Sweet N Low

There's a cheaper Top 100 list we should spend time on.

The not-fun truth of the dynasty world is top prospects cost more than the squeeze. There are only so many teenagers and young twenty-somethings debuting and soaring to elite heights out the gates…like hardly any, ever. The average super outlier talent making the bigs usually needs more time to grow into a productive fantasy asset. Yet we are obsessed with getting the next Juan Soto. This obsession extends into absurdity.

You don’t have to know baseball cards to take away an applicable lesson from the hobby world. Right now, a Blaze Jordan card could fetch $10, while the comparable José Abreu card will get you $5-$6. So pay $10 now, have Jordan turn into an RBI monster MVP, and you’re potentially sitting with an asset you paid more than its end worth. Dynasty prospecting works the same way. Of course, it isn’t 100% true, but maybe more like 90%? More times than not, at least.

There is more truth in the idea that when a prospect garners attention, especially social media buzz, he becomes more expensive than his end value than there is in the idea the predicted outcome of the said player by their dynasty owner is accurately assessed. Sure this won’t be true in every case, but the large majority of them. It’s poor asset management to pay the prospect’s price in the aggregate. It’s why I spend my time digging around and sharing what I find in the muddy regions. It’s not glamorous stuff, but it’s where the real prospecting profits lie.

Yet, the overwhelming focus of dynasty owners is on top 100 lists, which set seller’s markets. I understand they are fun, and don’t want to take away from the main point of fantasy sports, but for those of us looking to better manage assets to get a leg up and enjoy the fun part of winning, there is an alternative market, albeit hard to navigate, better serving us than who put what number next to a player’s name and what’s his worth in this poorly assessed market now.

There are folks paying attention to the alternative and putting thoughts out under the label “Best Players Under “X” Age”, “Dynasty Ranks”, “Post-Hype Sleepers”, “Late Bloomers” and the like, but I wanted to share an annual process I go through, hands down the most profitable exercise for me in dynasty leagues. It’s far from scientific, closer to a divining rod than a beaker, but it’s led to me paying very little, or nothing for assets netting more profit than some of the biggest prospect names I’ve owned. In recent years, it’s led to shares of Lucas Giolito, Dominic Smith, and Teoscar Hernández, J.D. Martínez once upon a time, a half-season or offseason before “breaking” out. It is also my tool to stay young, as I take advantage of the overpriced nature of prospects, cashing in before debut more times than not.

This exercise isn’t limited to just my dynasty leagues. I start looking for my late-round fliers/”sleepers” in redraft, June of the prior season. It is June now, and dynasty trade deadlines are nearing. It’s time to start thinking about second-half help, sweetener targets in trades, players we want to watch closely for gains while the more casual owner starts turning his head toward another sport, and yes “sweeteners” should be “targets” in trades, let me explain:

When I am convicted in a player from this June dive, and I want to try and swing a trade for them, I try and manipulate the other owner to offer up my targeted player as a “sweetener” or “throw in” to even out a deal focused on something entirely different. I only started the trade talk because this owner had the cheap piece I wanted, who I didn’t mention out the gates. As you will see, the demographic of players we are talking about doesn’t typically have obvious signs of value increasing. Not having done much, or “underperforming,” is kind of a requisite for getting on the list.

The parameters of this dig are fairly loose; graduated prospect, age range, level of MLB experience, opportunity, and talent are really it. If I could do more for you than simply casting a vague net, I’d be on my private island in Alaska. This is just a cast, and deciding which fish are worth keeping is an entirely different animal, but there are big profits in here. But it’s no more vague, nor more divining-rod-like than prospect lists. It’s an aesthetically displeasing first step in narrowing our searches, but a much faster means to help our teams than some prospect list.

Here is my attempt to give you a top 100 list of veteran hitters with less than 800 MLB plate appearances as of mid-June, no older than entering their 28-year-old season in 2022, with roughly four seasons of MLB appearances, and potential veteran starting pitchers younger than 29 with less than 350 MLB innings as of mid-June with roughly five seasons of MLB appearances. These parameters have served me well in the past.

