Three Hitters To Target In Dynasty Baseball Leagues
For redraft leagues, this next week marks the end of the fantasy baseball season. Yet, that’s not the case for dynasty leagues. Personally, I have great admiration for dynasty leagues. For starters, I believe they mirror “real-life” baseball strategy within front offices better; rather than trying to win just one season, dynasty managers need to be focused on winning sustainably. Plus, say that you are a big Juan Soto fan, and rostered him even when he was a prospect. Well, you could have him on your team for his entire career! It’s a nice twist from redraft leagues and requires a lot of strategy.
Speaking of which, all dynasty managers, regardless of team construction, should be trying to find undervalued young players on the trade market. For win-now teams, these players can help your team immediately, or turn into valuable trade chips. For retooling teams. these players can be a part of your next contending teams. It’s the perfect of all worlds!
Today, let us look at three hitters to target in dynasty leagues. All of them are 25-years-old or under, meaning they can fit with any team out there. If you don’t target them now, you might miss your chance to revamp your team with a very talented hitter!
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Three Hitters To Targets In Dynasty Leagues
#1: 2B/SS Brendan Rodgers, Colorodo Rockies
We just talked about Rodgers as a hitter who can help you win your championship in redraft leagues, but the real intrigue with him comes for future seasons. Whether it’s the teardown from his former top prospect pedigree or another reason, it feels as though the 25-year-old isn’t getting much recognition. Let that work to your benefit.
The beginning of Rodgers’ pro career went just as you’d expect for a top prospect. After being drafted with the third overall pick, he performed well at every minor-league level and earned a promotion to the majors early into the 2019 season. That’s where things took a turn south. In 81 MLB plate appearances, Rodgers posted just a 26 weighted-runs-created-plus (wRC+), in addition to a 33.3% strikeout rate. Even worse, he eventually missed the rest of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery, which also knocked him out for most of 2020.
By the time Rodgers was called back up to the majors in 2021, his stock had fallen significantly. However, he’s been about as productive as you could expect from a rookie hitter, posting a 105 wRC+, .193 isolated power (ISO), and .349 wOBA. A product of Coors Field? Rodgers has a 129 wRC+ on the road. I’d also note that he has a .361 wOBA in the second half, which might mean nothing, or could be a sign of him getting more comfortable over time.
What do I like so much about Rodgers? Where do I start? His 19.3% strikeout rate gives him a high floor from a batting average perspective, as do his even sprays; he’s pulling the ball on just 30.1% of his batted balls, compared to the league average of 36.6%. Meanwhile, with just a 25% fly-ball+pop-up rate, he’s also hitting the ball on the ground frequently, which, although not optimal for “real-life value”, increases his ability to overachieve his expected statistics. If not for more speed, he’d have every criteria of what it takes to be a “batting average merchant”.
Oh, and did I mention he plays his games in Colorado, the perfect place to hit for average? There’s a reason THE BAT X projects Rodgers to have a .338 batting average on balls in play (BABIP); in addition to having the characteristics of a high-BABIP player, he is also taking full advantage of the ballpark he is in.
At the very least, Rodgers is going to provide you with a high batting average and should score runs as a staple of the Rockies lineup. However, I wouldn’t discount his power potential here. His 111.8 MPH max exit velocity ranks in the 83rd percentile, and the .193 ISO is already a very strong number. Outside of stolen bases, Rodgers appears the be close to the complete package, providing positional eligibility at second base and shortstop.
At the very worst, you can bank on him playing multiple seasons in Colorado, but this is also a very talented player that was a top prospect for a reason. This is a clear “post-hype breakout” scenario, and in that case, you’d want to buy that. Really, all that changed from 2019 to 2021 was that he had shoulder surgery, so why should his stock have dipped so much? All I can say to that is: buy, buy, buy.
#2: 2B/3B Abraham Toro, Seattle Mariners
For a few weeks, it looked impossible for Abraham Toro to profile as an undervalued dynasty asset. Upon being traded to the Mariners, he instantly became an impact player, leading to much more hype around him. Now, though, that excitement has cooled off, and it’s time to take advantage of that.
It’s been a hectic year for Toro, to say the least. Originally a depth player for the Astros to start the season, he was thrust into action for the injured Alex Bregman, before finding himself traded to the Mariners in exchange for reliever Kendall Graveman a week before the trade deadline. At the time, there was a general outcry from the public about Seattle “conceding the season”, but, as it turns out, perhaps they saw something in Toro:
- With SEA: .261/.339/.402, .141 ISO, 111 wRC+, .325 wOBA, 9.5% barrel
These aren’t standout numbers, though it’s worth noting that Toro likely deserves more home run luck considering that he’s running an above-average barrel rate. Still, for half of a season of a reliever, it appears that Toro was quite the get for general manager Jerry Dipoto. So, what was it that he saw in him? That part is more obvious. Here are Toro’s numbers in upper levels of the minor leagues, starting in 2019:
- .327/.419/.534, .208 ISO, 159 wRC+, .419 wOBA
Unfortunately for Toro, this didn’t immediately lead to results at the big-league level. With the Astros, he posted just a 67 wRC+, struggling in all departments. Remember, though, that this mainly came as him being used as a pinch hitter and depth piece. As a young player trying to establish himself in the majors, it’s much easier to make that adjustment with everyday plate appearances, which allow you to make proper adjustments and have to be reassuring from a mental perspective. That’s what Toro is getting in Seattle, and it’s likely impacted his play in a positive way.
