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.
The positional performance reports have been running strong from the Dynasty team at PitcherList. Each position has seen at least one report with multiple positions being updated a second time for May. Today, it is my turn to update the second base position. Last month, we saw Max Muncy, Nolan Gorman, Michael Busch, and Will Wagner’s dynasty value on the rise. We also saw Michael Massey, Brandon Drury, Thomas Saggese, and Nick Gonzales‘ dynasty value trending in the wrong direction. Keep reading to find out which players are trending up and down this month.
Miguel Vargas – LAD
As he moved through the Dodgers’ system, Miguel Vargas was a highly touted prospect. Frequently praised for his strong hit tool, Vargas really put his name on the map after the COVID-19 Pandemic. Before that, Vargas had never hit more than seven home runs in a season thanks in large part to a high groundball rate. He took the 2020 season to work on improving his launch angle and mashed 23 home runs between High-A and Double-A. He continued his success in 2022 hitting 17 home runs with 16 stolen bases at Triple-A and making his Major League debut.
On a team frequently crowded with big name veterans, 2023 surprisingly offered a chance for Vargas to fill an everyday role with the club. This opportunity resulted in plenty of buzz around the fantasy community of a potential breakout candidate. Excellent speed, plus hit-tool, and improving power created much to look forward to. Unfortunately for Vargas, he scuffled out of the gates. Through May 1st, Vargas was hitting just .202 with only one home run and one stolen base. He was dropped in many shallow fantasy leagues as the only category he seemed to contribute to was OBP with a high walk rate. From May 2nd forward things have completely turned around. Vargas has hit three home runs while batting .261/.311/.522. Should we believe that his recent success is indicative of his true talent level? Let’s find out.
One critical piece of information that is important to remember is that Vargas was unable to swing the bat for almost all of Spring Training. Vargas was hit by a pitch that resulted in a fractured thumb and severely impacted his ability to get ready for the season. The purpose of Spring Training is to allow both hitters and pitchers to get acclimated to swinging again and experiencing live action. For Vargas, he was never provided with this opportunity and much of his early season struggles can be attributed to this. This is no more evident than looking at his rolling PLV contact ability.
This chart is a testament to a hitter’s ability to become more comfortable at the plate. Early on in the season, it is clear that Vargas was still searching for his timing. The first month of the season was essentially his Spring Training. His contact skills have grown consistently throughout the 2023 season and have reached an elite level recently.
There is also the element of luck that was impacting Vargas’ early season results. Early on, he was posting a BABIP of .254 despite a line drive rate north of 20% and a 68th-percentile sprint speed. Since May 2nd, Vargas’ BABIP is up to .278, which is helping fuel his .266 batting average. The encouraging part about this is that we are not seeing a BABIP of .400 or something crazy like that. At .278, his BABIP is sustainable and has the chance to grow even higher. There is not any regression coming from this hot streak.
Early on in the season, many were starting to doubt what kind of future production we could expect out of Vargas. Sure, the walk rate would be there, but a poor average and the lack of power depressed his dynasty value. Vargas is silencing doubters during the month of May and looks to be a budding star in Los Angeles. His ability to find a home at second base only adds to his dynasty value as the position is way thinner than third base. If you are still able to buy low on Vargas thanks to his slow start, you should jump on that opportunity.
Ketel Marte – ARI
Ketel Marte has had a roller coaster of a career. The first few years of his career were uninspiring and not much seemed to change after a trade from Seattle to Arizona. Things started to turn around in 2018 with 14 home runs, but a 105 wRC+ does not scream star. Then, all of a sudden, Marte crushed 32 home runs with a .329 average and ten stolen bases, looking to be the top dynasty option at the position. Marte was young, fast, and just crushed 30+ home runs as a middle infielder. What could possibly go wrong?
First, Marte’s power disappeared during the 2020 season. He hit just two home runs as his barrel rate plummeted. Then, he played in just 90 games in 2021 thanks to injuries before posting a career-low batting average in 2022. After last year, his dynasty and redraft values were at all-time lows.
Just when everybody was out on Marte, he pulls us back in. So far this season, Marte is batting .275 with six home runs and four stolen bases. His home run per fly ball percentage has jumped back up to double digits. While his sprint speed has not rebounded to where it was early in his career, it looks much more in line with his 2019/2020 numbers than what we have seen the past two seasons. He is running more and at this point is just one steal away from his entire total from last year. In May, he is batting .304/.387/.481 with three of his four stolen bases.
Marte has never had an issue with raw power. Since 2016, his Max EV consistently runs in the top ten percent of the league. The biggest issue has been consistently barreling the ball up and getting a consistent launch on the ball. Early on this season, Marte is barreling balls up 8.8% of the time, which is better than the league average. In addition, since the start of May, Marte has increased his launch angle to 9.6 degrees. Although this still leaves some to be desired, it is an improvement on the 5.3 average launch angle he posted during April. If Marte is barreling the ball AND getting it in the air, he could start looking like he did back in 2019.
