Wait…Baseball!? If I am being honest, I did not think we would have a season to watch and give us a distraction from the upcoming election season…ohhh and that whole Global Pandemic thingy. But really, it is amazing to think we will have a season and there will be numerous unique adaptations from a fantasy perspective as we no longer have the benefit of patience over a long season. A hot month can lead to an MVP campaign or the Mendoza Line!
We also cannot forget the bigger picture. These players are real people in a highly unique situation. All we can do is hope for their continued safety as they try their best to give us an escape from 2020.
So how am I reacting in the middle infield rankings? Let us look at five key areas of change:
- New Opportunities – We have the DH in the National League leading to an extra hitter in the lineup. We also will have players opting out of the season due to concerns with the environment. Not only does this mean guys with playing time questions will get a boost (i.e. Tommy Edman or Carter Kieboom), but we will see a slight boost for those NL leadoff hitters in the form of a more capable #9 hitter leading to opportunities to drive in runs.
- No Minors and No Time – The service time games should all but be eliminated in this 60-game season. At most, a player would need to remain off the active roster for a week. In addition, there is so much less time to waste pussy footing around in April as each game will mean more than ever. There are not many middle infielders with a major impact here like we will see across other positions (i.e. Jo Adell or Dylan Carlson), but maybe there is a surprise out there with a guy like Nick Madrigal.
- Weaker Central Schedules – It appears that teams will be playing against their division for 40 games and see another 20 in interleague play with their geographical counterpart. Ultimately, this means hitters in the NL and AL Central need to get a boost. Getting to play a large chunk of games against the Royals, Pirates, White Sox and Tigers pitching will help more than it hurts.
- Need for Speed – With such a short season, speed becomes even more critical in roto leagues. But that speed cannot be bought on one-dimensional players as there is just too much risk. Guys that we know will run while also putting up some decent power and counting stats will move up my rankings as they should provide a nice floor of production. Guys that rely on slow and steady production to win the season but have limited lineup support will be hurt (i.e. Whit Merrifield or Elvis Andrus).
- Opt-outs and Positive Tests – As of this writing, there have been no major opt-outs in the middle infield ranks. As far as positive tests, we have seen Luis Urias, Scott Kingery, Nick Gordon and DJ LeMahieu as the most notable positive cases. While a number of players have been asymptomatic that hasn’t been the case for everybody, such a Scott Kingery. In addition, we are seeing some players that simply have not reported to camp for undisclosed reasons. At this point, I am not dropping players in the rankings for being absent or asymptomatic but that will change as we close in on opening day.
If you stuck through those first 500 words and did not skip ahead, kudos to you. For all the normal people out there here are my 3 Up, 3 Down and 3 to Watch:
Trea Turner & Adalberto Mondesi – Is this cheating on the ‘3 Up’ concept? Yes, sure. But without cheating would Donkey have a chance in the RazzSlam? Ok, moving on…As I mentioned earlier, I am pushing up elite speed in my rankings with the shortened season. Turner also gets a lineup bonus with the DH spiking those RBI opportunities while Mondesi should be fully recovered from shoulder injury and gets the AL/NL Central scheduling boost.
Carter Kieboom – The DH and the Ryan Zimmerman sitting out only strengthen the playing time of Kieboom in Washington. He did not hit in his cup of coffee last year, but he has hit at each stop in the minors and was unlucky in the majors last year despite a Hard % over 40 (small sample size bias clearly). I would bank on a solid floor of 5-7 HR and a .275 average with some room for growth if he hits the ground running.
Ian Happ – Like Kieboom, Happ jumps into my top 50 with a much clearer path to playing time. In 2019, Happ played nearly a 60-game season delivering 11 HR and decent counting stats. He is a streaky hitter, but for the price of admission the risk is well worth the reward. Did I mention he has been in the top 10% in Barrel % the last few years and has a remarkably similar hitting profile to the Brew Crew’s Hiura?
