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.
These performance reports have been a blast to write and they keep chugging along. Last month, I hit on four pitchers that were seeing their dynasty value rise and four pitchers that were seeing their dynasty value fall. I feel like it is best to check in on how the other pitchers mentioned in the second article of this series have fared:
- JP Sears– Home runs are the main thing holding Sears back. His results have been good, but the profile is less attractive than it looked a couple of months ago. His value has come back down slightly although it is still higher than when the season started.
- Braxton Garrett– Although the results have been inconsistent, all of Garrett’s peripherals still look excellent. Overall his value remains steady after rising earlier this year.
- Julian Aguiar– Aguiar’s dynasty value has taken a step back since his fast rise earlier this year. Aguiar has struggled with his control and the results have been very poor so far in a small Double-A sample size.
- Carson Whisenhunt– The transition to Double-A has not gone as smoothly as we hoped as Whisenhunt has struggled with his control so far. He has only walked one batter in his last two starts but his value is trending down a little bit from its height earlier this season.
- Michael Soroka– Soroka is pitching well in Triple-A but has continued struggling at the Major League level. His dynasty value has not changed much since his inclusion.
- Alek Manoah– Although Manoah has made it back to the Major Leagues, his value is far from what it used to be. His dynasty value is trending slightly up since his inclusion two months ago, but not by much.
- Owen White– White was used out of the pen in his second Major League stint and the results were not much better. His stuff has taken a significant step backwards this season and his dynasty value continues to trend in the wrong direction.
- Mason Montgomery– The results for Montgomery have been slightly better over the past two months, but he continues to battle control issues. Significant relief risk remains an issue and his dynasty value has not changed much since trending down earlier this year.
Adbert Alzolay– CHC
For the first time all year, a reliever breaks onto the pitcher’s performance report.
Up to this point, it never really felt like a reliever was worth adding. There is often so much volatility year to year on the relief pitcher market and overall their value in dynasty leagues are never very high.
However, every now and then there is a new name or role change that dynasty managers need to take notice of. This happened last year when Félix Bautista took over the closer role in Baltimore following the trade of Jorge López. Now, Bautista is arguably the best closer in baseball. This is exactly what we are witnessing with Adbert Alzolay in Chicago.
Originally viewed as a starting pitcher, Alzolay’s name has popped up throughout fantasy circles for some years now. He first debuted back in 2019 struggling across two starts and four appearances with a 7.30 ERA. 2020 looked much better as Alzolay struck out over 33% of batters with an ERA below three. Inconsistencies and injuries pushed Alzolay to the pen where he looked electric in six appearances to end the season.
Turn the page to 2023, and the Cubs have been fully committed to using Alzolay out of the pen. His four-seam fastball which used to sit around 94 mph has gained velocity out of the pen which he pairs with a lethal slider that is generating a whiff rate of over 43%. He uses his starter’s repertoire to his advantage utilizing a sinker to righties and a cutter to lefties to help keep opposing batters guessing.
Through his first 40 appearances, Alzolay has an ERA of 2.33 with a strikeout rate of 29.3%. In fact, amongst pitchers with at least 40 innings pitched, Alzolay is one of only three with a strikeout rate above 29% and a walk rate below four percent. The only other pitcher with those numbers is Joel Payamps.
Alzolay’s numbers have gotten even more impressive as the season has moved along. Since the start of June, Alzolay is striking out over 33% of batters while lowering his walk rate to 3.8%. He is again one of only three pitchers over that period with a K% greater than 34% and a walk rate below four. The only other name is Kyle Nelson (did not expect that).
Alzolay’s increased success is directly correlated to his willingness to throw his slider more. Through the first two months of the season, his slider usage sat below 32%. This increased all the way up to 36.6% in June and he is now throwing it 56.6%(!) of the time in July. PLV thinks that his slider is one of the best in baseball. The average PLV score on this pitch is 5.39 which rates in the 74th percentile in all of baseball.
Although Alzolay has been used exclusively out of the bullpen this year, he was not originally being used in high-leverage situations. He started the year in a multi-inning role before slowly working his way into more critical situations.
