The Dynasty Baseball Performance Report is a regular series, highlighting each position and providing insight into the risers and fallers of both the major leagues and prospects.
While I typically have focused on second base for this report, moving forward this article will encompass the entire middle infield. I still want to start by flashing back to the fourth edition of the report and see if any of the early inclusions have seen their value take a detour from their early trend.
Each article contains a mix of shortstops and second basemen who are seeing their dynasty values shift over the past month. Keep reading to see who is trending up and who is trending down.
- Ha-Seong Kim-Kim’s excellent season has slowed down a bit recently, but he is still stealing bases and his value is relatively stable.
- Andrés Giménez– The roller coaster season has continued as Gimenez is slumping once again. His value has gone back down after he got hot in the middle months of the year.
- CJ Abrams– Abrams is now up to 18 home runs and 41 steals. His dynasty value continues to grow higher
- Thomas Saggese– The Cardinals saw enough to send Saggese up to Triple-A. His value continues rising higher and higher.
- Sebastian Walcott– Since leaving the DSL, Walcott has really been struggling offensively. The tools are there, but his value has come back down.
- Roderick Arias– An injury prematurely ended Arias’ 2023 season pushing his value back down after an impressive performance.
- Jeff McNeil– McNeil has bounced back from his struggles and has been playing well recently. His value has rebounded after falling earlier.
- Miguel Vargas– Vargas is swinging it well in Triple-A although he has not earned another promotion. His value remains relatively unchanged after falling earlier.
- Yiddi Cappe– Cappe’s rough 2023 season has continued and his fantasy value has fallen even further.
- Cristian Hernandez– Similarly to Cappe, Hernandez has continued struggling and continues to see his dynasty value small.
Check out my other performance report where I detail which pitchers are rising and which are falling at the link below:
Trea Turner– PHI
After going as high as 1.01 in many fantasy drafts this season, Trea Turner looked like the biggest bust in fantasy. Not because he was posting abysmal statistics, but because of who you took Turner over.
On August 3rd, Turner’s slash line sat at .235/.290/.368. His 76 wRC+ at that time would have been by far the lowest of his career. Turner was stealing bases, but with a disappointing batting average and only ten home runs his value was trending down. 30 year old speed threats have a history of dropping off cliffs and that is what seemed to be happening to Turner up to that point.
From that point forward, everything has completely turned around for Turner. Since August 4th, Turner is slashing .388/.430/.820. He has crushed 16 home runs while also adding six stolen bases. His 224 wRC+ since that date ranks third in all of baseball only behind Mookie Betts and Julio Rodríguez.
Even more impressive is the fact he has hit ten home runs since August 28. PLV does an excellent job of showing just how impressive this turnaround has been in the power department:
I am not sure I can remember a season turning around as dramatically as Turner’s has this year. Say what you want about Philly fans, but their decision to give Turner a standing ovation appears to have worked magic. Is the ovation directly responsible for his recent success? Probably not. However, confidence can do wonders for a player and that appears to be exactly what happened with Turner.
Scheduled Trea Turner home run post pic.twitter.com/8yUdRf1Bvd
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) September 8, 2023
Many dynasty managers feared that this was the beginning of the end for Turner. His recent performance shows that Turner still has plenty left in the tank. He has been one of the best hitters in baseball recently and is likely to find himself going back in the first round of 2023 drafts.
For dynasty leagues, there are not many shortstops who rank ahead of Turner long-term (Witt, Bichette, Henderson?) even despite his age. He has an elite combination of power and speed and has seen his dynasty value jump back up.
Gleyber Torres– NYY
Safe to say that the Yankees season has not gone as they or their fans had hoped. For a team with some of the highest expectations in all of baseball, everything that could have gone wrong has. Between injuries and disappointing performances, there seems to be a dark cloud forming over the team.
Sometimes situations like this allow great seasons and impressive performances to fly completely under the radar. That is the case with Gleyber Torres this season. The one-time “generational” prospect has had a roller coaster of a Major League career. The high point was a 39-home run campaign back in 2019.
