Collette Calls: 2023 AL Central Bold Predictions

Collette Calls: 2023 AL Central Bold Predictions

This article is part of our Collette Calls series.

If you are new to this annual series, the premise for this series is most recently outlined here. I have added Ariel Cohen's ATC projections to the tables below as they became available on Fangraphs last month. The ADP data listed below is from the last 30 days in 28 Draft Champions leagues. 

Chicago White Sox

Lenyn Sosa (ADP 734, Min 600, Max 732) is a top-40 second baseman

SOURCE

PA

AVG

OBP

HR

RBI

R

SB

RotoWire

19

.167

.211

1

1

2

0

THE BAT X

281

.250

.289

6

30

28

2

Steamer

258

.255

.298

8

30

29

2

ATC

216

.253

.295

6

23

23

1

Sosa is currently 72nd on the second base ADP charts, about 350 spots behind Ramon Urias, who sits 40th at the position. When reaching this deep into the ADP charts, the prediction is all about opportunity, and second base for the Southsiders is rather wide open. The current depth chart lists Romy Gonzalez as the likely starter at the position. He's coming off a terrible season at the plate, and primary backup Leury Garcia was equally inept. Sosa is coming off a season where he hit 23 homers between Double-A and Triple-A with a high contact rate to boot. His bat-to-ball numbers have improved as he advanced in the system, which isn't what we usually see from hitters. 

He's played both sides of the bag in the middle infield, but that second base situation is a gaslit

If you are new to this annual series, the premise for this series is most recently outlined here. I have added Ariel Cohen's ATC projections to the tables below as they became available on Fangraphs last month. The ADP data listed below is from the last 30 days in 28 Draft Champions leagues. 

Chicago White Sox

Lenyn Sosa (ADP 734, Min 600, Max 732) is a top-40 second baseman

SOURCE

PA

AVG

OBP

HR

RBI

R

SB

RotoWire

19

.167

.211

1

1

2

0

THE BAT X

281

.250

.289

6

30

28

2

Steamer

258

.255

.298

8

30

29

2

ATC

216

.253

.295

6

23

23

1

Sosa is currently 72nd on the second base ADP charts, about 350 spots behind Ramon Urias, who sits 40th at the position. When reaching this deep into the ADP charts, the prediction is all about opportunity, and second base for the Southsiders is rather wide open. The current depth chart lists Romy Gonzalez as the likely starter at the position. He's coming off a terrible season at the plate, and primary backup Leury Garcia was equally inept. Sosa is coming off a season where he hit 23 homers between Double-A and Triple-A with a high contact rate to boot. His bat-to-ball numbers have improved as he advanced in the system, which isn't what we usually see from hitters. 

He's played both sides of the bag in the middle infield, but that second base situation is a gaslit runway inviting him to seize the opportunity and not give it back. Sosa is one of the highest-ranked prospects in what is a thin farm system and will turn 24 years old this season, so the future could very well be right now if he has a strong camp in Arizona. 

Davis Martin (ADP 730, Min 640, Max 736) is a top-250 pitcher

SOURCE

IP

K

W

SV

ERA

WHIP

RotoWire

32

24

2

0

4.78

1.31

THE BAT

71

62

3

0

5.14

1.42

Steamer

67

58

4

0

4.48

1.34

ATC

64

55

3

0

4.67

1.35

The White Sox rotation appears to be set, with Dylan Cease, Lance Lynn and Lucas Giolito at the top followed by Michael Kopech on his way back from right knee surgery and whatever happens as the league investigates the allegations surrounding Mike Clevinger. Martin would be the next man up in such a situation, much like he was last year when he appeared in 14 games and started 9 over the course of the season.

Martin fell into some of the same ills which beset many rookies. Fastball command issues led to him falling behind in the count and becoming fastball-heavy in a league which loves to hunt for fastballs. When he did get ahead, his breaking stuff was solid, generating a 38 percent whiff rate with a .194 batting average against. His last start of the season ended in the second inning as he left with bicep soreness, but not before the Twins hung nine earned runs on him, pushing his ERA from 3.65 to 4.83. He has a bit of a Drew Rasmussen profile right now as he hasn't shown an effective offspeed pitch, but either developing one or getting more consistent fastball command would allow him to take a large step forward this season. 

As it were, the opportunities should be there for him to get into the back end of the rotation during the season, so mixed leaguers can keep him on watch lists while single-league formats and draft-and-holds can look to him in the end stages of the game. I took him in the 44th round of a Draft Champions league I am currently in, one round after the aforementioned Sosa. 

