you might only use once or twice a week, no matter how good they are. I compiled three-year statistics for all left- and right-handed hitters to attempt to smooth out random variance.

For right-handed hitters, there was really no one that stood out as over-performing against right-handed pitchers. Actually, Jonathan Schoop and Mark Canha did, but their sample size is so small I have no faith it indicates anything except statistical noise. It wasn’t really surprising, as opposite-side batters are assumed to have the edge, but I had thought that at least a handful of righties would show a split advantage.

Among left-handed hitters, there were some very pronounced split advantages. To my surprise, the poster child for a pronounced split, Curtis Granderson did not appear. Neither did Mitch Moreland, the future fantasy part-timer who became the impetus for this article after I acquired him last week. Allow me to paraphrase something my econometrics professor said, that has always stuck with me: Have some sort of an idea of what to expect. If the results are completely unexpected or counterintuitive, consider the possibility that you have made a mistake and not in fact made a groundbreaking discovery.

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Where Have All The Second Basemen Gone?

With Arismendy Alcantara’s call up and likely demotion right in front of us, I thought it would be interesting to focus on the state of the second-sackers in MLB right now. It’s probably worse than you’re ready for. The 2014 league average second baseman is turning in a .251/.311/.365 slash line right now, which is somehow worse than 2013’s .257/.316/.376 line.

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Going Deep: Recap of a 20-team Dynasty MiLB Draft: Picks 51-60

Here we are: the last segment of the 20-team dynasty league MiLB draft. Pat yourself on the back! You made it! Click here for last week’s which will get you to the week before and so on and so forth. Let’s bang this thing out, shall we?

Reminder that the picks say 11-20 but this is the latter half of the third round of the draft:

11. Boston – Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez (SP PHI)

I’ll admit to not hating this pick at the time. It was a decent gamble for an arm that was supposedly close to big league ready. That said, the drastic reduction of the value of his contract should have given us some pause for concern. He didn’t look good in Spring Training, and while the changeup was as advertised, it didn’t seem like the rests of the arsenal was viable for the major leagues. Not a bad pick at the time, but ultimately still a bit of a bust.

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Going Deep: Recap of a 20-team Dynasty MiLB Draft: Picks 41-50

Last week I covered the second half of the second round of a 20-team dynasty league’s minor league draft. To check that out, click here, and within that link is a link to a previous iteration of this exercise that full explains the league settings/structure. From there it’s just links within links until it becomes a fractal.

The picks are numbered 1-10 but keep in mind these are third round selections

1. Milwaukee – Cesar Puello (OF NYM)

Puello is fine. There’s just not a ton to get excited about. I think he caps out around a 2nd division outfielder, which is normally the type of guy I love (see: Arcia, Oswaldo) because they tend to be undervalued, but I guess I see him more towards the bottom of that tier than the top. I’m probably underrating Puello here. His tools are nice, but his future home park isn’t great. He should be a big leaguer in the not too distant future.

2. Colorado – Alex Reyes (SP STL)

I’m a bit surprised he lasted this long, though he hadn’t reached full season ball yet, so distance to the majors was likely a factor. The ceiling here is huge – a potential number two starter in both fantasy and real life – but the path is fraught with risk. Still, tremendous value at this point, and absolutely someone I considered with my second round pick as well.

3. San Diego – Lewis Thorpe(SP MIN)

Thorpe got blown up by some of my colleagues at BP, and there’s good reason based on the tools. I don’t think he’s a great fantasy add though, falling under the same theory that I’ve discussed with J2 prospects. He’s so far out and so raw, that even large steps forward would only get him to full season baseball by year’s end. There’s a good chance he doesn’t touch short-season baseball this year. We’re looking at a five year timetable and that’s just too much to waste a roster spot on.

4. Atlanta – Luiz Gohara (SP SEA)

Gohara should move faster than a guy like Thorpe but his ceiling isn’t nearly as high and he’s got plenty of risk given his age. It’s a fine get, but the body is ugly and could age poorly, and combined with limited upside, I’m not in love with the value. I don’t hate it, but it’s not ideal.

5. Oakland – Franklin Barreto (OF/SS TOR)

I don’t think he’s a shortstop long term, which harms the profile because the bat might not play well elsewhere, but the kid can straight up hit. The power might be limited due to Barreto’s frame, but again, this late in a draft like this getting a hitter as pure as he is can hardly be knocked.

6. Arizona – Jace Peterson (SS SD)

He’s already reached the majors, a bit of a surprise given the relative nascence of his game. He was a football player in college and always old for his level, which might explain why the Padres were comfortable jumping him straight to the majors. He’s fast but can’t hit for power and the hit tool is a big question mark. I’m fine with taking that chance this late in the draft though, as usable steals are a nice resource.

7. Baltimore – Devon Travis (2B DET)

I don’t like Travis at all and think too much hype was given this offseason. Once again this owner’s penchant for close to the big league prospects with limited overall profiles shines through. I don’t have much to say here because I don’t think there’s much to talk about. He’s more utility man than second division starter to me.

8. Chicago AL – Adalberto Mejia (SP SF)

This is another value I like this late in the draft. The difference between Mejia’s ceiling and some of the arms taken immediately before him isn’t that large and while there might be more risk, I trust San Francisco to develop arms better than most other orgs.

9. Chicago NL – Eric Jagielo (3B NYY)

Jagielo (Jah-guy-low) never did it for me. Maybe it’s the Notre Dame on him, maybe it’s the limited power profile but either way I’m not on it. There’s nothing that pops with Jagielo and ultimately I think the lack of power does him in because he doesn’t have the hit tool to make up for it (like Moran potentially does). He should be able to beat up on the lower minors a bit, but I’d expect production to flag at the Double-A level.

10. Toronto – Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez (SP TEX)

A player I considered all the way back in the second round and a guy I like even more than Mejia at the moment. Gonzalez lacks the ceiling that Mejia, et. al. provide but I think he’s a sure fire major league. He won’t miss bats at an elite level but he shouldn’t have too many problems with free passes either, and he can move relatively quickly.

Going Deep: Recap of a 20-team Dynasty MiLB Draft: Picks 31-40

Last week I covered the first half of the second round of a 20-team dynasty league’s minor league draft. To check that out, click here, and within that link is a link to a previous iteration of this exercise that full explains the league settings/structure. From there it’s just links within links until it becomes a fractal.

The picks are numbered 11-20 but keep in mind these are second round selections

11. Boston – JP Crawford (SS PHI)

I think this pick looks really prescient by the end of the year. Crawford is a better real life player than fantasy player, but he can really hit, he can run enough and he’ll be playing up the middle. He’s not going to turn into Lindor or anything, but I think he can be a back of the top ten SS down the line, and while that upside isn’t anything to drool over, getting that value in the second round of a 20-team league is really nice.

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