Welcome back, and welcome to the 2021 MLB season, where everything has started just as we all expected it would! Baltimore sits atop the AL East, Detroit and Kansas City are tied for the lead in the AL Central, and Miami is in second place in the NL East (with a record of… 1 – 2). On the opposite end of the spectrum Atlanta, Oakland, and Cleveland are all winless and dwelling in their divisions’ cellars.
As most realize, the key piece of information to take from that two-sentence summary of the first weekend of the season is the 1-2 record of the Miami Marlins — they’ve played three of their 162 games, which is actually a game more than most teams have played, and we still have two teams yet to play a game.
I’m putting very little, if any, stock in actual performances of the first three days; however, there were a couple of significant injuries, a handful of roster and lineup surprises, and as will be the case all season long, we’ll react to the everchanging reliever situations around the league. Let’s get to it!
Those of us rostering Trevor Rosenthal were dealt a pretty big blow just as we were settling with our Opening Day hot dogs, nachos, and beverages. Shoulder inflammation is all we’ve really been told, and at this point, we haven’t heard of any MRI results.
According to Alex Coffey of The Athletic, it will likely be midweek before we have any more news and/or a timeline for Rosenthal’s expected return. In the meantime, most expect Jake Diekman to receive a majority of the ninth inning opportunities for the Athletics, and he’ll be a popular add this evening; too popular for me.
I’m all for spending up early in the season to roster players that will benefit my teams for more games than those rostered later in the summer, but that’s just it — we have zero idea at this point how long Rosenthal will be out.
Eleven TGFBI teams dropped Diekman as a part of last week’s FAAB period and those managers, among others, will most likely be bidding as if this is Diekman’s job for the season. I’d rather throw a dollar or two at J.B. Wendelken, Lou Trivino, or even the ageless Sergio Romo if I need a reliever to start this week.
Kansas City’s Adalberto Mondesi was unexpectedly placed on the IL on the eve of the season with an oblique injury. The word from Royals manager Mike Matheny is that Mondesi will miss a couple of weeks.
Maybe I’m being a bit optimistic on this one, but I am not overly concerned. I completely understand that oblique injuries can be tricky and linger, but the tweak occurred in Mondesi’s first at-bat on Monday, and he did play the rest of the game. I sense that if there weren’t 162 games to go, he may be playing through the injury as we speak.
Also, the Royals have two scheduled off-days this coming week, so they’ll have at least 154 games to play heading into the second full week of the season, and hopefully, we’ll have much more information next weekend.
Unfortunately, as Sunday’s games are about to get underway, we do not yet have updates on Michael Brantley, Ramon Laureano, or Ke’Bryan Hayes, who all left weekend games due to injury. While it appears each may have avoided serious injury (X-rays for each were negative), we obviously need to monitor these situations throughout the day and be prepared for the fact that any of the three may miss some time.
I’m looking at Chad Pinder in Oakland, even if I don’t have Laureano rostered, as a guy that stands to receive more plate appearances for a nice Oakland lineup. He currently qualifies at second and third base (only 2% rostered in TGFBI) in most leagues, so he’s not a direct Laureano replacement, but he is a deep mixed league option for those needing infield help this week. I’m not interested in any in-house possibilities in Pittsburgh, and although Chas McCormick is a bit intriguing in Houston, I believe I’ll be looking elsewhere as we’ll discuss below.
We all get excited when young players make their way to the Big Clubs, and that can get us into a bit of trouble as we may have overzealous expectations of guys that are about to face the highest level of competition for the first time.
However, there are a couple of intriguing options that may be a surprise to some — guys that many may not have been aware of until this past week — Akil Baddoo in Detroit and Kyle Isbel in Kansas City. The key to both of these youngsters in my mind, as has been brought up all offseason when talking minor leaguers, is we didn’t get to see a thing from them in 2020 and we have no idea how their hit tools may have developed at their alternate sites. We’re taking a leap of faith here.
Baddoo, a Rule 5 draft pick snagged from the Twins, is tough for fantasy managers to roster, as he probably won’t get steady PA for a while, but if the .325 BA, five HR, and four SB in 40 spring training at-bats are any indication of strides made in 2020 we may see him more often and sooner than we think.
As mentioned, it’s really tough for a stash like this, but if you have the room he should be available for a couple of bucks due to those playing time concerns. He’s just 22 years old, so I’m banking on 2020 development for him to exceed projected BA, and for a boost in PA to get him to double-digit HR and SB.
Isbel is a completely different story. He’s the everyday right fielder for the Royals and will continue to be barring injury or prolonged poor performance. It may appear at first glance that he has the same hit tool concern as Baddoo, but that is not the case. The .216 BA in 2019 was achieved as he was recovering from a broken wrist. He’s hit at every other level since being drafted in 2018 out of UNLV, and has realistic double-digit HR and 25+ SB potential.