Cleveland Guardians

Josh Bell (ADP 177, Min 151, Max 194) exceeds the 100-RBI plateau once again and finishes in the top 100 overall rankings

SOURCE

PA

AVG

OBP

HR

RBI

R

SB

RotoWire

612

.258

.348

21

75

74

0

THE BAT X

592

.263

.352

19

74

72

0

Steamer

599

.257

.348

22

80

74

1

ATC

593

.265

.352

20

76

75

0

Bell took full advantage of the 2019 baseball to smack a career-high 37 homers and drive in 116 runs for the Pirates that season. That RBI production bested his previous career high of 90 set in 2017, but Bell has fallen below 90 each of the past two full seasons. He and his agent could not have picked a better relocation for him when he landed in Cleveland this winter.

Bell is projected to hit cleanup for the Guardians behind the trio of Steven Kwan, Amed Rosario and Jose Ramirez, who have the following projected OBPs per our projections:

  • Kwan: .371
  • Rosario: .310
  • Ramirez: .357

Cleveland had no true cleanup hitter last year, trying four different hitters there on at least 20 occasions. Josh Naylor filled the role 72 times, Owen Miller 34 times, Franmil Reyes 29 times and Oscar Gonzalez 24 times, yet the Guardians still won 92 games. Naylor was second on the club with 79 runs driven in over 498 plate appearances, as he had the 14th-highest percentage of plate appearances with a runner on base among all qualified hitters despite not even being the full-time cleanup man. Bell can live in that cleanup spot all season, and research tells us that the fourth spot is the sweet spot for driving in runs, even if the guy in front of you is an RBI machine in his own right. 

Bell hit cleanup 140 times in 2019, with Adam Frazier, Bryan Reynolds and Starling Marte doing most of the table-setting in front of him. The new trio of tablesetters he has is measurably better at what they do, giving Bell the prime opportunity to recover some of his lost fantasy value in 2023. 

Cody Morris (ADP 395, Min 341, Max 476) is a top-100 pitcher

SOURCE

IP

K

W

SV

ERA

WHIP

RotoWire

12

12

1

0

2.25

1.42

THE BAT

90

106

3

0

3.50

1.17

Steamer

70

81

4

0

3.48

1.20

ATC

61

68

3

0

3.58

1.20

My older readers will get this reference: When E.F. Hutton speaks, people listen. Well, when Cleveland is developing a pitcher, you best pay attention. The Guardians' track record of maximizing a pitcher's abilities is one of the best in the league, so when they start treating a guy like they've treated Morris, it is time to sit up and take notice. 

Morris is already 26 as prep injuries and the lost 2020 season impacted his path to the big leagues. He has a 34 percent strikeout rate as a minor leaguer and a 27 percent K-BB%. In the 171.1 innings he's worked as a minor leaguer, Morris has allowed 145 hits and 12 homers while recording a 3.05 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. He throws four different pitches which each generated a whiff rate over 20 percent in his brief time in the big leagues, led by a terrific changeup which generated swings and misses nearly 50 percent of the time while the league hit .111 off the pitch. I mean, look at this thing:

Morris is not destined for the rotation as the depth chart stands now, but both Cal Quantrill and Zach Plesac are known knowns, and neither is the type of pitcher who should block the upside Morris brings to the mound. The risk with Morris's immediate future is that he simply hasn't logged enough innings, as he worked 61 innings in 2021 and a total of 45 innings last season after dealing with consecutive shoulder strains each of the past two springs. He will likely open the season in the pen as a long reliever as the club looks to build up his arm, but the talent is there should the health hold up and an opportunity in the rotation appear. He could have value as a middle-relief vulture with strikeouts until that happens. 

Detroit Tigers

Akil Baddoo (ADP 460, Min 380, Max 519) is a top-80 outfielder

SOURCE

PA

AVG

OBP

HR

RBI

R

SB

RotoWire

266

.231

.308

5

23

35

11

THE BAT X

457

.221

.302

10

37

53

18

Steamer

379

.234

.315

8

36

42

15

ATC

382

.229

.309

8

33

44

15

Baddoo was as awful in his sophomore season last year as he was surprising in his freshman year. Rule 5 picks are not supposed to do as well as Baddoo did overall in 2021, but few if any predicted the sophomore slump which hit him last season. Through it all, Baddoo has still accepted his walks, but he's struck out 28 percent of the time and has an ugly triple-slash of .220/.296/.303 since Aug. 1, 2021 at the big-league level. What he has not lost is his speed, as only Shohei Ohtani is faster from home to first than Baddoo is, and as Jeff Zimmerman's latest research tells us, hitters who move out of the bottom of the lineup spots take off running. 

