Checking in here for the second time this year. You can go back and read my risers and fallers from the end of April, if you wish.
I presume I've already missed my chance to write about the rising dynasty value of Shohei Ohtani's, Carlos Rodon's and Freddy Peralta's. One of the risks a piece like this runs is in stating the obvious, so I'll take some bigger chances in highlighting my five risers and five fallers from the past month-plus. Of course, since the advice is intended for Dynasty leagues, it can't afford to be too short-sighted.
Be careful not to skip over the five prospect risers in between. Remember, the minor-league season hadn't even started yet at the last dynasty check-in, and the first action we've seen at those levels since 2019 has been revealing indeed.
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Zack Wheeler SP
PHI Philadelphia • #45 • Age: 31
It's not often you see a 31-year-old improve his Dynasty value, but then again, it's not often you see a 31-year-old make the sort of leap Zack Wheeler has, going from being sort of a fallback No. 3 who mainly contributes by eating innings to a legitimate No. 1. His four double-digit strikeout efforts in his past five starts pretty much tell the story. He has as many of those this year (five) as he had from 2017 through 2020, having followed the Gerrit Cole model of fading the sinker for more fastballs and sliders.
Jesse Winker LF
CIN Cincinnati • #33 • Age: 27
He looked like a riser at the end of April as well, but Jesse Winker has had ridiculous one-off months before -- last August, for instance, when he hit .369 with a 1.257 OPS. The reason he hadn't emerged as a Fantasy standout is because he'd quickly slide back to something more ordinary -- like last September, when he hit .104 with a .552 OPS. There has been no letup whatsoever this year, though, which is hard to believe given how outlandish his numbers have remained. Statcast has him in the 98th percentile for xBA and the 96th percentile for xSLG, so you can't say he hasn't earned it.
Dylan Cease SP
CHW Chi. White Sox • #84 • Age: 25
At a time when spin rates are falling across the league, Dylan Cease's have risen to the point his fastball and slider both rank among the best in the game, and he's been getting the whiffs to match. The turnaround came toward the end of April. He has struck out nine or more in four starts since then. We always suspected he had front-line potential given his radar readings and minor-league track record, but after showing so little his first two years, his star quickly faded. It's reminiscent of Lucas Giolito, whose career was turned around by the same guy, Ethan Katz, who has now taken over as White Sox pitching coach.
BAL Baltimore • #31 • Age: 26
My suspicion coming into the year is that Cedric Mullins only continued to get chances because he played for the Orioles, and frankly, I thought even they could do better. He wasn't even that productive in the minors, so just what were they hoping to get? If that was his starting point for me, then clearly he's one of the biggest risers even if I still have some reservations. Giving up on switch-hitting was obviously the right move, as he's fared just as well against left-handers as right-handers. I could see him losing 50 points off the batting average, but if he sustains a 20-20 pace, he'll be must-start regardless.
Austin Riley 3B
ATL Atlanta • #27 • Age: 24
Austin Riley was on the verge of seeing his Dynasty value crater when he went the first three weeks of April hitting only singles, but once the power flipped on, it shone brightly. True, the strikeouts have also escalated during that time, but it's clear the 24-year-old is a more complete hitter than the one who got buried by strikeouts two years ago, showing a knack for beating the shift to the opposite field. He's now proven at still a young age that he has staying power and isn't just going to get chewed up and spit out, which means you can invest more confidently.
Prospects who've gained the most value
Cade Cavalli, SP, Nationals
A+: 3-1, 1.77 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 40 2/3 IP, 12 BB, 71 K
Cavalli wasn't one of the more buzzed-about prospects in last year's draft, which is why he lasted to the Nationals at 22nd overall, but he has been the most overpowering pitcher in the minors so far, most recently striking out 15 over seven no-hit innings to give him a commanding lead in the category. He has a full arsenal of secondary pitches to go along with a 98 mph fastball and is quickly distinguishing himself as one of the game's top pitching prospects.
Hunter Greene, SP, Reds
AA: 5-0, 1.98 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 41 IP, 14 BB, 60 K
Greene has been a Dynasty darling before, being the second pick in the 2017 draft, but early struggles combined with a lengthy recovery from Tommy John surgery had reduced him to little more than a curiosity, perhaps even a throw-in in Dynasty trades. Now that he's fully recovered, though, he's finally putting it all together, still cranking his fastball up to 103 mph but finding the strike zone more than ever with it. And having ditched a sweeping slider for a more Corbin Burnes-like offering, the whiffs are piling up.
