Collette Calls: Endgame Favorites

Collette Calls: Endgame Favorites

This article is part of our Collette Calls series.

The lockout ending has certainly changed my mindset on this season. I have attempted to maintain a positive outlook this offseason and stay hopeful the season would not be compromised, but I reached my breaking point on Wednesday evening when they announced a second delay to the season. I was in bed by 7 pm and just done with baseball and needed a break from getting my hopes up. Each time we were led to believe it was close, some late curveball would come in and derail the negotiations. I let my guard down Wednesday and got burned, so I refused to get excited about Thursday as the news surprisingly got positive in a hurry. In the midst of a work call, the phone alerts began coming through and my colleagues could see the instant change in my mood as, after 99 days, our national pastime nightmare was over. We will have a full season of baseball, and I took to a podcast on Thursday night to immediately talk about some catchers and outfielders in a much better mindset on the Field of Vision podcast with Jordan Eisen. 

While recording with Jordan, I talked through the idea of diving into writing this piece about the endgame, with a caveat. I have spent a considerable amount of time listening to podcasts and reading articles this year, and it really has felt like everyone is talking about the same hitters and pitchers these days. At this point, the only thing I do

The lockout ending has certainly changed my mindset on this season. I have attempted to maintain a positive outlook this offseason and stay hopeful the season would not be compromised, but I reached my breaking point on Wednesday evening when they announced a second delay to the season. I was in bed by 7 pm and just done with baseball and needed a break from getting my hopes up. Each time we were led to believe it was close, some late curveball would come in and derail the negotiations. I let my guard down Wednesday and got burned, so I refused to get excited about Thursday as the news surprisingly got positive in a hurry. In the midst of a work call, the phone alerts began coming through and my colleagues could see the instant change in my mood as, after 99 days, our national pastime nightmare was over. We will have a full season of baseball, and I took to a podcast on Thursday night to immediately talk about some catchers and outfielders in a much better mindset on the Field of Vision podcast with Jordan Eisen. 

While recording with Jordan, I talked through the idea of diving into writing this piece about the endgame, with a caveat. I have spent a considerable amount of time listening to podcasts and reading articles this year, and it really has felt like everyone is talking about the same hitters and pitchers these days. At this point, the only thing I do not know about Patrick Sandoval is whether he wears boxers or briefs and whether Myles Straw prefers vinegar-based bbq sauce or is a mustard-based sauce fan. It may just be my observations, but there has been a high volume of coverage on a similar group of players without enough attention on the endgame. I write the annual Value in the Scrap Heap which sometimes speaks to this issue, but I submit to you more attention can be given to this matter before the season begins in three weeks. After all, the names below are players who went in the reserve rounds of the 2021 Mixed LABR draft, the player's 2021 final value as well as the player's ADP this year:

PLAYER

2021 FINAL VALUE

2022 ADP LAST 3 WEEKS

Alex Wood

$7

219

Robbie Ray

$25

51

Adam Duvall

$23

239

Tyler O'Neill

$27

53

Trevor Rogers

$10

89

Enrique Hernandez

$10

219

Emmanuel Clase

$13

45

Jordan Romano

$12

74

Luis Garcia

$10

139

Jonathan Schoop

$18

198

Willy Adames

$15

125

I'm going to construct a 23-man roster of picks going after pick 276 in ADP over the past three weeks to give you some options to consider in your own plans for your drafts or to use against me in leagues we are in together before the season begins. The roster I construct below will not include any players I covered in the Bold Prediction series or wrote up for the Value in the Scrap Heap article as I want to push out new information rather than re-hashing what I have already produced. 

Catchers

POSITION

PLAYER

2022 ADP LAST 3 WEEKS

MIN

MAX

C

Yan Gomes

357

307

392

C

Luis Torrens

369

311

447

I like Gomes as a late target because of what will likely happen with the Cubs. Willson Contreras is in the final year of his deal and could likely be traded at any point this season should the two parties be unable to work out an extension or mutually decide to part ways. The depth chart behind Contreras and Gomes is currently John Hicks and P.J. Higgins, so Gomes could quickly find himself with a starting catching position and has shown an ability to hit for both average and pop in recent years. Gomes is 12th over the past four seasons at the position by wRC+.

