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Eric Cross' Dynasty News and Notes: Rockies, Rookies and Mitch Keller - Oh My!

Mitch Keller - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, Draft Sleepers, Waiver Wire Pickups

In the dynasty world, news and notes articles take on a whole new meaning. Not only are we discussing short-term value with these players, but we need to look long-term as well. A good dynasty manager is like Crazy Eyes from the movie Mr. Deeds. You have to have one eye on the present and one eye on the future. "I wasn't talking to you, Deeds. I was talking to that squirrel over there. [points at a goat]."

So that's what I'm going to do each week with this Dynasty News and Notes article here on RotoBaller. I'll be going around the league, discussing all the notable storylines and players both from a short-term and long-term perspective. Let's get to it.

In this week's report, I'll be discussing the rise of Mitch Keller, two rookie arms with the same last name, undervalued Colorado prospect bats, and so much more.

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Fantasy Baseball Dynasty News and Notes

Trust in Mitch Keller?

Over the years, I’ve been lower on Mitch Keller than most, dating back to his days as a top pitching prospect. And up until the last 12 months or so, that has worked out fairly well. Now in 2023, Keller is looking better than he ever has, and this run even started over the second half of the 2022 season when he posted a 2.71 ERA over his final 15 starts. In 10 starts this season, Keller has been even better with a 2.44 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 5.6% walk rate, and a 30.7% strikeout rate. There's been no luck or flukiness in this performance either as Keller's xERA is 2.82.

Over the years, Keller has continuously tweaked his arsenal and usage rates, and that continued this season. Keller added a sweeper last season and brought back his cutter this season after ditching it in 2022. We're also seeing fewer 4-seamers from Keller as he really mixes up which fastballs he's attacking hitters with. The great thing about Keller's arsenal is that he'll throw all six of his pitches to left-handed batters and five of the six to right-handed batters.

You'll probably notice that Keller doesn't have any elite whiff-rate pitches or have a high whiff rate in general (22.1%), yet he's above a 30% strikeout rate. Well, Keller has exponentially improved both his command and control this season, which has definitely factored into his success. Keller is locating much better and his first-pitch strike rate is up 7.7% from last season. Is he going to be a fantasy ace? Probably not. But I'm buying into this new-look Keller as a back-end SP2 or solid SP3 for fantasy purposes moving forward and a top-100 overall player.


It’s Miller Time

Over the last few weeks, two of the top pitching prospects in the game, both with the last name Miller, have made their Major League debuts. And to put it simply, both Bobby Miller and Bryce Miller should be arms you're targeting in dynasty leagues right now. Bobby Miller made his debut on Tuesday night against a good Atlanta lineup and allowed just one earned run over five innings with five strikeouts. He averaged 99.4 mph on his four-seamer while mixing in a slider, changeup, curveball, and sinker. Miller's fastball and slider are easily plus pitches, probably double-plus, and he's flashed and above-average to plus changeup as well. The upside here is massive and you have to feel good about the organization he's in. Just check out this 4-seam and slider overlay below from his debut.

As for Bryce Miller, he had another impressive outing yesterday against Oakland, tossing six shutout innings with six strikeouts. The outing lowered his ERA to a sparkling 1.15 in five starts (31.1 IP). Miller has leaned heavily on his four-seamer in the Majors, throwing it more than 70% of the time. But hey, you would too if your fastball was as elite as Miller's is. And even though his slider hasn't registered a high whiff rate so far with Seattle, it's a legit plus offering that should be able to generate plenty of whiffs moving forward. Miller's dynasty stock is firmly on the rise.


Undervalued Rockies Prospects

Recently, I put out a poll asking the Twitter world which Rockies prospect they would take long-term between Zac Veen, Sterlin Thompson, Yanquiel Fernandez, and Jordan Beck. To no surprise, Veen won the poll, but getting a whopping 64.1% of the votes was certainly surprising. While I do have Veen ahead still in my overall rankings, this poll signaled that the other three are very underrated in the dynasty world.

Sterlin Thompson: While he doesn't have the buzziest profile around, Sterlin Thompson's bat is legit. He's a plus hitter with an advanced approach at the plate and has struck out only 7.7% of the time this season while slashing .463/.513/.746 in 78 plate appearances. Thompson also has above-average raw power, and both his hit tool and power should be elevated a bit in that think Rocky Mountain air. This could easily turn into a .275+ hitter with 20+ homers annually and maybe even 5-10 steals as well.

