Welcome to the pilot edition of TDGX Transactions, a new series at Baseball Prospectus aimed to satisfy the voracious appetite of deep dynasty league owners. As legendary anchorman Ron Burgundy would say, before we do this, let’s go over some ground rules.
The Dynasty Guru Experts League (TDGX) is a 20-team (40-man roster) 5×5 rotisserie dynasty league founded by BP managing editor Bret Sayre back in 2014. It is the literal embodiment of the phrase “deep dynasty.” It’s also populated by some of the most talented fantasy baseball analysts and players on the planet (though a few of the names have changed since inception). I won’t list them all individually, trust me, there are no goldfish in this pond—including most of the BP fantasy team.
Crafted in the style of Mike Gianella’s Expert FAAB Review’s, this series will take an in-depth look at each week’s TDGX free agent acquisitions ($100 FAAB budget per team with zero dollar bids allowed) and break down every major trade that occurs during the season. If you’re among the many of our dedicated subscribers clamoring for an increase in deep dynasty league coverage here at BP, we’ve got you covered in this space going forward. Now, let’s dive into the transactions.
Jeanmar Gomez $27 (James Anderson, Rotowire)
The marquee free-agent acquisition of the week, Gomez signed as a veteran minor-league free agent last season, and has unexpectedly emerged as the Phillies closer of the immediate future. His improbable ascension has undoubtedly been aided by the spontaneous combustion of virtually every other late-inning option in Philadelphia, but the right-hander has pitched exceptionally well so far this season, allowing just one baserunner over three scoreless innings, and nailing down a pair of saves in the process.
The 28-year-old posted a solid 3.51 DRA over 74 2/3 innings in 2015. However, a pedestrian strikeout rate (5.4 K/9 over 427 career innings) severely limits any semblance of fantasy upside, even in a 20-team dynasty league. This isn’t an indictment of Gomez: He’s a fine middle reliever, but he shouldn’t be a late-inning option for any major-league bullpen. Yet, here we are. Given that the other six relievers in Philadelphia own a collective 8.44 ERA over 16 innings this season, Gomez could potentially hold down this gig for quite some time.
“My $27 bid on Gomez was made out of shame, disgust, need, and an attempt to keep everyone honest on the hunt for saves. While I partly wanted him, I also partly wanted someone to outbid me, as closers with a short leash and middle-relief stuff typically aren't my bag, even off the waiver wire. With Ken Giles losing what I assumed would be his closer gig (for now) and Tyson Ross on the DL, I needed another live arm to slot in that would give me wins or saves, and technically, Gomez fits the bill.” —James Anderson
Steven Moya $11 (Jeff Zimmerman, FanGraphs)
The power is real, but so are the mammoth strikeout rates. He’s only 24 years old, so it’s far too soon to throw in the towel, but his plate discipline needs to cross a divide larger than the Mariana Trench before he becomes a relevant fantasy asset at the major-league level. In the interest of full disclosure, I was the owner who released Moya the previous week, after acquiring Jabari Blash via trade, solely because they’re very similar profile-wise, and I preferred Blash to Moya for my final roster spot. Give credit to Zimmerman for scooping up a high-upside power bat for next to nothing. This move could pay dividends in the future.
“I had an open spot on my roster I decided to pick up Moya after he was dropped last week. I’m not sold on his plate discipline (30 percent strikeout rate, five percent walk rate in Triple-A), but he does have some nice power (40 HRs in 2014 and 23 HR in 2015). Just a small improvement in his contact skills could help his value a ton. I will just wait and see on him. I may have spent too much ($11), but no rookie is getting called who I can spend a bunch of money on since the league rosters more than 800 total players. Spend early, spend often.” —Jeff Zimmerman
Jeremy Hazelbaker $9 (Ian Kahn & Tim Mcleod, Patton & Co.)
Jeremy Hazelbaker is older than Justin Upton
— Cespedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) April 12, 2016
Don’t tell me there’s no truth to the rumor when asked by reporters how he planned to replace Jason Heyward this offseason, Cardinals GM John Mozeliak whipped out a media guide, pointed to a picture of Hazelbaker, and without saying a word, pressed play on Montell Jordan’s timeless classic “This Is How We Do It.”
According to editor-in-chief Sam Miller, 1,990 players received a comment in the BP 2016 Annual, and none of them were named Jeremy Hazelbaker. What makes him so unique is his age (28) and the fact that he had zero career major-league plate appearances prior to last week. Since 2000, the greatest rookie season for a hitter age 28 or older, belongs to Korean import Jung-ho Kang (4.0 WAR in 2015). Notable names on that list (excluding international free agent signings) include Casey Blake (3.5 WAR in 2003), Garrett Jones (3.2 WAR in 2009) and Brandon Guyer (1.6 WAR in 2014). It’s extremely rare for a hitter to debut after the age of 28 and become an impact major-leaguer. It just doesn’t happen, which makes me extremely skeptical of Hazelbaker long term.
