When it comes to strategy in dynasty formats, I deploy an unorthodox approach. Depending on where you play and the roster rules that accompany your league, my method may or may not be feasible for you, but it’s simple. I do my best Dave Dombrowski impersonation, fully equipped with a suave, silver wig, a coating of Jurgen’s Natural Glow and a Palos Heights, Ill. birth certificate. What I mean by this, is I like to make win-now moves while my league-mates are busy competing for the strongest prospect pool award and salivating over the talent that is waiting in the wings, each one desperately trying to convince the rest of the league that they are the very best at identifying young talent.

If I’m in any position to win in any given year, I’ll happily dump a few prospects, even ones with top 100 status, for a veteran player with a lower career ceiling in order to help my chances. Like I said, this may or may not be a possible trade-off for you depending on your league rules, but I’ve seen all too many league-mates dwell in the cellar year-after-year, stockpiling more and more top 100 names and never getting the production they were waiting for. Win when you can win — and be willing to sell your highest-rated prospects. That is, except for the select few that you should stash and forget, and wait on no matter the circumstances. This does not necessarily mean honing in on the top 10 in the MLB 100, but rather identifying the players who are young and quickly developing skill sets you just know are going to play at the next level. The fantasy gems. They play loud. Think of Ronald Acuna during the 2017 season, before he became the No. 1 prospect in the game.

Today, I’ll go in-depth on three players you could make this type of argument for: Julio Rodriguez, MacKenzie Gore and Matthew Liberatore. I’ll provide detailed, unbiased data along the way, before providing my own brief opinion at the end regarding whether or not you should pack this player for the long haul. As a reminder, all the players I’ll go over today were previously requested in the comments section by the readers of Razzball. If there is a particular prospect you would like to see an in-depth profile for in the future, please feel free to voice such in the comments section. Now saddle up, take off your shoes and belt, and join me over at the TSA security check.

Julio Rodriguez | OF | Seattle Mariners | 6′ 3″ | 180 lbs. | 2019: A, A+
Requested by: Wooly the Mammoth, Primetime

Without fail every year, there are a handful of prospects that any dynasty manager should be thrilled to have shares of and adamantly hold onto. This means keeping a young player even if you have an opportunity to trade them to improve a win-now roster; even if there’s that one person in your league who continuously engages you about acquiring them. Julio Rodriguez is one such name and, surprisingly enough, isn’t even the only member of the Seattle Mariners organization that I would lump into that category, as Jared Kelenic is also developing into a soon-to-be MLB superstar. Are these ever sure bets? No, but if we’re playing the odds, there’s more than a 50-50 chance Rodriguez evolves into a multi-time All-Star in the corner outfield, armed with a plus-hit tool (55-60) and plus-power (raw: 65; game: 60). Truthfully, I would put those odds at 65-35 in favor of Rodriguez succeeding.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any shares of Rodriguez in dynasty formats, although I’ll be doing my best throughout the off-season to change that sad reality. If you dive into the tape, it really only takes one or two swings before you observe the excellent mechanics, plate coverage and approach Rodriguez has for a player that is just 19 years of age. Let’s start off by looking at a big fly.

As that tweet indicates, the Mariners promoted Rodriguez to the High-A California League from the Single-A South Atlantic League in his first season of pro ball. The decision to throw Rodriguez into a full-length debut season was questioned by some, but he slashed .293/.359/.490 with 10 home runs, one steal and a 22.4 K% across 295 plate appearances at Single-A, making a strong case it was the right decision from the onset.

Upon being promoted to High-A, Rodriguez exploded over the 17-game, 72-PA cameo to follow, slashing .462/.514/.738. Remind you, he posted those numbers as an 18-year-old kid. On top of that slash, Rodriguez produced 11 extra base hits including two homers and reduced his K-rate to 13.9%. Overall, Rodriguez has an 8.8 BB% in the Minor Leagues, but that’s a number we should expect to rise over time. He has an advanced approach and understanding of the strike for his age, although there is still some work to do on the front-side, as he often comes undone and chases breaking balls away or down and out of the zone. While he isn’t Juan Soto-esque, he’s much closer Soto’s degree of advanced feel for hitting relative to his age than most other top prospects.

Rodriguez has been up to the challenge regardless of where he’s been assigned, holding his own in the 2019 Dominican Summer League (.315/.404/.525) and the 2019 Arizona Fall League (.288/.397/.365). This is likely a product of his exceptional mechanics made all the more impressive considering his age, as evidenced in the video below.

