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Dollar-Day Targets: Salary Cap League Strategy For 2023 Fantasy Baseball

Brusdar Graterol - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, Draft Sleepers, MLB News

The $1 players in salary cap fantasy baseball leagues are those who aren't gathering enough hype. In standard leagues, most of these players will stay undrafted. They'll toil, hoping to escape your league's waiver wires.

In standard salary cap leagues, this isn't really a travesty. According to NFBC ADP dollar amounts, 322 players will cost more than one dollar this year. In a 12-team league with 16-man to 25-man rosters, even players with values above a dollar are going to go undrafted, too.

But they aren't all worth ignoring. There are several players in the one-dollar category that could end up playing like a $20 or even $40 player by the season's end. But with hundreds of players worth considering, it's hard to figure out which ones are worth a spot. Let's look at a few who could be.

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

 

Brusdar Graterol, RP, Los Angeles Dodgers

I won't be presumptuous and say I know who the Dodgers' closer is going to be. I have about as good a clue as anyone else (Dave Roberts included). But from what the Dodgers coaching staff has said to Mike DiGiovanna of the LA Times, Graterol has the best chance to win the job.

The Dodgers have committed to a closer-by-committee, with Graterol, Evan Phillips, Daniel Hudson, Caleb Ferguson, and Alex Vesia all expected to see ninth-inning action. But the rhetoric surrounding each of those candidates should be what pushes you to Graterol.

Evan Phillips is who Dave Roberts will go to in high-leverage spots. But high-leverage situations don't usually happen in the ninth inning. In most tense games, Phillips will be used up to pitch in high-leverage spots in the seventh and eighth innings. Daniel Hudson is the experienced and preferred option, but he's dealt with setback after setback in his ACL recovery and will have to begin the season on the injured list. Vesia had a great 2022 with a 2.68 SIERA and 34.8% K rate, but he only saw five opportunities past the eighth inning in 2022. And Caleb Ferguson, well it seems he's going unnoticed apparently.

But on Graterol, Roberts has said "He certainly has the mindset and the stuff to close." Dodgers assistant pitching coach Connor McGuinness has said that the closing job is "right in front of him," that Graterol's ceiling is "as high as he wants it to go," and that Graterol is "a hard worker... and one of the best athletes I’ve ever seen."

For the uber-talented pitcher (fastball velocity goes up to 102 mph), it's as simple a matter as being stronger against left-handed batters and mixing in offspeed pitchers.

While that's easier said than done, Graterol may be able to get there with a pitch mix change. His sinker is his most effective fastball, with an opponent BA of .195 compared to an opponent BA of .302 on his cutter. Graterol throws his sinker almost exclusively to righties and throws his cutters almost exclusively to lefties. His cutter just flat-out is not good with only 0.2 inches of horizontal break (the average MLB pitcher throws a cutter with three inches of horizontal break).

For Graterol, it might just be as easy as phasing out his cutter and just using his sinker all the time (a pitch that already runs away from lefties).

With a value of just $1 and the ability to become a shutdown closer, it's more than worth it to stash Graterol.

 

Michael Massey, 2B, Kansas City Royals

Michael Massey has had an impressive Spring training. In the absence of regular starter Nicky Lopez (who spent the spring at the WBC with the Italian national team), Massey has hit 10-34 with an OPS of .960, three home runs, and 10 RBI.

Massey first debuted with the Royals in 2022 to a mediocre line of .243/.307/.376 with four home runs. However, it looked to be a symptom of growing pains as he was jettisoned to the minor leagues by the Royals. Massey made his first debut at the AA level in 2022 and was then sent to AAA after 54 games of 113 wRC+ baseball. The 25-year-old spent just 36 games at the AAA level as he impressed with a wRC+ of 156 and a wOBA of .422.

Massey has some hidden pop as well. His 13% barrel rate combined with an average exit velocity of 89.3 mph (that number would've placed him in the top 50th percentile of the league) gives the second baseman a likely double-digit home run total.

With a full year to adjust to the majors, Massey could play to the level of an everyday second baseman. With the Royals looking to transition Nicky Lopez to a utility role, Massey should become their regular second baseman. With that role and his ability to hit for both contact and power, the youngster is well worth his $1 cost.

