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Reviewing Kyle Bishop's 10 Bold Predictions for 2020

My bold predictions for the 2020 season were published on March 4, or roughly a week before everything went to hell. At the time, nobody knew that we'd be left with a 60-game sprint as opposed to the usual marathon of 162. The shortened season obviously changed the calculus a great deal, but it can be still be instructive to look back on how we expected things to play out back in the spring.

All but two of the predictions offered avoided references to counting stats, as I instead opted mainly to focus on where players might rank compared to their peers. In keeping with the theme of my 2020 season (and the year in general), there was unfortunately much more bad than good.

Join me on a journey back to the halcyon Before Times, when the only apocalyptic event looming on the horizon for Major League Baseball was labor strife.

 

Bo Bichette outearns Fernando Tatis in 5x5

Tatis avoided a sophomore slump and ranked among the best players in baseball, both real and fake. That elite production helped propel the Padres to their first playoff berth in 14 years and first winning season since 2010. The Blue Jays have also clinched a playoff spot, but they did it without as much help from Bichette as expected as he missed half the abbreviated season with a knee injury. He hit well when healthy and his long-term outlook remains excellent, but in the battle of the second-year legacy kid shortstops, Tatis was the clear victor and likely would have been even if not for Bichette's injury.

 

Dinelson Lamet finishes outside the top-75 starting pitchers

In the parlance of our times: Big oof. Lamet's lack of a quality third pitch didn't torpedo him the way I suspected it might, and his slider somehow got even nastier. The end result: Gaudy ratios and strikeout totals that were enough to make him one of the best starters in the game, despite only notching three victories. Lamet was the beneficiary of some good fortune on batted balls, but he also dramatically cut down on walks and home runs. Even if a handful of those balls had dropped in for hits, he still would have made this one look silly.

 

C.J. Cron puts up 35 HR and 100 RBI

Once the season was shortened, there was no way Cron could reach these numbers. He also suffered a season-ending injury after just 13 games. He did pop four homers and knock in eight runs, which put him on a full-season pace close to the above benchmarks. Not that 13 games is a meaningful sample, even if it wound up being over 20 percent of the season. Given the carnage that lies ahead, though, I'll take what I can get.

 

Craig Kimbrel leads MLB in saves

Part of the rationale behind this prediction was that Kimbrel's 2019 struggles were at least partly attributable to the fact that he hadn't signed until June and that this season he'd be able to go through a normal routine. So much for that, obviously. Kimbrel managed only two saves on the season as he suffered multiple early meltdowns and was quickly removed from the closer role in Chicago. A run of scoreless outings after that wasn't enough to salvage his ratios or regain the ninth inning. He can still rack up strikeouts, but Kimbrel has now walked 24 batters in 35 innings over the past two seasons.

 

None of the four Astros being drafted in the top 50 returns top-50 value

This one stands as the only unqualified success of the bunch. Both Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman underperformed and missed time with injuries on top of that. Yordan Alvarez only managed to suit up for two games thanks to bum knees. George Springer had a perfectly fine season, but wasn't quite good enough to justify his draft position.

 

Dylan Carlson, Trent Grisham, and Franchy Cordero are top 50 outfielders

Grisham made good on this with an excellent season that put him in the top 15 outfielders, and top 50 overall. The other two didn't even come close. Cordero missed most of the season with a broken hamate bone. Carlson languished at the alternate training site until service time was no longer a concern, and then struggled enough that the Cardinals sent him back there before recalling him again down the stretch. He looked much better on the second time around, and remains an intriguing player for the future.

 

David Price and Corey Kluber are top-25 starting pitchers

Price opted out before the season started. Kluber might as well have, as suffered a shoulder strain in his first start that ended his year. A pity, as this was the prediction I was most confident in at the time of making it. Both vets should present good buy-low opportunities in 2021.

 

Nick Madrigal leads MLB in stolen bases

Madrigal showcased two major attributes as a prospect: Almost always making contact, and stealing bases. The former carried over into his MLB debut, as he hit .340. But he only even attempted three steals, succeeding twice. Fantasy managers will hope the speed makes more of an impact moving forward.

 

Shohei Ohtani returns first-round value in daily leagues

Ohtani made two starts before a forearm strain ended his season on the mound. In those two starts, he allowed seven runs, walked eight batters, and recorded five outs. As a hitter, Ohtani produced respectable counting stats (seven homers, seven steals, 47 R+BI in 43 games) but also hit just .190. While the potential remains tantalizing, he didn't live up to it in 2020.

 

Peter Alonso hits fewer than 30 home runs

Alonso hit 16 homers, which would have put him on pace to easily clear 30 in a full season, Four of those came in the final week as well, which likely rewarded some patient managers in crunch time. However, he was mostly a bust thanks to a lousy batting average (never got above .247, finished at .222) and run production that fell far short of the elite numbers anyone expected when they drafted him in the early rounds. Partial credit feels reasonable.

 

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2B and SS Waiver Wire Pickups for Week 10

Here we are, the final week of the season. Fantasy titles hang in the balance and will be won or lost in many leagues based on the decisions made on the waiver wire. No pressure, right? Fear not - we're here to help just as we (hopefully) did in the first nine weeks of this challenging and truncated 2020 campaign.

As always, our focus here is players who are rostered in under 50% of Yahoo leagues. Your mileage may vary as to their availability and utility. We'll run down options for various league depths in an effort to provide as many fantasy baseball managers as possible with viable pickup options. Despite best efforts and intentions, however, it really do be like that sometimes.

With that, here are your waiver wire targets for the middle infield in week 10.

 

Shallow Leagues (26-50% Rostered)

Tommy La Stella (1B/2B/3B, OAK) — 45% rostered

La Stella could be rostered in more leagues than not by the time you read this, as he's been one of the most popular adds in the game over the past couple of days. The community has noticed that he's ranked in the top 60 overall players over the past two weeks, on the back of elite run production (13 scored, 9 batted in) and a .313 average. La Stella hits near the top of the lineup, hasn't seen the bench in weeks, and can be plugged in at three positions. That's the kind of player you want if you're trying to squeeze last drop of volume you can.

Rougned Odor (2B, TEX) — 28% rostered

Yes, Odor has largely been terrible in 2020, even by his usual standards. He was hitting .138 through September 10, with no stolen bases to boot, which is either illegal or should be. .172 is nothing to be proud of, but that's where he sits just a week and a half later. Most of the hits that have contributed to that spike have been home runs, which makes Odor interesting to fantasy managers. On Sunday, he homered for the second straight game and fifth time in his last eight. For as flawed (and therefore difficult to trust) a hitter as he is, we're still talking about a dude who hit 30 bombs in three of the four seasons prior to this one.

 

Deeper Leagues (10-25% Rostered)

Jon Berti (2B/3B/SS/OF, MIA) — 22% rostered

Berti's finger injury was particularly untimely, coming as it did right when he'd begun to heat up a bit after a slow start to the year. He's back now, though, and went 1-for-3 in his return on Sunday. We know he can swipe bags as he has eight on the year, three of which came in a single inning. He also had a four-steal night in last season's final week, so the potential is there for Berti to seriously boost you in that category.

Miguel Rojas (SS, MIA) — 12% rostered

As you can tell by the above figure, not many managers have seen fit to include Rojas on their rosters. But the man entered action on Sunday hitting .347/.431/.574 in 33 games, so it seems like a decent idea to plug him in. Two of his four home runs have come in the last week, and he's also chipped in three stolen bases. The relatively lengthy injured list stint that he sandwiched these contributions around is probably a contributor to the lack of hype. Take advantage.

Ty France (2B/3B, SEA) — 14% rostered

France got some love in this space after a deadline trade to the Mariners, in anticipation of his seeing everyday at-bats. They've come (in premium lineup spots) and he's made them count, entering Sunday's action with a .309/.377/.491 line, four homers, and 33 R+BI in 35 games.

