Mick Ciallela finished the 2020 MLB season as the most accurate analyst on FantasyPros.com. Use his rest of season rankings to help guide your decision-making and share in his success.
Last week, my wife and I visited Louis’ Lunch, the birthplace of the hamburger sandwich. They cook their burgers in the original cast-iron grills they have used for more than a century. They use a five-meat blend for their burgers, and they do not offer condiments. In fact, their employees wear company shirts that feature a ketchup bottle in a red circle with a line through it. The burger is served with grilled onions and a slice of tomato on white bread. The bread is toasted on a 1929 Savory Radiant Gas Toaster. I had to look up the toaster afterward because I could not tell what it was while I was there.
The hamburgers I generally gravitate towards come on a bun. I usually add lettuce, a slice of cheese, and preferably some bacon. Not to mention some rotation of ketchup, mayonnaise, or barbecue sauce depending on the other toppings. (Coincidentally, I think I just realized how I’ve gained weight over the last few months.) Anyway, when I first bit into the burger from Louis’, I could not tell right away if I liked it. It was not quite what I had come to expect from a burger. The meat blend was different than a standard patty, and the toasted white bread added a crunch and a different texture than your standard soft bun. After the first bite, I turned to my wife and said, “I can’t tell if I like it yet.”
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I bring this up because we are currently at the “first bite” portion of the 2021 Major League Baseball season. Have we seen noteworthy things, some of which could be indicative of potential success or decline for a particular player moving forward? Sure. But making broad declarative statements based on 10 or fewer games seems a bit hasty. We have not yet approached the rate of stabilization for most metrics, and all players will have good and bad stretches between now and September. Newsflash – Tyler Naquin will not finish the season as the league leader in home runs or runs batted in.
I am not saying to completely ignore what we have seen thus far. There are plenty of instances where an early hot start portends a breakout season. However, we need to look beyond the early raw numbers to determine whether this is the case. Did a hitter adopt a new timing mechanism or alter his stance in Spring Training? Or did he simply face the Pittsburgh Pirates like Naquin and the rest of the red-hot Reds hitters did? Did a pitcher alter his release point or change his grip to add spin to his breaking pitch? Did he add a new offering to his repertoire? Or did he happen to benefit from facing a slumping offense? I try to consider these factors before completely scrapping my preseason rankings in place of my rest of season rankings.
Injury and COVID Concerns
Of course, injuries are a different story. We have already seen a high number of star players succumb to the injury bug early in the season. I do not know exactly when the likes of Fernando Tatis, Jr., Adalberto Mondesi, and Ketel Marte will return. Therefore, forecasting how they will fare over the next 25 weeks can be a bit tricky. It is fairly safe to say that the aforementioned players will likely fall short of the expectations we had for them during draft season. But the extent to which they will fall is still a bit of a guessing game. I am probably lower on some of the injured stars than most will be. I fear that they could become reinjured, or that their clubs will exhibit extreme caution in ramping up their activity, knowing that there is a long season ahead of all of us.
We also currently have multiple COVID-19 outbreaks to deal with, with the Washington Nationals and Toronto Blue Jays the teams most affected. Several high-profile players including Teoscar Hernandez and Josh Bell are among those currently ineligible for action due to COVID restrictions. This will surely not be the last we see of players missing action due to the pandemic this season. Fantasy managers have little recourse but to take it as it comes, but it makes compiling rest of season rankings even more challenging than in years past. I cannot pretend to know the likelihood of a player contracting COVID or being put on the restricted list over the next five and a half months.
With all of that in mind, here is this year’s first installment of my rest of season rankings for fantasy baseball. I tend not to deviate a ton early on from my preseason rankings unless there has been an actionable event that changes a player’s arsenal and outlook going forward. I will, however, add the caveat that last season was a much smaller sample size than we are accustomed to. We may look back on 2020 as an outlier season for many players, both in a positive and negative light. Just as we will likely look back on the first 10 days of the 2021 season as an outlier for many players for the rest of the year. So follow the breadcrumbs to see where they lead, but save some of that bread in case you happen to come across a 1929 Savory Radiant Gas Toaster.
Rest of Season Fantasy Baseball Rankings
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