Collette Calls: 2023 NL West Bold Predictions

Collette Calls: 2023 NL West Bold Predictions

This article is part of our Collette Calls series.

If you are new to this annual series, the premise for the series is most recently outlined here. The ADP data listed below is from January 16th to February 16th in 54 Draft Champions leagues. 

Arizona Diamondbacks

Jake McCarthy (ADP 109, Min 77, Max 134) is not a top-40 outfielder

SOURCE

PA

AVG

OBP

HR

RBI

R

SB

RotoWire

485

.283

.346

13

56

67

32

THE BAT X

561

.258

.320

10

51

72

26

Steamer

583

.253

.319

14

66

66

29

ATC

561

.262

.327

11

59

70

30

McCarthy is currently 27th by ADP at the position while Mitch Haniger is 40th and is going 71 picks later, essentially six rounds later in a 12-team mixed-league draft. McCarthy helped push many fantasy managers to the promised land last season, stealing 23 bases and scoring 53 runs in just under 100 games played while hitting .283/.342/.427. That promotion came after he raked at 4,500 feet of elevation in Reno to the tune of a .369/.457/.596 slash line, adding another 11 steals and 33 runs in 36 games played. 

To say the resurgence came out of nowhere would be an understatement. McCarthy's ADP in Draft Champions formats last season was 681, and he went unselected in 43 percent of such drafts. He had an unimpressive 2021 showing at the big-league level and even his Triple-A numbers were barely above league average. McCarthy has always been able to fly, and most of his slugging percentage has been leg-driven

If you are new to this annual series, the premise for the series is most recently outlined here. The ADP data listed below is from January 16th to February 16th in 54 Draft Champions leagues. 

Arizona Diamondbacks

Jake McCarthy (ADP 109, Min 77, Max 134) is not a top-40 outfielder

SOURCE

PA

AVG

OBP

HR

RBI

R

SB

RotoWire

485

.283

.346

13

56

67

32

THE BAT X

561

.258

.320

10

51

72

26

Steamer

583

.253

.319

14

66

66

29

ATC

561

.262

.327

11

59

70

30

McCarthy is currently 27th by ADP at the position while Mitch Haniger is 40th and is going 71 picks later, essentially six rounds later in a 12-team mixed-league draft. McCarthy helped push many fantasy managers to the promised land last season, stealing 23 bases and scoring 53 runs in just under 100 games played while hitting .283/.342/.427. That promotion came after he raked at 4,500 feet of elevation in Reno to the tune of a .369/.457/.596 slash line, adding another 11 steals and 33 runs in 36 games played. 

To say the resurgence came out of nowhere would be an understatement. McCarthy's ADP in Draft Champions formats last season was 681, and he went unselected in 43 percent of such drafts. He had an unimpressive 2021 showing at the big-league level and even his Triple-A numbers were barely above league average. McCarthy has always been able to fly, and most of his slugging percentage has been leg-driven more than power-driven because of the doubles and triples. His fantasy value will go as far as his legs take him, and therein lies the risk with aggressively rostering McCarthy. After all, this StatCast slider profile is not exactly befitting someone just outside the top 25 in what is arguably a thin outfield pool this season:

McCarthy can fly, and as is the case with pitching, speed can help cover up some other flaws. He does not have any other particularly solid tool yet but his willingness to use all fields. Simply put, his best skill requires him getting on base to use it, so a full season of that profile above could present issues as it did as the season wore down last year:

Simply put, there is more risk associated with a profile like this which came out of nowhere and is very much built on a singular skill which a prolonged slump or injury could quickly derail. He is good, but not top 25-ish good in my opinion. 

