Cubs RHP Cam Sanders listens to Parliament between innings to maintain his mothership connection. He shakes out a little aqua boogie before and after every pitch, and it’s working for him. If you want your funk funked up, grab a flashlight and take a look. Sanders is doin’ it in 3D. He’ll put a glide in your stride and a dip in your hip. Might even tear the roof off the sucker when he makes the show. His stuff has always been good, but like a lot of young Cubbies, he’s added velocity over the past few seasons and harnessed that stuff at AA this season better than he has before, posting a 25% K-BB rate and a 1.00 WHIP in six starts. He’s yet to debut at AAA, but I’m hoping he pitches Friday when I get down to Des Moines to watch the I-Cubs. Feet don’t fail me now! 

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As the fantasy community mourned the destruction of Minnesota SS Carlos Correa’s middle finger this week, we also wondered if such an injury would be the spark that lights a major league candle for Royce Lewis. The Twins wasted no time in promoting him, making the announcement before we learned that Correa’s finger was not broken as first reported. Even so, it’s the middle finger of his throwing hand, and it was damaged badly enough that initial examinations suggested it was broken. I don’t know when you last made the throw from shortstop over to first base, but you used your middle finger to do it. I suspect Correa will DH for a while before he goes back to short, giving Lewis some runway to establish himself as a viable big league option. If he does, the team might try to find room for him in the outfield. Don’t drop him yet.

Graduated from Volume 1, Oneil Cruz ControlSS Royce Lewis, 3B/1B Jose Miranda, 3B Elehuris Montero, C MJ Melendez, 1B/3B Juan Yepez, 2B/OF Vinny Capra. 

Now like Jock Jams we move on to Volume 2.

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In my house, we watch a lot of Sesame Street, even the animated shorts like Elmo Gets a Puppy and The Monster at the End. I’m not sure you’ve lived until you’ve heard Cookie Monster sing the following:

“Me talk to me self. 

Me talk to me seeelllfff. 

Me talk to me self and then me knew that me could have courage.” 

All Sesame Street songs are earworms but perhaps none more so than the Number of the Day, which features the Martians popping up from their Martian-holes and saying “Yep” for each digit each day: One. Yep. Two. Yep. Three. Yep. And so on. 

St. Louis 1B OF Juan Yepez celebrates his home runs the same way, blasting the song and then shouting out “Yep” in the clubhouse for each home run he’s hit on the season. He was up to nine in just 22 games when the club decided they needed that song in the major league clubhouse and called him up Tuesday night. He’s in the lineup today, playing right field, which suggests he’ll probably bounce around between the outfield and infield, providing some days off here and there for lineup regulars. Might be the DH against right-handed pitchers if he’s not on the field somewhere. He got hot early last season and never stopped mashing. A lot of rookies are struggling to make the leap from AAA to MLB pitching, but few have been in their groove for as long as Juan has, so I’m optimistic he’ll find his rhythm if given the chance to do so. 

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In researching for this week’s article, I kept seeing flies in the ointment, so to speak. I’ve lost track of the ground. MLB’s new pre-tacked balls fresh from a humidor seem to have created more fade on change-ups, more run on 2-seamers, more cut on wake-shifters, more dive on sliders and less distance off the bat. The general hysteria has finally trickled into my thinking about how to evaluate minor league baseball players. My local Cedar Rapids Kernals are not using a humidor. I couldn’t verify the same for every team, but I’m willing to guess that less than one percent of minor league parks are using a humidor. Which baseball they’re using . . . you’d probably have to be a veteran big league pitcher to tell the difference on a given night. 

So how does this affect my eyes when watching MiLB.tv? I’ve been protected from it a little because the video feeds are rarely so crystal clear I can see the ball off the bat with my outfielder eyes and predict with some degree of accuracy where it will land in an instant. 

This invitational, predictive aspect of a long fly ball is a big part of what makes watching baseball fun.  “Is that a home run!?” asks the excited fan’s mind. “Oh farts, it landed on the track,” the game responds, over and over and over again to the extent that you start to get a little frustrated. Years of built in baseball-watching from this camera angle have trained us all to play along in this regard, so we’re all experts in our minds to the extent that our self-confidence allows.