The low was a two-year period from 2020-2021 where Torres posted a 98 wRC+ in 169 games. His bounce-back season last year was a nice sign and things have gotten even better for him this year.
Torres has already hit 25 home runs this year and is on pace to set a career-high in stolen bases. His batting average, which sat at .256 from 2020-2022, currently sits at .271 this season. Despite the increase, Statcast believes Torres has been unlucky in this category. His .271 average comes with a .280 BABIP despite a 37.2 sweet spot percentage. His xBA of .280 and xSLG of .480 put into perspective just how impressive Torres has been this season.
The best part of Torres’ 2023 campaign has been the contact improvements Torres has made. Throughout his Major League career, Torres has always posted below-average contact rates. This is the primary reason as to why his career-long strikeout rate entering 2023 sat at 21.9%.
This season, Torres is only striking out 14.6% of the time and it is easy to see why. Torres is simply making way more contact:
This season, batters are hitting .337 and slugging .568 off pitches in the strike zone that are put in play. Comparatively, batters are hitting just .266 and slugging .335 on balls put in play off of pitches out of the strike zone.
As you can see, the types of pitches that batters make contact with make a big difference. Not only, is Torres’ overall contact rate up to 81% this season, but his zone-contact rate has skyrocketed.
After sitting three percent below the league average last season, Torres’ zone-contact rate is two percent above average this year. Torres’ season-long value is trending up, but it has grown even higher as of late.
Since the start of August, he has been batting .314 with nine home runs and five stolen bases. Over this period, his barrel rate and exit velocities are both up, and his walk rate even sits above 11%.
One thing that is important to remember about Torres is that he is still only 26. Despite being around for years at this point, Torres is still in the prime of his career. We may never see him hit 39 home runs again, but he remains an extremely useful asset for dynasty leagues.
He is showing improvements in key areas of his game and has been flourishing over the past month. His value is back on the upswing after a couple of down seasons.
Elly De La Cruz– CIN
Elly De La Cruz has been one of the most talked about players in baseball this season. I am going to give him a little bit more attention from a dynasty perspective. For dynasty leagues, Elly is viewed as somebody who has the talent to finish number one overall. He hit 28 home runs with 47 stolen bases in 2022. He followed that up with 12 home runs and 11 steals in 38 Triple-A games this year prior to his promotion.
The raw tools for De La Cruz are incredible. He then comes up and proceeds to hit this home run and you cannot blame people for being excited
ELLY DE LA CRUZ'S FIRST MLB HOME RUN 😱
Nearly out of the park at 458 feet!
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 7, 2023
Almost instantly upon being promoted, De La Cruz was deemed to be one of the game’s superstars. Many even viewed him as being a top-ten asset in dynasty leagues even without proving himself at the Major League level. This is when the debates began.
You see, Elly De La Cruz is a superstar in the same sense that Jazz Chisholm Jr. is a superstar. Their tools are loud, they carry themselves with a sense of charisma, and young kids admire them, mimicking their batting stances and swings.
However, is it fair to say that their on-field performance is rather mediocre? Chisholm has a career wRC+ of 103. So far, Elly’s sits at 83. Ronald Acuña Jr. is a superstar. De La Cruz is an exciting player to watch, but sometimes that excitement can create value that is not an accurate representation of that player’s skill level.
Enough on that, why is De La Cruz’s dynasty value trending down? Poor contact skills and a suspect swing path. Both of these were concerns for those following De La Cruz throughout the Minor Leagues. His Major League career got off to a fast start as at the All-Star Break he had already hit four home runs, stole 16 bases, and had a batting average over .300 through his first 30 games.
Things have slowed down for him since then especially as of late. Since August 15th, De La Cruz is batting .165 with one home run, eight stolen bases, and a strikeout rate of over 33%. The stolen bases are nice, but there are 30 other players who have stolen at least five bases during that time and all but one (Harrison Bader) has a higher wRC+ than Elly’s 45.
