Welcome back to the Dynasty Dive, a weekly column meant to explore the fringes of the fantasy baseball universe.
As a general reminder, the term dynasty means something different to everybody. I consider a league with 900 players rostered to be a normal dynasty. You might call your 300 player league a dynasty. Regardless of your league depth, there's one defining factor of all dynasties share – an ability to keep most of your roster year-to-year.
This column will try to cater to all dynasty owners. It will be up to you to judge if a recommendation or strategy is too deep or shallow for your particular use case.
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Last week's recap included notes about Nomar Mazara, Tyler White, Trevor Story, Byung-ho Park, and Ross Stripling. Mazara has hit the ground running as the Rangers second hitter. White and Story were mostly successful yet much more mortal in week two. As I mentioned when comparing Story to Brian Dozier, the power and speed will be offset by strikeouts.
I counseled patience with regards to Park, noting that his big strikeout rate is a sign he'll need time to adjust. With extra base hits in four of the last five games, Park may be catching on quicker than I originally anticipated. He's still a mistake pitch hitter.
Stripling had a solid second start. I still don't see him as anything more than a fantasy spot starter. In deep dynasties with few rebuilding teams, Stripling will have his uses. The same is true of NL-Only formats. However, even my deep 20-team league tends to treat guys like Stripling as replacement level. He has a candy matchup against the Braves tomorrow. If you speculated, stick with him through tomorrow then sell high.
Hernandez's big week
The Dodgers have a deep roster. Injuries in the outfield and a couple matchups against left-handed pitching opened the door for Enrique Hernandez. The utility man was one of the top performers this week with a .444/.474/.889 line. He even hit two home runs off Madison Bumgarner. Hernandez is now a .625/.625/1.438 hitter in 16 plate appearances against Bumgarner.
Hernandez won't work his way into every day action for a few reasons – the aforementioned depth and big platoon splits. Over his brief career, he's a .392/.452/.683 hitter versus lefties. Obviously those numbers contain quite a bit of helium. Even expecting regression, he'll still be a useful platoon hitter in daily moves leagues. He bats leadoff whenever there's a southpaw on the hill.
Bregman's power stroke
Top prospect Alex Bregman wasn't supposed to hit for much power. Through his first 51 Double-A plate appearances, he's popped five home runs with more than twice as many walks than strikeouts. That tallies up to a .395/.480/.767 slash.
Bregman profiles as a high contact shortstop with 20 stolen base potential. While the powerful start to the year is encouraging, it's worth noting that he's hit just one double. Some of those home runs will probably turn back into doubles going forward. Even so, it's already easier to see him exceeding 10 home runs annually. It's a small sample, but he's flashing a Mookie Betts-like profile.
Bregman was selected second overall in the 2015 amateur draft – immediately after fellow shortstop Dansby Swanson. If you're a Twitter user, I created a poll to see which stud shortstop you think will reach the majors first.
Swanson has a clearer path – his only possible impediments are Ozhaino Albies and his own development. Bregman has a tougher road – third base is semi-available, but the Astros have a crowded roster. Moving Bregman onto the 40-man roster could force the club to designate a valuable player.
After their slow start to the season, the Twins already need reinforcements. Injuries to Danny Santana and Trevor Plouffe have temporarily opened the door for Jorge Polanco. The Twins top infield prospect was hitting .286/.316/.543 through 38 Triple-A plate appearances. He's an adequate fielder at shortstop which usually translates to plus numbers at third base. It's unclear if Polanco or Eduardo Escobar will be asked to move down the defensive spectrum.
More importantly for fantasy purposes, Polanco features respectable contact rates, decent plate discipline, and adequate speed. He hasn't shown much power to this point in his career. Most scouts think he'll hit over 10 home runs a season. If he gets off to a hot start, he could force his way into the regular lineup. Escobar's best fit is as a high quality utility man. With luck, Polanco might be able to steal his job when Plouffe returns.
We'll occasionally peek in at a few minor league top performers. It will be a mixture of top prospects and under-the-radar picks. We reviewed Triple-A last week. Let's check Double-A today.
The Eastern League is loaded with interesting names to watch.
Phillies catcher Jorge Alfaro is off to a hot start. He's hitting .500/.526/.750 through 38 plate appearances. Alfaro has the difficult task of developing both at and behind the plate. As a catcher, he needs to improve everything not related to his arm. As a hitter, he has contact issues with poor plate discipline. As a result, he doesn't get the most out of his plus power. The entire profile reminds me of J.P. Arencibia.
Orioles first base prospects seem to fall into a sort of purgatory. Christian Walker has been around for years, yet he's no closer to sniffing the majors. Trey Mancini also has plenty of minor league experience. He's currently stalled out at Double-A where he's hitting. 308/.438/.769 with five home runs in 48 plate appearances.
Defense-first catcher Reese McGuire has walked seven times with just one strikeout in 33 plate appearances. He's even flashed a little power with a home run and a double. The overall line of .308/.455/.462 is a good sign from a guy with a developing bat. He may be a viable replacement to Francisco Cervelli by mid-2017.