The strikeout to walk numbers with Toro are super enticing; it gives him a high floor when it comes to hitting for average and getting on base. What intrigues me most, though, is his ability to hit for more power than expected. With just an 11th percentile exit velocity and 59th percentile max exit velocity, he’s not someone with a lot of raw power. What he does do, though, is hit the ball in the air. His 30.1% under is well above the league average 24.4% rate and is something that, if it continues, could be a sign that he can overachieve his power numbers. The problem? His low 30.8% pull rate.
See, the whole concept being under% leading to more power than expected is that batted-balls in this category can produce home runs, yet are often discounted heavily by the expected metrics, which take into account exit velocity and launch angle. However, if you can take advantage of the shortest areas of the park, you can maximize your power production, which Toro is failing to do this season. Luckily, the 24-year-old had been a pull-happy (over 42%) hitter for his entire professional career before this season, so I’d expect him to get back to gearing up for power in 2022.
Toro’s plate discipline metrics give him a high floor, and there are a lot of reasons to believe he’ll hit for power next season. While his overall numbers and projections are impacted by his time in Houston, now is the time to target him in dynasty leagues. As a second baseman and third baseman, he can slot in at both positions, as well as in a corner infield or middle infield slot. When you can get a player with his offensive profile and that much versatility, you have to do so. Follow Jerry Dipoto’s lead here.
#3: C/OF Daulton Varsho, Arizona Diamondbacks
Is it a catcher? Is it an outfielder? Nope, it’s Daulton Varsho! We are in the era of versatility in baseball, but being able to legitimately be called a catcher and an outfielder is a rare feat. I guess it’s safe to say Varsho isn’t your average player.
Based on the defensive metrics, Varsho is adequate as a catcher, and he’s been an above-average outfielder defensively (two outs above average). Thus, I’d expect him to continue to play both positions, which is perfect for fantasy purposes- the more versatility, the better! Honestly, the Diamondbacks have no choice but to try to get Varsho in the lineup as much as possible.
With a 99 wRC+, Varsho has been about a league-average bat in his rookie season, but that doesn’t tell the full story. There’s obviously an acclimation period when you get promoted to the MLB, and it shows with Varsho’s second-half splits. Since the start of the second half, he has posted a 139 wRC+, which, while not likely to continue completely, gives you an idea of the type of hitter he can be.
For Varsho, I’ll start with his power. In the second half, he’s posted a .280 ISO and 9.8% barrel rate, and his 29% under suggests that more power production could come with a higher pull rate (31.1%), something he had in the minor leagues. The combination of raw power (77th percentile max EV) and optimal power batted-ball trajectory voids well for his ability to provide value here, and THE BAT X gives him a .203 ISO projection moving forward.
Yet, Varsho also isn’t going to hurt you in the batting average department. His contact skills are about average, and since he’s aggressive, he has been able to keep his strikeout rate at 23%, a fine number. Plus, he’s also a fast runner (4.2-second home-to-first) with a projected .297 BABIP and .250 batting average from THE BAT X, so there isn’t a reason to be concerned. In fact, if you’re in on-base leagues, his 10.2% walk rate gives him a boost in those formats.
Varsho, who walks and doesn’t strike out at an egregious clip, is perfect for points leagues, yet fits in all league formats. He’s likely to provide you with a noticeable amount of power, will steal bases (6 SB in 274 PA), and will do fine for you in terms of batting average. The power/speed combination is incredibly enticing here, and did I mention he’s an outfielder/catcher? That means that he won’t take on the full grunt work of catching and can stay in the lineup every day while still being eligible at catcher! The advantage you gain in having a qualified hitter who can steal bases and play every day as your fantasy catcher is immense; it truly can be a difference-maker at a time where quality-hitting catchers are so hard to find. If the person who rosters Varsho in your league is unable to appreciate that, don’t leave this situation unaddressed!
In dynasty leagues, it’s always important to identify young, undervalued players that can be a key part of your team moving forward. Whether you’re a contending team or a retooling team, these three hitters can add value either as contributors for next year, or long-term pieces to build around. All of them have tremendous positional value, are well-rounded offensive contributors, and are all 25-years-old or younger. Right when the offseason starts, make sure to try to acquire them!
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