Dynasty Fantasy Baseball Leagues have the fun value added of factoring in players’ age and the incline or decline of their careers. There are most likely two groups of people in these leagues: trusted veteran owners or prospect hype owners. I fall in the middle but often get caught up in some of the top prospect hype and projections. Here I’ll take a look at some of the more intriguing choices between top prospects and established veterans.
Luis Robert Jr. finally put together his breakout season in 2023. Staying healthy, Robert hit 38 home runs and stole 20 bases with a .264 average. Previously, he had been on pace for mid-to-high 20 range of steals and home runs. The plus power breakout for a former top prospect, in a bad lineup is as promising as it gets. Robert is a safe bet for a .255 average with 25-30 home runs and 20 steals a year. 2023 Luis Robert Jr., is a no-brainer pick for me in dynasty but there are a few factors that may make this closer than it seems.
A knock on him is a poor on-base percentage that is seemingly tied to his average. Robert doesn’t walk at a high rate as he’s ranged from 4.2% to 8.8%. Paired with that low walk rate is a jump in strikeout rate that ballooned back up to 28.9% in 2023. He does stand 6’2″, and 220 pounds, so there is a chance that with age the stolen base total decreases. For now, there is no reason to think Robert can’t steal 15-20 bases a year with his well-above-average speed. He is an aggressive hitter but the plus power and added steals give him a slight advantage over Langford.
Wyatt Langford burst onto the scene with his impressive debut in 2023, where he reached Triple-A just months after the draft. While getting caught up in the prospect hype may be easy, Langford only has 44 professional games played. He posted a .360/.480/.677 over those 44 games with 10 home runs and 12 steals. The raw and game power was no question for Langford, but the plus average and 12 steals in 44 games might make him the #1 overall prospect.
Projecting Langford to become a 30+ homerun hitter with 20 steals feels aggressive so Robert gets the advantage. There is almost no doubt that Langford is a 30+ home-run-a-year player. With this hot start, it’s difficult not to get caught up in the potential here. Langford simply needs to be proven before I can pass on what Robert showed us in 2023. Granted it was the first year that Robert Jr. stayed healthy and put up monster numbers but his pace at the MLB was there previously. Wyatt Langford is a consensus top five prospect in baseball who is joining the 2023 World Series Champion Texas Rangers. All of the projection for Langford makes me want to pick him, but Robert Jr. is a former top 5 prospect who hit 32 home runs and stole 36 bases in the season before his MLB debut.
Winner: Luis Robert Jr. (Slightly)
One of my favorite prospects in recent years, Bo Bichette has been a star for the Blue Jays. Bichette has been as consistent as it comes since he debuted in 2019 with a career .299 average. Never hitting below .290 and hitting as high as .311, Bichette is a great table setter that also provides solid power. 20 plus home runs per year while hitting over .290 makes Bichette one of the safest options in the game at shortstop.
Unfortunately, shortstop isn’t a position for safety. Bichette looked to be reaching his full power/speed and plus contact potential in 2021 as he stole 25 bases. 2019 was his debut season and 2020 was cut short, but in 2022 and 2023, he only stole 13 and five bases. Slightly underwhelming for a superstar prospect that looked to be a potential 25-25 yearly player. Bichette is an aggressive hitter so his plus average ties directly into his low walk rate and on-base percentage. His highest OBP% was .358 in the year of his debut when he hit .311. Bichette is a great dynasty asset at short-stop and is an easy set-and-forget with how good he’s been but shortstop has a lot of upside.
Jordan Lawlar is one of the top shortstop prospects in the game and he very well might be the best. Jackson Holliday has been number one on most lists, but Lawlar has always been just behind. Lawlar made his MLB debut shortly after his 21st birthday but didn’t see consistent at-bats. In his two MiLB seasons, Lawlar went for 16 home runs and 39 stolen bases in 100 games and 20 home runs and 36 stolen bases in 105 games. There is plus speed here with a good chance for plus power. Personally, I think Lawlar is a lot closer to Holliday than most think. Lawlar has the edge on power and possible speed that translates to stolen bases but Holliday appears to be the better hitter currently.
