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.
Let’s start this positional performance report off a little bit different. For the third edition of the second base report, I want to start by flashing back to the first edition of the report and see if any of the early inclusions have seen their value take a detour from its early trend. Each article has contained four second basemen who are seeing their dynasty value trend up and four that are trending down. Up to this point, there has not been any overlap but we could see this change as the season moves along.
- Nolan Gorman– Value continued rising for a while, but has been trending down recently due to a high strikeout rate.
- Max Muncy– Value has remained steady.
- Michael Busch– Value has remained steady. Solid production, but difficulty breaking through at the major league level.
- Will Wagner– Wagner got injured and has not played much. If anything his value has started to fall.
- Brandon Drury: Drury has been much better after a slow first month and has seen his value rise back up.
- Michael Massey: Value has been steady after falling early on. Not much has changed.
- Nick Gonzales: After falling early on, his value has remained steady with not much change.
- Thomas Saggese: Saggese has really put things together and was in consideration for the risers version of this month’s report.
Trevor Story– BOS
Trevor Story has had a rough go of things since leaving Colorado. He struggled to start the year, got hot in May, struggled some more, and then dealt with injuries that ultimately ended his season. The news did not get better this off-season as it was revealed that Story needed a procedure to repair his UCL and would begin the season on the 60-day IL. That is likely the point where Story’s dynasty value reached its lowest point. The timetable for return was uncertain for a player coming off a season where he posted a 100 wRC+.
At this point, Story’s timetable to return has become a bit more clear. He continues to go through the rehab process and has now reached throwing form 120 feet. He has been hitting since April and according to reports, Story is feeling great. Rumors have begun to surface indicating that the Red Sox are planning to use Story as a DH prior to his return to the field. If reports are accurate that Story is going to be cleared to return to shortstop in early August, then we should realistically expect Story to return to the Red Sox’s lineup at some point in mid-July. This is not unrealistic to expect as we just saw Bryce Harper return in record time after Tommy John surgery. While it is unfair to compare Story to Harper, playing DH is a realistic possibility.
Was Story’s 2022 season disappointing? Yes, absolutely. Even if it was disappointing, he still hit 16 home runs and steal 13 bases in just 94 games. Prorated across 600 plate appearances, that is a 24-home run, 20-steal pace. 20/20 guys are always valuable in fantasy baseball and Story was that even in a down year. In addition, he is going to gain shortstop eligibility at some point which adds to his value. Nearing a return, Story’s dynasty value is trending back up. Now is likely your last chance to get him at any sort of discount.
Bryson Stott– PHI
After a slow start to his major league career filled with inconsistent playing time and struggles, Bryson Stott really started putting things together during the second half of 2022. Working with hitting coach Kevin Long, Stott was able to change his approach at the plate especially with two strikes in a similar fashion to that of best-friend Bryce Harper. After batting just .188 during the first half, Stott hit an impressive .276 during the second half. His strong performance had many excited to see what the young second baseman could do in his second full season.
2023 rolled around and things could not have gotten off to a better start for Stott. By the end of April, Stott was batting .323 and had even moved up into the leadoff spot in Philadelphia’s lineup. The issue was that the .323 average came with a .381 BABIP and very limited power. Stott’s smooth swing path leads to high BABIPs, but .381 is unsustainable even for him. If Stott’s average was bound to come down, then his power would need to show improvements to keep him fantasy relevant.
Thankfully, that is exactly what has happened. Since May 17th, Stott has hit five home runs while slugging .528 with a .205 ISO. Here is a look at how Stott’s quality of contact metrics have improved since the beginning of the season:
- Barrel Percentage: 2.8% -> 6.7%
- Average EV: 86.9 mph -> 89.2 mph
- Average LA: 8.7-degrees -> 11.6-degrees
THE DAYCARE IS AT IT AGAIN!
BRYSON STOTT TWO-RUN HOME RUN GIVES THE PHILLIES THE LEAD!! ? pic.twitter.com/VyPqXuA3dC
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) May 21, 2023
Perhaps the biggest difference is the damage Stott is able to do to pitches left over the heart of the plate. Using BaseballSavant’s Statcast search, I was able to compare how Stott is handling these pitches over the heart of the plate. Prior to May 17th, Stott was slugging just .340 with a .060 ISO. Since, Stott has been slugging .640 with a .239 ISO on these same mistakes. Good hitters capitalize on a pitcher’s mistakes and Stott is proving he is a good hitter. This is further evidenced by Stott’s rolling decision value PLV chart. He is showing drastic improvements as the season moves along which can be directly attributed to punishing pitchers when they leave one out over the plate.
