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Early (Over/Under) Reactions for Fantasy Baseball

The first week of the shortened MLB season is officially over and we have several prominent fantasy storylines emerging. Some carry over from 2019 and others have come out of nowhere. My job here is to walk us through those which seem most notable.

COVID-19 is one tough customer and has made not even hope for a fully shortened season questionable but even hope for another week of baseball. A lot of fantasy has to do with projecting. Whether that be performance-based of matchup based, you are always projecting and since we cannot predict who exactly could/will get the virus, we have to treat everything in a vacuum, unfortunately.

Bear with me as we go through these and pretend that a sudden postponement/IL stint is not in the cards anytime soon because that takes out all of the fun from any of this.

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Khris Davis? More like Chris Davis

Through 17 PAs, Davis has no hits, two walks, and seven strikeouts. He has not been the same since injuring his hip in 2019. He ran into the outfield wall in Pittsburgh on May 5th. His stats up to that point in 145 plate appearances were 10 HR, 20 runs, 26 RBI while slashing .229/.303/.481. A bit under par for his typical power numbers and .247 average but he was dealing with a .238 BABIP at the time, several ticks below his career average.

After May 5th, his 2019 numbers in 389 PAs were 13 HR, 41 runs, 47 RBI whilst slashing.217/.288/.350 on a .276 BABIP. Davis looked like a shell of himself during this period of time but it should be noted that he did also deal with a hand injury around late July. Nevertheless, Davis's poor 2019 has carried over into 2020 and it is abhorrent to see his lines from game-to-game. Davis was not that early of a pick in most drafts as his ADP across-the-board was between picks 150 and 200, however, there was a universal expectation of a bounce-back within a fair degree. Maybe he would not surpass 40 home runs as he did yearly from 2016-2018 but over 30 seemed within reason.

Now, owners are hoping for any reason to hold on after just a week. Davis is a drain on average, does not provide speed, and is essentially useless without monster power. He is not droppable just yet because he is prone to streakiness but another week of nothing but zeroes essentially on the board and owners should move on. Half of Oakland's upcoming matchups until the end of next week are against LHP and they generally are not facing a gauntlet of starters. Davis better get right, or else.

 

Dansby Swanson is the GOAT

Well, not quite. As much as Swanson owners (like myself) want to gloat and appreciate the season he's put together thus far, there are red flags that need to be acknowledged. First off, his BABIP is out of control at .588. He's striking out a career-high rate of 37.5% and he has taken just one walk throughout 32 PAs. Thus far, the positives outweigh the negatives but the negatives loom. Positives include five of his 12 hits going for extra bases, two of them as home runs, his rising spot in the lineup to second (with Ozzie Albies out, but still) allowing him to hit between the monsters in Atlanta and his early pair of stolen bases

Swanson is a Statcast favorite from 2019 and has the first-overall pedigree still on him despite a rough rookie and sophomore season. Although we are working with a small sample here, Swanson is getting barrels on his batted balls early on. He has four on his 19 batted balls which has helped push his hard-hit rate above 50% for the first time ever. His exit velocity and launch angle are down from the past two years but not significantly enough to be concerned. Swanson making quality contact is what we should focus on.

Swanson was on a tear in 2019 prior to injuring his right heel. A bruise in late-July derailed his breakout season. From July 24th on, Swanson slashed .204/.311/.252 and did not hit a single home run in 119 PAs. Prior to this injury, his slash line was .265/.330/.468 as he hit 17 HRs in 431 PA. Swanson's breakthrough is a continuation from early last season and whilst not sustainable at this rate, he is absolutely worth grabbing in every format if available to ride the wave.

 

Matt Boyd is Almost Droppable

Yes. Give Boyd two more starts before cutting loose. His upcoming matchups are against the Cardinals and Pirates then the schedule is a LOT more difficult afterward. If he can't get right against those two bottom-feeder offenses (who in their own right are better against lefties), there is no point in holding him through the gauntlet he will face afterward v CLE @ CHW v CHC v MIN.

