If MLB is actually able to pull off an abbreviated 2020, I’ll have four or five drafts/auctions the week of July 23rd. Right now, even though I’m not planning on veering far from my normal draft plan, I do realize that some major adjustments in strategy may need to be made for what will certainly be a bizarre season, and I’m still pondering potential tweaks to my game plan in case I have any brainstorms about what might give me an edge in 2020.  One thing I have decided to do is to pay a little less attention to ratios and more to counting stats this year, assuming they’ll be slightly more predictable with such a small sample size of a season.

Speaking of ratio stats that may be harder to control than ever this year, a while back I saw a suggestion somewhere on Fangraphs or a similar website mentioning the notion of punting ERA as a strategy for this season.  There was no follow up in terms of how one might go about doing so, and it seemed like a crazy idea to me, since punting ERA without destroying WHIP seemed impossible even from an on-paper standpoint.  But in an effort to at least consider out of the box ideas this year, I decided to follow up the thought by trying to put together a pitching staff that I felt had a solid chance to be relatively successful once I didn’t take ERA into account at all, largely using last year’s performance as a guide.  Even though prior year’s performance isn’t necessarily an indicator of what will happen in the present even in normal times, looking at things through this lens has, if nothing else, revealed some numbers that surprised me a bit. The bottom line is, if I’ve decided that I’m not going to put as much stock as usual into ratio categories like ERA — and I think I have — then I may have discovered a few starting pitchers that I’ll be more interested in drafting for 2020 than I would have guessed.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Anyone who plans on engaging in a little fantasy baseball fun over the (hopefully) upcoming 60-game season has certainly been thinking about the overwhelming number of meaningful changes that have occurred over the last several months.  There are so many alterations and unusual circumstances, and so much incomplete information, that it’s been hard for me to begin even preparing for how to attack things in 2020.  How this all translates specifically to AL-only, NL-only, and other deep leagues is yet another wrinkle that it may be tricky to successfully iron out before it’s too late.

I have a few teams that have sat “frozen” since as early as November that will re-open for FAAB and waiver wire moves soon, plus at least three more deep-league drafts to do over the next few weeks.  As I begin formulating some strategies for addressing these teams, I’m going to start by checking in on some deeper-league injury situations.  Since I’m writing this several days before players are expected to show up at their new camps, there will likely be a flurry of news and updates soon, but for now let’s take a look at some of the health news that’s come in over the last week or so.  We’ll keep it deep league by checking in on some players outside the top 300 in NFBC ADP this year, listed in order of earliest drafted to latest drafted. These are guys that we might have forgotten about and who might get ignored in standard leagues regardless of whether or not they’re ready to take the field, but who, if healthy, might help those of us who are going to need to get a little more creative with our roster construction.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Well, I thought by the time June rolled around I’d be writing knowing whether or not a plan was in place for at least an attempt at baseball in 2020, but instead as I write this the immediate future of the MLB, along with much else in the world, is still painfully up in the air. As we all deal with everything going on around us, though, I don’t think it’s too self-indulgent to turn to a favorite past time/hobby/obsession/part-time job to help strengthen us mentally and emotionally — and for the readers and writers here at Razzball, that past time, of course, is fantasy baseball.

Since I’ve always been a fan of mining bad real-life MLB teams for deep-league value — attempting to find treasure in the perceived trash pile that other owners may overlook completely — we’ll take one of those bad MLB teams and see what it might have to offer, especially for us deep leaguers.  I’m choosing the Marlins, since for about five months now I’ve just had a feeling that they could be at least a bit better than folks expect, especially in fantasy terms (though in a shortened season with expanded playoffs, who knows what craziness could ensue).  I’ve gone through my rosters, and here are the Marlins I have on multiple teams, all of whom I’d consider grabbing more shares of if and when I draft more teams for 2020.  Let’s see who on this team is leading the charge to make me think there might be something to see here…

Please, blog, may I have some more?

There have been a lot of strange things about this off-season.  I mean, in addition to the obvious, like constantly worrying about the health of ourselves, our loved ones, and the fate of mankind while not having baseball as a job/hobby/distraction.  For me, one of the odder consequences of the delayed season is the fact that I have yet to draft an NL or AL-only team this year, as all of my private leagues are waiting to draft until we have a better idea what the coming weeks and months will bring.  Another very weird thing that seems to have happened to me over the last several months is that I have evidently developed a propensity for paying more than ever before for catchers on my fantasy baseball teams.

