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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Orioles first base prospect Trey Mancini earned a quick promotion to Triple-A after slugging seven home runs in 75 plate appearances. His first 30 plate appearances at his new home have been less dynamic. This was to be expected. He's hitting a modest .240/.367/.360 with a 13.3 percent walk rate and 30 percent strikeout rate.
The key is to see how he adjusts over the course of the season. Can he iron out the K rate and tap into his power with more regularity? Mancini doesn't have an obvious place on the major league roster in the near future. He might be mid-season trade bait.
Aledmys Diaz finally had a sane week after a torrid start to his major league career. He hit .217/.280/.478 with a couple home runs. He even had three hit-less games. There's good news with the mini-slump. Diaz had a .158 BABIP and continued to control the strike zone. It looks like he was just four to five hits unlucky last week. It's OK, he's had more than his share of BABIP fortune.
As expected, Snell was demoted after his impressive debut. By the numbers, he wasn't happy to rejoin the Durham Bulls. In his lone outing since pitching in the majors, Snell allowed four runs on four hits, three walks, and a home run in 5.1 innings. He struck out six. He's due to pitch again soon.
Swanson and Albies
The Braves have promoted Dansby Swanson and Ozhaino Albies to Double- and Triple-A respectively. We're very likely to see both top shortstop prospects this season. It's unclear which of them will slide down the defensive spectrum to second or third base.
Most rebuilding teams would try their best to keep one or both of them in the minors until early 2017. That would ensure an extra season of club control. The economics are a little different for the Braves since they're opening a new stadium. They hope to contend next season. Getting Albies and Swanson major league experience now will help them to build their roster. Even if they're a year shy of contention, a few shiny “future stars” will help with attendance.
Swanson, 22, is the high ceiling fantasy play. In my most difficult dynasty league, Swanson was owned for two seasons before he was drafted. Needless to say, it's unlikely he's available to you at anything but a premium price. It's rare for top prospects to be worth the extra acquisition cost. Even though Swanson projects to be the next Carlos Correa, you'll have to pony up serious win-now talent. You won't get a discount for acquiring him before he's challenged by upper minors and major league pitching. You might as well wait to see if he can hit in the majors later this season.
Albies is a harder read from a fantasy perspective. He's a low-power contact hitter with 25 stolen base speed. Want to feel old? Albies was born in January of 1997. He's a young 19-year-old. Speed is his top asset, and he uses it by pounding a high quantity of ground balls. His BABIP will plunge when he faces major league defenses. As such, he'll probably have some early career hiccups. He may even settle in as a utility infielder.
Enough negatives. Given his extremely young age, history tells us he's more likely to become a future star. He may hit similarly to Elvis Andrus. If he can snag a top-of-the-lineup role, he'll have much more fantasy utility.
Although the Nationals lead the easy NL East, they can't afford to play scrubs. While Danny Espinosa had one of his good weeks - .217/.280/.478 with two home runs, Stephen Drew has continued to participate in the “worst major leaguer” contest.
Trea Turner, 22, didn't light the world on fire this week. Even so, he controlled the strike zone reasonably well and swiped three bases despite limited opportunities. Everything in his statistical profile reads as MLB ready. Once he reaches the majors, Espinosa can swing back to his rightful super-utility role.
The White Sox signed Junior Guerra away from the Italian League last season. Over the offseason, the Brewers acquired him on waivers. The 31-year-old features a 94 mph fastball and a good split-change. He's handled minor league hitters since returning to America. Through four starts at offense happy Colorado Springs, Guerra posted a 4.63 ERA with 8.87 K/9 and 3.47 BB/9.
Guerra won't become an ace or even a core contributor. What he might become is a free, usable spot starter. In deeper dynasty leagues, it's always good to acquire a solid major league pitcher. With luck, he'll provide some modest trade value.
Guerra has all the raw qualities of an actual major league pitcher. That doesn't always translate into major league success. Go ahead and stash him, but be wary about actually starting 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.