Back to the Bichette vs Lawlar debate, Lawlar has loud tools that make me want to take a chance on him over Bichette. The safety of a ~.300 hitter with ~25 home runs is great but Lawlar is a potential 20-40 candidate. If the Diamondbacks give Lawlar a legit opportunity to play every day in 2024, I think we see a ~.270 average with ~20 home runs and ~30 steals. Until Bo Bichette starts stealing bases in the 20+ range again he may be slightly behind the toolsy power/speed prospects.
Winner: Jordan Lawlar
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. vs Samuel Basallo
Like Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had a monster season in 2021 but has yet to replicate that season. Guerrero had a bit more of an extreme uptick in 2021 compared to his other seasons. Bichette only saw his stolen bases decline, but Guerrero has seen every statistical category drop significantly. Guerrero posted a .311/.401/.601 with 48 home runs and a 1.002 OPS in 2021. His next highest season-long totals were a .274 average (2022), .345 OBP (2023), .480 SLG (2022), and a .818 OPS (2022).
His non-2021 seasons are still very good and keep Guerrero at the bottom tier of the top first base options. If his power can keep him at 30+ home runs a year, he’s easily the best dynasty option at the position. In 2023, he saw the largest difference in his actual batting average (.264) vs xBA (.294). In 2021, Guerrero hit .366 off fastballs. Outside of the shortened 2020 season, 2023 was his only season hitting under .292 off fastballs when he hit .267 (xBA: .300). After a slightly down season in 2023 for Guerrero, he still has massive upside in hopes that he can repeat that 2021 season. One of the best dynasty assets at a thin and aging position, Guerrero should maintain top-tier status.
There may not be a prospect that I’ve been higher on from the day he was signed than Samuel Basallo. An absolute scorching start to his career, Basallo reached Double-A at age 19. Now one of the top prospects in all of baseball, Basallo could move from behind the plate. With Adley Rutschman holding down the catcher spot, Basallo seems to be moving to first base, DH, or corner outfield. The Orioles are stacked with talent so multi-positional eligibility is very likely here for Basallo if everything works out. But finding him a spot to play every day is most likely an issue for 2025.
After slashing .313/.402/.551 in 2023, Basallo established himself as a top dynasty prospect. Adding in 20 home runs and going a perfect 12-12 on stolen base attempts, Basallo showed off plenty of tools. Basallo doesn’t turn 20 years old until August of 2024 and he’ll most likely be 50 games into Double-A at that point. Basallo doesn’t strike out at a high rate, with just 94 strikeouts in 114 games in 2023. The profile for Basallo could turn into Guerrero with 8-15 stolen bases per season. Still a long way to go for Basallo as he played in four Double-A games. In terms of grabbing Basallo, this might be the last opportunity before he really blows up. This matchup was the hardest for me to decide on because I hold a strong bias toward Basallo, but Guerrero still holds a slight edge.
Winner: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Keeping the trend of MLB players that debuted in 2019, Will Smith did that in a big way. Smith tallied 15 home runs in just 54 games in his Dodgers debut. After the shortened season in 2020, we haven’t seen quite that same rate of power from Smith. Still a top option at catcher for the past few years, Smith has provided solid power and OBP. The overall game of Smith is a very safe option for 20+ home runs at the catcher spot. He also maintains a low strikeout rate paired with a good walk rate to keep his OBP in the mid-300s. The main benefit Smith has currently is the monster lineup that he’ll play in. The runs and RBI opportunities in a lineup with Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, and Shohei Ohtani could be huge.
Other options at catcher can come close to the production of Smith. Willson and William Contreras both have the 20+ power and mid-.300 OBP potential. Bo Naylor has mid-.300 OBP with 20 home runs and 10 steal potential. Logan O’Hoppe, Francisco Alvarez, Cal Raleigh, and Yainer Diaz are all solid options at catcher who are close to Smith. Catcher is deeper now than it has been in years past. Smith hasn’t tapped into the plus power potential he showed in his 2019 debut, putting him just below that top-tier option. Turning 29 just before the season, Smith is still young enough to be a good dynasty option moving forward.
