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. Each week we’ll publish a positional report on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
While I typically have focused on just 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 second 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 has contained four second basemen who are seeing their dynasty value trend up and four that are trending down. This article features a repeat player and shortstops for the first time. Keep reading to find out who they are and which way their dynasty value is trending.
- Miguel Vargas – Keep reading!
- Ketel Marte – Has been one of the top options at second base all season. His dynasty value might not be risky anymore because he is already toward the top.
- Nick Yorke – Has slowed down some lately, but not too much change to his dynasty value.
- Justin Foscue – Continues to be as consistent as they come. Not much change to his dynasty value although he feels very underrated.
- Jorge Polanco -Starting a rehab assignment, but the strong play of Julien casts doubts over his long-term outlook. Still trending down for dynasty managers.
- Ji Hwan Bae – With the youth movement in Pittsburgh, Bae has all but lost his job although he is on the IL. His dynasty value continues to trend down.
- Cade Doughty – Plate discipline remains a concern, but he is posting much better counting stats. His dynasty value is trending back up.
- Termarr Johnson – Power has been on full display with nine home runs since June 11th. Plate discipline is still a concern, but Johnson’s value is trending up.
Check out my other performance report where I detail which pitchers are rising and which are falling at the link below:
Andrés Giménez – CLE
Andrés Giménez’s dynasty value has been a bit of a roller coaster throughout his professional career. Gimenez was a top prospect with the Mets before being traded as part of the Francisco Lindor trade bringing him to Cleveland. His Cleveland career did not get off to the best start. During the 2021 season, he posted a 74 wRC+ and looked more like a speedy slap hitter than a fantasy difference maker.
That all changed when Gimenez exploded in 2022. He nearly doubled his wRC+ from the season before en route to 17 home runs and 20 home runs. Although still not your prototypical power hitter, Gimenez increased his barrel rate from 3.6% to 6.2%. He improved from well below-average, to slightly above-average which is all Gimenez needs with his plus speed and strong contact skills.
However, early on this season, it seemed his power had regressed back to his 2021 rates. 2022 was looking more like a fluke than the new normal. Through May 22nd, Gimenez was slashing .222/.293/.335. Questions started to arise about what Gimenez’s fantasy ceiling really was and his dynasty value was trending down.
Since then, Gimenez has turned things around at the plate. From May 23rd to July 6th, Gimenez slashed .287/.361/.463 with seven stolen bases and most importantly the power came back. Gimenez was barreling the ball over eight percent of the time during that period and his rolling PLV chart shows how significant his power strides have been.
To be fantasy relevant, Gimenez just needs to have average power. Between his plus-hit tool and excellent speed, Gimenez already comes with a stable fantasy floor. The power is the icing on the cake and seeing it come back has his dynasty value on the rise. If you are looking for more encouragement, Gimenez has stolen eight bases since June 22nd. That is the fifth most in baseball over that time. At just 24 years old, Gimenez appears to be one of the premier second base options in dynasty baseball.
Ha-Seong Kim – SDP
Figuring out the fantasy value of international free agents coming over from Asia is always a difficult process. Unlike most free agents from the Caribbean, the ones coming from Asia are often older and have been playing in professional baseball leagues for years. Despite being one of the youngest players to come over, that story held true for Ha-Seong Kim when he signed with San Diego prior to the 2021 season. Playing in more of a utility role, the transition to Major League baseball was far from seamless for Kim. He struggled in his first season posting just a 70 wRC+.
After his first season, dynasty managers were quick to jump off Kim’s hype train. Many seemed to lose sight that 2021 was essentially Kim’s rookie season. They expected instant results from a 25-year-old instead of treating Kim more like a prospect.
When evaluating a prospect, we make a decision on if we believe in the overall talent of the player. If we believe in the overall talent, we are willing to be more patient with them as they endure ups and downs on their path to the Major Leagues. Why do we so often throw this out the window once a prospect reaches the Major Leagues? There is no grace period for prospects in the majors. We expect a finished product instead of a work in progress. Not every prospect is going to be an instant star, and it is important to remember that it sometimes takes players multiple seasons to put it all together.