I will attach numbers next to their names for fun but don’t give those too much weight. Players are ordered in a vague manner whereupon the best combo of what I feel future opportunity + talent + future dynasty value minus current cost gets number one spot.

(The players near the top may already be gaining cost closer to their future value, so the largest profits may lie in the middle of the list…just like I tend to think prospect lists work. I imagine the current owners’ opinions of these players will vary substantially.)

 

#1 Spencer Turnbull, SP, Det (for now)

28 years old
2022: 5th MLB season
79% Fantrax ownership

 

After sitting on the fringe for several years, is Turnbull primed for a jump into fantasy ace or near-ace? He was sure starting to act like it before the recent injury, which helps our cause here. I tend to believe the 5th season for pitchers can bring another level. I also tend to love the slider and the steady progression he’s made year in year out. Turnbull will come with a price, but it’s still one with plenty of meat on the bone, especially if he gets dealt to a contender and gets that winning feeling going. 28 is a great time to be a pitcher with about 300 innings under your belt. Potential speed bump: MLB’s new crackdown. We have no idea if this will affect Turnbull’s nasty slider or not.

 

#2 Austin Gomber, SP, Col

27 years old
2022: 4th MLB season
80% Fantrax ownership

 

A Rockies pitcher will always be discounted and Gomber may be the oddest one yet, with a 1.48 ERA at Coors and 5.06 on the road. I can’t think of a player who’s going to muster up more diverse opinions than Gomber, leading to a wide range of potential costs. If you believe Germán Márquez has been a discounted fantasy asset over the years, Gomber may end up the uber version of that. There are truthers, so he’s off our list here if you play with them, but there are plenty of doubters out there too.

 

#3 Josh Naylor, 1B/OF, Cle

24 years old
2022: 4th MLB season
41% Fantrax ownership

 

Creeping over 600 plate appearances as a recently turned 24-year-old, Naylor has a nice combo of youth, experience, and lackluster numbers to fetch a great buyer’s price. Oh, and there’s plenty of skill as a hitter too. Naylor chases a lot, but doesn’t whiff much, nor strike out a lot, and he can hit the ball hard. Naylor may just need a little more refinement as a pro hitter and he’s getting the opportunity in Cleveland. If maturity comes at the plate, hard to think nice numbers won’t follow, and I love a hitter getting this much opportunity going into his fourth season.

 

#4 Andrés Giménez, SS/OF?, Cle

22 years old
2022: 3rd MLB season
49% Fantrax ownership

 

This might be cheating a tad as Giménez’ new shine may not be worn off enough to get us a good deal, but there may be some inpatient owners out there and how he fits at the big league level is murky. At the least, he’s technically no longer a prospect with 217 plate appearances and liable to get lost in the shuffle. Since his demotion toTriple-A mid-May, he’s hit .254 with eight home runs, currently having homered in seven of his last eight games. If Giménez is adding power to the profile, the trendy speed pick late in 2021 drafts, may take off…just a year later and with a new category to contribute in.

 

#5 Nico Hoerner, 2B/SS/OF, ChC

24 years old
2022: 4th MLB season
65% Fantrax ownership

 

Hoerner is an asset getting shipped around in some of my leagues as owners try and salvage whatever new shine value is left. It’s been a choppy start to a career for the former Stanford standout, and owners are left wondering where the power went. Hoerner has only hit eight pro home runs (three in the majors). The numbers were lackluster in 2020, but it was only 48 games, and 2021 has been interrupted by injuries multiple times. At just 292 plate appearances, some seem to be writing a conclusion to this story, far from finished. The lack of slugging is a legit concern, but it’s hard for me to think it won’t come if Hoerner can settle in for a long stretch of MLB time. Hoerner hit six home runs during a Cape Cod season, so the pop is in there, right? Hoerner’s .338 batting average over 21 2021 games reminds us of the lauded hit tool, but it’s not enough for some owners.