De La Cruz’s 12.5% swinging strike rate and 36.6% chase rate are concerning, but perhaps the biggest issue is his low launch angle. He hits the ball as hard as anybody, but too often this ball is pounded into the ground. Right now his ground ball rate sits above 53% which is preventing him from sending more balls out of the ballpark.
Young hitters are almost always going to go through struggles. However, their struggles oftentimes impact their fantasy value. There are encouraging signs when it comes to De La Cruz. Since August 16th, his chase rate has been down at 29% and his swinging strike rate is just 10.2%.
Despite the under-the-hood improvements, De La Cruz has been one of the worst hitters in baseball over the past month. Fantasy managers do not ignore that, especially at the end of the season. After being one of the most sought-after fantasy assets earlier this year, De La Cruz’s dynasty value has taken a bit of a hit.
Brendan Rodgers– COL
After spending years in prospect purgatory out in Colorado, the Rockies finally gave top-prospect Brendan Rodgers a real chance in 2021. Rodgers consistently put up impressive numbers throughout the Minor Leagues but failed to fully live up to the hype in his first chance.
That being said, Rodgers still hit 15 home runs with a .284 batting average in his rookie season. Many dynasty managers and fantasy analysts took this as an encouraging sign heading into his second season.
Instead of continuing to develop, Rodgers got worse in 2022. His home run total dropped from 15 to 13 despite 35 more games played. His batting average dropped nearly 20 points, and he still had not stolen a base in his Major League career. Still, entering 2023 fantasy baseball players talked themselves into Rodgers as a sleeper pick in drafts.
From 2021 to 2022, Rodgers increased his barrel rate and exit velocity. However, the biggest sign of growth was a late-season launch angle increase. In September, Rodgers’ average launch angle increased above nine degrees. Rodgers has always hit the ball hard and if this new swing path could stick, he could see his home run totals skyrocket.
Unfortunately, Rodgers was forced to miss the first four months of the season due to injury. Since returning, the results have been flat-out terrible. Rodgers is yet to hit a home run this season and is struggling to keep his average above the Mendoza Line.
The strides he made to improve his swing have disappeared and his launch angle has regressed to its lowest point since 2020. His 32 wRC+ ranks sixth lowest amongst all hitters with at least 110 plate appearances. The five players worse?
Three backup catchers, a player that has been released, and Toglia is not a list of names you want to be included on. In fact, there are 15 other players that have 110 plate appearances, a ground ball rate above 50%, and are striking out at least 25% of the time.
At this point, Rodgers is 27 years old. The prospect shine has worn off and his value is trending lower and lower with each season. Instead of getting better, it seems like Rodgers is getting worse. On top of the regression, he has failed to stay healthy for more than 137 games in a season. Mediocre production paired with durability concerns makes for a disappointing fantasy asset.
There was some hope that Rodgers would be able to come back this season and prove himself, but that has not been the case. His dynasty value has fallen even further over the past month.
Cade Doughty– TOR
Way back in May, Cade Doughty was featured on the other end of one of these performance reports. The 2023 season got off to a bumpy start for Doughty who saw his dynasty value falling fast after the first couple of months. On May 26th (the day of the article), Doughty’s season slash line sat at .192/.303/.365. A prospect known for his power, Doughty had hit just four home runs and was striking out over 30% of the time.
Maybe, Doughty is a PitcherList subscriber and my article lit a fire under him. More likely is that Doughty was struggling to adjust to professional pitching and as the weather warmed up so did he. From that date forward, Doughty is slashing .292/.358/.494. He crushed 14 home runs since then although his power has really taken the next step since the All-Star Break. Since July 15th, Doughty has been slugging .526 with a .234 ISO.
Home run per fly ball is one of the most predictive stats to follow for Minor League batters. In his first full professional season, Doughty posted a number well above the Major League average thanks to tremendous pull-side pop.
— Brennan Delaney (@Brennan_L_D) June 24, 2023
Doughty’s swing is as smooth and quiet as they come. With very few moving parts, his hands glide through the zone producing plenty of line drives and fly balls. The pull tendency is what fuels Doughty’s home run totals.
