Valuing Yusei Kikuchi in a Fantasy Context

Valuing Yusei Kikuchi in a Fantasy Context

A three-time All-Star, Kikuchi’s logged just over 1,000 innings in the Japan Pacific League , the next highest competitive baseball league outside of the U.S. To determine how to value and draft Kikuchi, first we must evaluate what type of pitcher he’s going to be and for that we look to the past.

Player Battles: Carter Kieboom vs. Brendan Rodgers

Welcome back to “Player Battles: Elite Offensive Shortstop Edition.” Today we look into two of the top power bats in the middle infield, as we compare and contrast, inspect and debate the slugging duo of the Washington Nationals Carter Kieboom and the Colorado Rockies Brendan Rodgers. Fantasy value will weigh heavy on the minds of our judges. Chicks dig the longball, and both these lads can mash. It begs the question, “who will be the ladies/judges choice?”. Lets battle!

Previous battles:

Ronald Acuña vs. Juan Soto

Royce Lewis vs. Fernando Tatis Jr.

Cristian Pache vs. Taylor Trammell

This battle feels squarely on my shoulders. Not only are Kieboom and Rodgers part of my system coverage here at Prospects Live, this battle also feeds into my Eastern League bias. There’s two questions that this debate boils down to for me.

1. Who has the stronger plate profile?

2. Who will stick at shortstop long term?

After plenty of research and in person observations, both of those superlatives belong to Kieboom. Despite being younger, and having less experience at the AA level, Kieboom’s approach and plate discipline are superior to Rodgers. Ultimately that’s the true dividing line between the two, because outside of that they rate very similarly. Both possess plus hit and power combos, mostly grading in the 55-60 range on that pair of tools. Both are average runners likely to lose a step as they mature and develop fully into middle of the order type bats.

From a purely production standpoint Kieboom has the advantage in walk rate, while Rodgers has him by 10 points in batting average and 30 points in slugging. When put in context it’s not much of a victory for Rodgers if at all. Why? Well the time in Lancaster during the first half of 2017 severely inflated his production. So at best I would call the slashline a wash.

This is obviously all somewhat rooted in number scouting, but I thought it was best to address what you know and can measure, versus my personal opinions on their actual hitting styles. At the plate Rodgers is super clean, free, and easy. There’s little effort in his swing, and he generates plus bat speed with his quick hands. This is what’s frustrating about Rodgers, from a bat to ball standpoint he’s one of the more talented hitters I’ve watched in recent years. The issue is he’s extremely aggressive, often swinging at bad pitches, and sometimes making contact with the wrong pitches. This often saves his K rate from climbing, but in lieu of walks and potentially better contact.

That’s not the case with Kieboom.

The Nationals shortstop also has a clean, easy swing with plus bat speed. He engages his lower half a little more with a leg kick, but his patience and pitch recognition is night and day from his Rockies counterpart. Does Rodgers perhaps possess more natural contact and power? Possibly, but it’s a negligible difference. This is simply a questions of talent vs. approach, ceiling vs. floor. That extends to the defensive side of the ball as well.

Keiboom and Rodgers are both blessed with plus arms, as well as some questions regarding their range. Rodgers is the more athletic of the two players, and can move well at times in the infield, but his reads are sub-par and he often gets himself out of position on deep plays from the hole. In my observations of Kieboom, he’s a lot cleaner at the position and uses his arm to his advantage. The Rockies obviously recognize this as they’ve moved Rodgers all over the infield over the last few seasons, logging a lot of time at third base. Ultimately I believe this means Rodgers moves off of short to third or second. Which gives Kieboom the greater defensive value.

In this is a tight battle, I could see a logic case for either, but Kieboom’s baseball IQ makes him the clear choice for me in fantasy and reality based evaluations. - Ralph Lifshitz

Who do you take, the guy who should have a better hit tool and feels the safest? Or the one who’s flirted with 60/60 hit/power and could make his home the most hitter-friendly park in baseball? When you put it like that, it seems that Rodgers is the easy choice, but every now and then a prospect writer likes to be a bit contrarian. These two are very close but I’m taking Kieboom, whose prospect stock rose even higher after slashing .280/.357/.444 with 16 home runs and nine steals over the course of 123 games split nearly even between High-A and Double-A. His ascent to Harrisburg slowed his production (.721 OPS) , but this is the part where I remind you he was a 20-year-old and four years younger than the competition.

