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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Since featuring prominently in last week's write up, Dodgers utility man Enrique Hernandez has produced one hit and five walks in 17 plate appearances. He only got one start against a lefty over that period. On the one hand, it's nice to see him escape a pure platoon role. However, he'll have to do something against righties to warrant more work.
Alex Bregman was promptly placed on the disabled list with a Grade 1 hamstring strain. A Grade 1 strain is the mildest possible. I'm typically in game shape after two or three days. Of course, I'm not properly rehabbing the injury which Bregman will certainly do.
The Twins confuse me. They had opportunities to try Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler. Instead, they let both prospects languish on the bench in deference to inferior veterans. They've been optioned back to Triple-A. Polanco went 2-for-4 with a walk in his only game since the demotion.
Mancini to Triple-A
After swatting seven home runs in 75 plate appearances (.302/.413/.698), Orioles slugging prospect Trey Mancini has been promoted to Triple-A. If he continues to display this kind of power, he'll quickly leapfrog Christian Walker on the depth chart – if he hasn't already.
The Orioles have depth at first base and designated hitter. Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo, and Pedro Alvarez form an impenetrable barrier to Mancini. Injuries could open the door. If not, Alvarez is the weak link. He's hitting .150/.292/.225 with no home runs. I expect Baltimore to be very patient with the streaky hitter. However, his leash isn't unlimited.
I've already said many good things about Cardinals shortstop Aledmys Diaz over the first few weeks. He hit a ridiculous .632/.650/.895 in the last seven days. Regression is coming, yet Diaz should remain extremely useful.
His fantasy owners may be itching to sell high. I still peg him as the shortstop version of Joe Panik. With Jeremy Hazelbaker slowing down, Diaz could soon bat second for the Cardinals. While he isn't a power bat, it's encouraging to see that 12 of his 26 hits have gone for extra bases.
Top pitching prospect Blake Snell had a successful major league debut against the Yankees over the weekend. He was immediately optioned to Triple-A after the game. Snell earned the opportunity because spot starter Erasmo Ramirez wasn't available.
Snell showed off an exciting repertoire. He has a rising fastball that he uses up in the zone – the kind that piles up strikeouts by the dozens. It may be the rising-est fastball in baseball. He also has a solid, loopy curve and a good looking changeup.
The lefty flashes ace potential. Like Diaz, he's another buy high candidate (I actually paused while writing this to send out some proposals). There are still flaws with his game so don't go overboard. Snell's command rates as merely average, and his fly ball ways aren't a great fit for the AL East. Luckily, his home park is the only pitcher friendly venue in the division.
Strategy: Buying Diaz or Snell
Occasionally, I'll cover strategic topics such as ways to approach a trade. When targeting players who should be mid-tier, buy-high candidates like Diaz and Snell, I usually try to position them as my second target.
For example, while penning this column, I offered Jason Heyward and Juan Nicasio for Nomar Mazara and Snell in a 12-team keeper (i.e. not a dynasty league). Heyward is the best player in the deal, but he won't be keepable. Mazara and Snell will cost $7 and $8 respectively. If/when the owner rejects my offer, I can gauge his willingness to trade Snell as part of a package for Heyward. Undoubtedly, he'll be more resistant to dealing Mazara.
In a true dynasty format, you have a few standard options for targeting Diaz or Snell. If their owners are contending, you can offer older, win-now assets who will probably break within the next few seasons. If they're deep in a rebuild, a package of prospects could turn the trick.
Many teams walk the line between contending and rebuilding. These teams tend to produce the most interesting trade talks because they're willing to go in either direction with a trade. You may have an opportunity to explore a challenge trade using another hot player.
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've hit Double- and Triple-A already. Let's just check out a few individuals this week.
Crawford and the Phillies
Phillies shortstop prospect J.P. Crawford may be hitting his way out of Double-A. The Phillies have every reason to keep the 21-year-old in the minors through the middle of next April. However, if he continues to make short work of the competition, the club will have trouble making the timeline work.
While most analysts assume Philadelphia will call upon Crawford sometime this year, they'll gain an extra season of club control if they wait. Crawford is currently hitting .306/.427/.419 with 13 walks and just nine strikeouts. He doesn't hit for much power nor is he particularly speedy. He should grow into 10 to 15 home runs a year while nabbing between 12 and 24 bases.