The second half of Doughty’s season has his dynasty value trending back up after a slow start to the season. Progression is not always linear and if Doughty can keep his strikeout rate in check he has the potential to be a 30 home run bat at second base.
Jett Williams– NYM
The Mets were able to take Jett Williams 14th overall in the 2022 draft. Entering the draft, the Texas high school product was known for hitting and speed.
Williams quickly put his speed on full display stealing six bases in just ten plate appearances at the Complex League in 2022. As Williams has moved through the Minor Leagues, he has looked like one of the Minor Leagues’ premier base stealers. Between Low and High-A, Williams stole 44 bases this season while getting thrown out just seven times.
Helping to fuel Williams’ impressive stolen base totals are excellent on-base skills. Although his hit tool took time to adjust, it took no time for Williams to put his excellent understanding of the strike zone on full display. During his time in Low-A this season, he walked 19.9% of the time.
Rarely do we see 19-year-olds enter the league and put up these kinds of walk numbers. Williams is proving to be an outlier. His on-base skills help provide a stable fantasy floor that turns into upside once you factor in his blazing speed.
Although his speed is nice, the biggest surprise, and perhaps the reason his value is growing the most, is Williams’ recent power outburst. Standing at only 5’6″, it is fair to question what the upside is for a player of that size. You can easily point to Jose Altuve, but he is the exception as opposed to the expectation. Through his first 59 games at Low-A this season, Williams hit just three home runs. He had the looks of a speedster on the bases, with little power upside to speak of.
This is where Williams’ season really turned around. Over the next 22 games, Williams hit another three home runs earning himself an August promotion to High-A. From here, his dynasty value has skyrocketed. Williams doubled his career totals in just 36 games at High-A by crushing seven home runs. He added in another 12 stolen bases, walked more than he struck out, and saw his batting average climb to .299.
The Mets decided this was enough to earn Williams another promotion and sent him to Double-A to finish the season. Over the past two months, his profile has transformed from a low-upside fantasy asset into a potential 20/40 player who is flying through the Minor Leagues.
Whether or not Williams can maintain these power gains remains to be seen. He has excellent bat control and his understanding of the strike zone allows him to punish mistakes that pitchers make. His speed creates a stable floor and the recent power proves that there is more upside than people were giving him credit for. His dynasty value is rising fast and he will likely be one of the top trade targets amongst dynasty players this offseason.
Matt Shaw– CHC
Following the MLB Draft in June, it is always interesting to watch how newly drafted players perform in their first taste of professional baseball. This year, there are clearly top-two bats for fantasy baseball in Wyatt Langford and Dylan Crews. After that though, there is some debate about who should be the next pick in first-year player drafts for dynasty leagues. Although the sample sizes are small, one player who is flying up boards is the Cubs’ Matt Shaw.
The Cubs took Shaw 13th overall out of the University of Maryland. In his final season at Maryland, Shaw hit .364 with 24 home runs, 18 stolen bases, and more walks than strikeouts. The power and speed combination had many fantasy managers enticed from the moment the Cubs selected him. His performance on the professional level has only added to the hype.
The Cubs let Shaw get his feet wet in the Complex League for three games before sending him straight to High-A. Shaw responded to the aggressive promotion by batting .393 with four home runs across 20 games before earning another promotion to Double-A.
The increased competition has not fazed Shaw who currently has a wRC+ of 133 in his small Double-A sample size. Despite appearing in under 40 games so far, Shaw has already crushed seven home runs. Prorating his home run pace across 600 plate appearances, Shaw projects to hit 29 home runs with 53 stolen bases.
Obviously, using his lower-level Minor League stats as a basis for a projection is not realistic. However, the stats do speak to the kind of upside present in Shaw’s profile. There are still some questions concerning his hit tool as his strikeout rate has increased with every promotion. Between rocking hands and a big leg kick, there are a lot of moving parts the Cubs could look to quiet as he continues his development.
While hit tools can be developed, raw tools like Shaw’s cannot be taught. Having reached Double-A already in his first professional season, the Cubs are clearly not going to be shy about pushing him through the Minor Leagues.
