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Gavin Stone: Champ or Chump for Fantasy Baseball?

fantasy baseball prospects MLB prospects rookies call-ups

This column isn't intended to look at young pitchers exclusively, but big league clubs keep calling up intriguing arms that leave us no choice. The latest is Gavin Stone, a well-regarded prospect in the Dodgers organization who is expected to start against the Phillies on May 3.

The 24-year-old wasn't a huge prospect at the time he was drafted, being selected in the 5th and final round of the pandemic-shortened 2020 amateur draft. However, his stuff has improved dramatically since then, and Stone led minor leaguers in K/9 and ERA in 2022.

His MiLB numbers this season are pedestrian, but that's no reason to sleep on him in fantasy. Indeed, he could be a difference-maker for astute fantasy managers who pick him up. Let's see why.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association including Baseball Writer of the Year, Football Writers of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year and many more! Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!


The Scouting Report on Gavin Stone

Scouts universally see Stone as a mid-rotation arm with upside. His signature pitch in an outstanding changeup with a devastating tumble that earned a 70 grade on the 20-80 scouting scale from both FanGraphs and MLB Pipeline. It generates swings and misses and induces weak contact, and Stone threw it more often than his fastball in the minors last year.

Speaking of Stone's fastball, it topped out at 92 mph when he was in college but now averages 94-96 while touching 98. Stone's low release point adds a vertical break to the pitch, but it doesn't miss as many bats as it seems like it should. Still, it's got enough on it for the change to play up. FanGraphs gives it a 50 grade today with the potential to increase to 55 in the future, while MLB Pipeline already has it at 55.

Stone's third pitch is a solid slider that earned a 55 from MLB Pipeline but a 40 (45 future) from FanGraphs. Stone also has an athletic, efficient delivery that helps him fill the strike zone. MLB Pipeline gives him 55 control, while FanGraphs grades his command at 45 with a 55 in the future.

All told FanGraphs ranks Stone as the sixth-best prospect in the Dodgers system but 60th overall: a testament to how deep their system is. MLB Pipeline is higher on him, ranking him 4th in the Dodgers system and 49th overall. If you like rostering young players with prospect pedigree, Stone certainly fits the bill.


The MiLB Resume of Gavin Stone

The news of Stone's impending promotion was accompanied by his stats for Triple-A (Oklahoma City) this year, and fantasy managers may have been wondering why they should care. His 4.74 ERA in 24 2/3 IP is slightly better than his 4.96 xFIP, while his 25.7 K% and 11.4 BB% are more good than great. His .254 BABIP even suggests that he was somewhat fortunate to put up those numbers.

However, the minors have become a very hostile environment for pitchers and MiLB ERAs shouldn't be taken at face value. Furthermore, Stone dominated in the minors before this season.

Stone made his High Minors debut for Double-A (Tulsa) last season, pitching to a 1.60 ERA and 2.90 xFIP over 73 1/3 IP. He struck out an excellent 35.3% of the batters who faced him while only walking 9.9% and mitigated the effects of a .352 BABIP with a microscopic 2.9% HR/FB. The performance earned him a taste of Triple-A.

Stone only tossed 23 1/3 IP for Oklahoma City last year, but he dominated with a 1.16 ERA, 3.79 xFIP, and 35.5 K%. His BB% decreased to 8.6%, and his BABIP tumbled to .265 in the admittedly short sample. Again, his 5.9% HR/FB was substantially better than the league average.

Expectations were high coming into 2023, with most analysts saying that Stone would receive a big-league opportunity at some point. The 4.74 ERA isn't great, but that's largely the result of a 67.2% strand rate that was above 80% at both stops in 2022. His .254 BABIP is also strong, and his 14.3% HR/FB might be more of a fluke considering the small sample. The larger sample is 2022, and Stone looked great.


Is Gavin Stone Here to Stay?

While we know that Stone is pitching against the Phillies in his big league debut, we don't know if the Dodgers intend to keep him in the Show after that. Many have speculated that Stone is coming up to replace Noah Syndergaard and his 6.32 ERA and 15.2 K% in the rotation, and that would make sense. However, the Dodgers also paid Syndergaard $13 million, and giving up on that investment after just six starts wouldn't make much sense.

The good news for Stone and his fantasy managers is that there's plenty of room in the Dodgers rotation. Tony Gonsolin had 3 1/3 IP at the time of writing and is still trying to build up stamina. Dustin May has a reasonable 3.15 ERA on the surface, but his 5.10 xFIP, 16.9 K%, and 10.3 BB% all suggest ineffectiveness moving forward. Throw in Thor's troubles, and there are at least three spots in the rotation that Stone could occupy. A six-man rotation could also be a possibility to limit workloads.


The Final Verdict on Gavin Stone

Most projection systems agree that Stone is ready to make an impact. Steamer, THE BAT, and ATC DC all project over a K per inning and an ERA in the 4.00 range, and top prospects frequently offer upside beyond what their raw projections might suggest. Pitching for the Dodgers has to be considered a plus as well. The team might not be as dominant as they have been in recent seasons, but their lineup and player development track record are second to none.

Stone is only rostered in 16% of Yahoo! leagues, suggesting that the elite upside he offers is available for free in a ton of leagues. We might not know exactly what the Dodgers plan to do with him yet, but Stone is a Champ who is worth taking a flyer on. The combination of strikeout stuff and Dodger blue is too enticing to pass up.

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