Fantasy Baseball Dynasty Update: Players and prospects who've gained the most value at the quarter-way point
When it comes to sizing up players, dynasty leagues are a different animal. Scott White looks at the biggest risers and fallers from the first quarter-season, with a long-term focus in mind.
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A dynasty league is much like any other Fantasy league. But it's also way different.
The biggest difference: With your focus not just on the here and now but the years from now, you can't afford to be so reactive. You need the patience of a real-life GM, recognizing that a snap judgment can have long-lasting repercussions. Yeah, Rafael Devers isn't having the breakout season so many predicted, but as a 21-year-old with an elite prospect pedigree, he's still an instrumental part of your team's future. And Corey Seager is still a franchise player despite losing this year to Tommy John surgery.
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So it's with great caution I've assembled these lists here a quarter of the way through the season. There are plenty of statistical oddities yet to be watered down still, so for a player to appear here, it has to go deeper than just the raw numbers.
As best as I can determine at this early stage, here are the ones who've most altered there value for the long haul -- and by long haul, I mean long, long hall.
Players who have gained the most value in dynasty
It's easy to lose sight of how much Gerrit Cole's fortunes have turned given that Fantasy owners have had him in their crosshairs from the day he was drafted, but joining up with the Astros ' team of data-mining, arsenal-maximizing magicians has taken him from empty velocity guy sustained mostly by name value to... quite possibly the best pitcher in baseball. And at 27, he has a number of years to enjoy it still.
You can poke holes in Ozzie Albies ' numbers to this point, saying he couldn't possibly sustain a 50-homer pace or that he should be running more, walking more or striking out less. But the fact he's tied for the major-league lead in extra-base hits at age 20 should assure us that, yes, there is power there. And if he was a top prospect even without such assurances, bring on the parade.
Patrick Corbin has already become so entrenched as a Fantasy ace that we've graduated from celebrating the improbable find and moved to fretting over the inconsistencies that could ruin it. His velocity has dipped over his past three starts, but not on what's now his primary pitch and key to his breakthrough, the slider, and he has a 3.18 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 10.6 K/9 during that blip. Amazing for someone who wasn't even one of the top 50 pitchers selected.
Though presently mired in a deep slump that has brought some of his early-season ridiculousness down to size, the gains in terms of ISO, plate discipline and quality of contact still speak volumes. And now that Didi Gregorius is suddenly a victim of bad BABIP luck — quite severely, I might add — you can trust that better times are ahead for a player who has already performed like a top-five shortstop.
Blake Snell still had plenty of dynasty league support as a 25-year-old with a top prospect pedigree who closed out the 2017 stronger than ever, so the rise isn't as extreme for him as for some of these others. But it looks like it's all coming together for a pitcher thought to have ace upside, his strike rate and swinging strike rate both vastly improved from the past two years.
Prospects who have gained the most value in dynasty
Juan Soto, OF, Nationals
Juan Soto was considered a good prospect prior to 2018, and he had good numbers to back it up, but seeing as he played only 32 games last year because of a fractured ankle, broken hamate bone and strained hamstring, we didn't know exactly how good he could be. "Jaw-droppingly" would be my descriptor of choice right now. He leads the minors in OPS, having already hit 13 homers while walking more than he has struck out, and all climbing two levels in less than two months' time. Now at Double-A, he may just cruise to the majors as a 19-year-old.
Peter Alonso, 1B, Mets
Batting .367 with 11 homers and an 1.173 OPS, Peter Alonso's numbers don't trail Soto's by much, and though he hasn't been regarded as a prospect on the level of Dominic Smith , it's fair to wonder if the 23-year-old is on the verge of leapfrogging Smith on the organizational depth chart. Thought to have big power potential, his average exit velocity bettered by only three major-leaguers last year, he's realizing it in a big way this year.
Jalen Beeks, SP, Red Sox
The addition of a cutter, one he picked up from watching video of Jon Lester and David Price , transformed Jalen Beeks into a strikeout pitcher last year, but he has taken it to another level this year. His 14.2 K/9 ranks second among minor-leaguers — tops in all of Triple-A — and with a greatly improved walk rate to boot. At 5-feet-11, he seemed destined to become more of a swingman type, but he's proving he's too good for that.
Brendan McKay, SP, Rays
Even if he can't follow in Shohei Ohtani's footsteps as a two-way player, it looks like Brendan McKay has the pitching part down, having struck out 40 while allowing just 10 baserunners in six starts before his promotion to high Class A. And while the hitting doesn't seem as far along at first glance, he reached base at nearly a .500 clip thanks to a 28-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio. There is no reason he should trail draft classmates MacKenzie Gore , Hunter Greene and Royce Lewis — all further away, mind you — in ownership.
Shane Bieber, SP, Indians
Shane Bieber isn't quite at a strikeout per inning in the minors, which calls into question his upside in today's pitching environment, but of greater note than another run-of-the-mill bat-misser is the guy who issues three walks across eight starts, as Bieber has done between Double- and Triple-A. He's consistently pitching beyond six innings, a rarity among minor-leaguers, and is getting ground balls at a rate that suggests he could be like the good version of Rick Porcello.
Players who have lost the most value in dynasty
Ian Happ showed a good power profile as a rookie last year and had all the helium as the Cubs ' projected leadoff man this spring. Now the only thing more disappointing than his playing time (he has started just 22 of the team's first 39 games) is his 45 percent strikeout rate, offering little hope of an improved role.
After homering 20 times in 38 games down the stretch last year, Matt Olson seemed poised to become one of the game's elite power hitters. Instead, he's on a 23-homer pace with a strikeout rate so prohibitive that he's batting .231 despite a .319 BABIP. It's too early to write him off — he's a 25-year-old sophomore, after all — but he was never the slam dunk, say, Cody Bellingerwas and doesn't get the same leash. No way he'd fetch the haul he would have six weeks ago.
Jake Arrieta might seem out of place here given that he has a 2.59 ERA and 1.06 WHIP, but if you thought last year's decline in dominance was alarming, his K/9 and swinging strike rate have bottomed out this year, ranking among the worst in all of baseball. His stuff is clearly diminished, and while he has so far made up for it with more ground balls, how long does it last? Get out while you still can.
Few regarded Jake Faria as an ace in the making back in March, which is why he's only fourth on this list, but he was nonetheless an up-and-comer who pitched well enough as a rookie to merit a mid-round pick even in redraft leagues — more in dynasty, obviously. Make him just a little more hittable, his changeup no longer so baffling, and it shines a light on some of his other shortcomings, namely a vulnerability to walks and home runs.
I recognize Clayton Kershaw is still ultra valuable, so I'm not just looking to say something bombastic. But the fact is the injuries are mounting — now his elbow to go along with the chronic back concerns — and for the second straight year, it's leaking into his performance, with the home runs up and swinging strikes down. So what was one of the ultimate prizes in long-term keeper play is now one that brings fear and anxiety. I can think of couple dozen players I'd rather build a team around.
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