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Fantasy Baseball Dynasty Stock Report: Welcome to the Var-SHO

by Eric Cross | @EricCross04 | Featured Writer
May 23, 2022
Daulton Varsho

Daulton Varsho has developed into the best options at the catcher position in all of fantasy baseball.

In dynasty leagues, player values are constantly changing, and you need to stay on top of these changes to be successful long-term. This dynasty stock report comes in as I discuss four players each week, two on the rise and two falling, both at the MLB level and in the minors as well. This week’s report features a former top-five prospect, a rising Baltimore shortstop prospect, a talented but wild Rangers pitching prospect and an MLB catcher with an exciting future.

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MLB Riser

Daulton Varsho (C/OF – ARI)

Catcher-eligible players that can run are unicorns in our fantasy baseball world. We don’t see them very often, and when we do, there’s usually an all-out brawl to try and acquire them in dynasty. That is especially true when the catcher in question is a former top prospect that has performed well in the Majors and is still only 25 years old. Of course, I’m talking about Daulton Varsho. In 162 plate appearances this season, Varsho has slashed a solid .262/.327/.462 with seven home runs, three steals, 20 RBIs and 20 runs scored. He’s been a rare bright spot on a terrible Arizona offense and currently is the top fantasy catcher according to the Razzball Player Rater. When you extrapolate Varsho’s numbers out over a full season, you’d have 28 homers, 12 steals, 80 RBIs and 80 runs scored. That’s very good in general, and even better for someone that has catcher eligibility.

When you dig deeper, a lot of Varsho’s underlying metrics back up his performance as well. He’s increased his barrel rate and hard-hit rate this season to 10.8% and 42.2% respectively while maintaining an ideal launch angle. Varsho’s sprint speed has remained impressive as well in the 78th percentile. Hopefully, he’ll run a bit more moving forward and we can get a 25/15 season out of him this year. That’s very possible given Varsho’s track record. He’s actually been the most valuable catcher since the All-Star break last season for real-life (leads in WAR) and second-best for fantasy purposes. Since the 2021 ASB, Varsho has slashed .279/.340/.504 with 17 homers, eight steals, 51 RBIs and 52 runs scored. Over that time, he ranks fourth in HR, second in RBI, third in R, fourth in ISO and third in wOBA among catchers with 150+ PA. This is a top-100 dynasty asset that could be top 50 soon.

MLB Faller

Jarred Kelenic (OF – SEA)

You probably can’t fathom how difficult this section was to write. I’ve been leading the Kelenic hype train for the better part of two-to-three years now and his performance in the Major Leagues has been incredibly disappointing, to say the least. Through Kelenic’s first 473 plate appearances in the Majors after debuting last May, he’s posted a lackluster .173/.256/.338 slash line and a 30% strikeout rate. He’s actually performed worse in 2022 than in 2021, with a .140/.219/.291 slash line and 37.5% strikeout rate in 96 plate appearances, earning a demotion back to Triple-A Tacoma. It’s not like he’s been tearing up Triple-A since his demotion either. Kelenic does have a homer and a .262 AVG in five games, but he’s also struck out in 48% of his 25 plate appearances.

When you dig deeper, the disappointment continues. Kelenic had a 70.7% zone contact rate and 36.2% whiff rate before his demotion and looked absolutely lost against breaking and offspeed pitches. The only pitch type that Kelenic was able to do any damage on was fastballs, and even those he was hitting .220 against, albeit, with a .512 SLG and all three of his home runs.

It's not all bad though. Through all the disappointing metrics, Kelenic has a 650 PA pace of 23 homers and 14 steals for his career and 20/27 for the 2022 season. But when your slash line looks like his, you're not going to receive 650 plate appearances. And while his barrel rate has remained steadily solid at 9.8% (9.9% in 2021), Kelenic's average exit velocity and hard-hit rate have dropped to 84.5 mph and 31.4%, respectively.

Long-term, I'm still going to recommend Kelenic as a buy-low for dynasty purposes. His stock is trending down in a hurry right now, but we've seen glimpses of his upside for fantasy and I'm not ready to write him off as a potential top-75 fantasy asset long-term. Hopefully, he's able to clear his head in Triple-A and get his career back on track.

MiLB Riser

Gunnar Henderson (SS - BAL)

In my last top-400 prospect rankings update, one of the biggest risers was Baltimore Orioles shortstop prospect, Gunnar Henderson. He's risen even further since that update as well, pushing top-25 overall status currently. Henderson has performed exceptionally in Double-A this season, hitting for average and power, stealing bases and showing a phenomenal plate approach as well. Through his first 35 games, Henderson has slashed .290/.445/.535 with 13 extra-base hits, seven home runs and 12 steals in 155 plate appearances. On top of that, Henderson has walked more than he's struck out thus far with a stellar 21.3% walk rate and a 17.4% strikeout rate.

Henderson entered 2022 as a borderline top-100 prospect and has increased his stock considerably with his performance through the first month and a half of the season. The Double-A Eastern League is a cold-weather, pitcher-friendly league as well, which makes Henderson's performance even more impressive. Henderson profiles as an above-average-to-plus hitter that can hit .275 or higher annually with an OBP north of .370 thanks to his approach. He's proven that thus far with a solid 76.3% contact rate and that 21.3% walk rate mentioned above.

Henderson also has plus speed and above-average-to-plus power which has really taken a step forward this season. In 2021, Henderson cranked 17 homers with a .476 SLG and .218 ISO. Those metrics have increased to a .535 SLG and .245 ISO this season with a 30-homer pace over 150 games compared to a 24-homer pace last season. With his combination of contact, approach, power and speed, Henderson has a chance to flirt with top-10 prospect status by the end of 2022 and his stock is quickly on the rise in dynasty leagues.

MiLB Faller

Cole Winn (SP - TEX)

The minor league career of Cole Winn has been a roller coaster ride. But imagine that roller coaster has a few screws loose. Entering 2021, Winn was dealing with significant command and control issues and the reports out of camp during the lost 2020 season weren't exactly glowing either. But fortunately, Winn was able to right the ship in 2021, posting a 2.41 ERA and 0.86 WHIP while dropping his walk rate to a more manageable 9.4%. That performance vaulted Winn into the top-100 of many prospect rankings, mine included. However, Winn's performance this year has been even worse than his 2019 debut, and all the gains he made last year have been reversed, and then some.

Through his first eight starts this season in Triple-A, Winn has been rocked to the tune of a 5.94 ERA and 1.57 WHIP with a bloated 14% walk rate. Well, at least he's still striking out batters at a high clip, right? Wrong! Winn actually has barely more strikeouts than walks (24 to 23) for a mediocre 14.6% clip. Winn has shown an impressive four-pitch mix as a professional, but I'm starting to wonder if he has enough command and control to stick as a starter long-term. Until he shows better command and control, he's going to continue to slide down my rankings.

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