Frankly, I’m not sure what to make of him in the immediate future. He’s absolutely feasted on a favorable slate of matchups so far. In seven games, he’s hitting .526 with five extra-base hits (two home runs) with five runs scored, five RBI and a pair of stolen bases. It may be #CardinalsDevilMagic in full effect, but in a TDGX-style dynasty league, there’s a case to be made to ride this train as long as it continues to remain on the tracks.
Phil Bickford $7 (Brent Hershey, BaseballHQ)
The 18th-overall selection by San Francisco last June, Bickford is a 6-foot-4 right-hander whose numbers in the low minors have been eye-popping to date. Despite possessing a fastball that only sits in the low-90s and a slider, Bickford has fanned nearly half (42) of the 101 batters he’s faced in his professional career. In his first South Atlantic League (A-Ball) start, he allowed three runs on just one hit while striking out 10 batters and issuing one walk over 4 2/3 innings. As BP’s senior prospect writer put it in his most recent Minor League Update, “It’s one of the weirder box-score lines you’ll see this year, but it shows you why the Giants are so high on Bickford’s right arm.”
In an extremely deep dynasty league (like TDGX) where stashing minor-league prospects is essential to a franchise’s long-term future, Bickford is a talent worthy of a roster spot right now, even if he’s light years from contributing in the major leagues. He’s primed to rocket up major prospect lists in their mid-season updates if he keeps pitching like he did last week.
Nick Ahmed $6 (Nick Doran, Fake Teams)
After an underwhelming full-season debut at the plate in which he posted a .226/.275/.359 slash line (.236 TAv) in just over 450 plate appearances, it’s easy to see why the 26-year-old shortstop was splashing around the free agent pool of a 20-team league like a Magikarp. Yes, I just dropped a Pokemon reference, don’t act like you’re not impressed. Ahmed is off to a scorching start this spring (.293 TAv) over seven games, but let’s not get too carried away. He’s just not a threat to evolve into a Gyarados overnight.
Omar Infante $4 (Craig Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus)
In a prime example of #DeepLeagueProblems. Goldstein’s middle-infield options are currently comprised of Chase Utley, and, well, Chase Utley. Now this move begins to make a lot more sense. The 34-year-old’s fantasy value is virtually non-existent in almost any format, but after racking up at least 450 plate appearances in three consecutive seasons, that has some value in a league where nearly 1,000 players are presently rostered.
Coco Crisp $3 (D.J. Short, Rotoworld)
Fresh on the heels of a report by outstanding A’s beat writer Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle that Crisp may be pulling ahead of Billy Burns into more of an everyday role moving forward, this move looks like an extremely savvy pickup. That statement is predicated on Crisp staying on the field consistently in 2016. The 36-year-old has avoided the disabled list so far, and he’s already stolen as many bases (two) in 20 plate appearances as he did all of last season over 44 games. A significant increase in playing time, hitting at the top of the lineup, combined with a renewed aggressiveness on the bases, is primed to make Crisp relevant again in deeper formats.
Seung-Hwan Oh $3 (Ian Kahn & Tim Mcleod, Patton & Co.)
The “Final Boss” makes his debut in this space as a fungible middle-relief option that carries some value in a league this deep (a phrase you will hear verbatim literally 1,000 times over the next six months). He’s struck out eight batters and has yet to surrender a hit (despite four walks) over his first four appearances in St. Louis. Given that major-league hitters have very little in terms of scouting reports and video on his arsenal at the moment, it’s not a surprise to see him succeed in his first exposure stateside.
The early returns are fascinating if you dig a little deeper. By PITCHf/x data, Oh has thrown 24 sliders so far and opposing batters have whiffed on 89 percent of their swings against it. That won’t last, but if he’s generating significant swings and misses with both his fastball and slider, the 33-year-old is going to be an effective late-inning reliever for a long time. The time to get on board is now.
Tommy La Stella $2 (Bret Sayre, Baseball Prospectus)
A useful bench asset, La Stella will find his way into the lineup more often than you think in Chicago this year. The 27-year-old owns a strange small-sample reverse platoon split (.292/.370/.400 slash line in 73 career plate appearances) against left-handed pitching, but manager Joe Maddon will use him almost exclusively against righties. The general consensus, that La Stella’s playing time will evaporate once youngster Javier Baez returns, might be wrong. It now looks like the Baez is will be getting a majority of his starts in left field, leaving La Stella as the default utility infielder.