Kim is a testament that maybe we need to be a little bit more patient before rushing to judge young players. In his second season, Kim looked much improved raising his wRC+ to 105, but STILL fantasy managers acted as if he had reached his ceiling. Well, only 89 games into 2023 and Kim has already matched his career high in home runs and has set a new career high in stolen bases. Actually, it is easier to just list all of the categories where Kim is posting career-best numbers:
- Walk rate, barrel percentage, average exit velocity, batting average, chase rate, and sweet spot percentage
The lowest pitch hit for a HR this year came off the bat off Ha-Seong Kim.
This pitch was 0.82 ft off the plate. pic.twitter.com/1zzJ1mHUKJ
— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) July 18, 2023
Kim’s season has really taken off since the calendar flipped to June. Since, he is batting .285/.365/.460 while thriving in his new role as the leadoff hitter. Kim just keeps getting better and better perfectly illustrated by his PLV charts:
Kim’s strike zone and power abilities are climbing fast. He is in an elite run-scoring position batting ahead of players like Soto, Tatis Jr., and Machado (at least two of those names will be around for a long time). He has 80th percentile sprint speed, excellent plate discipline skills, and is showing off enough power to be a big-time fantasy asset. Kim is still only 27 and in just his third season of Major League Baseball. There is no reason to believe that Kim cannot continue getting even better and his dynasty value is rising fast. He still somehow seems underrated and now might be your last chance to acquire him.
CJ Abrams – WSN
Speaking of patience, CJ Abrams is another player many (including myself) were quick to pass judgment on. Abrams was the top prospect in San Diego’s system before being pushed aggressively through the system and making his Major League debut at just 21 years old. Abrams struggled in his first season and was eventually traded to Washington as part of the Juan Soto trade.
Things did not get better for Abrams in Washington as he hit just .258 with zero home runs across his final 44 games. Heading into the 2023 season, there was plenty of optimism surrounding Abrams in the fantasy community. I mean, a 6’2″ shortstop with 80-grade speed is hard not to get excited about. However, 2023 started much like 2022 ended. Through May 12th, Abrams was slashing just .233/.287/.350 with a chase rate north of 42%.
Perhaps what was even more concerning than the plate discipline was Abrams’ lack of success on the basepaths. Abrams started the season just four for six in stolen base attempts. While his conversion rate is fine, four stolen bases are not enough to carry Abrams to fantasy relevance. His power has not shown up, his hit tool was struggling, and the one thing fantasy managers thought they could count on was nonexistent. His dynasty value was perhaps the lowest it has ever been despite being just 22 years old.
Well, it seems like Abrams just needed some time to get situated as he has exploded in the stolen base category. Since June 19th, Abrams is a perfect 11/11 bringing his season total up to 17. The only person in baseball with more stolen bases since that date is Ronald Acuña Jr. That is pretty good company to be in. Abrams running more could be a direct correlation to his success at the plate. During this hot streak, Abrams is batting .345/.402/.536 and giving fantasy managers a glimpse of what many expected from him when he was ranked atop San Diego’s system.
Although his average is bound to come back down (running a .415 BABIP over this stretch), there are still reasons to be encouraged about Abrams’ long-term outlook. Over this stretch, Abrams is hitting the ball harder with an average exit velocity of 89 mph (up from 86). Most importantly, Abrams is drastically improving in his swing decisions and plate discipline. His chase rate is down over this period sitting at a much more manageable 37%. Abrams is demonstrating more patience at the plate which can be seen through his PLV swing aggression chart:
Better swing decisions will lead to more quality contact for Abrams. Player evaluation from a dynasty perspective requires patience and eyeing in on areas where young players are showing growth. Success is not always instant and instead, it is better to know that a player is demonstrating the ability to mature and improve. Abrams is doing just that by maturing in his understanding of the strike zone and finding more success on the basepaths. After a slow start to his Major League career, his dynasty value is back on the rise.
