Sometimes all a player needs is a change of roles or scenery. This is the case for our next 2023 Dynasty Baseball Target: Cole Ragans.
September is normally the time for a select group of minor leaguers to get called to the big leagues. This is usually the month for young players to make a name for themselves for the next season.
However, a late season push doesn't have to be left to the guys who were just called up. This is what's happening with Ragans.
Cole Ragans last 3 starts:
19 IP, 6 H, 1 BB, 0 ER, 27 K’s
— KAS (@dynastyinfo411) September 4, 2023
2023 Dynasty Baseball Trade Target: Cole Ragans
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While the trade deadline occurs in early August, we got a taste of the trade madness in June. The Rangers acquired fireballing lefty Aroldis Chapman from the Royals. As is usually the case when older players are dealt, the return from the Rangers seemed like a few castaway options: outfielder Roni Cabrera and LHP Cole Ragans.
Not so fast. Chapman has been fine with Texas, sporting a 3.32 ERA with 39 strikeouts in 21 innings. However, there’s a reason why Kansas City is being viewed as the unquestioned winners of the trade: the dominant breakout of Cole Ragans.
Ragans was a tough player to figure out during his time in Texas. He was called up in 2022 and extended into the first half of 2023. The lefty pitcher threw very hard and had a nice change-up and cutter mix, while managing decent control. However, during Ragan’s nine starts in 2022, he got hit around a ton to the tune of a 4.95 ERA and almost ten hits per nine innings.
After the lackluster showing as a starter, Texas tried Ragans out as a reliever in the first half of 2023. While he was giving up fewer hits than in 2022, he was walking way more people. It was clear that something needed to change for Ragans in order for him to become an impact pitcher.
Cole Ragans since the start of August:
7 starts with just 7 earned runs allowed, 1.48 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 60 strikeouts???
Unbelievably good. pic.twitter.com/ucbLw0kTT9
— Just Baseball (@JustBB_Media) September 4, 2023
A New Pitch
That change was made by introducing a slider. While Ragans could throw both his fastball and change effectively to righties, he was lacking that put away option against lefties. The solution? Adding a slider. Ragans modified his cutter into more of a sweeping slider when he moved to Kansas City.
It can be really risky to start throwing a new variation of a pitch right in the middle of the season. However, it was worked wonders for Ragans. Esteban Rivera of Fangraphs highlighted just how successful Ragans has been since adding the slider.
“It’s the improvement against lefties that’s been stunning. Albeit in a small sample, his K-BB% in Texas was -8.3%, and lefty hitters were posting a .387 wOBA against him. With the addition of the slider, the K-BB% has shot up to 31.4%, and the wOBA is all the way down to .216. He now uses it a whopping 42.9% of the time, with a wOBA against of just .164.”
This slider has been the driving force for Ragan’s great run value, via baseball savant. His fastball has been mediocre throughout the year at a 37th percentile run value. It has been much better as of late. However, Ragan’s offspeed run value is a very good 82nd percentile. His breaking ball run value is exceptional, at 96th percentile.
Cole Ragans added a slider and instantly became a stud.
He’s generating a 45% Whiff and throwing it for 74% strikes.
It cut his FB usage down and helped open up more of the plate to attack. pic.twitter.com/vu4esVt49y
— Jack Steele (@steelejack12) September 3, 2023
A Torrid Stretch
While the addition of the slider was a great add, it’s not the only improvement Ragans has made. Since coming over to Kansas City, Ragans has posted a minuscule 1.51 ERA, allowing around 6.5 hits per nine innings, striking out 12 per nine, and only walking two per nine.
Ragans has only gotten better as of late. Over his last three starts, he’s pitched a total of 19 innings, giving up only six hits and striking out 27 batters. This impressive stretch of performances has put Ragans second among pitchers in Fantasy Pros' value based rankings (VBR) over the last 30 days (behind Freddy Peralta),and first in the last 15 days.
What will it take to get Cole Ragans?
Every other player besides Ragans in the Top 12 of the VBR rankings over the last 30 days is at least 90% rostered among FantasyPros leagues. While the unknown name value of Ragans has kept him below a 60 percent roster rate, this won’t last forever with his performances. This has been the case with a recent trade target on here, Kerry Carpenter, and can repeat itself with Ragans.
The most likely path to Ragans is through waivers. However, if you must trade for him, a few minor league prospects should be fine for now.
Baseball can be a funny game. All it takes is for a pitcher to make one refinement to their game, and they turn from a middling arm to someone who looks like they could become an ace. The rapid ascension from Cole Ragans makes him our next 2023 Dynasty Baseball Trade Target.