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Fantasy Baseball Confidential: Week 15

Each week yours truly will be sharing various tidbits and revelations that I deem worthy of the attention of fantasy baseball managers of all formats and backgrounds. The All-Star break begins this Sunday. Get ready for an onslaught of pieces about how this is the most depressing part of the year from a sports perspective. Are we truly that deprived of other interests and pursuits in our lives? The real sad-sack folks are the daily sports hot-take artists. I have enjoyed professional sports for several reasons over my lifetime. Honestly, though, the seventh circle of hell is having to create daily opinions crafted to be contrarian spark plugs from the latest sports headlines. No thank you. So…let’s see what’s happening on the down-low. Let’s find out what’s strictly hush-hush, on the QT and deserves its own meme for Week 15!

The Day After Yesterday

Here you will find points of reference from this past week that you need to know going forward, so you can be a fantasy baseball kingpin.

  • The completely unexpected event of the season happened last Friday night at beautiful Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland. The legend himself Mike Trout stole a base!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Speaking of Baltimore, the Orioles are 1 game below .500 coming into the day of July 11, 2022! It’s a major triumph that deserves to be appreciated. The decision to move the wall in left field back 26.5 feet while raising it from 6’8″ to 13 feet tall. They have a record of 25-17 at the friendly confines this year. In 2021 the birds from Baltimore only won 27 games TOTAL at home! That’s a mind-blowing stat that you can look at in a couple of different ways: either the 2021 Orioles were an embarrassment as a professional baseball team or the decision to move the fence back was the most genius move by any front office in years. I’ll leave that determination up to you. Teams make changes to their ballpark now and then. A couple of years ago the Giants made slight modifications to whatever they call their baseball field these days and in 2004 the Tigers brought in the LF fence 25 feet. Two years later, the Motor City Kitties were in the World Series! Are the Orioles on the same path now? Over the last 30 days, Baltimore is top-10 as a pitching staff in both ERA (3.45) and WHIP (1.20). For the season the staff has given up 92 homers which is top-12 in MLB. They served up 258 taters last year with John Means and Jorge Lopez responsible for 51 between them. Of course, this year’s baseball is different so naturally, it would stand to reason to expect fewer dongs in 2022. Currently, the league-leader in homers as a staff at what is essentially the halfway point of 2022 are the Orioles beltway pals, the Washington Nationals, with 125 dongs served on a platter. The bullpen has been aces for this team so far with former starter Lopez closing the door 16 times including 3 over the last 4 days during this 8-game winning streak. Now it doesn’t seem like Lopez will be traded to a contender for future parts, does it? His bullpen buddies (who may have prematurely been salivating over his job) Dillon Tate, Felix Bautista, Keegan Akin, Cionel Perez, and Joey Krehbiel all sport an ERA of 2.61 or lower. Those of you in saves/holds leagues are already familiar. Starters like Tyler Wells and Dean Kremer have stood out with impressive, legitimate outcomes. Hell, even Nationals castoff Austin Voth has a 3.80 ERA in 5 starts! The Orioles hitters though are bottom five in batting average (.231) and OBP (.299) this year. And while middle of the pack at best in homers (87) they are 5th in MLB in doubles (157). I will dig further into the flight paths of balls at Camden in next week’s All-Star break edition of the Confidential. For now, go O’s.

  • The Rangers decided to go in a new direction with their closer. Joe Barlow had been someone to love this season, but sadly that love has dissipated. Barlow has 4 blown saves this year with two back to back on July 4 and 5. Rangers manager Chris Woodward decided to give Barlow a breather over the weekend allowing unheralded Brett Martin to convert two saves in two attempts. Joe Barlow hasn’t flashed nasty stuff on the mound since making his debut in 2021. In 57.1 IP he has 49 Ks.  In the minors, he was a minimum 11.4 K/9 pitcher. If you’re not hitting at least double digits in the K/9 department, then you’re not living up to the modern-day expectations of the lead arm in the pen. I will go on the record now as someone who doesn’t see Brett Martin fitting the bill as the closer in Texas. This is Martin’s fourth season in the Texas bullpen and he’s never wowed before. In fact, he was 0-4 in save chances before his two-fer over the weekend. Plus I can rarely recall a closer situation where a team had more capable guys with the stuff and the know-how to do the job. The long shot who I like down the road is their former closer Jose Leclerc, who’s making his way back from TJ surgery. Garrett Richards, Matt Moore, Dennis Santana, and Brock Burke round out the rest of the arms who I could easily see closing games for the Rangers. Matt Bush just came off the IL and pitched an inning Sunday in the loss to the Twins. I wish I had been more tuned in on Bush returning from the IL over the weekend because now my heart is telling me that he makes sense as a stop-gap or even the permanent replacement closer for a team that is in the hunt for an AL Wild Card berth.
  • Two extremely talented, yet inconsistent pitchers came full circle last Friday night. It’s been a long haul for Tarik Skubal who went toe to toe with Lucas Giolito, who has been having his own major roller coaster rides over a similar stretch to Skubal. The two did battle Friday night on the south side of Chicago. Skubal outdid Giolito on swinging strikes 15-10 while Giolito outdid Skubal by a hair in CSW 32%-31%. Skubal’s max velocity was up 3 MPH last Friday night from his start prior to Chicago at home against the Royals. The Tigers beat the White Sox 7-5 as Skubal bested his midwest rival Giolito with 6 strong innings and only one dong which came in the first inning by one of the most talented players in MLB. Watching Skubal show the resolve to overcome that early mistake only made me appreciate his effort further. Skubal’s last start before the break is Wednesday afternoon in sweltering Kansas City. The Royals were the aggressors in their last outing against Skubal in Detroit. Once again the home run ball in two different instances cost him in that start. If the person rostering Skubal in your league is dubious of his recent outing or gets bored during the all-star break, find a way to release Skubal from that manager’s clutches.