Jeff McNeil – NYM
The Mets season has been a disaster from start to finish. No one player has been to blame for the lack of success although one theme is overly apparent. Underperforming veterans are hampering the teams’ ability to win games and Jeff McNeil is right at the center of that. McNeil has been known throughout his career as one of the best pure hitters in baseball. He has posted an average of over .310 in four of the past five seasons and is a .298 hitter over the course of his career. He was showing no signs of slowing down last season after leading the National League in hitting.
2023 has been a completely different story. Overall on the season, McNeil is slashing just .250/.324/.324. He finally makes it onto the fallers segment of this article after an especially poor last month and a half. Since the start of June, McNeil is batting just .196 with a rising strikeout rate and plummeting walk rate. Power has never been a part of McNeil’s game, but now he is not even hitting for average. PLV is taking notice of his concerning trend in contact skills:
You can look at the PLV chart and think that McNeil is still a quality hitter as even with his decline he is still in the upper portion of the chart. However, with almost no power in his game, McNeil needs to be elite in the contact department to maintain fantasy relevance.
McNeil is struggling against all pitches this season, but his struggles against the fastball are especially concerning. Since 2019, McNeil has hit at least .317 in three of four seasons. This year, his average against heaters is down to .243. His slugging percentage off heaters had been declining steadily off the fastball before seemingly bouncing back last season. Now, that number is back down to .322. An inability to hit the fastball is the number one sign of a player’s decline.
McNeil has long been a polarizing player for fantasy managers. He provides little speed and power but has been one of the most consistent hitters in baseball for the last several seasons. At 31 years old, it seems like the wheels might finally be falling off. This has his dynasty value trending straight down. A contact hitter not hitting for average is a negative fantasy asset which is exactly what McNeil has been so far this season. We are likely well past his fantasy peak and at this point dynasty managers are left hoping his BABIP and average bounce back up closer to his career norms.
Miguel Vargas – LAD
After a strong month in May, Miguel Vargas‘ dynasty value was trending up. From May 2nd to June 7th, Vargas slashed .260/.328/.529 landing him in the risers section of this list. The former top prospect appeared to be on his way to being one of the premium fantasy options at the second base position for years to come.
Since that exciting month, things have gone completely sideways for Vargas. Starting on June 14th, Vargas registered just six hits across 65 plate appearances eventually leading to his demotion to Triple-A. Instead of becoming a fantasy star, many are wondering if Vargas will ever become a viable fantasy option.
Vargas has excellent plate discipline, but just about everything else was concerning. After posting 94th percentile sprint speed last season, his speed declined to the 67th percentile this year. He was caught in three of his five stolen base attempts and no longer profiles to be a 15-steal player.
On top of that, his quality of contact metrics were extremely disappointing. Vargas’ experienced a power breakout after the COVID-19 pandemic, but it seems like his Minor League numbers are not going to translate. His max exit velocity was just 109 mph which ranks in the same percentile as Jeff McNeil. His average exit velocity was even worse. He ranked in the 12th percentile in all of baseball (funny enough in the same percentile again as McNeil). His barrel rate also ranked below the league average. All of these metrics translated into a .352 xSLG which is a far cry from the beginning of the season expectations.
While it is reasonable to assume that Vargas will once again hold value in OBP leagues, his overall dynasty value has taken a massive hit. The Dodgers are not a team to wait around for players to figure things out. They are trying to win every single year and at this point, the best-case scenario for Vargas might be a chance of scenery. Dynasty managers are in the process of adjusting expectations from a player who looked like they could become .280 with 20 and 15 to a guy who is likely to hit closer to .250 with 15 and 5. The demotion to Triple-A has Vargas’ dynasty value trending way down.
Thomas Saggese – TEX
Thomas Saggese becomes the first prospect to find himself featured in two editions of the prospect watchlist. Entering the season, Saggese was a popular sleeper pick amongst dynasty players. Unfortunately, the first month did not go as planned and landed him in the fallers section of this article. Primarily known for his hit tool, Saggese was striking out over 25% of the time while failing to hit even a single home run. Although it was early, his 2023 outlook looked grim.
