With so much focus on the here and now as redraft leagues wind down for 2023, it's important not to lose sight of the big picture. Dynasty leagues help us to keep perspective
In our last look at the Dynasty landscape Cody Bellinger and Triston Casas were on the ascent and have only further established themselves as premier Dynasty assets since then. But several players who weren't even on our radar then have since burst onto the scene, proving to be just as viable for the long haul. Meanwhile, several presumed aces are on shaky footing, raising questions as to their ability to bounce back.,
It doesn't mean they're done for, but their struggles have persisted long enough to dampen their long-term outlook. Of course, managing a Dynasty team requires a steadier hand than managing a redraft team, so you'll want to proceed cautiously this offseason even with some of the fallers.
Cole Ragans SP
KC Kansas City • #55 • Age: 25
Ragans almost seems like too obvious of a choice here, which goes to show how much he's improved his stock over such a short period of time. In a year of pitching uncertainty and unreliability even at the highest ranks, the draft pool ached for another reliable high-end starter, and the left-hander has certainly looked the part since rejoining the Royals rotation in early August. Not only has he kept runs off the board, which pitchers of most any talent level can fake for a time, but he has piled up strikeouts with multiple swing-and-miss offerings, including a fastball that has peaked at 101 mph. Barring some epic collapse, he'll almost certainly be one of the top 20 starting pitchers drafted next year, which of course raises his Dynasty stock as well (though he does present more risk in that format since he has twice had Tommy John surgery).
Royce Lewis 3B
MIN Minnesota • #23 • Age: 24
You wouldn't think a former No. 1 overall pick who's batting over .300 with an OPS around .900 for his big-league career would be such a difficult sell. But the 2017 draft was a long time ago, and Lewis' rise to prominence was interrupted twice by a torn ACL. The numbers are what they are, though, and the data mostly backs them up. Lewis is in the 90th percentile for both average and max exit velocity and has above-average speed for all the knee troubles. Only 24, he still has his whole career ahead of him, and his recent power binge (eight home runs in 18 games) seems to have made believers of the last few holdouts.
HOU Houston • #20 • Age: 28
While manager Dusty Baker's recent handling of McCormick -- something about him not being a "big boy" yet -- has thrown his immediate value into question again, the 28-year-old has gone from being that pesky player who steals at-bats from better ones to a standout in his own right, batting .310 (83 for 268) with 18 homers, 12 steals and a .952 OPS in his past 76 games. Some of the underlying data suggests it's too good to be true, but it's continued long enough to take it seriously, especially given how enduring the Astros lineup is. The recent decline in playing time is frustrating for the short-term, but it figures to sort itself out. Who knows how much longer the 74-year-old Baker will be managing this club anyway? Bottom line is that McCormick has established himself as a keeper by now, which wasn't even considered a possible outcome previously.
Zack Gelof 3B
OAK Oakland • #46 • Age: 24
Gelof had been a prospect of some note since the Athletics selected him in the second round of the 2021 draft, but he never appeared on any of the major top-100 lists and wasn't thought to have a particularly high ceiling. Since getting the call for the start of the second half, however, he has quickly emerged as the one bright spot for a train wreck of a franchise. The profile isn't ironclad. His max exit velocity is merely so-so, and he strikes out at a fairly high rate considering. But he maximizes his power output with strong fly-ball and pull tendencies and has proven to be an opportunistic base-stealer as well. The 23-year-old has gone from being an also-ran prospect to probably your future at second base if you had the foresight to grab him in Dynasty.
HOU Houston • #21 • Age: 25
OK, so Dusty Baker has doused this one with cold water in recent days, too, living up to his former reputation as a squanderer of prospects. But injuries to Yordan Alvarez and Jose Abreu a while back gave Diaz his chance to prove he could be a full-time big-leaguer, and he passed it with flying colors. As good as the actual stats are, the expected stats are even better, with his .293 xBA and .558 xSLG both raking in the top five percent, and this is coming from a guy who hit .306 with 25 homers and an .898 OPS in the minors last year. Defensively, he doesn't rate any worse than Martin Maldonado, who for some reason is Baker's preference behind the plate even though he's a zero offensively, but Maldonado is also 37 and an impending free agent. My guess is the Astros' front office won't let him get in the way again, in which case you have your catcher of the future in Diaz.
Prospects who've gained the most value
Davis Schneider, 2B/3B, Blue Jays
AAA: .275 BA (309 AB), 21 HR, .969 OPS, 72 BB, 86 K
Majors: .364 BA (77 AB), 7 HR, 1.279 OPS, 19 BB, 28 K
While I normally reserve this section for true minor-leaguers, Schneider still qualifies as a prospect, and to claim that any other has gained more Dynasty appeal in the past six weeks would be lunacy. That's partly because he was regarded less as a prospect than a statistical oddity prior to then, but when that oddity carries over to the majors, it's harder to dismiss. His ordinary quality-of-contact readings account for why he had so little prospect clout, but the shape of his contact -- hitting lots of line drives and fly balls, mostly to his pull side -- accounts for him getting the most out of what he has. It's a trick not unlike the one Mookie Betts pulls every year, which isn't to say Schneider will be anything close to that, but could he remain a big-league regular? With that walk rate, he sure could.
Lazaro Montes, OF, Mariners
Rookie/A+: .303 BA (241 AB), 13 HR, 1.001 OPS, 54 BB, 76 K
True prospect hounds who keep informed on matters such as international signing bonuses were already familiar with Montes, but the knock on him was that he likely wouldn't make enough contact to live up to his considerable power profile. So far so good on that front. Granted, it's at the lowest levels of the minors, where the 18-year-old isn't seeing fully developed breaking balls yet, but as well as he's handled what's been thrown at him so far, a more optimistic outlook is reasonable. Nobody expects him to be a finished product at this age, after all. Meanwhile, he's inviting comparisons to Yordan Alvarez.