 

#6 Cal Quantrill, SP, Cle

26 years old
2022: 4th MLB season
34% Fantrax ownership

 

Speaking of Stanford, Quantrill might be a delicious soup of “prospect fatigue” bargain. We are only five years removed from the Padres selecting him eighth overall, and considering the ownership rate, a lot of folks are already done with him. (For reference, Alek Manoah is owned in 75% of Fantrax leagues.) Quantrill hasn’t been slow developing, debuting in three years, which is the average length for college pitchers, and he has pitched well when given the chance. Quantrill and his four to five-pitch mix do not cede hard contact. Quantrill just needs his chance to start regularly, and that may be starting to happen right now. The pitcher mill that is Cleveland may have more raw ability to work with here than any of their successful projects in recent history.

 

#7 Abraham Toro, 3B, Hou

24 years old
2022: 4th MLB season
26% Fantrax ownership

 

2019, Toro had a monstrous season between the Texas and Pacific Coast leagues elevating him near the top of the enigmatic Astros system. He’s proven again triple-A offers no challenge to him this season. Houston farms abundance amounts of raw talent and develops it methodically, making it hard for dynasty owners to get a bead on who to invest in, but if Toro had about 80 less MLB plate appearances he’d solidly be atop my Astros prospect list, yet the dynasty love is not there. This could change soon though as he’s up now pulling his fair share of weight in the red hot lineup. Opportunity to play every day is the only hurdle left to get this career rolling, he just happens to be with a loaded organization. Doors probably open in 2022, or he keeps producing like he is and forces the Astros hand the rest of this season.

 

#8 Keston Hiura, 2B/1B, Mil

24 years old
2022: 4th MLB season
64% Fantrax ownership

 

It has not been good for Hiura, and I have no beacon of light for you other than he hasn’t had enough plate appearances to close the book on him yet. To hit over .300 during a half-season debut and then fall to such inadequacy, while hitting over .400 during your go-get-right trips to Triple-A…what’s the common denominator? Milwaukee? Something with him in that environment just isn’t clicking. Lucas Giolito found it by seeking help outside the organization. Maybe something like that is needed? Maybe a change in scenery altogether? Maybe the “fourth season” many ex-ball players label their settling-in-year happens? Our problem is he’s been so bad his dynasty owners might be riding this thing out, as whatever they get back…keep your pennies for this dollar. There could be a right price for him though, and if the skills show back up, you just got yourself a huge dynasty win.

 

#9 Brendan Rodgers, IF, Col

24 years old
2022: 4th MLB season
60% Fantrax ownership

 

Rodgers might be pushing the limits for this list as his owner may be tightening the grip. Rodgers seems to finally be going, getting regular run, hitting .273 in June with three home runs, and the Trevor Story trade murmurs are out there. Still, Rodgers may be cheaper than he once was and dynasty owners aren’t typically fond of the Rockies’ ways, rightly so. Rodgers hasn’t solidified himself yet, and injuries have been a thing. If another injury strikes, it could be the last straw for his owner and a worthwhile buying opportunity could arise.

 

#10 Luis Rengifo, 2B, LAA

24 years old
2022: 4th MLB season
5% Fantrax ownership

 

Don’t laugh, the disparity between his lack of dynasty love and talent leaves huge room for profit. Not to mention he’s been up this week going 5 for 16 with a home run. League size matters a lot here, but Rengifo might be adding a power component to his game as he hit five home runs during his recent 118 triple-A at-bats. Not many twenty-two-year-olds get 357 MLB at-bats as Rengifo did in 2019. The organization likes what they have here, it may have just been a case of too much too soon, a la Jo Adell. Rengifo has a hit tool with some juice, isn’t a free-swinging hack, and may have enough stolen base in him to be a nice little power/speed threat with average. It seems he’s gonna have some opportunity as well, short-term, as well as 2022. This is a career just getting started with a little major league preface, and yes, maybe it’s as a utility type, but a solid second half parlaying into a starting job opening day 2022 wouldn’t surprise me.