 

Super Deep Leagues (< 10% Rostered)

Brandon Crawford (SS, SFG) — 3% rostered

Crawford's grand slam was part of a 14-run onslaught for the Giants on Sunday, and along with another hit in the game that put his OPS at a career-best .835. The veteran hasn't been a reliable fantasy asset since his 21-homer season in 2015, but he's hitting .313 over the past two weeks, and Sunday's salami was his second homer in four games.

 

So Long

Thanks for reading this season. Fantasy baseball is somehow both frivolous and essential. It can be tough to invest the necessary effort when the world is burning down around us (in the case of those of us living in the western half of the country, quite literally), but happy distractions can also keep us from losing our minds as this absolute cluster of a year barrels onward. Moments of Zen, however brief or inconsequential, must be found when we can.

When baseball will return, what that will look like, and how that will work are all very good questions to which not a solitary soul possesses any real answers. Certainty is part of the price you pay to live in interesting times.

Until we meet again: Be safe, be smart, do your best.



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2B and SS Waiver Wire Pickups for Week 9

Two weeks left in this mad sprint, a waiver wire decisions have only gained importance since the games began.

Precious little about 2020 is normal or consistent, but the focus here is the same as it ever was: Players who are rostered in under 50% of Yahoo leagues. Your mileage may vary as to their availability and utility. We'll run down options for various league depths in an effort to provide as many fantasy baseball managers as possible with viable pickup options. Despite best efforts and intentions, however, it really do be like that sometimes.

With that, here are your waiver wire targets for the middle infield in week 9.

 

Shallow Leagues (30-50% Rostered)

Chris Taylor (2B/SS/OF, LAD) — 30% rostered

Even at this late stage of the game, just a week-long surge in production is enough to make a huge difference to both a player's overall line and your fantasy team's fortunes. (Cut to managers who kicked Adalberto Mondesi to the curb a week ago nodding grimly.) Taylor hasn't been the top player in the game over the last week like Mondesi has, but he's been performing at a high level over the last 14 days, hitting .308 with 21 R+BI. and a pair of home runs. That's enough to rank in the top 15 middle infielders, but the community has been slow to recognize his ascent after an uninspiring start to the season.

 

Deeper Leagues (10-30% Rostered)

Andres Gimenez (2B/3B/SS, NYM) — 17% rostered

Gimenez has been good enough of late to supplant the disappointing Amed Rosario at shortstop. The rookie first drew modest attention from fantasy managers for his speed (7 SB), but he's recently displayed a bit of pop in the bat with two homers in his last 10 games. Toss in a healthy .287 batting average and eligibility at three positions, and it's small wonder that he was one of the weekend's most popular signings. Still time to invest if you haven't, but maybe less than you think.

Jurickson Profar (2B/OF, SDP) — 16% rostered

Much like Taylor, Profar's sluggish start to the season appears to be deflating community interest in adding a bat that is currently sizzling. The veteran went 3-for-4 with a run scored, two RBI, and a stolen base (his fifth) on Sunday. It was his third multi-hit effort in the last five games, and with the way the Padres have morphed into a juggernaut even being buried in the lineup hasn't prevented Profar from respectable run production or impacted his playing time.

 

Super Deep Leagues (< 10% Rostered)

Willi Castro (3B/SS, DET) — 8% rostered

One of the oddities of the 19-0 drubbing the Tigers suffered at the hands of those angriest of gods the Milwaukee Brewers was that both hits for Detroit came off the bat of Castro. Cold comfort to the rookie, most certainly, but the continuation of what's been a quietly impressive debut. The 23-year-old was lightly regarded in prospect circles but has hit .337/.370/.512 with three homers since debuting on August 12. That comes on the heels of a .301, 11 HR, 17 SB season in Triple-A last year, so there's potential for sneaky speed as well. Based on recent trends, it's unlikely his rostered rate will remain in single digits for very long - maybe not even by the time you read this.

 

The Watch List

Yairo Munoz (3B/SS/OF, BOS) — 2% rostered

A two-hit performance on Sunday that included his first stolen base of the season brought Munoz's overall line to .382/.382/.618. You probably guessed that it's a small sample from the first two parts of the slash (and it is, at 34 plate appearances) but small samples are really all we have at this point. And while he didn't show well last season, Munoz was intermittently useful in 2018, when he hit .277 with eight homers and five steals as a part-timer in St. Louis. He's played more often than not since getting the call to the MLB roster and is eligible at three positions.

 



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2B and SS Waiver Wire Pickups for Week 8

We're three weeks from season's end, and while that still constitutes a third of the games remaining in this abbreviated season, the importance of smart work on the waiver wire can't be overstated.

Precious little about 2020 is normal or consistent, but the focus here is the same as it ever was: Players who are rostered in under 50% of Yahoo leagues. Your mileage may vary as to their availability and utility. We'll run down options for various league depths in an effort to provide as many fantasy baseball managers as possible with viable pickup options. Despite best efforts and intentions, however, it really do be like that sometimes.

With that, here are your waiver wire targets for the middle infield in week 8.

 

Shallow Leagues (30-50% Rostered)

Brad Miller (2B/3B/OF, STL) — 46% rostered

Miller was very nearly included in last week's edition of this column, and he set about making the decision not to include him over other names look quite foolish. The 30-year-old had a monster game last Tuesday (2 HR, 7 RBI) and hit another homer the next day. Overall, he's hitting .307/.436/.600 in 24 games, and has taken up residence in the heart of the Cardinals' batting order. Despite being one of the most popular pickups on the platform in recent days, Miller still slides in just under the qualifying threshold for inclusion here.

Willy Adames (SS, TBR) — 35% rostered

Four multi-hit games in his last six have Adames sitting at an impressive .302/.376/.548 line on the year. While that production is buoyed by an absurd .458 BABIP, the 25-year-old's Statcast data shows improved contact quality across several metrics, and an increase in launch angle is leading to more line drives and fly balls coming off his bat.

 

Deeper Leagues (10-30% Rostered)

Nick Madrigal (2B/SS, CHW) — 29% rostered

Madrigal missed most of August due to injury, and he's surprisingly stolen just one base so far in 12 games. That's not what fantasy managers who drafted and/or stashed him were hoping for, but the 23-year-old is definitely delivering on the other selling point of his game - making lots and lots of contact. Madrigal has swung and missed on just 6.2% of the pitches he's faced, which has contributed to his sterling .372 batting average. If you're in need of help in that category and some upside in steals, look no further.

 

Super Deep Leagues (< 10% Rostered)

Ty France (2B/3B, SEA) — 4% rostered

France was dealt from the Padres to the Mariners in one of the flurry of trades made by the former club prior to the August 31 deadline. He figures to play quite often in Seattle, which makes him a potential sneaky contributor down the stretch. Even acknowledging the way that the Pacific Coast League inflates offensive production, the 26-year-old's numbers last season are eye-popping - .399/.477/.770 with 27 homers and 172 R+BI in just 99 games. Even after a hitless game on Sunday, his MLB numbers this year (.317/.397/.469) suggest last year's monster minor league campaign was indicative of a step forward.

 

The Watch List

Andrelton Simmons (SS, LAA) — 6% rostered

Simmons went on the shelf just a few games into the season and didn't return until August 21, so he's only played in 17 games. But Sunday featured just the third of those contests in which he didn't come away with a hit, and he'd recorded multiple base knocks in five straight games and six of seven prior to Sunday's action. He's also scored 10 runs in those 17 games, and figures to at least maintain that pace if he remains atop the lineup as he has been lately. There's modest pop and speed here as well, as Simmons has averaged double-digit marks in both homers and steals over the past three seasons.



