During this time of the fantasy baseball season, I like to take a look at young player's year-to-date stats to not only see how they are doing but to also see if they have made any improvements during the year. Over the past week, I have found four players that I will be looking to trade for, or in one case pick up off the waiver wire, this winter.
Edward Cabrera, RHP, Marlins
Outside of the Guardians, there is no team I trust more to develop top-tier fantasy pitchers than the Miami Marlins. Jose Fernandez, Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez, and Zac Gallen come to mind first. While Edward Cabrera did not make his debut this year, 2022 could be a precursor of great things to come. He signed with the Marlins in 2015 during the July 2 international signing period but it wasn't until 2019 that he became a household name to many dynasty managers. He spent time at High-A Jupiter and Double-A Jacksonville and posted a 2.23 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and 43/13 K/BB across 96 ⅔ innings. He didn't pitch professionally in 2020 due to the pandemic and was limited to 65 innings in 2021. Why? Injuries. Oh, so many injuries.
Biceps inflammation and a barking lower back have caused him to miss significant time in the past, as well as this year. So why am I promoting an oft-injured pitcher? It is his vast pitch arsenal and how he gets batters out. Coming up through the minors, Cabrera was known for his 70-grade fastball with an above-average curveball and changeup. So far in the major leagues, his secondary offerings have become his primary offerings and his changeup is one of the better changeups in baseball. This shouldn't come as a surprise as the Marlins have been an organization that has pitchers with great changeups. (I'm looking at you, Sandy Alcantara, and Trevor Rogers) Cabrera's changeup and curveball each have an above 30 percent whiff rate and batters, at large, are hitting .169 off the 24-year-old right-hander. I also love to see that Cabrera uses different quadrants to generate the swing and miss. He throws the changeup down and into right-handers, curveballs, and sliders low and away, and four-seam up in the zone.
That combination has even the best hitters guessing where the next pitch will be thrown. Even with his excellent rookie campaign, I think the best is yet to come. Surprisingly, Cabrera has a 4.05 ERA at home but a 1.62 ERA on the road. Knowing that he has made a trip to Coors Field this year, it is shocking to see the discrepancy between his home and away numbers. Want another feather in his cap? Sandy Alcantara, has reportedly taken the youngster under his wing.
Bryan Abreu, RHP, Astros
While it seems strange to highlight a reliever in a dynasty column, give me a chance to make my case. This might be a spicy take but I think Bryan Abreu finishes the 2023 season as the Astros closer. Abreu is no stranger to the Astros bullpen as his first stint was back in 2019 but the 25-year-old is having a breakout campaign this year. Abreu inked a deal with the Astros in 2013 but did not reach full-season ball until 2018. Prior to this year, Abreu was an atypical reliever, in that he had a starter's repertoire of pitches. In 2021, he relied on his fastball, slider, and curve. He ditched the curve this year and his results have vastly improved. Honestly, his slider might be one of the better sliders coming out of any major league bullpen. This year, batters are hitting .157/.158/.215 with a 46 percent strikeout rate.
The biggest obstacle that Abreu needed to overcome this year was his poor command and we have started to see the walks decrease in the second half of the season. Since the All-Star break, Abreu's walk rate has dropped from 11 percent to eight percent while he maintained a 35 percent strikeout rate. As you are reading this, I bet you are thinking, “Shelly. Did you forget about Ryan Pressly?” First, I would say, thanks for reading but then mention Pressly diminished velocity and recurring knee issues this season. I hope this is not a Craig Kimbrel/Kenley Jansen situation where the manager sticks with the proven closer because I think Abreu has the stuff to be a top-tier closer for the next couple of seasons.
Seiya Suzuki, OF, Cubs
Seiya Suzuki was one of the hottest free agent acquisitions for teams this winter. Suzuki was one of the best players in Japan prior to his arrival stateside. In his last season in Japan, he slashed .317/.433/.636 with 38 homers and nine stolen bases. He was the Central Leagues' batting average champion as well as their on-base percentage leader in his 132 games played for the Hiroshima Carp. With the CBA up in the air, it was not 100% that the 26-year-old would tempt fate and sign with a major league team. He decided to go for it and in a surprising move, signed with the retooling Chicago Cubs. Once the season got underway, Suzuki hit the ground running. In his first month in Wrigley, Suzuki was hitting a phenomenal .279/.405/.529 with four homers, one steal, and 14 RBI across 84 plate appearances. He was the NL Rookie of the Month in April but things took a turn for the worst after that. He landed on the injured list in late May with an injured ring finger that he hurt in a slide into second base. He did not return until early July and was returned to his early April level of production. In 254 plate appearances, Suzuki smashed nine homers and slashed .275/.331/.433 while driving in 24 batters. I read and listen to way too many articles/podcasts than I care to admit but it seems like Suzuki's recent production has fallen on deaf ears. This, in my opinion, could be the best time to acquire the 28-year-old if you can still make trades in your dynasty league. If not, he could be a great trade target in the offseason as I think Suzuki has proven himself to be more than a capable major league player.
Brayan Bello, RHP, Red Sox
Bello has been one of my favorite pitchers to watch in the second half of the season. I will freely admit that I am a diehard Sox fan but my enthusiasm goes further than that. I think that Bello has the ability to be a number two/ early number three starter in fantasy baseball. Bello signed with the Red Sox during the 2016 July 2 international signing period. After missing a year due to the COVID pandemic, Bello quickly rose on many prospect ranks with an impressive 3.87 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 132/31 K/BB ratio between High-A Greenville and Double-A Portland which coincided with a significant uptick in velocity. He has held the velocity gains into the 2022 season and after the Red Sox rotation was decimated by injury, he made his debut in early July. Those first couple of starts were not pretty and he was quickly sent back to Triple-A Worcester. He returned a month later as a new pitcher. He relied on his sinker and four-seam fastball more and incorporated his lethal changeup to induce more strikeouts. He has a 2.84 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 27/10 K/BB ratio over five starts since returning on August 24. Bello brings an excellent combination of strikeouts and ground balls that should keep his overall line intact. That is if you have a defense that can make plays behind you.
He has left the game with eight runners on base and the Red Sox bullpen and defense have allowed six of those runners to score, which in turn, inflates his ERA that much more. For context, Nick Pivetta has left the game with 16 runners on base, and six batters, the same amount as Bello, have come around to score. If the team brings in some better defenders or relievers, along with Bello's progression as a pitcher, we could see a breakout from the 23-year-old right-hander next season.