If you ignored this article and bought the dip, good for you. Since the calendar flipped to May, Saggese has been on a tear. His slash line from May 2nd forward is an impressive .332/.398/.556. He has crushed 13 home runs with an insane .224 ISO. His quick hands allow Saggese to catch up to fastballs and use his pull-side pop to drive balls out of the park. You can see just how impressive this is in the home run video below:
Sebastian Walcott is a beast.
17 years oldpic.twitter.com/IJs4MX4DAy
— Texas Rangers Insider (@RangersInsiders) July 8, 2023
Saggese not only has pull-side power but also has an incredibly smooth swing path that will help him post excellent averages. After posting a 23.4% line drive rate in High-A last season, Saggese is running a 23.3% rate this season. This season, Saggese is running a .379 BABIP. While this rate is unsustainable, it is reasonable to assume that Saggese will be able to post strong BABIP numbers throughout his Major League career. His consistent swing path and solid speed will help ensure that Saggese gets on base plenty.
Despite being a fifth-round draft pick, Saggese has dominated every level of professional baseball he has touched. The lowest wRC+ Saggese has ever posted is 127. He profiles to hit for a solid average (likely in the .270 range) with 20 home runs and ten stolen bases. Saggese is never going to be the flashiest player on the field. However, he is a player who appears to have a relatively safe floor. His recent hot streak suggests that his ceiling might be higher than previously anticipated and has his dynasty value trending straight up. Buy Saggese in dynasty leagues now.
Sebastian Walcott – TEX
There is not a prospect in baseball with as much helium as Sebastian Walcott right now. After watching Elly De La Cruz fly through the Minor Leagues and become must-watch television at the Major League level, dynasty managers are already trying to get ahead on who could become the next Elly. By this, prospect analysts and dynasty managers are trying to find the “toolsiest” players out there that could become a future superstar. Safe to say, Walcott is that player.
Walcott was signed out of the Bahamas earlier this season and has wasted no time introducing himself to professional baseball. Just 17 years old, Walcott stands at 6’4″ and 190 pounds. A build of that size is rare and leads to plenty of projectability. The Rangers wasted no time getting him stateside sending him to the Complex League after just nine games in the DSL. In the 15 games since all Walcott has done is crush six home runs, steal six bases, and bat .397.
Watching him swing, the raw skills instantly jump off the screen. He loves to pull the ball (pull rate of 63.6%), especially in the air, and has easy 30+ home run potential if it all clicks. Although the speed figure to slow down some as he continues to fill out his frame, he has 20+ stolen base potential. This is the exact kind of player fantasy managers dream of.
17-year-old prospects are rarely flawless. As is typical with a player of his size, Walcott does come with some substantial swing-and-miss concerns. He is extremely aggressive at the plate and has already shown a tendency to run high strikeout rates with low walk rates. While it is nice to find a hitter that can pull the ball and get it in the air, Walcott can get a little bit too pull-happy at times and really struggle with pitches away. The risks are obvious, but this is a teenager that is already showing some of the loudest tools in the Minor Leagues. His dynasty value is trending straight up thanks to his almost limitless ceiling. If you want any shares of Walcott, you better get him now before his value keeps rising.
Roderick Arias – NYY
June and July have become the time of year when prospect fatigue starts to set in. You get tired of hearing about the same Top-100 guys and between the First-Year Player Draft and DSL/Complex League play sample sizes become larger, and dynasty managers tend to shift their attention toward the next crop of potential stars. The same thing is happening this year as prospects like the previously mentioned Sebastian Walcott are gaining more and more notoriety. Complex League players are seeing their dynasty value soar and that is no different for shortstop Roderick Arias.
Arias was the prize signing of the 2022 International Draft Class. Maybe it is because Arias signed with the Yankees, or maybe it is because he signed for four million dollars, but expectations were sky-high for the then 17-year-old middle infielder. Much like what happened with Jasson Dominguez, Arias fell flat on his face in his first taste of professional baseball. In the DSL, Arias hit under .200 with just three home runs and a strikeout rate north of 30%. Top prospects are supposed to dominate the pitching in the DSL. When they do not, dynasty managers tend to overreact. Arias’ value plummeted and his prospect rankings took a major hit.