Detroit's current projected lineup has Austin Meadows and Javier Baez up at the top, and neither is any more patient at the plate than Baddoo, who could earn his way back into his previous good graces with a strong spring given Meadows did not play well last year and the next pitch Baez takes will be his first. Baddoo's inexperience comes through as he was only successful in 64 percent of his stolen base attempts last season, so all that speed means nothing if he doesn't get better at that craft. He should easily lead the club in steals this season, and his chances to run would be increased if he can move up in the lineup. His success is in the not-so-distant past, but his current market price as the 115th outfielder in a shallow outfield pool has all but written him off. The fences have moved in a bit as well, which could also play in his favor if he can get back to his 2021 hitting tendencies which saw him using power to all fields. 

Matthew Boyd (ADP 455, Min 320, Max 549) is a top-100 pitcher

SOURCE

IP

K

W

SV

ERA

WHIP

RotoWire

60

56

3

0

4.95

1.33

THE BAT

147

123

8

0

4.52

1.32

Steamer

153

141

8

0

4.19

1.27

ATC

125

113

6

0

4.23

1.28

Boyd Boyz, Boyd Boyz, Boyd Boyz, Boyd Boyz

The Boyd Boyz are calling on their way back from the fire
In August moon's surrender to the dust cloud on the rise
Boyd Boyz fallen far from glory, reckless and so hungered....
They tried to break us, looks like they'll try again...

Boyd Boyz never lose it!

With apologies to Simon Le Bon and John Taylor, I am excited for Boyd's return to Detroit and his full recovery from the forearm flexor tendon surgery which caused him to pitch just 13 innings since being shut down in 2021. Prior to his injury, Boyd had a breakout strikeout season in 2019 while struggling to keep the bouncy ball in the yard. The bouncy ball is gone, and while his heavy flyball approach will always put him at risk of the longball, it shouldn't be as bad as it was before his injury. 

Boyd's velocity in the limited time last year was actually a tick better than his pre-injury velocity, which is encouraging. The win-loss record doesn't show it, but Boyd's 2021 numbers were a good sign of progress as he took to the new baseball rather well. Detroit's outfield defense is much improved over last year following some of their offseason acquisitions, which should help them track down the heavy volume of flyballs which come with a Boyd outing. He was taken as the 178th pitcher in drafts during January which firmly puts him in the reserve rounds of a 15-team mixed format, meaning there's little risk in chasing the upside should Boyd be able to put it all back together. 

Kansas City Royals

Nick Pratto (ADP 561, Min 462, Max 647) is a top-30 first baseman

SOURCE

PA

AVG

OBP

HR

RBI

R

SB

RotoWire

93

.203

.293

4

10

9

0

THE BAT X

312

.209

.292

9

32

32

4

Steamer

325

.217

.316

13

39

38

3

ATC

313

.212

.303

11

36

35

3

This will have to come about with Pratto playing a different position unless Vinnie Pasquantino has a Baddoo-like sophomore slump. That, or Kansas City trades him to another team before the start of the season. Pratto already has the defense to be an everyday first baseman, and the power is there too even if he struggled in a big way to make contact in his major-league debut. His position may have to be in left field because his arm strength would keep him out of right field, but that would mean beating out Kyle Isbel for the position unless someone else does poorly enough that Isbel has to move elsewhere. 

Pratto hit 36 homers between Double-A and Triple-A in 2021 and added 24 homers between Triple-A and the majors last season around an Adam Dunn-like three-true-outcome approach to the game. Pratto hit multiple homers out to all fields last year around a heavy dose of strikeouts. Honestly, my interest in Pratto grew considerably after reading this piece by Matthew LaMar at Royals Review back in December. He lays out the case for what could become of Pratto while laying out the risks as well. The current acquisition cost is extremely low for his potential power upside if he could become another Justin Smoak this year. 

Brady Singer (ADP 175, in 161, Max 193) is a top-50 pitcher

SOURCE

IP

K

W

SV

ERA

WHIP

RotoWire

148

146

8

0

3.89

1.27

THE BAT

174

152

10

0

4.13

1.32

Steamer

184

170

11

0

3.85

1.28

ATC

175

162

10

0

3.87

1.25

This is legit one of my favorite guys to watch pitch, as long as he's not doing it against my Rays. He works quickly, moving the ball in and out and all around the strike zone, and that slider is really something else as he tunnels it very well off his sinker. He's nearly all sinker/slider against fellow righties while using a show-me changeup against lefties that remains far from a weapon against the better hitters in the league. Even with the limited repertoire, he struck out 12 Rays and 10 Yankees in his first two outings after the break last season and had a 20 percent K-BB% in the second half while holding the league to a .232 average with a 2.53 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP. The heavy groundball approach along with the the home ballpark helps keep homers in check as well. 