From everything that I’ve said already, it’s no mystery what my advice is in regard to Rodriguez in dynasty formats: Pack. Whatever way you want to say it: hold, keep, cherish, coddle — just don’t let him go. This isn’t a universal rule for top 20 prospects, as I would not urge the same for players like Dylan Carlson, Joey Bart and Brendan McKay (nothing against those names, they just aren’t in that “cant-miss” tier for me). Truthfully, J-Rod is going to be even more marvelous than if J-Lo and A-Rod morphed into one and had an insanely talented 19-year-old man-child. He won’t be a five-category darling, as his SB potential is limited, but don’t miss out on this one.

MacKenzie Gore | LHP | San Diego Padres | 6′ 2″ | 197 lbs. | 2019: A+, AA
Requested by: scoboticus

Oh, the hype. That good, sweet hype. Perhaps no pitching prospect has garnered as much of it over the past five-plus seasons as Gore, but it’s been earned nearly every step of the way. He went No. 3 overall in the 2017 draft, a near no-brainer selection by the Padres after Gore’s frequently-documented senior season of high school in which he went undefeated on the mound with a 0.19 ERA and insane 158-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Those 158 strikeouts came in 74 1/3 innings of work, translating to a 19.1 K/9.

Gore got off to a hot start in the Minors, notching a 1.27 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, .184 BAA and 14.3 K/9 in 2017 Rookie-level action. He took a step back in 2018 (4.45 ERA. 1.30 WHIP, .260 BAA, 11.0 K/9) while battling recurring blister issues — an ailment that limited him to just 16 Single-A starts.

That speed bump signifies the extent of Gore’s struggles in the game of baseball. In 2019, Gore hurled 101 innings across High-A and Double-A, finishing with a 1.69 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, .164 BAA and 12.0 K.9. Both Gore’s ERA and WHIP paced the Minors (minimum 100 innings), as he showed an advanced feel of four plus-pitches in his fastball (91-96 MPH, tops 97 MPH), curveball, slider and changeup — all of which grade out at 60 or above on the 20-80 scale. For those who need a reminder, here’s a look at Gore’s unique delivery and one of those mid-90s fastballs.

It’s worth noting that Gore ran into some trouble upon his 2019 promotion to Double-A. Although it was a mere five-start, 21 2/3-inning sample size, the lefty was tagged for a 4.15 ERA and 1.29 WHIP, as he allowed 20 hits for a .250 BAA. Even though it’s not a major cause for concern, it’s part of the complete picture — which is what these prospect security checks are designed to encapsulate.

Another small fact worth noting is that Gore has basically been able to get by so far in the Minors with his fastball often working in tandem with just one effective secondary pitch. Which pitch that is exactly has altered on a start-to-start basis, and when you have three potentially plus secondary offerings, it’s much easier to adapt as the game flows based on what’s working. As he progresses to the MLB, he’ll need to become more consistent with his secondary stuff and come to the mound each day with at least three pitches working effectively. The fact that Gore has excelled to the degree that he has, mixed with the upside to further improve in this regard, is one of many reasons why he’s nearly universally viewed as a future No. 1 starter – both in the real world and in the fantasy baseball realm.

During his elite high school career and his Rookie-level stint, the curveball was Gore’s clear secondary weapon, whereas he’s come to rely much more heavily on his slider since his 2018 blister issues. Here’s what that breaking ball-fastball combination looks like for Gore.

The curveball sits 76-79 MPH, which creates a maximum velocity band of 21 MPH for Gore at present. The slider sits in the mid-80s, usually 83-86 MPH and features late break. Both will be formidable weapons at the Major League level.

There’s a lot to love here, besides the fact that many fantasy owners were hoping for a late September call-up this season. It’s possible the Padres will want to see some improvement from Gore in controlling the running game before giving him the call, as that’s one glaring hole in his game as it stands today. Regardless, Gore is a generational pitching prospect, and as long as he can avoid career-altering arm injury, he appears to have the ceiling of a future fantasy No. 1 starter and the floor of a fantasy No. 3-4.

Pack. And clutch tightly to your chest as your flight flies through the fall air.

Matthew Liberatore | LHP | St. Louis Cardinals | 6′ 4″ | 220 lbs. | 2019: A
Requested by: Hobbs

Liberatore will serve as more of a footnote here, as I’ve already exceeded my weekly word count quota. Grey and Donkey Teeth actually have me hooked up to some new-age house arrest-rigged word count ankle bracelet, and when I go over my allotted post length, it begins to beep and shock me erratically until I close my laptop.