The Red Sox top selection in the 2015 draft continues to rake. Andrew Benintendi is hitting .360/.426/.640 at High-A with more walks than strikeouts and six steals in 101 plate appearances. He only has one home run, but he's hit for plenty of power. Of his 32 hits, 17 have gone for extra bases including six! Triples.
There's little doubt the 21-year-old is ready for the upper minors. He's a small (5'10'') left-handed outfielder who projects to be one of the best pure hitters in the majors. With the Red Sox getting very little out of their left fielders, continued success from Benintendi could lead to a late-season trial in the majors. It's much too early to bank on such an outcome – first he has to prove he can hit better breaking balls.
The future is bright for the Boston lineup. Spearheaded by a cheap Mookie Betts and Benintendi, the Red Sox are poised to deliver heaps of runs against even the toughest of opponents. Benintendi's ceiling is incredibly impressive. If he gets anywhere near it, he makes other dynasty assets like Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Travis Shaw, and Sam Travis more valuable by extension.
Reed, White, Singleton
Here comes A.J. Reed. Over the last 10 days, Reed is hitting .313/.450/.531 with more walks than strikeouts and three of his five home runs. Overall, he's hitting .250/.358/.500 in his first taste of Triple-A.
Reed will turn 23 next Tuesday. Everybody has tabbed him as the Astros' first baseman of the future. When Tyler White scorched his way through the first couple weeks of the season, it appeared there was an excuse the delay Reed's promotion. Over the last couple weeks, White has withered. His last 35 plate appearances include a .065/.143/.065 slash. Opponents have discovered how to avoid the barrel of his bat.
With White scuffling, the club will soon need to consider promoting Reed or former top prospect Jon Singleton. Fantasy players want to see Reed sooner rather than later, but the Astros actually have an incentive to give Singleton one more shake. He's signed to a long term contract, and he has comparable overall numbers to Reed - .240/.341/.440 with five home runs. He' also been hot over the last few weeks.
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 Astros are in serious trouble. An 8-18 start can be overcome, but it's a tough job. They reached the postseason last year mostly because they rocked the league in April. This time they have to scrape and claw their way back into contention.
The offense has been merely decent. Jose Altuve and Colby Rasmus have exceeded expectations while Carlos Correa, George Springer, and others have left something to be desired. The good news is there's upside for an offensive explosion. It's possible we also projected too much offense in Houston.
The real problem is the rotation. Only four teams have a worse rotation ERA – the Brewers, Diamondbacks, Rockies, and Yankees. None of the five regular starters average 90 mph on the gun. The sixth starter, Chris Devenski, is the resident hard thrower.
With the way Doug Fister and Scott Feldman have pitched, they're overdue to be punted off the roster. A phantom trip to the disabled list is merited since both are experiencing steep dips in velocity. Mike Fiers has struggled with allowing home runs, but that can happen over a small sample. His peripherals at least look decent. Collin McHugh and Dallas Keuchel actually have the worst ERAs on the staff despite tolerable peripherals.
Reinforcements are on the way. Devenski can fill in as a spot starter. He has decent stuff and worked as a swingman through much of his minor league career. In many ways, he's an updated version of Feldman.
Lance McCullers is making his way back. At his best, he hums at 95 mph with arguably the top curve in baseball. He's heading to Triple-A for a rehab start on Saturday. Depending on the Astros urgency, they'll either activate him or let him make one more rehab appearance.
Command pitcher Joe Musgrove is also on the short list for a call up. The righty throws 94 mph and rarely hands out free passes. Scouting reports credit him with a major league quality repertoire. He complements the fastball with a slider and change. In five Double-A appearances this season, he has a 0.39 ERA with 10.03 K/9 and 1.16 BB/9.
Don't be fooled by the high strikeout rate in the minors. He'll probably produce something on the order of 7.50 K/9 in the majors with 2.00 BB/9. If things don't improve for the Astros soon, they may be forced to summon him.