Eury Pérez vs. Grayson Rodriguez, sleeper closers, an underrated prospect and more: The fantasy baseball mailbag



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In this week’s mailbag, Andra Arcadipane and Adam Ronis tackle questions on save candidates, league setup, young SPs with the most upside and more. A lot more. So let’s dive right in!

I’m looking to set up an eight-team league, which is obviously much smaller than the traditional 10 or 12. Any thoughts on how to set up the positions or rules for such a small league? I am trying to balance an overly-loaded free agency pool if we go too small on rosters versus every team becoming a bloated monstrosity if we go too big on rosters. – Matt C.

Adam Ronis: There are people in similar situations. Fantasy is supposed to be fun and if you can only get eight people in a league, it’s good to still play. The rules can be similar to any other fantasy league as far as categories — if you want to keep it as a mixed league, do it. The one thing I would change is to expand the rosters. Make the starting lineups with more slots and make the benches bigger. This helps prevent so many good free agents on the waiver wire.

In a typical 12-team league, there are 14 hitters and nine pitchers starting. That’s 276 players. Expanding the starters to 30 makes sense with 10 bench spots per team resulting in 320 players being drafted. Alter the starting lineup to your preference; I would go with two catchers, two first basemen, two second basemen, two shortstops, two third basemen, one corner infielder, one middle infielder, six outfielders, two utility and 10 pitchers. That’s 30 starters and 10 reserves. Again, alter to your liking.

Who has the case for highest upside this season, Grayson Rodriguez, Bobby Miller, Eury Pérez or Cole Ragans? – Attila G.

Andrea Arcadipane: Of these four pitchers I am the highest on Eury Pérez. I view Pérez as an SP-1. Pérez is a high strikeout pitcher with dominant stuff – including a riding 98-mph fourseam and above average secondaries (change-up, curveball, slider). Unfortunately – Pérez faced an injury setback last season (right shoulder inflammation) and the Marlins plan to limit his innings this year. While that is not ideal, I can see a world where Pérez’s results outweigh the unknown inning limitation.

I view Bobby Miller and Cole Ragans very similarly as mid-rotation starters. Miller has an above average slider and curveball, and has a fourseam that has above average ride despite it being thrown 99-mph. He also has above average control and even splits. He’s slated as SP-3 in the Dodgers’ rotation and I agree he’ll stick in a mid-rotation role based on his success and potential.

(For Andrea’s take on Bryce Miller, click here)

Cole Ragans added a slider last season, started mixing it in to lefties, and had a great 2023. He has an above average fourseam, changeup, and curveball. One thing Ragans has going for him over Miller is less competition in the rotation. The Royals’ rotation is not on the same level as the Dodgers’, and Ragans is able to take on an SP-1 role this season with less pressure to perform as a result. The other side of this is that Kauffman is a hitter-friendly park, so Ragan needs to rely on strikeouts for outs.

Lastly, I’m not low on Grayson Rodriguez by any means. But, I feel he has the biggest strides to make of the four pitchers you mentioned. Rodriguez’s biggest weakness is that he is not nearly as strong against left-handed hitters as he is against right-handed hitters (5.05 FIP vs 3.16 FIP). He worked on adding a sinker in the offseason, but you typically throw sinkers to the same hand (in Rodriguez’s case, to right-handed hitters). Rodriguez did mention that he wanted the pitch to have more run than sink, which may have been in an effort to lessen the platoon nature of the pitch and allow him a hard option to throw away to lefties. We will have to wait and see how he uses it.   

I need to keep two of the three from Corbin Burnes, Zac Gallen, and George Kirby. Burnes is the obvious keeper, but I dig deeper and his velocity is trending down, he’s on the wrong side of 30, and he’s switching over to a new league and division, which always makes me wary in year one. Tell me I’ll be ok keeping Gallen and Kirby, who are younger and getting better. Tell me cutting Burnes loose isn’t a huge mistake.  – Nick Q.

Ronis: I won’t tell you what you want to hear. I’ll tell you how it is and I disagree. I play to win this year. For this year, it’s Burnes and Kirby. The age gap isn’t what you think it is, either. Burnes is 29, turning 30 in October and Gallen is 28, turning 29 in June. This is a good lesson for others in keeper leagues because a lot of people value the next two to three years too much. If a team is good enough to win a championship now, skew toward this year. Burnes has been one of the most consistent pitchers since 2000. While there were some issues last season, he had an excellent second half, with a 2.73 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and a 28% strikeout rate. While Burnes is adjusting to a new team, he gets an upgrade in his home park and should be in line for more wins on a good team. Gallen is fine and a solid second pitcher. He’s coming off a deep postseason run.

What’s your view on the closer situation in San Diego? I have Suárez at $4 in NL only and holding my breath that he’ll win or at least share the job. – Jeffrey G

Arcadipane: There seem to be two options for the closer situation in San Diego:

  1. Robert Suárez will be the closer.
  2. Closer by committee, involving Suárez, Yuki Matsui, and Wandy Peralta as a left-handed option.

