Welcome back to the Dynasty Dive, a weekly column meant to explore the fringes of the fantasy baseball universe. It's only been a few days since the introductory post went live on the main site. I still have plenty of dynasty related news, strategies, and picks to share.
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.
There's nothing to report down on the farm since everybody's still in extended Spring Training. Here are a few major league notes.
Pollock down, Owings and Brito to benefit
Diamondbacks star center fielder A.J. Pollock will be out indefinitely after breaking his elbow. He's scheduled for surgery today. It's possible he'll miss the rest of the season, although Pollock hopes to make it back for the stretch run. I doubt we'll see him for any meaningful action unless the club is still in contention late in the season. He suffered a similar injury in 2010 and didn't return until the Arizona Fall League.
I happen to like Chris Owings more than most. He'll get a chance to fill a super utility role in Pollock's absence. He's expected to start in center field against left-handed pitching, and he could poach starts at second base too. Owings was a miserable hitter last year, yet the 24-year-old still has breakout potential. He could make for an interesting player to stash. If he learns to buff his OBP above .310, he's a 20 steal threat.
Socrates Brito was making a case to split time with Yasmany Tomas. Now he'll mostly start in center field against right-handed pitching. Brito, 23, is an aggressive hitter with 10 home run power and 15-20 steal speed. There are serious flaws in his game – notably the potential for a high strikeout rate. To me, the best case scenario is a low power Adam Jones.
Since he's a bonafide “prospect,” now is a bad time to buy. Wait for him to either establish his talent or flop before taking a flier. Of course, if he's a free agent, go ahead and grab a share.
Tejada, Pham injured, Diaz recalled
In the wake of injuries to Ruben Tejada and Tommy Pham, the Cardinals have activated shortstop prospect Aledmys Diaz. He doesn't actually figure to play much for now, but the move shows he's next up on the Cardinals shortstop depth chart.
Jhonny Peralta is set to miss about three months with some combination of Jedd Gyorko, Tejada, Diaz, and Greg Garcia bridging the gap. Diaz is talked about as the shortstop of the future in St. Louis so it will be good for him to get a taste of the majors.
He's a patient, high contact hitter with minimal power and speed. The profile reads similarly to Joe Panik. An important caveat – Panik succeeds because he has a tiny swinging strike rate. A high contact hitter in the minors won't necessarily have a similar success rate in the majors. View Panik as Diaz's offensive upside rather than his current talent level.
Shaky bullpens and blown saves – Atlanta and Philadelphia
The Braves and Phillies were expected to have bad bullpens. They've already done some damage. In Atlanta, Jason Grilli blew the save. Manager Fredi Gonzalez has already said that Arodys Vizcaino will face the most difficult late-inning hitters. Sounds like a time share in the ninth inning with Vizcaino taking the bulk of the work.
The situation in Philadelphia has less clarity. The club wants David Hernandez to close, but he was terrible yesterday. Dalier Hinojosa is often mentioned as an alternative. It's also worth noting that Jeanmar Gomez threw a clean inning. Gomez is unowned in nearly all leagues and could eventually find himself earning saves.
Strategy – Buying Pollock
Injuries open all kinds of opportunities. Usually, we think about the players who will fill in for the injured player. In a dynasty setting, sometimes the top target is actually the injured guy.
I'm an owner of Pollock in the industry league The Devil's Rejects (I co-manage with Chad Young of RotoGraphs). We spent the winter cashing in prospects for win-now assets like Pollock, Chris Archer, Gerrit Cole, and Kyle Seager. We have every intention of contending. Losing Pollock before the season even starts is a devastating blow.
We're also lucky. Dynasty leagues tend to be cyclical. Presently, between eight and 10 teams in our 20-team league are mostly focused on rebuilding. Several of them went whole hog with pure prospect rosters. That means there were more major league players for the contenders – we had Jayson Werth, Zack Cozart (via moving Ben Zobrist to the outfield), and Joey Rickard available to sub for Pollock. They won't replicate his production, but they'll do something.
If your league has fewer rebuilding teams, Pollock's owner may be in a more desperate position. We've received a few offers for Pollock since his injury. Carlos Gomez. Billy Burns. Prince Fielder and Elvis Andrus. We don't have to make a trade, but the Gomez offer is tempting - even if 2015 represents the new norm for him.
If you're rebuilding, now may be a good time to cash in an older, quality player for Pollock. Sit on his lost 2016 season and reap the rewards in future seasons. This approach will work best if Pollock's owner is a hard contender. If the injury pushes the owner into rebuilding territory, they may prefer a prospect package instead.
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.
We talked about a few of these situations in the weekly recap. The D'Backs outfield jumble and Phillies bullpen probably offer the most dynasty opportunity. Here are a couple more team scenarios to watch.
The Reds roster has a few gnarled patches. The infield is comfortably set even if the club prefers for Brandon Phillips to be elsewhere. The outfield is already volatile, and it projects to get worse before it gets better.
Jay Bruce will start until he's traded, but that will happen sooner or later. I figure he'll be the first name brand player to be traded during the season. Billy Hamilton has a secure role, and I doubt he's being shopped. No matter how poorly he hits, elite defense will keep him in the lineup.
For now, left field is a time share between Scott Schebler and Adam Duvall. Schebler's probably the more interesting player. With Cincinnati as a home park, he has 20 home run power and 10 steal potential over a full season. He may struggle making contact. His ability to improve that facet of his game will determine if he's a starter or Justin Maxwell-type 26th man.
Duvall, formerly a third baseman in the Giants system, has more power, less speed, and more strikeouts (probably). To me, he looks like he can hit an empty 30 home runs if the Reds cut him loose. I don't foresee positive outfield defense. As with Schebler and any prospect with strikeout problems, his ability to make contact will decide if he can remain in the lineup.
Cincinnati has some interesting factors on the farm who could earn time once Bruce is gone. Yorman Rodriguez likely gets first crack at some action. It's time for him to put up or step aside for shinier prospects. The 23-year-old has plus raw power but doesn't get to it in game action. He also struggles with strikeouts.
Jesse Winker is the top outfield prospect in the system – and arguably their top prospect overall. The 22-year-old feature plus-plus plate discipline. At Double-A, he hit .282/.390/.433 with a 14.1% walk rate and 15.8 percent strikeout rate. He currently has 10 to 15 home run power with upside for 20 homers a year. Prospects who specialize in plate discipline tend to be risky, but they also turn into top fantasy assets. See Mookie Betts.
Further down on the farm, you'll find Phillip Ervin. I'm going to save him for another day.
Dodgers second base
With Howie Kendrick on the disabled list, veteran Chase Utley has a narrow window to lock down a prominent role in the Dodgers offense. He led off yesterday, going 3-for-5 with a walk (HBP). It's already been announced that he'll reprise his role atop the order tonight.
Utley isn't the sort of player dynasty owners like to target. He's old, he's nearing retirement, and he's coming off a terrible season. I still think Utley has something left in the tank. Obviously nothing like his superb prime, but a decent OBP and some runs scored seems possible.
Buying low on Utley is a risky proposition with only minimal rewards. If you're short on middle infielders, he can give you some depth. Perhaps you can swap a similarly aged surplus piece like Marlon Byrd or Angel Pagan. Alternatively, a low value prospect should do the trick.
Once Kendrick returns, the Dodgers will have a roster crunch on their hands. Utley figures to be a four or five day a week player even without Kendrick present. The club wanted Utley to learn third base this spring, but it's worth noting that Utley failed at third back when he was a precocious Phillies prospect. If a 24-year-old Utley couldn't play third, I doubt the old man version can.