  • After witnessing Shane Baz surrendering 7 earned runs to the Reds Sunday in Cincinnati, I was prompted to tweet about the gap between Baz and possible American League Cy Young winner Shane McClanahan. When Baz came back in May, I was asked more than once about who would be the better dynasty player to have between the two teammates. At the time I was pro-McClanahan, but it was very tight. Now it’s not much of a race. Give Baz credit though as he had been very consistent up until his unfortunate event Sunday in the Queen City. The only other blemish in 6 starts so far was his first outing back in May when he gave up 5 ER to the Twinkies at Target Field. In comparison, McClanahan just doesn’t have those moments this year. The most earned runs the elite lefty has given up in any start this year is 3 which has only happened twice this year: once against Oakland on April 13 and the other being against those pesky Twins on April 30. What an incredibly consistent run this has been for McClanahan! His 1.73 ERA isn’t likely to stay that way forever as his 2.47 FIP indicates a slight regression, but nothing to lose sleep over. Shane Baz is still a top-30 starting pitcher in my book. He just isn’t in his teammate’s class right now.

Ain’t No Future In Your Frontin’

As the Beastie Boys stated in So What’cha Want, “you think that you can front when revelation comes?” Prepare ahead of time, because you can’t front on that.

  • For many of you who play in H2H leagues, the time has come for the dreaded and hotly debated All-Star break matchup. In my home H2H league known as Bless You Boys, we include next week’s 4 days post-ASB as an extension of this current week’s matchup. It becomes an 11-day affair as opposed to attempting to declare a winner by cramming what should be a full week showdown with a short matchup post ASB that is really more like 3 days as only a couple of teams play on that first Thursday back after the All-Star game. If you have a better option, I would love to hear about it. For me though, I am proud of our commissioners for handling the ASB properly from a H2H perspective. All you non-H2H people don’t have to think about strategic challenges like this. Add another notch to the championship belt for H2H over roto. Boo-yah achieved!
  • The Rays are going forward without Wander Franco until some time in September after they placed him on the 10-Day IL with wrist discomfort. I already saw a tweet about Franco’s future fantasy value by this week’s upcoming guest on the Pallazzo Podcast: Jon Anderson. Mr. Anderson essentially stated that people will be fooled by this injury into drafting Franco as a top-25 fantasy asset next year. Remember that Wander turned 21 in March! He already had 70 MLB games under his belt in 2021. He returned a 127 wRC+ in those 70 games. This year he has been limited to 58 games with multiple stints on the IL. It’s one of those years. They happen. The best-laid plans of those who had nothing but the highest hopes for Wander Franco have been squashed in 2022. I am not one to chalk up an injury-filled season as a future predictor of what’s to come next season. What I do know is those in the fantasy community who have squawked about Franco as a better real-life baseball player than in fantasy have more ammunition to tout their position. I only drafted Franco once in 2022. That happened in round 6 of GLARF (Great Lakes Area Roto Fantasy) which is a sub-division of the overall competition called EARTH which has 10 different regional 15-team 5×5 roto leagues with 150 of the finest analysts in the biz today. I made the classic move of selecting Franco because he was still on the board. I was in the 6-hole of this 15-teamer and in the 6th round I told myself I had to draft Franco at that point because it was a great value play. The fallacy of drafting a guy I avoided prior because now he becomes a value at a certain point is so silly. It’s very real, but very silly. At the 85th pick now Wander will produce more than I pegged him for at the 47th selection? We all need to learn that there are players we want, players we don’t want, players we are unsure of and players we don’t want. I honestly was unsure about Franco, but I also took him because I thought he suddenly became valuable at pick 85. I still think there is a lot of growth in Franco’s game for fantasy. The book on him is far from written. In the meantime, remember that the Rays added Yu Chang recently and recalled Jonathan Aranda from Durham. I have had a real had time quitting Chang. He started Sunday at 2B while Taylor Walls manned the SS position in a lopsided loss to Cincinnati.