An effective third pitch would really take his game to another level, and new pitching coach Brian Sweeney may be able to do what Cal Eldred did not. Sweeney comes over from Cleveland, where he served as a coach on the staff since 2018 and the bullpen coach since the 2020 season, making him part of the aforementioned pitching factory in Cleveland and someone with a reputation for embracing analytics and working with the individual strengths of pitchers. Frankly, his predecessor was widely criticized for doing neither, so I am excited to see whether Singer can find that elusive third pitch that could allow him to enjoy even more success than he did last year when he won 10 of his 24 starts. 

Minnesota Twins

Nick Gordon (ADP 282, Min 219, Max 340) is a top-15 second baseman

SOURCE

PA

AVG

OBP

HR

RBI

R

SB

RotoWire

383

.263

.311

8

43

38

8

THE BAT X

367

.252

.305

9

38

44

9

Steamer

283

.251

.300

6

30

30

6

ATC

406

.255

.306

11

44

43

11

The multi-positional Gordon is currently 30th on the second base ADP chart, some 90 spots out of where I believe he could finish. The recent trade of Luis Arraez likely puts Gordon into the same role that Arraez filled last year on the defensive side in that Gordon could play everywhere. Then again, Gordon did so last season as well, playing in 17 or more games at four different positions. 

Last season he began to transition from someone who hit the ball into the ground too often to someone who got more loft on the baseball:

Gordon increased his barrel rate nearly three full percentage points while not sacrificing any contact in doing so. Gordon thus far has shown little ability to hit lefties, which is why he's both currently projected to hit 9th in the loaded Minnesota lineup as well as being projected to platoon with either Kyle Farmer or Michael Taylor depending on the desired position for that game, but year-to-year stickiness with handedness splits is very low. Gordon is 16 for 21 in his stolen base attempts as a big leaguer and 23 of 30 over the past two seasons when factoring in his Triple-A numbers. He's certainly not a player without his faults, but he's also one showing hidden upside at the plate as he continues to elevate the baseball. He somewhat quietly went .280/.326/.454 in the second half of the season, good for a 120 wRC+.

Bailey Ober (ADP 273, Min 226, Max 371) is a top-80 pitcher

SOURCE

IP

K

W

SV

ERA

WHIP

RotoWire

59

58

2

0

3.66

1.14

THE BAT

112

104

7

0

4.13

1.20

Steamer

100

94

6

0

4.15

1.22

ATC

85

79

4

0

3.94

1.18

Ober is currently 105th on the charts and more than 60 picks out of the 80th spot currently occupied by Reid Detmers. The Minnesota rotation appears set heading into the season with Pablo Lopez, Sonny Gray, Joe Ryan, Tyler Mahle and Kenta Maeda. Three-fifths of that rotation aren't exactly well known for their health track record, and Maeda is returning from his September 2021 Tommy John surgery. Ober uses a four-pitch arsenal, and all four of his offerings had a whiff rate of at least 23 percent. His best weapons are his breaking stuff, as his two different breaking balls were much tougher on the league than his evolving offspeed pitch or his fastball.

Ober is at his best when he's ahead early and gets hitters to expand the zone, which happens frequently because he's very stingy with the walks. He was extremely fortunate with his home run rate last year, so there should be some regression coming in that regard, but his ability to limit the walks will offset some of that damage. He's nearly 28 years old, so there isn't much sense in leaving Ober in Triple-A, and he could even make the club out of camp in a long-relief role as the middle-relief story in Minnesota is ever-evolving. This is one of those examples of believing in the skillset and letting the role work itself out. You can get him in the reserve rounds in most standard-league formats, and if you happen to get Mahle, Gray or Maeda in the active phase, I would almost insist you target Ober in the reserves. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Collette
Jason has been helping fantasy owners since 1999, and here at Rotowire since 2011. You can hear Jason weekly on many of the Sirius/XM Fantasy channel offerings throughout the season as well as on the Sleeper and the Bust podcast every Sunday. A ten-time FSWA finalist, Jason won the FSWA's Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year award in 2013 and the Baseball Series of the Year award in 2018 for Collette Calls,and was the 2023 AL LABR champion. Jason manages his social media presence at https://linktr.ee/jasoncollette
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