Scott McGough (ADP 646, Min 439, Max 747) is a top-150 pitcher

SOURCE

IP

K

W

SV

ERA

WHIP

RotoWire

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

THE BAT

59

70

2

2

3.97

1.29

Steamer

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

ATC

59

65

3

2

3.99

1.30

I was struggling to come up with a pitcher to write up here. I knew I wanted to focus on their wide-open bullpen situation, and good friend Tim McLeod of Prospects361.com gave me all the motivation I needed here when he imparted his passion for Japanese baseball with this tweet earlier this month:

McGough was not a name I had even heard of before looking at their depth chart, as I apparently missed his forgettable 6.2 innings of work for the Marlins in 2015. McGough toiled in the Baltimore and Colorado systems before taking off for a four-year stint in Japan pitching for the Yakult Swallows. He saved 80 games over four seasons for the Tokyo club while striking out 26 percent of the batters he faced thanks to a new splitter he picked up during his time overseas. You have to like the language coming from GM Mike Hazen:

General manager Mike Hazen told reporters in December that McGough's experience as a closer for the Yakult Swallows and his developed splitter were his biggest selling points. "In this case, we felt like he developed his third pitch, maybe second pitch. Now I feel like we have more comfort taking these risks, jumping into these opportunities," Hazen said.

McGough's last two seasons for Yakult were nearly mirror images of one another, as he saved 31 and 38 games with ERAs of 2.52 and 2.35 and averaged more than a strikeout per inning with his fastball/slider/splitter combination. The Diamondbacks have had success importing pitchers recently as Merrill Kelly had a similar path, coming from a successful overseas rebuild to become a front half of the rotation pitcher for the team. The fact Arizona gave McGough a multi-year deal, to me, speaks that they believe he's more than just a middle reliever type and has a chance for the late-inning role. Nobody else in the bullpen sticks out from the group aside from Mark Melancon, with his lengthy experience in the ninth inning. That experience couldn't save Melancon's hold on the role last year and it may not be enough to hold off McGough this year. 

Colorado Rockies

Nolan Jones (ADP 480, Min 395, Max 565) is a top-80 outfielder

SOURCE

PA

AVG

OBP

HR

RBI

R

SB

RotoWire

47

.256

.319

1

7

5

0

THE BAT X

301

.243

.325

8

32

37

3

Steamer

281

.250

.331

9

39

37

3

ATC

301

.251

.331

9

36

38

3

I seriously entertained making a bold prediction that Brendan Rodgers steals a base. Did you realize he has as many career steals in the major leagues as I do, with the difference being he has 271 games played at the MLB level and I have zero? Seriously, look it up. Jones was acquired by the Rockies in November for Juan Brito because Jones didn't fit the archetype for Cleveland outfielders because he actually hits for power (and strikes out). Cleveland is more interested in slash-and-dash hitters these days, and Jones is never going to be that guy. 

Jones has been an above-average player at every level of the minor leagues thanks to double-digit walk rates, which have been paired with strikeout rates nearly twice as high at the upper levels of the minors. He did show improvements in his second consecutive year with Triple-A Akron, lowering his strikeout rate by 4.2 points and seeing his batting average jump by 38 points, but he could carry such success up to the big-league level in his limited playing time last year. Jones isn't a statue in the outfield and has an absolute rocket for an arm, so right field could be his if the club moves Charlie Blackmon to a full-time DH role. Jones could also find himself in a platoon situation, but the Rockies would be better served by seeing whether the new positioning rules as well as the effects of Coors Field could help him tap into some more batting average. If Jones is to hit more homers, he has to get the ball off the ground more frequently, as he's never had a GB/FB ratio below 1.00 nor a flyball rate above 35 percent. 

This is the kind of bat a club in this situation should be giving all the playing time he shows he can handle, and he has the tools to make something of the opportunity given that his home-field advantage should help offset what would otherwise be a batting-average risk in other locations. 

Fineas Del Bonta-Smith (No ADP) has a positive dollar value

SOURCE

IP

K

W

SV

ERA

WHIP

RotoWire

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

THE BAT

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Steamer

26

21

1

0

5.47

1.52

ATC

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Let's be real: everyone's draft cheat sheet has Daniel Bard on it and likely no other pitcher from this staff, unless you're in a NL-Only league and have to pay attention to such matters. Projecting any Rockies starter for anything positive is an exercise in futility, and given that the Rockies handed Bard a contract extension to continue as their closer, speculating on saves as I did last year with Carlos Estevez will likely end up in a similar situation. So, why not go with what is arguably the best name to read/pronounce in the organization, something that got my attention when perusing a rather unattractive depth chart. This may also be the first time I've ever included a player who hasn't even been projected in three of the four projection systems used in this process.