  • It’s not every weekend that any hitter can rip a dong in all three games of a series, but that’s exactly what Corey Seager did over the weekend at home against Minnesota! This series kicked off a 10-game home-stand that sees Seager and company welcoming in Oakland and Seattle this week. Seager is even hotter than we realize because he actually has 4 yambos in his last 5 games. He’s rocking a 172 wRC+ since June 13. He’s always in the top third of the lineup, has avoided the IL all season, and sports a lowly .240 BABIP for the year. With a career .324 BABIP, you can expect this recent heater to continue into the second half. He is going to be one of the better players to roster after the ASB. I would be sniffing around in my league to see if I can trade for him. It’s clearly going to be harder after a weekend like his, but I have faith in your negotiating skills my friend!

  • I have two dudes that I have drafted and kept on my active roster all season long: Fernando Tatis Jr. and Chris Sale. One of those fellas is finally ready to roll this Tuesday against Tampa Bay. The ever combustible Chris Sale is back! It even looks like a possible 2-start week for Sale as the Red Sox head to New York after the Tampa series. I haven’t heard a lot of chatter about what people in the game actually expect out of him because the first thing that inevitably comes up when you mention Chris Sale after his raging temper is his fragile body. What a dichotomy that is, eh? Dude can crush the living hell out of a locker room, but he can’t seem to get through a season lately without an ailment. If you recall, we saw Sale return from TJ surgery last year starting 9 games over 42 innings with a 3.16 ERA (3.69 FIP) and a 10.97 K/9. I liked what I saw out of Sale enough to draft him despite the rib issue which I thought would delay him until late May, but after an undisclosed issue has ended up having July 12 as his return date. I am all-in ready to rock now. Sure, some bizarro event could befall him rendering him disposable in redraft this year. You have to believe that eventually things get on track for this complicated dude as he gets back to doing what he does a whole lot better than trashing clubhouses: dominating MLB hitters.

  • Carlos Santana is having quite a run at his new home in the American northwest. He had a double-dong effort Sunday plus he went yambo on Saturday too. This is happening with Ty France back from his recent freak injury at first base. Isn’t the world a better place with Ty France playing baseball in it? France played all 4 games in the home sweep of the Blue Jays out of the 2-hole, but did so as the DH. What if it’s possible that France will be the regular DH while Santana is the everyday 1B? I don’t see anybody on the roster right now who will take Santana’s job away. He’s also hitting 4th for a team that is ascending as the ASB nears. Santana is 36 years young. He spent parts of the last season and a half in the doldrums with Kansas City (no offense to KC who roster a lot of fun players I admire). The last time he was traded for a playoff push was in 2018 in Philly. There was something about Fortnite and a smashed television. Maybe Chris Sale knows what happened there? All I do know is in 2019 Santana gave us a season worth living for with a wRC+ of 138, 34 taters, 16% BB rate, and a .234 ISO. I know 2019 was three years ago, but Santana still has excellent plate discipline while showing above-average contact skills (15% K rate in 2022) for a first baseman. Santana’s big weekend also came during a hotly contested four-game series against Toronto. That matters to me. Quality results during higher stakes affairs stand out to me. The Mariners have a two-game set in the capitol city of the U.S.A. versus the Nationals before closing the first half with four big ones at the competent Texas Rangers. I like that schedule and if I was still waiting on somebody like say…Joey Votto to either go on the IL or play ball again, I would ride with Carlos Santana instead. Santana wants to compete. Last week he showed he still can.

