By now, you’re familiar with what we’re trying to accomplish in these progress reports: We want to go beyond a simple “stock up, stock down” approach to fantasy rankings. Fantasy stocks are easy enough to keep track of. If someone’s doing well, then his stock is high. If not, it goes the other direction.
Here, we mean to tell you about players who have seen their actual values change in the long-term dynasty sense—not just guys riding a hot streak or players enduring a cool spell.
To that end, we’re also including a “neutral” section for guys that have performed awfully or admirably but haven’t moved the needle in a substantial direction long-term.
But today, none of that matters. For today, Craig and I have decided to take our long-standing sandwich differences (and our few key agreements) and put them in digital ink. But because Craig’s efforts to raise Sandwich Prospectus have yet to truly take off, we still need to do so in the confines of fantasy baseball analysis.
What follows probably won’t be that amusing to read. But it was amusing to write, and it also left us hungry. Hungry for real sandwiches.
You can find previous editions of the Dynasty Progress Report here:
- 6/11 Progress Report (MiLB)
- 6/18 Progress Report (MLB)
- 7/9 Progress Report (MiLB)
- 8/27 Progress Report (MiLB)
Craig: Kennys Vargas, 1B, Twins – French Dip
Vargas snuck up on me. Earlier this year I called him the Minnesotan Jesus Aguilar, and frankly no amount of praise I heap on him now can erase that error. I’ve had a come to Jesus mom- wait, that’s not going to work in this construct. I’ve had an epiphany on Vargas though, and it’s not that he looks like David Ortiz (he does kinda). He’s a big man with a short swing and he absolutely demolishes the ball.
What you’re looking at is a solid defensive outfielder in Nick Markakis taking a godawful route on a double hit by Vargas because it was hit too hard for him to correctly judge it and react in time. If Vargas learns to put loft into his swing he’s going to be a monster because right now his home runs are coming on pure strength (of which there’s a lot). He’s probably not a .300 hitter at the major-league level, but .275-.280 doesn’t seem out of line for the switch-hitter, and we know that the power is going to come. First-base prospects sneak under the radar because it’s so hard to hit well enough to actually be one, and I think that’s the case with Vargas. He’s proving it at the big-league level and it’s time that we come around to his talents, because we’re missing out on a really solid hitter if we don’t.
Similarly, I was wrong about the French Dip early in my life. Why do the extra work of dipping it? What the hell was au jus anyway, aside from clearly French (i.e. disappointing)? My ignorance/xenophobia kept me from experiencing the brilliant way the au jus adds moisture to a sandwich and flavor to the bread. Like with Vargas in the minors, I couldn’t see how the separate parts were going to function together, and I let that blind me. Once I saw them perform together, as with Vargas in the majors, I was able to get out from behind my preconceived notions and appreciate the sandwich for what it truly is: a heavy hitter.
Ben: Kris Bryant, 3B, Cubs – Cuban Sandwich
You could argue that picking Bryant is a bit lame, because the consensus is certainly that he’ll be quite good as soon as next year. Plus, I had Bryant ranked as my no. 8 fantasy prospect headed into the year, so it’s not as if I wasn’t a believer in his talent when the season began. But I’ve grown to view Bryant as one of the very elite prospects in all the minors over the 2014 season, and I think you can make a pretty compelling case for rating him no. 1 right now.
Bryant hit .325/.438/.661 in 594 PA between Double-A and Triple-A this season. Yes, he was expected to hit well as a high draft pick and college bat, but what he did in 2014 was something else: He absolutely destroyed the competition. Bryant struck out in more than 25 percent of his PA, but he’s always going to have some swing-and-miss in his game. If he can keep walking 14.5 percent of the time and can keep hitting homers at this rate, fantasy owners won’t care if his production comes with a .270 average instead of a .300 one. The overall package is just too enticing.