Liberatore was actually one of my favorite prospects in the 2018 MLB Draft, right alongside fellow Arizona HS prep draftee Nolan Gorman — both of which now find themselves in the St. Louis organization. Honestly, the only thing that really concerns me about Liberatore as a prospect is that the Tampa Bay Rays traded him, and they’re ten times smarter than I am. Here’s a quick look at Liberatore.

With a plus-fastball and plus-curve, Liberatore has the makings of a future front-line starter, despite many pundits labeling him as a No. 3. As for the rest of his arsenal, Liberatore’s slider and changeup both have the chance to develop into above average offerings at the MLB level. With clean mechanics, there’s a good chance his command, which is average at present (3.5 BB/9), will develop into above average as well. But by my estimation, the real bread and butter here is that aforementioned fastball-curveball combination. Just look at this nasty hook.

Through two seasons in the Minors (2018: Rookie-level; 2019: Single-A), Liberatore fired 111 innings of 2.59 ERA ball, holding opposing hitters to a .224 batting average while striking out just over one batter per inning. Liberatore is not in that same category as Rodriguez and Gore, but through my eyes, he’s very close — much closer than many scouts would like to believe — and his stuff is only going to get nastier as his body fills out and he adds velocity. Don’t be absolutely unwilling to move him in dynasty formats, but don’t seek out the opportunity, either. Pack.

Well, what do you know — three prospects and all packs. It would almost appear that I drew it up that way, seeing as I hand-picked the third and final prospect myself in this installment (I am a Razzball reader, after all). These three players are all guys I’d be thrilled to own in deep dynasty formats; prospects worth building around in any format.

As always, I’m happy to take this conversation into the comments section or on Twitter, where you can find me @WorldOfHobbs

 
  1. Mike L says:
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    That’s good stuff man. I think Andrew Vaughn, CJ Abrams, and Kelenic are must holds also. If you look at the elite prospects coming up there aren’t many 1st basemen close to his talent level. As far as Abrams goes, I think he probably gets moved for a strong pitcher or other need next season when the Padres are right on the door step. I’ve heard he could get moved to the OF but that doesn’t make sense with the depth they have there either. Kelenic may not be Rodriguez but the floor on him looks about as safe as anyone.
    I am glad you brought up Liberatore he was on my radar but had a few others like Hancock, Gilbert, and Lacy above him.
    One other thing, where would you put guys like Luciano and Torkelson up against the above mentioned?

    • Hobbs

      Hobbs says:
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      Thanks for reading, Mike!

      It’s tough to say exactly where these 2020 draftees fall since they didn’t get any pro exposure this summer. I still think Detmers and Meyer will beat Hancock and Lacy to the Big Leagues.

      Both Luciano and Torkelson are guys I’d want to own in dynasty, but I would still be open to trades for either depending on what the return is. Torkelson is already at No. 5 on MLB.com’s list, and I’ve written some very bullish articles on him the past few months, but I still need to see the guy face Minor League pitching.

  2. Brian Fawcett says:
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    Nice piece of analysis, and written in English!

    • Hobbs

      Hobbs says:
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      Appreciate the read! English is my specialty.

  3. Primetime says:
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    When you think Libertore will be up?

    • Hobbs

      Hobbs says:
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      2020. Late-summer 2021 at the earliest.

      No comment on the Julio bit?

      • Primetime says:
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        I already grabbed Julio. I read enough not to keep in on waivers. Especially in our league with no draft next season cause of the short season this year.

        I also grabbed brujan.

        I’m debating if I should drop Pineda and singer for young pitchers or hitters. Ex. Vaughn.

  4. Woolly the Mammoth says:
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    This week’s news on Oneil Cruz is terrible. Would you go ahead and drop him for Liberatore or wait to see how his legal situation plays out?

    • Hobbs

      Hobbs says:
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      Absolutely tragic. I feel as if there should be a prospect on your roster more worthy of a drop for Cruz, but this certainly doesn’t bode well for him, and I was relatively low on him as a prospect to begin with. If not someone else, I would drop Cruz for Lib.

      I’ve always shied away from Pirates prospects just because their player development seems rather suspect. However, they clearly have even bigger issues with identifying character. Jung Ho Kang, Felipe Vazquez, and now Cruz. It’s not uncommon for young, pro athletes to make bad decisions, but the recent track record of young players in this organization is concerning.

