John Laghezza: My favorite hitter and pitcher trade target in dynasty leagues

There’s a certain intangible element to dynasty play that makes targeting players for trades far more difficult than redraft formats. Dynasty GMs often display a different level of sentimental attachment due to the length of the relationship to their players, always keeping their antennae up for the first sign of a swindler.  No self-respecting fantasy gamer wants to have nailed a prospect in hindsight, dealing with frustrating ebbs only to have someone swoop in and hog up all the flows.

A big part of what makes dynasty so great is the infinite ways to approach it. So let me be clear: I play to win now, and not just because we don’t know what the future holds. Dreaming of the big score creates disproportionate demand, and I find my value in depressed assets. As a whole, I believe the fantasy community expects too much, too soon. The reality remains that MLB is insanely hard and we’re talking about hitting on a prospect who could be years away from a low-probability shot at contributing to your fantasy team.

My dynasty trade targets tend to start off highly touted before inevitably hopping on the struggle bus — I guess you could say I have a type.

It’s finally happening! If you held onto Hayes this whole time, it’s felt like an eternity. You trudged through more downs than ups, but your patience is a virtue and on the verge of paying off. If Hayes happens to occupy a competitor’s roster, make your move. Depressed prices and low expectations could equal easy attainability — his career ground-ball rate is still over 48% with a barrel rate below 6%, neither inspiring much FOMO at the moment. I wouldn’t be surprised if most dynasty GMs aren’t willing to move on from the former first-round pick after what can only be described as a lackluster career 600PA pace — .264 BA, 71 R, 57 RBI, 13 HR, 15 SB. The redraft market’s nodding along as well — Hayes is currently clocking in as NFBC’s No. 17 3B with an ~200 ADP.

So what changed? You had to have your ears to the ground to catch the first drumbeat, referenced in Ken Rosenthal’s mid-February report out of Pittsburgh:

“When Ke’Bryan Hayes struggled in 2023, he secretly met with Jon Nunnally, who was the Double-A hitting coach in Altoona at the time. The gambit was successful — he had a great second half.”

The 27-year-old third baseman certainly got out of the gate slowly last season, batting a putrid .212 through his first 215 PA with a 62 wRC+. (Woof!) The focus of the duo’s work supposedly centered around lift, and it doesn’t take a Wall Street technical analyst to determine why excitement resulted from the directionality of the results (image below).

However, as we know, lift alone does not a power breakout make. From a year-over-year perspective, the batted ball data reflects the desired change in pull as well as elevation — Hayes’ total Pulled Fly Ball/Line Drive rate doubled from 2022.

Total Pulled FB/LD (PFBLD); Rate Per Plate App. (PFBLD/PA); Pulled HRs

  • 2021 — 14 PFBLD, 3.5% PFBLD/PA, 2 Home Runs
  • 2022 — 25 PFBLD, 4.7% PFBLD/PA, 1 Home Runs
  • 2023 — 50 PFBLD, 9.5% PFBLD/PA, 9 Home Runs

A more granular look was needed in order to hypothesize a subjective data point, and I feel confident saying it held up to the scrutiny. Remember, it’s not like lift in a vacuum translates to automatic success — it’s sustaining the career 48% Hard Hit rate with that combination of lift, pull, and contact we’re really looking for. Guess what? Hayes passed with flying colors in a variety of ways. (Of course I went the extra mile with some tutorials for everyone out there with growing interest in chart-reading techniques).

Fly Ball Rate — 25-Game Rolling Average

Higher highs and higher lows trending toward a new average +40% Fly Ball rate:

KHFB e1708804179426

Pull Rate — 25-Game Rolling Average
Breaking out above 35% Pull all the way to 50% could theoretically make those prior tops our new bottom:

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Zone-Contact Rate— 25-Game Rolling Average
The rectangular band holds support well above average at 87%, with resistance at 97% Zone-Contact:

fdvd e1708804875136

If these critical trends continue into his power prime, and Hayes adds a pull-power element to an already elite set of plate skills, he could level up as soon as 2024 and yield profits for years to come.

Pitching analysis comes down to perspective on time frames, projections and our perception of how adjustments may manifest. Through the widest lens, Bello’s 2023 was OK, I guess, as far as rookie seasons go — a 4.24 ERA, 1.34 WHIP hardly jumps off the spreadsheet. The drafting market’s gone pretty cold on Bello, now regularly available after pick No. 250 in the most highly competitive leagues. I believe this downward pressure lacks context that will not only be addressed, but corrected, by Boston’s new special pitching advisor, Driveline founder Kyle Boddy.

At only 24, I’m still encouraged for what’s to come — Bello is incredibly talented. Remember, he dominated MiLB as a 22-year-old after missing the 2020 C-19 season (200.1 IP; 3.01 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 24.8% K-BB, 56% GB, 0.67 HR/9). Then, while last year was far from perfect, most struggles came down to LHH splits that can be rectified with a little bit of elbow grease. In particular, Bello makes a great example of the need for split-data analysis.

Bello, 2023 by Handedness:

  • Vs. RHH, 2023: 1.14 WHIP / 25.4%K / 13.0% Swinging Strike,  .229 BA, .678 OPS, 60.0% GB, .295 xwOBA, 1.18 HR/9
  • Vs. LHH, 2023: 1.56 WHIP / 13.7%K / 10.4% Swinging Strike,  .313 BA, .882 OPS, 52.9% GB, .327 xwOBA, 1.60 HR/9

It doesn’t take more than a glance to assert Bello desperately needs an answer for lefties, inferring location’s the likely culprit (image below).

Screenshot 1830 e1708633700693


Bello’s heat map reveals another layer to the struggle — namely that opposing left-handed hitters obliterate the fourseam and sinker which he throws too frequently, often missing middle-middle (image below). His four-seamer turns the average LHH into the cleanup hitter on an All-Star team but it isn’t all bad. The arm-side changeup low-and-away to lefties has gotten phenomenal results and acts perfectly as a lead, he just needs to develop a viable complement.




So why am I so encouraged we’ll see the adjustment besides blind faith in Kyle Boddy? Easy. Bello made a return trip  the School of Pedro Martinez, and spoke with MLB’s Red Sox beat reporter Ian Browne about how his time with Martinez led to a much-improved slider:

“I was able to work out with him three or four times. When I got there, my slider wasn’t in the best shape. So he gave me a few tips. And that same day, I was able to get a good grip on it. I was trying it consistently and then in the next few days, I was gaining more confidence with it. So yeah, it was a very good time that I spent with Pedro helping me to get my slider back sharp.”

Can you think of too many more people you’d rather have tutoring your burgeoning star? I think not. Given the current lack of fantasy steam for Bello, who’s coming off 166 IP last season and going regularly outside pick No. 200, I’m all in — we’re one minor tweak away from a breakout and windfall profits. Bellissimo!

Trade Target Honorable Mentions (by position):

  • Ryan Noda, OAK, 1B
  • Liover Peguero, PIT, 2B
  • Geraldo Perdomo, ARI, SS
  • Eguy Rosario, SD, 3B
  • Alek Thomas, ARI, OF
  • Chase Silseth, LAA, SP
  • Jared Jones, PIT, SP
  • Ian Hamilton, NYY, RP

Thanks for stopping by, and feel free to comment below with anything on your mind. Please follow me on X @JohnLaghezza, where you can find a pinned link to all my third-party work, including +100 write-ups, a Top 655 with over 30 tiers, and uploadable ranks for Underdog. Good luck!

(Top photo of Brayan Bello: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

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