Welcome Back, Baseball

July 2, 2020
By Chris Steele

Welcome back, y’all! Let’s hope this is the start of a bizarre but safe season.

A fantasy baseball column should give you some advice and a few strategies, but with a 60 game season?

“Moneyball” opens with a Bill James quote that says, “There will always be people who are ahead of the curve, and people who are behind the curve. But knowledge moves the curve.”

This season is an enigma. We need to accept we are in the dark here, and the curve that gets talked about on a daily basis is the only one that is in charge of things in our world right now.

When it comes to fantasy baseball, we all might as well be trying to pick which lottery ticket looks like a winner to us.

You can literally make a counterpoint to any strategy you want to implement this year, and so that’s what I’m going to do this week.

Closers are worthless

The top closer in the league is going to finish the season with 10-15 saves.

I wouldn’t draft a closer high because you just never know when a manager is going to use their elite relievers like it’s a postseason situation.

I can already see someone like Joe Maddon being too cool for school and pitching Hansel Robles in the eighth against the Astros heart of the order only to have Ty Buttrey pitch the ninth against the bottom of the order and scavenge a save.

I’m taking a pass on aging and overworked arms this year like Kenley Jansen and Brad Hand.

Hand was one of the best relievers in the game in the first half and then had his ERA go from 2.17 in 41 games to 5.40 in 21 games to finish the season.

Young arms aren’t going to lose that zip on their fastball, so I would lean that way if possible.

Guys like Josh Hader, Roberto Osuna and Taylor Rogers are going to be just fine but just stay away from situations that are really unclear.

Tampa Bay’s Nick Anderson might be one of my favorite relievers in all of baseball, but the Rays have three potential closers (Diego Castillo and Jose Alvarado) and with such a short time frame you can’t afford to take chances on arms that aren’t going to get save opportunities.

Closers are really important now
There a lot of value in this spot if you can get someone reliable.

If you are getting points where others are struggling I’m all for taking a risk if it will be a huge boost to your team.

If you can add Kirby Yates, do it.

Yates is getting up in years at 33, but he doesn’t have the high leverage innings the other older guys carry.

Plus, Yates’ success is more based on his spin rate (61st percentile).

However, I would only do something like this if I knew it was a sure thing where nobody is a closer in waiting.

Random closer thought
Chicago Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel had a similar situation play out for him last year when he was a free agent.

A lot of  Kimbrel’s struggles were pinned on him getting a late start, so does that mean every bullpen arm will struggle this year?

No, Kimbel lost a tick on his fastball and has become wilder than ever; he had a WOBA of .481, which is a disaster.

Even if he does have some secret sauce from having gone through a similar situation just last year I’m not taking a risk on someone who seems like he’s going to have a very short leash this season.

The closer position is going to be volatile for a lot of teams with managers trying to mix and match at the first sign of trouble.  

Fade all prospects
At their cores, managers are just crusty old guys who just want things to be the way they used to be.

I think we might see managers treat this as an excuse to play more veterans because nobody is out of it with only 60 games to play.

Just leave it to a professional moron like Mike Matheny to favor guys who have been there before and know the pressure of a stretch run to justify a garbage lineup every day.

We get to see prospect play sooner
For those who have been reading For Fantasy Sake for a while now you know how in love I am with Jo Adell.  

https://forfantasysake.blogspot.com/2020/02/adell-says-hello-from-other-side.html?fbclid=IwAR1WyqxepARueDV7FpKWkZMsD3HOqQq_FOfTJgucEY0-AVlqJzlX_xSiBRc

The good thing about this season is that MLB teams will be forced to play players like Adell.

Another player I hope gets a chance to shine is Alec Bohm at third base in Philadelphia.

Bohm probably won’t be an instant starter like Adell, but this dude has rip city written all over him.

He is pure power with a 60-grade power rating according to Fangraphs, and he’s a solid contact hitter on top of that with some good discipline.  

Baseball Savant profiles Bohm as a player with “The bat speed and strength give him the potential to be a true impact bat in the middle of a lineup.”

The Athletics’ Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk have ace potential and should start the season in the Oakland rotation.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see them both break out in a big way this year.

Injury history doesn’t matter
Unless you think a player might opt out of playing this year, I’m all for drafting guys who have a high upside with an injury history.

This is a sprint, not the marathon we are used to so we should assume that even the most injury-riddled players are going to be able to stay upright for two months.

Don’t overdo it on guys with an injury history.

Last season, Yoenis Cespedes, 32 already, injured himself stepping in a hole during an “interaction” with a wild boar.

This season, I imagine Cespedes starting the season by hitting .500 with 10 home runs through 30 games only to injure himself by driving a go-cart off the Eiffel Tower.

I know it’s a crazy prediction, but it makes as much sense as the boar thing.

As we already know when it comes to 2020 expect the unexpected.