Bryson Stott, SS, Phillies
A+/AA: .280 BA (118 AB), 7 HR, 3 SB, .935 OPS, 31 BB, 37 K
The on-base skills have been unbelievable and the power better than advertised for this former first-rounder. He had a strong debut in 2019 as well, but because we didn't get a chance to see his progress last year, it became more fashionable to obsess about the latest draft class instead. He'll be breaking into the big leagues sooner than most of them, though, and it may be at second base rather than shortstop depending what happens with Jean Segura and Didi Gregorius between now and then.
Brett Baty, 3B, Mets
A+: .321 BA (106 AAB), 5 HR, 8 2B, .963 OPS, 18 BB, 31 K
As with Stott, a lack of new data caused our eyes to wander from Baty, who was good enough for the Mets to pick 12th overall in 2019 but didn't set the world on fire in the lower minors that year. When Baseball America gave him only a 40-grade hit tool this offseason, it seemed like the upside may not be worth the pursuit. Suffice it to say he has invalidated that rating, though, impressing mostly with his approach in May before cranking up the power in June.
Gunnar Henderson, SS, Orioles
A: .325 BA (126 AB), 8 HR, 5 SB, .994 OPS, 13 BB, 40 K
There was some talk this preseason about Henderson being the next great shortstop prospect, but it was mostly theoretical, with no publication going so far as to include him in its top 100. The assessment appears to have been spot-on, though. The mechanical changes he made at the alternate training site last year have carried over, translating to more power. At 19, he still has at least a couple years of development ahead of him, but he's a legitimate Dynasty asset now.
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Blake Snell SP
SD San Diego • #4 • Age: 28
This year marks the point when we stop clinging to that Cy Young 2018 season in which Blake Snell had 21 wins and a 1.89 ERA. In 47 starts since then, he has 12.3 K/9, yes, but also a 4.23 ERA and 1.31 WHIP. He's inefficient, almost never going the minimum required for a quality start, is more hittable than you'd expect for a guy with his swing-and-miss ability, and he'll be turning 29 in the offseason. Whatever Dynasty value he has, it's not as a rotation centerpiece even though that's how he's been regarded as recently as this preseason.
CIN Cincinnati • #7 • Age: 30
Eugenio Suarez got a pass for his .202 batting average last year because of 2020 weirdness and the fact he still homered at a pace like the one that made him a 49-homer guy in 2019. But combining this year's numbers with last year's, he's now batting .185 in his past 497 plate appearances, and the expected stats say it's deserved. You may have thought you had third base sewn up for the foreseeable future with Suarez, but he's about to turn 30 and clearly already trending the wrong direction.
Brandon Lowe 2B
TB Tampa Bay • #8 • Age: 27
Brandon Lowe has a history of running hot and cold, which has earned him a long leash up until now, but after 2 1/2 months, you can't really chalk it up to streaks anymore. I'm still inclined to believe he'll finish with better numbers than he has now, but the 26-year-old entered 2021 with a .270 batting average 31 homers and an .876 OPS in 551 plate appearances the past two years, which made him out to be more of a building block than the also-ran he now appears to be at second base.
NYM N.Y. Mets • #2 • Age: 26
Dominic Smith's Dynasty value has already been a roller coaster ride since the Mets drafted him 11th overall in 2013, but it may have peaked this offseason after a 50-game stretch with a near-1.000 OPS last year. He has regressed in basically every facet this year, and while some of it is owed to bad luck, judging by the expected stats, his most likely outcome nonetheless appears to be that of a competent player rather than a standout. As a left-hander hitter with a limited defensive profile, he may be fighting for regular at-bats for the rest of his career.
BAL Baltimore • #6 • Age: 24
Ryan Mountcastle has always been a tricky profile for Dynasty purposes. As a limited defender with poor on-base skills, he needed to hit out of his mind to hold substantial value, and for the 35 games he was up last year, he basically did. It may turn out to be the high-water mark, though, because now he's striking out too much to make any kind of impact at the plate. He could still figure it out, of course, but his limitations will earn him only so many chances, making his Dynasty value tenuous at best.