Written by: Ray Butler
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“Chaos theory suggests that even in a deterministic system, if the equations describing its behavior are non-linear, a tiny change in the initial conditions can lead to a cataclysmic and unpredictable result.”
Even in a normal, 162-game season, baseball is wildly unpredictable. “Prospect growth isn’t linear” is a phrase utilized often on this site, but the same often holds true with players at baseball’s top level. Popular breakout candidates—even in a full, unfettered season—often mush and fall flat. Even if your evaluation process is impeccable as a fantasy player, no one’s success rate remains unblemished throughout the course of a six month season.
Now, the industry is utilizing those same evaluation processes for a two month, 60-game season. If you thought the fantasy baseball world was dampered before 2020, imagine the snap reactions to player news in the middle of a pandemic. During a shortened preparation period. For a sprint season. Even in Main Events, price points have varied wildly leading up to Opening Day, and any inkling of unfavorable news regarding a player has led to a notable drop on draft boards throughout the fantasy world.
In the end, I suspect 2020 will be a fantastic season to differentiate sharp fantasy analysts from the squares. The best of the best will concede the uniqueness of the season while also admitting all fantasy players have been given an equal, high-variance playing field. The sharks of the industry will lean on strong drafts and astute FAAB runs to ensure positive return on investments this summer. The fish will hide behind the shield of a COVID-induced shortened season, chalking up misfortune and a ravaged bankroll to the volatility of the sprint. Make note of those who take accountability for their outcomes as you decide whose evaluations in the industry you’ll be leaning on moving forward. IYKYK!
So how should we go about attacking our fantasy leagues this summer?
Attacking Redraft Leagues
In redraft leagues, volume is king. Industry pal John Laghezza recently did a fantastic job ($) explaining this on The Athletic. Remain highly aware of top-of-the-order hitters and rotation aces for all 30 teams as you draft leading up to Opening Day. Sure, that’s awesome news for Gerrit Cole and George Springer, but it’s also an extremely underrated fact that will boost the Andrew McCutchens, Trent Grishams, Danny Duffys and Joe Musgroves of the world. Higher volume naturally presents more opportunities to impact counting stats in fantasy leagues, which is incredibly crucial throughout a 60-game season.
Next, be aware of stabilization rates for players. While strikeout rates for hitters will stabilize after the first two weeks of the season, there will still be a ton of noise in power metrics and on base skills late in the season. Hard Hit%, Exit Velocity and Launch Angle and Contact Rate all stabilize between 16-30 games (check out Max’s article hyperlinked above for specifics on those categories), so we’ll be able to officially identify in-season breakouts (in those categories) prior to the midway point of the season. As always, you can get an idea of batted ball fortune and outliers by monitoring BABIP and BIP distribution (Pull%, Oppo%) throughout the season. Unfortunately, BABIP itself doesn’t stabilize until a hitter provides over 800 balls in play. For pitchers, strikeout rate should stabilize prior to a starter’s fifth start. BIP trends (especially Fly Ball% and Ground Ball%) will become decently reliable a couple of starts later. ERA estimators should be helpful as we attempt to sort thru lucky/unlucky appearances to begin the season—though appropriate regression isn’t guaranteed over a 10-12 start sample. If you’ve weaponized your Twitter feed to assist you in fantasy baseball, you should be able to sift through the sh*t to find the Shinola.
Mindset will be key throughout the sprint season. Everyone is going to suffer a horrendous, early-season pitching blunder. Everyone is going to have an early-round hitter who begins the season ice cold. Will you panic and hastily bench/cut these players before looking under the hood to determine if there’s genuine reason for concern? Is the hitter a victim of an abundance of hard hit outs, or has the contact rate tanked? Is the pitcher suffering from unfortunate batted ball luck, or has the swinging strike rate dissipated due to a legitimate worsening of arsenal quality? Might there be an underlying injury that a thorough search on Twitter could uncover? These are the types of questions you’ll need to answer as you decide when to make drastic lineup changes or cut bait altogether in redraft leagues. If you feel as though your evaluation process was strong during the offseason and preseason, why would you bail on a favorite draft target after a lousy two-week start to the season without fully understanding the issues at play? On the flip side of that coin, why would you keep starting that same player six weeks into a nine-week season if there are no signs of life? Don’t overreact after a week. Don’t under-react after a month. From a fantasy sense, we must live patiently inpatient and rigidly flexible throughout the next two and a half months.
Lastly, there’s at least a decent chance one of your player contracts COVID-19 during the season. This is especially true if you play in multiple leagues. Again, best practice regarding how to proceed is nuanced. Scroll through Twitter searching for news as to whether the player is symptomatic or not. If a player you drafted within the top-5 rounds contracts the virus early in the season, you may sacrifice a roster spot and hope they return to action as soon as possible. If your fifth outfielder contracts the virus, you’re likely best-off cutting bait and utilizing the entirety of your bench. It’s absolutely critical to maximize the quality of your bench. Since the shutdown, I’ve drafted fantasy teams as if the entirety of my starting lineup will miss time due to COVID-19 this summer (this is unlikely, but it’s helped me prioritize the optimization of my bench spots in FAAB leagues). In NFBC leagues, draft your bench outfielders and pitchers early in the reserve rounds (I suggest a pair of each). Positional versatility is always convenient, but it’s even more important this season than in normal seasons (this is especially true in daily leagues). The Ryan McMahons, Tommy La Stellas, Hanser Albertos, Jake Lambs and Isiah Kiner-Falefas will better help you better navigate potential COVID situations on your roster. If you can help it, don’t lose a top-round first baseman and resign yourself to having to add Albert Pujols via FAAB; that’s not a path to success during a two month fantasy season.
What About Dynasty Leagues?
I could copy and paste a lot of the redraft content here as I discuss dynasty leagues in a shortened season, especially if you’re looking to win your league this season. As you build towards the future in your dynasties, please be extremely aware that this 60-game season will lead to a countless amount of player outlook skewing. Read Max’s article again. Look at the lengthy samples needed for several key statistical categories. Casey Mize won’t suddenly become a bust if he struggles in five starts at the end of the summer. Ryan Mountcastle won’t suddenly become a top-10 prospect if he mashes in 100 plate appearances during the sprint season. Player and prospect valuations will be extraordinarily volatile this offseason as fantasy rosterers put too much stock into infantile sample sizes. Fading that noise will lead you to taking advantage of market inefficiencies while avoiding catastrophic decisions in trade/keeper decisions leading up to the 2021 season.
In some ways, a 60-game season is a complete godsend to strong dynasty players who tend to take advantage of unsuspecting league mates. Begin planting seeds regarding potential trades early in the season. If you’re not contending this season, don’t be afraid of dropping a fringe big leaguer in favor of a player who starts the season hot. Then, look to trade that player for a player, prospect or FYPD pick who better fits your projected contention window. Of course this is easier said than done, but this strategy can help you stay in-tune during what would normally be an unexciting season for your team. Even if these trades only serve as an extra inch of room in your future contention window, every little bit helps as you climb the dynasty mountain. Fantasy players will win their dynasty league in future season thanks to trades they make this summer.
Below, I’ve laid out the 30-team fantasy landscape for the sprint season. Team outlooks include some of my favorite targets and fades in redraft leagues as Opening Day approaches. I’ve also updated my high-value active player list, so be sure to give it a read (below) as you prepare for the most chaotic two months you’ve ever experienced as a fantasy player:
Let’s dive in!