Power is unlikely to ever be Stott’s calling card. Dynasty managers should never expect Stott to hit 25 home runs or slug over .500 for an entire season. However, his recent power output is important because it helps provide a stable fantasy floor. Stott already comes with some of the best contact skills in baseball (87.3% Z-Contact, 14.3% Whiff). Being able to project Stott to hit 15-20 home runs, steal 20 bases, all while hitting .280+ is a valuable fantasy asset. Stott continues to show improvements at the plate which continues to drive his dynasty value up. Growth and maturity out of a 25-year-old in his second season is everything dynasty managers want to see and Stott should continue seeing his dynasty value rise as the season moves along.
Brandon Lowe– TB
Brandon Lowe’s dynasty value reached a peak during the 2020 pandemic season. Lowe crushed 14 home runs in just 56 games with the highest wRC+ of his career. This was the first season Lowe officially stepped into an everyday role and at 25 years old he seemed like a sure bet to be a top-five dynasty option at the position. Lowe’s average tanked at the beginning of 2021 before he went on a tear during the second half of the season. Lowe went on to bat .291/.368/.591 after the All-Star break helping lead many championship teams to victory. Overall on the year, Lowe hit 39 home runs but fantasy managers could not shake the worry that there was something to the early season struggles.
If you sold high at the end of 2021, congratulations because Lowe’s dynasty value has never been the same. Injuries marred most of Lowe’s 2022 season as he only appeared in 65 games. Overall, Lowe hit eight home runs (18/600 pace) but once again saw his average drop down to a measly .221. However, this is the same player that crushed 39 home runs the season before. Analyzing Lowe this past off-season, it was easy to see how Lowe could bounce back in 2023. His HR/FB% in 2022 was down at 11.1% compared to his career rate of 20.3%. His BABIP sat down at .263 despite a career BABIP of .295. Lowe is a notorious pull-hitter who many figured could benefit from the shift ban. “If only Lowe could stay healthy for 2023.”
That previous sentence is one of the most dangerous sentences in fantasy sports. Betting on a player’s health who has consistently proven to be unreliable is one of the easiest ways to get into trouble. Here we are again in 2023 and Lowe is once again on the IL. Lowe has only been able to appear in 50 games so far this year and injuries are consistently draining his fantasy value. Over the course of his career, Lowe has only topped 100 games played one time. Not only that, but Lowe is not a spring chicken anymore. Lowe turns 29 early in July making it difficult to envision a world where he is able to string together consecutive healthy seasons.
Not only is suspect health draining Lowe’s dynasty value, but his performance this year has left many fantasy managers uninspired. Lowe is posting his highest strikeout rate since 2019, thanks in large part to the worst chase rate of his career. Pitchers are attacking Lowe with more off-speed pitches which he is chasing nearly 40% of the time. Since peaking in 2020, his wRC+ has dropped in every consecutive season. Not only this, but Lowe continues to see less and less playing time against left-handed starters with each season. A platoon bat with strikeout concerns and durability issues is not a player you should be relying on for the future success of your dynasty teams. His value is trending in the wrong direction.
Tommy Edman– STL
Tommy Edman’s primary contribution comes through in stolen bases. Edman’s plus speed has been on full display over the past two seasons. He went 30/35 on the base paths in 2021 before going 32/35 last year. Finding players that contribute to the stolen base category in typical fantasy baseball leagues is always important and Edman has been amongst the best over the past two years. Stolen bases by themselves are not valuable enough to vault a player toward the top of their positional rankings.
Entering 2023, Edman was one of only two players to steal 30+ bases and score 90+ runs in consecutive seasons with the other player being Cedric Mullins. Elite production in two categories is what made Edman such a valuable commodity in fantasy baseball.
Baseball in 2023 means less of a premium on stolen bases. Thanks to the new rules, stolen bases have skyrocketed which has negatively impacted the value of players who relied on stolen bases for their fantasy value. Through May 31st of last season, there were only six players in the league with at least 10 stolen bases. This year, there were 22.
If Edman were to retain the same value he had last season through stolen bases, he would have to be running nearly twice as often as last year. Instead, Edman is running less. Edman attempted 35 stolen bases in 630 plate appearances last year. This year, he is on pace for 34/630.
The above projection does not even consider the reality that Edman is not on pace for 630 plate appearances. Edman spent much of 2021 and 2022 batting from the leadoff spot in the lineup. This year, Edman is receiving the majority of his plate appearances batting ninth. Edman averaged 4.35 PA/G in 2021, 4.11 PA/G in 2022, and has seen that number drop to 3.67 PA/G this season. Factoring this into the equation, Edman is only on pace to attempt 29 stolen bases this year. For comparison, Esteury Ruiz has already stolen 37 bags this year.
