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 third article of this series have fared:
- Tarik Skubal– Skubal has looked excellent since returning to the mound even if the surface stats do not show it. His dynasty value has continued to rise.
- Brayan Bello-Bello has continued to look strong on the mound and is also seeing his dynasty value rise even higher.
- Josh Stephan– After seeing his value rise, Stephan got injured and has not pitched. This has negatively impacted his fantasy value.
- Jackson Jobe– There might not be a hotter name amongst pitching prospects than Jackson Jobe right now. His dynasty value is rising fast.
- Roansy Contreras– Contreras is still pitching in Triple-A trying to iron out the issues with his game. His value is still dropping in dynasty circles.
- Aaron Nola– Nola’s value has remained relatively unchanged since falling earlier this season.
- Gordon Graceffo– 2023 continues to be a disappointment for Graceffo, but his value has not changed much recently.
- Blake Walston– Walston continues to be uninspiring down in Triple-A. His value has continued to sink lower.
Cole Ragans– KCR
Cole Ragans was a first-round pick by the Rangers all the way back in 2016. Unfortunately, injuries and the pandemic resulted in Ragans not pitching on a professional mound from 2018-2021. The story of Ragans is a testament to never giving up on a prospect’s potential.
He returned to the mound in 2021 pitching well at High-A before running into some issues in Double-A. During his time at Double-A and Triple-A, Ragans was unspectacularly solid. He made his Major League debut last season pitching 40 innings with a 4.95 ERA.
Last season, the best pitch in Ragans’ arsenal was his changeup. He threw the pitch 33.3% of the time holding opposing batters to a .155 batting average and generating a whiff 36.2% of the time.
The issue for Ragans was that none of his other pitches were particularly effective. He liked to use his fastball (relying on it 44.5% of the time), but the pitch only sat at 92.1 mph and opposing batters crushed it. Last year, the pitch had a -13 run value (bad for a pitcher) and allowed an average of .388 and a slug of .701. You can see from the PLV chart below that Ragans made far too many mistakes with the pitch and batters had no problem making him pay.
Flash forward to 2023, and Ragans’ fastball velocity skyrocketed. The pitch that was averaging a velocity below 93 mph was now comfortably sitting in the upper 90s. While this originally caught the eye of many in the dynasty community, the results on the mound did not look much different.
Through his first 24.1 innings, Ragans was still only striking out 22.6% of batters and had a 5.92 ERA with a 5.28 FIP. Although dynasty managers were aware of the increased velocity, it was difficult to find much value for him.
This is where everything changed. The Rangers made a trade to acquire Aroldis Chapman from Kansas City in exchange for Ragans. In the six starts since being acquired, Ragans is striking out over 33% of the batters he faces. His ERA sits down at 2.08 and his FIP is an even more impressive 1.80. He has struck out 11 batters in two separate starts while consistently hitting 100 mph deep into his starts.
I can try my best to describe just how impressive Ragans and his arsenal have been since coming to Kansas City, but that would be a disservice. If you really want to learn all about how incredible he has been, check out this breakdown from the one and only PitcherList himself (Nick Pollack). Ragans has become one of his favorite pitchers and it is easy to see why.
Cole Ragans, 100mph on his 99th Pitch. 💯
11th K. pic.twitter.com/Rlwbe9XHg1
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 23, 2023
There is not a pitcher in all of baseball that has seen his dynasty value rise as much as Ragans has lately. Rarely do we see left-handed starting pitchers touching the upper 90s let alone hitting 100 mph. He currently has an elite two-pitch mix with his fastball and changeup, and his new slider only keeps getting better. The sky truly appears to be the limit for Ragans who is one of the hottest commodities in dynasty baseball leagues right now.
Note that this was written before Ragans was absolutely dominant again on Tuesday night. Ragans threw seven more shutout innings with nine more strikeouts. Safe to say that his value is rising even higher now.
Brandon Pfaadt– ARI
Brandon Pfaadt was one of the most sought-after prospects in fantasy baseball entering the 2023 season. A sleeper in 2022, the book was out on Arizona’s fifth-round pick from 2020. Chris Clegg wrote a piece on Pfaadt last off-season for PitcherList talking about how exciting his profile was for fantasy. Despite starting the year in Triple-A, many were more than happy to stash him in anticipation of his Major League debut.