My eyes haven’t been deceived on the warning track much in the minors this year. I don’t know how to react to the idea that a prospect might need significantly more power and better plate skills than he shows in the minors to thrive in the majors. For now, I’m planning to slow-play it rather than overreact. 

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I wake up every day ready to be surprised by the Pittsburgh Pirates. 

I go to sleep every night surprised enough to be disappointed.

They find new ways to steal my sleep and shiver me timbers every seventeen hours or so.

No offense to Tucupita Marcano or Jack Suwinski or Jack Sparrow, who’s down bad but seems to be bouncing back if you’re tracking the Youtube trial. Anyway, talented players, all, but even from a team-control perspective, I can’t understand why anyone would promote these guys and bench Diego Castillo. 

Before we even consider the Oneil Cruz angle, taken from the most extreme tank-forever lens, how does it make sense? Maybe Castillo is hurt but not injured and just needs a day and this is just me spinning my wheels, which is really what being a baseball fan is all about, sometimes. It’s all an intricate but elaborate board game, and we like to play along with the teams, and it’s just impossible to play along with Pittsburgh. No functional POV perspective for this game. Can’t even select the Pirates in Franchise Mode of your favorite video games, probably–so alien is their approach to applying eye liner and operating a baseball team.

But let’s not dwell here where three rivers meet. There’s a whole ocean of baseball islands to explore.

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Over the past few seasons, I’ve grown confident in my ability to play the timeline game along with major league front offices. This year feels different. We’re beyond what’s typically the first Super Two threshold, and I’m ready to spin the wheel, but I’m uncertain about the rules. 

Will teams slam the brakes if they didn’t promote a guy on opening day, knowing they’ll be “punished” if that player earns rookie of the year votes? 

Survey says . . . probably, if past behavior is the best predictor of future choices. 

By the way, before we go further, I should say I hope and pray some of the baseball writers know the rules enough to push good rookies up their ballots. I don’t really care about who finishes in the top five in these awards, and I think the same goes for most fans, but I want to see the players get a W at the negotiating table for the long-term health of the game, particularly where young players are concerned.

So who’s potentially stuck in this no-win position created by the recent Collective Bargaining Agreement? Let’s check the list.

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How’s your season going so far?

Settling into the habits and rhythms you’ll need to succeed?

I sure hope you’re doing a little better than me scrambling to manage 15 leagues. Definitely shaving that number wherever I can between now and next spring. I am enjoying the feeling of constant motion that makes dynasty baseball my favorite format, but that’s exactly what I’m doing so far this year: flipping from roster to roster to keep up with my daily lineups, filing claim lists as early as I can begin knowing I’ll have to rework anything later, just throwing constant work at the problem, is what I’m saying. I’ve always been a proponent of working smart. Gonna have to work pretty hard to thrive no matter what you do, but you can at least try to enhance your efficiency as you go along. That’s what I hope to offer here each week: a quick read that feels much more like working smarter than working hard. Let’s dive in. 

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Yankees SS Anthony Volpe is pressing at AA, slashing .125/.214/.167 with a 3.6% walk rate and a 35.7% strikeout rate. I might repeat myself on the it’s-just-one-week front, but I’ve been concerned about the Volpe hype for quite a while. Reminds me a bit of Kelenic in that people rushed him up the list before he’d proven anything in the high minors, always scary for a guy whose hit tool is the primary question. I’m not Chicken Little, sky-is-falling frightened for him, but that’s partly because I don’t have Volpe on any teams. If I did, I’d be accepting offers or folding him in with deals to get elite major leaguers. The Yankees have developed just one big league caliber field player over the past decade. Volpe turns 21 on April 28, so he’s plenty young for the level, and if you’re a believer, this might be your chance to buy where you can. Still, in prepping this weeks’ article, I found myself wondering if anyone in that camp is regretting their decision to pass on all the free agent shortstops. Not because of Volpe having a tough week but the whole combination of factors that led to Isaiah Kiner-Falefa being the everyday shortstop in pinstripes. Things can look pretty different in the cold light of April. 