Yasiel Puig signing with Atlanta only adds to the dust that is yet to settle with this active roster. In an ideal world, I think Puig becomes the Braves’ primary left fielder, shifting Marcell Ozuna to designated hitter in the process (the two could also rotate at LF/DH). Ender Inciarte should still be the main center fielder, but Ronald Acuña Jr. can also play the position if manager Brian Snitker wants to roll with an Acuña/Puig/Ozuna outfield (in this scenario, Austin Riley would likely be the DH). For some reason, I feel like this means Riley will be the primary third baseman, allowing Johan Camargo to serve as one of the better utility players in the sport.
A positive COVID-19 test meant Puig didn’t pass his physical, which nullifies any potential agreement he could sign with the Braves. Hopefully, a potential contract will still be on the table once the outfielder is able to test negative twice. Until then, let’s hope Puig is able to remain safe and healthy.
I am fully hitched to the Dansby Swanson wagon this summer, and a full-blown breakout would mean drinks are on me this offseason. Freddie Freeman was cleared from COVID-19 protocols on Friday, and he’s expected to have just enough preparation time to be ready for Opening Day. The first baseman has been enormously discounted in redraft leagues since news of Freeman’s symptomatic exposure became public knowledge, but those fantasy rosterers are obviously sitting pretty now. Until (if?) Puig signs, Riley figures to see at-bats as the team’s primary DH. This also means Johan Camargo should consistently start at third base until further notice. Atlanta is a team that figures to utilize tandem starters to begin the season, which means they’ll take advantage of the organizational depth they possess on the mound. While Mike Soroka, Max Fried and Mike Foltynewicz should have a bit of a longer leash, look for the SP4 and SP5 slots to be filled with a committee including Sean Newcomb, Josh Tomlin, Kyle Wright and Bryse Wilson. While he’ll begin the season on the injured list, Cole Hamels should slot into the rotation at some point in August. I’m personally hopeful for a Wright breakout this summer; he’ll certainly have an opportunity to cement his long-term status in the rotation. While Shane Greene, Luke Jackson and Will Smith (who is yet to appear at camp) have experience closing games, my money is on Mark Melancon maintaining the role throughout the summer. Anchoring the bullpen for one of the best teams in baseball, the 35-year-old is quite underpriced in the closer landscape as the regular season nears.
Starling Marte has really been through it this year, so it was good to see him cleared early in Summer Camp after he missed the first few team workouts. He’s being drafted towards the backend of the second round in most 15-team leagues, but I think he’s a strong bet to return first round value this summer. Christian Walker has been battling a sore groin as of late, but he’s still trending towards being ready for Opening Day. If he were to miss a few games, Jake Lamb could play first base while Kevin Cron sees at-bats from the DH spot. In an ideal world, it’s Lamb who should see the majority of his playing time as designated hitter this summer. The infielder simplified his mechanics during Spring Training, leading to an impressive output both then and during Summer Camp. Perhaps reports of his death were a bit premature. Ketel Marte may not match the pace of .329 BA/32 HR/10 SB he posted last season, but the outfielder will officially cement himself as one of the game’s best overall players this summer. He’s here to stay. Keep an eye on Kole Calhoun‘s standing in Arizona’s batting order; he hit leadoff on Sunday night, and remaining there once the regular season begins would lead to a nice bump in value. Mike Leake opting out of the season was huge news for Merrill Kelly, who was named the team’s fifth starter Saturday night. Alex Young will be the first starter implemented if there’s an injury or ineffectiveness. Archie Bradley is slated to receive the lion’s share of save opportunities for Arizona this summer, but I suspect manager Torey Lovullo won’t hesitate to employ Hector Rondón, Junior Guerra or Kevin Ginkel in the final inning if need be. It’s still considered a bit of a long-shot, but don’t be surprised if Daulton Varsho makes his MLB debut at some point this summer, especially if the Diamondbacks lose an outfielder to injury or COVID-19.
You can make the argument John Means skated by last season thanks to fortunate batted ball luck and an ERA (3.60) that was quite a bit better than his pCRA (4.22). Undebatable is his recent velocity uptick, the viability of his changeup and slider and the volume he should receive this summer while sitting at the top of the Orioles’ rotation. If the dead arm he’s currently experiencing doesn’t lead to him missing more than a start or two, he should out-earn his current Main Event ADP of 389.3. Keep an eye on news regarding his return to the mound. Despite Roster Resource projecting Hanser Alberto to lead off, I actually expect Austin Hays to handle those duties while also playing center field. Hays’ volume, power and sneaky speed make him an appetizing OF4 or 5. He should be a top-200 fantasy player during the shortened season (early Main Event ADP: 284.7), though keep an eye on any news regarding a HBP in the knee he suffered Sunday night (concern is reportedly low at the time this article was published). Left fielder Anthony Santander and first baseman (designated hitter) Renato Núñez continue to be intriguing options at their respective positions, mostly based on their power projection and run-producing outlook. Yes, I suspect Ryan Mountcastle will impact the Orioles’ lineup at some point this summer, but I’m fading the notion he’ll be an every day starter as soon as he’s promoted. He’s not dethroning Santander in left field, and I can only assume Baltimore will squeeze Chris Davis for every drop he’s worth at first base before fully turning the reins to the 23-year-old. I’m up to eight shares of Asher Wojciechowski in deep formats, and I think he’s a great depth option who will can start for you in a pinch. For you dynasty players, Dean Kremer will likely debut towards the latter stages of the season. He’s an underrated top-200 prospect in my eyes. Assuming (dangerously) that things were semi-normal next season, 2021 will be the year of Grayson Rodriguez in the prospect world.
With Eduardo Rodriguez missing Opening Day after testing positive for COVID-19 and spending nearly the entirety of Summer Camp away from the team, the Red Sox starting rotation will be likely comprised of Nathan Eovaldi, Martin Perez, Ryan Weber, Brian Johnson and Matt Hall to begin the season. Yikes. For what it’s worth, Rodriguez is hovering around an ADP of 200 in early Main Events. He finally arrived at camp on Saturday, and there’s a chance he only misses one time through the rotation. Perez is a volume-based target for me after pick 400, and I do think Boston’s savvy R&D department can help the southpaw reach new heights. Just don’t expect the moon or the stars this summer. I enjoyed this deep dive on Brandon Workman, who will begin the season as the Red Sox’s closer. With a low Zone%, I’m intrigued to see if hitters take a more conservative approach against the right-hander this summer. Should he falter in the role, Matt Barnes will receive Save opportunities. I expect Andrew Benintendi to bounce back after a disappointing 2019 campaign, and he’ll do so as Boston’s leadoff hitter. Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez should perform to expectations this summer, but I expect Alex Verdugo to join that fray as well. The shutdown was instrumental in allowing the right fielder to return to full health after experiencing an ailing back during the spring, and I believe Verdugo will be a world beater in 2020. We’re due for a ‘putting it all together’ Jackie Bradley Jr. campaign, and his streakiness makes him as boom or bust as they come during a shortened season. I’ve never been a huge fan of José Peraza‘s skillset, but even without a ton of volume while batting at the bottom of Boston’s lineup, it’s impossible to argue the value post-pick 250 when the 26-year-old provides three positions of eligibility, speed upside and a solid batting average floor.
