Welcome back to another edition of Top Dynasty Keepers!
Now more than a month into the season, major league teams are having to make adjustments on the fly due to underperforming players or injuries, or both. For the Red Sox, lack of performance from the outfield has them making an adjustment by recalling Jarren Duran.
Entering Friday night, the Sox were receiving little production from the trio of Kike Hernandez (slashing .189/.262/.305 with one homer), Alex Verdugo (three homers, .217/.255/.337 slash line) and Jackie Bradley Jr., who is lucky he can play great defense because his bat has been quiet for years now. The veteran is slashing .200/.268/.293 with zero homers and only six RBI.
As for the Minnesota Twins, they are a team dealing with injuries. Both starters Bailey Ober and Sonny Gray or on the injured list with a strained groin and a hamstring injury and Carlos Correa is day-to-day with a bruised right middle finger after being hit by a pitch. To replace Gray, the Twins have been using Josh Winder in the rotation and they have called up Royce Lewisone of their top prospects, to insert into the lineup while Correa is out.
Time to make adjustments
Like major league teams, fantasy owners should be adjusting on the fly as well. If not, you could be left in the dust. Now is a prime chance to snatch some young talent if you play in a league that doesn’t have minor league rosters or has limited roster slots.
Everyone has a player or two not performing or is sitting on the IL. Should you shake up your roster by adding Duran, Lewis or Winder?
Let’s dig a little and find out.
Jarren Duran – Boston Red Sox
If you only look at what Duran did last year in his brief stint with the Red Sox, there would be no chance of adding him right now. Just look at those numbers – 40 strikeouts in 107 at-bats? Ouch. His .215/.241/.336 slash line was pretty scary as well. With a 35.7% strikeout rate and only a 3.6% walk rate, Duran was overmatched last season.
But don’t judge a book by its cover. In 2018, Duran slashed .302/.380/.392 with 17 steals in 56 games at Long Beach State. He was then drafted in the 7th round by the Red Sox after the college season and proceeded slash .357/.394/.516 with 24 steals in 67 games between the Rookie and Class A levels. In his first full season as a pro, Duran played in the Futures Game and spent time playing for Team USA in the Olympic qualifier.
Beating himself up
But his debut left a sour taste in his mouth and pushed him to be ready if and when he would get a chance again this season.
“Wow, I learned a lot, honestly. I’m my hardest critic,” Duran said in an interview with MLB.com. “I tore myself up. I had a tough offseason dealing with how I thought I was and how I am as a player. But I got through it mentally. Just trying to build. Last year, I knew that wasn’t who I am or who I want to be, so I took a self-talk and motivation in the offseason to think how I am as a player again.”
When he is on his game, Duran has a short, compact swing that produces line drives, as seen here against Baltimore and here against the Rangers. Anything not hit right at an outfielder will likely produce a double with his speed.
Speed is his game
If you are looking to add power, Duran is not your guy. In 274 minor league games, he has hit only 26 homers, though 16 of those came last year in Triple-A. What Duran possesses a lot of is speed. Here he is scoring from second on a fly ball to center field this spring.
In his limited time with the Sox last season, Duran ranked in the 96th percentile in sprint speed. His run scouting grade is a 70. In college, he swiped 49 bags in 169 career games and has added another 93 in the minors.
Royce Lewis – Minnesota Twins
Twins fans have been waiting to get a glimpse of Lewis since the club selected him with the first overall pick in the 2017 draft out of high school. Lewis showed why he was selected first by slashing .279/.381/.407 with four homers, 27 RBI and 18 steals in Rookie and A ball. He followed that up by slashing .292/.352/.451 over two levels of A ball in 2018 and the added 12 homers, 49 RBIs and 22 steals in 2019, though his slash line fell to .236/.290/.371 .
COVID wiped out the 2020 campaign for Lewis and he then suffered a season-ending injury in March 2021 when he tore his right ACL.
Knee injury? What knee injury?
Torn ACLs are always a worrisome injury. But like Tommy John procedures, recovery from a torn ACL seems to be routine now. Lewis is providing that. Assigned to Triple-A St. Paul to start this season, he is slashing .310/.430/.563 through his first 24 games with three homers, 11 RBI and eight steals, showing that his knee is completely healed.
Just as impressive as his speed is his selectivity at the plate. After recording that .290 OBP in 2019, Lewis collected 17 walks for the Saints while striking out 20 times. Before being recalled by the Twins, Lewis had reached base in eight straight games and in 15 of his last 17 games. He continued that streak Friday night with his first major league hit and then went 1-for-3 with a double on Saturday.
Josh Winder – Minnesota Twins
While at Virginia Military Institute, Winder wasn’t someone who you would think would be pitching in the majors. He had a career ERA of 4.52 with a 1.262 WHIP. But he did average a strikeout per inning while limiting his walks. That combination led the Twins to draft him in the 7th round of the 2018 draft.
Since joining the Minnesota system, he has improved his velocity, climbing from the low 90s to averaging 95 mph this season. He also throws a change that averages 89 mph with good depth, a slider at 84 mph and a slow curve that comes in at 81 mph. Here you can see his breaking ball in action as he strikes out AJ Pollock.
And despite increasing his velocity, Winder still has excellent command. In 236.3 career innings in the minors, he walked only 49 batters. Last season in Double A and Triple A, Winder went a combined 4-0 with a 2.63 ERA and 0.944 WHIP before a shoulder strain ended his season in July.
Making his case
Added to the 40-man roster this offseason, Winder broke camp with the Twins, starting the season in the bullpen and appearing in three games as a reliever before joining the rotation when Sonny Gray got hurt. In two starts, Winder has been nearly perfect, allowing no runs while limiting opponents to only five hits and one walk in 12 innings of work while striking out 15.
Overall, through his first 22.1 innings this season, he has walked only four batters while recording 20 strikeouts.
I think Duran is an immediate add and should be a keeper. He hit leadoff Friday night for the Red Sox, going 1-for-4 with a triple. The Boston outfielders, as mentioned earlier, are simply not producing and Duran will likely be given every chance to succeed. Unlike last season, Duran shouldn’t be overmatched and will take advantage of his opportunity this year.
Lewis, like Duran, should be an immediate add. Correa is not going to be out of the lineup long, so it will be interesting to see how much playing time Lewis gets when Correa is back in the lineup. However, Lewis spent the 2019 Fall League learning multiple positions as he saw time at second and third base as well as center field in addition to shortstop.
If he proves he belongs, I can see the Twins playing him at third, short and second as well as DH. Even if he is sent back down, as long as you have the space on your roster, you should stash him there.
Winder is a bit trickier. Gray and Bailey Ober should be back soon, meaning someone has to leave a rotation that has mostly performed well this year. Since Winder has shown he can pitch in relief, he will likely be the odd man out, which will hurt his fantasy value.
In deep leagues, Winder would be a nice add for the future as he has the upside to be a solid No. 3 pitcher. Otherwise, without knowing what his future holds for this season, I would pass on Winder as he would likely be the long reliever out of the bullpen, meaning no saves and few holds.