At this point, Alzolay has taken full control of the closer job. Since the start of July, he has converted seven of eight save opportunities. He is quickly rising toward one of the game’s premier closers and is somebody worth acquiring in dynasty formats.
At just 28 years old, Alzolay has a chance to be an elite closer for years to come. His dynasty value is on the rise and will only continue to grow higher as he continues to establish himself.
Aaron Civale– TB
The Guardians are known for constantly producing pitchers. Every year it seems like rumors are swirling about who the Guardians are going to trade for their next wave of young pitchers. They did it with Chris Archer, Carlos Carrasco, and Corey Kluber just to name a few. 2023 presented a similar situation.
Early in the season, the rumors focused on Shane Bieber and Cal Quantrill. Aaron Civale felt like the forgotten man after posting a 4.92 ERA in 2022. Civale made two starts in April (one good, the other not so good) before quickly landing on the injured list. He missed nearly two months before returning to the rotation on June 7th. Since then, he has been spectacular. He has pitched at least five innings in 10/11 to the tune of a 2.24 ERA.
His success on the mound combined with the injuries to the rest of Cleveland’s rotation shifted the trade focus onto Civale. This trade materialized earlier this week when Civale was traded to Tampa Bay in exchange for top-prospect Kyle Manzardo.
Most of you reading this are dynasty players and know how significant of a deal it must be for Manzardo to be included. For reference, Manzardo ranks as the fifteenth-best prospect in fantasy baseball according to my most recent update.
Civale being dealt in a one-for-one deal for a prospect of Manzardo’s pedigree speaks volumes to how his value has risen throughout the course of this season.
Although Civale’s peripherals point to incoming regression, the Rays rarely acquire a player without doing their homework. Look back to this past off-season and the Rays clearly had a plan when they handed out the biggest contract in organization history to Zach Eflin. Eflin currently ranks eighth in baseball in total WAR.
The similarity? Both Eflin and Civale rely on the sinker, cutter, and curveball as their three most used pitches. Eflin’s curveball generated a whiff percentage of 43.5% in 2022. Civale’s curveball generated a 45.1% whiff rate in 2022.
The Rays have already prioritized encouraging Eflin to throw his curve more upping the usage from (20.1% to 28.3%). Civale’s curveball ranks in the 74th percentile amongst all curveballs according to PLV. I would assume it is extremely likely the Rays do the same with Civale.
Aaron Civale, Dirty 77mph Curveball…and Sword. ⚔️ pic.twitter.com/Nf3hf8ejrB
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 30, 2023
There are certain organizations that instantly raise the value of a player. While Cleveland is known for developing young pitchers, the Rays are known for getting the most out of them once they are already established. Civale is already in the midst of a career season and is still only 28 years old.
Prior to this week, I would have recommended that you sell high on Civale as regression seemed imminent. Now that he lands in Tampa, his dynasty value is back on the rise and might be here to stay.
Shane Bieber– CLE
Shane Bieber feels like a player that has been seeing his dynasty value fluctuate for years. Bieber first really put his name on the map with a superb 2019 season. He pitched over 214 innings with a 3.28 ERA establishing himself as one of baseball’s premier starters.
As if things couldn’t get any better, Bieber won the Cy-Young Award in 2020 finishing with a strikeout rate above 41% and an ERA below two. 2021 is really when Bieber’s dynasty value started to take a hit. Injuries caused him to miss over three months during the middle of the season and his velocity was down upon his return.
Turn the page to Spring Training of 2022, and the story remained the same. His velocity was still down and many wondered if we had already seen the best of Bieber.
Boy, did he make all of us fantasy players look silly. Bieber made those dynasty players who acquired him look like geniuses last season as he once again reached the 200-inning mark while posting a 2.88 ERA. His ERA was supported by a sparkling 2.87 FIP as Bieber proved he was talented enough to overcome the loss of velocity. His dynasty value was back on the rise.
2023 has proven to be a different story for Bieber. Although his statistics do not point to a pitcher that has been terrible, they have been a major step back from where they stood at the end of last season.
