Greetings, friends! It’s with both excitement and a bit of trepidation that I welcome you to my final post before actual major league baseball games are scheduled to be played. I don’t want to say I have an overly emotional relationship with fantasy baseball, but when I pulled up a player’s page this morning and saw his line of 2019 stats — that I’ve been staring at for what seems like decades — replaced with “2020” and a bunch of fresh, clean zeroes… well, I had a visceral reaction that is hard to explain but involved momentary shortness of breath and near-tears. If we’ve gotten this close only for things to go awry now, it will be quite the crushing blow… but at least I’ll have had several weeks worth of entertainment in trying to prep for this crazy thing we’re calling the 2020 major league baseball season. As we finish drafting and dot those i’s and cross those t’s on teams we’ve already drafted, let’s take a look at some players who have had a potential bump in value of late: deep-league, AL edition.
Josh James. Turns out his delay to summer camp was baby related and not COVID related. Not only is he healthy, he’s been named the Astros’ fourth starter, his first matchup is against the Mariners, and he’s evidently stretched out enough to get close to 100 pitches when he takes the mound.
Nick Solak. I loved me some Nick Solak before he had anything resembling a set place to play, so I’m downright giddy for him now that Rangers manager Chris Woodward has flat-out said Solak should get regular at bats as the left fielder if Willie Calhoun misses time due to his bad hip. Since I’m also a Calhoun owner, this news – much like this summer overall – feels kind of like a one step forward, one step back situation, but I’m looking forward to seeing if Solak can make the most of his playing time (and gain some OF eligibility while he’s at it, as he’s annoyingly only Utility-eligible in many leagues). For those who weren’t paying attention or don’t recall times as far back as late summer of 2019, Solak provided a nice late-season fantasy boost with 6 homers and 20 RBI in 30 games.
Jose Peraza. After initially announcing a time share with Michael Chavis at second base, Reds manager Ron Roenicke mentioned last week that Peraza is better at defense than he’d realized, suggesting that Peraza will get the bulk of the playing time in the early going. Let’s take a moment to remember all the way back to spring of 2019… the world was a very different place, and one of the things that made it unrecognizable from today was the fact that many of us (sheepishly raises hand while cowering in the corner) were all-in on Peraza fantasy-wise. Let’s just say the epic crash and burn that was Peraza’s 2019 lowered his value a bit, and crazier things than Peraza being a serviceable fantasy piece have already happened in 2020.
Franchy Cordero. If you’re basing your deep-league fantasy decisions on playing time, you’d hope Franchy will have an easier path to PT now that he’s been traded from the Padres to the Royals. He’s a 25-year old who’s been waiting for the right combination of health and opportunity to show off his tools, which should include a nice combination of power and speed if everything falls into place.
Ji-Man Choi and Yoshitamo Tsutsugo. Austin Meadows has had a positive test for the COVID and is iffy at best to start the season, and Kevin Cash has already been mentioned Choi and Tsutugo as possible replacements to lead off for the Rays. If fantasy baseball awarded bonus points to players who are just plain fun to watch, I’d have Choi on every team. Even without that incentive I did roster him most of last year in one of my deepest leagues and he provided a nice power boost for a guy who’s basically free for the fantasy taking. All of us who own Meadows in fantasy and/or care about the real-life well being of other humans are rooting for his speedy return, of course, but in the meantime we need to keep our eyes on the prize, and this may not be the year to let a single at bat go unturned.
Anthony Santander. Santander was a no-show at Orioles camp until recently, but has now reported and revealed that he had a mild case of COVID. It remains to be seen if he’ll be ready for opening day, and he’s a guy whose stats will tell you that he strikes out too much and doesn’t walk enough. He should play every day if he’s healthy though, and he may be able to provide some deep-league pop the way he did last year, when he hit 20 homers in 93 games.
Bradley Zimmer. I couldn’t find an NFBC ADP on Zimmer, which I think means he hasn’t been drafted in a single one of their fantasy leagues all year, which I think means he’s about as deep-league a name as you can get. His .000 batting average last year (that’s a clean 0 for 13 with 7 Ks, though I suppose should point out that he did walk once and scored a run) didn’t exactly help his fantasy cause. There’s bound to be some weird, anomalous fantasy star that emerges in the weirdest season ever, so why not Zimmer? Delino DeShields’ positive COVID diagnosis may help Zimmer’s chances of making the roster, and he’s already doing his part: in lieu of actual first hand reports and box scores, Summer Camp legend has it that Zimmer is healthy for the first time in ages, spent the endless offseason tweaking his batting stance, and is hitting .500 with 6 homers and 2 RBI over 6 intrasquad games.