If you've heard of Aaron Wilkerson, chances are you're a crazed Red Sox fan. At nearly 27 years old, Wilkerson isn't a traditional prospect. However, it's worth noting that the undrafted righty has succeeded at every challenge. Currently, he has a 0.54 ERA, 11.88 K/9, and 1.62 BB/9 through his first three starts (16.2 innings). With the Red Sox always shaky in the rotation, Wilkerson could play his way into a look later this year.
The Southern League has a couple fast-rising pitchers. Let's look at them first.
Mariners top prospect Edwin Diaz is nearly major league ready. His first three starts (16 innings) have included a 1.69 ERA, 13.50 K/9, and 1.13 BB/9. He throws from three-quarters slot similar to a right-handed Bumgarner. Will King Felix be dethroned by Diaz later this year?
While the Mariners may need Diaz to help the club contend, the Brewers are in pure development mode. Josh Hader made a case to be on the Opening Day roster, but the club is taking it slow. Double-A has not been a challenge through three starts (13 innings). He has a 0.69 ERA, 13.15 K/9, and 4.15 BB/9. Hader, a lefty, was acquired as part of the Carlos Gomez trade. He could outperform Gomez as soon as later this year – and Hader wasn't even the best prospect in that deal.
As I was saying, Hader wasn't the best prospect in the Gomez trade. That title belongs to Brett Phillips. The outfielder has posted brutal strikeout rates since joining the Brewers. He's also making tremendous contact. As an Astro, he regularly posted strikeout rates below 20 percent. Hopefully his current over-30 percent strikeout rate in Milwaukee is a mirage. Then his .317/.378/.512 line (.480 BABIP) would look even better.
Last year, Mariners prospect Tyler O'Neill hit 32 home runs, stole 16 bases, and struck out at a 30.5 percent rate. Some sluggers post high strikeout rates because they're disciplined. Not O'Neill. He's an aggressive hitter which puts a very low floor on his profile. If the light goes on, he could have a huge fantasy ceiling. For now, his .317/.364/.537 line is only worthy of a speculative add.
There are some good farm systems in the Texas League. We've already talked about Alex Bregman. He's the most notable prospect in this league.
Powerful, patient Matt Chapman is one of the Athletics' top prospects. He won't be a high average hitter. I'm reminded of Carlos Santana with a higher strikeout rate. He's hitting .229/.400/.543 with three home runs through 45 plate appearances.
Scouts have raved about Raul Mondesi for years, but his bat has always lagged behind the reports. The 20-year-old is repeating Double-A, and it's going well - .282/.364/.615 with three home runs through 44 plate appearances. He has more extra base hits than singles. If the power isn't a small sample mirage, Mondesi is well on his way to becoming one of the top prospects in baseball. He already has 20 or more stolen base speed.
A couple off-the-radar guys – Bruce Caldwell (St. Louis) and Sherman Johnson (Los Angeles) are off to strong starts. It's always worthwhile to track untouted Cardinals. They tend to explode onto the big stage out of nowhere (see Jeremy Hazelbaker). Caldwell suddenly isn't striking out while hitting for power and walking.
The Angels farm system is so bleak that Johnson will draw attention. He's extremely patient and has plus speed. There's just enough power in the profile for it to all work as a lead off hitter. That outcome remains unlikely for the 25-year-old, but it's possible. It's worth speculating in deep dynasties.
The Astros rotation is hurting which could create an opportunity for Joe Musgrove. The former 46th overall pick in the 2011 draft is a command pitcher with excellent minor league results. He's not a soft-tosser like many command guys – he can touch 94 mph. None of his pitches profile to be exceptional by themselves, but his overall repertoire could allow everything to play up. I see a better version of Jerad Eickhoff.
Teams and Players to Watch
During the season, we'll take a regular look for players on the cusp of more playing time. Dynasty success often comes by maximizing value at the margins then converting those margins into established studs. It can be easiest to focus our attention on specific teams as they sort through depth at weak positions or deal with an injury.
The Twinkies rotation has been surprisingly decent. In particular, Phil Hughes and Ricky Nolasco have performed well. Kyle Gibson isn't commanding the ball, but I expect him to adjust. The bigger issue is Tommy Milone. The soft-tossing lefty has allowed eight runs and four home runs through 10.2 innings. He's fine as a depth piece, but Minnesota now needs to climb out of a hole. It's hard to do that with an innings eater.
Jose Berrios is the big name to watch. Most fantasy owners have their eyes on Lucas Giolito and Tyler Glasnow. It's Berrios who has the clearest path to the majors. Minnesota will secure an extra season of club control over him any day now. Once that happens, he could join the club as the staff ace. He has the stuff to strike out over a batter per inning, but there's also notable downside. His command can come and go. The downside probably looks something like a right-handed Carlos Rodon. That's not such a bad scenario.
There's a chance Berrios isn't the first call. Tyler Duffey was solid in a 58 inning major league debut last season. He posted a 3.10 ERA with 8.22 K/9 and 3.10 BB/9. His minor league numbers suggest a better walk rate is possible. Duffey leaned heavily on his curve ball. His fastball may be a minus pitch. His sinker also generated good results.