Yanquiel Fernandez: Fernandez fits the power-hitting corner outfield mold well and is proving to be a better hitter than most evaluators thought when he was signed a few years ago. In 205 career minor league games, Fernandez is slashing .301/.355/.527 with 61 doubles and 37 home runs. He's a bit on the aggressive side, but has shown solid contact skills with plus or better raw power and has had no issues translating that power into games. With minimal speed to add, Fernandez will need the bat to stand out for him to continue his rise up rankings, but I'm definitely a believer in that happening.

Jordan Beck: The Rockies selected Beck 38th overall in the 2022 draft and he's done nothing but hit since debuting in the minors late last season. In 156 plate appearances this season, Beck has a stellar .309/.391/.654 slash line with nine doubles and 12 home runs. He's also shown a solid approach with a 12.4% walk rate and 22.4% strikeout rate. Beck's power is his standout tool and grades as plus or better, and he's displaying an average to above-average hit tool as well. It'd be nice if he contributed some steals as Beck does have average or better speed, but even without the steals, this is a prospect that could wind up as a top-50 prospect by the end of the season.

As I was writing this article, both Beck and Fernandez went yard, their 13th and 11th home runs of the season respectively.

Adael AmadorEven though my poll didn't include him as I have him ranked considerably higher than the other four, I feel that Adael Amador should be included here as he's fairly underrated as well. In each of his three seasons in the minors, Amador has displayed an elite approach and currently sports a career .400 OBP with more walks (127) than strikeouts (113) in 192 games. This is a plus hitter with at least average power and speed that has taken a nice step forward in the power department this season. He's a borderline top-25 prospect for me right now and top-20 for OBP formats, but the perceived value doesn't appear to be that high. That makes Amador a great trade target in dynasty leagues.


Dynasty Quick Hits

It's been a rough 2023 season for Boston's Triston Casas, but I'm definitely looking to capitalize on the slow start and buy low in dynasty leagues. As I'm writing this, Casas is sitting with a .184/.312/.354 slash line and six home runs in 153 plate appearances this season. Many of his metrics still have me encouraged for a rebound and subsequent rise up dynasty rankings. Many of the attributes that made Casas a top prospect are still there. He's hitting the ball hard (13.8% barrel, 41.4% hard hit), walking at a high clip (16.2%), and not chasing much (23.1%). I'd definitely be looking to grab some dynasty shares as his price might be the lowest it will ever be.

We've already seen the debuts of Bobby Miller and Gavin Stone this season, but the pitching gravy train in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization doesn't stop there. With those two in the Majors, the next man up for exciting Dodgers' pitching prospects to garner top 100 overall love is Emmet Sheehan. The 6'5 right-hander has posted a stellar 1.66 ERA and 0.82 WHIP in 38 Double-A innings this season, striking out a whopping 44.7% of the batters he's faced. Sheehan leads with a plus or better fastball and a trio of secondary offerings that can all miss bats. If he continues to pitch like this, Sheehan is going to be a top 50 overall fantasy prospect in short order, and it still feels like his perceived value hasn't fully caught up.

Another Dodgers prospect on the rise right now is Jonny DeLuca. In 32 games for Double-A Tulsa, DeLuca slashed .279/.380/.590 with eight doubles, 10 home runs, and nine steals. That performance earned him a promotion to Triple-A where he has yet to go yard in seven games.  This is another prime example of not counting out these prospects that might be a tad older for the level they're currently at.

As I've mentioned before, we need to focus on the profile, and DeLuca's is one that could lead to some decent fantasy value given his above-average or better power and speed. Even if the average is a bit lower in the .250 range, you'll take that if he can flirt with 20/20 annually. Will that come as a full-time starter for the Dodgers or on another team is still to be determined though. I'm not saying he's going to be another James Outman, but I can see DeLuca continuing to exceed expectations as Outman has.

Has Michael Kopech finally turned the corner? Over his last two starts, Kopech has combined for 15 shutout innings and 19 strikeouts while allowing only three hits and one walk. Granted, these two starts were against two bottom-10 offenses in Kansas City and Cleveland, but it's certainly encouraging to see after the underwhelming season Kopech had been having. Lance Brozdowski of Marquee Sports Network also noted that Kopech lowered his release point today which allowed him to add a tick of velo and an inch of run on his fastball.

Last, but certainly not least, we have Brayan Bello from my Boston Red Sox. After two underwhelming outings to open his 2023 season, Bello has rattled off five straight starts of five or more innings, two earned runs or less, and five or more strikeouts. His four-seamer has been very effective in the month of May (.118 BAA, 38.6% whiff), and Bello is missing plenty of bats with his elite changeup. I'd still love to see fewer sinkers, more four-seamers, and more sliders, but Bello appears to really be finding his groove. The window to buy-low in dynasty is about to be slammed shut.

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