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Victor Reyes (OF, DET) - Week 8 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues

ROSTERED IN: 26% of leagues

ANALYSIS: A two-hit performance on Sunday extended Victor Reyes' current hitting streak to seven games. He's tallied multiple hits in four of those contests, and just prior to the streak had a four-hit game as well. All those base knocks have his overall line up to a zesty .318/.348/.496. He also stole a base on Sunday, giving him six on the year to go with four home runs and 24 runs scored. Combine that production with the fact that he appears to be locked in as the Tigers' leadoff hitter, and it's surprising to see him so widely available.

That's the situation at present, though, as Reyes is simply sitting on the waiver wire in nearly three-quarters of Yahoo leagues. The 25-year-old offers four-category production and merits a pickup in almost all formats.


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Austin Slater (1B/OF, SFG) - Week 8 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues

ROSTERED IN: 29% of leagues

ANALYSIS: Austin Slater was just beginning to attract serious attention from fantasy managers when he suffered a groin strain on August 21. He returned from the injured list over the weekend and was immediately installed in the leadoff spot for San Francisco.

An eighth-round draft pick back in 2014 whose minor-league numbers were solid but not overwhelming, the fantasy community had little awareness of Slater entering 2020. That's changed in a hurry as he slashed .347/.458/.653 with four home runs and six stolen bases in 19 games prior to his stint on the IL.

Legitimate four-category potential from a waiver add at this juncture of the season is a rare bird, and given that he's available in over 70% of Yahoo leagues at the moment, chances are you could snag him in yours.


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Brandon Belt (1B/OF, SFG) - Week 8 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in All Leagues

ROSTERED IN: 36% of leagues

ANALYSIS: For nigh on a decade, Brandon Belt has been somewhat of a siren song for fantasy managers. His high quality contact and advanced plate approach have rarely yielded exciting results in our game, however. That's at least partly attributable to his home park, which is remarkably inhospitable to right-handed batters.

It would figure that 2020 would be Belt's coming-out party. The 32-year-old has been one of the most popular pickups in the community in recent days, thanks to a robust .333/.431/.645 line. Serving as the Giants' primary cleanup hitter has helped his counting stats as well, as he has 34 R+BI in 32 games to go with a half-dozen home runs.

Belt has yet to put together a full season worthy of fantasy hype, but he only needs to keep up this hot hitting for a few more weeks in order to be a major asset for your playoff or stretch run. Even with a flurry of adds lately, he remains available in nearly two-thirds of Yahoo leagues.


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Dane Dunning (SP, CHW) - Week 8 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12-Team Leagues

ROSTERED IN: 21% of leagues

ANALYSIS: While his third start of the 2020 season didn't live up to the standard he set with his first two turns, Dane Dunning looks like the real deal. The rookie has solid ratios (3.86 ERA, 1.14 WHIP) and 18 strikeouts in his 14 innings of work, and with the recent optioning of Reynaldo Lopez to the team's alternate training site, he appears to have a rotation spot locked up moving forward.

Dunning has flashed plus on all four of his pitches so far, helping him to a spicy 17.5% swinging strike rate. He does a good job of keeping the ball on the ground and limiting home runs, and did not have issues with control in the minors. He's got a favorable matchup against the Tigers this week and can be freely added in nearly 80 percent of Yahoo leagues.

 


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2B and SS Waiver Wire Pickups for Week 7

As you've doubtless sussed out by this point of the season, deft work on the waiver wire is even more pivotal than it is in a full campaign. Injuries and ineffectiveness are, have been, and will be that much more challenging to overcome, especially as the 2020 runway grows shorter.

By contrast, this column remains consistent, trained on those players who are rostered in under 50% of Yahoo leagues. Your mileage may vary as to their availability and utility. We'll run down options for various league depths in an effort to provide as many fantasy baseball managers as possible with viable pickup options. Despite best efforts and intentions, however, it really do be like that sometimes.

With that, here are your waiver wire targets for the middle infield in week 7.

 

Shallow Leagues (50-30% Rostered)

Robinson Cano (2B, NYM) — 47% rostered

Cano is old now (he'll be 38 in October), but he sure hasn't looked it in 2020. The veteran went deep on Sunday for the fifth time this season, bringing his overall line to an eye-popping .369/.407/.607. His Statcast profile suggests he's earned every bit of that lofty production, which makes it puzzling that he still sneaks in under the 50% rostered threshold. You'd think that a player with his level of name recognition hitting this well would have been snapped up by now.

Jon Berti (2B/3B/SS/OF, MIA) — 39% rostered

Berti has been one of most popular waiver adds in the last few days, owing mostly to his performance last Tuesday when he stole three bases in one inning. Successful steals of home tend to grab attention, and doubly so when the player stumbles on the attempt and still pulls it off, as Berti did. The eventful play gave the versatile vet eight steals on the year, on the heels of 17 swipes in 73 games last season. Speed and positional flex are valuable commodities in most formats, and lately he's been seeing time in the leadoff spot.

 

Deeper Leagues (30-10% Rostered)

Jonathan Schoop (2B, DET) — 30% rostered

Similarly to Cano, it's odd to see Schoop so widely available. Another home run on Sunday gave him eight on the year, and pushed him to a .303/.341/.529 overall line. The 28-year-old has 7 RBI in his last four games and is hitting .370 over his last 10. That sizzling streak has put him back on the fantasy community's radar after a couple of underwhelming sequels to his monster 2017 campaign.

 

Super Deep Leagues (< 10% Rostered)

Joey Wendle (2B/3B/SS, TBR) — 5% rostered

Stop me if you've heard this one before, but Wendle also homered on Sunday. That's not his game - it was just his second of the season - but he's still hitting .292/.344/.472 overall. The home run also extended what is now a 10-game hitting streak. The Rays' infielder also has a pair of stolen bases, and swiped 16 in 139 games in 2018, so he's got a little speed in his toolbox.

 

The Watch List

Luis Garcia (2B/SS, WAS) — 5% rostered

Garcia is just 20 years old and had a .617 OPS in Double-A last year, so it's difficult to muster a full-throated recommendation that you roster him just yet. The crowded Nationals infield doesn't help much in that regard, either. But Garcia is a top prospect, as is basically any player who makes it to The Show at such a tender age, and he hasn't looked overmatched. Even after going 0-for-4 on Sunday, Garcia is hitting a respectable .277 in his 49 plate appearances (.298 xBA per Statcast), with a home run and a stolen base on his ledger.

 



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Zach Eflin (SP, PHI) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12-Team Leagues

OWNED IN: 15% of leagues

ANALYSIS: Zach Eflin has been intermittently useful for fantasy purposes over the past couple of seasons, but he's never flashed this kind of strikeout ability before. After tossing seven strong innings in a win over the Braves on Saturday, the 26-year-old now has 37 punchouts in 26.1 innings of work. While his ratios (4.10 ERA, 1.29 WHIP) aren't overly impressive, a 2.72 FIP and 3.17 SIERA suggest they stand to improve.

At the heart of Eflin's improved performance is the development of his curve ball. Whereas in previous years it was a largely ineffective "show me" pitch, it's been his best offering in 2020 on a per-pitch basis, and consequently he's throwing it twice as often.

The community has been slow to take note of Eflin's step forward, so he's available for free in over 80% of Yahoo leagues.

 


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Richard Rodriguez (RP, PIT) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues

OWNED IN: 16% of leagues

ANALYSIS: Even after a rough outing on Saturday, Richard Rodriguez remains arguably the Pirates' best option for the ninth inning while Keone Kela is on the shelf. The 30-year-old had locked down his last two save opportunities before surrendering a walk-off home run against the Brewers, and still has an 0.87 WHIP and 18 strikeouts in 12.2 innings of work.