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Atlanta RHP Bryce Elder brings the magic like he stole some old wizard’s wand. His name is fitting in that he pitches like a wily vet and I feel like he has a lot to teach me. He was the first man off my faab run in week 1 of the Highlander Dynasty Invitational. Took Yonny Hernandez with the last claim spot. The raw math of the settings suggested Yonny was the better piece as a newly molted Diamondback in Arizona. I was more afraid to miss him, I guess, is what it comes down to. If Yonny comes up and takes that third base job, he’s an instant stolen base source with big upside. I realize I’m making my excuses here anyway now. Sorry about that. Also, I was traveling. On the road all weekend. Sparse internet signal. Funny thing is, I had sort-of binge-watched some Elder starts last week, and I really liked him. He’s not a shallow league piece, probably, at least not in the short term, but he can manage a game. April can be a kind month to the game managers of the pitching world. 

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Since last we met, CJ Abrams made the club and started at shortstop in the second game of the season. He just missed a home run in one at bat, and he got caught stealing once, but the talent was clear. His playing time outlook might be a little foggy with Ha Seong Kim playing well this spring and carrying that over into the season, but you have to figure he’ll be in the lineup almost every day or he’d be in AAA. 

It’s not easy to anticipate who the most interesting prospects in baseball will be, but Abrams is undoubtedly one of them. What happens to him when Tatis comes back? The DH would figure to be blocked by Voit with Hosmer at first, so Tatis will have to play somewhere. Maybe Abrams will just kick out to left field (my guess), and his playing time won’t be impacted at all. Truth is it’s all down to how he plays. If he’s playing up to his potential, he’ll stay in the lineup no matter who’s walking through that door. 

Let’s take a quick lap around the league and check in with some rookies and prospects. 

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On the eve of Opening Day, I’m trying to recall the last time so many high-profile rookies were scheduled to break camp with the big club. Might’ve been . . . never? Prospect coverage has come a long way these past few decades. Used to be cool to bash rookies and the prospect lovers who drafted them. Now you’re just leaving money on the table if you ignore the possibility that Julio Rodriguez opens the season in center field for Seattle. 

Focusing on Rodriguez in particular, I moved earlier than Average Draft Position at the time to select him in the 18th round of The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational. Pick 265. He went inside the top 75 this week. Incredibly weird to me that three weeks of stats is worth 200 draft spots in the echo chamber, but that’s the illusion of certainty for you. Object permanence. I guess there was an outside chance Julio stayed in the minors until July, but not really. Not without a catastrophe of some kind. 

I’m already eager to see how next year’s crop of potential rookies is treated during draft season. Will we overweight the 2022 outcome, which happened partly due to a backlog built from the paradigm of punting combined with a CBA in flux and a lost 2020 season? Or is this simply the new reality? If a player is ready to help generate major league wins for a contending team, he will open the season on the roster. Sounds crazy, I know. 

So let’s run through the list, consider the fates of each player, and celebrate what we all hope will be a new chapter in baseball history, where service time suppression starts to creep away from center stage. 

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First reaction to the Dodgers trading AJ Pollock for Craig Kimbrel was justifiably noisy in the FantasyVerse. People had been touting Kimbrel and drafting him as a closer for months upon months and only recently began to count how many chickens they’d pre-counted as eggs in the White Sox arm barn. Now Kimibrel was officially a Final Boss on the winningest team in baseball and people wanted to crow, which I tend to think is for the birds. 

Next second, the internet turned to watch as all the Blake Treinen shares went poof into a fine powder. The phantom limb pains of those who’d just lost 30 saves could be felt everywhere around us. 

A few internet moments later, Gavin Lux sprinted into the spotlight, charging the Twitter stage like Will Smith to smack the shit out of all the haters who’d buried him during draft season. Like me. Only I’ve been burying Lux on lists since way back when he was just a hotshot kid out in California, so I saw him coming and ducked out of there. My attention was elsewhere anyway. 

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