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Post-Hype Dynasty Trade Targets

The phrase "dynasty trade target" usually evokes images of promising prospects brimming with potential yet to debut. Youth should be emphasized but players who have already debuted and underwhelmed shouldn't be forgotten.

Losing that shiny new prospect label provides a buying opportunity, for lack of a better term, in keeper and dynasty leagues. Young players who start the year poorly, in the minors, or with injuries are often discarded in fantasy leagues by impatient managers. Those willing to play the long game and seek out value should know better.

Here are some of the top young players to target in dynasty leagues early in the 2021 MLB season.

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Willie Calhoun (OF, TEX)

Post-hype sleeper alert! A former high-end prospect for the Dodgers, his move to Texas was supposed to help him accelerate to the majors quicker and draw a more favorable hitting environment. Injuries and mental battles have held him back to this point, though. Calhoun has battled through a groin injury, strained oblique, and hamstring strain the last couple of years but the most impactful event was being struck by a pitch that fractured his jaw last spring. He had a hard time recovering, showing hesitancy in the batter's box. Coupled with the pressure to repeat his 21-homer performance in half a season's worth of at-bats in 2019, he became overly conscious of his power and teams began shifting him more.

Calhoun used this offseason to decompress and refocus his approach by talking with former MiLB teammate Alex Verdugo about using all parts of the field. Rangers manager Chris Woodward has seen the difference:

“He's trying to eliminate pull side ground balls and elevate the ball in the air to the pull side, especially on offspeed [pitches]. If you can do that, he's going to hit line drives all over the field, he's going to hit balls in the gaps, he's going to hit his home runs."

Calhoun has hit safely in seven of eight games since being activated on April 17. He's hit leadoff in four of those games, which could be a very interesting development for his fantasy potential. This is the type of hitter that should be drawing attention in deeper redraft leagues already and is a supreme trade target in dynasty.

 

Adbert Alzolay (SP, CHC)

Alzolay is a budding strikeout machine who is mixing up his repertoire. He has five effective pitches including a fastball/sinker combo that both touch 94 MPH. In 2020, he profiled very closely to Jose Berrios by using his curveball as a primary pitch, throwing it 33% of the time. In 15 innings this season, he's switched to a slider 44% of the time while throwing the curve just seven times in 228 pitches, all against lefties (one particular at-bat to be specific). Alzolay began reworking his breaking pitches late last year to be more effective. Lance Brozdowski dove into this topic last September:

“The slider was getting close to [the curveball’s velocity],” Alzolay said. “The hitters can see that, just having the separation between those two pitches is huge for me, I think … We’ve been working to get that grip to separate [the slider] from the curveball.”

The difference can be seen by examining velocity changes between the pitches. It's working too, as his slider has produced a .207 xBA this year.

If there's one thing we can extrapolate from Alzolay's 2021 numbers, it's that he definitely knows how to approach Milwaukee hitters. All three of his appearances have come against the Brew Crew somehow, which has likely worked in his favor; the Brewers are currently 25th in OPS. He's fared better each time, allowing four runs in his first start, then three, then two. Meanwhile, his strikeout totals went from four to six to seven.

Alzolay hasn't lasted more than 5 1/3 inning in any start, likely because the team is restricting his usage. He was pulled with two runners on and two outs in the fifth frame of his most recent start because he was up to 83 pitches. Then Rex Brothers came in, promptly walked two batters and hit another, putting Alzolay on the hook for two inherited runs scored. It will be nice to see the team let Alzolay work through those situations and get closer to the 100-pitch mark but that may not come until later this season or even 2022. This puts a cap on his current value in redraft leagues but makes him a high-upside stash in dynasty.

 

Bryan Reynolds (OF, PIT)

How quickly Reynolds has gone from a cut or sell-low candidate to a great value. I thought Reynolds was the ideal draft pick in 2020 outside the top 100 because he would deliver a high floor in batting average with a fair amount of power while playing every day. Well, that didn't turn out so good. His batting average plummeted from .314 his rookie season to .189 in what can be gently described as a sophomore slump. Hey, at least he played 55 games!

It has been a roller-coaster ride for all of his peripheral stats. It wasn't a matter of pitchers adjusting to him or trouble with breaking pitches. His expected batting averages went from elite to terrible and now back to elite again in a matter of three seasons.