Carlos Correa – As I was typing up my post for late March, I was slowly starting to discount all Astros’ players and I am doubling down now more than ever. Do I have special insight to know the true impact of the Houston scandal? No, but in a 60-game season I am not taking any chances with players rounding into form after a few years of ‘trash’. Plus, Correa has yet to prove he can actually stay on the field and any injury in this short of a season could be devastating.
Didi Gregorius – There has been too much time without consistent production. It has been over a year and a half since he was somewhat healthy. For a guy with limited speed that was 3 for 27 before spring was suspended, I need him show some signs of life before I invest. Considering we do not have the luxury of time, move on.
Scott Kingery – We got the news last Thursday that Kingery is being placed on the COVID-19 injured list. Per Joe Girardi, there is not really a timetable on the players that have been placed on this list. Kingery did have plenty of symptoms and himself stated it “could be a month” before resuming play. With opening day slated for July 23rd, there just is not much time for a player to recover and quarantine in order to be able to play. I have not dropped Kingery all the way out of my rankings, but best-case scenario appears to have Kingery able to join the team right around opening day with zero “spring” at bats.
3 To Watch!
As “spring” re-opens, there are so many storylines to track. Here are a few guys I will be watching very closely as “spring” progresses:
Nick Madrigal – Will the White Sox do the right thing? I believe they will. If they do, Madrigal will hit the ground running and will be a low risk grab late in the draft with batting average and speed kickers. Just do not expect him to hit the ball out of the park as he might end up with more batting titles than home runs.
Brendan Rodgers – With the Ian Desmond news, I do see a slight bump in value for Ryan McMahon and Garrett Hampson. However, I am much more excited about the potential for Brendan Rodgers to finally get his shot to hit in that thin Colorado air. This is a guy that went 34/9/21/0/.350 with a K% under 17 in only 37 AAA games in 2019. The only thing keeping him from jumping into the rankings is the mystery that is the Colorado Rockies with any young player. If there is a way to zap potential fantasy value, Bud Black and Jeff Bridich will find it!
Vidal Brujan – Now this is a dart throw, but if there is any organization that might surprise us it is Tampa Bay. Brujan has game changing speed. If there was a guy that has a chance to steal 70+ bases in a single season over the next few years, my money is firmly in Brujan’s camp. I think it is a long shot that he impacts 2020, but if he does be ready.
|4||Ketel Marte||2B, SS, OF||ARI||1|
|5||Alex Bregman||3B, SS||HOU||-1|
|6||Fernando Tatis Jr.||SS||SD||1|
|11||Gleyber Torres||2B, SS||NYY||-1|
|14||Whit Merrifield||2B, OF||KC||-1|
|16||Jonathan Villar||2B, SS||MIA|
|17||DJ LeMahieu||1B, 2B, 3B||NYY|
|19||Manny Machado||3B, SS||SD||1|
|20||Jeff McNeil||2B, 3B, OF||NYM||1|
|21||Max Muncy||1B, 2B, 3B||LAD||1|
|22||Cavan Biggio||2B, OF||TOR||1|
|24||Eduardo Escobar||2B, 3B||ARI|
|26||Tommy Edman||2B, 3B, OF||STL||2|
|27||Mike Moustakas||2B, 3B||CIN||-1|
|35||Danny Santana||1B, 2B, 3B, SS, OF||TEX||1|
|36||Lourdes Gurriel Jr.||2B, OF||TOR||1|
|39||Ryan McMahon||1B, 2B, 3B||COL|
|40||Garrett Hampson||2B, SS, OF||COL||2|
|42||Nick Solak||2B, 3B||TEX||-4|
|43||Brandon Lowe||1B, 2B||TB||1|
|44||Michael Chavis||1B, 2B||BOS||1|
|46||Ian Happ||2B, 3B, OF||CHC||NR|
|47||Scott Kingery||2B, 3B, SS, OF||PHI||-7|
|48||Kevin Newman||2B, SS||PIT||-2|
|50||Jon Berti||3B, SS, OF||MIA||-2|