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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The Braves are a special kind of bad, but they have prospects galore on the horizon. In addition to the names already in stock, they're expected to sign many of the top international free agents. They also have a handful of early draft picks.
The club has to be thrilled with Dansby Swanson's transition to Double-A. He's hitting .310/.447/.517 through 36 plate appearances – roughly identical numbers to his early season High-A success. In three minor league stops, Swanson has yet to strike out more than he's walked. What were the Diamondbacks thinking when they traded him?
Ozhaino Albies first week at Triple-A was decidedly less successful. He's hitting just .219/.219/.281. Let's remember, he turned 19 in January, making him the youngest position player in the upper minors. It's also a small sample of failure. Even Bryce Harper has bad weeks. Swanson may ultimately reach the majors first, but the future is bright for both their top shortstop prospects.
Nationals shortstop prospect Trea Turner has continued his solid play. He'll never be a world beater, but he appears to be MLB-ready enough to provide a good batting average and stolen bases. The Nationals are getting nothing out of Danny Espinosa and Stephen Drew. Meanwhile, they've ceded first place in the NL East to the Mets, the Phillies are (somehow) nipping on their heels, and Harper has one hit and 21 walks over his last five games. More offense is needed.
Junior Guerra made two six inning starts for the Brewers. In both cases, he allowed four runs. Guerra is probably nothing more than a stream starter – even in deep leagues. However, it's encouraging to see him induce a high 11.5 percent swinging strike rate. There's upside here for a surprisingly solid performance.
E-Rod Nearing Return
After a good but inconsistent debut in 2015, Eduardo Rodriguez has been sidelined by a spring knee injury. He's made three rehab appearances and will be activated after his next one. His first start of the season should come sometime around the middle of next week.
The Red Sox rotation has its issues. Henry Owens is holding the short straw unless Clay Buchholz finds his way onto the disabled list. Rodriguez was a breakout candidate this year thanks to a 94 mph fastball and decent offspeed stuff. Expect a bumpy road while he readjusts to the majors. You may want to sit him through his first few starts.
Parker Back in San Fran
Remember Russell Branyan? He's Jarrett Parker's spirit animal. The 27-year-old slugger was recalled by the Giants this week, taking the roster spot of prospect Mac Williamson. Parker was hitting .206/.302/.520 with nine home runs in 116 Triple-A plate appearances.
Parker will make occasional spot starts against right-handed pitching. If his starting days ever become predictable, he'll be useful to fantasy owners for his pure power potential. He showed off the good and the bad in a 54 plate appearance sample last year, hitting .347/.407/.755 with a fortunate .500 BABIP and six home runs. He also posted a 38.9 percent strikeout rate. It's home run or bust.
Urias on the Way?
Earlier this week, it emerged that the Dodgers were considering top pitching prospect Julio Urias for their bullpen. Urias, a 19-year-old starter, has a 1.50 ERA, 9.90 K/9, and 1.80 BB/9 as the youngest pitcher in Triple-A. Remember, he's working in the hitter friendly PCL too.
Personally, I see no reason why the Dodgers wouldn't use Urias as a starter. While he has an innings cap, the rotation is a little thin at the moment. Meanwhile, a host of starters are rehabbing. Urias could make six or eight short starts (five innings each), then either move to the bullpen or back to Triple-A.
The club doesn't want to overwork the precocious teenager. As such, they shouldn't go out of their way to keep him available for later in the season.
Polanco Round Two
This is Jorge Polanco's second shot for the Twins this season. Their top infield prospect was left on bench when Trevor Plouffe hit the skids. Now Brian Dozier is day-to-day and Eduardo Escobar is on the disabled list. Manager Paul Molitor seems to be enamored with mediocre veterans like Eduardo Nunez. My bet is Nunez and Danny Santana get shortstop starts over Polanco.
At Triple-A, Polanco was hitting .283/.346/.500 with good plate discipline. The 22-year-old appears to be major league ready with the potential to hit for a solid average and OBP. He'll steal bases too. Now all he needs is a real opportunity.
The Astros needed a pitching miracle. Chris Devenski may be delivering the goods. The righty has a 1.46 ERA, 8.03 K/9, and 1.82 BB/9. He throws a solid 92 mph fastball, a plus changeup, and two passable breaking balls. Overall, the repertoire reads as viable.
Devenski won't maintain his elite run prevention – projection systems expect anything from a mid-3s to mid-5s ERA. In particular, I foresee him regressing to about 3.00 BB/9 with a league average home run rate. That should shake out to about a 3.50 ERA. In the right matchups, Devenski could still be valuable to fantasy owners in most formats.
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.
Phillies First Base
The Phillies are 18-14, but they have some problems. For the most part, those involve young players adjusting to the majors or proving they belong. The black hole of production at first base is a little different.
Ryan Howard is hitting .185/.250/.424 – mostly against righties. At this rate, he's a few weeks away from a ticket off the roster. Darin Ruf may have even less time to get his act together. While Howard at least has seven home runs, Ruf isn't doing anything - .167/.217/.204.
The righty masher could benefit from some time at Triple-A. It might also be time for the club to move on to fresher options. Ruf isn't plucky a prospect anymore – he'll turn 30 in July. Even if he can regain his 2015 success, why does a rebuilding team need a wrong-handed platoon first baseman?
A few prospects could be ready for a trial run. Cam Perkins is a pure hitter with a .310/.333/.451 slash in Triple-A. He doesn't bring much to the table offensively, yet he'd likely outperform Ruf starting today.
The surprise to watch is Tommy Joseph. The former catching prospect, acquired in the Hunter Pence trade with San Francisco, is finally over his concussion issues. As a catcher, Joseph never showed enough bat to be a viable first baseman. In 88 Triple-A plate appearances, he's hitting .386/.409/.687 with six home runs. I'd call that enough.
Aggression has allowed him to hide a few of his flaws. He'll need to exhibit better plate discipline to succeed in the majors. Updated scouting reports are impossible to find so I asked Phillies prospect guy Matt Winkelman (@Matt_Winkelman) for his take. He cited sufficient raw tools, improved bat speed, and better contact ability. He also said Joseph is in good shape – he's been banged up throughout his entire Phillies tenure.
Winkelman did add that Joseph hasn't been forced to adjust yet. That will be a key test of his potential. As such, he's probably another month of Triple-A ahead of him before he's a candidate for the major league roster.
Astros First Base
From April 14 through May 5, Tyler White hit .088/.159/.211. That's as bad as it gets. His last three games include five hits and three doubles in 11 plate appearances. Adjustment made?
White has a narrow window to reclaim a firm hold on the first base job. The Astros are perhaps the most analytics-centric team so they won't overreact to a small sample. However, it's hard to ignore that the club has alternatives.
We're all impatient to see A.J. Reed. One of the top power bats in the minors, Reed turns 23 today. He's hitting .223/.322/.414 with six home runs in 120 plate appearances. While his stat line doesn't scream “promote me,” it's worth noting his unusually low .233 BABIP. Projection systems think he'd be a league average hitter if he was promoted today.
If the 'Stros prefer to further develop their top asset, Jonathan Singleton is under long term contract with very similar numbers. He's slashing .217/.327/.424 with six home runs in 110 plate appearances. He's also suffering from a low .212 BABIP, but it's less unusual in Singleton's case. In past major league opportunities, Singleton's patience has left him overexposed against plus breaking balls.