Del Bonta-Smith has never pitched above Double-A ball, but he did go 5-1 with a 21.1 percent K-BB% last season and has struck out 164 batters in 143 innings of work in his career. He's already quite accustomed to what could happen at Coors Field given the 11 homers he allowed in 57 innings last season, yet eight of those came on the road, with seven of the 11 happening in May and June alone. He closed out the season allowing four homers in his final 24.1 innings while striking out 31 batters. Del Bonta-Smith would have to first make the 40-man roster to get on the Triple-A-to-MLB shuttle, but he did pitch in the AFL for the club this winter. That either tells us something may be there or he that was merely fodder, since clubs are required to send a certain amount of pitchers to pitch in the unfriendly AFL run environments. This whole scenario is incredibly unlikely, but seriously, what else is one to do with this pitching staff?

Los Angeles Dodgers

Gavin Lux (ADP 227, Min 202, Max 253) is a top-10 second baseman

SOURCE

PA

AVG

OBP

HR

RBI

R

SB

RotoWire

512

.259

.334

9

52

69

7

THE BAT X

517

.254

.325

11

54

65

7

Steamer

483

.261

.336

10

51

53

7

ATC

517

.260

.332

11

55

65

7

The wait is over, ladies and gentlemen. After what has seemingly been years of waiting for this prospect to bust out, I believe he is primed to finally do so in 2023. The aggregate projections above do not share my optimism, but the opportunity is there for Lux do get all the playing time he can handle at the plate and with his glove given the Dodgers did very little this winter as they transparently configure their roster and pocketbook for next winter's Ohtanipalooza. 

Lux's strengths in his profile are his plate discipline and speed, which plays right into some comments that Dave Roberts has already made in Arizona which lead me to believe the Dodgers expecting bigger things from Lux this season as well:

Lux is 14 of 17 on the basepaths as a major-league player, but his speed hasn't produced a double-digit stolen base season since 2018 when he swiped 13 bases between High-A and Double-A. Lux has a 4.18 home-to-first speed time, which is a stronger indicator of hidden stolen base potential than sprint speed. That score comes in better than fellow lefties Oneil Cruz and Jake McCarthy

Lux also went into the offseason with a focus to get stronger and spent the winter at Driveline putting down 4,500 calories a day during training while putting on 15 pounds of muscle. This should help him stay stronger throughout the season and hopefully avoid the neck trouble which bogged him down in the second half of the season. His .292/.369/.415 line fell to .248/.307/.373 after the break as he tried to play through things before eventually shutting it down for a time in September:

It would take an injury to the well-paid stars at the top of the lineup for Lux to have an opportunity to move up in the order as he feels well-suited to be stuck in the sixth spot assuming Roberts wants to spread out the lefties. Then again, if Lux roars, the Dodgers could move him up and set up a marching-cadence batting order. Lux is the 22nd second baseman off the board right now but has more upside than most if not all of the names in front of him on the ADP chart between ninth and his current spot. 

Gavin Stone (ADP 509, Min 421, Max 639) is a top-125 pitcher

SOURCE

IP

K

W

SV

ERA

WHIP

RotoWire

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

THE BAT

47

53

3

0

3.61

1.21

Steamer

55

55

3

0

3.84

1.27

ATC

47

50

3

0

3.82

1.22

The Dodgers have had a tremendous run of churning out pitchers, especially ones without clear roles. Tony Gonsolin (remember him from the 2020 NL West Bold Prediction?) had an amazing year amidst all the chaos that season and has continued to pitch well, especially last year when he won 16 of his 24 starts with elite ratios. Los Angeles is entering a new era where they'll be tested by the defensive rule changes, a new middle-infield combination and a committee situation in their bullpen. They'll also have to deal with the annual Clayton Kershaw injury as well as two pitchers, Noah Syndergaard and Dustin May, still working to fully recover from their previous injuries. Stone has a path forward even though the current depth charts have him locked into Triple-A to start the season.

