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Chat: Darius Austin

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Wednesday March 03, 2021 12:00 PM ET chat session with Darius Austin.


Darius Austin is the Depth Charts guru and a member of the BP Fantasy team.

Darius Austin: Hello everyone! Only one reliever question so far, but there's still time. Let's get to it!

Flipai (Maryland): What is one to do with Willie Calhoun? I want to believe in the bat, but will he even make the team? I imagine Khris Davis will DH, I can't believe a team would carry 2 DHs.

Darius Austin: I'm optimistic about Calhoun. I wrote about him earlier in the week (https://www.baseballprospectus.com/fantasy/article/65074/player-profile-seems-the-entire-fantasy-community-is-out-on-willie-calhoun/) but the TL;DR version is that I think he had an extraordinarily tricky run-up to the season and never really got comfortable at the plate. The price is great in redraft this year so I wouldn't worry about PT for now and it won't hurt if you have to drop him - if it's dynasty, I'd hold and give him time for the bat to shine.

kalimantan (Daisyville): Austin Slater. Looked kind of good last year. Can he get playing time?

Darius Austin: Slater has some really great indicators in a lot of regards - plate discipline, power, DRC+ - so I think he can. I'd feel much better if there was an NL DH and Zaidi just loves to shuffle these outfielders in and out, but he's worth a late-round gamble for me.

Buddy (Peoria, IL): Thoughts on Jesus Luzardo this season?

Darius Austin: Big fan. Ace potential in fantasy, believe he'll take a step forwards, main issue is the volume - tough to see him going much more than 140 frames in 2021 and even that might be aggressive. That's probably true of most pitchers this year, though!

James (NY): Hi Darius, Thoughts on Kopech for 2021 and 2022?

Darius Austin: We're now entering the Kopech portion of the chat. He's starting in the bullpen this year and I think they'll be pretty cautious. There's going to be some flashy moments but my suspicion is he'll be tricky to manage this season. I'd expect all of this is with a view to having him as a fully-fledged member of the rotation in 2022, though. Tons of strikeout upside but needs to round out the repertoire and show he can handle the volume. There's always that reliever risk with this kind of profile.

John (Boston): Would you rather have A. Civale or M. Kopech (same price) for your roto pitching staff in 2021? 2022?

Darius Austin: As the above indicates, give me Civale this year. Kopech's got to show us some things first and the volume could be so drastically different that Civale might out-earn him even with a pedestrian year. I'll take Kopech in 2022 unless this return goes badly, though.

fquicks (New York ): 20 player keeper league with a 5 keeper minor league . Was offered M. Gore and Kyle Lewis for R. Arozerena Should I trade away Arozerena or is he going to be a star?

Darius Austin: I think he's pretty legit (if not playoff-level legit) and I have my doubts about Lewis, but I like this offer. I'd take it to get Gore.

Vic (Accord, NY): Do you have a strong preference between Trea, Yelich, and Jose Ramirez?....keeping in mind that Trea would make my team have three SSs meaning one would be the DH.

Darius Austin: Assuming standard 5-by-5 roto, I'd take Trea, but they're all first-rounders. If Ramirez fits your team better then that's a fine choice. Good problem to have!

James (NY): Will N. Cruz slow down this year or will his 2021 be similar to his 2019 stats?

Darius Austin: James, I get the impression you want to know about stat lines, so I'll answer all of these. I think Cruz might just be in the David Ortiz zone - he's going to keep on mashing until he decides to retire. I think you might see an extra day off here and there, otherwise just keep on rolling with him until he gives us reason not to.

James (NY): Nelson Cruz's 2021 stats? Carlos Santana's 2021 stats?

Darius Austin: To the specifics: .290/.380/.575 for Cruz with 34 homers. .245/.350/.440 for Santana with 25. I'm dead-ball adjusting a bit and Kauffman isn't the greatest place to hit, but I think Santana just got small-sampled out of an otherwise fine year.

James (NY): Hi Darius, At the end of the year, what stat line will Berrios and Pineda have?