I realize now that this trend actually started back in another lifetime late November, when my first draft of the season took place.  I’ve drafted quite a few teams since then — mostly 15-team mixed format, 2-catcher leagues, with a standard 5×5 roto scoring system.  Unlike every other season of my fantasy baseball career, almost every one of them features at least one catcher that I had to pay for with either a mid-round pick of a handful of valuable auction dollars.  Last year, I literally did not even include catchers on my master spread sheet… I just had a handful of names in mind that I knew I could grab at the very end of a draft or with my last dollar in an auction.  This year, paying for a catcher was not a strategy that I came into draft season with; it just kind of happened.  Draft after draft, it just continued to occur: time to make a pick, and I felt a catcher was the best value on the board.  This happened back in my first drafts this winter, and continued through my last drafts a couple of weeks ago — so in terms of the catching position, my take on how to construct the best team really didn’t change once the uncertainty of the season’s timeline and potential format changes came into play.  What I’m also realizing is that I’m pretty happy with how most of my teams turned out overall on paper — to the point where, if worse comes to worst and we have no baseball in 2020 and I don’t get to see if my don’t-wait-as-long-as-usual-to-draft-a-catcher method worked, I will most likely jump right back in and employ a similar strategy in 2021.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

When it comes to fantasy baseball, there may be no position where player values vary more from shallow league to deep league than that of middle reliever.  Even if your league doesn’t use holds, a middle reliever that wouldn’t be draftable in standard leagues — even if roster size doubled — can provide some nice value in deeper leagues.  Last year, I drafted Hector Neris and Nick Anderson at the end of all of my very deep and NL-only leagues — both were available for a buck or in the free round of even my deepest, 15-team NL-only auction league. Both pitchers ended up helping me immensely, Neris by pitching well (his season was underrated in my opinion:  2.93 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 89 Ks in 67 innings) and ultimately assuming the closer’s role and notching 28 saves.  Anderson, on the other hand, while pitching in many high-leverage situations, never got that closer gig in 2019 that I thought he might, either with the Marlins or after he was traded to the Rays.  He ended up with one measly save — but that didn’t stop him from being a useful part of my NL-only pitching staff; in fact, in at least one league he was one of the only players who was in my active lineup from day one through game 162 last year.  The solid ratios, five wins, and whopping 110 Ks in 65 innings were enough to make a difference of a few points for me across those categories, which ultimately helped lead my team to a money finish.  If I’d been messing around with junk starters in that spot, I may have gotten some wins and Ks, but that progress would have been offset by the damage to my ratios.

With the current corona timeline that baseball is (hopefully) on track for, I’m guessing that middle relievers who are trusted near the end of games may even have a small spike in value — at least if anything close to expanded-roster teams playing 8 games a week and lots of doubleheaders into November becomes a reality.  (Please let it become a reality!)  Here are some true deep leaguers to look at, all outside of the top 500 NFBC ADP (with the exception of my first entry, Hunter Harvey, whose ADP is 475 — and probably only that high because of how many times I’ve drafted him!)

Please, blog, may I have some more?

So, I’ve agreed to draft another fantasy baseball team this weekend.  I honestly can’t tell you how many that makes for me in 2020, and I don’t really care at this point.  At first I was worried about how I could possibly manage juggling so many rosters should baseball ever return (PLEASE, PLEASE return sometime this summer, baseball!) Now, though, I’ve decided that I’m just going to carry on, figuring that having a “problem” like having 20 or 30 lineups to set come July would be the greatest problem I can possibly imagine right now.

Since I’m still drafting and I know many of you are too — either joining public online leagues as a therapeutic way to pass the time, or participating in drafts for leagues you’ve been in for years and have had planned all off-season — I thought I’d look at the current state of players outside the top 250, and which names I have my eye on as being a potential value that late.  I’m basing these ADP numbers on MattTruss’s Monday post in which he included a beautiful spreadsheet unveiling weeks worth of RCL ADP, so theoretically this is data that many of you have actually contributed to.  Some of these players’ values got a slight VHB* bump, others I’m valuing exactly the way I would during a normal season.  This is an extra tough week for me, as I try to keep what would normally be the sunshine-y giddiness of Opening Day from being permanently replaced by an ugly cloud of darkness… but to that end, let’s try to be safe, stay positive, and think about how insanely exciting it will be to finally have baseball to watch, whenever that may be.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

“The best things in life (baseball season) are worth waiting for.”    –Pete Alonso

To draft or not to draft?  There doesn’t seem to be much reason to draft a fantasy baseball team these days, but there also seems to be absolutely no reason not to. As long as you’re drafting online, it’s certainly a socially-distanced-friendly activity, since you don’t need to be in the same city, state, or even country with your fellow drafters.  And is drafting now really any weirder than the drafts I was doing in November and December, knowing that the baseball season was months away? Well, yes, it’s a million times weirder, but like I said, I can’t really think of a reason not to do it.  I’m confident that if the baseball-related worst happens and the season is cancelled altogether (wow, I don’t even like typing that), any leagues I’ve paid for will be refunded, and many of us suddenly have quite a bit more time than usual to spare these days, so there’s nothing to lose, right?  I have my last scheduled NFBC online draft set for later this week, so I guess I’ll just try to jump in and make the best of it, both for the sake of my current psyche as well as for the future hopes of the team I’ll be drafting.  It’s been admittedly difficult for me to keep a positive mindset lately, what with the thing that I usually turn to to make me calm and happy during tough times having been taken away indefinitely. I’m going to try to focus less on the notion that baseball might not be back for a really, really long time, and more on the thought that there’s still a decent chance that the players whose names I’m thinking about, adding to my queue, and rostering on my pretend teams now will be playing real-life major league baseball in a few months.  I’m excited enough just at the thought of them playing, period… and if they lead me to a little fantasy baseball success while they’re at it, that will be some scrumptious frosting on an already delicious cake.

