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.
Alex Verdugo. Verdugo’s ADP is #231, so I’m already making an exception to the ‘outside the top 300 thing,’ but it seemed worth mentioning that he’s recently been described as being “all systems go” for spring training 2.0. I don’t have any shares of Verdugo in the teams I’ve already drafted but I’d certainly consider grabbing him at the right price as I draft a few more teams over the coming weeks.
Cole Hamels. Hamels injury status was a big question heading into spring, but the latest word from the Braves suggests that Hamels will be ready to pitch for the start of the season. Another tidbit we’ve heard from the Braves is that even their healthy starters will probably go only 2-4 innings the first few times through the rotation. Also, Hamels may not see many soft matchups with the predicted new schedule, he’s 36 years old now, and his numbers over the last couple of years weren’t anything to write home about. All this adds up to me not being too interested at him even at his current NFBC ADP of #302, let alone if that number climbs due to the positive news about his health.
Mitch Haniger. No one needed extended recovery time any more than Haniger, and sadly it sounds like it’s still not going to be enough. Reports on his recovery from multiple injury situations have been vague and unpromising, and it looks like he’s unlikely to take the field in 2020 – bad news for anyone who drafted him in a league that they’re going to play out hoping they’d be getting a bargain.
Yoenis Cespedes. There hasn’t been a ton of detailed health news about him lately, but I’m considering no news good news where Ces is concerned. Since he profiles as the perfect DH candidate, his price could rise considerably if we hear positive reports out of camp. I think I drafted him in the reserve round of a 15-teamer last month, but I’m not holding my breath that he’s going to become a viable fantasy option. I didn’t realize that by the time the season starts, it will have been more than two years since he’s had a major league at bat… given that long layoff and the rather horrific sounding injuries he’s been dealing with, I may take a few more fliers but I’m not going to draft him if his price rises significantly.
Tony Watson. Word from San Francisco is that Watson is healthy and ready to pitch. How the Giants bullpen will take shape and whether they’ll even have an established closer was already a mystery even pre-COVID, so who knows what will happen with a mid-pandemic, Gabe Kapler-led relief staff. (Does anyone else keep being surprised every time they read that Kapler is the manager of the Giants and Joe Girardi is now the Phillies’ skipper, or just me?). Anyway, Watson isn’t exactly Trevor Hoffman in his prime, but anyone who has a chance at even a handful of saves could be extra valuable in a 60 game season.
Aaron Hicks. At an ADP of 575, Hicks could have a decent boost in value if things go well for him over the next few weeks — word on the street is that he should at least be ready to DH when the season begins. I’m slightly less afraid of his .236 career batting average in a mini season, and let’s not forget he hit 27 homers in 137 games in 2018 – I’ll definitely be a little interested in him for some potentially cheap counting stats if he’s healthy and finds himself in the Yankees lineup regularly.
Colin McHugh. At an ADP of 652, we’re diving extra deep here, but I’ve actually already drafted McHugh once as a ‘just in case’ kind of pick. Last I heard, he “may” be ready for opening day after being shut down with elbow problems last year, which doesn’t exactly instill a lot of confidence, but again, we’re talking about lottery tickets at the very end of a deep draft. McHugh has had some outstanding stretches as a reliever, and if he is healthy and ends up in a situation where he’s pitching in relatively high-leverage short bursts for the Red Sox, there’s at least a chance at some deep-league short season value.
Austin Adams. Can’t say I know a ton about Adams, except that he’s older than I wanted him to be (29) when I just looked it up. Hes a reliever who was traded from the Nats to the Mariners last year and looked great after arriving in Seattle (a sort of ugly 3.94 ERA on the year, but his WHIP was 1.12 and he had a bountiful 53 Ks in 32 innings). He also had knee surgery over the offseason, but getting back to the point of this injury update post, it sounds like he’s likely to be healthy for the start of the season. I’m definitely going to be keeping an eye on him in what could be a fluid Mariners bullpen with the closer’s role, if there is one, up for grabs.