The tale of the Cubs leading up to Opening Day appears to begin and end with the health of Anthony Rizzo. Something called ‘rib head inflammation’ appears to be the culprit that’s causing lower back tightness, and the first baseman missed more than a week’s worth of practices and intrasquads. If he’s forced to miss the start of the season, Victor Caratini should see most of the playing time at first base. Kyle Schwarber (whose draft price continues to climb as the regular season nears) is an obvious beneficiary of the universal DH, but it also ensured Ian Happ will be an every day player this summer. Jason Heyward and Albert Almora Jr. project to handle the other two outfield positions, but I’m more interested in Steven Souza Jr. (relative to cost) in the fantasy world. The 31-year-old appears to be fully recovered from a brutal knee injury that occurred during Spring Training 2019, and he should see time at both corner outfield spots while also DH’ing some. He’s practically free at the end of drafts, which makes the power/speed combo all the more appealing. You shouldn’t need convincing in order to draft Kris Bryant this preseason, but the increased volume while leading off will be awfully nice. Tyler Chatwood and Alec Mills rounding off Chicago’s Opening Day rotation is a direct result of José Quintana slicing his left thumb open while washing dishes at home. The southpaw should return to action around the middle of August. Mills’ sinker/changeup/curveball/slider combination is a bit intriguing, but I am yet to acquire any shares. I lean towards Craig Kimbrel at least partially bouncing back after a horrendous 2019 campaign, but you could do worse than stashing Jeremy Jeffress in Draft and Holds.
Tim Anderson strikes me as a player who could really do some ridiculous things over a 60-game regular season, and it appears he’ll be Chicago’s leadoff hitter. Yoán Moncada finally arrived at camp on Thursday following a positive COVID-19 test, which should give the third baseman just enough time to be ready for Chicago’s first game. Even if he doesn’t break camp with the team, Nick Madrigal should make an impact on the South Side after the first week of the season. The volume will be low (he’ll bat at the bottom of the order), but the second baseman should provide sneaky AVG and SB value once he becomes an every day big leaguer. I don’t think I’ll be rostering any shares, but Nomar Mazara has altered his hand positioning in his swing while also adopting a more aggressive plate approach. He’s only 25 and still has plenty of talent, though there’s still some redraft risk at his current ADP (263.8). I have personally given every White Sox starting pitcher a slight uptick in my personal SP rankings this season as the group should thrive from Yasmani Grandal as the primary catcher in lieu of James McCann. Beginning this summer, I really think he’ll help Dylan Cease reach his massive potential. A lot of folks suspect Aaron Bummer will be the name to watch if Alex Colome falters as closer this summer, but I’ll be shocked if one of Kelvin Herrera or Steve Cishek don’t receive first crack. And for what it’s worth, I believe Colome is one of the safer options amongst 9th inning arms in his ADP range.
The Reds have an explosive, powerful lineup, an underrated starting rotation and a deep, filthy bullpen. You don’t have to dream too hard to envision Cincinnati making a bit of a Cinderella run in the playoffs this fall. If you’re a sports investor, throw a few pesos on Nick Castellanos as 2020 NL MVP. The sky is the limit for his bat in Great American Ballpark, and he’s become a 5th round pick in 15-team leagues as the sprint season approaches. The outfielder suffered a stinger after being HBP in the upper back by a Tyler Mahle fastball on Friday night; while he sat out Saturday night, the Reds are confident Castellanos avoided anything serious. Jesse Winker appeared to be on the outside looking in for consistent playing time prior to the shutdown, but the universal DH makes him an excellent target anytime after pick 300 (especially if Nick Senzel misses any time with a hyperextended elbow). Eugenio Suarez could lead the league in home runs during the shortened season, and Trevor Bauer could follow suit in innings pitched. Raisel Iglesias will get first crack as the 9th inning arm in Cincinnati, but the margin for error will be microscopic thanks to a bullpen that also includes Robert Stephenson, Michael Lorenzen, Amir Garrett and Pedro Strop. Lorenzen experienced forearm soreness while experimenting with a new grip, but he’s only considered day-to-day for now. Monitor his status leading up to Opening Day. While he’s technically not projected to be one of the Reds’ five starters, Mahle being utilized as a ‘piggyback’ reliever make him an intriguing, Chad Green-lite target later in drafts. While he is yet to play at a level above High-A, keep an eye on Jose Garcia if Freddy Galvis proves inadequate at shortstop early in the summer.
Let’s bask in the glory of CÉSAR HERNÁNDEZ SZN. The second baseman was recently tabbed as the Indians’ leadoff hitter for the upcoming season, and the volume/speed make him an intriguing 2B/MI option in all formats this summer. Tyler Naquin won’t likely be an every day player for Cleveland this summer, but he’s now fully healthy after undergoing major knee surgery towards the end of last season. The offensive skillset is still intriguing, and he could see the majority of playing time in right field during the 60-game season. If that prediction turns out to be wrong, it’ll probably be because Bradley Zimmer supplanted him following a stout Summer Camp. Zimmer is nearly impossible to ever give up on from a fantasy standpoint, thanks largely to elite and boisterous raw tools in every facet of the game. Oscar Mercado has an early Main Event ADP of 109.7, but he’s a full fade for me in redraft thanks to mediocre on base skills and low volume while batting at the bottom of the Indians’ order. That has been the plan for quite a while. Jose Ramirez‘s price tag has recently skyrocketed into the first round (Main Event ADP: 11.6), and his skillset’s ceiling during the sprint season is that of a top-5 hitter (think 2018 performance). Shane Bieber and Mike Clevinger are both solid candidates to win the AL Cy Young this season, and that duo will team with Carlos Carrasco to form one of the best rotation trios in the sport. With Emmanuel Clase suspended 80 games for performance enhancing drugs, James Karinchak should be an absolute terror in any league that rewards Holds. If the Indians underperform and decide to sell at the deadline, a Brad Hand departure would clear the way for Karinchak’s tenure as closer to officially begin. I guess we should keep an eye on Francisco Lindor opting out of the season at the last minute? Or not.
Sam Hilliard is a scorching-hot name in fantasy circles, but I suspect a bulked-up Raimel Tapia will actually receive every opportunity to be the primary left fielder during the 60-game season this summer. I have other priorities at Hilliard’s price tag (Main Event ADP: 249.2), but Tapia has been a common target of mine between picks 400 and 500 in Draft and Holds. There’s a ton of buzz surrounding Tapia in Rockies camp, and I have a hunch he’ll garner legitimate fantasy value across-the-board throughout the summer. Of course, this would mean Hilliard’s volume would be extremely disappointing relative to where he’s currently being drafted. Charlie Blackmon being cleared by COVID-19 protocols just in time to be ready for Opening Day is huge news both for the Rockies and my fantasy teams. Some industry folks are fading the outfielder due to age and ‘declining’ skills, but he was the 31st-most valuable fantasy player last season according to Razzball’s Player Rater. With the DH being implemented in the National League and with a nice, current Main Event ADP of 75.8, I’ve been happy to scoop up as many shares as possible. Just don’t plan on the 34-year-old being the stolen base threat he once was. Portions of the industry are also fading Ryan McMahon, which I don’t understand either. The 25-year-old will be an every day player who already possesses 2B/3B/CI/MI eligibility; within the first two weeks of the season, he should also conquer eligibility at first base. I expect the infielder to provide double-digit home runs, a couple of stolen bases and a batting average that won’t kill your floor. His ADP has climbed to 175 as Opening Day nears, and as Dan Thompson recently noted on Twitter, the upside is reminiscent of Max Muncy. I’m all in. I only have Garrett Hampson in one of my 17 fantasy leagues, and it’s a Best Ball redraft in which I also roster McMahon. Daniel Murphy is in better current shape than he was a year ago, and I think he’ll play more first base than is currently expected (a lot of people assume he’ll primarily DH this summer) as Bud Black finds a way to keep Blackmon fresh while also finding Matt Kemp at-bats on occasion. Kemp has had a strong Summer Camp, so he could see quite a bit of action as DH at the start of the season. This would mean McMahon will play more second base than expected, with Hampson shifting around the diamond in a non-every day utility role. Brendan Rodgers returning to full health during the shutdown only further clouds Hampson’s path. I hope I’m wrong, because the 25-year-old could play a huge role on several league-winning fantasy teams given every day playing time. David Dahl missed a couple of intrasquads with ‘core soreness’, but he returned Saturday night. It constantly feels like we’re a breath away from the outfielder spending time on the injured list. It’s German Márquez comeback SZN, and it officially begins with a road outing against the Rangers on Opening Day. We still need to be careful about utilizing the right-hander at home, but I do expect him to perform closer to his pCRA from last season (3.72) than his ERA (4.76). It’s bombs away at his current ADP (210). A forearm injury will keep Peter Lambert out of the Opening Day rotation, so Jeff Hoffman and his shortened arm action should receive a shot every fifth day. I’m not shooting for moon here, but the price tag is literally free. Wade Davis might be the fourth or fifth best arm in the Rockies’ bullpen, but he’s already been named closer; I suspect Black will give the right-hander a longer leash than he deserves, which means Scott Oberg and Jairo Diaz could receive minimal save opportunities throughout the shortened season.
