We are more than 10 games into the season and it couldn’t be an odder, or better, way to begin a season. We all thought we knew what Major League Baseball’s 2019 season would be and now that it is here, we couldn’t all be more wrong. Early season Trends are developing and at the very least, Noteworthy performances are occurring. March Madness just ended and it couldn’t have been more chalk. Baseball just started and it couldn’t be any less. That’s Fantastic. It makes for great watching and even better and more relevant, “Trends and NoteWorthy’s” for me to bring to Fantasy owners attention.
The Sox or Yanks were going to win the AL East, and possibly the American League pennant. Now? Ain’t lookin’ good my East Coast friends. The low-budget Tampa Bay Rays have a 4.5 game lead on those mighty Yanks and a 6.5 game lead on the 2018 World Champion Boston Red Sox. The lowly Baltimore Orioles are in second place in the AL East while the Mighty Minnesota Twins are one game behind the AL Central leaders. And those “Despicable Detroit Tigers?” 7-4, a .636 winning percentage atop the American League Central. And those aren’t the biggest stories in the American League. The headliner of the baseball season so far has been the Seattle Mariners. They have hit a home run in every single game this season and lead all of baseball in batting average (.294), slugging percentage (.568) home runs (33) and stolen bases (15) (for those that care about those any more). Oh, and, they are 12-2. Best record in baseball with only those pitching pesky Bay Rays in Tampa close, at 10-2.
Early Season Trends
The Rays are running away with the AL East while being tied for 12th in runs scored and tied for 16th in home runs. The Tigers are 8-4 even though they rank last in home runs (Five) and 27th in OPS (.600). Gary Sanchez and Paul Goldschmidt have both hit three home runs in a single game. The Tigers, as a team, had three in the entire season prior to Wednesday’s games.
Predictability Exists Too
The National League is a very different story. We are seeing predictions play out as expected in the National League and the early season trends are confirming what we thought we knew on draft night. The NL East is a dog fight between four teams with the Marlins already left in the dust, while the NL Central is the same thing. The Cubs, at 3-8 and the Colorado Rockies at 3-9, are the outliers, much like the Red Sox and Yankees are in the AL East standings.
I mention these Major League Baseball related developments because they illustrate why I write this weekly Fantasy Baseball column the way that I write it. All of these early season occurrences are NoteWorthy, while others are Trends. And, some are deceptions. I constantly warn owners, “Don’t Be Fantasy Fooled,” and after 10-12 games, there are plenty of these as well.
Major League Baseball’s start to the season has been great, and unlike March Madness and in many ways the 2018 season, the early season Trends and NoteWorthy’s have been extremely unpredictable. Today, I am going to try to play explain the oddities and analyze it all so you know where to place your loyalties, where to be skeptical and who or how to adapt to the changing Fantasy baseball landscape. One of my favorite phrases is “Boatdrinks” – the others are “Don’t believe your lyin’ eyes” and “lies, damn lies, and statistics.”
Let’s look at Week 3’s liars and potential soothsayers so owners know how to predict the future and navigate the unknown as well as how to avoid being “Fantasy fooled.”
The Best and Worst Team Trends
The Seattle Mariners lead baseball in home runs with 34, seven more than the slugging A’s and eight more than the red hot hitting Los Angeles Dodgers who have 26. The Yankees have hit 24 while the Houston Astros only have 17 after a three-homer barrage on Wednesday night.
The Detroit Tigers have slugged, if it can be called slugging, a league-worst five, while four teams are tied for the second most futile slugging offense with six homers.
As of Wednesday, Jay Bruce had as many home runs as the entire rosters of the Giants and Royals and more than both the Pirates and Tigers. The Mariners had five players with more home runs individually than the Tigers entire team prior to Wednesday’s slate of games as well. That changed slightly on Thursday, but it was a jarringly NoteWorthy statistic when I began writing this column.
The Tigers and Royals can’t be THIS bad, while the Mariners, as a team, can’t be this powerful or hit a home run in 162 consecutive games, a pace they are currently on. That doesn’t mean that the early Trends aren’t reflective of something larger and long-lasting.
The Tigers aren’t going to be a good offensive team in any Fantasy category WHILE The Royals aren’t going to be a power hitting team. The early season trends confirm what we already knew. What the confirmation means is that owners and Daily Fantasy players should target these matchups and weigh their futility more heavily when making Start/Sit decisions.
The Mariners have been a hot item on the waiver wire and justifiably so, but regression is coming. Dan Vogelbach, Jay Bruce, Domingo Santana, and Tim Beckham aren’t going to hit 40 home runs apiece. That doesn’t mean the entire Seattle offense won’t end up as great draft-day values. They already are and they all need to be owned – with the possible exception of Dan Vogelbach – and they should be starting. It also means they are all sell-high considerations and owners shouldn’t project this level of performance going forward. Owners need to minimize their excitement and “Don’t Be Fantasy Fooled.”