Torrens would appear to be in direct conflict with my adoration of Cal Raleigh, but remember that Torrens also can play some first base and it is Tom Murphy who I like least of the trio of catching possibilities in Seattle. Torrens makes quality contact when he does make contact, so you live with the strikeouts knowing he has top-third ratings in barrels and average exit velocity:

Corners

POSITION

PLAYER

2022 ADP LAST 3 WEEKS

MIN

MAX

1B

Carlos Santana

432

375

481

3B

Jose Miranda

385

348

438

CI

Yandy Diaz

359

325

419

Santana is an odd fit on the Kansas City roster in that the club is trying to build for the future, yet it has a 36 year old first baseman/DH making $10.5 million on their roster. Santana is coming off a terrible statistical season which saw him post career lows across the board, and yet has still been an above-average offensive first baseman over the past four years. It is tough to quit on Santana when he is still in the top 100 in baseball by average exit velocity, barrel rate and max home run distance. Luke Skywalker believed there was still some good in Darth Vader and I believe there is still some good in Santana, especially at this price. 

Miranda's path to playing time is clearer now that the Twins have traded Josh Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Falefa (may his tenure in Minnesota be remembered fondly). Miranda hit 30 homers, scored 97 times and drove in 94 runs between Double-A and Triple-A last season. I was interested in drafting the skills over role anyway. Even if Luis Arraez and Gio Urshela mostly box him out early, I believe the bat eventually forces its way into the big-league lineup.

Diaz qualifies at both first and third base, making him the ideal fit for the corner position here. Diaz made it into June with a .253/.386/.291 slash line and did not homer until I went and visited him in Texas with my son to take in a series at the new park. Yes, I'm taking credit for that streak ending. He homered on June 6 and went on to hit .258/.330/.449 the rest of the season. The OBP took a plunge with his new aggressiveness at the plate, but he finally got his average launch angle up above the league average to go along with the hard contact he has always made:

It is unlikely he is going to eclipse the 25-homer mark given his tendencies at the plate, but he has hit 14 and 13 homers in a season while working on this swing and playing through the hand injury. Should he be traded to another club given his defensive issues, things could really get interesting depending on the ballpark now that the DH is finally available league-wide.

Middle

POSITION

PLAYER

2022 ADP LAST 3 WEEKS

MIN

MAX

2B

Tony Kemp

390

342

458

SS

Gio Urshela

290

229

345

MI

Dylan Moore

416

326

509

By the time you read this article, Oakland may have traded another couple of players. They have already traded Chris Bassitt, Matt Olson and now Matt Chapman this morning. It is relatively certain Kemp will serve as the leadoff hitter for Oakland, but it is relatively uncertain just who will drive him in. New manager Mark Kotsay could put Kemp in motion a fair amount while looking to scrape together runs as Kemp reaches base, and his dual-position eligibility is always nice to have from a reserve-round pick. 

Speaking of dual-position eligibility, Gio Urshela qualifies at both positions on the left side of the infield, but his fantasy upside is limited by him likely hitting low in the lineup, even following the move to Minnesota. Over the past four seasons, Urshela is 15th at third base by wRC+, ahead of Yoan Moncada, Austin Riley, while tied with Eugenio Suarez. Urshela's .290/.333/.473 slash line over the past four seasons shows what he is capable of when he can stay on the field, but he has missed time each of the past four seasons with hamstring and groin issues along with a bone spur in his elbow that has kept him off the field nearly 100 games. 

Moore is a man without a job in Seattle the way the team looks like right now meaning he will likely settle into a utility role. Moore was one of nine second-base eligible players who had double-digit homers and steals last season, but his .181 average was 67 points lower than any other player on that list thanks to very low .223 BABIP. The .181 average belies his plate discipline (90th percentile chase rate) and he is just outside the top 25 in Max Exit Velocity, but the overall quality of his contact was simply not good last year with breaking balls giving him the most trouble. His defensive abilities, versatility and speed are going to keep him on this roster and he played multiple games at four different positions last year. His 2020 numbers are the outlier, but they are also recent enough where they cannot be totally dismissed.