I think Detroit is quit underrated from a fantasy standpoint this season, with Matthew Boyd, Joe Jimenez, C.J. Cron, Niko Goodrum, Jonathan Schoop, Cameron Maybin, Miguel Cabrera, Austin Romine, Spencer Turnbull and JaCoby Jones being players I’m targeting at their respective ADP ranges. Maybin specifically is appetizing, especially since he’s slated to lead off and offers a sneaky power/speed combination you can draft after pick 350. Jones has long been one of my breakout picks for 2020, but his leash will be considerably shorter as Victor Reyes looks to carve-out consistent playing time. It probably doesn’t help that a strained oblique led to Jones being a late scratch prior to Wednesday’s intrasquad. The center fielder is now questionable for Opening Day, though he returned to the field on Sunday. Harold Castro has likely been the most impressive hitter in Tigers camp this preseason, and he should see quite a bit of playing time in a utility role during the regular season. An upside dart throw at the end of Draft Championships and Best Balls. Schoop has hit at least 20 home runs in four consecutive seasons, and I suspect C.J. Cron simply needed every day playing time to become a viable factor amongst first basemen in the fantasy world. Romine posted a career-high xBA, xSLG, Barrel% and Hard Hit% in part-time duty with the Yankees last season, so I’m extremely interested to see how he fares with full-time duty this summer. I’m on all three of those players this summer. Matt Boyd has genuine top-10 SP potential this summer, though he’ll need some run support fortune to compile the wins necessary to accomplish that feat in standard leagues. I firmly believe he’ll be a top-100 player in redraft leagues next preseason. Spencer Turnbull only managing to win three games in 30 starts last season masked what was actually an adequate campaign relative to cost, and he’s been fantastic in Summer Camp. Like Boyd, a bit more run support would allow Turnbull to ascend earning lists relative to where he’s being drafted. Daniel Norris continues to miss time thanks to testing positive for COVID-19, and he’ll miss at least a little regular season time. Michael Fulmer has nearly worked his way back to full strength after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2019; I’m not going out of my way to target him at his ADP range (400-450), but you could do worse at that stage of deep leagues. On Saturday, Jordan Zimmermann was placed on the 45-day injured list with a strained forearm. While it won’t affect his Opening Day status, perhaps this means Casey Mize will be a big leaguer sooner than expected; Matt Manning won’t be far behind.
Josh James recently returned to camp and promised he’d be ready for Opening Day (his absence was due to the birth of his second child). He’s been a popular upside/sleeper play in the fantasy world throughout the preseason, and he’s certainly on the time to pile-up wins while also remaining viable in the strikeout department. Just don’t count on a spotless WHIP. Unfortunately, Yordan Alvarez and José Urquidy have not yet reported; at this point, I’m considering them very doubtful to be on the Astros’ Opening Day roster. With Alvarez primarily slated to DH, his absence from regular season games will open a temporary window for Kyle Tucker. With Urquidy unlikely to be ready at the start of the season, Framber Valdez should break camp with a rotation spot. The southpaw has one of the best curveballs in baseball, and I’d love to see the usage continue to tick-up (34.2% in 2019) as the Astros look to hide the remainder of his arsenal. A lot of folks are fading Justin Verlander at his current price point thanks to previous groin and lat ailments and a mechanical overhaul, but he still possesses tons of strikeout viability while sitting at the top of the rotation for one of the league’s best teams. I still feel strongly he shouldn’t be available in the second round of 15-team leagues. With Roberto Osuna, Ryan Pressly, Brad Peacock, Cionel Pérez and Austin Pruitt all possibly missing regular season time with various ailments and Joe Smith opting out, Astros starters could see their workloads increase a bit quicker than other rotations around the league. Osuna missing save opportunities would be especially costly during the sprint season (he is yet to throw from the mound during Summer Camp as of Sunday). If he and Pressly both miss Opening Day, Chris Devenski or Bryan Abreu would figure to be in-line for save opportunities. If James or Valdez falter and Urquidy continues to be a no-show, it could very mean Forrest Whitley plays a larger big league role this summer than anyone is currently expecting.
It appears Salvador Perez was cleared *just* in time to be ready for Opening Day. The 30-year-old should be a middle-of-the-order, high-volume option behind the plate this summer, so here’s to hoping he’s cleared soon. Ryan O’Hearn is still on the COVID-19 injured list, and his days as Kansas City’s first baseman could be numbered (in favor of Hunter Dozier) after the Royals traded for Franchy Cordero on Thursday night. Cordero is immensely talented, but the massive holes in his swing and durability issues have suppressed his big league output to this point in his career. The 25-year-old was reportedly having a lousy Summer Camp with the Padres and was likely to be left off the Opening Day roster, so a trade made a lot of sense. Despite a few scalding hot takes regarding the outfielder post-trade by fantasy analysts on Twitter, Cordero is actually slated to report to the Royals’ alternate site to begin the season. It’s still likely he receives an opportunity at some point this summer. Danny Duffy continues to be one of my favorite SP targets around pick 400, and—at some point—I really expect to plug him into the backend of my NFBC rotations without skipping much of a beat. Even if he’s simply an unspectacular compiler, I think he out-earns his price tag. Trevor Rosenthal has been a popular, uber-late round target for speculative saves assuming Ian Kennedy is traded prior to the deadline, but my money would be on a reemergence from Greg Holland.
I continue to strongly believe Jason Castro will be a top-10 catcher in redraft leagues this summer, if not better. With a current Main Event ADP hovering around 350, he’ll be incredibly value in any two-catcher league or in a league in which you ‘punt’ the position. I’m also extremely high on Tommy La Stella, who’s slated to lead off and possesses the vaunted 2B/3B/CI/MI eligibility. Unfortunately, I’ve been far less successful drafting TLS shares. Mike Trout will continue to earn fantasy headlines as he prepares to miss at least a little bit of time following the birth of his first child. He’s been a mid-first rounder in Main Events so far. Anthony Rendon was scratched from an intrasquad Friday night with oblique tightness. He’s considered day-to-day, and his Opening Day status is officially in question. Let’s cross our fingers this is nothing serious, but you know how finicky oblique injuries can be. His Main Event ADP has tumbled as a result. I’m not sprinting to grab Jo Adell anywhere, but he’s certainly a candidate to debut at some point during the sprint season. His defensive struggles during Summer Camp certainly won’t help his cause. If his elbow holds up, Griffin Canning will be a bargain after pick 300. Andrew Heaney woke up Saturday with back stiffness, so he opted to throw a bullpen in lieu of an intrasquad game. The Angels don’t seem worried, and the southpaw is still projected to start on Opening Day. I’m hoping there’s just enough hype surrounding Dylan Bundy that he doesn’t mush and fall flat; he could very well be the best arm in the Angels’ rotation this summer. We’re living in a world in which Hansel Robles is one of the more reliable closers in the sport, and it appears he’s really hit his stride as a player since joining the Angels. There’s no reason to think he won’t continue to thrive in the 9th inning with Joe Maddon now at the helm.
