One last time around the block ...
Many of us finished off our preseason of prepping, devouring, debating, adjusting, and (finally) drafting over the past weekend. Although many consider it the highlight of their fantasy baseball season, it is, of course, just the start of the half-year war of attrition to win and manage your way to the top. The previous two months have been mostly good to fantasy players. There were no major trades, no shape-shifting signings, and we nearly made it unscathed without any major injuries until Madison Bumgarner's pinkie had to ruin everything.
Heading into the opener's on Thursday here's a recap of some of the bigger camp storylines to emerge from both Arizona and Florida and how those developments affected ADPs.
(Reminder: Each player is followed by his current National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) ADP marks. The other two numbers next to a player's name are the highest the player has been selected in an NFBC draft and then the lowest that a player has been selected in an NFBC draft. Entering the final week of March, these NFBC numbers come from a collection of nearly 640 drafts.)
• The Giants Suddenly Shrink
San Francisco spent their winter rebuilding a dead offense. For the most part they left the starting staff untouched. Now, that has come back to bite them.
First, they lost Jeff Samardzija (ADP #143, 86/339) to a strained pec. That will cause him to miss all of April. That loss was seemingly made minor, though, when Bumgarner (ADP #37, 12/174) fielded a liner off the outside of his pitching hand and suffered a broken pinkie which required surgery, plates, and screws. He's expected to miss 6-8 weeks and even that timetable is at the mercy of uncertain healing.
The effect was immediate in drafts over this past weekend. With MadBum's injury occurring Friday night fantasy players had little time for inner dialog on how to handle him. For the most part, they bailed ... but not enough. Bumgarner still owned an ADP of #82 within a run of nearly 120 drafts over the weekend. Are you kidding? He'll miss 10 starts. He could miss more. The assumption that he will come back and be Cy-level Bumgarner is not legitimate. After all, last season he returned from a lengthy lay-off and saw his ERA/WHIP ratio jump and his K-rate plummet. Yet again, so many fantasy owners underestimate the effect of missed time. It's just so hard to get a full impact of even strong ratio's when you are praying for 130 innings. At the same time, when you're selecting a guy who won't play for the first 50 games (or more), you're also bypassing plenty of hitters and pitchers who could rack up results in April and May. Bumgarner fell as low as #174 in at least one NFBC draft. That is a great get. Overall, I wouldn't get interested in him until about pick #120.
And, for the record ... Shark saw his ADP dip all the way down to #193 after his misfortune.
Hype can only take you so far. Entering the start of things in mid-February, the world's most famous dual-position asset was usually off the board by the 70th pick. Then the games started. Since March 1st, Shohei Ohtani (ADP #85, 25/251) has taken a noticeable fall all the way down to 96th off the board. In effect, the more that fantasy players saw of Ohtani, the more they avoided drafting him.
Hitting-wise, we've seen nothing. Then again, that part of his game wasn't expected to be great at this exact time. On the hill, it's been just as a disappointing. He has 'stuff,' but he's struggled to control it and to use it correctly. Hitters have had mountains of success at putting the ball in play and forcing him to come into their wheelhouse. The Angels will still plan to have him in their proposed six-man rotation, but all bets are off as to success. As noted in this spot nearly two months ago, the reality of what Otani is trying to accomplish is immense. Fantasy players need playing time/innings and success ... all of that is up in the air with the young and unproven Angel.
• When Will 'The Future' Arrive?
Philadelphia provided many fantasy players a post-draft surprise when they announced that infielder/outfielder, Scott Kingery (ADP #277, 104/512), would be joining them for the trip north. He raked in Florida with a .418/.448/.800 slash over 55 spring ABs. That's difficult to ignore.
Kingery is an exciting hit and speed asset. His expected maneuverability around the diamond can be a huge asset, too. In terms of where he plays, that will probably change day-by-day. He can handle three infield spots (2B, SS, 3B) and the Phillies believe he can bounce around all three outfield spots. Results are unpredictable, but in April I would expect Kingery to find himself with 15-20 PAs per week. That's enough to start in a MI, CI, UT, or 5th OF spot in many leagues.
Kingery is one of the only 'big prospect names' to make it on the Opening Day 25-man. The likes of Ronald Acuna (ADP #99, 49/207 - best guess ... mid- April), Victor Robles (ADP #302, 185/423 - May), Gleybar Torres (ADP #299, 96/450 - mid-Summer), Nick Senzel (ADP #355, 200/521 - late-Summer), Willie Calhoun (ADP #261, 157/450 - late-April), Alex Reyes (ADP #268, 124/432 - May), and Michael Kopech (ADP #326, 57/446 - late-Summer) will have to wait a bit.
• It's Not the Heat, It's the Humidor
March 2018 marked the month that everyone became an amateur atmospheric scientist. Or, perhaps it's just the month that we all paid attention to atmospheric scientists. Either way, fantasy folks are frightened off a humidor coming to Chase Field in Arizona.