It would be nice if there were an easy explanation but this trend occurred for no discernable reason except perhaps that the 2020 Pirates were horrendous and the shortened season threw Reynolds off. There have been no injuries to speak of as a pro, although he did hit the paternity list early in September so it could simply be the stress of new fatherhood that affected him. Either way, his slash line is now back to previous levels, he's lowered his strikeout rate under 20% and his walk rate has increased again up to 13.5%.

His hard-hit rate isn't where we'd like it yet (28.6%) and he's only homered twice in 82 at-bats but we know there's thump in that bat based on his expected slugging. Reynolds doesn't wow from a fantasy standpoint but it's nice to get a boost in average with 20-HR upside. Who knows, maybe next year's Pirates lineup will be loaded!

 

Brent Honeywell Jr. (SP, TB)

The former Futures Game MVP in 2017, Honeywell was a top-20 overall prospect before TJS came calling. He's had three more elbow surgeries since and went three whole years without pitching in a game. Now 26 years old, he finally took the mound for the Rays on April 11, throwing two hitless innings with two strikeouts. He allowed a solo homer in his next relief appearance and then a three-run bomb in the first inning where he was used as an opener. He was promptly sent down to the minors hours later.

The rough-looking ratios and limited usage seem to squash hopes that he'll be fantasy-relevant in 2021 but that's not necessarily the case. The three-run jack that undid him against Toronto could have been avoided if not for a dropped pop-up by Yandy Diaz that would have been the third out. Honeywell is looking healthy and hit 94 with his fastball so we can ease our minds a bit in that regard. The big question is whether we'll see the return of his famed screwball. Out of 78 pitches, he's thrown exactly one so far. It happened to result in his first Major League strikeout.

A midseason call back to the Tampa pen might lead to longer stretches of usage and eventually a rotation spot. Honeywell can't be counted on for much this season but those in deep-enough leagues such as Ottoneu should secure a roster spot for him now given his immense upside.

 

Corey Ray (OF, MIL)

Ray was up for all of two days before being optioned back to the minors in late April. This shouldn't be discouraging to his dynasty value, though. Avisail Garcia is a free agent after the season. Jackie Bradley Jr. has been a free agent bust. Lorenzo Cain is forever hurt and at 35, may not be in the team's plans for 2021. Billy McKinney and Tyrone Taylor are fine but not exceptional players. The Brew Crew is in need of an offensive boost and Ray will eventually provide that.

Few prospects boast 60-grade raw power and 70-grade speed. Ray flashed his potential at Double-A in 2018 when he hit 27 homers and stole 37 bases. It will surely come with a sub-.250 average and high strikeout rate, so this is purely a high-ceiling play for the future. Another call-up later in the season is very likely so it might be best to speculate now in case he splashes in August.

 

Ryan Vilade (SS/OF, COL)

Vilade may not personally qualify as a post-hype sleeper because he's just 22 and yet to play above the A+ level. That said, I consider all Rockies to have depressed value based on how this season is going.

Change is gon' come in Colorado. That is, an even more drastic change. Three months after dealing away franchise player Nolan Arenado and just 26 days into the 2021 season, GM Jeff Bridich stepped down from his duties. It's unclear what direction the franchise will head going forward but there are very strong odds that the Rockies will be sellers rather than buyers before the trade deadline. Many journalists believe it's only a matter of when, not if Trevor Story gets traded to a team like the Yankees. That means either Brendan Rodgers actually stays healthy and starts hitting or they need a shortstop of the future. Best to count on the latter.

It might be silly to call Vilade the second coming of Story but they stand similar in stature, both checking in at 6'2" with Vilade holding the weight advantage at 226 over Story at 213. Story has significantly cut down on his strikeout rate throughout the years, keeping it at 21.8% in 2021. Vilade has not yet reached that threshold, with a high of 21.2% in rookie ball. It should be noted that he hasn't even reached Double-A yet so we'll see if maintains his plate discipline after a lost minor league season in 2020.

Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs rated Vilade as the Rockies' No. 2 prospect in the preseason. His future value isn't sky-high but he can be a capable power bat hitting in the thin air of Coors Field who gets a long look somewhere either in the infield or outfield.



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