Hangovers get the best of everyone from time to time. Age is not your friend when throwing back one too many. The same could likely be said of World Series hangovers, which can bite even young teams but are especially exhausting for pitching staffs built around aging aces. Stephen Strasburg threw all of five innings in 2020 after signing a contract for $245 million across seven years. I’m still a few Scrubs episodes from finishing my medical degree, but Carpal Tunnel Neuritis in the right wrist sounds like an awful diagnosis for a 32-year-old right handed pitcher. Stras underwent surgery in late August and could be ready to go in Spring, but it’s looking like the team should’ve chosen Anthony Rendon over Strasburg rather than offering each the same deal and rolling with whoever signed first, if that widespread reporting was accurate. 

Whatever the future holds–and it doesn’t look bright in these minors today–2019 was worth it. Perhaps characterizing their 2020 as a hangover is a bridge too far, especially in a year when most of us wake up wishing we could sleep it off, but it’s an easy leap to make given the strength of will and perseverance it took to vanquish the OP-cheat-code Astros. Thanks, Washington! And it’s not all bad by any means. If their last couple first-round picks pan out, we could see Soto and the boys back in the big games very soon. 

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Floundering at the big league level despite fanatical off-season spending, the Phillies could really use a boost from their farm system in 2021. Who couldn’t, right? But whereas some teams are so deep their prospects have to join the queue when they’re big league ready, Philadelphia is a land of opportunity for youngsters. Without a minor league season, the club was forced to promote several players with little to no experience in the upper minors: Spencer Howard, Alec Bohm, Rafael Marchan, and former #1 pick Mickey Moniak. I’m eager to see how 2021 plays out for everyone in the game who saw aggressive assignments and whether or not the results impact future processes. Hell I’m just eager to see minor league baseball again, but this season tossed so many variables into the equation that the game might feel ripples forever. 2021 feels incredibly important for the Phillies. They’ve demoted General Manager Matt Klentak and appointed Ned Rice in the interim. Jim Hendry was floated as a possible replacement by Jon Heyman (truckful of salt, I know), and I’d like to see Hendry get another chance after he loaded up the Cubs just before Theo Epstein came aboard. Feels like Girardi might have the loudest voice in the room, which feels like a net positive for an organization that hasn’t made the playoffs in 19 years. 

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Get your bids in: these Mets are for sale!

It’ll be fascinating to see the fate of GM Brodie Van Wagenen under new ownership. Luckily for him, the team is obligated to pay his clients several million dollars regardless of his own future. Wild times in New York these days, but their scouting and development teams have done well over the past few cycles, so the system remains solid despite the purge of Jarred Kelenic, Simeon Woods-Richardson and more. 

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Smart rebuilds tend to come together a year early. They do not tend to intersect with a pandemic that runs roughshod through the organization. Miami’s 2020 season would’ve been impressive in any context—the culmination of an aggressive realignment of resources—but in a world where they signed street free agents to play crucial roles in their decimated lineup, their success borders on the miraculous. 

17 new players joined the club to take on Baltimore for four games in three days after the active roster spent a week in quarantine. Naturally, the Miami replacements won all four games, prompting manager Don Mattingly to say he’d “have to write a book after this.” Fast forward two months: the Marlins just swept the Cubs out of the playoffs; Mattingly is working on a nine-book, coming-of-age saga because as fresh as these fish have been this year, the best is yet to come. 

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Atlanta flew right over Milwaukee like a cross-continental flight, and their number one prospect played a huge role in the two-game sweep. Ian Anderson is just the latest in a long line of rookies who’ve lifted the team to three straight postseasons. Among the handful of teams who can claim Best Build in baseball, Atlanta’s can be matched by only the Dodgers and Rays.

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The playoff stage is set in the American League, and the prospects of Tampa Bay, Oakland, Minnesota, Cleveland, New York, Houston, Chicago, and Toronto are ready to grab the nation’s eyeballs. Randy Arozarena has already tripled out of the 3-spot in Tampa’s lineup, and some is right with the world. 