In much the same way, I’ve begun to develop a deeper appreciation for the Cuban over the past several months. I’m not a particularly big fan of ham, nor do I enjoy pickles in most of my sandwiches, much like I don’t love high strikeout rates or trusting prospects to produce in the majors right away. But everything works so well in a good Cuban that I find myself delighted by the salty, earthy flavor, just as I can’t wait to see Bryant launching homers in Wrigley next season. Sometimes you have to trust fall into your taste buds/fantasy rookies.
Craig: Anthony Rendon, 2B/3B, Nationals – Turkey-Bacon-Avocado
This one is pretty simple. Five-category player for a five-part sandwich. There’s one elite tool in each (batting average/bacon), and the rest play off each other, raising the entire sandwich to elite status. Now, I know what you’re thinking: there’s only three ingredients in the TBA sandwich, but of course there’s cheese and bread involved so that gets us to the necessary five. Rendon is a dynamic hitter, and packs more pop than one would expect (avocado), but the contextual stats (runs/RBI, cheese/turkey) aren’t why you’re buying Rendon in the first place, a nice showing from either one enhances the overall package.
Speed (bread) is the real surprise here. Rendon never ran in the minors and has a history of ankle injuries, but with 15 swiped bags on the season, he’s added a new dimension to his game. This isn’t so different than the correct choice of bread (ciabatta) adding an extra dimension to the standard TBA sandwich, taking the whole thing from a solid group of parts to an elite level. Rendon has the chance to be a top-five player at two positions next season (as he is now), and it’s going to be delicious.
Ben: Alex Cobb, RHP, Rays – Grilled Cheese
Everybody likes grilled cheese when they’re growing up. They are simple and not terribly nutritious and we all soon abandon them to other, more exotic sandwiches. Yet at the end of the day, few bread-filled items are as reliable or as satisfying as this simplest of edible companions.
So it is with Cobb, who I once shunned because of his lack of prospect status. I fell in love with the Gerrit Coles and the Shelby Millers of the world, intrigued by their name value and their exotic offerings. Yet now I see that it is Cobb’s simple ingredients—his low walk and homer rates and his solid strikeout numbers—that comprise the tastier fantasy option. And while higher-priced players are selected from menus next offseason, I’ll gladly be waiting to snatch up Cobb in many leagues.
We’ve now seen Cobb sustain a strikeout rate around 23 percent, a walk rate around 7.0 percent and an ERA around 2.80 over two seasons and nearly 300 innings. He’s only 26, plays in a favorable home ballpark and, as mentioned above, is stingy when it comes to giving up homers, meaning we have little reason to expect much fluctuation in 2015. Cobb is a fantasy stud, and he makes a terrific no. 2 starter in 12-team leagues. I’m now a believer, even if prospects and sandwiches with more name value and upside seduced me once upon a time.
Ben: Eric Hosmer, 1B, Royals – Thanksgiving Dinner (Pilgrim) Sandwich
This is a difficult one for me, because aside from Xander Bogaerts, I haven’t been as stubbornly high on as many players as Hosmer over the years. And in truth, he has all the ingredients necessary to be a fantasy stud. He’s demonstrated the ability to hit for a high average, decent pop and steal 10-plus bases at various points in his career, and while it feels like we’ve been waiting forever, he’s still just 24.
But sometimes, amazing ingredients don’t add up to the sum of their parts. A Thanksgiving Dinner Sandwich should be god damn amazing every time. Roast turkey is really good. Homemade (not store bought, you cretin) cranberry sauce is good. Cheese is really good. And gravy is one of the best things ever. But if the bread you use can’t withstand the gravy or you use mashed potatoes (yes, I’ve tried this) or the sauce too tart, a lot of good things go to waste.
I’m not ready to say Hosmer’s unique set of skills are headed in that direction yet, but I’m losing a bit of my fervor. Hosmer’s 2014 season has been pretty uninspiring, to be sure, as he’s hit just .267/.312/.380 with only six homers and four steals. Yet just as occasionally you can have a TGDS (cute abbrev I just invented) that is near-life changing, Hosmer could be pretty special if it all clicks. I’m going to order one more helping next year in the hopes that the natural abilities still win out over the inconsistency.
