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Champ or Chump: Brooks Lee and Jake Irvin Fantasy Baseball Outlooks

Jake Irvin - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, Draft Sleepers, MLB Injury News

With the All-Star Game and MLB trade deadline rapidly approaching, now is the ideal time for fantasy managers to look at player performances. Importantly, surface stats rarely tell the whole story.

For instance, Brooks Lee is a 23-year-old top prospect hitting .474/.476/.684 with a homer in his first 21 PAs for Minnesota. His peripherals suggest he's nothing more than waiver wire fodder. Similarly, 27-year-old Jake Irvin appears on many All-Star snub lists after pitching to a 2.80 ERA across 106 innings for Washington. His ERA estimators are substantially higher, and even they're probably too optimistic.

Let's explore what makes these two such risky fantasy plays.

Be sure to check all of our fantasy baseball lineup tools and weekly lineup resources:

 

Brooks Lee (SS/3B, MIN) 37% Rostered

We can't draw valid conclusions from Lee's 21-PA MLB sample, so our analysis will focus on his scouting report and MiLB performance. Here is Lee's FanGraphs scouting report:

We have a below-average hitter with slightly plus raw power that doesn't show up in games, below-average speed, and a questionable glove. It isn't clear why this scouting report ranked 49th before the season, but it did.

MLB.com is much more optimistic:

Lee's hit tool is outstanding with slightly plus power, average wheels, and a plus glove. He ranks 13th overall on MLB Pipeline's top-100 prospects.

We have two very different scouting reports here, meaning we go to Lee's MiLB performance to determine which one is more accurate. Unfortunately, FanGraphs is a better fit.

Lee logged eight plate appearances for Double-A (Wichita) in 2022, but he had to wait until 2023 to truly experience the high minors. He hit a healthy .292/.365/.476 with 11 HR and six steals in 399 PAs backed by outstanding plate discipline (10.3% BB%, 15.8% K%). Notably, Lee's 9.2% SwStr% wasn't quite as good as his K% would suggest.

His .325 BABIP was fairly luck-neutral, while his 29.9% FB% and 12.9% HR/FB weren't great. He was also caught stealing four times, giving him a 60% success rate that seemed to earn him a red light moving forward.

Lee was promoted to Triple-A (St. Paul) and struggled to a .237/.304/.428 line with five homers and a steal in 168 PAs. His BABIP sank to .258 and his FB% declined to 24.8%, masking the slight uptick in his 16.1% HR/FB. His plate discipline again looked good with an 8.9% BB% against a 16.7% K%, but his peripherals didn't support it with an 11.3% SwStr% and 38.7% chase rate.

Lee returned to St. Paul in 2024 and fared much better, slashing .329/.394/.635 with 7 homers and a steal in 94 PAs. His BABIP recovered to .323 and his HR/FB surged to 33.3% in hitter-friendly Triple-A, but his 29.6% FB% was still too low to project much power. Furthermore, his 9.6% BB% and 13.8% K% reflect Lee's improved 31.8% chase rate but not his 13% SwStr%.

Lee is supposed to have elite plate discipline, but there's more swing-and-miss here than you'd expect and his eye isn't always immaculate. He lacks the loft for power and offers little speed, so his fantasy value will depend on the fickle BABIP gods and playing time. Lee struggled with the injury bug since his amateur days, and his 2024 season didn't start until late May due to a herniated disc in his back.

He primarily played shortstop on the farm, but Carlos Correa blocks him on the big-league roster. He's filling in at third base for Royce Lewis right now, but there's no obvious path to playing time once Lewis returns. Lee has consistently hit in the bottom of Minnesota's lineup, so his role has no inherent fantasy value either.

Lee has a higher prospect ranking than his performance supports, and it wouldn't be surprising if the Twins tried to flip him for reinforcements at the trade deadline. With little power, speed, or bankable batting average, this Chump doesn't need to be rostered in nearly 40% of leagues.

 

Jake Irvin (SP, WAS) 74% Rostered

Irvin's 7-6 record for a poor club and 2.80 ERA are shiny, but they aren't real. His 3.39 FIP, 3.60 xERA, 3.62 xFIP, and 3.75 SIERA all suggest that Irvin's been fortunate, as does his .254 BABIP on the season.

ERA estimators aren't foolproof, and there are two ways pitchers can consistently beat them. First, some pitchers can control the contact quality they allow. Sadly, Irvin isn't doing that:

Irvin ranks in the 23rd percentile in average exit velocity allowed, the 35th in barrel rate, and the 23rd in Hard-Hit%. He isn't limiting contact quality, so we can rule out contact management as the secret to his success.

Alternatively, team context can help pitchers outperform their peripherals. A great defense could reduce BABIP, but Washington's -21 Outs Above Average (OAA) rank 26th in MLB. Irvin has five OAA behind him this year despite Washington's poor performance overall, so that should even out and hurt Irvin's numbers.

Similarly, pitcher-friendly parks can help pitchers during home starts. Irvin won't get that help as Nationals Park has the fifth-highest Statcast runs factor from 2022 to 2024 at 104 (discounting London Stadium). It slightly inflates singles (104) and homers (103) while suppressing strikeouts (88), making it a terrible place to pitch.

Thus, Irvin would need to dramatically improve his skills to sustain his current performance. His repertoire lacks the upside for that. Irvin's 22.7% K% is already below average and is likely too high given his total lack of secondary offerings.

Irvin has a four-pitch mix, but three of them are a fastball, sinker, and cutter. His fastball has a 10.9% SwStr% and 55.6% Zone%, but its .201 average and .324 slugging percentage pale in comparison to its .240 xBA and .435 xSLG. His sinker has a microscopic 3.9% SwStr% and 67.4% Zone%, while his cutter is virtually identical to his fastball with a 10.6% SwStr% and 54.4% Zone%.

Irvin's remaining pitch is a curve with a 12.5% SwStr% and 56% Zone%, meaning it's effectively used as a fourth fastball. Irvin has plenty of ways to get ahead in the count but nothing to take advantage of, dooming him to low strikeout totals and capped fantasy value.

The Nationals aren't a strong team, and they're likely to sell pieces like Kyle Finnegan and Hunter Harvey at the deadline. That will hurt Irvin's win potential. His upcoming schedule isn't favorable, with a repeat engagement against the Mets tonight followed by a date at Milwaukee on July 14. This Chump isn't worth rostering in fantasy.



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