Across 17 starts, Bieber has a 3.77 ERA with a 4.13 FIP. His strikeout rate has dropped from an already underwhelming 25% all the way down to 19.4%. The complete list of pitchers with 110+ innings pitched and a strikeout rate below 20% is not exactly the list you want to be a part of:
- Rich Hill, Jordan Lyles, Patrick Corbin, Miles Mikolas, Kyle Gibson, Shane Bieber, Josiah Gray, Brady Singer, Ryne Nelson, and Bryce Elder
One of the strangest parts of Bieber’s season has been his increased reliance on the cutter. Bieber’s cutter has graded as a strong pitch in the past when he has used it sparingly. The pitch actually graded out extremely well in PLV from 2022.
This year, Bieber has increased its usage from 16% to 27.5%. His PLA on the pitch has regressed from a sparkling 2.56 to a mediocre 3.49. Opposing batters have hit .324 off of the cutter while it is worth -1 runs according to Baseball Savant. The pitch has been especially dreadful to lefties who are batting .421 with a .763 slugging percentage off of it this season.
In fact, Bieber’s success(or lack thereof) against lefties has been the only drastic difference this season. Righties are slashing just .221/.261/.332 off him while lefties have slashed an incredible .288/.353/.495. Left-handed batters are picking up his fastball and cutter with ease and making him pay for any mistake he makes.
Looking past the spotty results, Bieber is hurt once again. The most concerning part is that the injury is to his throwing elbow. Although the Guardians and Bieber have reportedly ruled out surgery, he is on the 60-Day IL and is expected to miss the majority, if not, the remainder of the 2023 season.
Bieber’s velocity plummeted the last time he returned from a major injury. As evidenced by the results this season, he cannot afford for his velocity to drop again. Even though he is still only 28 years old, his dynasty value is dropping fast.
Mitch Keller– PIT
2023 finally felt like the year that Mitch Keller was going to put everything together. Every off-season, at least a section of the fantasy baseball community falls in love with Keller as a breakout candidate.
The story remained the same in 2023 as the hype slowly started to build around his profile. Although the first start of the season got off to a rocky start, Keller was amongst the best pitchers in baseball over his nine starts. From April 1st to May 21st, Keller posted a 2.02 ERA supported strongly by a 2.46 FIP.
The only three pitchers with a lower ERA during that time were Eduardo Rodriguez, Alex Cobb, and Sonny Gray. Keller was the only one of those with an xFIP below three. The persistent faith Keller believers had shown was finally paying off.
Just as the fantasy baseball community began to accept Keller as one of the dominant pitchers in baseball, he reverted back to his old ways. Since his start on May 20th, Keller has surrendered at least four runs in seven of 12 starts with a 5.32 ERA. His strikeout rate has dropped below 22% while his walk rate has increased.
Although his peripherals are slightly better (4.82 FIP, 4.39 SIERRA), they still paint the picture of a below-average fantasy asset rather than the rising star many thought he was becoming.
The biggest difference between Keller’s results early in the season and his recent struggles is his inability to get left-handed batters out. Dividing his season in half (March-May and June-July), Keller’s numbers against righties are remarkably similar.
Early on, righties were slashing .212/.259/.295 and recently their slash line is .212/.281/.288. There is hardly a difference between those numbers. Lefties on the other hand were slashing .238/.294/.397.
Now? Since the start of June, lefties are batting .286/.361/.571. In fact, Keller has always struggled to get lefties out. Over the course of Keller’s career, lefties are slashing .293/.370/.455.
Keller’s struggles against lefties have returned. At this point, Keller is 27 years old and has yet to put together a complete successful season at the Major League level. The prospect pedigree will always be there, but at this point, it is hard to envision him ever being a legitimate dynasty asset. After rising early in the season, his value is trending back in the wrong direction.
Drew Thorpe– NYY
This has been an exciting year for Yankees prospect development, especially on the pitching side. Between Clayton Beeter, Richard Fitts, and Chase Hampton, there are plenty of reasons to be excited as a Yankees fan. Well, this list of pitching prospects continues to grow.
Drew Thorpe is the most recent player in this system to see his dynasty value rise. The Yankees selected Thorpe with their second-round pick in last year’s draft out of Cal Poly. At the time, he was not viewed as having the same pure stuff as some other exciting pitchers but was a quote-on-quote safe pick.