Tom Koehler $2 (Craig Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus)
Miguel Castro $1 (Wilson Karaman, Baseball Prospectus)
Jim Henderson $1 (D.J. Short, Rotoworld)
Nate Jones $1 (Bret Sayre, Baseball Prospectus)
Craig Gentry $1 (D.J. Short, Rotoworld)
The most intriguing name in this cluster is the 30-year-old Jones, who has struck out over a batter per inning and allowed just one run in four appearances to begin 2016. A 98-mph sinker, which he’s throwing nearly three quarters of the time this year, should help suppress the long ball in Chicago. It’s early, but the pitch is also generating a 33 percent whiffs-per-swing rate, which is nearly three times the league average rate from PITCHf/x benchmarks from 2014. There’s clearly something happening, and Jones is a fascinating middle reliever to keep on your radar, even in mixed leagues.
Remember when Castro was closing for the Blue Jays at this time one year ago? The 21-year-old is in a much worse environment in Coors Field, but if his command takes a step forward (his walk rates remain atrocious), the strikeouts will be there, and he’s an option long-term to close down the line in Colorado. It’s easy to see why Karaman took a shot here.
Jhoulys Chacin $0 (Greg Wellemeyer, Baseball Prospectus)
When it comes to speculating on starting pitchers in a 20-team dynasty league, this is a fantastic move and I’m kicking myself for not going after Chacin earlier. It’s easy to see why the re-building Braves are taking a chance on a 28-year-old reclamation project. If he pitches well, they could potentially deal him to a contender with a hole in the back end of their rotation at the trade deadline for a future asset. It’s also easy to completely write off Chacin given the shoulder woes that have plagued him the past two seasons.
After being released by the Rockies at the start of last year, Chacin bounced around in Triple-A between Cleveland and then landed in Arizona where he made it back to the majors for a four-start stint down the stretch and displayed some extremely encouraging signs. He posted one of the lowest walk rates of his entire career, pushed his ground ball rate above 50 percent for the first time since 2011, and struck out 7.1 batters per nine, his highest rate since 2010.
So what changed? Chacin added a cutter. The pitch generated not only generated above league-average rates in terms of both whiffs-per-swing and ground balls, but it also helped the rest of his arsenal play up. With an uptick in ground balls, strikeouts and a reduced walk rate, Chacin appears to have successfully re-invented himself. According to research by former BP editor-in-chief and current FiveThirtyEight writer Ben Lindbergh, published at Grantland (RIP) last season, adding a new pitch is worth roughly about 5.5 points in TAv (equating to about half a win above replacement) for a starting pitcher over the course of a full season. The addition of a cutter is somewhat significant for Chacin; it’s not just noise feeding into the reclamation narrative.
In his first start at Triple-A Gwinnett prior to making his Braves debut last night, Chacin fired 7 2/3 scoreless frames, allowing just five hits and two walks while striking out seven against Norfolk. Let’s be honest. Chacin isn’t an ace. He’s barely relevant, but the fact that he is once again, is worth at least taking notice of.
Tyler Chatwood $0 (J.P. Breen, Baseball Prospectus)
Kevin Jepsen $0 (Tom Trudeau & Craig Glaser, MLB.com/STATS Inc.)
Mark Reynolds $0 (Chris Mitchell, RotoExperts)
Casey Gillaspie $0 (Brent Hershey, BaseballHQ)
Pedro Strop $0 (Greg Wellemeyer, Baseball Prospectus)
Pedro Baez $0 (Tom Trudeau & Craig Glaser, MLB.com/STATS Inc.)
Nick Travieso $0 (Brent Hershey, Baseball HQ)
Plenty of teams scooped up setup men, looking to boost their rate stats and in the case of Jepsen, grab a potential closer in waiting. With only a select few relevant hitters and virtually zero starters (seriously, I picked up Ross Stripling before his debut, which should give you an idea of how scarce rotation arms are in this league) available, so these speculative pickups are the highest-upside moves you can make.
Thank you for reading
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Jepsen was probably one of the top-10 most likely setup guys to get saves coming into the season.
Koehler is going to have tons of starts against ATL/PHI and even the Mets' suddenly horrific offense.
Oh and Nate Jones are also guys that would have been good spec plays coming into the season. All 4 of these guys were owned in my 15-team league with 10-man reserves.
I really like this idea and I'm glad you wrote it.
So THANKS for writing this column. The competition in our league is fierce and your voice is one of very few focused on deep dynasty. I'll be reading every word.
Oh, and submitting a pickup for Bickford for tonight. :-)
Will this be a weekly feature?