Here’s my AL playoff breakdown: Expanded Playoffs Invite Prospect Impact

The National League wasn’t settled when I went to press Saturday night, but the musical chairs are all silent now and waiting for the real music to start. Let’s take a lap. 

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I’d like to begin with a quick retrospective to count our blessings despite the stark reality that hitting pause on minor league baseball made 2020 anything but a prospector’s dream. 

This decision was not without its own hidden benefits, though I feel kinda funny saying the temporary demolition of a couple thousand young men’s dreams was not without upside for the fantasy baseball player. Wasn’t even without upside for the real-life player if he found positive ways to invest his time like Luisangel Acuña reportedly has, packing pounds of muscle onto his developing frame. When MLB increased the playoffs from 8 to 16 teams, the entire prospect landscape changed. Suddenly, Baltimore, San Francisco, Toronto and more had incentive to push for wins on the margins. One could argue they had even more incentive to rush their prospects up to the majors just to keep them playing games. We saw more players jump AA and AAA in 2020 than any season I can remember. The expanded playoff format is not solely responsible for that, but it has been a crucial element in breathing some aggressiveness and unpredictability back into our game. I’ll be mildly shocked if MLB doesn’t retain both the 16-team playoffs and the universal DH. 

The stage is set in the American League. Tampa Bay, Oakland, Minnesota, Cleveland, New York, Houston, Chicago, and Toronto are all officially playoff teams. 

Tampa Bay OF Randy Arozarena was kind of the inciting incident for this article focused on at least one guy from each team who should be flat-out fun to watch this October.

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I’m making some cuts today in my 15-team dynasty. More than ‘some,’ I suppose. I currently have 50 claims in for Thursday morning’s free agent run, but that’s mostly because I use my pending transactions screen as a watch list. My style of dynasty play involves building lists of free agents I want and cutting all the guys I think are drop-able before faab runs. I arrange the list by talent/value over need and let the dominoes fall where they may. This presents some drawbacks in terms of balance between MiLB and MLB players at times and occasionally trips me up on the positional-depth front for a couple days, but it remains my preferred method in large part because it enforces a kind of thinking I find beneficial. 

Knowing where the cut line lands in any particular league is endlessly valuable. It prevents you from trading for replacement level talent and invites you to swap out some of those players when their value spikes. It’s a theoretical concept and a moving target, so the more frequently you’re checking in with it, the better grasp you’ll have of who to add, drop, trade and ignore. 

So who’s on the chopping block this week?

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If you listen closely enough, you can hear the fantasy baseball season sliding away from us like an 0-2 pitch from sexpot Sixto Sanchez. Your roto leagues are probably a bit settled by now–the final few teams jostling for the top spot. In your dynasty leagues, the rip-off guys are probably making their annual post-deadline runs for the roses. Such is the nature of fall baseball. The fatigue factor feels a little different this year, worse for some I’m sure but perhaps less impactful in general across the entirety of fantasy baseball. 

Though who knows: the overarching 2020 fatigue factor might supersede the excitement of the short-season burst. In a typical season, these final few faab runs can make a huge difference, and it’s typically just a couple teams paying close enough attention to add a Jazz Chisholm or some similarly high riser on the last day of the season. I only mention Jazz because he was added on the final day in one of my 15-teamers just a few weeks before his big Fall League glow up. Seems like we won’t have that particular league this year, but we’ll still see some winter ball, I suspect, and some prospects will still change their outlook through a combination of hope, hype, and happenstance. Happy hunting out there, dear readers. 

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I’m not the world’s biggest Star Trek fan, but I thought the JJ Abrams reboot with Zoe Saldana was good, and I know a solid nickname when I see one. If you show me a catcher named Kirk, I can’t avoid calling him Captain. I don’t have the power. Chris Pine is kind of underrated as an actor, I think, and this next guy is likely a little underrated as a prospect. 

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