It’s been assumed since the start of Summer Camp, but Walker Buehler is reportedly ‘behind’ other starting pitchers in Dodgers workouts and intrasquads. He only threw two innings in an intrasquad game Friday night. Don’t be surprised if he only goes 3-4 innings in his first couple of regular season starts this summer, depending on pitch count. That means Dustin May should be an underrated piggybacker early in the season, and he should be considered the top candidate to replace and Dodger starting pitcher who suffers an injury. I’ve been saying this for what feels like forever, but I really think Julio Urías is going to put the baseball world on notice this season. With David Price opting out, Urías’ new status as SP3 in Los Angeles’ rotation will hopefully lead to an increased workload. Assuming he’s named the 5th starter, I’m not sure the market will fully correct itself regarding Ross Stripling‘s ADP prior to Opening Day. The volume once projected to lack, but the right-hander is now projected to pitch the second game of the season for LA. He’ll be a strikeout and ratios asset at the backend of fantasy rotations, all while (hopefully) being viable in the Win department as well. After considering volume, would it *really* surprise anyone if Kenley Jansen out-earned Kirby Yates this summer? Assuming Yates is his normal, stellar self, that means Jansen should be drafted around 20 picks earlier than his current price. If you fancy SV+H leagues, it appears the late-arriving Pedro Baez will be ready for Opening Day. Out of respect, it took me thirty minutes to type that sentence. Cody Bellinger tinkered with his swing this offseason after being exposed a bit by pitchers during the second half of the 2019 regular season and during the playoffs. I assume the alteration(s) will help him attach pitches on the inner third, and I’m certainly not fading him in fantasy because of this news. Mookie Betts might have the most volume of any hitter in the league this summer, and he’s the clear-cut 3rd overall pick in redraft leagues behind Ronald Acuña Jr. and Christian Yelich. Justin Turner continues to be criminally under-drafted this preseason; as I recently tweeted, he’s projected to outperform Vlad Guerrero Jr. this summer (according to THE BAT), yet you can grab him 100 picks later than VGJ. I think he’ll flirt with top-10 3B status during the sprint season (currently drafted as 3B20). Max Muncy was HBP in the hand during the early portions of Summer Camp, but he’s working his way back and should be a full-go by Opening Day. The 29-year-old continues to be an underrated player and a huge coup in OBP leagues. In ultra deep leagues, Edwin Rios could be a Joc Pederson injury from seeing at-bats as the designated hitter versus right-handed pitchers. With a shallow first base pool, keep Rios’ name in mind during the endgame of Draft and Holds. Tinfoil hat time: a few Dodgers hitters have expressed their disdain of the new batters’ eye at Dodger Stadium. Don’t be surprised if it also throws opposing hitters for a loop at the start of the regular season, which would subsequently help Dodgers pitchers.
A middle-of-the-order consisting of Brian Anderson, Corey Dickerson and Jesús Aguilar could be super underrated from a fantasy standpoint this summer. More specifically, I believe both Anderson and Dickerson could vastly out-earn their current price tags (226.4 and 292.6 ADPs, respectively) during the shortened season. With Matt Joyce still not practicing, rumors continue to swirl that some combination of Monte Harrison, Jesús Sanchez or Lewin Diaz could break camp with the big league club. While they won’t be every day players, this would still be a huge step forward from an organizational development standpoint. All three have a chance to be average-or-better big leaguers both in real life and in the fantasy world. Diaz was HBP in the hand during an intrasquad Saturday night, but he avoided injury and has full range of motion. In a season in which steals will be incredibly hard to come by in fantasy leagues, Jon Berti and his super-utility role is extremely sneaky around pick 225. Brandon Kintzler will be Miami’s closer to begin the season, but I continue to hear good things about Brad Boxberger‘s resurgence. I’m also a fan of Yimi Garcia and Jordan Holloway in that bullpen, and potential ‘closer in waiting’ Alex Vesia could also make his big league debut during the sprint season. Jordan Yamamoto was assigned to minor league camp on Friday night, which opens the door to Elieser Hernandez grabbing the fifth spot in the Marlins’ rotation. The right-hander possesses one of the better sliders in the game, and I’m interested to evaluate the pitch usage as Miami will surely look to mask the fastball. PS: I continue to hear great things about the job new assistant coach and offensive coordinator James Rowson has done while working with the Marlins’ position playing prospect. He’s a key factor in the positive reports I’ve received regarding Lewis Brinson (during the spring; he didn’t arrive at Summer Camp until Saturday), Jazz Chisholm, Harrison, Sanchez, Diaz and more. The arrow is pointing directly upward for the development of Miami’s farm system.
It’s coincidental that the Braves and Brewers are back-to-back in this alphabetical breakdown, since they’re the two teams I’ve heard the most about regarding the implementation of ‘tandem’ starters at the beginning of the sprint season. Brandon Woodruff might be immune to this at the top of the rotation, but a combination of Adrian Houser, Brett Anderson (who’s currently dealing with a blister), Josh Lindblom, Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta and Eric Lauer (he’ll likely start on the IL) should form the latter four rotation spots. Also coincidentally, I published deep dives on both Houser (here) and Burnes (here) this offseason. Of course, their 2020 value drops if they’re rarely allowed to work more than 3-4 innings, but Burnes especially has world-changing potential if he’s given a legitimate opportunity. It’s my opinion that—in an ideal world—Craig Counsell prefers to utilize Josh Hader in a multi-inning fireman role in the game’s biggest moments. That notion is furthered by the new, three-batter minimum rule for relievers in 2020 and beyond. That means Corey Knebel is an intriguing reliever around the 325-350 range of redrafts. If the stuff is intact and he can prove durability, he’ll have a decent shot to lead the team in Saves. If Knebel isn’t quite ready for the 9th inning, a more radical idea would be Burnes and/or Peralta being utilized for the final three outs. Both have the electric stuff to thrive in the role. Keston Hiura has been dealing with arm fatigue during Summer Camp; this could very well be typical soreness as player preparation really revs up, but the second baseman also had a notable elbow ailment while in college at UC Irvine. The 23-year-old avoided Tommy John surgery at the time (he had a platelet rich plasma injection instead), but he solely DH’ed during his final season prior to being drafted. Keep an eye on this until Hiura is declared fully healthy. Looking for a middle infield flier in super deep leagues? Orlando Arcia overhauled his swing this offseason, and he was mashing in Spring Training prior to the shutdown (.296/.310/.926 with 5 home runs in 29 plate appearances). Luis Urías is currently sidelined after testing positive for COVID-19, and he has very limited live at-bats following hamate surgery in January. The path should be clear for Arcia to be Milwaukee’s every day shortstop to begin the season, and you could do far worse around pick 500 in super deep leagues. Ryan Braun and Justin Smoak both benefit from the universal DH being implemented, and I’m ecstatic drafting both within their price ranges (Main Event ADPs of 160.1 and 352.6 respectively). Braun is experiencing some aches and pains as Summer Camp hits the homestretch, and he’s now missed a few workouts and intrasquads. At this point, let’s label him optimistically questionable for Opening Day. Lorenzo Cain should be considered a strong bounceback candidate after a mediocre 2019 campaign; the volume alone should lead to value relative to his price tag.
