I play in some deep dynasty leagues. The kind where every at bat has value. Every pulse has value. In leagues like these, guys like Gio Urshella, Mike Yastrzemski and Tommy Edman get picked up before their first big chance. I love these large player pools and have discovered something of talent for climbing aboard the airbus just before real helium hits for the Trent Grishams, Randy Arozarenas, and Jake Cronenworths of the world. 

I’m not suggesting the players in this series are locks to produce like those names in the intro. I am however saying these are the freemium-level dynasty and draft champions pieces I’m acquiring now in as many leagues as possible because I love their intersection of proximity, opportunity and talent. 

 

OF Anthony Alford | 26 | Pittsburgh Pirates | Fantrax ADP 618.3 | NFBC 576.4

Nobody cares about a Spring Training home run, and I’m not suggesting you should.

If, however, that home run comes off the bat of a man whose elbow has been deemed unfit for in-game use, we should make note: that elbow is probably close.

If the man who hit the home run brings speed and power to an everyday opportunity if he wins the gig, that Spring home run that matters not 99 percent of the time suddenly takes on legitimate fantasy relevance.

And if, for instance, the man in question’s primary competition for the gig sits out the following day with a back injury, well, I just might lose the thread on this bit before clarifying how quickly a player like Alford would climb even mixed league draft boards with a few more splashes. He’ll begin to look like a discount alternative to Leody Taveras

I’ll cherry pick his 2017 in AA to give us some numbers. In 68 games, Alford hit five homers and stole 18 bases while carrying a 12.1/15.6 K/BB rate and slashing .310/.406/.429. Since that stretch, the Jays have been yo-yoing him up and down in large part because he wound up injured whenever his window opened. 

A key factor to remember about Alford is the football background that has him a bit younger in baseball years than the age on his player page. He’ll turn 27 in July. I think he’ll have about eight homers and 15 steals by then. 

Pittsburgh acquired Dustin Fowler the other day, so even with Jared Oliva battling an achy back, Alford is not alone in center just yet. I’ve never been a Fowler fan, but he’s a viable cover flier if you’re somewhere deep enough to hold both. The loser of the day-to-day gig will still have a role this year.

 

OF Lane Thomas | 25 | St. Louis Cardinals | Fantrax ADP 801.58 | NFBC 610.7 

With plate and contact skills surpassing anything demonstrated by Tyler O’Neill or Harrison Bader, Thomas should play enough to potentially earn a long-term opportunity. Like a lot of players St. Louis likes, he’s a bit overly mechanical and conservative in his swing, but that rigid arm bar helps him wait until a pitch gets deep into the zone. It might rob a tick or two from his max exit velocity, but Thomas still packs a punch with a 108.7 mph maximum exit velocity and a 91.4 mph average in 53 career batted ball events. 

While I don’t foresee a repeat of his 2019 debut, when he logged a .316/.409/.684 slash line while playing sparingly across 34 games, I think those results better represent his skills than his covid-waylaid 2020 slash line (.111/.200/.250), and that Thomas is ready to be a big league regular given his small sample take rates (21.4 % O-swing) and swinging strike rates (7.8 %), not to mention a sizable minor league track record. 

You can see a Covid effect clearly enough in his empty slash line but also in his 87th percentile 2020 sprint speed. That’s fast, sure, but Thomas landed in the 98th percentile in 2019. He’s not typically been a world class thief on the bases but could add steals with experience and should already threaten double digits as he has done throughout his career. 

It’s worth noting that Tyler O’Neill has stated his goal to loosen up his own swing this Spring, mechanically speaking, and I’ll be watching his at bats closely. I’ve never believed he’d make enough contact to play every day, but if he ever does, he’ll be a problem. 

 

LHP Tanner Scott | 26 | Baltimore Orioles | Fantrax ADP 610.54 | NFBC 561.1 

Not a rookie. Sorry about that. But Scott is a relative unknown despite having plain path to saves. With Cesar Valdez bidding for a rotation spot this spring, Scott is his club’s clear-cut best reliever. What about Hunter Harvey, you ask. What about him, I reply, cryptically signaling my confusion that the echo chamber has anointed him closer despite his having a clearly inferior track record to Scott’s. Harvey was drafted by a previous regime. Where people got the idea that he’s the fair-haired boy of this bullpen is beyond me. 