Stone enters the season 47th overall on James Anderson's Top 400 prospect list and behind only Miguel Vargas within the Dodgers' organization. He's struck out 35 percent of the hitters he's faced in just over 210 innings of minor-league ball and had a phenomenal season last year, posting a 1.48 ERA and 1.12 WHIP striking out 168 batters in 121.2 innings across three levels. Stone is already 24 years old thanks to pitching collegiately, but his strikeout abilities have been better as a minor leaguer than as a collegiate hurler thanks to the rapid development of his changeup. The Dodgers allowed him to work 91 innings in 2021 and then progressed him to last year's totals, so he should be very much in line to assume a significant workload this year once Kershaw's back flares up or if Syndergaard's issues with controlling the running game prevent him from staying in the rotation and/or his injuries resurface. 

This is clearly a case of drafting skills, not role. Stone has value in reset leagues this year and I would even be reaching for him if he's available in your keeper league draft this season even as someone who normally fades young pitchers in drafts. He currently sits just outside the top 200 on the pitcher ADP list. 

San Diego Padres

Ha-Seong Kim (ADP 251, Min 212, Max 306) is a top-15 shortstop

SOURCE

PA

AVG

OBP

HR

RBI

R

SB

RotoWire

449

.237

.311

9

47

44

9

THE BAT X

521

.237

.305

13

53

61

9

Steamer

529

.247

.318

14

54

65

12

ATC

521

.242

.312

12

54

61

11

Projections are based on playing time and lineup positioning. That said, it feels like the consensus is missing the boat on the opportunity in front of Kim for this season. Everyone is rather neatly tucked together as far as what they expect of him, but I look at a guy who is projected to hit leadoff most days in front of a loaded 2-3-4 of Juan Soto, Manny Machado and Xander Bogaerts and wonder if those run projections are 20 percent too low. 

Kim improved his walk rate throughout the season as he continues to acclimate his game to the major-league level after his success overseas:

Kim had a .240 wOBA against the shift (which he saw 22 percent of the time) compared to a .334 when not shifted, so he should so see a bit of batting-average relief coming his way given his pull tendencies on grounders. Sure, his hard-hit measures aren't the best, but that isn't his job this season. His plate discipline skills are all better than the league average, so some fortune from the Luck Dragons and Kim has the potential for a monster season setting the table for San Diego. Kim also went 12-for-14 in the stolen base department including a perfect 7-for-7 after the break. Kim is 18-for-21 on the basepaths as a major leaguer and went 53-of-59 in his last two seasons in the KBO. Consider the table below:

PLAYER

2022 Attempts

Sprint Speed (ft/sec)

Home to First

Ha-Seong Kim

14

28.4

4.39

Dylan Moore

29

28.3

4.40

Ke'Bryan Hayes

25

27.9

4.41

Kim has upside right now and should have the everyday second base job unless there is some personnel change in San Diego. I don't expect his home run production to exceed anything in the above player capsule, but his runs and steals are very achievable targets given the conditions surrounding him.

Blake Snell (ADP 115, Min 91, Max 134) wins the NL Cy Young

SOURCE

IP

K

W

SV

ERA

WHIP

RotoWire

155

205

10

0

3.60

1.25

THE BAT

150

187

10

0

3.88

1.26

Steamer

160

195

11

0

3.40

1.19

ATC

139

174

10

0

3.54

1.20

There is no doubt I'm ready to be hurt again. Snell's 2018 Cy Young season stands out from his career resume because it's the only season in which he:

  • Exceeded 130 innings
  • Won double-digit games
  • Had an ERA below 3.20
  • Had a WHIP below 1.20
  • Made 30 starts
  • Didn't break his toe in his own bathroom

Snell showed signs of success last season even after a late start due to a spring elbow scare and groin discomfort, which did prevented him from making his first start until the middle of May. Pitchers are creatures of habit, so the change in schedule helped take Snell to a guy who was 0-5 with a 5.60 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP at the end of June. From that point on, Snell went 8-5 over 17 starts with a 2.53 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP, and a 26.6 percent K-BB% while holding the league to a .205 average. He had double-digit strikeout totals in five of those 17 outings, including 12 against the Dodgers to kick off that streak and 13 against the Cardinals near the end of it.