During his time at Cal Poly, Thorpe demonstrated excellent command of all three of his pitches while easily projecting to be a backend starter one day. After failing to make his Major League debut last season, the Yankees sent him straight to High-A to start 2023.
To say the results have been encouraging would be an understatement. Thorpe has proven to need no adjustment period and is making professional baseball look easy. Through his first 17 starts, Thorpe is striking out over 31% of batters with a walk rate under eight percent.
He experienced a bit of a hiccup in his last start (he surrendered eight earned runs to Texas), but before that, he was one of the most talked about prospects on social media. Across eight starts from June 4th to July 22nd, Thorpe posted a 0.65 ERA. He struck out over 32% of batters and kept his walk rate down below seven percent. From the outside, it appeared as if Thorpe was playing MLB The Show on rookie mode.
Although Thorpe’s fastball still sits below average in the velocity department, he is making improvements already. After sitting routinely between 89 and 91 mph in college, Thorpe has been sitting between 91 and 93 for much of the season in High-A. Improving velocity paired with top-of-the-line control makes Thorpe a name to keep an eye on.
There is little left to prove at High-A and he could move quickly through the Yankees’ system. His dynasty value is rising fast and as a member of one of baseball’s most popular organizations, it could rise even higher.
Rarely do pitchers take no time to adjust to the rigors of Major League Baseball. Thorpe is proving to be an exception to the norm and needs to be on your dynasty radar.
Jacob Misiorowski- MIL
Perhaps no pitching prospect has moved up prospect boards faster this year than Jacob Misiorowski. Misiorowski was the Brewers’ second-round pick during last year’s draft out of a JuCo.
The tall Misiorowski stands at 6’7″ providing him with an intimidating presence on the mound. His low arm slot combined with his stature prevents hitters from being able to easily pick up the ball. His fastball is electric sitting in the upper-90s that can get up to 102. He adds a cutter and slurve that generate whiffs at incredible rates.
The term value is relative. Sometimes players gain value because of spectacular on-field performances. Other times players generate hype based on word of mouth and exciting highlights.
Although Misiorowski has had a strong season, most of the hype generated here comes from his spectacular Future’s Game highlights. Misiorowski pitched a scoreless inning in the game striking out the side with ten pitches thrown harder than 100 mph. As soon as this happened, Misiorowski highlights filled up Twitter timelines:
— MLB (@MLB) July 9, 2023
These highlights and hype propelled Misiorowski’s dynasty value to new heights. Instead of an exciting pitcher with control issues, Misiorowski is now viewed by many as a top-five pitching prospect in baseball.
When on his game, it is easy to see how “ace” is a realistic outcome for him. Misiorowski struck out over 45% of the batters he faced while in Low-A this season before making quick work of High-A en route to a Double-A promotion. His stuff is virtually untouchable when he commands it right and is arguably the best pure stuff in all of Minor League baseball.
The issue here has been inconsistent command. With the high strikeout rates have come high walk rates. Misiorowski has never posted a walk rate below 11.9% at any level so far in his professional career. We are seeing this year with Kyle Harrison (more on him below) that incredible stuff is great, but as the competition increases it becomes harder to find success.
What you don’t see in the Twitter highlights is that Misiorowski has only pitched five-plus innings two times this season and has serious relief risk to his profile.
This section is for pitching prospects seeing their dynasty value rise over the past month. Misiorowski’s is certainly on the rise thanks to an impressive showing on the brightest stage for Minor League players. His stuff is undeniably amazing, but he is going to need to show more consistency to ever make it as a starting pitcher in the Major Leagues.
Gabriel Hughes– COL
As fantasy baseball players, it is always a little bit deflating when an exciting pitcher lands with Colorado. Nothing against the Rockies, but Coors Field is the last place I want my starting pitcher to go.
As dynasty players, it is even worse when an exciting prospect gets drafted by Colorado (sorry Chase Dollander). This is exactly what happened with Gabriel Hughes who was taken by Colorado tenth overall in the 2022 draft.
