Teens Who Rake Part II: Young Yankees

The New York Yankees made massive splashes this summer, acquiring multiple top-50 prospects and really filling out the top-end of their system. Even without those headline moves, their farm system was considered one of the deepest in baseball, due in large part to the five names on this list. They’ve handled all five aggressively this year, rolling out one of the youngest lineups in the Appalachian League (Advanced Rookie ball) on a daily basis. It’s worth noting that the average player in the league was over 21, and all these prospects are still teenagers. Depending on the depth of your league, there’s a chance all five of these guys were drafted in their respective classes, but there’s also a chance they aren’t even on your league’s radar. It’s one of the struggles of writing about deep dynasty prospects, because one league’s “deep” is another league’s kiddie pool. Regardless, these are some high-upside names worth keeping an eye on.

Estevan Florial, CF, New York Yankees
Despite turning 19 later this week, Florial has already played two games in the Florida State League (High-A). It’s interesting that the organization wanted him to see that level of baseball this early — where he was nearly five years younger than the average player — especially after he didn’t exactly flourish in the Appalachian League. He hit .225/.315/.364 in 60 games for the Pulaski Yankees, with an interesting double-digit walk rate, 7 home runs, and 10 steals on 12 attempts. Listed at 6-foot-1 / 185 pounds, the Haitian-native hits left-handed and throws right. He’s served primarily as a centerfielder, but he’s also spent time in right field. He also struck out nearly 30 percent this year, adding even more risk to the profile. All things considered, he’s young, the organization has challenged him mightily, and he’s shown an interesting blend of patience, power, and speed. If you’re looking for lottery tickets, there are worse gambles than Florial.

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You Must Trade For Robbie Ray Immediately

I am spending my offseason trying to buy Robbie Ray in as many leagues as I can. He is the most intriguing starting pitcher in baseball heading into the 2017 season in my opinion. I know he had an 8-15 record last year with a 4.90 ERA. He also has a 14-31 career record and 4.65 career ERA in 330 innings. Despite his poor track record I think he is a tremendous trade target in dynasty leagues right now. Let’s find out why… Continue reading

Looking At The Fantasy Implications of 2017 Free Agent Landing Spots, Part 1

Now that the World Series has finished up, we’re finally into the insanity of the MLB offseason where massive, undeserved contracts get inked each year, and where your favorite team trades players you didn’t know existed for other players you didn’t know existed (Zack Littell and James Pazos, anyone?). These decisions also have huge implications for the fantasy season, as these offseason trades and signings can seriously affect a player’s value (Just ask 2016 Zack Greinke owners). For my next few articles, I’m going to specifically focus on a few of the quality bats in this class (There’s a lot of them) and the implications of them signing to one of their 3 likely landing spots. Continue reading

Tier Jumpers

One of my favorite things about dynasty leagues is nabbing that little publicized hitter before he goes crazy and dominates the arms at his level.  Once that happens, the premium to acquire a Victor Robles, for example, can border on the absurd.  Today we will look at a few players poised to see an increase in value, and have had relatively little fanfare to this point.  We won’t be looking at any 2016 draftees or J2’s, and, with one exception, none of these players are likely to find their way onto top 100 lists.  Today we have something for everyone: from risky rookie ball players to unheralded AAA sluggers looking to crack a big league squad.

OF Jesus Sanchez, Tampa Bay Rays

First up we have Jesus Sanchez.  He is my pick as the next player to experience an Eloy-esque jump in value.  Ok, that sounds like clickbait, but he is my favorite player on this list and probably belongs in an article of players residing in a higher tier.  His results speak for themselves, as the 2014 J2 signee slugged .549 this season with an ISO of .220 to go along with a very manageable 19% K rate.  All this before celebrating his 19th birthday in the fall.  He also did not have any concerns with his splits, hitting over .300 against both lefties and righties.  He has 5 average or better tools, but he will make his mark with the bat.  Exactly how much speed he possesses is also the subject of debate, but that does little to dampen my enthusiasm.  While he’s still far away, snagging Sanchez off the waiver wire now may be a good idea.