      There is still much unknown about Cruz’s situation and he is cooperating with local authorities, so I don’t want to rush to judgment — but we certainly know the necessary details relating to at least Kang and Vazquez.

  5. douglas clarke says:
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    Love to read baseball stuff when there’s some literary and pop culture stuff thrown into the mix. Having said that, sometimes it can get a bit thick and heavy … the creator being carried along on an eddy of self-worship … the reader beginning to top his foot, saying aloud to his computer, “Okay, Ace, you’re as clever as a cat with a spool of thread. Now get to it.”

    • Hobbs

      Hobbs says:
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      Thank you for reading, Douglas!

  6. Prawn Lord says:
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    Curious to hear your thoughts on Jasson Dominguez. Since we’ve seen so little from him but have heard scouts comparing him to Mickey Mantle and Trout, is he a must hold? Or a must hold for now at least until we can see what the hype is all about?

    • Hobbs

      Hobbs says:
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      I wrote my general opinions about Dominguez back in April here: https://razzball.com/prospect-security-check-who-to-pack-for-the-long-haul/

      He’ll be the fourth player I get to on that post. He’s a must-hold depending how deep the league is. I play in a 35-man dynasty keeper and he’s a must-hold in any format similar to that.

      Just depends if your league roster construction allows for you to efficiently stash a player for several years.

  7. Primetime says:
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    Hobbs,

    10 team keeper league. We have no draft like I said above since this was a shorten season so we voted. Even though we played merged divisions into one, winner take all. I will finish 2nd in both. Ew!

    However, our league was drafted for weekly play and not daily. Due to covid we needed to turn into daily this season and it’s was hard to drop players. Anyway, here’s what I got going into next season.

    C Smith W
    1b Freeman
    2b Biggio
    3b Arenado
    ss story
    Of Bellinger
    Of rosario e
    Of k Lewis
    U Stanton

    Bench
    Moustakas
    Brujuan waiver pickup
    Chapman M
    Modesi – waiver pickup
    Julio Rodriguez waiver pickup
    Mountcastle- waiver pickup
    Victor Robles – grabbed him last night.. dynasty leagues have him ranked too high not to take a chance with no draft.

    Pitchers
    Bieber
    Nola
    Glasnow
    Maeda
    Urias
    RP Jordan Hicks – just grabbed since he opt out
    RP Osuna – just grabbed cause he IL

    Bench
    M Gore
    Pineda
    Singer
    Skubal
    Civale

    So I like Pineda but biggest worry is drugs lol and staying on field he’s a great 5 I think. I love singer as well.

    But guys Andrew Vaughn, Luis patino, benetini, h dozier, kieboom. I also like Logan Gilbert over singer.

    Any ideas?

    • Primetime says:
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      Also Mitch Keller and Jamison tailon are there.

    • Hobbs

      Hobbs says:
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      Would drop Singer or Pineda for Vaughn. Vaughn is a must-own.

      Also feel as though Patino, Kieboom should be owned… but you have a hard decision with drops thereafter. Think your next drop option would be Urias after that. Personally, Singer would be my first drop. Not buying on him at all. Just remember Pineda will be pitching at age 32 for all of 2021 – but could have a strong season with an analytically-driven Twins organization. Not a typical dynasty hold.

      You have a good crop of position players in their prime mixed with prospects with upside. The top of your rotation is also set up well for the next half-decade with Bieber-Glasnow-Nola…I would hold onto those and build around them. Don’t break that up.

  8. Primetime says:
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    Hobbs. Appreciate the shout out. Thank you!! Haha didn’t even see my. Totally awesome.

    • Hobbs

      Hobbs says:
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      Heck yeah, no problem. Love getting to names our readers request. Appreciate you throwing J-Rod into the conversation.

  9. LG Baseball says:
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    Hobbs,

    Your dynasty and prospect coverage has been awesome so thank you! I recently acquired JRod so the future is bright!

    I have a couple of keeper questions. We keep 10 players forever and it’s a 7×5 H2H with more importance on hitting and obp:

    1) please rank Yordan, Adell and Kelenic

    2) I have Yordan and Adell and I’m stacked in OF with Soto, Acuna and Julio Rodriguez too. The Kelenic owner wants Yordan and in addition to Kelenic I could also get the 2nd overall pick in the draft too for Yordan and likely another 1st round pick.

    Should I stick with Yordan or make the deal?!

    Thanks,
    LG

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