Snell made some in-season adjustments to lean on his slider more in the second half of the season and cut back on his curveball whilst continuing to show the changeup only to righties:

Even with the wretched start to the season, Snell finished with a whiff rate above 22 percent on all four of his offerings, and each of his non-fastballs had whiff rates above 43 percent. Snell is his name and swing and miss is his game. Of course, we're all familiar with his inability to get deep into many games as he's mostly a six-inning guy due to his strikeout-thirsty approach, but the San Diego bullpen is strong enough to protect those wins. If he can even get close to his career high in innings, he'll be holding the plaque at the Baseball Writers' Dinner in New York next winter. 

San Francisco Giants

David Villar (ADP 493, Min 327, Max 583) is a top-30 third baseman

SOURCE

PA

AVG

OBP

HR

RBI

R

SB

RotoWire

91

.244

.341

5

12

11

0

THE BAT X

339

.227

.302

10

37

37

1

Steamer

464

.222

.309

16

51

49

2

ATC

339

.227

.312

13

42

40

1

Stop me if you've heard this already this offseason: third base is a thin position. It's so thin, I swear I saw Kelly Gruber on an ADP list at one point this winter. As it were, Villar is currently 46th at the position by ADP in between Brian Anderson and Nicky Lopez — two guys I also like for other reasons. 

In the land of platoons, Villar is slated to be the everyday third baseman right now, as the club doesn't have a projected lefty to share the position with at this time. The club is on record stating they want to work Wilmer Flores and J.D. Davis into a rotation on the infield and that each guy should be able to get 300-400 at-bats. The club has also stated Villar has the athleticism to play second base and will give him some chances this spring to show that, which could make for some interesting in-season roster flexibility if you choose to go this route late in your draft.

All nine of Villar's homers came on the road in 2022 as he struggled to hit in at Oracle Park in limited playing time, posting an .607 OPS at home but an .882 OPS everywhere else. He did hit 20 or more homers in both of his last two stops in the minors along with double-digit walk rates and has been an above-average offensive player at every level, even with last year's crazy (and unsticky) splits.

The club clearly believes in his abilities as they want to get him involved in the lineup at multiple positions to see how things work out. He's reserve-round material in drafts with some hidden positional flexibility upside should things play out that way.

Sean Manaea (334, Min 205, Max 434) is a top-80 pitcher

SOURCE

IP

K

W

SV

ERA

WHIP

RotoWire

163

171

11

0

4.14

1.23

THE BAT

160

146

10

0

4.42

1.30

Steamer

156

147

9

0

4.05

1.26

ATC

160

153

9

0

4.09

1.27

I'll re-state here what I said earlier this winter with Manaea:

Manaea was a hot name heading into last season but is getting the cold shoulder so far this fantasy season. His overall numbers were impacted by a brutal stretch of pitching during the dog days of summer which saw him post an 8.36 ERA and a 1.70 WHIP despite an 18% K-BB%, as he allowed 12 homers in 37.2 innings of work over those eight starts. Ironically, he avoided the IL for a third consecutive season, but those starts happened and it crushed too many fantasy managers. Manaea still had whiff rates of greater than 20 percent on all of his pitches, and the relocation to San Francisco should afford him better run support as well as better support from the bullpen. He may not be 2018 good again, but he should be able to pull his numbers closer to where they stood in 2021.

Manaea is currently the 118th pitcher by ADP while Reid Detmers sits 80th at pick 216. That rough patch in the middle of the summer crushed Manaea's overall numbers, but he finished the season throwing with more velocity (92.4 mph) than he had at the start of the year (90.3 mph). Manaea went as high as 86th in drafts last winter and had an ADP nearly 200 spots higher than where he currently sits on charts. I love recency bias like this because what was once good can be good again. Manaea can pitch around the homers as long as he isn't as hittable as he was last season. Given San Francisco's track record of working with sinker-heavy pitchers such as Logan Webb, Alex Wood and Jakob Junis, I'm very curious to see what the club does with Manaea under the hood this winter. They have an excellent track record of taking problematic pitchers and turning them around and I believe they can do the same here with Manaea. 

Thank you for your patronage throughout this six-part series this offseason. I'll recount these predictions in the annual accountability articles I write each October. 

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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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