1B Lewin Diaz, Minnesota Twins

Lewin Diaz and his monster raw power is also on my radar for 2017. The power, which borders on elite, is a carrying tool which could help him reach the high offensive expectations that come with being a first baseman. Diaz is years away however, having just completed his third crack at rookie ball, which puts his MLB debut somewhere in the 2020 season at the earliest.  Still, there’s plenty to be excited about. Diaz, despite huge, only has a 18.5% career strikeout rate to date, and has the potential to hit 30 bombs a year with a decent average.  He also took strides versus lefties, slashing .305/.339/.576 against them this season, albeit in a small sample size of only 59 at bats.  His bat must do all the heavy lifting to keep him in the lineup, and while I don’t typically roster 1B-only prospects, Diaz is the type that warrants an exception.  Buy now and watch his value climb.

OF Seuly Matias, Kansas City Royals

For those looking to continue the ceiling over certainty theme, Seuly Matias is your guy.  His season stats look pedestrian, which will depress his current price, and it will still take some time for Matias to turn his talent into production on the field.  For this type of pickup, it may depend on where you are in the win cycle, given his ETA.  A high profile J2 signing in 2015, Matias brings an above average to plus skill set across the board. He is likely a RF in the long term, even though his shaky fielding this season was a hair better in center than the other OF spots.  What makes him interesting for us, though, is the potential plus power in his bat.  When you combine that with his reported average speed and a likely average-to-above bat, Matias has the potential to be an above average regular.  The Royals coaching staff has shown an affinity for teaching patience in the past, giving hope the raw Matias can learn to take walks and become a complete offensive threat.  Every minor league roster should have at least one lottery ticket like Matias in the fold, even if it will be a century or two before they reach the big leagues.

OF/1B Jordan Patterson, Colorado Rockies

Shifting gears to players closer to the show, Jordan Patterson could be an everyday player in Coors Field.  For many of us, that is more than enough to have him on the radar.  While he doesn’t have a standout tool, he can do a bit of everything at the plate and in the field.  Patterson plays 1B, LF, and RF and has a great opportunity to log 400+ at bats next season.  Mark Reynolds is a free agent, and for all the talk of a potential move to 1B for Cargo, he has yet to play there in a game.  2017 is also his walk year, and while you never know what the Rockies are going to do, I think it is telling that they only have two financial commitments beyond 2017 that aren’t related to arbitration…Parra and Ottavino.  Their long needed youth movement may finally happen.  This fact alone is enough for me to buy shares of Rockies minor leaguers.  With Patterson, I am buying the potential opportunity and Coors field.  Even if he doesn’t fix his troubles with lefties, he would still be on the strong side of a platoon.

OF Steven Duggar, San Francisco Giants

I have big plans for Steven Duggar, and I think he will cooperate.  A 6th round pick of the Giants in 2015, he made it to AA after only 578 plate appearances.  Interestingly, mlb.com had him as their 123rd ranked player in their list of draft eligible prospects for that year, reinforcing the type of highly regarded pedigree I covet.  His minor league triple slash checks in at .299/.389/.423, which is enough to intrigue anyone.  With at least plus speed and a plus arm which will help keep him on the field while his hitting develops, Duggar has the looks of a solid leadoff hitter. While it’s unclear whether he ends up at CF or RF, he could stick in center with improvement. His reads and jumps on steals are another aspect of his game he’ll need to improve, though, after a season where he was only successful on 55% of his stolen base attempts.  With coaching, he can correct those flaws in his game and develop into something close to a healthy version of Dexter Fowler.

If all these guys are already owned in your league, kudos to you for playing in an awesomely deep league.  Maybe this is a good time to target some of these players in trade and send feeler offers.  If offseason trading isn’t your thing or if the depth of your leagues goes well beyond this short list, I’d be happy to dive further into prospect waters next time around.

Don’t Forget About September Shut-Downs: Vincent Velasquez

Lots of dynasty baseball players like to think that they are good at keeping the long-term in mind. We make a wizard trade for that prospect who won’t be in The Show for at least three years, and we pat ourselves on the back for those next three up and down years of prospect-dom. Sadly, dynasty baseball players are also human beings, and human beings undergo something known as recency bias… We all know it; the movie you saw last week was the best you’ve ever seen, even though the movie you saw last month used to hold that title, and before that the movie you saw last year. Recency bias exists in every walk of life, and it can definitely exist in a dynasty league near you.