The 2020 Razzball Commenter Leagues are now open! Free to join!

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Ah, the age-old question:  how important is it to chase playing time in deep fantasy baseball leagues?  Okay, perhaps it’s not a question that society has been pondering since the dawn of time, but it is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately as I’m in the thick of my drafting season.  The word “platoon” and “time-share” are huge turn-offs to most owners when perusing a hitter’s profile — but when it comes to deep leagues, I don’t feel that having a hitter in a platoon situation is necessarily always a terrible thing.

In shallow leagues, playing time is crucial, since on a good fantasy team every player rostered will theoretically be somewhat of a stud, and you’ll want as many at bats from said studs as possible or else you’ll quickly lose ground in the counting stat categories.  But in deeper leagues, I do believe there are times when less is more, and where chasing playing time will ultimately hurt you.  More at bats (or innings if we are talking about pitchers) may lead to slightly raised counting stat numbers, but at the expense of taking a hit in ratio-based categories.  Today let’s take a look at a few examples of the many players who may not even be draftable in certain shallow leagues, but could be a big help to deep-league teams.  Some of these guys may also have the added benefit of being available at lower-than-they-should-probably-go price points in deep leagues, due to the fact that other owners may tend to overlook them based on a playing-time bias that may not even be a negative factor in NL-only, AL-only, or other deep leagues.

The 2020 Razzball Commenter Leagues are now open! Free to join!

Please, blog, may I have some more?

The main difference between standard fantasy leagues and deep leagues is, of course, the depth of the player pool and the talent an owner has available to choose from when constructing a roster.  Trying to decide how to let player pool depth affect draft strategy is where things get challenging, and I find that especially true when it comes to starting pitching.  While I, like most of the Razzball community, prefer to eschew top-tier starters in mixed leagues, it can become both more tempting — and in some cases more necessary as far as I’m concerned — to roster a top-ranked starting pitcher in NL or AL-only leagues because that nice big pool of mid-range starters whom you can count on just doesn’t exist.  But whether you decide to splurge on a Cole or a deGrom in a deep league, or choose to try to build a stable of starters without one of the top studs, one thing remains the same:  at the end of any deep-league draft or auction, you’ll want a handful of SP names that you can take fliers on to fill out your rotation or plant on your bench.  Today we’ll take a look a some pitchers that I’d consider throwing a late dart at:  for now, these are all ‘bird in the hand’ guys that theoretically are expected to open the season in their respective MLB rotations, rather than players that might have more upside but may have to wait a bit longer for a full-fledged starting gig.  All of the following players have current NFBC ADPs outside the top 350 players drafted — so as long as you’re not counting on them to do any heavy lifting on your squad, they’re low ultra risk, and any reward you get is almost like free production.

The 2020 Razzball Commenter Leagues are now open! Free to join!

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Last week, we talked about players that are on the old side and are generally boring fantasy picks, but who might still be able to provide some decent deep-league value.   This week, we’ll focus on guys that may be able to help with two components crucial to most any successful fantasy team, namely power and speed.  In deeper leagues, we’re hit with a kind of double whammy.  First, the potential for things to go wrong is more prevalent since we’re drafting deeper into the player pool and therefore rostering much riskier players — whether the risk is injury, demotion, or just poor performance.  Second, once this level of risk leads to the need to replace players and fix holes on a roster, that’s much harder to do with what it usually a dearth of options available via the free agent pool.  If you’ve ever played in a 12-team “only” league with a deep bench, you know what I mean:  I’ve actually had situations where I needed to replace a hole at, say, second base when my second baseman was sent to triple A, and ended up having to just keep the minor leaguer in my lineup because there was literally not a free agent major league player who qualified at second base available in my league’s player pool.

At any rate, as I’m filling out a deep-league team, I’d often rather have two players who can both help me in both homers and steals rather than one hitter who I hope to count on for power and one who is more of a straight speed threat — even if I have to give up a little bit of ADP value or pay a buck more for a guy than I’d like to in an auction.  It’s just a way to mitigate risk slightly, in hopes of preventing the loss of one player from hitting me too hard in a single category. Thus, on to some names.  All of the following players A) had at least 10 homers + at least 10 steals last year, B) are guys that I think, in my completely unscientific projections, could reach a number of both home runs and steals that’s at least in the teens this year, and C) have current NFBC ADPs outside the top 225.

Please, blog, may I have some more?