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Prior to be doing my fifteen-hundredth dart throw, Bartolo Colon. “Hey, listen, if you can get him cheap and with the NL DH–” *smoke rises from RoboGrey’s ears* Seriously, could someone unplug the MLB season, blow into the cartridge and plug it back in? On phone with AppleCare, “For the last few weeks, I’ve only seen the pinwheel on the baseball season, and the big brains at the Genius Bar have no idea what to do. Any suggestions?” For those not following too closely, the MLB owners are imitating Wimpy and saying, “We will kindly pay you next Collective Bargaining Agreement for a hamburger today,” and the players, crazily enough, are saying, “Hold up, you want us to play for 80% of our salary?”  And the MLB owners are replying, “Yeah, c’mon, you crooks, you have so much money.” Then the players are like, “You’re paying us but claiming to have less money than us? Ain’t that some shizz?” I expected this to be resolved by now, but resolution at this point seems like it’s going to come down to Head Idiot Rob Manfred, and him forcing the season into existence. If I’m reading all of the negotiations correctly, Head Idiot can force a 48-game season, but can’t force players to play. Make sense? No, of course it doesn’t! The Head Idiot said last week there would 100% be a season, and this week said there wouldn’t. In other words, the Head Idiot doesn’t even know what the Head Idiot can do because, get this, he’s an idiot. Some have speculated that MLB will force a 48-game season, but it’s way too early now since they have to play until September 27th, because of TV schedules, so they’re stalling for another week or two. All of that led to this breaking news yesterday:

If a season is forced, I wouldn’t be shocked if some big names opt out like Mike Trout, Christian Yelich and, really, anyone who has plenty of ‘eff you’ money. Once we have a set number of games, we will update our rankings and possibly remove players who aren’t playing. Also, as we talk about on today’s podcast, coming later today, I was against redrafting leagues, but if a lot of players are sitting out and we’re playing a 50-game season, then, yeah, it becomes unfair to try to play out a league drafted prior to all of this. On the other hand, maybe it’ll be fun to just play it out. I’m saying that last line in case any MLB owners or players are reading. Play it out! Anyway, here’s what else I saw for 2020 fantasy baseball:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

We know spring training is fully underway when a bunch of arms break. We’re sure to see more as soreness becomes less general and more devastating to our early drafts. The four-tier format is back for our closer report. This week, pandemic foodstuff themed tiers. I’d laugh but for fear that might cause me to cough resulting in those nearby turning mob justice on me. Let’s get to some news and notes on the reliever front first.

  • Emmanuel Clase – He of the hardest cutter in baseball is starting his Cleveland career off on a sour note. A back strain will likely sideline him for 8-12 weeks. This opens the door for fellow reliever wunderkind James Karinchak to solidify a leverage role. If you want a job relieving for Cleveland just have a hard to spell name, throw gas, and be in your early 20’s.
  • Jose Alvarado – Don’t look now but Alvarado looks sharp as ever. But Roto-Wan, Nick Anderson is *the* it closer of draft season?!? I have no issue with Anderson’s stuff, just his role. He factors into their ninth inning, no doubt. Let me ask you this, though. He saved some games for them last year since they’re a team that’s the most progressive in leverage roles, right? No? Ok, well he came over from Miami, who’s bullpen was a collection of molding leftovers. He racked up a bunch of saves there, surely? How about one save. Well, at least he’s a young prospect? Turns 30 in June. I don’t mean to rain on your Nick Anderson parade, and by “don’t” I mean I do, but he’s far from a lock. I’m betting on Alvarado seeing some of their saves as the lefty side of a committee in every league I draft that uses RPs.
  • Brandon Kintzler – Things are not off to a great start this spring for the presumptive Marlins closer. Like, walking four straight batters bad. I’d consider a spec play on Ryne Stanek early on.
  • Ryan Helsley – I’m not the Helsley guy but some people I respect (see: Matt Thompson, Nick Pollack) have made it a point to draft the young Cardinal in the late rounds. Their ninth inning is a mess to predict, as usual. Helsley also has an outside shot at the rotation it seems, depending on the health of their assumed starters.
  • Trevor Rosenthal – Rosie is the latest zombie reliever. He’s always been able to light up radar guns. He just has zero command at times, as in most of the time. The command seems to be there this spring, however. KC would love to add any talent it can to baseball’s most mediocre bullpen.
  • Please, blog, may I have some more?