Now in 2023, his dynasty value is back on the rise. Arias is having much more success at the Complex Level already doubling his home run total in just 25 games. His speed and aggression on the base paths are on full display as he is already up to 14 stolen bases and is attempting a steal once every 1.32 games. As if looking at his overall statistics are not impressive enough, things get even better if you ignore his first nine games. Since June 17th, Arias is slashing an absurd .362/.500/.672 with an OPS of 1.172. Those are video game numbers and the type of stats that put him back in Top-100 consideration.
Not only does Arias possess excellent pop and plus speed, but he also has an innate understanding of the strike zone. Even during his struggles in the DSL last season, Arias walked over 20% of the time. He is doing the same this season but is managing to also bring his strikeout rate down. From a scouting perspective, it is easier to teach a player to swing than teach them how to lay off breaking pitches outside the strike zone. Arias has the kind of profile that could fly through the Minor Leagues. After a down 2022 season, Arias’ dynasty value is rising fast. You need to make sure you have him on your team.
Yiddi Cappe – MIA
The first faller for this month’s edition is Yiddi Cappe. After signing with the Marlins in 2021, Cappe had an unspectacularly solid showing in the DSL before transitioning stateside for the 2022 season. This is where Cappe really burst onto the scene. In 30 games, Cappe hit .305 with six home runs and six stolen bases. He demonstrated excellent bat control and it was easy to project his power taking the next step. Cappe is 6’3″ and has a natural tendency to pull the baseball. His swing is designed to launch and many felt he could be the next middle infielder to fly up rankings.
So far in 2023, this has not been the case. The Marlins sent Cappe to High-A to start 2023; up to this point, he has looked overmatched. His approach at the plate first began to raise some questions while he was in Low-A during the 2022 season. Although his contact rates remained strong, Cappe appeared super aggressive in his approach. Players with raw talent can often get by with aggressive approaches in the lower levels of the Minor Leagues, but these tendencies become more problematic as the competition increases. This season, Cappe is still walking less than five percent of the time and has seen his strikeout rate creep up closer to 20%.
Although his strikeout rate is still manageable in 2023, Cappe has seen his counting stats take a sharp decline. He will swing at just about anything which produces plenty of weak contact. The raw tools in Cappe’s profile are plentiful. He has plus speed, strong contact skills, and the size and swing to hit plenty of home runs. That being said, he needs to overhaul his approach at the plate to reach his potential. This is a big ask and something that becomes less likely with each year that passes. Cappe’s struggles in High-A have his dynasty value trending in the wrong direction.
Cristian Hernandez – CHC
Cristian Hernandez entered the 2022 season with big expectations. After a strong during the 2021 DSL, Hernandez was one of the most popular breakout picks amongst dynasty analysts. Instead, the wheels fell off at the Complex Level. Hernandez struggled to make consistent contact and saw his strikeout rate balloon to over 30%. His walk rate plummeted and his power seemingly disappeared. There are no questions that Hernandez has plenty of raw power. He stands at 6’1″ with a pretty right-handed swing, but 2022 placed doubts over how his game power would develop.
Instead of getting better in 2023, things have gotten even worse. Now in Low-A, his strikeout rate remains just under 30%, but his average has plummeted. He is hitting below .220 thanks to his BABIP falling from an unsustainable .365 number down to a more realistic .310. Contact concerns are one thing, but when you pair that with Hernandez’s inability to consistently get the ball in the air, things become more concerning. His 56.5% ground ball rate in the DSL should have been a concern as that number has remained above 50%. Raw power is great, but Hernandez needs to get the ball in the air way more if he ever wants to reach his 25-home run potential.
With two areas of his game needing serious development and improvements, Hernandez’s dynasty value is falling fast. Still just 19, there is plenty of time for this to rebound, but he is looking more like a developmental project than a budding star.
Feature image by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter) / Photo by Nick Wosika/con Sportswire