Managing a dynasty team requires us to keep a close eye on our players as they progress through stages of development. With this comes the challenge of constantly reassessing our rankings and perceptions. Each new piece of information presents dynasty managers an opportunity to make savvy additions or subtractions from our rosters that will propel us to the ultimate goal of winning a championship.
Dynasty Breakouts and Breakdowns is a series that analyzes any range of players, from major league veteran to newly drafted rookie, and everyone in between. I’ll provide a handful of players that I’m higher (breakouts) or lower (breakdowns) on compared to their industry ranking and assess each from a dynasty perspective.
Targeting undervalued prospects or knowing when to cut bait on a declining veteran is a never-ending journey. I am here to help.
Aaron Ashby, 23, SP, Milwaukee Brewers
2021 (MLB): 3 wins, 4.55 ERA, 31.2 innings pitched, 39 strikeouts
A relatively unknown prospect-turned-popular-breakout-candidate, Aaron Ashby is the next in line of Brewers starting pitcher prospects making a name for himself. The 23-year-old rocketed into contention for a big league rotation spot in 2022 following an eye-opening debut stint in the bullpen during the latter half of last season.
A former fourth round pick, Ashby stands 6’2’’ and features a smooth delivery and an aggressive approach. His arsenal includes an upper 90s sinking fastball, a change-up, and a hard-breaking slider.
All of his pitches produce heavy downward action which, in spite of a small sample size, helped generate an elite 63% groundball rate. His slider was particularly effective, generating an .077 batting average against and a 42% whiff rate. Ashby has what we like to call “stuff.”
Statistically, Ashby’s 2021 was bookended by two rough outings against the Cubs and Dodgers. Absent these games, he offered a glimpse of his potential by logging a 1.79 ERA over 30.1 innings, with 38 strikeouts, and only six walks during August and September. Ashby’s ability to generate a high rate has been apparent since his days in the minors and if can continue to reduce his walk rate we are looking at a high-end starting pitcher.
Milwaukee has arguably the best pitching development in recent memory, with Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, and Freddy Peralta all working in the bullpen early in their careers before making a jump to the now star-studded rotation.
From a dynasty perspective, Ashby needs to be targeted heavily this offseason. With a currently undefined role and a seemingly crowded rotation this may be the last opportunity to trade for him before his real breakout. I expect it’s only a matter of time until Ashby join’s the Brewers starting rotation and while suggesting he is a star might be premature, he has all the makings of one.
Triston McKenzie, 24, SP, Cleveland Guardians
2021 (MLB): 5 wins, 4.95 ERA, 120.0 innings pitched, 136 strikeouts
Perhaps an unpopular opinion to drop a Cleveland starting pitcher into a category suggesting a “breakdown,” however, this one is more about limiting expectations for Triston McKenzie, who has been steadily rising in the ranks since his debut during 2020.
McKenzie is a tall and lanky righthander that relies heavily on a four-seam fastball which averages in the low-to-mid 90s, along with a slider, and 12-6 curveball. He has had his share of injuries in the past, but appears fully healthy, and he exceeded 100 innings for the first time since 2017.
The 24-year-old appeared to have taken a giant step forward in the second half. Over a seven-game stretch beginning August 5, McKenzie managed a 1.76 ERA over 46.0 innings, while striking out 48, and only walking five. Working deep into games and racking up strikeouts is the output you expect from your ace and this stretch will tempt fantasy managers into expecting more of the same in 2022.
Despite the success and brief dance with stardom, McKenzie quickly regressed to his mean after surrendering 18 runs over his final four starts, including seven home runs, and a 11:12 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Overall, McKenzie’s poor final statistics are to be attributed to control issues, primarily on his secondary offerings, which led to a higher walk rate and mistake pitches that were punished by opposing hitters. During his time in the majors, we’ve seen nearly all batted ball data take a jump in the wrong direction compared to his minor league seasons.
In dynasty leagues, McKenzie is a backend starter worth holding if he’s already on your roster but not one who is worth targeting in a trade. He offers plenty of upside in the right matchup and should have no trouble tallying a solid K-BB rate again in 2022. But, absent an improvement in his control he will struggle to work deep into games which will ultimately limit his innings and counting stats. His injury history can’t be ignored either, so I’m expecting a max of 140 innings this season. Plan accordingly.
Photo by Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)