Not only are the Mariners hitting the cover off the ball, but early season trends have shown that they are running out of their shoes on the bases as well. They lead baseball in stolen bases (17) and are tied in attempts (19).
The Rays are second with 19 attempts and 14 steals. There aren’t a lot of impact Fantasy players on the Rays. If the early season Trends because a long-term trend then it could turn waiver wire Rays into relevant, viable Fantasy contributors.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Dodgers, Rockies, and Reds are all league-least in stolen bases – one each – and attempts. The Blue Jays rank 24th with three stolen bases in four attempts and all of their successes came against Blake Swihart and the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday – including a steal of home by Lourdes Gurriel. Stealing home should count for two, but I digress.
Side note. Blake Swihart needs to be owned in all leagues because the guy can hit and very few catchers can. But, he is also a matchup DFS players need to target because he can’t catch and teams are going to run wild on him this season. It will also be interesting to see how the Red Sox rotation pitches with and without him. That’s a Trend I am looking to see some sample of and it could be another reason to target him in DFS and Daily lineup leagues.
The Dodgers don’t have many speedsters and they haven’t been in the top half of the league in steals since 2014 when they ranked second. They have been what we expect them to be going forward. The Rockies, the Blue Jays and to a less degree the Reds, are on trends that could result in some disappointed Fantasy owners.
If the early season trends accurately indicate the Reds or Jays plan to minimize their attempts that could cripple Jose Peraza’s Fantasy value and limit the ceiling of Yasiel Puig.
The Blue Jays Base Running
For the Jays, stolen base attempts could determine whether Freddy Galvis is a viable, deep league starter or waiver wire fodder and whether Anthony Alford or Dalton Pompey could be a source of cheap steals at some point this season. There isn’t much for Fantasy owners to like about Toronto’s offense and if they choose to minimize their stolen base attempts then any silver lining turns brown quickly. Fantasy owners can’t like the Jays early season Trends.
They ranked 27th in stolen bases in 2018, 29th in 2017 and 25th in 2016, so this shouldn’t be a surprise. But, with prospects like Alford and Pompey, and major leaguers like Galvis and Kevin Pillar before he was traded, there was some hope that they may have a relevant player or two. It looks early in 2019 like, regardless of who they have on the roster and what they do well, they aren’t going to change their approach.
The Colorado Rockies Run Game
The early season Trends that might be the worst to see is the Rockies and their lack of stolen base attempts. Coors is a treasure trove of potential offensive production, but the sneaky underbelly of Rockie players values is their stolen base potential. Trevor Story, Charlie Blackmon, Ian Desmond, and more limited Fantasy players like Raimel Tapia, Garrett Hampson and to some degree David Dahl are all elevated by their potential to contribute 10-15 bases or more.
Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon are good players because they launch bombs and play 81 games in Coors field. They are top 20 Fantasy players because they can steal 15-25 bases along with all those bombs. If the Rockies intend to attempt one stolen base for every four games played or anything close to that rate, the ceilings of their best players and the viability of their lesser ones will take a significant hit. It’s Noteworthy going forward.
The Seattle Mariners Ceiling… and Floor
The Mariners are a big part of the column this week, but they have been a huge part of the Fantasy season, so it’s deserved. The Fantasy excitement surrounding them is currently based on the home run binge they are on, but their future viability will be more significantly impacted by stolen base attempts. Possibly as much or more than the Rockies. The Mariners power binge is going to regress. That makes them all sell-high considerations. What makes that guaranteed regression less scary and their viability potentially more stable, it’s stolen bases. All of them should be available for the right offer, but owners shouldn’t be so willing to dump them for the best offer based on the early season trends on the bases. It needs to be the RIGHT offer.
Dee Gordon and Mallex Smith both have the potential to bat .290-.310 and steal 35-45 bases. If they can do that they can hit for average, steal bases and score runs and they won’t have to hit home runs. Any regression, from Gordon or Smith, but also Jay Bruce, Domingo Santana, Dan Vogelbach and Edwin Encarnacion, won’t sink their viability.
When Santana comes down to earth from his .345 batting average and 1.047 OPS, he will remain a viable starter in all leagues if he steals 20 bases or more. And he is on pace to do that with the potential for 30. All of these attempts, and more importantly, successful ones, will bolster Jay Bruce, Tim Beckham, Ryon Healy, and Dan Vogelbach as well.
Side Note. Jay Bruce hit 36 home runs and 33 home runs in 2017 and 2016 while batting .254 and .250 respectively. In 2019, he has seven home runs while batting .204. The home run rate is going to regress, but his batting average is going to improve. Owners need to realize that while Bruce is a sell-high opportunity, he is going to hit 30 home runs with a chance at 40 this season. “Don’t Be Fantasy Fooled” into accepting the first offer that lands in your inbox. Bruce is going to be a viable starter all season and he has dual-position eligibility at 1B and OF.
You can follow me on Twitter @CJMitch73 or on Facebook in the Fantasy Sports group “A Podcast To Be Named Later.” My Fantrax Podcast is coming soon – keep an eye out.
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