His long-awaited debut finally came on May 3rd against the Texas Rangers. Safe to say, things did not go as planned. Pfaadt lasted just 4.2 innings surrendering four home runs and seven earned runs in total.
His second start against Miami was not much better. Pfaadt lasted five innings in this start but gave up another two home runs and six more earned runs. His next three starts were a mixed bag of results and Pfaadt was sent back to Triple-A with a 8.37 ERA and a 7.16 FIP.
The issue early on was very clearly Pfaadt’s fastball. He was relying on the pitch 55.9% of the time his first month while opposing batters .339 with a .664 slugging percentage off of it.
Pfaadt rejoined the Major League rotation on June 29th for a spot-start against Tampa. The results were more of the same as Pfaadt gave up six runs in two innings and was promptly demoted back to Triple-A Reno.
Pfaadt was recalled for a third opportunity in the Major Leagues and this is where things started to look different. In this start, his fastball usage dropped all of the way down to 37.1%. Both his changeup and sweeper usage increased and he demonstrated a willingness to use a new sinker that he developed. Pfaadt has made seven starts since coming back up with a 3.48 ERA. After tanking early on this season, his value is back on the rise.
The major key to Pfaadt taking the next step has been his increased reliance on his sweeper. During Pfaadt’s struggles, his sweeper was actually an excellent pitch. Opponents hit just .214 off of it while whiffing over 32% of the time. His usage of the pitch sat down at 23.8% in May before increasing to 25.9% in July and now 31.5% in August. PLV is a HUGE fan of Pfaadt’s sweeper (slider on PLV classification).
His slider PLV of 5.56 ranks in the 95th percentile of all sliders. The quality pitch percentage of his slider ranks in the 97th percentile. Another underrated part of Pfaadt’s development has been his new sinker. Although the sinker itself has not been particularly effective yet, it does appear to be helping keep batters off his four-seamer. In August, opponents are batting just .222 off of Pfaadt’s four-seam fastball which marks a significant improvement from his early season numbers.
Dynasty managers were ready to throw in the towel on Pfaadt after his first 25 innings a the Major League level. He is quickly making those who did regret it. Although he is not yet a finished product, Pfaadt is showing the ability to adapt and develop which is all you can ask for any young pitcher. His dynasty value is back on the rise thanks to his strong recent performance.
Shohei Ohtani– LAA
To start, this does not mean that Shohei Ohtani is not a valuable fantasy baseball player. When analyzing the pure talent Ohtani possesses, sometimes we get too caught up in how special being a two-way player is that we forget just how impressive Ohtani is as just a hitter.
As a batter, Ohtani is up to 44 home runs on the season with a 183 wRC+ which is tops in all of baseball. Ohtani is so good that he could easily win MVP as just a batter.
The praise for Ohtani is endless, and it was truly a sad day when we found out we would not see him on the mound again this season. Although surgery has not been confirmed, it is extremely likely that Ohtani will undergo a second Tommy John surgery which makes it fair to question whether we will ever see Ohtani throw 100 innings in a season again.
Evaluating Ohtani’s value is extremely dependent on your league format. If you are in a league where Ohtani is two separate players, then “hitter Ohtani” is impacted significantly less. There is the possibility he will miss part of 2024, but we saw Bryce Harper return in June after off-season TJ surgery. The Angels will not be in the World Series meaning Ohtani can get the surgery even earlier than Harper.
As for “pitcher Ohtani”, surgery makes it unlikely we see him return to the mound until 2025. At that point, it remains unclear if his (likely) new team will even feel comfortable using him as a starter. This is the scenario where Ohtani’s value takes the biggest hit.
If you are in a league where Ohtani is one player (assuming daily roster moves), his value undoubtedly takes a hit, but it might not be as big as you think. At the plate, he is still talented enough to be a top-five player. 40/20 with a .300 average is elite even with him being utility only. He is no longer the clear-cut best asset in fantasy, but he remains in the top five.
At this point, there remains so much uncertainty when it comes to Ohtani’s future value. How will his new team use him? Will he sign somewhere that is not committed to bringing him back as a starter? How much time will he miss as a batter in 2024? These are all questions that remain to be answered, but it is clear that Ohtani’s dynasty value has taken a bit of a hit with this unfortunate injury.