The easiest way for the Phillies to milk an extra season of club control is to hold Crawford in Double-A until some point in mid-June. That will give him enough time to be challenged by Triple-A pitching while keeping the experience brief enough to “merit” a demotion to start 2017.
The Phillies are currently 9-10 thanks to surprisingly good starting pitching. The starters look to be a stable, if inconsistent, source of production for the club. If they're still hanging around .500 in a month, they may opt to accelerate Crawford's timetable. Getting their top prospect and the rest of the team involved in a Wild Card race – even on the outskirts – will help everyone's development.
Using this information for fantasy purposes is easier said than done. Crawford is owned even in some 12-team mixed formats. Undoubtedly, he's rostered in your dynasty too. Since the power and speed won't be carrying tools, there is some risk to his fantasy profile. The ceiling looks something like Mookie Betts. Just remember that few players ever come anywhere near their ceiling. The current asking price for Crawford probably exceeds anything he'll ever accomplish.
Meanwhile, in Triple-A, Turner is hitting a robust .357/.430/.529 with nine walks and 13 strikeouts through 79 plate appearances. He even has a pair of home runs. Speed is the name of Turner's game. He's already taken six bases this year and should have another 25 in store for when he's promoted. The move is bound to come soon given the Nationals' aspirations to win the division.
Washington has suffered through terrible leadoff performances from Michael Taylor, Chris Heisey, and Matt den Dekker. It's classic Dusty being Dusty. Turner offers an obvious and substantial upgrade opportunity. Has Baker learned enough in his time away from managing to trust an unproven prospect? He's using unproven guys in the role now!
One warning – if Turner is atop the lineup, he may be more circumspect with his steal attempts than we expect. Nobody wants to get caught on the base paths while Bryce Harper has yet to hit. Ben Revere is liable to reclaim the top spot in the lineup once he returns from his oblique injury. He's progressing slowly in his recovery.
The Rays are getting miserable production out of primary designated hitter Logan Morrison. The other half of the platoon – Steve Pearce – is playing well. If the Rays decide they've seen enough from LoMo, Shaffer could get the call.
The right-handed batter is a classic slugger with solid plate discipline, a high strikeout rate, and consistent power. There's just enough whiff in his swing to diminish his dynasty value. Most owners look at him as a lottery ticket and for good reasons – that's exactly what he is!
Shaffer is hitting well in his second try at Triple-A. His .306/.434/.500 line is buoyed by a .405 BABIP. In the majors, expect something closer to a .235/.310/.400 slash. The AL East includes tough competition, but most of the parks are very power friendly.
The bigger issue for Shaffer is carving out a regular role once he's recalled. He won't have the platoon advantage over lefties, possibly making Corey Dickerson a better fit to slide into the primary designated hitter job. He'll effectively be battling Brandon Guyer and Pearce. They both mash lefties while struggling versus righties.
View Shaffer as a speculative add. I expect him to get some opportunities soon. Unfortunately, he's fringy enough that there's a good chance he won't make much of his chances.
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 Bullpen – Minors
I've already commented on the Phillies bullpen at the major league level. Andrew Bailey was recently recalled, and Hector Neris is off to an impressive start (14.73 K/9, 2.45 BB/9, 0.82 ERA). David Hernandez and Dalier Hinojosa appear recovered from slow starts. Jeanmar Gomez remains the guy. It's very much a temporary job.
Philadelphia will get minor league reinforcements later in the year. Jake Thompson and Mark Appel may eventually land in the bullpen, but the club isn't going to make that decision in 2016. Another starting prospect, Nick Pivetta, could be brought aboard as a reliever.
Pivetta was acquired from the Nationals for Jonathan Papelbon. He has a borderline-plus fastball with fringy breaking stuff. If one of those breaking balls takes a step forward, he could a candidate for late-inning relief. He doesn't profile as a closer.
Right-hander Edubray Ramos is acing his second try at Double-A. Ramos occasionally runs into trouble with his command. He throws a mid-to-high 90s fastball with an average slider. The breaking ball flashes plus potential. He's currently the Double-A closer, throwing 11 innings with a 2.45 ERA, 10.64 K/9, and 0.82 BB/9.
I have my eye on lefty Tom Windle. His stuff plays up out of the bullpen. If he can harness his command – something that's escaped him since joining the Phillies organization in 2015 – he has setup potential.
After auditing the Phillies relief prospects, it seems clear that their next closer will probably be a converted starter. My money remains on Thompson or Appel. They both have more value as starting pitcher prospects for now.