  • With Jurickson Profar hitting the IL because of the nasty collision you see below with C.J. Abrams, you might think it will be to the benefit of Abrams. However, that might be wishful thinking. Firstly, he only has 3 appearances in the outfield this season. Secondly, I believe there is a tendency in fantasy baseball for managers to expect super prospects who can play multiple positions to be given first dibs when a roster spot opens up. I call it the Tony Phillips Assumption (TPA). General managers do not always hold prospects in the highest esteem defensively. Too many times we wide-eyed nerds see prospects from a fantasy point of view which includes no defense (unless you’re a wild card like me when I started a new keeper league in 2013 that used fielding percentage as a H2H category). Many of you will consider starting C.J. Abrams for his absolutely delicious slate of 4 road games at COORS this week hoping he plays in the outfield. You will be so stoked about it that you might be blinded by the fact that former Twins farmhand Brent Rooker has started the last 2 games in LF for the Padres. Sure it’s true that the last two Giants starters were LHP Carlos Rodon and Alex Wood. Rooker is a righty while Abrams is a lefty. So maybe the TPA doesn’t apply here? Well, the Rockies are scheduled to roll out 2 lefty starters with Austin Gomber on Tuesday and Kyle Freeland on Thursday. What do you make of that? In weekly lineup leagues, you’re in a major pickle here. You’re likely looking at a split with Abrams getting a slight edge because he has more appearances as a pinch-runner or hitter or defensive replacement. Don’t forget about Nomar Mazara either. Mazara has 11 plate appearances versus lefties this year with 3 Ks. I’m going to let you sort this out privately. All I know for sure is a 4 game series at COORS is always a reason to start any Padre hitter this week. I hope you choose…wisely.

Speed Round Musings

The musings you find in this segment are just my thoughts. Assume total bias on my part in this section.