In fact (and in fun: don’t yell at me please), the best case for Harvey to close is that Baltimore seems to like the bad closer strategy, those wily birds. But that doesn’t explain Valdez, who very much won the role in 2020 by being the best pitcher on the team. Sulser won it the same way, come to think of it. 

For his part, Scott pairs an 80-grade fastball with an untouchable slider he’s beginning to command at will. Batters slugged .079 against 134 of Scott’s sliders last year and .333 against his fastball. 

Both pitches have unique traits that make them great. His slider has 36 inches of drop (elite) and 5.2 inches of break (solid). 

His fastball has very little drop, breaks four inches less than the average four-seamer and landed in the 98th percentile for spin rate and 91st for velocity

His overall exit velocity allowed was in the 93rd percentile. 

This is the skill set of a top flight closer just entering his prime. 

We’ll continue this series next week, featuring Pavin Smith, Ramon Urias and Tyrone Taylor

 

Thanks for reading!

I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter.

 
  1. Duda Want to Build a Snowman? says:
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    Hey Itch! Love this segment.

    Somehow Wander and Kelenic were not kept in my keep 5 forever 12 team keeper league ($260 budget).

    I expect there to be a good deal of bidding on them in the auction draft . . . they are obviously going to be priorities for me, but about how high would you go before letting someone else roster these guys?

    Thanks!

    • phennore says:
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      Can I get into that league?

      • Duda Want to Build a Snowman? says:
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        Right?! The rosters/benches are shallow, but someone like wander you’ve gotta keep. historically, guys like Vlad were held about a year before their debut, so not sure what happened with this owner.

        • Jolt In Flow says:
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          Duda, I can’t speak on Tanner or Lane, but for Alford, his biggest drawback throughout the last 5 years has been his injury record. It’s brutal. Right when he starts gaining steam, he seems to get injured.

          I agree with The Itch on his report. The one caveat I’d add is *provided he remains healthy*. Otherwise, the sky’s the limit. Great athlete, great natural ability even though he could have gone into football instead of baseball.

          Good luck,

          Jolt

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Thanks, Duda!!

      Dang that’s tough. I play in a league very similar to this: 6 keepers 10 teams.

      I got myself into a Tatis battle the year before he debuted and lost. We add 10 percent a season. At the time we just had 5 keepers. He went for 17 that night. I’d bought him for 15 the year before but just didn’t hang with it in that moment. Now he’ll never leave the team he’s on. He’s up to $21 now, so huzzah to that I guess. He’ll be $25 in two years.

      Assuming you’re probably going to compete anyway, there’s no reason to let either go for under 20 bucks. Even 25, probably. Fuzzy area, this.

      I used to play keeper defense a lot, then let that go a bit and found myself wishing I’d stayed with it.

      • Duda Want to Build a Snowman? says:
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        Thanks a lot! Makes sense. Guys like this tend to go right at the end of the draft to the guy/gal with the most $ left, so I’ll definitely keep that in mind this year in particular!

  2. Sport says:
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    Great read for some sleepers! I have been looking for u dear the radar relievers for saves/holds with high K rates. Looks like Tanner fits the mold. You think 50 innings, 75 K’s, 10 saves/15 holds is a safe projection?

    Thoughts on Sam Delaplane for the same role?

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      That’s a few more K’s than I foresee and fewer saves than I’m thinking, but yeah pretty close.

      Like Delaplane a lot. My good buddy Hernan insists upon it : )

      Seriously, a friend pointed me in his direction a while back, and his biggest problem now is Seattle’s burgeoning depth at the position and the Giles contract that would seem to make Ken the closer for 2022.

      • NUX says:
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        And Andres Munoz!

        • The Itch

          The Itch says:
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          Yeah I think Munoz > of the plane

          when healthy

  3. Mike says:
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    Can we expect an updated “Top 100 Keepers” for 2021 any time in the near future?

  4. toolshed says:
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    We are having a 4 round dynasty draft and it will include fypd from last year’s mlb draft or anyone not kept. 16 team. From a strategy perspective how would you approach this draft. I think my team is a year away from competing. I need more depth in pitching. I pick 3rd. Would you take the best pitching prosepct available or go with best prospect based on value irrespective of position? Tork will go 1 and then it is anyone’s guess. I will fill out my roater depth for active players later so I want to get the elite prospect initially. Thanks

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      I’d probably take Gonzo there at 3.

