With every spring training, hope does truly spring eternal in fantasy baseball. Everyone is in the best shape of their life. Everyone is mentally prepared. Everyone is ready to break out, rebound or continue their success from last year! But let’s be frank, more often than not, things don’t go so well. That prospect stalls out in development. That brand new elbow ligament isn’t quite ready for the rigors of pitching every fifth day. That position sleeper closer you wanted becomes part of a stupid committee. Basically, the “you know what” hits the fan.
So, I think it’s imperative to stay ahead of the downward trend and identify some situations that could lead to potential disasters for fantasy owners in 2019.
7 Things That Could Ruin Your Fantasy Baseball Season
1. Francisco Lindor’s Calf Injury
In my TGFBI draft this weekend, Francisco Lindor fell all the way to the turn at 15. That could be in part because there are no DL slots, or the glut of players like Trevor Story, Manny Machado and Javier Baez who all play SS and are usually available at that point in the draft. Lindor’s recent comments have him basically saying that he’s working as hard as he can to get back on the shorter end of that original 7-9 week timetable. However, he did not seem phased by the 9 weeks which would take us into mid-April, barring any setbacks. That is a good thing! My fear is the athletic Lindor may try and push the early window for an Opening Day appearance and that would be worrisome. Josh Donaldson pushed the early window with his calf injury two years ago. That led to Donaldson re-aggravating the injury and missing months of the season, instead of weeks. It also led to a weakness in the muscle that saw him struggle with the calf again in 2018. Lindor is a wonderful talent, but in 2019 he’s not without risk. If you own him already, be patient and grateful if he takes a long time time to get back to 100%. If he doesn’t, it could snowball into a larger, lingering issue.
2. Clayton Kershaw Missing Time…AGAIN!
Clayton Kershaw is averaging barely 25 starts a year over the last three seasons due to back issues. With spring training barely underway, he’s already experienced shoulder soreness! UGH! Manager Dave Roberts is optimistic he’ll be ready for Opening Day, but that optimism means NOTHING! ZERO! Sure, you’re getting anywhere between a second-to-third round discount on him, perhaps more. However, for many teams that still means Kershaw will be a #1 or #1A in many fantasy rotations. Even in season-long roto, 25 starts from your ace is a disappointment. An ace should be the anchor of your rotation, not an anchor that drags your rotation down to the bottom of the ocean. At 31, there’s plenty of potentially great baseball ahead of him. Constant, chronic back issues have undone many a great player before him. *See Todd Helton* Now, we’re adding a shoulder too!? Yikes!
3. Vlad Guerrero Spends Longer Than Expected at AAA
Vlad Guerrero may not be the cover boy for the ESPN Magazine Body Issue (although that would be awesome), but the kid can flat out rake! In 95 combined minor league games, he slashed a dazzling .381/.437/.636. But Vlad is still just 20 and the Blue Jays aren’t going anywhere this year. A post-Super Two callup seems like a forgone conclusion, but what if they decide half a season in AAA would be the best thing for his long term development? On Fantrax, his ADP is 45 overall. That’s ahead of established stars like Anthony Rendon, Xander Bogaerts and George Springer to name a few. If Guerrero plays only half of the 2019 season, that’s a tough ADP to swallow. Let’s not pretend it’s impossible either. Our fantasy beer goggles sometimes only let us see what we want to see. I mean, look how many people got hammered during their draft and woke up with Manny Margot or Lewis Brinson.
4. The Nationals Miss Bryce Harper More Than They Thought They Would
I am assuming while writing this statement that we live in a world where Bryce Harper doesn’t return to the Nats. Sure, Juan Soto looks like a star and the Nats have plenty of decent offensive talent remaining on the roster. However, look at the Red Sox a few years ago when David Ortiz retired and before J.D. Martinez arrived. The trickle-down effect of pitchers not having to fear that “middle of the order presence” was a reality check to the Sox and fantasy owners. That could be 2019 for the Nats. And let us not forget, that could filter to the pitching staff as well in terms of run support. Harper may have up and down moments, but he’s a constant force to be reckoned with in a lineup. Now, that force is gone.
5. Christian Yelich Comes Back to Earth
I’ve always been in the camp of people who though Christian Yelich was underrated. Now, I find myself on the opposite side of that spectrum after a breakout 2018 season that saw him hit 36 dingers. The fact 22 of those 36 came in August and September is a red flag. Miller Park (or whatever it’s becoming now with new naming rights this year) has always been a strong home run park, but Yelich is far more likely to hit less than 30 HR than more. Sure, a 25/25 player is still a great buy, but I wonder if passing on Nolan Arenado’s steady power, Ronald Acuna’s upside or a bounce-back from Jose Altuve (who had back to back 24 HR/30+ SB seasons in ’16 & ’17 and plays 2B which stinks this year) is really the smartest thing. Very few people seem to be looking at the regression potential of Yelich in my opinion. His 2018 second half pace is just not likely sustainable, and it’s inflating his 2019 value considerably.
6. Adelberto Mondesi Has Trouble Adjusting to Adjustments
Fantasy format has a ton to do with Adelberto Mondesi’s 2019 value. In H2H roto category leagues, any struggles can be overlooked as long as those stolen bases keep coming in on a weekly basis. In season-long roto and point leagues, Mondesi is not without downside. Eight of his 14 HRs came in September, when pitching becomes watered down. Sure, his Triple-A numbers looked encouraging, but PCL stats should always come with a big side order or salt. Extrapolating is a dangerous game. If Mondesi steals 35 bases in a full season that’s a win. The trouble is, if the league adjusts to him and he doesn’t adjust back, he could be a BA and/or OBP killer and not return quite the ADP expectations (currently 48th overall on Fantrax).
7. Cody Bellinger Becomes Joc Pederson
A big failure in Cody Bellinger’s sophomore campaign was his .226 BA/.681 OPS versus LHP. In 2017, he hit .270/.903 versus southpaws, so there is hope! Prolonged slumps zapped his confidence, and drove fantasy owners crazy in 2018. His OBP did increase year over year and his strikeout rate decreased, but we have been here before with big-time Dodger prospects. Joc Pederson looked like a fantasy stud in the minors, but he’s been a bust at the big league level. I have hope that Bellinger can break that curse, but hoping doesn’t make it so. I would take Rhys Hoskins over him in a heartbeat just to avoid the risk.
Are you flirting with fantasy baseball disaster? For more great rankings, strategy, and analysis check out the 2019 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit. We’ll be adding more content from now right up until Opening Day!
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