Kieboom also showed a better approach at the plate than Rodgers (10 BB% vs. 6.5 BB%), skills that have mirrored what each have done throughout their pro careers. In his Rockies Top 30, Ralph mentioned Rodgers is at risk of shifting off of shortstop, something I don’t think Kieboom is in danger of. Granted, Washington’s roster construction might force that to happen, but not because of Kieboom’s deficiencies. Rodgers has the higher ceiling, and I’d bet that once these careers are over he’ll have better peak seasons than Kieboom, but I don’t think their tools are that different and I’m certain the steadier production will come from the Nats prospect. -Eddy Almaguer

When I scout a player, I do not attach value to what sort of MLB park they will play in. While park factors tend to matter, to the elite prospects, they do not. Many a fantasy GM has chased young Rockies hitters only to be disappointed with lack of playing time or initial struggles at the plate. So if I am to judge between these two, I judge solely on what I see currently and what the tools project to.

Kieboom is the easy winner in this battle. I love his bat speed and raw power. Kieboom’s advanced approach and short swing allow him to hit any pitcher’s fastball. He doesn’t sell out for power and sprays the entire field with line drives. Defensively, he will catch what’s hit to him and his arm is plus, which will keep him on the left side of the infield. For me, he is a third baseman long term but can adequately cover SS. While both players are elite prospects, I think Kieboom is the better hitter and will hit better pitching over the course of his career. - Jason Woodell

In the battle of two elite middle infield prospects I would take Carter Kieboom by a decent margin, especially from  a fantasy perspective. Kieboom is the more likely player to stick at short. While not a premium defender, I could see him manning the position in a Corey Seager-like fashion. From my looks Rodgers has little chance to stick at the position. Both are excellent hitters but Kieboom has the superior approach and feel to hit. While his power numbers have yet to fully manifest themselves, plus raw power percolates under the surface. All of this is not to say I dislike Rodgers in any way. His exit velocity numbers are elite, and his swing is sexy. When I look at it, I see great balance, little wasted motion and plus bat speed. His raw skills, however, are somewhat undermined by his aggressive approach to hitting. Overall I have fewer questions with Kieboom. Damelo. *Insert several bomb emojis*. - Jason Pennini

Just like that, the evaluators have spoken. Brendan Rodgers has been voted off of prospect island by a vote of 4-0. Please take a moment to gather your things and say goodbye before you walk out that door. I didn’t expect it to be a clean sweep, but Carter Kieboom is the winner of this player battle due to the higher floor and better underlying offensive skills.

Is Vladimir Guerrero Jr. The #1 Fantasy Prospect?

Is Vladimir Guerrero Jr. The #1 Fantasy Prospect?

Nearly the entire prospecting community has Vlad as the top prospect in Baseball, and with good reason he's a special hitter. You can't watch him hit a baseball and not be blown away by how great his hands are. Not too many hitters at any level can be fooled but keep there hands back and drive a ball 380' to right center. He's a tremendous hitter, so I get the love. Having said all of that. This is fantasy baseball and in recent years speed has taken on an increased importance because it's getting harder and harder to find players who run that won't kill you everywhere else.

FYPD Review: 24 Team Dynasty League

We recently released our FYPD Top 100 ranks as a great resource to help you get the most value from your draft. Matt and Ralph did a great job here ranking based on fantasy impact.

I run a 24 team dynasty that is starting year five. I thought it would be interesting to provide the first 52 picks in the draft as a resource. Mock drafts are nice, especially within the industry, however, real life results will give you better idea of how certain players are valued.