Byron Buxton appears to have avoided the worst in his outfield injury Monday evening, and he’s confident he’ll be back on the field by Opening Day on July 24th. Mitch Garver has been a popular fade throughout the fantasy world this preseason, but I think the 29-year-old will cement himself as an elite backstop option this summer. If there weren’t questions regarding the volume, I think he’d have legit C1 upside. Miguel Sano missed two weeks of Summer Camp after testing positive for COVID-19, and he was finally cleared on Wednesday (9 days until Opening Day). I’m hopeful the 27-year-old will ready for the Twins’ first regular season game, and he’s a prime candidate to lead the leagues in home runs this summer. How en fuego is the take there’s a non-zero chance Jose Berrios will be the fourth most valuable starting pitcher in the Twins’ rotation this summer relative to ADP? I find myself targeting Kenta Maeda, Rich Hill and Jake Odorizzi (who’s dealing with minor back stiffness) at their price points instead, and Berrios’ variance and lack of consistency gives me pause in a 60-game season. Taylor Rogers should continue to be Minnesota’s primary closer, but don’t be surprised if Sergio Romo, Tyler Duffey and Trevor May also see opportunities thanks to the newly-instituted, three batter minimum rule.
The world stopped turning on Tuesday night when Jacob deGrom exited an intrasquad after only throwing one inning. The culprit was back tightness, and mum’s the word as to whether the superstar right-hander will be ready to take the ball on Opening Day. If deGrom were to miss an extended period of time, it would be a crushing blow to fantasy teams that drafted him in the first round. Yoenis Céspedes‘ long-awaited return comes at the perfect time as he should be New York’s primary designated hitter this summer, though it creates a huge obstruction to Dominic Smith‘s outlook in 2020. Amed Rosario‘s lack of volume while batting at the bottom of the Mets’ order will be a bit of an issue, but I expect the shortstop to continue improving upon a wRC+ that’s increased each season since the 24-year-old debuted at the big league level (read: that means he’ll be an above average hitter in 2020). Robinson Cano was a late arrival to camp, but he’s recently been hitting third in intrasquad games. Don’t be surprised if that continues to be a trend once the regular season starts, which would make the second baseman a bargain at his current price (Main Event ADP: 361.6). Mets manager Luis Rojas recently made headlines by saying the team will likely deploy a closer-by-committee strategy throughout the summer. This would simultaneously penalize bounceback candidate Edwin Díaz while increasing the value of Seth Lugo, Dellin Betances and possibly even Jeurys Familia. However, count me amongst those steering into the skid and banking on Díaz to grab the lion’s share of 9th inning opportunities throughout the sprint season. And yes, I do think he recaptures his ability as an elite closer.
Aaron Hicks is trending towards being the Yankees’ every day centerfielder throughout the shortened season. More importantly, he’s also leadoff at times for one of the league’s best lineups. There’s an extensive injury history here, but that risk is largely mitigated with a Main Event ADP just north of 300. I’m scooping Hicks up as often as I possibly can; I think he could be a league winner this summer, especially since the market has failed to fully adjust. Aroldis Chapman is still out after testing positive for COVID-19, and he should be considered doubtful to be active for the Yankees’ first regular season game on July 23rd. Zack Britton appears to be the reliever to roster for saves during Chapman’s absence. Masahiro Tanaka is still working his way back from a slight concussion after being struck in the head by a Giancarlo Stanton line drive. If Tanaka were to miss any time, Clarke Schmidt could make his big league debut; he’ll likely need a longer-term injury to consistently take the ball every fifth day this summer, though. Tanaka will reportedly take his spot in the Yankees’ rotation sometime during the first full week of the season. While he won’t start unless he’s opening, Chad Green could provide starter-like value during a shortened season. He’s armed with a new curveball, and a true-potential performance would likely make him one of the most valuable relievers in baseball this summer. Aaron Judge missed a handful of Summer Camp practices due to a stiff neck before returning for an intrasquad game on Wednesday night. He’s trending towards being ready for Opening Day, though that’s always subject to change with the outfielder. Here’s to hoping he holds up for the 60-game sprint. DJ LeMahieu finally arrived to Yankees camp on Friday, and he’ll binge live at-bats in preparation for Opening Day. At worst, he should return for the first full week of the regular season.
Jesús Lúzardo almost certainly won’t be ready for Opening Day after testing positive for COVID-19. He’s off my board at his current price point (Main Event ADP: 121) despite returning to camp on Friday. He could be ready by the first week of August. The southpaw’s temporary absence means Chris Bassitt will begin the season in the Athletics’ rotation. A.J. Puk should also exhaust prospect eligibility in Oakland’s rotation this summer, and I continue to hope the left-hander elevates his fastball more frequently moving forward. Frankie Montas has the electric stuff to really go on a jaw-dropping run over a 10-12 start sample; he should be considered an ultra-dark horse to win the AL Cy Young. After Jorge Mateo was traded to the Padres, Franklin Barreto continues to be the hot name in discussions for Oakland’s second base job, but my eye is on Chad Pinder. At minimum, Pinder should receive quite a bit of playing time as he shifts around the diamond. Tony Kemp could also foil Barreto’s bid for every day playing time. Khris Davis is discounted due to his UT-only eligibility and his injury-ridden 2019 season, but his massive power and legitimate run-producing ability are likely to help win leagues during the sprint season.