Been saying for the last four months it’s crazy anyone would draft Chris Sale this year. Or maybe it was just so brazen, like a guy wearing no helmet on a motorcycle in the rain. You got cantaloupes in your pants, you absolute loon! It was like somehow everyone forgot the narrative all of last year was he lost his velocity and his elbow was bothering him. Like a coconut hit their head and they woke up thinking they were Ginger from Gilligan’s Island and that Sale would stay healthy. Alas, you fruit loops, he will start the year on the IL as he heads for an MRI on his elbow. Next stop will be a lost season for him. The people drafting Sale early on, even with a discount, well, I’ve never seen people convince themselves of nonsense like I see in fantasy sports. “He’ll be fine! It was just the flu! His elbow is feeling great! Great, I tell you!” Use some common sense! You kinda deserve to lose if you drafted Sale in any leagues. Everyone saying things like, “Oh, you’re a doctor now, I guess. You saw this coming, I imagine.” Don’t guess, Goofy McGoofstein! I was pre-med for two months of my freshman year in college! Also, it doesn’t take a doctor to know if a guy missed time due to an arm injury last year, showed up to camp after refusing surgery on his arm, you should avoid him. If only I could’ve placed a bet on whether or not anyone drafting Sale in the first few weeks of drafts would regret it. Damn, I would’ve been a billionaire (assuming I could bet a billionaire dollars and had even odds, but I technically would’ve only made that bet if I were a billionaire already). While singing Happy Birthday twice, I’ve washed my hands of Chris Sale. He’s temporarily ranked in the top 40 starters, but I wouldn’t draft him anywhere (as I wouldn’t have before this), and the next step I imagine will be crossing him out of the top 500 for 2020 fantasy baseball. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in spring training for fantasy baseball:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Which position would you say has gained the most value over the past decade?

In MLB? In fantasy?

Maybe it’s shortstop. 2020 might be the best shortstop season of all time, whatever that means.  

And that’s pre Wander. 

But this winter saw Emmanuel Clase traded for Corey Kluber. I know Delinosaur Jr. is feeling the pain of everyone there, too, and the old Klubot has been in the shop for a hot minute, but to say this trade made waves is an understatement.

The conversation began in alarmist, anti-ownership fashion and ended in hushed admiration of Clase’s cutter and consideration of the relative values of their contracts and remaining innings, especially in the context of a team with a pitching surplus such as Cleveland’s. 

Felt like a signpost to me.

As did Tampa Bay’s trade of top 50 echo chamber prospect Jesus Sanchez for erstwhile bartender Nick Anderson. 

As have the contracts dolled out every off-season, even in the miserly winters of 2017-18, when bullpen pitchers were signed early in the cycle for near-record middle-relief contracts. 

I might be kicking the horse a bit at this point when all I really want to do is share my work-intensive relief prospect rankings. More and more leagues are incorporating holds, either as its own category or a combination category with saves. Given the dominance of hot relievers, all these guys gain a lot of value in saves+holds leagues, where their barrier to helping you in that category is all but erased. In the dynasty game, they can be swapped in and out of your minor leagues to expand your active roster and suppress your ratios while snagging some strikeouts and the occasional win. 

Without further ado because we’ve had plenty of ado because hey I worked on this one all winter, the following humans are my top 20 relief prospects for 2020. 

I kicked off the bullpen parade last week with the AL East. It’s a safe place for us reliever analysts with mostly secure jobs and quality arms. The tradeoff for that comfort is following it up with the AL Central. The odds are far better that all five of these projected closers will be changed out than none of them being replaced. There isn’t a ton of depth either. I suppose that’s what happens when you refuse to spend money. Let’s push through this muck like a swamp on dagobah and hope a little green man imparts us some wisdom in rearranged syntax. Did no one else take a hit of acid for this? Just me? Ok. Fire up the Rage Against the Machine and on to the pens.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Once upon a time, Cleveland had too many catchers.

The fantasy baseball community knew just what to do in this scenario: throw a killer New Years party, trade Yan Gomes, start Francisco Mejia, and bench Roberto Perez. 

Cleveland scanned this obvious play and disregarded it, attempting instead some inverse combination of the above by staying home to watch a movie, trading Mejia for Brad Hand and starting Gomes, who played well and endeared himself to a fan base that was frustrated to see Mejia go. 

That off-season—last winter—fans were livid to see the club swap Gomes for Jefry Rodríguez, Daniel Johnson and Andruw Monasterio. Yanny G was set to cost about $7 million, and the inferior Roberto Perez was under contract for about two million. Nasty things were said. Baseball Universe decided Cleveland was cheap and dumb for how it handled the catching surplus. 

One year later, Roberto Perez is a solid OBP source with excellent defense and plus power for the position, while Yan Gomes is a $7 million backup in Washington. 

So my thinking in regard to this Kluber trade or any Cleveland move: que sera sera. 

The Yandy Diaz trade for Jake Bauers did not go as well, but in general, Baseball Universe loved that one, and this team knows what it’s doing. I’m sure it’s depressing to lose the Klubot and Bauer in a matter of months, but if anyone can develop the pitching to make fans forget, it’s Cleveland. Maybe it’s not the perfect trade, but Emmanuel Clase is going to bring positive value across the life of his contract. Open-market relievers are pricey these days. And we have little reason for confidence regarding the state of Kluber’s health. Could be this one looks bad next New Year, but whatever will be, will be. 

Please, blog, may I have some more?

As you steamroll or limp your way towards the end of the fantasy season, depending on how your teams are doing, why not remember that it’s never too late to keep an eye out for upgrades even in the deepest of leagues.  Well, it may officially be too late if your team is mired at the bottom of the standings, but why not end the year on a positive note by trying to make improvements rather than thinking about how much better your life would be if you’d never heard of Trevor Bauer, Blake Snell, or Jose Ramirez?  Here then, are some players who might be of interest to those of us in NL-only, AL-only, or other deep leagues.

Please, blog, may I have some more?