Rodriguez is highly proficient at missing bats and rarely issues walks. The former is important because when batters do make contact, it tends to be loud. He'll need to do a better job of inducing weak contact to be successful, but the tools are there. The opportunity is as well, since the rest of the bullpen is a mess and the biggest threat is probably a just-off-the-IL Kyle Crick.


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Alec Bohm (3B, PHI) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in All Leagues

OWNED IN: 22% of leagues

ANALYSIS: A quiet week has his overall numbers looking a little less impressive than before, but rookie Alec Bohm looks like the real deal. After going 3-for-3 and hitting his first major league home run last Sunday, the 24-year-old was hitting .344 with a .993 OPS through 10 games. He has only played four games since and logged just a pair of hits in those contests, though both resulted in a RBI.

While 14 games is obviously a small sample, Bohm's Statcast profile paints a rosy picture. He's carrying a 12.2% barrel rate, 48.8% Hard Hit, and an expected wOBA 60 points above his actual mark. Combine that with excellent plate discipline (eight strikeouts against seven walks) and it's not hard to see why he's considered one of the game's top prospects. You can add him for free in over three-quarters of Yahoo leagues currently.


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2B and SS Waiver Wire Pickups for Week 6

As you've no doubt concluded halfway through this ersatz season, diligent work on the waiver wire is even more critical than it is in a full campaign. Injuries and ineffectiveness are, have been, and will be that much more challenging to overcome, so every decision takes on greater import.

By contrast, our focus is a model of consistency, trained once again as it will be on those players who are rostered in under 50% of Yahoo leagues. Your mileage may vary as to their availability and utility in your specific league. We'll run down options for various league depths in an effort to provide as many fantasy baseball managers as possible with viable pickup options. Despite best efforts and intentions, however, it really do be like that sometimes.

With that, here are your waiver wire targets for the middle infield in week 6.

 

Shallow Leagues (50-30% Rostered)

Wilmer Flores (1B/2B, SFG) — 47% rostered

Last call for boarding the Flores train. He's been so productive that a) he's been a regular presence in this space and b) the community writ large is taking notice. Even after consecutive 0-for-4 games this weekend, he sits at .306/.337/.541 overall, with seven home runs and 34 R+BI in 26 games. The warning from a week ago still holds, though - he's an obvious trade candidate and at his landing spot he may find himself back in the same purgatory between bench player and starter, where he's unfairly spent most of his career.

Asdrubal Cabrera (1B/2B/3B, WAS) — 36% rostered

The defending champs have a lot of moving parts on the roster, and Howie Kendrick's return this weekend just added another. But Cabrera has been entrusted with the cleanup spot in the lineup a good bit recently, and he's been a solid contributor all season (.267/.326/.523, five HR, 28 R+BI in 23 games). Drub ended 2019 swinging a hot bat and the longer offseason doesn't appear to have knocked him off his game.

 

Deeper Leagues (30-10% Rostered)

Jake Cronenworth (1B/2B/SS, SDP) — 28% rostered

The Rays don't often lose trades, and we won't know for a while how their trade with San Slam Diego will shake out. But right now, it feels like if nothing else they may have erred in not hanging on to Cronenworth. A relatively quiet Sunday (which nonetheless still yielded an RBI) brought the 26-year-old's season line to .347/.410/.627 with three homers, a stolen base, and 25 R+BI in 27 games. He's playing pretty much every day on a team that is currently second in the league in runs scored. The rostered figure above rose sharply over the weekend and will probably do so again before you even read these words. Grab him if your league winds up not being part of that cresting wave.

 

Super Deep Leagues (< 10% Rostered)

Luis Urias (2B/SS, MIL) — 9% rostered

Urias cooled off a bit last week after his blistering start to the season after returning from the COVID list. He did hit a double and score a run on Sunday, putting him at a .297/.366/.378 line. No homers or steals yet, but he's a reasonable threat for either after notching 19 HR/7 SB last year in the minor leagues. The top prospect didn't do so hot in his time at the MLB level in 2019, but he's looking more comfortable this year and is still just 23.

 

The Watch List

Brendan Rodgers (SS, COL) — 9% rostered

The Rockies are...a challenge, for fantasy owners. In recent years, they've had any number of potentially intriguing fantasy assets at their disposal, only to make (as often as not inexplicable) personnel decisions that kept those players from participating often enough to be of use in our game. Rodgers is (or has been) one of those players, but David Dahl's latest injury and the universal DH have conspired to present him with a plausible path to consistent playing time. The Rockies promoted their top prospect last Wednesday and he's seen action in four or five games since (though only twice did he start). All caveats about the Rockies still apply, especially given that parenthetical, but the siren call of talented hitters with half their games at Coors remains strong for a reason.

 



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Robbie Grossman (OF, OAK) - Week 6 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in All Leagues

OWNED IN: 37% of leagues

ANALYSIS: Robbie Grossman has always demonstrated excellent plate discipline. At varying points throughout his major-league career, he has also flashed both pop and speed. He just hadn't really put everything together consistently over a long period of time, which is a big reason why he's in his eighth season and has only topped 400 at-bats once.

It's only been a month, of course, but Grossman is looking better than he ever has before at the plate. The 30--year-old entered play on Sunday with a robust .290/.443/.609 line, four home runs, and four stolen bases in 22 contests. Given his .254 career mark, it's probably fair to expect some regression on the batting average. Based on his Statcast data, though, his production doesn't seem fluky.

One of the most popular adds on Yahoo this weekend, Grossman is nonetheless still available in nearly two-thirds of leagues at the moment.


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Elieser Hernandez (SP, MIA) - Week 6 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12-Team Leagues

OWNED IN: 35% of leagues

ANALYSIS: Though he hadn't earned a win in 2020 until his most recent start against the Nationals, Elieser Hernandez has pitched quite well thus far. After that victorious effort on Friday, the 25-year-old boasts pristine ratios (2.29 ERA, 0.76 WHIP) and 25 strikeouts in 19.2 innings.

Last season, in 21 games (15 starts), Hernandez's lousy 5.03 ERA obscured a respectable 1.24 WHIP and 85 strikeouts in 82 innings. He's enjoying some good fortune in 2020 (.209 BABIP, 93.8% strand rate), but has also added nearly nine percentage points to his K% while cutting his BB% in half. That's a recipe for success no matter what else may be happening.

The only knock on him at the moment is volume, as he hasn't finished the sixth inning in any of his four starts to this point. Wins will be tough to come by if that continues, but Hernandez looks like a solid rest of season contributor in Ks and ratios.


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2B and SS Waiver Wire Pickups for Week 5

With a 60-game slate, diligent work on the waiver wire is even more critical than it is in a full season. Injuries and ineffectiveness will be that much more challenging to overcome, so every decision takes on greater import.

As in prior seasons, our focus will be on those players who are rostered in under 50% of Yahoo leagues. Your mileage may vary depending on a variety of factors specific to your league. We'll run down options for various league depths in an effort to provide as many fantasy baseball managers as possible with viable pickup options. Despite best efforts and intentions, however, it really do be like that sometimes.

Without further ado, here are your waiver wire targets for the middle infield in week 5.

 

Shallow Leagues (50-30% Rostered)

Nick Solak (2B/3B/OF, TEX) — 33% rostered

Friday night saw an atypical contest at Coors Field - there were only three extra-base hits. Solak was responsible for all of them, doubling twice and launching a solo home run. It was his second three-hit game of the week, after knocking in three of the Rangers' four runs in a win over the Mariners last Tuesday. The versatile 25-year-old is hitting .299/.373/.418 and has swiped three bags in as many attempts. He has been in the starting lineup for all but two games thus far, so playing time doesn't appear to be a concern at this point.