Hughes transitioned to pitching full-time during his Sophomore season at Gonzaga and did not look back. That year, he fired 61 innings with a 3.23 ERA before raising his draft stock even further in 2022. He lowered his ERA to 3.21, but most importantly his stuff took a tick up.
His strikeouts per nine increased from 9.8 to 12.7 while his walks per nine dropped from 4.4 to 3.4. He features a solid three-pitch mix and even though he landed in Colorado, there was still plenty of reason for optimism.
Despite only making one appearance in 2022, the Rockies started Hughes in High-A this year. The results turned out about as inconsistent as any pitcher in Minor League baseball.
In five of his eight starts, Hughes allowed one run or less while striking out at least six batters nine times. However, with the good also came the bad. Hughes allowed at least six runs in three different starts.
Although his ERA sat at 5.50, there was still reason for optimism. He was striking out over 33% of batters with a FIP below four. The Rockies had also seen enough and decided to promote Hughes to Double-A.
This is where the wheels started to fall off. Hughes’ strikeout rate in six starts plummeted to 22% and his ERA ballooned to 7.14. Add in reports of Hughes’ velocity dipping down into the low-90s and you have a real serious decline in his dynasty value.
To make matters worse, it was revealed a couple of weeks ago that Hughes is undergoing Tommy John surgery. This will sideline Hughes through most of the 2024 season and it is possible we do not see him on the mound again until 2025.
We do not want to see inconsistent results and a serious injury from a pitching prospect. The tenth overall pick from just one year ago has now lost almost all of his dynasty value.
Kyle Harrison– SFG
When thinking about pitching prospects with the highest ceiling, Kyle Harrison is the first name that comes to mind. Harrison utilizes a three-pitch mix leaning heavily on both his fastball and slider. His fastball sits in the mid to upper 90s while his slider is an elite out pitch against left-handed batters. His windup and arm slot create deception throughout his delivery which has propelled him to high strikeout rates.
The Giants’ third-round pick from 2020 has never struck out less than 35.7% of batters at any level in the Minor Leagues. He also has quickly worked his way all the way up to Triple-A despite being just 21 years old. I mean, look at the clip below, he is filthy.
Kyle Harrison fanned 5 over three scoreless innings vs Round Rock on Thursday
3 IP| 1 H| 0 R| 3 BB| 5 K pic.twitter.com/1HTTIJzowS
— SFGProspects (@SFGProspects) April 21, 2023
I just wrote an entire paragraph praising Harrison, but he finds himself in the section talking about pitchers seeing their value trend down. One issue that has plagued Harrison since entering professional baseball has been his control. The stuff is undeniably elite, but that does him no good in the games where he is unable to throw it for strikes.
His first season in the Giants organization saw him walk 11.8% of batters in Low-A. Last season, Harrison’s control seemed to take a step in the right direction. His walk rate dropped to 10.5%, but was just 8.6% over his last eight starts. Splitting the season between High-A and Double-A, Harrison pitched to a 2.71 ERA, and with improving control it seemed as though the sky was the limit.
Harrison ranked toward the top of most prospect lists entering 2023. The Giants sent him straight to Triple-A and it seemed as though a Major League promotion was imminent.
Instead of sustaining his control improvements from the end of 2022, Harrison has regressed in a major way. His walk rate has soared to 17.3% which is the highest it has ever been in his professional career. He has only walked one or fewer batters in three of his 17 starts up to this point.
Coming with his increased control issues has been the inability to work deep into games. Although the reliance on starting pitchers to throw a lot of innings has decreased, most teams still expect to get at least five innings out of their starters.
Harrison has only pitched five innings one time this season. In fact, he has only thrown four innings in four of his starts. This is a significant relief risk.
To compound the issue, Harrison is currently on the IL. As if his dynasty value was not falling far enough from his struggles, an injury has been added to the mix. The good news is that it is just a hamstring injury and has nothing to do with his arm, but this is not helping improve his value.
Although many scouts and industry experts have been quick to fall in love with Harrison’s stuff, they have failed to take into account the risk associated with his profile. High walk rates and the inability to provide consistent innings become a recipe to land in the bullpen.