      Would take Wilman Diaz if not Gonzo. Or try to trade down to around 7 and take Diaz, maybe pick up a 3rd and a 4th or a medium prospect.

      I’d be trying to get Alex Reyes, fwiw. I think he’s a week or two away from catching some serious helium.

      I’d also be happy to pluck closers in rounds 3 and 4. Amir Garrett, Jake McGee, Archie Bradley are all targets for me in that range. It’s nice to have saves in tow when you’re build is ready to go. I think it’s one of the ideal uses of the final season before a contention cycle.

      Forrest Whitley makes sense too as a depressed stock w boom potential.

      FYPD can be pretty rich trading ground. Kind of the only time you can get a quick reply from anyone in the league.

  5. goodfold2 says:
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    wow, that’s funny, so PIT is becoming TOR’s OF prospects south.

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Pittsburgh is a gathering pool for lost baseball souls

  6. Better Call Limehouse says:
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    10 team NL only h2h with OBP over AVG, net steals over steals, total bases added, QS over wins, holds added. keep 3 at previous season’s late end of year ADP’s.
    rosters: 1 of each hitter (4 any OF), a CI, a MI, 1 util, 5 SP, 4 RP, 4 BN, max DL’s, 1 NA

    possible keepers: (if tie guy has to go to better round, if 3 in same round 1 can go to worser round, the other to better round, so 3 5th’s become 1 4th, 1 5th, 1 6th)

    – harper (2)
    – freeman (2, so if keeping harper/freeman one of them goes to 1st round, but my draft slot picking order is last (obv those with a 1st rounder keeper but no 2nd prefer earlier slot in even rounds (it’s a snake)) and i’d get one of these types likely if i threw one or both back, but wouldn’t likely get both this good back, esp for OBP where harper is even better)
    – grisham (16, seems like a lock here at price)
    – mcneil (5, this doesn’t seem like huge value, roughly where i actually drafted him last year)
    – cronenworth (21st, anybody deeper than 210th last year late season ADP (10 x 21 our roster size doesn’t show up in ADP list and are last rounders)
    – lux (8, was able last year to keep as last rounder, all value far gone)
    – stressbird (2, nope)
    – musgrove (10)
    – gausman (19, sick value here)
    – pab lop (17)
    – j.urias (8)

    • Better Call Limehouse says:
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      it’s keep 3.

  7. Carl says:
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    Itch! What are your thoughts on Blaze Jordan? I acquired him for relatively cheap in my keep 20 league as my 20th keeper. But my 21st guy is Crochet and I need to decide between the two. I’m leaning Blaze right now. Regardless of choice, I’d love to know your thoughts on Blaze, as I noticed he wasn’t in your top 100 prospects.

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      I like him as a cheap piece for a rebuild because it’s gonna take him a long time to help in the actual categories. Maybe he picks up enough steam to be a good trade piece soon, but I’ll take Crochet here. I think he’s very useful now and could be great later or tradable.

  8. HamPorter says:
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    Itch,

    I love reading your write-ups, it really has helped me snag a few under-the-radar minor league players in recent seasons! Quick question though about the Alford write-up, didn’t the Buccos acquire Dustin Fowler (basically the same player as D. Fisher)? As a lifelong Buccos fan I knew when the A’s DFA’d Fowler, Nutting would be there to make a big splash pickup DFA pickup. To be honest, I didn’t mind the move, but if he pans out we will probably trade him to Tampa for a bag of balls…

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Thanks, HamPorter!

      Total brain fart there. Spider-Man pointing at Spider-Man gif

      • The Itch

        The Itch says:
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        Fisher moved too I guess. Same week even, I think. To the Crew where I was hoping Tyrone Taylor would play before today’s JBJ signing.

        These Dustins and Dereks, man.

  9. Harley Earl says:
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    Itchy!!!!!

    Interesting tidbit you threw in about Tyler O’Neil there at the end. What about his swing do you believe has held him back? I’ve never understood how he could crush AA and Triple-A but can’t hardly make contact in MLB. Figured he’s just a Quad-A player.

    I’m curious to see what happens with his new swing, too. Sounds like he knows it’s now or never for his shot at the Bigs with STL.