He’s going to be pricey this evening in leagues he’s available after his 5-for-9 start, scoring three times, and driving in three as well. I’m not going the triple digits it will take in some $1,000 FAAB leagues, but I understand those that will and I’ll try to snag him for just under. Of course, I am a Royals fan and I have all day and an entire game to change my mind — he’s in the seven spot for a third straight game to open the season.
I have to mention a third name here, as an 8-for-8 start to an MLB rookie season (not a career, he had one 2020 AB) absolutely warrants consideration. Yermin Mercedes has possibly been the biggest story of opening weekend, but as Mike Kurland (@Mike_Kurland) put it on this morning’s episode of On the Wire (@OnTheWirePod) with Adam Howe (@EightyGrade) and myself, “I don’t want to pay for the story.”
I just can’t fathom paying the price it will take for a guy that could very well not only lose playing time, but be sent to AAA or the alternate site when Adam Engel returns from his hamstring injury and Andrew Vaughn becomes the DH. I’ll have some 2% – 3% bids, but I don’t expect him to end up on any of my rosters.
What a mess! There are still so many questions when it comes to the saves category in rotisserie and head-to-head category leagues. From the Rosenthal injury to the increase in teams that don’t have relievers with defined roles, there are still more questions than answers.
I am personally still taking the speculative approach for rosters where I’m short on saves, and I will not be spending up for the likes of Cesar Valdez in Baltimore. He’s another great story, making his first opening day roster at age 36, but snagging the first two saves of the season for the Orioles in their first two games played will render my 1% – 2% bids mute.
I am much more interested at cost in a couple of other veterans — Yimi Garcia and Wade Davis.
Anthony Bass has not been dominant even when effective in late-inning situations over the past couple of seasons, and giving up four runs in his first 2021 appearance has those such as myself, who believe Garcia should be the guy anyway, willing to wager 2% – 3% of my budget that Garcia will take over the role soon. Sure, the Marlins are in a tough division and don’t have what anyone would refer to as a potent lineup; but as we’ve mentioned before, a nice amount of saves can be racked up by relievers on bad teams as they will rarely win games without there being an opportunity for a save.
Davis is extremely interesting to me, not as a Royals fan, but as a fan of a guy that has performed at an elite level every season since 2013 that he did not pitch his home games in Colorado. And sure, he’s 35 years old and has been in Colorado for the past three seasons when not injured, but sitting 93mph+ and touching 95 while striking out the only two batters he faced on Opening Day has me reevaluating my assessment of the Kansas City bullpen.
Greg Holland is still the closer for now — he’s not going to be pulled from the role after one game — but I now believe that Davis is the next man up rather than fireballer Josh Staumont. I’m throwing a couple of bucks on Davis in every league I have the room and will even start him in some leagues as a guy that may accumulate some innings, nice ratios (Yes! He’s not in Colorado anymore), and strikeouts even without the saves. Keep an eye on what happens today. If Davis doesn’t appear, or doesn’t appear in a save situation, he should be available at near-minimum FAAB bids this evening.
As stated at the beginning of this article, we are three days in — most teams have played two games, a handful have played three, and two teams have yet to play. We have a long way to go. There were a lot of FAAB dollars spent last weekend, and it really looks to me as if there will be again tonight. I’m holding off in most cases — bidding what I’d like, not what I think it will take.
I didn’t even mention the likes of Michael A. Taylor. He’s off to an amazing start and will improve fantasy rosters if he keeps anything close to this up. You can double his counting stat projections as he is and will continue to be the Royals’ everyday center fielder. I’m not paying what I believe he’ll go for tonight, not for a guy with a career K% over 30% who hits near the bottom of a lineup. Yes, his double-digit HR and SB can be very valuable despite his potentially low BA, but I’m not willing to pay for that production three days in.
I’m also not diving too much into streaming pitchers at this point. As stated last week, I did spend a dollar or two on Brett Anderson, and I will start him this week at Wrigley and St Louis.
As far as looking ahead to the week of April 12, we’re in a bit of a peculiar situation with Opening Day having occurred on a Thursday. Most teams’ top of their rotations will be the two-start guys that week, and we really haven’t seen enough of guys lower in the rotation to claim they have a nice single-start matchup at this point in my opinion.
I do believe I’ll grab Joe Ross at a minimum bid in places I have an extra spot. I may drop him next week without using him, but he should line up for two starts, at St Louis and home vs Philadelphia, due to Washington hopefully beginning play tomorrow.
As always, good luck tonight!
Photo by Joshua Sarner/Icon Sportswire | Design by Quincey Dong (@threerundong on Twitter)