Welcome back to the Dynasty Dive, a weekly column meant to explore the fringes of the fantasy baseball universe. It's been a very busy week with Nomar Mazara, Max Kepler, Mallex Smith, and Micah Johnson finding their way to the majors. In the case of Kepler and Johnson, it's their second trip to the big leagues.
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.
My advice from last week's recaps went well. Chris Owings mostly struggled to provide any offense, but Socrates Brito showed some flashes. A.J. Pollock is likely to miss the remainder of the year, and Brito is still the best guy to semi-fill his shoes.
Aledmys Diaz has thrived in his first week. He went 8-for-16 with a homer, triple, and three doubles. He was a contact hitter in the minors and those skills have translated to majors through one week. His .583 BABIP will regress, leaving you with something like a .260/.310/.415 hitter.
I also suggested looking into Phillies middle reliever Jeanmar Gomez. He saved two games and is the unofficial closer. He won't hold the job forever – he simply doesn't have the skills to close – but he's the best option for now.
Choo down, Mazara up
Shin-Soo Choo will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a calf injury. In the mean time, elite prospect Nomar Mazara will take over in right field. Mazara is an exciting hitting prospect with power, plate discipline, and contact skills. He has one of the prettiest left-handed swings I've seen in some time.
While that's no guarantee of major league success, his minor league numbers are quite compelling. If there's a downside, it's that he won't be stealing any bases. Oh, and he won't turn 21 until later this month.
White, Story rake in debuts
Astros first baseman Tyler White was nearly invincible in his major league debut, hitting .545/.577/.1.091 over 26 plate appearances. He homered thrice, doubled thrice more, and added six singles to boot. It's an encouraging start for a player who compares favorably to Daric Barton.
You know the deal with Story – seven home runs through his first six games. If you're buying or selling, I have a good comp for you to use – Brian Dozier. What would you pay for a 23-year-old Dozier clone with Coors Field as his home? Remember, Dozier isn't getting any better, but Story very well could improve.
You won't be acquiring either player cheaply, but several owners will be hard set to “sell high.” Once reality sets in – no, Story will not fetch you Kershaw – you might be able to swoop in with a reasonable offer. Story figures to be a huge home run threat at shortstop for the foreseeable future. It's much harder to guess what the future has in store for White.
Park starts slow, Santana down, Kepler up
Twins designated hitter Byung-ho Park is off to a slow start. He's 3-for-21 with one home run, three walks, and 12 strikeouts. His swinging strike rate is off the charts. If you're a Park owner, don't panic yet. However, you may want to ease him out of your starting lineup.
Like Jung-ho Kang, Park probably needs to be acclimated to the majors. They can begin by hiding him from the toughest pitchers. With Max Kepler recently recalled, they could start giving Miguel Sano more DH starts.
Kepler doesn't figure to play regularly – at least for now. He has a solid blend of power, speed, and contact skills. I've seen some scouts wonder if he'll be a fourth outfielder rather than a full-fledged starter. His strikeout rate may ultimately determine his best role.
Stripling's little league no hitter
Growing up, we used to play seven inning games. Dodgers starter Ross Stripling no-hit the Giants over 7.1 innings. The outing was not without blemish – he walked four and allowed a run.
Stripling is the latest in a long string of mediocre pitchers to post one exceptional day. Bud Smith, Phil Humber, Dallas Braden, Chris Heston are just a few of the very ordinary pitchers to complete no hitters. Smith and Humber were actually quite bad. Don't overreact if a rival is shopping him.
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'll start with Triple-A.
Rays corner infielder Richie Shaffer is off to a hot start, hitting .529/.636/.706 through 22 plate appearances. Shaffer should earn a look later in the season. He was passably decent last season. The Rays do have a crowded corner infield picture.
Orioles first baseman Christian Walker is blocked at the major league level. If Pedro Alvarez continues his slow start, Walker could conceivably steal his spot. He's at .389/.500/.778 in 22 plate appearances.
On the post-hype circuit, Drew Hutchison was superb in his season debut - five innings, nine strikeouts, one run, two walks, and a hit. Hutch will be back in Toronto before long and can probably be acquired for a song.