 

Deeper Leagues (30-10% Rostered)

Robinson Cano (2B, NYM) — 21% rostered

Cano hit just 13 home runs and posted a .736 OPS last year at age 36, leading many to conclude he had little left in the tank. He's looked good in 2020, however, with another two-hit effort on Sunday pushing his season line to a spicy .383/.423/.574. Obviously you can expect some batting average regression, but it's encouraging that after spiking to a career worst last season, Cano's swinging strike rate at its lowest in six years. He's also making good enough contact that Statcast pegs his expected results as better than what he's actually done.

Wilmer Flores (1B/2B, SFG) — 12% rostered

Flores went hitless on Sunday, but that came after tallying six hits in his previous two games. Another multi-position player who occupies a prominent place in his team's lineup, the 29-year-old is slashing .291/.313/.468 with four home runs and 18 R+BI in 83 plate appearances. Keep an eye on trade rumors, as he's a prime candidate to be moved with the Giants quickly falling out of the race. For now, though, start with confidence.

 

Super Deep Leagues (< 10% Rostered)

Nick Ahmed (SS, ARI) — 9% rostered

A hitless performance on Sunday dropped Ahmed's season line to an uninspiring .233/.300/.342. So why recommend him? Because despite his middling triple slash and his spot in the Diamondbacks' batting order (ninth), he's been a solid contributor in the counting stats with 13 runs, 11 RBI, and two homers and steals apiece. It was a similar story in 2019, when Ahmed managed only a .753 OPS but put up 79 R, 19 HR, 82 RBI and 8 SB. His work to this point in 2020 has him just outside the top 100 in Yahoo's 5x5 rankings. In deep leagues, you could do a good bit worse.

 

The Watch List

Mike Brosseau (2B/3B/OF, TBR) — 3% rostered

Another week, another Tampa Swiss Army knife for the watch list. That's part of the issue, of course, as the Rays' depth allows them to cycle through a number of solid players at almost every position on the diamond. Brousseau flashed some intriguing potential as a rookie last year (.781 OPS), and has hit .367/.400/.786 in limited time, with six of his 11 hits being either doubles or home runs. Despite the fact that he hasn't been playing every day, he's mostly been at the top or in the middle of the lineup when he has been penciled into it.

 



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Taylor Williams (RP, SEA) - Week 5 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues

OWNED IN: 24% of leagues

ANALYSIS: As one might expect from a team that's emerged victorious in just seven of 22 games thus far, the Mariners don't find themselves with a ton of save opportunities. However, three of the five they've had so far have gone to Taylor Williams. While the 29-year-old doesn't have much of a track record of MLB success, he's nailed down the victory whenever called upon and has struck out 10 batters in 7.2 innings of work. The 4.70 ERA isn't ideal, but three of the four runs he's allowed came in one appearance.

Closers have been even more of a minefield in this unprecedented season than usual, so anybody who can string a few saves together is worthy of roster consideration. 23 pitchers have at least three saves to this point, and Williams is one of just two that are under 50% owned right now.


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Mitch Moreland (1B, BOS) - Week 5 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in All Leagues

OWNED IN: 32% of leagues

ANALYSIS: Mitch Moreland has been an intermittently useful fantasy bat for the past decade, with four 20+ home run seasons to his credit despite only once eclipsing 500 at-bats in a season. Last year, he hit 19 homers in just 335 plate appearances, and he already has six in 43 trips to the plate thus far in 2020.

The 34-year-old remains an iffy proposition against southpaws, and typically sits against them as a result. If he can continue to mash righties, though, that won't keep him from being valuable to fantasy owners. Despite a robust .300/.349/.775 line and a prominent spot in the Red Sox lineup, Moreland remains available to add in over two-thirds of Yahoo leagues.


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Brian Anderson (3B/OF, MIA) - Week 5 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in All Leagues

OWNED IN: 34% of leagues

ANALYSIS: Brian Anderson had a quietly useful 2019 season, producing an .811 OPS, 20 home runs, 123 R+BI, and five stolen bases. So far in 2020, he looks to have taken a step forward.

The Marlins had a handful of games postponed due to a COVID outbreak on the team, so the 27-year-old has only played 14 games entering Sunday's action. But in those games, he's hit .245/.362/.531 with four homers and 22 R+BI, showcasing improved plate discipline and a career-best barrel rate. A fixture in the middle of the order, Anderson should continue to offer fantasy owners solid production in the counting stats moving forward.


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What Is A 2020 Fantasy Championship Worth?

It feels like much longer, but it was only five months ago that the NBA and NHL suspended their seasons. MLB, in the midst of spring training and bearing down on Opening Day, wasn't far behind.

We didn't know when - or even if - baseball would return. What we did know was that, assuming there were games, 2020 would be a season unlike any we've ever seen before. And as time went on, it became evident that the ongoing pandemic wasn't the only hurdle to clear for the sport to conduct business this year. At times, it seemed that ownership and the players would never come to an agreement.

Of course, they ultimately did, but not before we wound up losing over 100 games from the schedule. And MLB has already weathered multiple outbreaks, while players are also (predictably) suffering non-COVID injuries at a notably higher rate than usual. It's made for an incredible amount of uncertainty for fantasy owners - including, for some, uncertainty over what a championship in 2020 is even worth.

 

Does 2020 Deserve An Asterisk?

It's been suggested that whichever team emerges victorious in this year's World Series - again, assuming we get that far - will forever be viewed as a less-than-legitimate champion due to a much shorter regular season and an expanded playoff field. We certainly won't see any volume-based records broken this year, but rate stats - no matter how impressive - won't carry the same weight as they would in a full season. Sure, we might see a .400 hitter for the first time in decades, but it won't really "count," right?

You could apply the same logic to whatever happens in fantasy this year. In a 60-game season, there isn't enough time to determine which teams are truly the best. Even the best players have slumps, sometimes lasting for weeks. And that's in normal circumstances, which our current situation does not even remotely approach. Those slumps may now constitute a significant chunk of the season. Injuries that would be minor in the context of a 162-game slate now may be serious enough as to cripple a squad. And as we've already seen, COVID has the potential to wreak havoc on any team at any moment. All this chaos has the effect of neutralizing many of the edges that experienced players have worked hard to cultivate over many years. To put it bluntly, there is just too much that is completely outside of fantasy owners' control.

That's one side of the argument, and it's largely compelling. But the opposite side of the coin has its merits as well.

Over the course of six months' worth of games, fantasy owners have a lot of room to maneuver. That provides more opportunities to make mistakes, but also allows for plenty of time to learn and recover from them. (At least in my view, this is what makes resiliency a crucial attribute for success in fantasy baseball.) This is a luxury not afforded to us in 2020. Batting 1.000 obviously isn't a realistic expectation, but we do need to hit on our roster decisions at a higher rate than usual in order to succeed.

Not only that, the shortened season means that a strong draft was more important than ever. With a much shorter runway, a mediocre showing in the draft room has likely already doomed a large number of competitors. Owners who drafted before the proverbial excrement hit the fan deserve some slack here, but those in leagues that held their drafts once we knew the shape the season would take needed to make adjustments to their approach. It reflects well on those who did and poorly on those who didn't.

As far as the chaos goes? Everybody's been dealt the same crappy hand. We're all dealing with uncertainty over health, roles, or even if games will be able to be played. If you can navigate that better than your rivals, you deserve credit. In many ways, winning it all this year is arguably more challenging than it's ever been.

So what is a 2020 fantasy title worth? It's a fascinating question - one that defies an easy answer.

The Friday Meta is Kyle Bishop's attempt to go beyond the fantasy box score or simple strategic pointers and get at the philosophical and/or behavioral side of the game. It is hopefully not as absurd, pretentious, or absurdly pretentious as that sounds.