One other thing that helps to increase Marte’s dynasty value is the success of other players on the team around him. There is a lot of excitement about the potential of the Diamondbacks as they begin transitioning from rebuilding to contending. Exciting young players like Corbin Carroll along with additions of guys like Lourdes Gurriel Jr.help give Marte more run and RBI opportunities. The Diamondbacks being a contending team helps improve Marte’s future outlook. His dynasty value is on the rise, and he is still just 29 years old. If you are contending and need help at second base, he could be the perfect target to help your team beyond just this season.
Jorge Polanco – MIN
Jorge Polanco was one of my favorite players entering the 2023 season. His inclusion on the faller part of this list has nothing to do with overall performance. After beginning the year on the IL, Polanco came back to hit four home runs with a .284 average and even added a stolen base in just 23 games. His barrel rate would represent a career-high and his .281 xBA and .541 xSLG are exactly the kind of numbers that made me so excited about Polanco during the off-season.
Jorge Polanco – Minnesota Twins (4) pic.twitter.com/k2TQ7sHDQv
— MLB HR Videos (@MLBHRVideos) May 16, 2023
Yes, Polanco is very talented when he is on the field. However, staying on the field consistently is becoming more and more of an issue. Polanco first broke into the league on a consistent basis back in 2017 but has only reached the 150-game mark twice in his career. Before even playing a game this year, Polanco started the season on the IL with a knee injury. After just 23 games Polanco is back on the IL this season. To be a consistent fantasy asset, the first step is being able to stay on the field consistently. Polanco is proving he is unable to do that.
Players typically become less durable the older they get. Come July, Polanco is going to be 30 years old. He appeared in just 104 games during his age 28/29 season and it is difficult to imagine him playing in more than 115 games this season as the best-case scenario. Next year he is going to be 30/31 years old, and I am not sure how we can expect him to play in more than that moving forward.
Dynasty value is a combination of current season production and future outlook. Polanco’s production when on the field is among the best at the second base position. Despite this, his dynasty value is still trending down as a result of durability concerns. Polanco is not getting any younger and might have a 120-game cap on his production moving forward.
Ji Hwan Bae – PIT
The Pirates were one of the most exciting surprises in baseball early on this season. There were plenty of young players helping fuel this surprising run, but one player that specifically caught the eye of fantasy managers was Ji Hwan Bae. Bae’s blazing speed has always been on full display in the Minor Leagues. He has stolen at least 20 bases three times in the minors and got off to a fast start in the Major Leagues. In the month of April alone, Bae went 11/12 on the basepaths leading to instant fantasy relevance. At just 23 years old, his dynasty stock seemed to be rising quickly.
However, there was plenty to be concerned about which has only gotten worse. While Bae was contributing in the stolen base category, he was not contributing much elsewhere. A .250 batting average was fine, but not nearly what it needed to be to make up for his lack of power. Through April, Bae was slugging just .350 with a 3.3% barrel rate. The power outage has only gotten worse post-May as Bae has a negative launch angle with a .310 slugging rate. Bae’s power has been below league average the entire season but as you can see by his PLV rolling power chart, the issue has only gotten worse.
Bae’s lack of power is concerning, but that could be overlooked if he was still stealing bases at an impactful rate. Unfortunately, Bae’s aggressiveness on the base paths has come to a screeching halt. Bae has not stolen a base since May 7th and has been caught three times. If Bae is not contributing stolen bases, then he is serving no use on your fantasy team.
Bae has never been a high-profile fantasy baseball asset. However, when a 23-year-old is given a starting job, dynasty managers instantly take notice. Early on, it seemed like Bae could be a consistent source of speed and potentially carve out a long-term starting role with Pittsburgh. Instead, it is becoming obvious that Bae is likely to lose his everyday role with the Pirates sooner rather than later. He ranks poorly in every offensive metric besides speed. Those who were holding out hope that Bae would turn into a significant dynasty asset should adjust their expectations. Bae’s value is trending down and I do not expect things to turn around any time soon.
Nick Yorke – BOS
Nick Yorke’s professional career got off to a fast start. After being selected 17th overall in the 2020 draft, Yorke dominated Low-A. He hit .323/.413/.500 with ten home runs and 11 stolen bases across 76 games. The Red Sox decided Yorke was ready for a promotion to High-A, where he continued his hot start with four more homers, two more steals, and a .333 average across the final 21 games. Yorke was hitting for average, power, speed, and showing rare maturity in his approach at the plate for a 19-year-old. He was walking over 11% of the time and striking out less than 16%. He quickly became one of the top prospects in baseball and most sought-after second basemen in dynasty leagues.
The wheels fell off for Yorke in his second season. The sophomore slump rang true as he struggled to repeat his impressive debut performance. Yorke appeared in just 80 games batting .231 with 11 home runs and eight stolen bases. The most concerning part of his season was the significant spike in strikeout rate. His mature approach at the plate seemingly disappeared as he struck out in more than 25% of his at-bats. In addition, Yorke’s groundball rate increased resulting in a power outage.
Flipping the page to 2023, Yorke’s struggles seem like a thing of the past. His fly ball percentage has bounced back as has his strikeout rate. This has helped his average rebound to a steady .269 and most importantly the power has returned. Yorke has five home runs already through his first 32 games. In addition, he is walking over 16% of the time.