Phillies lefty Adam Morgan was similarly excellent – five innings, nine strikeouts, three hits, and one run (solo homer). The southpaw is a command and control guy with fly ball tendencies. He'll get a chance later in the season and could be comparable to Josh Tomlin.
Pacific Coast League
Julio Urias is well on his way to becoming the youngest player in the majors. That honor is currently held by Mazara (soon-to-be 21). Urias, 19, threw five innings with nine strikeouts, four hits, and no runs.
Two other hurlers who should pitch in the majors this year – Zach Davies and Sean Manaea – both had very strong season debuts. Davies could conceivably join a bad Brewers rotation by mid-May. Manaea may take a little longer to crack the A's top five.
Future Schwarber replacement Willson Contreras has continued his hot spring. He's hitting .474/.524/.579 through 21 plate appearances. Contreras is considered to be nearly major league ready. While not a defensive stud, he's vastly superior to Schwarber. For now, the Cubs will settle for their veteran tandem of Miguel Montero and David Ross. Eventually, one of them will hit the disabled list, opening the door for Contreras. He's a must own in any semi-deep dynasty.
White may be raking, but he'll have to keep it up in order to hold off A.J. Reed. The top first base prospect has a .333/.500/.583 line through 16 plate appearances. Granted, that doesn't hold a candle to what White's done, but Reed is still the superior hitter. If White continues to hit, then the Evan Gattis-Preston Tucker platoon will soon be on thin ice.
Tony Kemp, Jurickson Profar, and Joey Gallo are also looking sharp. Kemp is a diminutive second baseman currently stuck behind Jose Altuve. Look for Kemp to be traded closer to the deadline. Profar is still just 23 and was once described as the Mike Trout of shortstop prospects. He's blocked in Texas, as is Gallo who was passed over for Mazara this week. Gallo has two home runs and “only” a 22.7 percent strikeout rate. Wait for another 75 plate appearances before celebrating his new contact rate.
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.
Astros designated hitter
We already touched on this depth jam so I'll rifle through it. With White raking and Tucker off to a hot start of his own (.333/.412/.933, two home runs), Gattis needs to get going quickly. El oso blanco came to the plate 604 times last season and hit 27 home runs. Power is his only redeeming quality - a .285 OBP is painful.
Tucker may already be the better pick as the designated hitter, and Reed will certainly merit consideration before long. Gattis can't possibly have much real world trade value. I could see a team like the Orioles taking a flier if Alvarez continues to flop. The White Sox may also have a role for him. Dynasty owners should consider selling Gattis immediately.
I play a pretty deep dynasty and Hazelbaker was a free agent until only a few days ago. His hot hitting has earned him a regular spot batting second for a decent Cardinals offense. Hazelbaker has a history of high BABIPs in the minors. That often means the hitter makes hard contact. He's done just that with a 10-for-19 start, five extra base hits including two home runs, and a couple stolen bases. So long as he's batting second, he's a mixed league eligible asset.
Dynasty owners should look deeper. He's a 28-year-old without major league experience. This is likely to be the high water mark of his career as a fourth outfielder. He's currently cheating Randal Grichuk, Brandon Moss, and Matt Adams of playing time. He won't hold them off forever. When reality reasserts itself, the best case scenario for Hazelbaker still isn't very exciting. Now is an excellent time to sell for anything.
That Eugenio Suarez guy sure came from nowhere. Not so fast. There's a reason Suarez is on literally every one of my fantasy teams. He was a steal on draft day, and he's shown why in the first week of the season. Over 30 plate appearances, Suarez is hitting .370/.433/.815 with four home runs.
The 24-year-old shortstop has a history of limiting his soft contact. It's a good way to consistently post an above average BABIP. His swing generates plenty of lift. He had some issues with plate discipline last season, but they looked like the kind of adjustments made by somebody new to the majors. Thus far, he's swinging less at balls and working counts better.
Now is a bad time to buy high, nor do I recommend selling high in a dynasty. Suarez is going to be a useful dynasty piece for the next half decade. If you're looking to add Suarez, you should probably hope he has a slumpy week 2. That could push his owner to execute a panicky “sell-high” deal at an actual reasonable price.