Relative to draft price and assuming good health, Andrew McCutchen will be one of the most valuable players in fantasy baseball this summer. Don’t miss out on him around pick 200. It’s been weird to see industry folks speculate that Alec Bohm could break camp with the Phillies if Scott Kingery‘s COVID absence forced him to miss time during the regular season. The latter has since been cleared and should be ready for Opening Day, but…. he was never expected to play third base this season. Since early this spring, manager Joe Girardi has stated Kingery should see most of his playing time at the cornerstone this summer, with Jean Segura shifting to the hot corner. Assuming defensive stability in 2020, Kingery is an underrated name who could be a top-100 commodity in redraft leagues next preseason. Jay Bruce should be the team’s popular designated hitter; with a few exceptions, you can grab the 33-year-old in the 400-500 range in deep leagues. In the endgame, Adam Haseley has been a popular target of mine after pick 500 in Draft Championship leagues. He’ll be the Phillies’ every day centerfielder, and he could provide fantasy teams with cheap speed in dire situations throughout the summer. It’s common knowledge at this point, but Zack Wheeler is slated to miss at least a couple of starts once his wife gives birth (she’s due before the end of July). It’s also possible he opts out of the season entirely, and his early Main Event ADP (173.5) certainly have those worries baked in. Philadelphia will likely snag an extra year of service time first, but I’d expect Spencer Howard to debut from the rotation in early August. However, it remains to be seen as to which starting pitcher he’ll replace in the rotation. Vince Velasquez has reportedly been the apple of the Phillies’ eye amongst starting pitchers since Summer Camp began, overwhelming hitters in intrasquad games during the preparation process. Keeping that in mind, the 28-year-old may have a bit of a longer leash than Zach Eflin (or Nick Pivetta, if he wins the 5th rotation spot) once the season begins. With Wheeler’s summer in flux, Philly may be wise to keep all seven of their starters stretched out and ready to roll on any given week. This Bryce Harper stump for Spencer Howard should only matters for the pitching prospect. On average, the right-hander is being drafted just short of pick 300, which I believe is the proper price
Really hoping—and thinking—my long-standing love for Joe Musgrove will finally pay off in spades this summer. In a perfect world, we’ll be drafting the right-hander similarly to 2019 Charlie Morton next spring. As the Pirates’ Opening Day starter and assuming good health, he’ll certainly receive the volume necessary for a huge sprint season campaign. He recently added a sinker as a second weapon versus left-handed hitters. I hyped Mitch Keller this offseason, and I’m also higher on Steven Brault than the consensus. The southpaw could reportedly tandem start with Chad Kuhl to begin the shortened season, and both have a bit of untapped potential. Keone Kela has not yet reported to Summer Camp. Assuming he won’t be ready for Opening Day, Kyle Crick should be considered the in-house favorite to close games. Nick Burdi is finally healthy and a re-invented version ($) of himself; he’s the closer in waiting for the Pirates, but it remains to be seen if he’ll receive his first 9th inning opportunities this summer (for what it’s worth, manager Derek Shelton recently said the team will mix-and-match in the 9th inning until Kela returns). I only have three shares of Bryan Reynolds, but I desperately wish I rostered more. I think the left fielder is set to explode this summer, to the extent he could flirt with an early round return if he keeps his promise to attempt steals more frequently. He’ll cement his status as one of the league’s best pure hitters. Speaking of surprising returns, Jacob Stallings could sneakily provide adequate C2 value throughout the 60-game season. Backup catcher Luke Maile recently underwent surgery to repair a fractured finger, and he’ll likely miss the entirety of the regular season. John Ryan Murphy is now slated to serve as Stallings’ backup, so the latter should catch as many games for the Pirates this summer as he’s physically able to. Gregory Polanco will miss the start of the season after testing positive for COVID-19, which should open up some playing time for Guillermo Heredia and José Osuna. Keep an eye on Will Craig, too. Kevin Newman is a little “dinged up” with an undisclosed injury, but he’s not expected to miss any time once the regular season begins.
I really think the world is about to witness a Trent Grisham explosion, and with it would come a multi-win real life player and the emergence of a fantasy superstar. While a lot of folks will talk-up Franchy Cordero’s outlook following his trade to Kansas City, the deal was also a huge stamp of approval on Grisham’s ability to man center field in San Diego on an every day basis, all while hitting towards the top of the Friars’ lineup. Wil Myers is once again destined for every day playing time in right field, and his power/speed combination make for an ideal OF4 or OF5 just past pick 200 in fantasy drafts. This is one of the more interesting DH scenarios in the National League. Greg Garcia, Josh Naylor and Edward Olivares all figure to see at-bats as the Padres’ designated hitter, and the situation could easily turn into new manager Jayce Tingler riding the hot hand. There’s certainly a lot of noise surrounding Olivares in Summer Camp. I don’t know if the volume will be there, but Dinelson Lamet has the strikeout upside to cement himself as a top-tier fantasy arm this summer. I’m contractually obligated to mention my love of A.J. Preller in every Padres write-up I publish, so here goes: it’s true that Zach Davies is mostly an afterthought in the Grisham/Luis Urías trade last winter, but Davies and Austin Hedges should combine to form one of the more underrated, tenable batteries in all of baseball. The right-hander is a below average pitcher by almost every metric, but Hedges’ wizardry behind the plate could make Davies a soft contact fiend who steals enough strikes to make opposing hitters extremely uncomfortable beginning this summer. I assume the Padres R&D department was highly aware of this as they constructed the deal with the Brewers. Chris Paddack is looking to stymie the two-pitch archetype, and his curveball has reportedly looked solid throughout Summer Camp. I’d love for him to find the confidence to throw the pitch 15-20% of the time (10.4% in 2019). In a high-variance season, I really hope the Padres attempt to snag an NL Wild Card spot; if they try to compete, we should see MacKenzie Gore make his MLB debut around the time we flip our calendars to August. The Padres will be a fascinating team for the foreseeable future, and they can jump-start a new decade with a playoff berth this season.
The Giants will likely blow chunks this summer, but they’re certainly not void of uber-intriguing fantasy players. Three names I’m targeting in Draft and Holds: Drew Smyly, Hunter Pence and Tyler Anderson. Smyly receives a park boost, and I’m hopeful his curveball usage (.210 xBA, 38.9 Whiff%) continues to creep upward. Pence was elite analytically last season, and now he’ll benefit from consistently DH’ing in the cleanup spot for the Giants. He’s an absolute bargain at his current cost (he has yet to be drafted in three Main Events). Anderson is completely off the fantasy radar in most leagues, but he’s now completely healthy (major knee surgery last June) and should slot into the backend of San Francisco’s rotation. The shift from Coors Field to Oracle Park is a dream come true as well, and I think he’ll be a very pleasant surprise this summer. He’s one of my favorite endgame targets in Draft Championship leagues. Mauricio Dubon continues to be an intriguing target in 15-team fantasy leagues; he should just about be an every day player who shuffles from second base, shortstop and center field. That position eligibility will be an asset throughout the season as you optimize your roster flexibility. Tony Watson is the popular name to close games for the Giants, but my money is on Tyler Rogers to lead the team in saves. The situation is likely to be too messy for my liking though, and both arms should receive the ball in the 9th inning at times. Brandon Belt has been sporting a walking boot until recently, and his status for Opening Day is a bit in doubt.
You want to read about Kyle Lewis; I want to tell you about Austin Adams. The right-hander has reportedly fully recovered from knee surgery last September, and he’s set to explode this summer. Deep league fantasy players have been targeting Matt Magill and Yoshihisa Hirano (who cleared the intake process and resumed working out on Sunday) for cheap saves late in drafts, but I suspect Adams will be the name to eventually roster for 9th inning impact in Seattle. ‘One of the best relievers in the sport’ is the ceiling here. Shifting back to Lewis: I continue to feel the contact rate will be a legitimate/crippling issue within this profile, but he’ll be given every chance to succeed as a left fielder on a bad team. The price tag will likely climb close to pick 300 as Opening Day approaches, so I assume I won’t roster any shares this summer. The former first rounder becoming a reliable left fielder to team with Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez would be a fun character arch for the 25-year-old, and it would also be a huge boost for a Mariners team that should be ready to compete in the American League within the next three seasons. The Mariners’ rotation is entirely forgettable at first glance, but I find myself interested in Justus Sheffield and Kendall Graveman. Why? The former has partially ditched his four seam in favor of a two seam, a pitch that tunnels better with the southpaw’s slider and changeup. Graveman is fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, and he’s enjoyed a velocity uptick since returning to the mound. If Sheffield’s price tag is practically ‘free’ (ADP: 390.0), platforms are practically paying you to draft Graveman (ADP: >700). I think both pitchers will out-earn their cost this summer. Mallex Smith was a late arrival to camp due to what was suspected to be a positive COVID-19 test, officially joining the Mariners on Saturday. He’ll likely binge live at-bats prior to Opening Day, becoming an every day player by the first full week of the sprint season. Not to end this write-up on a solemn note, but it appears Mitch Haniger is likely to miss the entirety of the sprint season. PS: the Jarred Kelenic hype train in redraft leagues heading into the 2021 season is going to be unbearable, especially if he enjoys any amount of small sample success at the end of the summer.
