With the regular season just around the corner, dynasty league players all over the place are looking for dudes that may have been overlooked in drafts but have great upside or can fill a need. In leagues with only 25 or 30 man rosters, this is a little harder to do. But if you are in leagues with 40-man rosters, stashing a player or two is a little easier to do.
But who do you stash?
Do you look for players who can help you immediately? Do you try to get a player who is still in the minors but is knocking on the door? And a third option is do you snag a young, injured player with great upside? The Twins have three players who address each question in Nick Gordon, Edouard Julien, and Royce Lewis.
Gordon can help immediately as he is healthy and is battling to be the Opening Day starter at second as Jorge Polanco is not ready to play as he recovers from a knee injury suffered last season. Julien is the minor leaguer who is knocking on the door and Lewis is the injured player with great upside.
Think About the Future
Jorge Polanco is not the answer at second base for the Twins in the near or distant future. His power decline last season compared to 2021 is likely not a blip as the juiced balls in 2021 played a large part in his power production. Additionally, Gordon, Lewis, and Julien are all younger than Polanco, and one of them will be taking over the job at second base soon – but who will it be?
Let’s take a look at all three players.
Since being drafted as the No. 1 pick overall in the 2017 draft, Lewis, who is 23, has been a top prospect. He started the 2018 season as the 24th ranked prospect by Baseball America before moving to ninth the next season and currently he is sitting at #43. Meanwhile, MLB.com had Lewis ranked 20th entering the 2018 season, reached fifth in 2019, and enters this year ranked 45th.
Royce hasn’t always posted eye-popping numbers during his minor league career, but he has shown the power and the speed the Minnesota scouts loved. Last year he seemed to put everything together before suffering his season-ending injury. In Triple-A, he slashed .313/.405/.534 in 34 games with five homers, 14 RBI, and 12 steals. After being promoted to the parent club, Lewis appeared in 12 games and slashed .300/.317/.550 with two dingers and five RBI.
But as good as Lewis has been when on the field, actually being on the field has been a challenge for him. Through no fault of his own, he missed the 2020 season thanks to COVID. He then missed the 2021 season due to a torn ACL. Last season he made his debut with the Twins but played in only 12 games before crashing into the center field wall and tearing the same ACL he tore in 2021.
Julian, who like Lewis is 23, hails from Canada and played for the junior national team before heading to the United States to play baseball at Auburn. In two years with the Tigers he hit 27 homers and drove in 126 runs while slugging .501. The Twins liked the power Julien displayed at Auburn and drafted him in the 18th round of the 2019 draft.
More Than Just a Power Hitter
With COVID wiping out the 2020 season, he came back in 2021 and hit 18 homers in 112 games across A and High-A ball. While the power was nice to see, Julien has a great eye at the plate as he led all minor leaguers in walks that season with 110 in 5124 plate appearances. He also added 34 steals in 39 attempts. In 2022, Julien still walked a lot, racking up 98 free passes in 508 plate appearances. But he also increased his batting average to .300 while still hitting for power.
To show that his success at Double-A wasn’t a fluke, he went to the Arizona Fall League and slashed .400/.563/.686 with five home runs, 17 RBI, and six steals in 21 games.
Now 27, Gordon hasn’t quite lived up to the hype he had when he was a prospect. Drafted with the fifth overall pick in 2014, Gordon was a top 100 prospect from 2015-2018 by Baseball America, MLB.com, and Baseball Prospectus. But for someone who was the fifth overall pick, it is not a good sign that Gordon was a top 100 prospect for so long and that he has spent seven seasons in the minors before reaching the majors.
It is easy to see why he spent so much time down on the farm. His career slash line in the minors is .276/.330/.387. If he was a power hitter, you can live with that. But in 644 games, he hit only 28 home runs. What Gordon does do well is steal bases, coming up with 109 steals in 155 attempts.
Gordon finally got his chance with the Twins in 2021 and didn’t really impress with a .240/.292/.355 slash line, though he did have 10 steals. Last season he added some power, hitting nine homers in 138 games and raising his slash line to .272/.316/.427.
A useful tool for Gordon is the fact that he can play nearly anywhere on the field, earning starts at second, short, and third in the infield and in left and center field in the outfield with an appearance in right to boot.
The Case for Gordon
When it comes to choosing who to take a chance on in a dynasty league, let’s first eliminate the player who is the weakest of the three. That means Gordon is out. At 27, he is no longer a prospect and he has yet to show why he was a first-round selection in 2014. He has some nice speed but doesn’t always use it. He can hit a few home runs, but not enough to want to roster him.
The Case for Lewis
When healthy, Lewis has shown why he is a former top overall selection. He can hit for power and puts up a solid slash line. But the big question is the obvious one – will he have the same speed he has shown after a second ACL injury? He didn’t lose his speed after his first injury, but who knows if he will maintain that speed after a second surgery? Lewis has also shown the ability to play multiple positions, which is good considering Carlos Correa has shortstop locked up for the next six years.
While widely available in ESPN and Yahoo leagues, which often don’t feature 40-man rosters and deep prospect rosters, he is rostered in 62% of Fantrax leagues, so owners are obviously not bailing on Lewis yet.
The Case for Julien
Meanwhile, Julien has continued to get better the more he plays. He was a member of the Canadian World Baseball Classic team. During his minor league career he has shown good power to all fields and a great eye at the plate. I don’t see him suddenly lose the ability to drive the ball or stop drawing walks.
Like Lewis, Julien has played multiple positions in the minors, playing at first, second, and third base as well as left field. Unlike Lewis, Julien is not as good with the glove at any of those positions. But the Twins allowed Julien to settle in at second base last season and he made only nine errors in 94 starts at the position, showing that he can be more than adequate at the position.
Dynasty players have taken notice of Julien as he is rostered in 40% of Fantrax league, though he is pretty much untouched in ESPN and Yahoo leagues.
Gordon’s best feature is the fact he can play all over the field. So as a backup player to fill in for injured or benched players, he is nice to have. But that is no reason to stash him on your roster if you can get Lewis or Julien. Gordon can help right now, but not a top dynasty keeper. Thus we are now down to two players.
If I have the chance to have both Lewis and Julien on my team, I would do so in a heartbeat. But if I had to choose between Lewis and Julien, I prefer Julien.
I don’t like the fact that Lewis already has had two ACL surgeries at this point of his career and his recovery will mean he will miss yet another year of development. He may maintain his speed when he returns, but he is just as likely to not fully recover from the injury or lose his speed as he ages. And while he has some power, Lewis is not really a power hitter, so if he loses his best tool, it knocks him down a peg.
While Julien has already been reassigned by the Twins to Triple-A, he had a .919 OPS with two home runs in six spring games, showing he is more than capable of being a solid hitter at the major league level. And his spring stats with the Twins pale in comparison to what he did for Canada during the WBC as he slashed .538/.667/1.154 in four games.
In 13 at-bats, he had seven hits, two of which were doubles and two of which were home runs while collecting five walks against five strikeouts. His two homers and slugging percentage led Canada and he trailed only Tyler O’Neill in batting average and on-base percentage.
Julien is proving himself to be a great hitter and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him starting at second base by this summer for the Twins.
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