The Red Sox selected Kyle Teel with the 14th overall pick in the 2023 MLB draft. Like other 2023 draft picks, the Red Sox didn’t waste at-bats with college hitters at Rookie ball or Low-A. Teel was promoted all the way to Double-A in his first season. In his 26 games between Rookie ball, High-A, and Double-A, Teel slashed .363/.482/.495. The hit tool is going to be what carries Teel, but there is power and speed in his game also. A contact-hitting catcher is likely to be compared to Joe Mauer. While Teel doesn’t have the plus-plus hit tool of Mauer, he can hit .290 or higher.
Teel’s speed is above average and he should have no problem stealing 10-15 bases a year. The real question is his game-power. His swing is very line drive-based and he doesn’t have a high fly ball rate. Outside of his 3 games at rookie ball, Teel put up a fly ball rate of 32.6% at High-A and 21.1% at Double-A. Personally, this is why I see a Mauer type of profile as a better fit as his fly ball rate was over 30% just once in his career. Teel still wins this matchup slightly because of the hit tool. With other options at catcher that can hit 20+ home runs and maintain a mid-.300 OBP, I’ll take the catcher that profiles to hit well. Teel can become a .280 hitter, with a high-.300 OBP, 15 steals, and 15 home runs. A boost in every category from a catcher is rare.
Winner: Kyle Teel
Jazz Chisholm Jr. has been an electric player for the Marlins. Plus power and speed, Chisholm is a yearly 20+/20+ threat. Injuries have slowed him down the last two seasons but he was on pace for two 30-30 seasons. Jazz doesn’t carry a high average or walk rate so a healthy season of 30-30 is the top performance we’ll see. There are a lot of statistics that don’t trend well for Jazz from 2023. An xBA of .218, 23.6% sweet-spot rate, 35.7% whiff rate, and 30.8% strikeout rate spell disaster for Jazz.
A streaky and toolsy player, Jazz is able to overcome these numbers overall with his power and speed. Statistically a low-line drive percentage hitter, Jazz puts most of his contact in the air or on the ground. The approach is aggressive which limits the amount that Jazz can contribute at a plus level. There isn’t any doubt about the homerun or steal total, but the OBP needs improvement which ties to a more patient approach. Jazz still has under two full seasons worth of games at just 302 so improvement can easily be made. Jazz is one of the most fun players to watch on both sides of the ball but 2024 needs to see a big improvement. In a weak lineup where he has to be a top guy, a better approach is needed from Jazz to lead the Marlins.
Roman Anthony rose in the prospect ranks arguably more than anyone not named Samuel Basallo in 2023. Anthony broke out as a 20-20 threat that can tap into more of his raw power as he gets older. The start of 2023 was a struggle for Anthony at Low-A, but he excelled most of his season at High-A. Ending the year with a bang in Double-A as a 19-year-old, Anthony established himself as a top prospect. Anthony’s struggles early on last season were due to a low batting average and lack of power. The underlying positive was a 38:38 walk-to-strikeout ratio with 11 steals in those 42 games. Seeing these two parts of his game stand out amongst the otherwise down production is important.
As Anthony broke out at High-A with a .294 average and 12 home runs over 54 games, he managed just two steals and a 40:75 walk-to-strikeout ratio. The walk rate was mostly the same from High-A, but he saw a huge jump in strikeout rate from 18.8% to 30.6%. In a much smaller sample size than his Double-A promotion, the strikeout rate dropped back down to 13.6%. He has shown the raw tools across the board here with a good walk rate. Anthony has a lot of development to make but could be a 25-20 player with a mid-to-high-.300 on-base percentage. There is a lot that still needs to happen for Roman Anthony to be an everyday big league player but there seems to be slightly more upside here. A healthy Jazz makes a compelling case but for now, Anthony gets the advantage.
Winner: Roman Anthony
Photos by Julian Avram, Randy Litzinger, Nick Wosika, Brandon Sloter, Joe Robbins, Samuel Lewis | Icon Sportswire & @UVAbaseball, @sittingstillsox on Twitter
Adapted by Kurt Wasemiller (@kurtwasemiller on Twitter / @kurt_player02 on Instagram