One of the more frustrating things a fantasy owner might have to deal with is his pitcher getting shut down in September. Your young phenom, the guy who has carried your pitching staff all year, gets shut down in order to protect his gifted arm. For some, after a month of seeing no contributions from that guy, it’s a pleasant surprise to remember he’s on your team and how good he was. From the 2016 season, one guy in particular stands out to me as a guy you don’t want to forget about: Vincent Velasquez.

Vincent Velasquez was supposed to be a reliever. Houston thought so; the pundits after he was traded to Philadelphia thought so. Whether it was command or injury concerns, analysts and baseball people left and right thought that Velasquez would turn out to be a bullpen arm, limiting his value. Last year, starting all 24 of his appearances, he proved he can be a starting pitcher in the major leagues. With an ERA+ of 100, he was exactly a league average pitcher, but keep in mind he threw about half the year as a 23 year old. A league average pitcher at 23 normally develops into much better than league average as he moves into his prime.

The tantalizing thing about Velasquez is his strikeout rate. He struck out 1o.44 batters per nine innings last year, including a game where he struck out 16 Padres (yeah, it’s the Padres, but still, 16). His K%, the number of batters that stepped in the box that he struck out, was a strong 27.6%. He didn’t throw quite enough innings to qualify for leaderboards, but if he had and had maintained that rate, he would have been sixth in all of baseball with that K%. More than one of every four guys that stepped in would strike out. He also would have been in the top 20 in swinging strike percentage if he qualified, at over 11%. Two impressive statistics for a guy who pitched much of the season at only 23.

Vincent Velasquez, VV as I like to call him, is not a fluke. He has the stuff to be dominant for years and years to come. It all starts with a fastball that he averaged 94 miles per hour on this past season. He also has three other pitches, a slider, curve, and changeup, all of which he will throw in any count. His curve and slider both flash plus at times, and he should only continue to hone them as he gets more experienced. He also will throw his changeup at very effective times in at-bats; when the batter has to gear up for Velasquez’s heat, the drop in velocity and the physical drop on his changeup are enough to get some swing and misses.

I’m not sure if your local VV owner would have forgotten enough about Velasquez’s tantalizing potential to trade him to you on the cheap, but it’s sure worth a try. He could be a stalwart in your dynasty rotation for the next ten years, and if there’s any chance at all that he’s undervalued, that is not the kind of opportunity you pass up. I’d be going after him right this instant, and if you get rejected, you’ll just have to face the dominance of Vincent Velasquez from the wrong dugout for the next decade.

Betting on Bounce Backs Using BABIP (and Other Stuff)

Even though the smell of stale champagne and deep-dish pizza grease still lingers, it’s time to start thinking about next season. It’s what we do as dynasty owners. Combing through the stats to find under the radar or bounce back candidates is a great way to break the offseason monotony, and there’s no better time to start than immediately. Right now. Go.

This week, I wanted to hit on a handful of stats that can be predictive for positive regression in the future, while identifying a few players that could stand to benefit.

BABIP – Joe Panik

It’s easy to see a high (or low) batting average, quickly check a player’s BABIP and scream “REGRESSION”. Sometimes that is a perfectly reasonable reaction. Other times, it’s a little more complicated. Why do you have to go and make things so complicated (No Avril? Ok, cool, moving on.)?

Usually, hitters that tend to make a lot of contact have a better opportunity to sustain higher BABIP numbers. When scrolling through the contact percentage leaderboard, one name that stands out is Joe Panik. Panik made contact on 90 percent if his swings and carried a BABIP of .245. The league average is .300, so that’s pretty low. Additionally, only three hitters managed to draw more walks than strikeouts last season, Ben Zobrist, Carlos Santana (Smooth), and Joe Panik.