Darius Austin: Berrios will just keep doing Berrios things, I expect: 180 Ks, 3.70 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and stretches where we'll expect a little more but he can't sustain it. I actually think Pineda could muster pretty comparable ratios but you can't count on the volume. Draft him expecting 120 innings and the rest is gravy.

DiamondStars (The US and A): Can you please help me understand some of the really weird values the Ax generated recently for my 11-team AL-only 5x5 (OBP) Roto league? Here are some of the values & projections (R/HR/RBI/SB/OBP): $4.83 (99th hitter) Martin Maldonado 29/9/30/1/.280 (279 PA), the 10th C off the board. $4.80 (100th hitter) Kurt Suzuki 29/9/32/1/.308 (253 PA), the 11th C off the board. * Why value Maldonado > Suzuki? $4.44 (104th hitter) Yuli Gurriel 74/22/84/4/.318 (609 PA), only the 6th 1B off the board(!) * Why value Maldonado > Gurriel? One last example: The *last* 1B off the board was $.89 (130th hitter) Hunter Dozier 74/21/77/5/.326 (622 PA) * Why value Gurriel more than $3.60 above Dozier when their projections are so similar? Thanks very much for any insight you can offer!

Darius Austin: These questions are always really tough to answer without seeing the specific league settings because roster spots also factor in heavily to the positional depth calculation, which would be my guess for what's driving some of this. In the first case my guess would be that the replacement level OBP for catcher in this league is so bad that Maldonado's extra volume is actually a positive there, even though he otherwise looks equivalent or worse compared to Suzuki. Gurriel's extra homer and 7 RBI may be worth more than you think in this context, although I'm also seeing projections that are slightly different to yours and less favourable to Dozier! If you send over a direct link to your league setup on the AX, I can check with our tech team and make sure nothing weird is going on.

Ryan (Des Moines): What do you see for Gavin Lux this year? There doesn't seem to be a consensus amongst fantasy folks when it comes to at-bats this year. Thanks.

Darius Austin: It's tough because he's clearly talented but the Dodgers don't need to push him and they're the best team in the NL with or without him, in my opinion. I think we see more of him than previous years but I would not be shocked if he still doesn't play as much as we'd like him to in fantasy.

draftbrew (Wisconsin): Who ends up with the majority of the playing time at shortstop for the Brewers this year?

Darius Austin: I'll still say Orlando Arcia. I know they're making a lot of noise about their flexibility there and doing different things but he's still the established name there and none of his competition is obviously going to take it away from him.

John (Boston): S. Manaea or F. Montas in 2021?

Darius Austin: Montas. More strikeout upside, and I think most of his struggles recently can be attributed to health. If he's injury-free I would expect him to beat Manaea handily.

Vic (Accord, NY): 5 year keeper league. 5 x 5. 14 Teams. Can keep 2 of these 4: Option A: Swanson & Maeda Option B: Verdugo & Maeda Option C: Leodys & Maeda Option D: Swanson & Verdugo Option E: Swanson & Leodys Option F: Verdugo & Leodys

Darius Austin: If you're competing now, give me Option B. I could see the argument for Swanson over Maeda if you want to look longer-term. Leodys is very talented but still a lot to prove at the plate.

seddrah (Seattle): Which side do you prefer: Aaron Judge/Dustin May OR Adalberto Mondesi/Alex Reyes

Darius Austin: Fun choice! Give me Judge/May. Mondesi might have the single best fantasy season if he ever stays healthy and steals 60-plus but May is so much more of a sure thing than Reyes at this point.

Ryan (Des Moines): Jake Cronenworth. Buying or selling?

Darius Austin: I think the sell window might have passed with Kim's signing, or at least been put on hold. I worry that Cronenworth doesn't get to enough power or speed to be truly valuable in fantasy, even though I think he's a really excellent real life player. If you can sell him at the kind of hype levels he was getting last September, I'd sell.

Mark (LA): Hi Darius, couldn't find you on Slack so I wanted to ask for your depth chart expertise in this here chat. Who do you think gets saves in Cleveland? Is it really going to be Karinchak, or will Clase, Maton, or Wittgren be options? Thank you for your time.