Craig: Kole Calhoun, OF, Angels – PB&J
There’s nothing flashy about a PB&J. It’s a childhood staple because peanut butter might be the best thing on this earth that’s not bacon, and jam (jam/preserves are huge improvements over jelly) is sweet enough to balance the equation. The sandwich lacks the impact of it’s meat-filled-veggie-laden counterparts, but it’s a necessary component to any sandwich lineup.
So it is with Calhoun, who many think won’t win you any championships, but the reality is he won’t you lose you any either. He’s the necessary filler that is often overlooked, putting together tough at-bats, and racking up slugging points without being that dynamic home run threat. He’ll snag a couple stolen bases here and there, and won’t hurt you anywhere, while functioning as an everyday player (when healthy). He’s not going to attract a lot of attention or win many awards, but what he is, is essential.
Ben: Nick Franklin, 2B/OF, Rays – Bacon, Egg and Cheese Sandwich
The latest in a long line of offensive prospects the Mariners have managed to botch, Franklin is becoming somewhat of a forgotten man in dynasty circles, and it’s not tough to see why. He hit 12 homers and stole six bases in 412 MLB PA in 2013, but the impact of those numbers was muted by a .225 average and .303 OBP. This year, Franklin hit just .128/.192/.170 in 52 MLB PA, and was unable to force his way to everyday playing time in the Great Northwest.
There are a few reasons for optimism, though. Franklin is now a member of the Rays, not the Mariners, and while Tampa Bay hasn’t had great success with any offensive prospects in recent years, I’d still trust their coaching staff over the M’s’. And more importantly, Franklin hit .294/.392/.455 in Triple-A this season, and while that line was buoyed by a .340 OBP, it also shows that the 23-year-old still has plenty of life in his bat.
Like Franklin, a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich is versatile. You can eat one for breakfast, lunch or dinner (in a pinch), just as you can play Franklin at second, in the outfield or at shortstop (in a pinch). Not all bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches are equal, of course, and it’s true that a bad one can set your day back a few hours. But ultimately, this is a good, hearty, tasty food that deserves regular consideration despite its lack of flashy components. And getting Franklin in Tampa is at least like getting a bacon, egg, and cheese from a diner, whereas getting Franklin in Seattle is like getting a sandwich from a gas station.
Craig: Lance Lynn, SP, Cardinals – Cheeseburger
Sometimes a cheeseburger is exactly what you need. It’s less about pure desire and more about accountability. Lance Lynn isn’t exactly desirable. He’s beefy (I didn’t even plan that one) and he basically throws his fastball/sinker (cheese (I planned that one)) most of the time, and yet he still gets results. Sure, you can add your lettuce and tomato (cutter and curve) and maybe occasionally some pickles (changeup), but when it comes down to it, Lance Lynn is about beef and cheese.
I can’t pretend to understand what it is exactly that makes sense of Lynn is doing beyond “locating one’s fastball is the best thing a pitcher can do.” Year in and year out I’ve predicted regression for Lynn because he’s a one-note pitcher, but perhaps when that note is as simple and pure as ground beef, covered in cheese, and cooked to perfection… there’s no regression coming.
Craig: Ryan Braun, OF, Brewers – Monte Cristo
“It seemed like a good idea at the time”—you after ordering a Monte Cristo/drafting Ryan Braun in the late first/early second round next year.
A Monte Cristo has everything you want out of a sandwich. Ham, gruyere, bread soaked in egg batter and then fried, plus it’s slathered in hollandaise which is a win every day of the goddamn week. The problem, as with Braun, lies in the health concerns. Braun is your prototypical five-tool player and given his long history of success, plus an offseason to heal his ailing thumb, he’ll look plenty good on the 2015 menu.
That said, he’s 30 years old, and you can’t just ignore his recent health. The thumb problems have been ongoing and don’t seem to have a definitive answer, wherein rest will fix things. That means that while he could be 100% at the start of the season, something could crop up at any moment, derailing his entire season. This isn’t at all dissimilar to how something could bubble up post-Monte Cristo, and derail your entire evening.
