4 Duds Who Could be Studs in 2023

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

One downside I have noticed in this stat-heavy era of fantasy baseball is that we sometimes struggle to see potential breakouts from guys who don’t have clear indicators in their underlying data. I understand why, but it can lead to glossing over growth candidates who take development strides beyond what their numbers suggested.

Trent Grisham | SDP, OF | 271 ADP – 63rd OF

It was an unquestionably bad season at the dish for Grish. He posted a career-low 83 wRC+ with 17 HR, 7 SB, and a career-high 29% K rate in 524 PA. He played enough strong defense to net a second Gold Glove win and put up a third straight 2-WAR season. He had the desired 100-point AVG/OBP split but that’s less impressive when he hit just .184! He values his walks with an 11% rate this past season and for his career, but perhaps being a bit more aggressive would favor him.

With his career 26% K rate and 8% SwStr rate, he is one of three hitters with a 25%+ K rate and sub-10% SwStr since 2019 (min. 1000 PA) joined by Cavan Biggio (27%, 9%) and Daniel Vogelbach (25%, 7%). Vogey is the only one of the three delivering enough power to justify such a high strikeout rate despite not having a swing-and-miss problem. Grisham has the elements to be a stud with power, speed, and patience at the dish and locked in playing time via his glove. A plummet down the board from a 132 ADP last year to 270 so far this year keeps me interested.

Spencer Torkelson | DET, 1B | 285th – 25th 1B

At no point before his mid-July demotion to Triple-A did I think Torkelson looked completely overmatched in the majors. He wasn’t doing well, and the results were poor (69 wRC+ in 298 PA), but he still looked the part of a big leaguer. I know that’s a judgment call by me and it might be laced with copium, but that’s how I felt watching him day-to-day. He was better upon return with a 95 wRC+ in 106 September PA, but the demotion wasn’t a magic fix and the improved results didn’t really move the bottom line (76 wRC+ in 404 PA) so he will remain cheap in 2023 drafts. He has a current ADP at 285 and I just don’t see a path to him surging so the top price you’d likely need to pay is around the early-200s. At that fair price, I’m not quitting a blue-chip prospect after just 404 poor PA.

Brandon Marsh | PHI, OF | 270 ADP – 61st OF

Those of you still fully bought in on Marsh (hi, Justin!) probably didn’t love his trade to Philadelphia. Yes, Philadelphia is a park upgrade and their desperate need for quality defense likely lengthens his leash as he develops, but his improved line with the Phillies looks like a jump in development that will push his 2023 draft price up a bit. His 114 wRC+ in Philly is definitely better than the 79 with the Angels, but there wasn’t a ton (any?) skill improvement with the jump. He had a .398 BABIP driving the sample as he hit .288/.319/.455 despite the 30% K and 5% BB rates. His composite line was still in line with his 2021 (89 wRC+ compared to 85 in ’21).

The run with the Phillies and a few key playoff homers have likely pushed his draft price up a few rounds. His 270 ADP is still plenty affordable, but had he finished the season in LA and done the exact same thing (sans the playoff work because… well, you know), I feel like he’d have started draft season outside the Top 300. I see him rising even further up the board as the offseason evolves. Christopher Morel and Ramón Laureano are going at 227 and 229, respectively, and while both were incrementally better than Marsh this year, I don’t see a 40-50 pick split between them. Jarred Kelenic is next among OF at 241 and there’s no chance I’d take him over Marsh at this point.

Leody Taveras | TEX, OF | 394 ADP – 90th OF

OK, he wasn’t a full on dud in his 2022 sample (5 HR, 11 SB, 93 wRC+), but he has just a 75 wRC+ in his 660 MLB PA since 2020 so he fits what I’m going for here. He does have 29 SB in that time, but he must improve the .226/.280/.344 line to earn the trust of the Rangers and hopefully his decent .261/.309/.366 line in ’22 does just that. He has the defense to command consistent playing time even with a mid-90s wRC+ and he can remain an impact fantasy player at that level because of the speed.

That said, he has shown enough flashes of pop (24 HR in 602 AAA PA, 88th percentile Max EV in MLB) to be quite a bit more. Steamer has him at 13 HR/16 SB/95 wRC+ in 503 PA which makes sense but does sell him short on the SBs. I’ll take 10-12 HR with 20+ SB if he is indeed given 500+ PA in his age-24 season. At this price, he doesn’t even need to come close to that to pay off so there is major upside here. And yes, I have been touting Taveras for years, but he’s still so young!





Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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Uncle Spikemember
14 days ago

I’m confused on a Marsh. You didn’t really give any reason why you think he could breakout, just reasons why he may be over-valued, which seems counter-intuitive.