Boyd's relatively unlucky through first two starts, and to be fair, it is not easy playing this Cincinnati lineup in Great American, one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the league. His most recent outing against Kansas City was more disappointing is anything even with the extra strikeouts. While he was BABIP'd to death, the hope for Boyd was that he could take his game to the next level in 2020 and build on the positives from last season after increasing his strikeout rate above 30% for the first time and minimizing his walk-rate to a career-low 6.3%. Boyd's xFIP was impressively under four for the first time as a professional. Had he not been so unlucky with the long-ball in 2019, his ERA would have been stellar.

Now, the real hope for Boyd is that he gets traded to a playoff hopeful in need of starting pitching i.e. Houston and Boston. If that were to happen, he would not only be surrounded by better defenses but also be in line for more wins with real, consistent run support which raises his floor outside of quality start leagues. Unfortunately, banking on a trade as the only reason to hold a player is typically a fool's errand.

 

Andrew Benintendi is a FRAUD

This may come to be true for two straights years. While I am still holding out hope for a bounce-back by means of a hot streak, it is absolutely brutal watching Benintendi try and hit the ball. He is walking a ton which leaves some room for optimism, it is just when he swings the bat that's the problem. Benintendi's been so bad that he is not hitting 8th or 9th versus lefties. He remains at lead-off against righties but that could change soon enough if his struggles continue.

Benintendi notoriously struggled in 2019 as he was a popular breakout candidate and top-50 fantasy pick. His average dipped to .266 on the season and his strikeouts jumped from 16.5%~ as a rookie/sophomore to 22.8%. Drafters in 2020 hoped this season was just a slump/aberration and Beni would get back to his 70 hit tool ways but unfortunately, it does not seem to be the case. Benintendi has a single run and RBI with two hits all year, a single and a double. He is dealing with an extremely poor BABIP below .200 and four of the seven starters Boston has faced thus far have been LHP. This excuse should not count when facing Orioles' pitching but we are giving Beni the benefit of the doubt.

Walks really are his saving grace at the moment. Benintendi's slash-line through the first week of the season is a hilarious .095/.321/.143, you don't see many of those too often. He has taken seven walks and struck out eight times. I'm not sure what to make of this plate discipline because it is honestly not terrible. That walk rate will surely go down in due time because Beni does not look comfortable with his swing and pitchers will be attacking him through the coming weeks. You have to hold him in 12+ teamers with the matchups/ballparks he has coming up along with the lineup he plays in but in shallower leagues, cut bat after next Sunday if these poor performances keep up.

Maybe he's just a slow starter. Who knows?

 

Can't Spell Cristian Javier Without ACE

Javier came out of the blue this past Wednesday and eviscerated a tremendous Dodgers' lineup which featured most, if not all of its regulars. He even outpitched Dodgers' star pitching prospect Dustin May who couldn't last past the 4th inning. Javier pitched 5.2 innings, struck out 8 while allowing just 2 hits and one walk. His only earned run was off a smoked shot by Corey Seager, the hottest hitter in baseball. Javier's four-pitch repertoire keeps hitters on their toes and has allowed him to accumulate ridiculous strikeout numbers throughout the minors. He often sits just above 30% in strikeout rate for a season but has touched 40% in others. The stuff is nasty and was in full effect this week.

Javier looked poised and in control throughout the entire start. This is not the typical version of Javier that has been displayed in the minors. His walk rate sits between 10 and 13%. Javier's command is absolutely his biggest knock and could force him into the bullpen down the line. For now, the Astros need all of the help they can get after losing Justin Verlander and will keep trotting Javier out there until he gives them a reason not to.

Javier will presumably stay in the rotation over the next few weeks and his schedule looks like this:

@ ARZ
vs SF
vs SEA
@ SD
vs LAA

It really does not get much better than this for a RHP. Javier has a chance to turn heads over the next month if he can stick in the rotation.



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