April 1, 2014
NL West Under-25 Rankings
There are plenty of reasons why people love dynasty leagues. To some, they do a better job of simulating the feeling of being a GM, as your decisions have ramifications beyond a single season. They foster closer connections between owners, given the sizeable time commitment, and add an element of reading your opponents, too. They require expansive knowledge of a wide group of MLB and MiLB players, and they require a relentless attention to detail throughout the season.
Yes, dynasty leagues are growing in popularity, and as they grow it becomes important for us to deliver content that caters specifically to dynasty league owners. And that’s why Craig and I will seek to put aside our differences once a week in order to impart the collective wisdom that we’ve siphoned off of others and would like to pass off as our own.
As this column progresses, we’re going to talk about everything from in-season news to overarching dynasty strategy to the successes and failures of our own dynasty teams. But we thought we’d kick this column off by trying to give the people something we’ve seen requested many times over the past several months: dynasty league U25 rankings.
For this exercise, we're each going to rank our top-30 U25 fantasy players by division before we collaborate on a top-150 list once this portion of the project is complete. For each division, we'll give you our individual rankings and then discuss any major discrepancies in our rankings, talk about some sleepers we wanted to rank higher and take cheap shots at each other along the way. It will be like the TINO podcast, but for your eyes, complete with an imaginary Bret Sayre breaking up our fights.
Just like with the preseason organizational top prospect lists, players will have to be born after April 1, 1988, to qualify, and just like with the preseason lists, there is of course an element of subjectivity that comes with these rankings. But unlike the preseason lists, these rankings are all about fantasy.
This week, we'll start the series off with the division Craig knows best, because he needs the help: the NL West.
Disagreement 1: Tyler Chatwood
Craig's Take: My basic take on Chatwood is that he’s not good at all. He had some great surface stats last year, as a 3.15 ERA is good anywhere, much less Coors, but I happen to believe his true talent lies far closer to his first season in Colorado; that of the 5.43 ERA and 5.17 FIP. His FIP in 2013 was a solid 3.66, making it possible to believe in that ERA to some extent. The FIP was buoyed by a false HR/FB% though, as his 6.7 percent was by far a career low, and some 12 percentage points lower than his 2012 rate.
Even if we give him the middle, something around 12 percent for HR:FB—moderately generous given his home park and almost-10-percent rate in Anaheim—it’s going to push his ERA noticeably higher. Throw in a brutal strikeout rate (13.9 percent) and moderate walk rate (8.6 percent), and you’re left with someone who has never had a WHIP lower than last year’s 1.428. His ground-ball rate should play well in Coors, but that’s his only selling point and it’s just not enough in fantasy.
Ben's Take: I mean, I have Chatwood ranked at no. 27 on my list here, so let’s not pretend like I think he’s the GOAT Rockies starter or anything. I just think he’s closer to the 3.66 FIP he showed last year than the 5.17 spot we were all subjected to in 2013. The ground-ball rate you SO RUDELY brushed aside above is a significant factor in his favor in my book, and I think he can produce league-average stats even in Coors Field.
That only makes him relevant in very deep mixed or NL-only leagues, sure, but look at the guys I have behind him. Mejia is a no. 3/4 starter who’s yet to throw a pitch in the majors, Cordero is basically just an idea who’s at least three seasons away and Delgado is a player I don’t want to talk about because he makes me sad inside. Chatwood ranking at No. 27 here has less to do with how amazing he is and more to do with the relative shallowness of U25 talent in the division. But I’m glad we talked this out, because at first it might’ve seemed like I really liked Tyler Chatwood and that’s not the type of reputation I’d care to have on the internet.
Craig’s Take: Chatwood would be lucky to be a no. 3/4 starter who’s yet to throw a pitch in the majors.
Disagreement 2: Chris Owings
Ben's Take: I think I like Owings more than this ranking would suggest, and I think Craig can make a rare intelligent case for ranking him a few slots higher. He’s got a job now, which is pretty cute, and he can hit a bit, hit for power a bit and run a bit, all of which are also cute attributes. But while Owings is well-rounded, I also don’t see him excelling in any one category. Jason Parks (nine years Craig) gave him a potential 6-plus hit tool this preseason, but unless Owings refines his approach I think there’s a chance his aggressiveness keeps him from hitting for very strong averages early in his career.
Again, a shortstop who can hit .270-plus with double-digit homers and steals is valuable, but it also gives Owings a probable future as a back-end starting fantasy SS. You can make the argument that his ETA and relative lack of risk should have him ahead of Grandal, Pederson, Urias and Dahl, but the upsides of the players above are too sexy for me to resist. Mauricio Rubio will be proud here, since I’m clearly selling out for tools.
Craig's Take: I am perhaps irrationally high on Owings. This ranking is based on my continued belief that he takes the lion’s share of at-bats at shortstop in the desert and if he’s not going to do that, I’m going to look foolish (status quo), but there’s not as much risk here as there once was. Sure, there’s a raw element to Owings’ game, but he’s 22 and performing at the major-league level. His admittedly small sample in the majors is terrific for the shortstop position, and he’s done nothing but perform in the minors.
His weakness coming up as a prospect was an aggressive approach to the tune of a sub 5% walk rate, but in his limited time at in the major leagues he’s been at just under 10% and while nobody should expect that to hold, it could be a sign of development. It’s fair to question the ultimate utility here, but I even think his aggressiveness could be a bonus for him. He makes hard contact and in Arizona, the ball is going to fly. Power is a question, to be sure, but playing 90 games in Arizona/Colorado should help him reach double-digits rather easily. Ben can downplay his game with words like “cute” and “back-end starter” but the reality is that plus hitter with double-digit home runs and steals is a back-end top ten option at this position. More to the point, the profile Owings portends to have is more valuable than a low-power, solid average catcher like Grandal, and while I love Dahl, Pederson, etc. their respective situations (distance from majors, path to playing time) work against them. Owings is here, talented and at a position of fantasy scarcity.
Ben’s Take: I think how you value Owings depends on league size. In deeper leagues, what he brings to the table is quite valuable. In shallower leagues, meh.
Craig's One Player He Wanted to Rank Higher: Franchy Cordero
Ben's One Player He Wanted to Rank Higher: Rymer Liriano
Ben, say something nice about Craig: He’s been able to parlay awful opinions and an uncanny ability to troll into baseball Twitter prominence. He’s also shapelier than Bartolo Colon.
Ben Carsley is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @bencarsley