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2B and SS Waiver Wire Pickups for Week 4

With a 60-game slate, deft work on the waiver wire is even more crucial than it is in a full season. Injuries and ineffectiveness will be that much more challenging to overcome, so every decision takes on added importance.

As in prior seasons, our focus will be on those players who are rostered in under 50% of Yahoo leagues. Your mileage may vary depending on a variety of factors. We'll run down options for various league depths in an effort to provide as many fantasy baseball managers as possible with viable pickup options. Despite best efforts and intentions, however, it really do be like that sometimes.

Without further ado, here are your waiver wire targets for the middle infield in week 4.

 

Shallow Leagues (50-30% Rostered)

Cesar Hernandez (2B, CLE) — 46% rostered

Hernandez may no longer ply his trade for my beloved Phillies, but I maintain my appreciation for him as an underrated player. The category juice hasn't been there yet, as he has yet to hit a home run or steal a base. But it was just two years ago that he put up 15 HR/19 SB and scored 91 runs, and he's excelled out of the leadoff spot so far with a .305 average and .414 on-base percentage.

Starlin Castro (2B/3B, WAS) — 43% rostered

Speaking of missing category juice, Castro had no homers, no steals, and just one RBI entering play on Sunday. The game was suspended in the sixth, but the veteran connected for a two-run bomb before that happened. He's also hitting .357/.386/.548 even without crooked numbers in the counting stats.  That comes on the heels of a 2019 second half where he slashed .302/.334/.558. The long layoff due to COVID hasn't kept Castro from picking up right where he left off last fall.

 

Deeper Leagues (30-10% Rostered)

J.P. Crawford (SS, SEA) — 29% rostered

Crawford doesn't have a home run to his credit, and it would be silly to expect many of those going forward. What he does have are a very particular set of skills is a firm grip on the leadoff spot in Seattle and three stolen bases. His lineup role has allowed him to rack up 13 runs in 16 games. The former first-round pick makes up for his lack of pop with excellent plate discipline, so he's a good bet to stick around at the top of the order.

Dylan Moore (2B/3B/SS/OF, SEA) — 28% rostered

Prior to this summer, the only memory I had of Dylan Moore was an unfortunate game last March in which he made three run-scoring errors in the ninth inning. The Mariners managed to win that game anyway, and while they're not winning many so far this season, that's despite Moore's best efforts. The 28-year-old has been one of the most popular waiver adds in recent days thanks to an unexpected surge at the plate. After another home run on Sunday, his season line now stands at .293/.326/.610 with three homers and three steals.

 

Super Deep Leagues (< 10% Rostered)

Joey Wendle (2B/3B/SS, TBR) — 5% rostered

After a sneaky-useful 2018 in which he hit .300 and swiped 16 bags, Wendle dealt with numerous injuries in 2019 and never really got on track. He's healthy now and, though it's a small sample, is basically hitting at the same level he did two years ago. Wendle doesn't have an everyday role locked up - not many Rays do - but with eligibility at three infield positions, he's a decent guy to have on your bench to plug any holes.

 

The Watch List

Jake Cronenwerth (1B/2B/SS, SEA) — 6% rostered

Cronenwerth's two-way ability (he has a mid-90s fastball and a fringe-y slider) made him somewhat noteworthy as a prospect, but it was last year's production at the plate (.949 OPS, 10 HR, 12 SB in 406 plate appearances at Triple-A) that really stood out. He's been filling in for Eric Hosmer lately and has hit .357/.379/.821 with seven extra-base hits - including a pair  of homers - in 29 plate appearances. Hosmer is due back soon, but with Jurickson Profar scuffling, Cronenwerth could see time at second base moving forward.

 



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Playing For Keeps: Managing 2020 In A Keeper League

Something you've probably heard from many in the fantasy baseball community - including yours truly just last week in this space - is that you'll need to be ruthless in managing your squad(s) this season. With 102 fewer games than we're used to, there's precious little time to waste waiting for a player, no matter how talented, to get going. More than any other season, fortune is likely to favor the bold.

Simple enough, right? Kill your darlings, as Faulkner once said. Terminate with extreme prejudice. Cut that bum and don't look back. Be brutally unsentimental. Good talk, now let's watch the game.

That's all well and good in redraft leagues, where your roster decisions only impact the current campaign. But in keeper formats where one wrong move could have you kicking yourself for years, how do you reconcile the aggression that the moment demands without completely ruining your future? Or is it worth risking such a decision when the race for the prize is as wide open as it probably ever will be? The way I brain it, you have three paths from which to choose.

 

Stay the Course

With this strategy, you don't deviate much from your modus operandi - at least not in a way that reverberates beyond this aberrant season. Go ahead and punt a category or change it up with your moves on the margins, but make no roster decisions that drastically impact the future. No win-now trades, no non-fringe assets thrown on the chopping block  simply for having a rough week. Just ride it out with the core you've assembled and hope it works out. If not, transfer that hope to "hoping that we have a full and reasonably normal 2021 season."

 

Shoot the Moon

Typically, the fantasy baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint. That's certainly not the case in 2020. There are a number of logistical challenges to managing a fake baseball team this year, but it's theoretically never been easier to win a championship because you only need to do well for two months. Anyone who's played this game before can recall plenty of times either they or their opponents put together a red-hot stretch in an otherwise unremarkable season-long performance. Chaos tends to breed parity because anything can happen; much as the arc of history bends toward justice, the arc of a 162-game season bends toward players, teams, and even fantasy owners who are more talented.

Why not take advantage by pushing your chips in on this year? Flags fly forever, after all. And while some may place an asterisk by any 2020 title, you can make the argument that navigating the absolute madness of a pandemic-wracked season and adjusting your management style accordingly reflects pretty damn well on your abilities. Also, consider the type of person who typically assigns asterisks to things. Do you really care what they think? And with where things seem to be headed (not just with COVID, but with the looming labor strife that seems certain to be apocalyptic in scale), all we really have is now.

 

Thread the Needle

Are you not swayed overmuch by either of the above approaches? Then hedge your bets. Don't bet the farm or blow things up, but feel free to take a couple of moderate to large swings and see what develops.  You can make moves that are consequential, but stop short of being seismic. The foundation can remain intact while you remodel a few rooms, so to speak.

There's no fun in simply going through the motions and writing off an entire season, truncated and precarious as it may be. You invested time and perhaps money into this team already, so you may as well compete hard despite everything. At the same time, it'd be a tough pill to swallow if you mortgaged the future for a two-month season that didn't even result in eternal glory.

 

The Friday Meta is Kyle Bishop's attempt to go beyond the fantasy box score or simple strategic pointers and get at the philosophical and/or behavioral side of the game. It is hopefully not as absurd, pretentious, or absurdly pretentious as that sounds.



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Second Base and Shortstop Waiver Wire Pickups for Week 3

With a 60-game slate, deft work on the waiver wire is even more critical than it is in a typical 162. Injuries and ineffectiveness will be that much more difficult to overcome, so every decision takes on added importance.

As in prior seasons, our focus will be on those players who are rostered in under 50% of Yahoo leagues. Your mileage may vary depending on depth, platform, and other league factors. We'll run down options for various league depths in an effort to provide as many fantasy baseball managers as possible with viable pickup options. Despite best efforts and intentions, however, it really do be like that sometimes.

Without further ado, here are your waiver wire targets for the middle infield in week 3.

 

Shallow Leagues (50-30% Rostered)

Colin Moran (2B/3B, PIT) — 44% rostered

Moran went 0-for-5 on Sunday afternoon, but entered play with a tidy .321/.367/.893 line on the strength of a league-leading five home runs. The veteran hasn't flashed power like this before, but he did knock in 80 runs and hit.277 in 466 at-bats a year ago. He's also been serving as the Pirates' primary cleanup hitter in the early going, and with how difficult it's been in 2020 to field a full fantasy lineup, the multi-position eligibility shouldn't be overlooked either.