For millennia it's been hot and dry in the Arizona desert. The retractable roof helps on the temperature and now the D'Backs are hoping they have an answer for the trampoline effect courtesy of the dryness. With a humidor you're adding water to the baseball. You're trying to make it a sea-level, normal-humidity horsehide. Something closer to what you would find in a vast majority of the other MLB yards.
There's obviously an effect on the hitters and the pitchers ... better for the throwers, worse for the batsmen. But, none of us really know how much of an effect there will be? Will the humidity in the ball be kept constant over 81 games? Will it depend on the roof being closed? Will balls 'lose' moisture if they are not used until late in the game? Will Arizona even stick with the humidor if the team has a rough offensive stretch at home? These are all unknowns because there are no hard-and-fast MLB rules governing the use of this contraption. I'm not disagreeing with the science, I just believe it could be all for naught because the 'constants' that are assumed by the lab coats may not be truly 'constant.'
As is, Paul Goldschmidt (ADP #5, 2/22) has begun slipping out of the first rounds in many spots. That's a bargain. Pitching-wise, everyone is a little bit better, but is it enough to lift them a round or more? Not in my book.
• 'Pens over Rotations
It's been discussed everywhere and should be a part of everybody's draft/in-season prep. Starting pitchers are no longer a good bet for even 180 innings. There are too many youngsters not used to such work. Too many hard throwers. Too many pitch counts. Too many rules of protection. And, too many high velocity relievers. That last bit might be changing the fantasy game the most.
Everyone seems to still love Clayton Kershaw (ADP #6, 1/27), but he's no longer the same guy. He's no longer a 200 inning arm ... just look at his average of under 190 innings for the past four years. He's no longer a picture of health ... just look at the month-plus he's missed with a back injury in each of the past two years. And, he's also no longer a guy that sets his own rules in the Dodger rotation ... just look at how the team is rostering EIGHT relievers this year.
LA is planning for October and the non-public disclosure in the Dodger front office is that many of Kershaw's October issues (a .500 record and a 4.35 ERA in 24 appearances) have a root cause in excessive regular season work. He and each of the other four starters in the Dodger rotation will be massaged and managed all year. Simply put, a great Kershaw will be giving up the baseball earlier than he has in previous years.
Kershaw is on the micro-level for players ... fewer innings mean fewer K's, less of an opportunity for wins, and less of a ratio impact. On the macro-level is the idea that non-9th inning relievers are just becoming more valuable. They're used more than ever. They throw harder than they have before. They have a shot at more wins because of the increase in the number of their appearances.
If you look at the top-400 in ADP ... you will see 25 non-closing relievers selected. That has been unheard of in previous seasons. The fantasy community has recognized the problem and is addressing it.
• Where's Holland?
There might be a good deal of unsettled situations, but that hasn't created a stampede to the door the last remaining big name free agent. Greg Holland (ADP #183, 69/405) didn't have a locked-in 9th inning job at the start of last season and that is still the case this year. Of course, he at least had a team last year.
As noted above there are plenty of teams that could be in the market for Holland. It's obvious that the player came to the decision it was better to wait than to capitulate. Holland is banking on injury or a pitiful showing. Once that happens to a contender, his bet is that he will come through a winner. We'll see.
At the very least, Holland should be owned in every single league. He will be somewhere by May and even if it's not in the 9th inning, he can produce some serviceable ratio's for patient fantasy owners. Now is the time to add him if he went undrafted in your league.
• Grand Theft Motto
What's the one thing you have to hunt down in fantasy baseball this year? Stolen bases!
How do you get it? Reach for it!
When do you want it? Now!
The mantra has taken hold this preseason. Billy Hamilton (ADP #69, 31/176) has been with us for a while and still maintains a considerable amount of overall value despite being a hugely deficient player. Trea Turner (ADP #4, 2/14) has vaulted inside the top-8 everywhere despite never playing 100 games in a season and being average in three of five categories. And, when news breaks that Jarrod Dyson (ADP #391, 114/609) is up for playing time, or Leonys Martin (ADP #415, 221/700) will start and hit leadoff in Detroit, or that Kolten Wong (ADP #365, 239/492) is emphasizing a goal of 20+ steals ... they become wise-guy, late-round grabs.
Getting a 30-steals man is hard to find nowadays (just six guys reached that level a year ago!) and we've all seen the impact a man with speed can have on a draft board. Now that we've reached the conclusion of draft season, keep your eye on the morning box scores. If you didn't find your 20-steals guy ... just keep looking. There are SB threats who went undrafted ... a savvy owner will be rewarded if they can pinpoint the development early.
• Trout ... Again ... and Again ... and Again
One final reminder as we go into a new and fresh season ... Mike Trout (ADP #1, 1/5) is in the midst of a near-unprecedented run at the top of draft boards. The all-word, future Hall of Famer has now reeled off a full half-decade of fantasy dominance. He's been the consensus #1 pick each of the past five seasons. In a world of 'What have you done for me lately?' Trout is the 'What haven't you done for me ... EVER?' answer.
You can hear Kyle each weeknight on 'The SiriusXM Fantasy Drive' from 7-10 ET, Sirius 210, XM 87.
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