Outfield

POSITION

PLAYER

2022 ADP LAST 3 WEEKS

MIN

MAX

OF

Kyle Lewis

308

272

342

OF

Kyle Isbel

431

374

495

OF

Steven Kwan

458

294

533

OF

Leody Taveras

489

428

572

OF

Hunter Dozier

349

316

386

U

Jorge Mateo

393

333

465

There is a lot of depth in the late outfield game this year, depending on your comfort level with risk. Take a look at it yourself and decide whether you may consider going big early on one outfielder and then coming back to the position later in the draft to fill in the other spots while addressing other positions where depth is not as plentiful (looking at you, third base). 

The Lewis story is well-known; very talented but frequently injured. It was a problem for him in the minor leagues and has followed him through most of his time in the majors outside of the 2020 performance which allowed him to win Rookie of the Year. He is not expected to be ready for Opening Day and has fewer than 500 major-league plate appearances yet owns a .258/.343/.450 slash line with a 121 wRC+ over 112 games. If you have the bench space to stash him, Lewis should return to hit toward the middle of the lineup.

Isbel is currently projected to be on the favorable end of a timeshare in right field despite just 83 plate appearances at the big-league level. He had an impressive season in Triple-A, as many did, with a .269/.357/.444 line which included 15 homers and 22 steals in 105 games played. Mike Matheny has turned over a new leaf since his days in St. Louis and has not slowed down the Kansas City running game as many of us feared he would when he took the keys away from the lead-footed Ned Yost, so a late investment could net 10-plus steals. A platoon situation limits Isbel's viability in shallower mixed leagues, but deeper mixed managers and mono leaguers are certainly interested.

Kwan too is projected to be in the Cleveland outfield rotation as the Guardians resume their annual pursuit to piecemeal an outfield together and eventually find an everyday player they can build around. Kwan has not hit below .280 at any level of the minor leagues and hit .328/.407/.527 between Double-A and Triple-A last season with more walks (36) than strikeouts (31) in 341 plate appearances. If you squint your eyes enough, there is a path to Kwan hitting near the top of the lineup should Myles Straw and/or Amed Rosario prove to be overmatched as table setters for Jose Ramirez and Franmil Reyes.

Taveras was a player going inside the top 200 in 2021 draft season, but a wretched start to the season paved way for Adolis Garcia, and the rest is history. Taveras is not even 24 years old, and a .188/.249/.321 slash line in 82 major-league games with a 32% strikeout rate is admittedly uncomfortable. However, Taveras did hit .274/.379/.363 with more walks than strikeouts in winter ball while going 11-for-12 in his stolen base attempts. At a time when we are all looking for late steals, this is an intriguing late dart throw in deeper mixed leagues or mono leagues. He could also be your first cut to acquire a free agent.

Dozier has third base and outfield eligibility in standard leagues on draft day, and also picks up first base if your league uses fewer than 20 games for eligibility as he had 19 at first base. He is likely to get more time at first this year as well as the Royals look to make room for Bobby Witt and mix and match pieces of their lineup depending on health. Dozier's stats appear to miss the happy fun ball of 2019 as he hit more homers that season (26) than he has over the last two seasons combined (22.) He has 88th percentile Max Exit Velocity and a slightly above league average barrel rate to go along with upper 25th percentile speed, though his overall hitting profile is admittedly rough. The good news is Kansas City is already contractually invested in Dozier as they bought out his option years, so he is going to play somehow, somewhere. 

Mateo, like Taveras, is attractive for his speed. Few in baseball could beat Mateo in a sprint, and there is no better situation for a versatile player out of options than Baltimore. Mateo had 10 steals in 209 plate appearances last season, and would likely have a similar green light anytime he can reach base in 2022. His extreme impatience at the plate throughout his career is what has limited his stolen base production as he has just once exceeded 30 steals since leaving rookie ball in 2013 because his OBP is usually below .300. He burned through his option years first with the Yankees and finally the Athletics.

Starters

POSITION

PLAYER

2022 ADP LAST 3 WEEKS

MIN

MAX

SP

Nick Pivetta

340

287

418

SP

Cristian Javier

297

215

338

SP

Dane Dunning

384

337

438

SP

Elieser Hernandez

329

276

374

SP

Mitch White

524

403

652

SP

Mitch Keller

497

425

590

Pivetta is an excruciating exercise in what could be versus what has been. Each of his expected stats show an above-average pitcher in 2021:

  • xwOBA - 65th percentile
  • xERA - 65th percentile
  • xBA - 74th percentile
  • xSLG - 56th percentile

Throw in a 69th percentile strikeout rate, 75th percentile velocity and a high spin curve, why isn't Pivetta. better pitcher? 