So we know Panik has a pretty good idea of what he’s doing at the plate (and I resisted a terrible Panik pun, so really we’re all winners). Also, he hasn’t shown a propensity to sell out his approach for the sole purpose of making contact. For these reasons, the .245 BABIP, leading to a .239 batting average, looks pretty suspect. Before the 2016 season, his previous low BABIP was .330. Now, Panik dealt with several injuries last season, which could have played a role in his low BABIP and subsequent batting average dip, but all signs point to him being right for Opening Day in 2017. In that case, he should be back to hanging around a .300 batting average, and being a very valuable dynasty asset at age 26.

Infield Fly Balls – Xander Bogaerts

A good rule of thumb: batted balls that you or I could easily catch are, um, less than ideal. Infield fly balls are basically free outs. Free outs wreak havoc on a batting average. Besides a strike out, popping a weak infield fly ball is the worst outcome for a hitter. In 2016, Todd Frazier led the league, with 18.5 percent of his fly balls never leaving the infield. That’s really bad (9.7 percent is league average), but it is understandable, in a sense. Over the last couple seasons Frazier has adopted more of an uppercut swing, resulting in more homers, but also lower batting averages, including last season’s .225 train wreck.

While Frazier’s league leading rates and effects can be explained, the runner-up, Xander Bogaerts, requires a deeper look. Last season, 17.8 percent of the fly balls hit by Bogaerts were considered infield flies (also bad #analysis). This number is a little more puzzling, as Bogaerts still hit .294 in his 719 trips to the plate. Also puzzling is the fact that in his previous two full seasons, Bogaerts never cracked an 11 percent infield fly ball rate.

Sure, Bogaerts may have tweaked his swing a little to unlock some power and launch a career high 21 dingers (chicks dig the long ball, after all), but that doesn’t really fully explain the spike in infield fly balls. According to Brooks Baseball, pitchers didn’t really change their approach to Bogaerts, focusing on working him low and away in the zone. In addition, he hit the ball harder in 2016 than any other year of his career, as evidenced by an above average 90-mph exit velocity (according to Statcast) on batted balls. If Bogaerts is seeing similar pitches, and hitting the ball harder, then it’s possible that his infield fly ball rate could be a one-year outlier. If he cuts some of these easy outs from his batted ball profile, Bogaerts should see a healthy bump in batting average, which could push him into the 2017 batting title chase, and more importantly buoy your rate stats.


DRA – Michael Pineda

Fielding and circumstance ruin everything. Luckily, in DRA, we have a statistic that relies on only a pitcher’s skill level and performance. In 2016, the starting pitcher that led the league was (drumroll, please) Clayton Kershaw, with a 2.03 DRA. Ok, maybe that was a bit anticlimactic. Maybe a little more surprisingly, however, was the fact that Michael Pineda finished sixth, with a DRA of 2.58, vastly out performing his lowly 4.82 ERA.

Fellow TDG scribe Nick Doran has already detailed why Pineda shouldn’t be slept on in the future (which is a great piece that you should read, I’ll hang out while you do). However the extent of Pineda’s low-key brilliance in 2016 can’t be ignored and I needed to touch on in again. Sure he gave up probably a few too many homers to be fully comfortable, as his 1.4 per nine innings is a little above league average. However that’s pretty much where his mediocrity ended.

Pineda fanned 10.6 per nine innings en route to 207 punch-outs in 176 innings. He ended the season with a 78 cFIP, good for sixth in baseball among qualified starters. The bottom line is that Michael Pineda is actually super good. And the better news is that it’s not immediately evident by his traditional statistics. For that reason, I agree with Nick 100 percent. It’s a good time to buy in on Pineda and be glad that you did.

Follow Mark on Twitter @hoodieandtie

Predicting Power: Part 1

Predicting Power: Part 1

Juiced ball or not, there was an increase in power across the MLB in 2016. Will pitchers adjust? Will more batters swing for the fences? To help wrangle in some thoughts on the power surge, Statcast gives us the barrels statistic. A quick look at the leaderboard shows Miguel Cabrera had the most barrels in 2016 with 72. That’s great and all, but I think most people know by now that Miggy can hit. What I want to investigate are the splits. Who turned it up after the all-star break in 2016? This is an attempt to investigate players that started to figure some things out and might continue doing the same next year.

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