Chris Taylor (2B/SS/OF, LAD) — 32% rostered

Speaking of flexibility, Taylor remains eligible at both middle infield positions in addition to the outfield. The versatile vet has averaged 17 home runs and 11 stolen bases over the last three seasons, and entered Sunday's action with a solid .269/.424/.385 slash line. He's started all but two of the Dodgers' games so far, and in one of those two he pinch-hit and blasted a three-run homer.

 

Deeper Leagues (30-10% Rostered)

Nick Madrigal (2B/SS, CHW) — 22% rostered

Madrigal made his MLB debut on Friday, and after a pair of hitless contests, he tallied four hits on Sunday. They were all singles because the 5-foot-7, 165-pound rookie doesn't offer much pop. But he did score a couple of runs while driving in another, and the real reasons to have him on your fantasy roster are batting average and speed. Madrigal hit .311 with 35 stolen bases across three levels in the minors last year and struck out just 16 times in 532 plate appearances.

Hanser Alberto (2B/3B, BAL) — 18% rostered

Alberto was a rare pleasant surprise for the Orioles in 2019, coming out of nowhere to hit .305 while providing excellent defense at second base and passable glovework at third. Obviously the latter is irrelevant for our purposes, but Alberto has picked up right where he left off at the plate in 2020. In eight games thus far, he's hitting .429/.459/.658 with a pair of homers and a stolen base. He's recorded multiple hits in five of those contests, and been held without a hit just once. Likely to be a fixture near the top of the batting order, the 27-year-old is primed to deliver sneaky value once again.

 

Super Deep Leagues (< 10% Rostered)

Nico Hoerner (2B/SS, CHC) — 7% rostered

Hoerner is probably stuck in the bottom third of the lineup for the foreseeable future, but he is playing regularly and showing well to this point. Though he doesn't have a home run or stolen base yet, he entered play on Sunday 7-for-20 with five runs scored and five RBI.

Wilmer Flores (1B/2B, SF) — 5% rostered

Longtime readers already know this, but it's an informal rule of these columns not to tout the same guy in consecutive weeks. Exceptions are periodically made, though, and this is the first of the 2020 season. Flores graduates from the watch list to a deep-league add this week after hitting his second home run of the year over the weekend. The 28-year-old has been held off the bases just once in nine games and appears to be locked in as the #2 hitter in the Giants order.

 

The Watch List

Shed Long Jr. (2B/OF, SEA) — 6% rostered

Long may have been supplanted as the leadoff hitter by JP Crawford, but he still merits monitoring after stealing his third base of the season on Sunday. The 24-year-old also has a home run to his credit in the early going and posted a solid .787 OPS last season in his 168 MLB at-bats.



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Kyle Seager (3B, SEA) - Week 3 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues

OWNED IN: 16% of leagues

ANALYSIS: Kyle Seager had a nice run earlier in the decade, consistently producing 25+ HR season with solid run production and a respectable batting average while almost never missing a game. A rough 2018 season was followed by an injury-shortened campaign last year, and along with the rapidly deepening pool of talent at the hot corner, Seager became a forgotten man for fantasy purposes.

He's off to a nice start this year though, hitting .294/.375/.500 with a home run and 10 RBI in nine games. The Mariners aren't a great team, but Seager appears to be locked in as their primary cleanup hitter, and even bad teams tend to give their middle of the order bats plenty of opportunities for counting stats. And in a short season where fielding a full fantasy lineup is already proving to be a major challenge, his durability is a definite selling point.


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Spencer Howard (SP, PHI) - Week 3 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues

OWNED IN: 22% of leagues

ANALYSIS: The Phillies' top pitching prospect, Spencer Howard was expected to make his major league debut on Friday before concerns over a COVID outbreak led to the team's games being postponed. With the news that the team has no new positive tests and will resume play on Monday, it likely won't be long before the 24-year-old sees action.

A second-round pick back in 2017, Howard dominated across multiple minor-league levels in 2019, fanning 86 batters and walking only 14 in 66 innings. His fastball sits mid-90s while occasionally touching 99, and all three of his off-speed offerings (curve, slider, and change) rate as plus pitches. Given the Phillies' well-documented rotation issues, Howard may already be the third-best starter in the organization behind Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler.

Howard is free to add in over three-quarters of Yahoo leagues right now. That won't be the case when his debut date becomes official, so snap him up now if you're in need of another arm.


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Sam Hilliard (OF, COL) - Week 3 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues

OWNED IN: 21% of leagues

ANALYSIS: Fantasy owners are all too familiar with this dilemma. The Rockies have an intriguing young player with monster fantasy potential, yet conspire to keep him from playing regularly through bizarre personnel choices. Fortunately, to this point it appears as though they are playing less to type than usual with Sam Hilliard.

The 26-year-old was a popular late-round target in drafts this year, after a boffo minor league campaign in 2019 (.893 OPS, 35 HR, 22 SB) and a subsequent successful MLB cameo (1.006 OPS, 7 HR, 2 SB). While he's off to a bit of a slow start, Hilliard has drawn a start in five of Colorado's first seven contests. The addition of the designated hitter and Ian Desmond's decision to opt out of the 2020 season appear to have made it significantly more difficult for the Rockies to justify keeping Hilliard out of the lineup.

It's always nice to get a Coors-enhanced bat into your fantasy lineup, and Hilliard remains available in four out of five Yahoo leagues at the moment.


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Dylan Carlson (OF, STL) - Week 3 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues

OWNED IN: 22% of leagues

ANALYSIS: Obviously, the currently unfolding situation with the Cardinals' potential COVID outbreak should be closely monitored. If and when that is under control, Dylan Carlson will be one of the most appealing options on many leagues' waiver wires. The top prospect didn't make the Opening Day roster, but that likely had to more to do with manipulating his service clock than his ability to contribute. A first-round pick back in 2016, the 21-year-old hit .292, clubbed 26 home runs and stole 20 bases in 126 games across Double- and Triple-A last year.

None of the current starting outfielders for the Cardinals (Tyler O'Neill, Harrison Bader, and Dexter Fowler) are without their warts, so Carlson should have several potential paths to playing time once he is on the roster. His blend of pop and speed will make him immediately relevant in most fantasy formats.


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Teoscar Hernandez (OF, TOR) - Week 3 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in All Leagues

OWNED IN: 45% of leagues

ANALYSIS: Teoscar Hernandez has been one of this week's most popular waiver wire adds, and it's not difficult to grasp why. The 27-year-old boasts a robust .321/.355/.821 line with four home runs and two stolen bases through seven games, and he's also notched a half-dozen runs scored and driven in as well. A highly regarded prospect in fantasy circles a few years back when he was coming up through the Astros' farm system, Hernandez has found some measure of success with the Blue Jays. In 893 at-bats over the last two seasons, he hit 48 homers and swiped 11 bags.

He also failed to crack .240 in the batting average department in either year, so you probably shouldn't expect the high average to persist. But Hernandez's pop is legitimate, and he has already attempted three steals in 2020 after making just 19 bids across the prior two seasons. Especially in a shortened season, that increased boldness on the base paths would be valuable for fantasy purposes. If you want him, best to make the move now given the steady rise in his ownership rate lately.


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2020 Hindsight? What This Season Can Teach Fantasy Owners

What will this baseball season mean?

Questions abound with regard to the extraordinary circumstances in which we find ourselves, not least of which is whether or not MLB can even manage to complete its planned 60-game season. Coronavirus rages on without an end in sight, and the league's apparent inability or unwillingness to develop and enforce effective protocols does not inspire much hope.

Let's suppose, for the sake of both argument and the premise of this article, that we do get through the next two months. Is there anything of value to be gleaned from the chaos by fantasy owners?