Ben: Wily Peralta, RHP, Brewers – Caprese
Headed into the year I wasn’t super high on Peralta, but I did expect a modest improvement from his rookie 2013 campaign. We’ve seen some of that improvement in 2014, yet Peralta would still be a pretty uninspired fantasy choice were it not for his 15 wins. There’s a bit more room for improvement moving forward, and Peralta will be just 26 next season. But I’m starting to wonder if the ultimate upside here is really worth paying all that much attention to.
A caprese sandwich may feel like a fine idea on a hot day. In your mind, cold, crisp tomatoes and fresh mozzarella combine with basil or pesto to create an elegant, light meal that will leave you feeling refreshed yet satiated. Then you bite into a caprese, and the general reaction is … that’s it? Sure, mozzarella is great, and bread and pesto will always be a winning combination. But overall, the sandwich just underwhelms, as slices of tomato are stupid and balsamic vinaigrette makes bread soggy.
And so, just as a caprese is “okay,” and will serve a need, Peralta is just “okay.” He’s capable of posting a sub-4.00 ERA and 12-plus wins on a consistent basis, but the strikeouts aren’t there and might not be coming, and Miller Park is an unforgiving place to pitch. If you want to grab Peralta as a back-end fixture for your dynasty roster, that’s fine. But odds are, you’re going to wish you had tried for a player with a little more flavor.
Craig: Wilin Rosario, C, Rockies – KFC Double Down
“YES, BUT WILIN ROSARIO IS NOT TRULY A CATCHER” I yell over your protestations that the Double Down is not truly a sandwich. The Double Down lacks bread, and thus is obviously not fit to be a sandwich, much like Rosario lacks the requisite skills to remain behind the plate. Without catcher eligibility, what exactly is Rosario? He can hit for power, but doesn’t make enough contact to make full use of it. His bat isn’t worth playing anywhere other than behind the plate, as his career-high .268 TAv in 2012-13 would attest. What we’re left with is a jumble of low quality tools (chicken, cheese from KFC) obscuring the only thing that really matters (bacon). If only KFC was as unlikely to give the Double Down another look on the plate, as the Rockies are Rosario behind it, we’d be getting somewhere.
The only way you should be considering Rosario or the Double Down is in a state of inebriation.
Ben: Jackie Bradley Jr., OF, Red Sox – Hot Dog*
As all god-fearing, respectable, intelligent Americans know, a hot dog is not a sandwich. It is it’s own food entity, and does not need to be forced under the Great All-Encompassing Sandwich Umbrella under which today’s ardent sandwich extremists would have you believe all food with a bread element must fall. No one in their right mind would ask for a “hot dog sandwich” at a ballpark or a deli or in any sort of public situation, as they would likely cause confusion and ultimately bring shame upon their family.
Hot dogs are fine and you can eat them and sometimes they are good, but they are not sandwiches. It is much in this vein that we must view Jackie Bradley Jr. after his 2014 campaign. He is fine and he is good at some things and MLB teams can play him sometimes, but he’s not a factor when it comes to fantasy baseball. And while visions of his defense can inspire the best memories of summers past, watching his at-bats can lead to indigestion.
Bradley hit just .215/.285/.288 in 390 PA, hitting one homer and swiping eight bases in 390 PA. Aside from one stretch in July, he was truly terrible for nearly the entire season, and was either unwilling or unable to make adjustments even when his performance screamed for adjustments to be made. I don’t think Bradley is this bad offensively, but his upside is as someone who could hit .260-.270 with about 10 homers and roughly 15 steals. Given that his probability of reaching such a modest ceiling is relatively low, he shouldn’t be a factor in mixed leagues with fewer than 20 teams right now.
Also, putting ketchup on hot dogs is fine.
*PLEASE NOTE THAT THE OPINIONS OF EACH AUTHOR DO NOT REFLECT THE OPINIONS OF THE OTHER. A HOT DOG IS DEFINITELY A SANDWICH.
Thank you for reading
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