Shaw’s value has been rising quickly ever since the Cubs selected him at 13th overall. He has done nothing but hit and there is reason to believe there is still even more upside. Right now, Shaw has a swing designed to use all fields. He clearly has the power to drive the ball out the opposite way, but it is easy to dream about the heights his home run totals could reach if he starts tapping into his pull-side power even more.
If you want Shaw, you might have to take him inside of the top five selections in your FYPDs. That being said, it is possible his value could keep rising even higher.
Hao-Yu Lee- DET
After signing with the Phillies way back in 2019, Hao-Yu Lee finally made his professional debut in 2021. He played well in a nine-game sample before officially bursting onto the scene last season. In just 79 games split between three levels last year, Lee hit nine home runs, stole 14 bases, and posted a batting average of .284.
Although Lee has always lacked significant upside in the power department, his contact skills and base-stealing abilities had many fantasy players excited by his potential. Despite being just 19 years old, Lee managed to keep his strikeout rate under 20% while showing off an impressive understanding of the strike zone. At the same time, his swing path was smooth and consistent with line drive rates well over 20%.
Early on this season, Lee was hitting for a solid average, walking over ten percent of the time, and keeping his strikeout rate below 20%. The biggest concern early was a lack of power as through May 17th, Lee was slugging well under .400. Lee missed a couple of weeks with an injury but looked like a different hitter once he regained his timing.
In the month leading up to the trade deadline, Lee hit .315 with three home runs and four stolen bases. The Tigers took note of this and decided he was a sufficient return for Michael Lorenzen.
Since joining Detroit, things have taken a turn for the worse. Lee struggled in his small eight-game sample size before once again landing on the IL prematurely ending his 2023 season. In two professional seasons, Lee has failed to eclipse 80 games played either time. Durability is proving to be a major concern and at this point, it is fair to question if there is any upside here.
Lee’s dynasty value was already starting to trend down as he failed to take any significant strides in the power department. With a future speed grade of 30, it is difficult to project that dynasty managers could realistically count on a 20-steal player.
Without speed or power, Lee’s dynasty value is suspect at best. Add in the new durability concerns, and a move to Detroit where his home ballpark will suppress his home run totals even more, and Lee’s dynasty value is trending in the wrong direction.
Kahlil Watson– CLE
Entering 2023, Kahlil Watson was one of my favorite buy-low candidates. Watson, a former top-15 selection, was coming off a strong second half of 2022 where he seemed to be making significant strides in the strikeout department. The tools have always been loud for Watson whose combination of power and speed sticks out amongst his peers. His first professional home run from 2021 still sticks out in my brain and keeps me coming back for more.
Unfortunately, Watson battled injuries early on this season before struggling. Miami opted to give Watson a change of scenery and sent him to Cleveland at the Trade Deadline. Watson has been fine since joining his new organization; truth be told, he has been fine all season.
Although he only played in 81 games this year, Watson hit 12 home runs and stole 25 bases. That is a 21-home run and 44-stolen base pace across 600 plate appearances.
So, why is Watson’s dynasty value trending down? Posting a 107 wRC+ with Miami and a 103 wRC+ with Cleveland is not enough to warrant attention in many dynasty leagues. By now, Watson is dealing with prospect fatigue, and not many dynasty players are looking to acquire a player who struggles to hit .240.
On top of prospect fatigue from the fantasy community, Major League organizations are not focused on the same things as fantasy managers. A 20/40 player does not mean a lot to an organization when that player strikes out nearly 30% of the time with a batting average down near .230.
“Fine” seasons are not enough to keep players fantasy relevant in dynasty leagues. The upside is still there for Watson. He has proven this year that he can hit home runs and steal bases with the best of them, but in leagues where you are always chasing the next big thing, it is difficult to justify holding onto Watson over other up-and-coming players.
Take the previously mentioned Matt Shaw for example. Watson has been in the league now for three seasons and has yet to make it past High-A. Shaw is already up to Double-A despite being drafted this year. The shine has faded off of Watson and his dynasty value continues to trend down.