Team
Player
Round 1  
1. Arizona
Nolan Gorman, 3B - STL
2. Minnesota
Nick Madrigal, SS - CWS
3. Oakland -
Casey Mize, RHP - DET
4. Colorado
Joey Bart, C - SF
5. Baltimore
Travis Swaggerty, 1B/OF - PIT
6. NY Yankees
Marco Luciano, SS - SF
7. St. Louis
Julio Pablo Martinez, OF - TEX
8. San Francisco
Jonathan India, 3B - CIN
9. CH. Cubs
Alec Bohm, 3B - PHI
10. LA Dodgers
Jarred Kelenic, OF - NYM
11. Washington
Trevor Larnach, OF - MIN
12. Kansas City - Traded to TEX
Ryan Weathers, LHP - SD
13. LA Angels
Jordan Groshans, 3B - TOR
14. Cleveland
Xavier Edwards, SS - SD
15. Toronto
Jordyn Adams, OF - LAA
16. Houston
Victor Victor Mesa, OF - MIA
17. Pittsburgh - Traded to SF
Nico Hoerner, SS - CHC
18. NY Mets
Mike Siani, OF - CIN
19. Texas - Traded to SF
Malcolm Nunez, 3B - STL
20. CH. White Sox
Jeremiah Jackson, SS - LAA
21. Atlanta
Matthew Liberatore, LHP - TB
22. Boston - Traded to PHI
Seth Beer, 1B - HOU
23. Seattle
Brady Singer, SP - KC
24. Philadelphia - Traded to CLE
Grant Lavigne, 1B - COL
25. Washington
Orelvis Martinez, SS - TOR
26. Cleveland
Cole Winn, RHP - TEX
Round 2  
1. Arizona
Shane McClanahan, LHP - TB
2. Minnesota - Traded to COL
Jackson Kowar, RHP - KC
3. Oakland
Ethan Hankins, RHP - CLE
4. Colorado
Logan Gilbert, RHP - SEA
5. Baltimore
Brice Turang, SS - MIL
6. NY Yankees
Diego Cartaya, C - LAD
7. St. Louis
Connor Scott, OF - MIA
8. San Francisco - Traded to AZ
Alek Thomas, OF - AZ
9. CH. Cubs
Mason Denaburg, RHP - WAS
10. LA Dodgers - Traded to MIN
Tristan Casas, 1B - BOS
11. Washington
Blaze Alexander, SS - AZ
12. Kansas City
Tristan Pompey, OF - MIA
13. LA Angels - Traded to CLE
Kevin Alcantara, OF - NYY
14. Cleveland - Traded to CWS
Antonio Cabello, OF - NYY
15. Toronto - Traded to PHI
Kyler Murray, OF - OAK
16. Houston - Traded to LAA
Parker Meadows, OF - DET
17. Pittsburgh
Griffin Conine, OF - TOR
18. NY Mets
Noelvi Marte, SS - SEA
19. Texas
Greyson Jenista, OF - ATL
20. CH. White Sox
Raimfer Salinas, OF - NYY
21. Atlanta
Noah Naylor, C - CLE
22. Boston - Traded to WAS
Daniel Lynch, SP - KC
23. Seattle
Nick Schnell, OF - TB
24. Philadelphia - Traded to COL
Jake McCarthy, OF - AZ
25. Washington
Grayson Rodriguez, SP - BAL
26. San Francisco
Kyle Isbel, OF - KC

Some interesting observations to note. While we are low on taking Mize and Bart within the first five picks, in real life, they will go top five. Let them. Mize is a nice starting pitching option, but pitchers are extremely risky. If I have a top ten pick, I want a player that will shoot up the top 100. Gorman fits that description and went 1.1 here.

The biggest reach in the top ten is Marco Luciano. I’ve been a part of recent drafts where the top J2 bats lasted until the middle of the first round. With the success of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Wander Franco, the risk to take Luciano at six is not as bad as one might think. Luciano appears to be the safest bat of the J2 signings. I’m a believer that if you want a guy, don’t wait. He will get taken. So I don’t mind the reach here although there are less riskier impact bats on the board.

Picks 8-11 standout here because of the value. You could make a case for any of those guys (India, Bohm, Kelenic, and Larnach) to go one or two, depending on how you value Gorman. This is a deep draft. When Mize, Bart, and Madrigal go early, you can afford to trade back and still get a top five caliber player. If you’re sitting fourth or fifth overall and Gorman goes off the board, consider trading back into the 10-15 range. There will still be impact players to take plus the extra asset(s) acquired in the trade will add value to your system.