Xavier Isaac, 1B, Rays
A-/A+: .285 BA (361 AB), 19 HR, 12 SB, .916 OPS, 64 BB, 92 K
When an organization like the Rays, which places the highest possible premium on versatility, uses its first-round pick on a teenage first baseman, you know the bat must be special. Isaac is showing it in his first full minor-league season. He's found another gear since moving up to High-A Bowling Green, where he's facing his share of college hurlers as a 19-year-old. Already, he's homered six times in 12 games there, batting .408 (20 for 49).
Drew Thorpe, SP, Yankees
A+/AA: 14-2, 2.52 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 139 1/3 IP, 38 BB, 182 K
Thorpe has been on my radar since his first eight-inning gem June 4, but it seemed likely at that point that he was simply a 22-year-old dominating younger hitters in A-ball with a changeup the likes of which they'd never seen before. But he's continued to deliver bonkers numbers since his move up to Double-A in early August, suggesting that his premium bat-missing and strike-throwing skills are something in the neighborhood of legit.
Thomas Saggese, 2B, Cardinals
AA/AAA: .314 BA (507 AB), 25 HR, .925 OPS, 49 BB, 133 K
Saggese is a classic example of a prospect who doesn't earn particularly high marks in any scouting category but just continues to produce no matter where he goes. His numbers didn't even blip with his move from the Rangers to the Cardinals at the trade deadline. We'll see if the same holds true with his recent move up to Triple-A. He's not a great fit anywhere defensively, but if he continues to produce, life finds a way.
Aaron Nola SP
PHI Philadelphia • #27 • Age: 30
I suspect that in redraft leagues, I'll be higher than most on Nola next year. His good starts this year have still seen him work deep into games, often with nine strikeouts or more, which tells me that an ace outcome is still on the table for the 30-year-old. But it doesn't change the fact that in two of the past three years, he's had an ERA well over 4.00, and if estimators like FIP and xERA are your guide, 2023 isn't quite the fluke 2021 was. His strikeout rate is down. His walk rate is up. He's been so vulnerable to the long ball that his bad starts have tended to unravel spectacularly. In a frustrating pitching environment, he's hardly been a breath of fresh air, and few Fantasy Baseballers will be as sanguine about this misstep as the last one.
Dylan Cease SP
CHW Chi. White Sox • #84 • Age: 27
A year ago, Cease was a Cy Young runner-up and a bat-misser extraordinaire, as promising of a building block as you could find at starting pitcher. But he's always tended toward the erratic, and in this less forgiving pitching environment, his troubles have only snowballed. Unlike, say, Alek Manoah, who finished directly behind Cease in AL Cy Young voting last year, there have still been flashes of brilliance, which is why Cease is only now appearing here. There was a stretch of nine starts in the middle of this season, for instance, in which he had a 3.00 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 12.4 K/9. But in eight starts since then, he has a 7.65 ERA, 1.95 WHIP, 10.1 K/9. A pitcher you're not even willing to use in crunch time doesn't make for the greatest Dynasty asset even if the overall upside still makes him worth keeping in most of those formats.
HOU Houston • #53 • Age: 26
The collapse is undeniable for Javier now. The only question is what hope he has of recovering. Over his past 15 starts, he has a 6.66 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, 7.5 K/9 and a 10 percent swinging-strike rate. That's compared to a 2.84 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 9.3 K/9 and 13 percent swinging-strike rate in the 12 starts prior. Whatever changed for Javier changed midseason, but the velocities and pitch selection have held pretty steady throughout. Prior to this year, the 26-year-old had compiled a 3.05 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 11.2 K/9 across three seasons and appeared to be on the ascent, with many predicting another step forward. It's still too early to cut bait in Dynasty, but it's also unclear what's going to turn him around. You're almost hoping to find out he's been pitching through an injury all this time, which would of course present its own complications.
Jeremy Pena SS
HOU Houston • #3 • Age: 26
Following a promising rookie season, a stellar postseason showing and a strong month of April in which he delivered six home runs and six stolen bases, Pena seemed on the verge of establishing himself as a standout shortstop for years to come. (Truthfully, I was always a skeptic, but his stock was what it was.) He's been a non-factor since then, delivering a combined four home runs and five stolen bases in nearly five months' time. What's worse is there isn't much to his profile without those counting stats. He'll always be a low on-base guy and doesn't project for much in the way of batting average either. His exit velocities are suspect, and he's older than you might think at age 25. The glove will keep him in the lineup, most likely, but for Fantasy purposes, Pena may turn out to be not much more valuable than Andrelton Simmons was.
LAD L.A. Dodgers • #17 • Age: 24
I'll admit it's a little weird to feature a player here who hasn't played a major-league game since July 8, but as one of Vargas' most vocal supporters coming into the season, I must confess that my impression of him has turned upside-down. And judging by my trade talks in some of the deep Dynasty leagues where I have him, his prospect shine appears to have worn off. I say this even though he's just 23 and has returned to Triple-A Oklahoma City to slash .302/.422/.476 in 49 games. But that's not actually great power production, is it? Unlike last year, I can see the exit velocity readings behind those numbers, and they're not great. What we saw in the majors with regard to quality of contact wasn't a fluke, and to be fair, some of the scouting reports warned that Vargas' over-the-fence power may be lacking. I'm not saying it's time to dump him in Dynasty, but he may not have the star potential I once thought he did.