 

What Is This? I Don't Even...

To be blunt, you're not going to get a whole lot of useful or actionable data this year. 60 games is barely a third of a normal campaign, and it's difficult enough to draw meaningful conclusions from a full season. That would be true even if games were being played in normal circumstances, which they are decidedly not. Players may be impacted by the lack of fans in attendance, concern about their health or that of their loved ones, their routines being blown to smithereens, or a thousand other factors that are impossible to quantify.

Judging by how the first week of action has gone, a bunch of players are going to contract the virus, while many others suffer injuries that are likely at least partly attributable to the unusual schedule caused by the pandemic. All that aside, slumps are inevitable for the vast majority of players, and even a brief lull could have a concerted impact on overall production. Analysis will have to be on a case-by-case basis as always, but it's gonna be tough to ding anyone too much for lackluster results.

Conversely, and perversely, it'll be hard to give a guy too much credit for success. We've seen any number of players put together a great couple of weeks or months that proved little, other than the fact that even the worst player in MLB is a world-class athlete capable of staggering feats. Nobody is going to crack 300 plate appearances or 100 innings this year. Those aren't exactly large enough samples to confidently proclaim that a breakout has occurred. We miss often enough on those in normal times.

So what can you learn from whatever rough approximation of a season we receive in 2020?

 

Lessons to Learn

The importance of diligence: At various points in my years writing about this game, I've underlined how crucial it is to stay on top of in-season management. Knowing your league settings inside and out, checking your lineups closely, and regularly reviewing the waiver wire are winning habits anytime, but even more so in the current environment. With such a short runway, you can't afford to leave at-bats or innings on the bench or to miss out on a waiver wire add.

The value of ruthlessness: Patience is usually a virtue, but even in a 162-game slate, sitting on your hands for too long can cost you dearly. With a 60-game schedule, almost every player's leash gets shorter. You're obviously not cutting Mike Trout after a couple of hitless games in a row, but the guys at the end of the roster might be a different story. Honestly, this will be a personal struggle, as I tend toward a stoic management style, but these are simply different times that require a different approach.

The merits of flexibility: In addition to being thorough and unsentimental, the ability to adapt is going to be pivotal in a season where seemingly anything could happen and everything could change from one day to the next. Being rigid in your thinking simply won't serve you well.

The fun of risk-taking: If ever there were a season to just cut loose and throw crap at the wall to see what sticks, it's this one. That wild or off-the-wall strategy you've toyed with for years but never had the guts to implement? Now's the time, because really...

The freedom of nihilism: ...if you have a bad season, who cares? Assuming you weren't crazy enough to put a bunch of money on the wacky game show that is the 2020 season, anyway. In the end, as he so often has, Carl Brutananadilewski said it best.

The Friday Meta is Kyle Bishop's attempt to go beyond the fantasy box score or simple strategic pointers and get at the philosophical and/or behavioral side of the game. It is hopefully not as absurd, pretentious, or absurdly pretentious as that sounds.



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Second Base and Shortstop Waiver Wire Pickups for Week 2

Thanks to Ellis Canady for filling in last week (and for touting Cesar Hernandez, who is Good). For the remainder of this all too short season, this beat will be covered by yours truly.

As in prior seasons, our focus will be on those players who are rostered in under 50% of Yahoo leagues. Your mileage may vary depending on depth, platform, and other league factors. We'll run down options for various league depths in an effort to provide as many fantasy baseball manager as possible with viable pickup options. Despite best efforts and intentions, however, it really do be like that sometimes.

With a 60-game slate, deft work on the waiver wire is even more critical than it is in a typical 162. Injuries and ineffectiveness will be that much more difficult to overcome, so every decision takes on added importance. Without further ado, here are your waiver wire targets for the middle infield in week 2.

 

Shallow Leagues (50-30% Rostered)

Kolten Wong (2B, STL) — 49% rostered

Wong has hit safely in each of the Cardinals' first three games, going 4-for-12 and scoring three runs. He's likely to be a good source of the latter, given that he's been handed the leadoff role. The 29-year-old has three seasons with at least 11 home runs and 15 stolen bases to his credit; that includes last year when he swiped a career-best 24 bags. And though he's a career .261 hitter, Wong actually hit .285 in two of the past three campaigns. There's a lot to like here, which is why he barely makes the cutoff for this list.

Ian Happ (2B/3B/OF, CHC) — 40% rostered

Coming off a rookie year in which he hit 24 home runs with a .842 OPS in 115 games as a 22-year-old, Happ had a lot of hype behind him in the fantasy community entering 2018. When he homered in the very first at-bat of that season, it felt like a good portent. Then the former first-round pick never quite got going, and fantasy managers fell out of love. Last year, Happ launched 11 bombs in just 156 plate appearances. So far in 2020, he's added a second Opening Day homer to his ledger, and a second one on Sunday. He won't hit for average, and the run production will be limited if he continues to bat ninth, but the pop, the occasional stolen base, and the positional flexibility are all valuable here.

 

Deeper Leagues (30-10% Rostered)

Nick Solak (2B/3B, TEX) — 24% rostered

Solak impressed in a late-season cameo with the Rangers in 2019, slashing .293/.393/.491 with five home runs and two stolen bases in just 135 plate appearances. The roster is crowded, so his playing time is a bit murkier than ideal. But Solak has started two of Texas' three games thus far (hitting second in one of them) and singled as a pinch-hitter in the other. While he isn't eligible there currently, the 25-year-old is able to play the outfield as well, meaning there are plenty of paths for him to rack up at-bats.

Freddy Galvis (2B/SS, CIN) — 10% rostered

Admittedly not the most exciting option, Galvis is nonetheless viable in deeper formats. He has averaged 17 home runs and 11 stolen bases during the past four seasons, including a career-high 23 in the former category a year ago. Galvis also enjoys a friendly home park and has a firm grasp on a starting role in a talented Reds lineup. The veteran has hit safely in all three games to this point, with a double and a homer.

 

Super Deep Leagues (< 10% Rostered)

Jonathan Schoop (2B, DET) — 9% rostered

A mid-20s home run total doesn't go as far as it used to, but it still carries some value, and that's precisely what Schoop has provided over the past four seasons. It's true that he whiffs a lot and rarely walks, and those flaws have kept him from becoming the star he looked like he could be back in 2017, when he was a four-category stud (.293/92/32/105). But the 28-year-old is locked into a starting role and hitting second for the Tigers. Is the lineup bad? Sure, but that's still a prime spot for run production.

Leury Garcia (SS/OF, CHW) — 7% rostered

Garcia was a fixture on our Waiver Wire Pickups List last season, during which he quietly hit .279 with 93 runs scored and 15 stolen bases. It's only fair to show him a little love after a two-homer game on Saturday. He'd hit just 23 HR in his first 1550 MLB plate appearances, so nobody should expect that kind of pop - or any, really. But Garcia is the starter at second base (where he'll be eligible soon) and has already proven he can contribute in deep formats.

 

The Watch List

Jurickson Profar (2B/OF, SD) — 7% rostered

Profar has averaged 20 home runs and 10 stolen bases in the past two seasons, and he was penciled into the cleanup spot in the Padres' first two games.  The fantasy community has largely bailed on him after he hit .218 last year, but there might be some sneaky value here.

Wilmer Flores (1B/2B, SF) — 2% rostered

This is Flores' eighth year in MLB, and he has yet to get more than 510 plate appearances. Nobody will reach that mark this season, of course, but the 28-year-old may finally get to play every day in San Francisco. He's suited up for all four of their games so far, batting either second or third and has hit safely in all of them, including his first homer with the Giants. The infielder has averaged 20 HR/600 PA over his career and hit .317 with Arizona last year.



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