More importantly, wait on pitching. As you can see, four pitchers were taken in the first round. Hitters like Xavier Edwards, Jeremiah Jackson, Trevor Larnach, and Nico Hoerner will not be available after twenty or so picks. Let your league mates chase the arms.

Post-Draft Profile: Kyle Isbel, Kansas City Royals

Post-Draft Profile: Kyle Isbel, Kansas City Royals

Here’s the scene, it’s late July in Binghamton, NY. It’s about 80 degrees, but one of those awful overcast, humid, muggy summer days that feels like you live in a cloud. I’m sure Binghamton’s overall rustic charm only added to the effect. The fifth inning had just come to a close, and a few raindrops had began to drizzle down from the now ominous skies. This was an unusual ballpark trip for the summer of 2018. Not only was I slightly out of my usual New England based scouting radius, I was at this game with all three kids, my wife, my sister, and brother in law. I was here as a treat for dad, while on a family visit to see my sister and her husband, who live just outside of Ithaca.

Post-Draft Profile: Seth Beer, Houston Astros

Post-Draft Profile: Seth Beer, Houston Astros

Evaluating prospects isn’t an exact science. It’s a constantly evolving process that factors in countless variables to attempt to give the best snapshot of a certain player in a specific moment of time. If you’ve been tracking Seth Beer over his Clemson career you fully understand this. If this past draft actually took place two years ago, Beer might have been the first overall pick because of his dominant freshman season. Instead, he went to the Astros at pick 28. Did they get a steal? Let’s dive in.

Post-Draft Profile: Xavier Edwards, San Diego Padres

Post-Draft Profile: Xavier Edwards, San Diego Padres

Each year around mid-May we're inundated with information regarding the incoming draft class. Hundreds of names flash before our eyes, everyone with a different sleeper, breakout, etc. While there's no MLB answer to the Mel Kiper Jr./Todd McShay there's plenty vying for the title, myself included. We all want to be the first to suggest a name that pops. But in the big scheme of things does it matter? For example, today's subject Xavier Edwards, was not one of my early favorites. Did I like Edwards? Yes, I had him 19th overall in my first edition of my first year player drafts. Then he stole 22 bases on 23 attempts, hitting .346 across two levels of rookie ball. Now Edward's is approaching my top 5.

Welcome To The Show: Edmundo Sosa, St. Louis Cardinals

Welcome To The Show: Edmundo Sosa, St. Louis Cardinals

This past week will be a tough one to top for Edmundo Sosa and his pro baseball career. He started it out by catching the final pop up for the Memphis Redbirds to win the Pacific Coast League championship, then Memphis topped Durham to win the overall Triple-A title. Sosa was since rewarded with a call-up to finish the season.

Welcome To The Show: Harold Castro, Detroit Tigers

Welcome To The Show: Harold Castro, Detroit Tigers

The Tigers purchased the contract of Venezuelan utility infielder Harold Castro after they ended Michael Fulmer’s season by putting him on the 60-day disabled list. Castro functions primarily as organizational depth these days, but players that can provide adequate defense at seven different positions will have value.

The Traded: Logan Shore, Detroit Tigers

The Traded: Logan Shore, Detroit Tigers

When the Royals took two Florida Gator pitchers with their first two selections in this June’s draft, it was a great story. As college teammates, roommates and best friends, Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar began their professional careers together. It however wasn’t the first time teammates had gone to the same team within the first two rounds. Hell, it wasn’t even the first time two Florida pitchers had gone in the first two rounds to the same team. That honor most recently belonged to former Gators A.J. Puk and Logan Shore after each were drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the first and second round respectively of the 2016 Draft

Welcome To The Show: Justus Sheffield - New York Yankees

Welcome To The Show: Justus Sheffield - New York Yankees

The Yankees added LHP Justus Sheffield to the 40-man roster for the stretch run on Saturday. The former Indians farmhand has spent the entire month of September pitching out of the bullpen in preparation for his new role for 2018. It was partly a way to keep the athletic lefties innings down, but also gives the Yankees even more depth to finish off 2018.