Another day, another Nick Yorke highlight…
— Boston Strong (@BostonStrong_34) May 18, 2023
What has changed for Yorke this year? The answer is simple: health. Injuries derailed his 2022 season from the start. Specifically, the wrist injury that Yorke started the 2022 season with never fully disappeared. He never was able to get comfortable at the plate and his swing was inconsistent. This was the driving force behind the elevated groundball percentage. Now that Yorke is healthy again in 2023, he is quickly proving that his 2022 statistics should come with an asterisk.
Once you factor in the injuries that Yorke was dealing with in 2023, it becomes obvious that this is a prospect you want own in dynasty leagues. His bat is going to play. Plus, the Red Sox currently have no long-term solution at second base. After his strong start to the season, his value is back on the rise, and he could move quickly throughout the rest of Boston’s system. He is already in Double-A making it possible his debut could come next season.
Justin Foscue – TEX
After being selected by the Rangers 14th overall in the 2020 draft, many have felt underwhelmed by Justin Foscue’s Minor League performances. Foscue touched three different levels in his debut season in 2021, but a strikeout rate north of 27% led many to question how he would perform against tougher competition.
Since 2021, Foscue has transformed his approach. Playing the entire 2022 season at Double-A, Foscue has nearly halved his strikeout rate while maintaining high walk rates. His chase and whiff rates both decreased, but Foscue’s dynasty stock did not change much. Now in 2023, Foscue’s strikeout rate has gotten even lower. We have reached the point where he is walking more than he is striking out. There are only two players in Triple-A that are walking more than they are striking out and Foscue is the only one under the age of 25. In addition, he has five steals and five home runs through his first 41 games.
Not only is Foscue demonstrating a Major League-ready approach at the plate, but his swing path is one of the most consistent in all of Minor League baseball. Foscue has never posted a line drive rate below 23% at any level in the Minor Leagues. In fact, his line drive percentage is usually between 26 and 27%. This should allow for high BABIPs propelling Foscue to high batting averages. He pulls the ball just under 50% of the time allowing his game power to play up and creating 20 home run potential.
The biggest knock on Foscue coming out of college was his hit tool. This is now the second season in a row that he is proving his approach is Major League-ready with a swing path that could turn him into a doubles monster. Foscue deserves more respect in dynasty circles and his value is trending up. He is one injury away from finding himself in the Rangers’ starting lineup and now might be your last chance to get him cheaper than he should be.
Cade Doughty – TOR
Cade Doughty fell into the Blue Jays’ laps during in the second competitive balance round of the 2022 draft. Doughty hit 28 home runs across his final two seasons at Louisiana State with averages around .300. He burst onto the Major League scene with 6 home runs in his first taste of professional baseball. Amongst all 2022 draftees, this was the third most home runs behind only Gavin Cross and Dalton Rushing. There was plenty of excitement surrounding Doughty heading into 2023 and it seemed like he could be a player that moves quickly through Toronto’s system.
Instead, things could not be going much worse for Doughty at the start of 2023. So far, his strikeout rate has ballooned up to 31%, resulting in his average dropping below the Mendoza Line. His swinging strike rate has jumped from a manageable 12.8% up to 16.6%. The tougher competition at High-A is having no trouble getting Doughty to expand the zone and swing right through their pitches. The power is still evident in his profile with four home runs and a 17.4 HR/FB%. However, Doughty is going to need to make more contact if that power is ever going to be fantasy relevant.
Doughty is no longer looking like a gem of the 2022 draft class, but rather more like a project that is going to take time for Toronto to develop. His dynasty value is trending in the wrong direction and fantasy owners should adjust their expectations.
Termarr Johnson – PIT
The first middle infielder taken in the 2022 draft was Jackson Holliday. At this point, Holliday is a universal top-ten prospect and many have him ranked as the best prospect in baseball. The second middle infielder taken in that draft was Termarr Johnson. Coming out of high school, many scouts pegged Johnson as being one of the safer players in the draft. He came with a plus hit tool, solid speed, plus plate discipline, and sneaky pop for his 5’8” frame.
Now, just 45 games into his professional career, Johnson is no longer looking so safe. The one part of his profile that has looked the part is his plate discipline. Johnson is a walk machine so far walking over 17% of the time at Low-A. The issue? A 37% strikeout rate. For a prospect known for his hit tool, a strikeout rate that high is the opposite of what we expect. His swinging strike rate of 13.1% is not sparkling but points more so to a hesitancy to swing the bat. The only thing carrying his average to .250 is an absurd .455 BABIP. If his BABIP even drops to .400, his average will be below the Mendoza Line. In addition, Johnson has just one home run and one stolen base. He is not showing power, speed, or the ability to hit for average.
The silver lining to Johnson’s profile is that he is still just 18 years old. He has plenty of time to develop into a useful fantasy asset, it just might take more time. Dynasty value is reliant on proximity to the Major Leagues as well as overall potential. Johnson lacks a high ceiling and appears at least 4 years away from making an impact in the Major Leagues. He is sliding down my prospect ranks and his dynasty value is taking a tumble thanks to this rough start.
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