 

#11 Jake Fraley, OF, Sea

26 years old
2022: 4th MLB season
54% Fantrax ownership

 

After a few seasons of teetering on the major league club, Fraley may finally be getting his chance. He just graduated from prospect status so there’s still be some new shine grip on him, but his age and a muddled Seattle outfield work to our advantage here. Fraley is starting to show what many believed to be there at the big league level, hitting .239 with four home runs in just 67 at-bats. There is more talent here than price. Perhaps Seattle isn’t the place for him to be a late bloomer, but it’s hard to think Fraley won’t land an opportunity at some point, somewhere if he can’t run with it in 2021.

 

#12 Willie Calhoun, LF/DH, Tex

26 years old
2022: 6th MLB season
56% Fantrax ownership

 

Calhoun could have easily been #1 on the list, but his potential price pushed him down. A sharper dynasty league, Calhoun will probably cost you, a more casual league, maybe not so much. Calhoun is at or near the point we stamp a hitter, and even though the numbers haven’t met expectations, there is a lot to like underneath; elite strikeout and whiff rates, really good max exit velocity, expected batting average, and hard-hit percentage. Calhoun just doesn’t barrel nearly enough to get the gaudy numbers yet. 27 can be a magical year for hitters, and there seems to be a decent-sized sect of Calhoun owners ready for a breakout real soon. If your Calhoun owner isn’t one of them, I try and grab him. Calhoun may also be a great candidate to pencil in as a 2022 late-round target if he doesn’t go off before then.

 

#13 Rowdy Tellez, 1B/DH, Tor

26 years old
2022: 5th MLB season
34% Fantrax ownership

 

There was plenty of Tellez love this past draft season with good reason. Was it just a year or half-year too soon?

 

#14 Mitch Keller, SP, Pit

25 years old
2022: 4th MLB season
47% Fantrax ownership

 

Most every pitching prospect reaches a point he’s cheaper after some struggles in the bigs, and Keller is definitely in that valley now. At only 25 years old and just 117 major league innings, it’s too soon to write him off completely. Keller feels like a great sweetener with upside still left to entice an owner to get a deal done.

 

#15 Griffin Canning, SP, LAA

25 years old
2022: 4th MLB season
66% Fantrax ownership

 

Canning isn’t doing much for dynasty owners now, but he could be a great candidate for a re-tooling team thinking about a cheap piece now to pay off the next couple years. There is skill here to like, particularly the ability to get swing and miss. There is a foundation to grow into an effective major league starter, it just may take a little more time. The Angels are giving him that now. I’d rather take my chances with a Canning than many of the more expensive pitching prospects only a few years younger.

 

#16 Tyler Stephenson, C, Cin

24 years old
2022: 3rd MLB season
45% Fantrax ownership

 

Catchers should always be cheap, and I don’t advise investing much in dynasty, but Stephenson has the offensive upside to be a nice gain at the position. The full-time run is iffy right now, but it should be coming in 2022, especially if there is an extra batter in National League lineups.

 

#17 Justin Dunn, SP, Sea

25 years old
2022: 4th MLB season
44% Fantrax ownership

 

Dunn has only allowed more than three earned runs in one of his eleven starts this season and more than two in just three of the eleven. There is some forgotten pedigree here, as he was the 19th pick of the 2016 draft. It could be coming together for Dunn but we’ll have to wait to find out as he’s shut down with a shoulder issue. But maybe that’s good for us?

 

#18 Steven Dugger, OF, SF

27 years old
2022: 5th MLB season
30% Fantrax ownership

 

Duggar may be enjoying the magic of the 27-year-old season, hitting .316 with a .952 OPS. A player perhaps in the middle of a breakout isn’t typically cheap, but the ownership rates exude skepticism. The 44 strikeouts in 117 at-bats don’t help either, but Duggar only has a 21% career strikeout rate, so are the Ks just a small sample thing? Either way, there’s a buy to consider here.

 

#19 Luis Urias, IF, Mil

24 years old
2022: 5th MLB season
65% Fantrax ownership

 

Urias is a tough guy to figure out, and it constantly feels like his everyday job is in jeopardy, which keeps his cost down. The enticing parts are the high on-base skills and hard-hit potential. Urias just doesn’t make consistent hard contact. Every step of Urias’ career has pretty much gone the opposite way I had thought, so I’m done guessing here, but enough warts and enough hope warrant the spot.