 

Esteury Ruiz, OF, Oakland Athletics

Esteury Ruiz was the main return for the Athletics in the Sean Murphy trade. Ruiz made his major league debut last season with the Padres and was then traded to the Brewers just 14 games into his major league career as a part of the Josh Hader trade. In 17 games of major league playing time, Ruiz batted .171/.194/.257 with an average exit velocity of 73 mph (for reference: the worst qualified hitter by average exit velocity was Jose Iglesias, who had an average exit velocity of 83.8 mph).

Seems like someone to stay away from, right?

Not exactly.

Most rookies need time to adjust to the major leagues, and the Padres gave Ruiz just 14 games before shipping him to Milwaukee. In Milwaukee, Ruiz would be immediately sent down to AAA-Nashville. But he still kept at it. After 37 games of dominating at the AAA level (.388 wOBA, 134 wRC+), Ruiz would be called up to a Brewers locker room that was in shambles -- mostly because the team sent away a fan-favorite in the trade that brought him there. Ruiz would go three games hitless and would be optioned back to AAA.

Very few men would be able to withstand that much tumult. It's not fair to pass judgment on most parts of his 2022 MLB stint -- including his 73 mph average exit velocity. For a more accurate portrait of his skill set, look at this year's Spring training. Ruiz has gone 12-39 with 13 RBI, nine runs, a home run, and five stolen bases.

With a sprint speed of 29.8 ft/sec, Ruiz is a prime candidate to finish near the top of the steals leaderboard. Cutter projects the outfielder to have 37 steals this season. With such a high ceiling for steals, a track record of offensive success throughout his time in the minors, and regular playing time available on a toiling Athletics team, Ruiz is one of the best $1 picks.

 

Adam Duvall, OF, Boston Red Sox

Adam Duvall was signed to a one-year contract by the Boston Red Sox this winter after a career-worst year for the nine-year MLB veteran.

With the Braves in 2022, Duvall batted .213/.276/.401 with 12 home runs and 36 RBI -- a far cry from his 2021 season where he mashed 38 home runs with 116 RBI. That regression is likely caused by two things: Duvall's move to center field and a wrist injury.

While Duvall has a gold glove to his name, that mostly came due to his work at the corner outfield spots. In 2022, the Braves were forced to move Duvall to center field. As you'd expect, the veteran's 34-year-old legs were worn out by the center field position and he experienced a decline in offensive production in the first two months (although Duvall still maintained three OAA in CF). Thankfully, the introduction of Michael Harris II saved Duvall and pushed him back to a corner spot.

However, a wrist injury would take Duvall out entirely and he'd have to get season-ending surgery in July.

While now fully healthy, Duvall will have to return to center field, but this time he says he feels more confident. Duvall said to NBCS-Boston's John Tomase that he feels the Red Sox's training program has better prepared him for the rigors of center field. The outfielder's Spring training affirms that as he is 10-37 with four home runs and a 1.027 OPS.

His move to Boston should be a boon for him as the right-handed Duvall pulls on nearly half of his at-bats. Expect a plethora of doubles off the Green Monster for the 34-year-old in 2023, along with a power output similar to that of his 2021 season. Expect a return to glory for Adam Duvall, and with a value of only $1, look to profit on that return to glory.

 

Dylan Floro, RP, Miami Marlins

Dylan Floro and his 93 mph fastball racked up a surprising 10 saves in 2022 as he became manager Don Mattingly's preferred option down the stretch. In 2022, Floro finished in the 80th percentile for opponent hard-hit %, xERA, xWOBA, barrel rate, walk rate, and chase rate on his way to a 3.02 ERA.

While Floro is no longer guaranteed preferred closer status with Mattingly being fired in the offseason, he's still in competition with Tanner Scott for the closing job. He should have the edge over Scott, a career 4.60 ERA pitcher who had a walk rate of 15.6% in 2022 (bottom 1% in the league).

Floro is a steady closing option on a team that may surprise some this year. He's no Mariano Rivera, but he'll rack up some saves in 2023. Floro is a steal at $1.



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