Darius Austin: Karinchak is the leader in the clubhouse for me. He's not as much of a sure thing as the way he's being drafted suggests, though. If they hand it to someone outright, I expect it to be Karinchak or Clase. Wittgren will get a few, and Maton had one of my favourite under-the-radar excellent 2020 relief seasons, but I think a lot probably goes wrong if he's saving many games.

Ryan (Des Moines): Do you think Tyler Stephenson is the full-time catcher in Cinci by the All-Star break? Thanks.

Darius Austin: Primary? Perhaps, although the odds are against him. The Reds still like Barnhart, he has much more experience with their staff, and he's left-handed so he gets the strong side of the platoon. Full-time, in the sense that Stephenson is catching 60-plus percent of games, is a long way off, I think.

Stringer (Where Wallace at? ): If I am currently rostering Aguilar and Tellez at my first baseman in a 16-tm OBP league am I: 1. Screwed 2. Totally Screwed 3. Meh

Darius Austin: I'd hope the rest of your team is pretty good! They're the kind of pieces that you can live with if they're the last guys you're starting, and Tellez particularly has some very promising power numbers, but volume could be an issue for both - Aguilar for platoon reasons and Tellez simply because the Jays have other obvious 1B/DH candidates.

Vanessa (L.A.): What kind of role do you see Tejay Antone ending up with once the season starts?

Darius Austin: The Reds certainly are making noises about him in relief lately. I'm a little sceptical just because their fifth starter spot is really up in the air and they've said almost exactly the same things about Michael Lorenzen in relief. As of now I'd probably put Antone in the rotation over Lorenzen because of his more extensive recent experience there, but this is definitely one to watch in camp.

Ryan (Des Moines): re: Oakland Rotation. There seems to be a lot of bodies there. Do Jefferies and Kaprielian end up in the minors or long-relief with the big club? Thanks.

Darius Austin: They'll both start in the minors, I expect. The A's look to have an obvious five they'll roll with. I would take Jefferies over Kaprelian for the first chance that does become available, and quite honestly I think the A's are best-served keeping Kaprelian in the bullpen given his injury history. Not that Jefferies has a clean slate in that regard, of course.

James (South bend ): Arozarena again. Struggling to get my head round him as so many are... Trade Dom Smith + Price to get him? Is he going to be streets ahead of Smith? Note BP has them ranked close together unlike others who are high on Aroz... Smith is younger too...

Darius Austin: The Mets are built like a team with a DH and don't currently have one. That would be the main reason to do it in the short term, in my opinion. I think you're right in saying that their dynasty value is much closer than the hype suggests. I probably wouldn't.

Dirk Diggler (Vegas baby! ): The fantasy world has completely soured on Jake Arrieta, can't find him in top-120-150 starting pitcher lists anywhere. But he's not *that* old, 2020 was weird for everyone, he's back at the team where he had great success, pitching in NL Central, guaranteed rotation slot - what am I missing on him as a late round pick?

Darius Austin: He's very underwhelming these days - hasn't had a strikeout rate over 20 percent since 2017, WHIPs have been truly dreadful the last couple of years, now throws 92-93. Health has been an issue too, and volume was kind of the thing keeping him hanging on higher in rankings 2-3 years ago. He's 35 in a few days as well, so I think people view him as a guy with no upside who might just be done.

Jim (Wisconsin): What do you think the delayed minor-league season means for top prospects on the verge? Are players like Wander Franco more likely to play in the majors right away since there's no immediate alternative?

Darius Austin: I suspect those teams playing service time games will keep playing service time games. These prospects are still going to get alternate site time, so coaches can work with them and they'll get high-level reps. Franco was probably an unlikely candidate for an early-season call-up anyway, as good as he is, but do I think the Mariners will suddenly promote Jarred Kelenic because they can't get him reps in real minor league games? I do not.

Darius Austin: That'll do it everyone. Thanks for joining me, and good luck in your leagues this year!

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