  • The return of Tyler Stephenson brings joy to the throngs of fantasy managers who welcome the return of his elite batting average at the catcher position and overall above-average profile. He celebrated on Sunday by mashing a Shane Baz offering to dead center. He also forgot his gear after leaving Louisville to return to Cincinnati on Friday. Who among us can’t relate to that?
  • Brandon Woodruff has had 3 starts since his return from the IL and he looks like his old self. He had a tough-luck loss Saturday 4-3 to Pittsburgh, but he still struck out 9 with a 36% K rate in that game. With a max velocity of 98 MPH and 15 whiffs, those who bet on Woodruff being healthy appear to easily have won that bet. Kudos to you if you pulled it off!
  • Everybody is catching Matt Carpenter fever! Cranking a dong in a spotlight game between the Yankees and Red Sox on Sunday night will do that. His numbers are stupid though. They’re totally unsustainable rest of season. However, Joey Gallo isn’t viable. Carpenter may stay hot for a while yet. By September though, he will be a pinch-hit option on a legit World Series contender. There’s nothing wrong with that at all!
  • Tanner Scott has 5 saves over the last two weeks. Sure he took the loss last Saturday, but who cares. I always thought he could be the guy in Baltimore and now he is the guy in Miami! I don’t care who comes back or seems like a threat. It’s his job to lose from here on out.
  • Kyle Schwarber’s hot summer nights are now commonplace every year. He had back-to-back double-dong games last week with 5 taters total to close out the 7-day run. To me, he is a sell high. Fill a bunch of gaps right now especially in H2H cats. By September his cold streak may crash a first-place season with a bye that he helped you attain. It’s a cruel game sometimes, but these people are not your friends.
  • I was impressed by Mookie Betts coming back much sooner from his rib issue than I expected. He too cranked a double-dong performance on Thursday agains the Cubbies. He started at 2B once last week. If he can attain 2B eligibility, that’s a crucial attribute that improves his stock.
  • Domingo German thew 4 scoreless this past Saturday for triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre. Now it’s a question of when does he join the club and in what capacity. His velocity wasn’t up to par yet in that start, but apparently, the Yankees expected that. JP Sears has been a useful spot starter of the Yanks, so it seems like German is a long man unless there is a plan to limit innings for other starters like Nestor Cortes.
  • Congratulations to Eloy Jimenez for finally being back healthy. If I were you, I would trade him at the first sign of a heater that shows off his power. There are simply too many other players that are more reliable and who can do what he does. Dynasty, keeper, or redraft. Be ready.
  • Daniel Lynch will return in Monday’s doubleheader against Detroit from a blister issue that sidelined him since June. My bozo Tigers are hanging tough lately, so I would be slightly more concerned about assuming this to be an easy streaming start for Lynch. You have been warned. Jonathan Schoop will haunt your dreams. Schoop had 4 straight games with a SB last week!
  • Kris Bryant finally hit a homer last Tuesday which propelled him to finish with 4 in 5 games for the week. Great news, right? Welp, he had to leave Sunday’s game with cramps with word coming later that his wife is heading into labor. So the paternity list it is for Bryant just as he has a 4-game series at home in the cozy confines.
  • The Dbacks promoted super prospect Corbin Carroll to triple-A last week. He’s one step away from the bigs! The crucial question now becomes, will he get a shot after Arizona sells their parts at the deadline, or will he be a tease to all of fantasy for the rest of 2022 while the Rattlers have no intention of burning the clock before 2023? If you’re looking for an answer out of me, you’ll just have to wait. I have no clue yet 🙁
  • The Pirates had Kevin Newman back in the fold this past weekend in Milwaukee. He had been out since April. Newman feels like a player who is definitely not in their long-term plans. They want to showcase him, hope that he shows capable and then send him out on a rail. He was the leadoff hitter Sunday and had a hit in all 3 games in the weekend series. 14-teamers and deeper should have a look at him.
  • Jose Urquidy appears to have turned his season around, but I’m not buying it. His last outing against Oakland looks promising on the surface: 8IP and 3ER. He only got 5 whiffs in 8 innings though. That’s lucky to me. That’s the same way I feel about his 6ER allowed over his last 4 starts. His FIP being almost a run higher than his ERA leaves me needing more. More swing and miss outcomes and a few less walks too.
  • The Giants have Luis Gonzalez back in the fold. He’s been a reliable OF for them with a smooth stick returning a .307 average and 7 steals to boot. Austin Slater has actually been playing real well over the last 10 days, but it seems like Gonzalez is a part of the Giants’ future as they struggle with coming back to Earth this year after an absurd triple-digit 2021 season. I’d buy Gonzalez in keepers and dynasty.
  • I want to give three cheers to Robbie Ray for being one of the reasons the Mariners have turned their season around. Over his last 6 starts, he has a 0.91 ERA with 2.5 BB/9. However, I am still a little concerned about this 6 start run he’s on. His FIP is 2.50 while his .188 BABIP and 96% strand rate can’t last. He’ll still be 12-team-worthy, but maybe sell at the highest point before he cools down some.
  • Elieser Hernandez has been recalled back to The Show by the Marlins. Initial reports are that he will work out of the bullpen. That proved true when he came in for 1 inning of relief Saturday. I still don’t buy that Daniel Castano is a better option in the rotation over Hernandez. My fantasy radar tells me that he will be in the rotation again at some point after the ASB. For the moment, he’s no good to us in most leagues.
  • I got really excited Sunday when I saw that my main man Luis Garcia was leading off for the moribund Nats. He went 0-4, but I would love to see this become the norm in Washington. I have not moved off my long-term success for him as a 20 homer, .300 AVG player. Eventually Cesar Hernandez will be out of the picture for the lowly Nationals. Be patient my friends.
  • Matt Brash is back in Seattle this time as a RP who picked up the win last Saturday night with an IP and 2 Ks. This feels more appropriate for the team build at this time. If you have dreams of closing you might want to slow your roll there. Paul Sewald has been crushing it with 12 Ks over his last 6.2 IP and 4 saves. Then again, the Mariners are in make the playoffs now mode so anything could happen.
  • The All-Star game rosters are set? Do I have that right? I’m seriously not trying to be a buzz kill here, but I didn’t even feel the desire to find out who’s on each squad for this article. I have more familiarity with the Futures Game rosters than I do the MLB all-stars. The All-Star game and the festivities that surround it simply appeal more to adolescents. The innocence of youth is attracted to the innocence of a game that’s more about tradition than anything else. When I was a kid in 1991 I recall having an immense feeling of enthusiasm for the 1991 All-Star Game in Toronto! It was going down on July 8th at the Skydome and my favorite Tiger at the time, Cecil Fielder, was starting at 1B. He should have been the AL MVP in 1990 after hitting 51 homers at a time when nobody had hit 50 since George Foster had done so in 1977. While I waited for the game my brother and I were playing around in the basement with a toy metallic six-shooter straight out of the old American west. We wrestled, exchanged one-liners like we were Arnold Schwarzenegger and pretended to punch each other like we were in the movies. One of my punches with that toy gun in my hand went too far as I accidentally made contact with the brow right above my brother’s left eye. He started screaming and running upstairs as blood ran down his hands as he clutched his face. I felt great terror as I knew I was going to be in a heap of trouble for this mistake. Sure enough, I got called upstairs by my mom who raged out on me. Her tirade came to a close with these words, “You can forget staying up to watch the game tonight! You go straight to your room for the night right now!”. I started to cry as I begged her to reconsider while apologizing profusely to my brother as he sat blood-stained in the kitchen chair. My mom would not budge. I spent the rest of the night in my room crying until I couldn’t muster the energy any longer to do anything. There was no internet to sneak a peek at. The radio had the game on but our AM signal was horrendous because of a halogen light bulb outside the house that caused a horrendous, constant sound that prevented any type of coherence from coming through on the radio waves. I talked about how bummed I was about missing that game for years. My brother ended up with a couple of stitches and a gnarly scar right above his eye that remains to this day.
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