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Hi, Harley!

      O’Neill has been employing a grooved swing. Basically can hit a pitch in one spot at one velocity, and he doesn’t have the elite eye and patience required to make that even semi functional at the big league level.

      He gets himself very tight and a crouched and kind of drops the lever of his lede arm, opening the floodgates to his power, but he’s already committed to his swing path, and he can’t adjust it on the fly.

  10. The Old Professor says:
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    I’m in a 12 team “keep 4 forever” league and have Acuna, Story, Nola and Vlad as my keepers going into the draft. Thru a series of trades i have acquired an extra first round pick. Am I crazy for taking Wander with one of them? Other choices are Abreu, Acuna, Woodruff and Judge.. help me out Itch..

    • The Old Professor says:
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      Ozuna is one of my choices..not Acuna ( I already have him)

      • The Itch

        The Itch says:
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        If trades are pretty common, I’ll take Wander. Fun to wait and see what happens, and you might find yourself swarmed w ridiculous offers on the level of two of these types of vets.

        If not I’m happy to get Ozuna.

  11. Schmohawks Bob says:
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    Where do you put Pedro Leon on a top 100 list and what is your 2021 outlook for him?

  12. goodfold2 says:
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    nick gonz about to go 4/4 in drafts i’m in far lower than you are on him. i might get him at 9th again (did that weeks ago in a 12 team prospect draft), got him 6th in 30 teamer 2 months ago, even kim (2nd) is going higher now. a.martin/lacy/meyer too. guess a PIT thing with him. this is in 16 teamer dynasty slow draft round 1.

    • goodfold2 says:
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      and now hancock too over him.

      • goodfold2 says:
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        he went 1.8, now i’m up. still that’s 4/4 from the 6-8 range and could’ve been lower in spots where i was one of those 6 or 9.

        • goodfold2 says:
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          not that this matters much, but adell still within prospect elig, where’d he go (i’m at 72 in yours now and still not there, which can’t be right, guessing the few at bats he has left to not qualify you just moved him up). man i always have too many OF’ers.
          larnach, kiriloff, n.marte, bracho, mize (has to come up shortly, was up and down last year for me), groshans, k.robinson, x.edwards, espino spread around 7 max prospect slots or active team page currently with the 1.9 on me now. hedbert the highest not owned (only 7 in top 70 not owned, and obv crochet/kjerstad will go soon at least)

          • goodfold2 says:
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            16 teamer here.

            • goodfold2 says:
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              questions

              1. (as jan 24th to now not long time), what about the top 100 is different from the team lists for player evals? dunning made no top 100, l.acuna 73rd, meanwhile dunning one spot on TEX list (jan 24th) higher than acuna.

              2. TB list, similar thing. x.edwards made no top 100, g.jones did though (69th), while edwards one spot higher on TB’s list than g.jones.

              guessing this is something in the overall 100 evaluation process compared to the team lists, rather than just errors or time past (esp with the TEX list, as it’s from like a month before the top 100, less than that for some of it).

              3. vogel STILL isn’t in PL’s newest top fantasy 500, seems bat shit. (i just noticed they had a new one, from feb 19th, as you mentioned they moved kelenic over wander)

              • The Itch

                The Itch says:
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                1) It’s a great question and something I might build an article around. The dynasty world has moved a lot since Jan 24. Lots of drafts and start ups and information flying as new publications and updates come out. Also when I’m doing team reports, the context is that team. When I’m doing the 100, I’ve just done all the team’based research, so the lens is much bigger.

                3) Lots of good prospects in the sea, but yeah, miss on 80 speed plus hit plus defenders at your own peril.

                I’m not sold on the plus hit because I just haven’t seen it in any real way.

                The Dodgers are sold on the hit tool, and they know much more than me.

          • The Itch

            The Itch says:
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            Adell graduated by the MLB service time stuff, I believe.

      • The Itch

        The Itch says:
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        I don’t get the Hancock thing.

        I mean, sure, he can really pitch when healthy, but he wasn’t at last check, and a lot of people can pitch.

        I’ve been way down on Matt Manning and Edward Cabrera while a lot of places just leaned in. Manning’s velo is way down this spring and Cabrera is on the shelf. Maybe Hancock will bounce back, but reading tea leaves pays off when it comes to arm soreness in prospects.

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