Lucas Giolito– LAA
Although it took Lucas Giolito a couple of seasons to get going at the Major League level, prior to last season, he had been one of the more consistent pitchers over the past few seasons. From 2019-2021, Giolito posted a 3.47 ERA (never below 3.41 and never above 3.53). He pitched over 427 innings which is impressive given the shortened 2020 season and at 26 years old appeared to be one of the safest arms for dynasty managers to target.
Things took a turn for the worse last season. Giolito cruised through his first seven starts like usual with an ERA under three and then everything turned upside down. From May 31st through August 18th, Giolito made 15 starts and posted a 6.64 ERA. This was by far the worst stretch of his career. The bright side was that Giolito pulled things back together for his last six starts which saw him post a 3.48 ERA.
So, not everything was bad. Giolito seemed to get things on track. His season-long xFIP sat at 3.66, and his PLA was just 3.69. Entering 2023, many believed that Giolito was primed for a bounce-back campaign. This appeared to be the case after Giolito posted a 3.59 ERA across his first eight starts this season.
Approaching the trade deadline, Giolito’s ERA sat at a respectable 3.79, but for the first time in his career, the peripherals were starting to tell a concerning story. His FIP sat at 4.44 and his xFIP was 4.36.
As we know, Giolito was ultimately traded to the Angels at the deadline and things have not gone very well. Through six starts, Giolito has a 6.89 ERA with a 6.82 FIP. In the month of August, opponents are batting .333 and slugging .788 off his fastball which is his most used pitch.
The fastball has never been Giolito’s best pitch, but back when things were going well, he was able to limit the mistakes. Back in 2021, according to PLV, Giolito only threw a bad fastball 36.3% of the time. In 2023, this number sits up at 40.5%.
This season has not been all bad for Giolito. Perhaps this most recent stretch is just a rough patch. However, the entire vibe around the Los Angeles Angels is bad. The vibe has not been good for some time now despite the obvious talent on the roster. The move to Los Angeles combined with Giolito’s recent struggles have his dynasty value trending in the wrong direction.
Noah Schultz– CWS
White Sox fans had to wait a bit to see their 2022 first-round pick make his debut. Despite hardly pitching in 2022 due to Mononucleosis, the team selected Noah Schultz 26th overall last season. The team had a lot of convincing to do to sway Schultz away from Vanderbilt, but they accomplished that with an above-slot bonus.
After working hard with the team during the off-season to improve his velocity, Schultz suffered a flexor strain that prevented him from taking the mound until June of this year.
Since returning, Schultz has not disappointed. Across his first six starts, Schultz did not allow a single run. In fact, through ten starts, Schultz has only allowed an earned run in one of them (a four-run blowup against the Brewers’ affiliate team).
The best pitch here is Schultz’s slider. The pitch sits in the mid-80s and gets even better once you factor in the deception from his 6’9″ frame. The pitch dives down and away to lefties making it an elite strikeout pitch.
Noah Schultz hits his pitch limit and exits after 2.1 innings. He struck out 5 and walked 1. Had 8 whiffs and a 30% CSW. Schultz now has 21 strikeouts and has not allowed a run in his first 14.1 professional innings.#WhiteSox pic.twitter.com/HUlsXzweuB
— Chris Clegg (@RotoClegg) July 15, 2023
His fastball might not light up radar guns, but the velocity is increasing and Schultz has already shown the willingness to work on developing a two-seamer to help keep batters off balance. The only thing missing is an out pitch for righties. Schultz has started working on a changeup that figures to only keep improving.
Through his first 27 professional innings, Schultz has looked dominant on the mound. He struck out 36.5% of the batters he faced while maintaining a walk rate under six percent. Considering that he just turned 20 years old at the beginning of this month, it is easy for fans to dream about the potential here.
Unfortunately, his season is likely over after a shoulder injury but that does not change how much his value has already risen this season. Durability is a concern for most pitching prospects. Schultz has proven he has the stuff to dominate batters and his value could continue rising as he gets more innings under his belt.
Owen Murphy– ATL
This section started with one high school pitcher selected in the first round of the 2022 draft and continues now with another. Owen Murphy has been impressive on the mound since being selected 20th overall last year by Atlanta. He made a brief debut last season before being sent to Low-A to start 2022.
Murphy’s season got off to a fast start in 2022 before running into some bumps in the road. After two scoreless starts to begin his campaign, Murphy struggled to the tune of a 5.88 ERA in his next 13. Murphy’s walk rate jumped up to ten percent and it was clear Murphy had plenty to work on. One thing nobody was denying though was Murphy’s stuff.