  • 29th percentile Average Exit Velocity
  • 35th percentile HardHit%
  • 29th percentile Walk rate
  • 38th percentile Whiff%
  • 43rd percentile Barrel%
  • 25th percentile Chase Rate

The reality is that Pivetta appears to own the skill of finding hard contact. The lack of an effective changeup leaves him using his curveball as his change of speed pitch, and while it is a good one, it cannot do all the work. The league hit .165 with three homers off his curve, but hit .244 with 21 homers off the non-curves. All of that said, his K-BB% has crept back toward his 2018 levels and it is tough to simply write off a pitcher who still manages to strike out 27% of his hitters despite his flaws. I am willing to give the expected stats one more try.

Javier's value has crept upward this winter each time we get news about the status of Lance McCullers. This week, it was affirmed that McCullers is going to have significant delay to start the season and he had two setbacks in his rehab process during the lockout. Javier is not the type of pitcher that can go out there and provide the 5-7 innings that McCullers did in his outings, but could become sneaky valuable if he were paired with an opener to then allow him 15-18 batters faced where he could potentially pick up wins along with his strikeouts. The risks with his walks and homers are ever present, but his stuff is intriguing around the inconsistency. 

Every pitcher down here in the ADP rankings has a flaw, and Dunning is not immune to that. His particular flaw is he lacks velocity. In an age where most starters are cooking with gas, Dunning cooks with briquettes and works to find a steady balanced approach toward hitters. He has a five-pitch repertoire which he uses in his efforts to keep hitters off-balance, but the league hit over .275 against three of his four primary offerings last season. Dunning, as a heavy sinker/slider guy, needs his infield defense to help him yet the Rangers were merely league average in that regard last year finishing 14th in Outs Above Average. Enter Marcus Semien and Corey Seager.

Here are the defensive measures for the 2021 Texas Ranger infield compared to the projected 2022 infield:

2021:

PLAYER

POSITION

RUNS PREVENTED

OUTS ABOVE AVERAGE

Nathaniel Lowe

1B

-2

-3

Nick Solak

2B

1

1

Isiah Kiner-Falefa

SS

-5

-7

Charlie Culberson

3B

2

2

2022:

PLAYER

POSITION

RUNS PREVENTED

OUTS ABOVE AVERAGE

Nathaniel Lowe

1B

-2

-3

Marcus Semien

2B

4

5

Corey Seager

SS

-4

-5

Andy Ibanez

3B

N/A

N/A

Ibanez grades out as a better than average defender at third base should that be the route the Rangers go now that they have dealt away Kiner-Falefa and Josh Jung is out for the season. They could also get fun and add someone like Jonathan Villar on the cheap and insert him at third base, giving up some defense for more offense at the top of the lineup. Dunning should benefit from an improved overall infield defense, but his overall pitching future is very much going to be determined by batted-ball fortunes because of his pitch-to-contact-like approach. 

Hernandez has worked just under 80 innings over the past two seasons thanks to spending a lot of time on the IL with lat and bicep issues. Hernandez has a 3.84 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 21 K-BB% in 17 starts over the past two seasons, but the lack of work due to upper-body injuries is what has him down here in the rankings. The early knock on Hernandez was he had no offspeed pitch, so teams would stack lefties against him and rip away, but the pitch has evolved into a more effective pitch for him, jumping from a poor 14% whiff rate in 2019 to a more usable 33% whiff rate this past season. Now that he can use all three pitches to attack lefties, a big flaw in his approach could potentially be removed. If, and that's a sizable if, he can stay on the mound, there is significant upside to this pitcher at his current price.