Option 2 is becoming increasingly popular among the more analytically driven teams (and is typically my preferred option). This process involves a front office-generated matchup grid indicating to field staff which pitcher is best suited for each part of the opposing lineup. This season, the Padres have four quality pitchers who could be involved in a closer by committee: Suárez, Yuki Matsui, Wandy Peralta, and Enyel De Los Santos.

Suárez signed a four-year $46 million contract and Matsui a five-year $28 million contract. Without diving into their stats, this already indicates they two will get significant playing time. Wandy Peralta and Enyel De Los Santos represent two high quality left-handed options who can also be in the mix for saves.

How will Suárez’s 2023 performance impact this decision? Even in a small sample (27.2 innings), Suárez’s 4.48 FIP (3.90 xFIP) is not what you want to see for the closer of a team in playoff contention. The worse than expected performance can be partially attributed to elbow inflammation and a sticky-stuff suspension. He was also tinkering with his pitch mix to both hands, but considering the small sample it’s hard to say how much that had an impact on his results. But Suárez’s performance in 2022 was much better, and will be the main source of support for Suárez in save situations this season.

So to answer your question – I am pretty confident Suárez will, at the very minimum, share the job. But I expect Suárez to be given first priority at the role, given how successful he was in 2022.

Who are the best options at relief pitcher for potential saves if all of the traditional closers have been drafted in a 12-team roto league? – Brock G.

Ronis: There are always a lot of pitchers who could get potential saves, but it depends on the decision of the manager, injuries and performance. First and foremost, I’d say read Greg Jewett all preseason. Outside of that, Yuki Matsui, as Andrea mentioned above, is a consideration. Robert Suárez might be the favorite, but Matsui was a dominant closer in Japan with a 12 K/9.

The Nationals’ battle for closer is between Kyle Finnegan and Hunter Harvey. Finnegan could open the season with the job and Harvey could emerge as the closer. David Robertson is an option in Texas. José Leclerc likely opens the season with the job and while Leclerc was good in the postseason, he’s susceptible to home runs. Robertson has the experience as a closer and was good with the Mets before being traded to Miami, where he… wasn’t as good. Robertson wasn’t happy with leaving New York and it could have been a factor in his poor performance. Kenley Jansen could be traded, leaving Chris Martin and Garrett Whitlock as options. Adbert Alzolay was good last season for the Cubs and is the favorite, but Craig Counsell is the new manager and could go with Hector Neris. The price will drop on Robert Stephenson, as he’s dealing with shoulder soreness. Carlos Estevez could lose the job and Stephenson was dominant last year — he had a 13.2 K/9 with a 0.88 WHIP. Alex Lange has shaky control and had a 5.06 ERA after June in 2023. Jason Foley and even Shelby Miller could be options for the Tigers.

Who are some prospects who you could see making big leaps this year? – Adam B

Arcadipane: One prospect is infielder Coby Mayo (BAL) – he has plus power and made improvements last season in Triple A in terms of cutting down on strikeouts. He also has consistently shown strong plate discipline and had a 16% walk rate in 267 PA last year. The biggest obstacle he faced last season was a lack of a position. He played third base, but his defense was not Major League caliber for the position. So far in spring training, it seems like Mayo is making strides defensively, which significantly raises his value. The Orioles have a bit of a position player jam in the infield, but if Mayo continues doing well, he can earn a spot on the 40-man and see playing time this season at the Major League level, or be given a starting role through a trade.

The Padres acquired RHP Drew Thorpe from the Yankees in the Juan Soto trade. It’s still early for him to make an impact at the Major League level, as he was just promoted to Double-A at the end of last season. But in his 30 Double-A innings, Thorpe continued his success from High-A, with a dominant 2.15 FIP and 40% strikeout rate. He throws a fastball, breaking pitch, and a change-up, which is his best pitch.

Considering Thorpe also has above average control, I wouldn’t be surprised if he is promoted very quickly.

A very young prospect is Keiner Delgado (NYY). Delgado is only 19 and is in rookie ball, but shows very promising tools. He’s not a big name and was signed out of Venezuela in 2021 for $100,000. However, he is one of two position players in the Yankees’ rookie ball right now who I believe is worth keeping an eye on (The other? 2022 number 1 international prospect Roderick Arias — my personal favorite Yankees’ prospect). Delgado is fast, showing strong plate discipline, and has an above average hit tool. He hasn’t shown a ton of power yet, but he is young and has time to grow into it. I think that is worth keeping an eye on as we head into his age 20 season.

Is Kodai Senga worth retaining in the sixth round of a head-to-head points league? What about Dylan Cease in the seventh? – Tony M.

Ronis: Since Senga is dealing with a shoulder injury, I wouldn’t keep him in the sixth round. There’s no clear indication on when he will be back. It could be May or June. He could have a setback and be out longer. If you’re drafting at this moment, Senga would fall much later than the sixth. Injuries are going to hit every team at some point and to go into the season with an injured player accounting for the sixth pick isn’t ideal.

Cease could be a keeper based on the format. He tends to pitch innings, going 177, 184 and 165.2 innings the last three seasons with strikeout rates of 31.9%, 30.4% and 27.3%. If walks and runs are penalized heavily, he’s risky. He has a 10.4% and 10.1% walk rates the last two years. He only had seven wins last year for the White Sox, although he could get traded.

(Top photo: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports)





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