 

#20 Evan White, 1B, Sea

25 years old
2022: 3rd MLB season
39% Fantrax ownership

 

White is another guy who may have too much new shine for our liking, but he’s definitely turned off some dynasty owners. White was advertised with enough warnings the bat could take time to catch up, so patience was part of the deal. Injury hasn’t helped this season, but White is going to play every day because of the glove.

 

#21 Sam Hilliard, OF, Col

27 years old
2022: 4th MLB season
25% Fantrax ownership

 

Yes, strikeouts are a problem, and yes, maybe there are too many of us Hilliard truthers to get a decent price, but I’m still not giving up on the power-speed potential here. It would be nice if the Rockies let him work on things at the big league level or send him to another organization. Guess they need him for their big run this, and the next several years or something. (eye-roll)

 

#22 Jeff Hoffman, SP, Cin

28 years old
2022: 7th MLB season
16% Fantrax ownership

 

Speaking of Rockies sending off players, Hoffman’s new home and opportunity completely flipped his potential. Hoffman’s older than most on this list, but I’m essentially wiping out the Colorado years and starting anew with him. A former ninth overall pick, landing with a pitching-wise organization, still fairly young, a spot in the rotation (at least pre-injury), and putting up the best numbers of his career, with barely any dynasty love. That’s worth a decent spot on our list. Whether or not Hoffman is nothing more than a stop-gap until some young guys come up, there were some intriguing gains being made. Hoffman was getting more movement resulting in a lot more whiffs. It also led to a bump in walks but this could simmer with some more time with the new stuff. Was this just leaving Coors or learning some new tricks in Cincinatti? Probably both.

 

#23 Ryan Jeffers, C, Min

24 years old
2022: 3rd MLB season
29% Fantrax ownership

 

See Stephenson, but with less confidence about the full-time run coming.

 

#24 Kolby Allard, SP, Tex

23 years old
2022: 5th MLB season
42% Fantrax ownership

 

Allard has been starting games again. In four starts since the end of May he’s gone 20 innings, giving up six earned runs, striking out 20 and walking four. Wipe out the rest of his previous major league appearances and pretend we are talking about a 23-year-old debuting with those four starts to kick things off…what would that prospect cost you compared to Allard? He’d be much higher on the list if a good amount of dynasty owners trying to sell him weren’t thinking the same.

 

#25 Isan Díaz, 2B, Mia

25 years old
2022: 4th MLB season
12% Fantrax ownership

 

Díaz is pretty much a swing hard and see if I hit it kind of a guy, but I’m not completely giving up on a decent run of some useful fantasy numbers at some point. Weeks, months, or years? I’m not sure. Díaz hasn’t gotten enough consistent MLB time to write him off, and he could be athletic enough to pull off some sort of version of Javier Báez extra lite or Roughned Odor. There is a place for such hitters in fantasy and Díaz’s price is darn near nothing, especially if you can stash him in a minor league spot, as that’s where he is now.

 

 

 

Gets a little uneasy as we move down the list huh? Well, this list achieved something the top 100 prospect lists might not…they’ve all made the big leagues. Maybe it feels so uncomfortable because there aren’t more of them out there to comfort us? Or help us aggregate it and point out the shortcomings, misses, and forgotten players? Regardless, shopping here may be worth the while and keep us in the mix year after year.

Photos from Icon Sportswire | Feature Image by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)

Nate Handy

Nate enjoys picking up the prospect scraps, turning over rocks to share what muddy treats he can find. Residing high up the Rocky Mountains with his wife and children, trying to stay cool, getting a broader view. A fan of the underappreciated, overlooked and disregarded. A true mud person trying to make informed mistakes.

  • Avatar Wenger says:

    Nice piece of strategy!
    Any thoughts on Taveras? Very nad start but gaining power lately, does he worth a roster spot in dinasty or better to move on.
    Thanks!

  • Nate Handy Nate Handy says:

    Maybe dependant on league size, and roster space, but his story is far from over. Rangers were ready to give it a roll, along with my preseason darkhorse like Tejeda….just not ready yet. All the warts came out two-fold.

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