White is on the outside looking in as the season begins on the Dodger depth chart, but it is fairly easy to see a path forward for his stuff in the rotation. White grades out with three above-average pitches but lacks an offspeed pitch which has left him slightly exposed to lefty-heavy lineups. The other issue for him was pitching with anyone on base as he had issues working from the stretch:

SPLIT

TBF

HR

BA

K

BB

Bases Empty

115

2

.167

33

7

Anyone on Base

130

7

.304

27

15

Given White was working as a swingman last year (33 games, 13 starts), the inconsistency can be excused for the rookie. If you are taking chances on Dodgers starters in the rotation not named Walker Buehler, it would behoove you to look at White in your reserves to back up those selections.

Finally, Keller got our attention in late January when a workout video surfaced showing him topping 100 at the Tread Athletics facility just down the road from me in metro Charlotte:

Yes, please and thank you. Keller finally topped the 100-inning mark in a season last year with suboptimal results. The folks at Tread helped Keller make several improvements in his delivery this winter:

Devin Hayes, a performance coordinator at Tread, said they broke down everything in Keller's delivery, from his peak leg lift to when he released the ball. They learned a lot. Keller said his tempo was off and his timing needed to be improved. He also had to use his lower half in a different way. Hayes sent Keller workouts that would help with those issues. Keller used plyo balls to lengthen his arm in his delivery...Meanwhile, Hayes said Keller's changeup had better vertical and horizontal measurements as well. Add it all up, Hayes said, and Keller's arsenal movement profile (a breakdown of all his pitches and what they do) resembled that of New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole in 2021. 

Keller's 6.02 career ERA is why you see his ADP where it is right now. There have been moments where he has been incredibly impressive, such as the 9/2/21 outing in which he shut out the Cubs over six innings with no walks and eight strikeouts. The revamped Keller is worth another chance, especially with him heading into arbitration years which could lead to the perpetually penny-pinching Pirates trading him away and seeing him flourish elsewhere as Cole and Tyler Glasnow did before him. 

Relievers

POSITION

PLAYER

2022 ADP LAST 3 WEEKS

MIN

MAX

RP

Tyler Wells

360

288

421

RP

Art Warren

466

410

527

RP

Josh Staumont

409

376

472

Someone has to close in Baltimore, and while I called out Cole Sulser as a bold prediction this season, it was not a slight on Wells as I believe both will be a factor in late-inning decisions this season. The league hit below .200 on each of his top three offerings, and the reconfiguration of Camden could be rather beneficial to him as all nine of his homers allowed in 2021 came at home but four to five of those would not be homers this season:

Warren's stock is about to go up with the news that Lucas Sims is "a little behind," dealing with elbow stuff. Just as we fondly remember what was with Tejay Antone this time last year and days off the bad news regarding Codi Heuer's secretive elbow issues last year which led to his TJ surgery, the Sims news is concerning until it is not. Warren is a slider-heavy reliever because the pitch has been impossible for opposing batters to hit (the league hit .104 off the slider with just one extra-base hit last year around time missed with an oblique injury). He pairs that up with upper-90s heat and then makes hitters like Trea Turner bend the knee

Staumont came into last season as the people's favorite to close, but it was Scott Barlow who took that job. Staumont dealt with Covid and injuries last year, yet managed to remain effective with nine decisions in the late innings and an improved walk rate. Eno Sarris tweeted out recently Staumont's fastball has been one of the toughest pitches in terms of slugging percentage allowed in the Statcast era. He can either throw his upper-90s fastball high or his high-spin knuckle curveball low to attack hitters. I am not projecting Barlow to lose the job as much as I am projecting Staumont to remain involved late in games where wins and/or saves will be for a club often in close contests late.

All in all, have a plan when you get to the reserve rounds, whether it be to address statistical shortcomings from the active phase of the draft or to set up insurance plans on health risks or to speculate on closers. I rank those three in order of preference in my own tendencies for the reserves as I find closer specs to be a waste of reserve spots in the shallower mixed leagues while they're a necessary evil in other formats. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Collette
Jason has been helping fantasy owners since 1999 at RotoJunkie, Fanball, Baseball Prospectus and now here at RotoWire. You can hear Jason weekly on many of the Sirius/XM Fantasy channel offerings throughout the season as well as on the Sleeper and the Bust podcast every Sunday. A ten-time FSWA finalist, Jason won the FSWA's Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year award in 2013 and the Baseball Series of the Year award in 2018 for Collette Calls.
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