Batting at the bottom of the lineup leads to fewer plate appearances and overall less run production. Edman’s 39 runs on the year so far rank just ahead of Mauricio Dubón in terms of production. While Edman has not been “bad” in the run category or the stolen base category, he has been far from impressive in both. As mentioned before, Edman’s fantasy value relied on being elite in both categories and this is no longer the case.
Edman’s dynasty value is trending in the wrong direction at the wrong time. The Cardinals’ lineup is getting crowded with Edman bouncing around between the infield and outfield. Edman is struggling and as the team continues to get healthy, he could lose out on playing time to players like Nolan Gorman, Paul DeJong, and Dylan Carlson. Declining production and an uncertain playing time outlook is the opposite of what you should be looking for in a dynasty asset.
Jace Jung – DET
The first round of the 2022 draft was filled with tons of top-end talent. Druw Jones, Jackson Holliday, and Temarr Johnson all instantly became Top 100 prospects upon being drafted. We have already seen Holliday fly up lists and is now a universal Top 10 prospect in baseball. What is not talked about enough is how deep the draft is. Overshadowed by the top-end talent and “sleeper” picks are the guys who were taken in the middle of the draft. This is exactly where Jace Jung found himself being taken.
Detroit selected Jung 12th overall out of Texas Tech and sent him straight to High-A for his first taste of professional baseball. While he did not fall on his face, in 30 games he failed to put up the kind of numbers that generate any hype heading into 2023. The Tigers sent him back to High-A to start 2023 to see if he could show why they selected him with their first pick. Most of April was a struggle for Jung who entering play on April 26th was batting just .241/.379/.370 with one home run. Since then, Jung has exploded batting .253/.351/.488 with 10 of his 11 home runs.
Although his walk rate has come down a bit, this is actually a good thing because it means Jung is swinging the bat more. He has excellent plate discipline, but at times was a little bit too patient. He is now showing off his incredible talent by swinging more and maintaining a double-digit walk rate.
One of my favorite things about Jung is his incredibly smooth swing path. Often times hitters need to adjust their game once joining a professional organization. Jung already has a swing designed to drive balls into the gaps with a high line drive rate. This is not to say that Jung cannot drive the ball out of the park when he wants to.
Back-to-back games with a jack for Jace Jung.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) June 17, 2023
While Jung might not have as much raw power as some other prospects, he pulls the ball nearly 50% of the time allowing his power to play up. There is 20+ home run potential in his bat.
Jung’s slash line has continued to improve as the season has moved along causing his dynasty value to rise. Since May 20th, Jung is slashing .272/.346/.543, and people in the fantasy community are starting to take notice. Jung has big-time power upside for a second baseman and profiles to be an on-base machine throughout his career. Coming out of college, it is likely that Jung will move quickly through Detroit’s system. In this case, his dynasty value will only rise higher as the season progresses. Get in on Jung now before it is too late.
Tsung-Che Cheng– PIT
Since joining the Pirates organization in 2021, Tsung-Che Cheng has done nothing but hit. He debuted at the Complex League, hitting .311/.449/.492 with a strikeout rate of less than 10%. Cheng makes contact at an incredibly high rate, which did not change when he jumped to Low-A in 2022. Although slightly less impressive, Cheng held his own in his second season batting .270/.376/.418. The biggest flaw from a scouting perspective is Cheng’s size. He stands at just 5’7″. A size that unless you are Jose Altuve rarely translates to sustainable major league success.
Entering 2023, Cheng heard the critics and has worked to add muscle and power to his frame. Adding more muscle makes it increasingly likely he will find his future home at second base rather than shortstop, but it is difficult to argue with the results so far. Through his first 51 games, Cheng has smashed nine home runs which already marks a new career high. He has made noticeable changes to his swing since joining the Pirates working to cut down the number of ground balls he hits. He is now driving the ball and elevating it to help tap into his pull-side power. After posting a 7.3 HR/FB% in 2022, Cheng has seen this number jump up to 16.4% helping silence the doubters of his future outlook.
The increase in power is the primary reason Cheng’s dynasty value is on the rise, but should not overshadow what we already know he does well. Cheng has a fantastic hit tool that ranks among the minor league’s best. In fact, among qualified minor league batters under 24, Cheng is one of only four with more than eight home runs, 10+ stolen bases, an average above .300, and a swinging strike rate under 10%. The other hitters on that list? Jared Serna, Adael Amador, and Luis Matos. Serna is generating hype around the community, Matos was flying up prospect boards before his promotion to San Francisco, and Amador is universally considered a Top 50 prospect. Cheng is finally starting to receive more attention in the fantasy community and continues to show off excellent raw skills.