Similar to Schultz, Murphy does not wow scouts with the velocity on his fastball. However, unlike Schultz, Murphy’s fastball comes with significant rise allowing the pitch to play up and blow past hitters.
The best pitch, and his go-to out pitch, is Murphy’s curveball. This pitch comes with significant break and is one that Murphy is confident throwing to both righties and lefties. What really sticks out to me is the maturity Murphy has when throwing this pitch.
Despite being only 19 years old, Murphy is able to manipulate the pitch at different velocities keeping batters even more off-balance than they already are.
Last night, Owen Murphy (@ojmurphy10) put together one of the nastiest pitch sequences this year.
1-0, curve, 72 MPH
1-1, curve, 66 (!!!!) MPH
1-2, curve, 72 MPH
1-3, rising fastball, 92 MPH (probably looked like 100).
Batter had no chance. Murph had 9 Ks in his win. pic.twitter.com/qszx5X75BF
— Nathan Strauss (@NathanPStrauss) August 5, 2023
Even while Murphy was struggling to find success on the mound, he was still striking out over 27% of the batters he faced. Over the past month, Murphy’s value has really risen. Not only has Murphy struck out over 33% of the batters he has faced in his last four starts, but his walk rate has also lowered to 4.5%.
His recent success on the mound has earned him a promotion to High-A only raising his value further. If his recent control gains stick, we could see his value skyrocket next season. Get in on Murphy now before it is too late.
Jack Leiter– TEX
Jack Leiter has experienced quite the fall from stardom since being drafted second overall in the 2021 draft. Leiter, once an ace for Vanderbilt, has never seemed to fully adjust to professional competition.
The Rangers started Leiter out with an aggressive assignment to Double-A last season which was filled with inconsistencies. Repeating the level this season, things have not looked a whole lot better.
The biggest issue early in Leiter’s professional career has been the inability to limit walks. Last season, Leiter walked over 13% of the batters he faced. Instead of showing improvement, through his first five starts this year Leiter was walking over 16% of batters with a 6.75 ERA. Early on this season, his value was trending even lower than before.
This is where things started to change for the better. Leiter pitched to a 1.67 ERA with a 31.4% strikeout rate and a more manageable 12.4% walk rate across his next five outings. Leiter truthers were starting to come out and his value appeared to be rising. Unfortunately, his rise was short-lived. His next five starts saw Leiter regress back to a walk rate of over 16% with a 9.82 ERA.
The Rangers had seen enough and placed Leiter on the Development List hoping to complete a hard reset. Leiter finally returned to the mound for the first time in nearly two months on Sunday. He pitched three innings striking out four and allowing just one run, but overall 2023 has been one to forget.
This is now the second straight season in which fantasy managers have walked away disappointed in Leiter’s performance and development. His name still holds value in some circles, but it is clear that his dynasty value continues to drop lower and lower.
Jake Eder– CWS
Around the Trade Deadline, we usually focus on who the biggest winners are. We focus on which prospects or Major Leaguers got the biggest boost to their fantasy value. The flip side of that is figuring out which players saw their fantasy value take a hit. For a prospect, losing value is not something that is automatic.
However, some teams are simply better at developing prospects than others. The Marlins have been one of the best teams lately at getting the most of their young pitchers. Sandy Alcantara, Jesús Luzardo, and Eury Pérez just to name a few. Unfortunately for Jake Eder, he was traded away from Miami.
Again, this is not to say that Eder cannot continue his development successfully in Chicago’s organization. Noah Schultz was already mentioned in this article as a pitching prospect seeing his dynasty value rise. However, the move from Miami to Chicago definitely hurts Eder’s perceived value.
Eder’s performance on the mound since joining his new organization does not help his value either. In four starts, Eder has pitched just 12.1 innings allowing 19 earned runs. His control (which has been inconsistent all season) has seemingly gotten worse. His walks per nine since the deadline sits up at 7.30.
While with the Marlins, there was excitement over Eder’s arsenal and potential. The arsenal itself has not changed, but the control issues might be more problematic than originally believed. There is also not the same trust in Chicago’s organization as there is with Miami to help him improve in this area. Eder’s value has been trending down over the past month.
Feature image by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter) / Photo by William Purnell / Icon Sportswire