Following the lead of industry pal Matt Thompson, I have been banging the ‘Ryan Helsley for Cardinals closer’ drum since March. The 26-year-old is my most rostered player in NFBC leagues (9 of 11 leagues); in a season where Saves will be incredibly value and extremely difficult to come by off the beaten path, Helsley could be a gigantic piece for a lot of league-winning teams if he’s awarded the 9th inning by St. Louis. Giovanny Gallegos was an extremely late arrival to Summer Camp, beginning his preparation on Saturday (six days from Opening Day). Unless there’s a last minute change, St. Louis should begin the season with a rotation of Jack Flaherty, Adam Wainwright, Carlos Martinez, Miles Mikolas and Dakota Hudson. It was cute when everyone thought the Cardinals would do the smart thing by beginning the season with Dylan Carlson as an everyday player, but it was recently announced the outfielder would begin the summer in minor league camp. Figures. He’ll still play a role as early as August 1st. Could Tyler O’Neill get first crack at left field while Carlson waits in the wings? With Matt Carpenter slated to primarily DH for St. Louis during the 60-game season, Tommy Edman should just about see everyday playing time. He’ll likely be off-the-board by pick 125 if your league hasn’t drafted yet.
Tyler Glasnow finally reported to camp last week after previously testing positive for COVID-19, and he threw 49 pitches in his first sim game. The right-hander vows to be ready for his first turn thru the Rays’ rotation. Unfortunately, Austin Meadows has been missing from practices since July 3rd, and he was placed on the injured list with an ‘undisclosed’ issue after the outfielder tested positive for COVID-19. At this point, the 25-year-old should probably be considered doubtful for Opening Day. Randy Arozarena has yet to arrive at Rays camp, José Martinez didn’t arrive until Saturday and Yonny Chirinos didn’t make his first appearance until Sunday. Brendan McKay has been absent since July 6th. These facts should lead to boosts for Trevor Richards, Anthony Banda, Jalen Beeks and Manuel Margot to begin the season. Martinez is hopeful to not miss any regular season action. Blake Snell says he’s fully-healthy, but it’s unlikely he’ll be fully stretched out by Tampa Bay’s first game on July 24th. Consider yourself fortunate if the southpaw makes it five innings in his first start of the season. Nick Anderson has been the popular Rays arm to roster for saves this summer, but Diego Castillo and Jose Alvarado are likely to see opportunities as well as Kevin Cash mixes and matches based on opponent. In general, the Rays’ 9th inning has been my biggest closer fade this preseason in leagues that don’t award Holds. He’ll be a non-every day utility player to begin the season, but David Robertson overhauled his swing during the offseason; he and his 2B/3B eligibility are a name to monitor in the endgame of super deep redraft leagues. Also, #FREENATELOWE.
Know who’s a bit interesting and flying extremely under the radar? Isiah Kiner-Falefa. He was great during Spring Training (.378/.410/.757 with 4 home runs in 15 games), and he’s continued raking during Summer Camp. He’s an underrated C2 target in NFBC leagues with easy top-12 upside and sneaky volume at the position, especially since he should break camp as the Rangers’ starting third baseman (Main Event ADP: 418.0). Don’t miss out. Nick Solak should nearly see everyday playing time while moving around the diamond, and there’s a very real possibility he enters 2021 with 2B/3B/OF eligibility. Even with UT-only eligibility heading into the 2020 regular season, he’s still a bit underpriced (Main Event ADP: 288) relative to the skillset and opportunity. He should forego the UT eligibility in favor of OF eligibility within the first week of the season. Willie Calhoun recently stated he’s still a bit uncomfortable at the plate after fracturing his jaw via HBP during Spring Training, and now he’s dealing with a strained hip flexor that means he might open the season on the injured list. Calhoun is still a decent breakout bid this summer, but any loss of value would really damper those chances. Solak should see consistent playing time in left field if Calhoun isn’t ready for Opening Day. Shin-Soo Choo continues to be hugely underrated in all formats (especially OBP leagues), and Joey Gallo‘s huge power has been a target of mine in leagues in which I’ve built a solid batting average foundation. Like Calhoun, Gallo is also sliding a bit in some drafts. José Leclerc will begin the season as Texas’ closer, but Rafael Montero will be waiting in the wings if need be (he might not be ready for Opening Day though, thanks to a late start to Summer Camp). Lance Lynn is an ideal SP3 in 15-team leagues; he’s at the top of the Rangers’ rotation, he’s already built all the way up and he should provide enough strikeouts to maintain sneaky upside. I’ve always felt Kyle Gibson was a small adjustment away from being a household name amongst MLB starting pitcher, but he’s accrued 2.6 fWAR in each of the past two seasons. If he can simply match that pace this summer, the Rangers rotation of Lynn, Corey Kluber, Mike Minor, Gibson and Jordan Lyles should be one of the best in the American League.
Chase Anderson recently strained an oblique and will miss the start of the season. I have a small army of Trent Thornton shares in redrafts, and he now ascends from ‘written in pencil as the 5th starter’ to ‘written in pen as the 4th starter’. The 26-year-old out-earning Hyun-jin Ryu this summer would only be mildly surprising if you’re aware of the right-hander’s arsenal. Regarding the last rotation spot: Nate Pearson is obviously the hot name to watch here, but Ryan Borucki and Shun Yamaguchi are also names to watch, especially if the Jays slow play Pearson for service time reasons. I suspect 2020 will be the year newly-minted first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Teoscar Hernandez both take notable steps forward in the fantasy world. The former could rival Freddie Freeman as the top first baseman off-the-board in fantasy leagues next preseason. In general, this youthful team strikes me as a squad that could very easily get extremely hot this summer, perhaps even leading to a cautious ‘buy’ or an aggressive ‘hold’ at the trade deadline. That would mean Ken Giles has a safer outlook in the world of Saves than is currently perceived throughout the fantasy world. It was announced on Saturday that the Blue Jays would be unable to play home games in Toronto this summer. The organization is still searching for an official 2020 home, but its Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo appears to be a top option. The alteration in home parks would provide a boost to hitters compared to the Rogers Centre in Toronto.
After quarantining per Washington D.C.’s rules, Juan Soto finally arrived at Nationals camp on Thursday. Victor Robles joined the club on Saturday. With the Nationals first game just a few days away, the pair will likely be a bit rusty out of the gate (it’s also possible Robles misses a game or two). It’s a fairly common thought at this point, but thanks to a delicious blend of volume, speed and power, I think Trea Turner will be a top-5 fantasy player this season. But please—for the love of God—don’t try to bunt. The universal DH and Ryan Zimmerman opting out act as big boosts to Eric Thames and Howie Kendrick in the fantasy world, and the former will especially benefit if the latter misses a few regular season games after being a late arrival to Summer Camp (for what it’s worth, Kendrick is trending towards being ready for Opening Day). Speaking of opt-outs, it took exactly that from Joe Ross to finally clear the way to Austin Voth taking the ball every fifth day for the defending champions. I have been hyping the 28-year-old all offseason, and think we’re destined for a big return here. The price has certainly increased since the Ross news broke, but you can still grab the right-hander after pick 300 in most drafts. The common thought is Sean Doolittle sharing or having the 9th inning entirely usurped by Daniel Hudson at some point this summer, but I think that’s underestimating the rested southpaw a bit. While it’s true the leash will be relatively short, I’m not running in the opposite direction at his current ADP (131 thru two Main Events). As you arrive at the end of this write-up, you may be pondering the age-old question “But what does all of this mean for Carter Kieboom?” Unfortunately, it appears a mediocre Summer Camp has opened the door to Asdrúbal Cabrera starting at third base for the Nationals on Opening Day. It appears the two will form a timeshare at the hot corner throughout the sprint season.
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