Cheng’s small stature is a bit of a concern, but that does not mean dynasty managers should be shying away from rostering him. He is showing improved power to a profile that already possesses an excellent hit tool, great plate discipline, and plus speed. At worst, Cheng is a batter that can hit 10 home runs, steal 20 bases, and bat over .280. From a stat line perspective, Nico Hoerner is a comparison that instantly sticks out. Hoerner does not hit for tons of power, but that does not mean he is not a useful fantasy asset. He has all the same skills as Hoerner with an even better understanding of the strike zone. Cheng’s dynasty value has continued to rise as the season has moved along and should continue increasing. Jump on the train now before it leaves the station.
Wenceel Pérez– DET
As one Tigers’ second baseman rises, another one falls. Wenceel Pérez has never topped prospect lists, but after a solid 2022, his dynasty value was on the rise. Pérez split the 2022 season between High-A and Double-A posting a combined average of .295. Pérez’s best quality throughout his professional career has been his hit tool. He frequently posts high averages while showing strong contact rates. The one thing missing has been power. Prior to 2022, Pérez had never topped four home runs in any professional season. Then, all of a sudden, Pérez exploded for 14 home runs last year. The power surge put his name on the map and had many in the dynasty community excited to see what he could do in 2023.
Unfortunately for Pérez and dynasty managers, things have not gotten off to an encouraging start. Pérez’s speed remains a strong starting point as he has already stolen 16 bases. His swing adjustments have also stuck as he continues to get the ball in the air more often. The one thing that has not stuck is his home run rate. HR/FB is often referred to as one of the most sticky stats when evaluating future success for minor league players. Throughout most of Pérez’s career, this number has sat between four and six percent. This rate spiked to 11% last year but has come crashing back down to 3.8% this year. 2022 is looking more like an outlier season as opposed to the new norm.
In order for a player to have fantasy relevance with minimal power, they would have to possess a hit tool similar to Luis Arraez. While Pérez’s hit tool profiles to be above-average, he is never going to lead the league in hitting. Even if Pérez could be a solid average/speed threat, the rise of Jace Jung puts his future outlook in jeopardy. Long-term, the second base job is Jung’s to lose. Pérez is profiling as more of a utility bat off the bench for Detroit which holds minimal value for fantasy leagues. His dynasty value is trending in the wrong direction after the off-season hype.
Angel Martinez– CLE
The Guardians prioritized signing Angel Martinez during the 2018 International Signing period. A switch-hitting, smooth-fielding middle infielder with plus bat speed and a feel for hitting, Martinez instantly received attention. Joining Cleveland’s organization, he quickly drew comparisons to another switch-hitting shortstop with the Guardians at the time. Francisco Lindor is a lofty comparison for any player to live up to, but Martinez came out of the gates firing on all cylinders. He posted a 134 wRC+ in the Rookie League managing to walk as much as he struck out. A 17-year-old that can walk as much as he strikes out instantly catches the attention of fantasy managers.
Like most minor league players, Martinez lost a year of development due to the 2020 pandemic and never quite found his footing in 2021. He struggled in High-A managing to post just a .382 slugging percentage and a 92 wRC+. Although he was still only 20 years old in 2022, last season had the feeling of a make-or-break year. He bounced back in a big way dominating at High-A and earning a promotion to Double-A. His High-A slash line looked more in line with the kind of numbers he was posting prior to the pandemic. Martinez flashed speed, impressive plate discipline, a strong hit tool, and flashed the kind of power that raised his fantasy ceiling for the first time in his professional career. I wrote about Martinez in Pitcher List’s dive into each team’s Top-15 prospects:
The risk mentioned in the short blurb above has come to fruition. Martinez has taken a significant step back against the tougher competition at Double-A. He is striking out more than ever before (although his swinging strike rate remains pristine) and has seen his batting average fall below .230. He is especially struggling to hit from the left side of the plate as he is batting .224/.326/.333 against right-handed pitchers. Adding to the concerns, Martinez has seen his power disappear in 2023. His HR/FB% has dropped to 6.9%, which falls more in line with his 2021 numbers than the rate he posted last season.
Entering 2023, many were hopeful Martinez could take the next step and potentially become a significant prospect for both real-life and fantasy purposes. Instead, Martinez has seen his dynasty value drop and is looking more like a fringe big-leaguer than an everyday regular. For Martinez to hold fantasy relevance, he will need to prove his power output from 2022 was not a fluke, but where things stand his dynasty value has taken a significant hit.
Feature image by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter) / Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire