Three lessons learned

Major League baseball teams have played almost 100 games in 2022. Suffice it to say that guiding your team through a 162-game schedule is a challenge. So, as fantasy managers take a break from the daily grind of working the waiver wire and setting their lineups, they should also take stock. What have we learned from the first 15 weeks? Here are three lessons I will share: 

LESSON 1: SHOW PATIENCE WITH SLUMPING STARS

Patience is a virtue. With 162 games in a season, there is a lot of time for players to streak hot or cold and still end up being exactly the players they were projected to be. Marcus Semien is a great example. I traded for him back in May when he was hitting below the Mendoza line. I traded Jesus Luzardo for him four days before the latter pitched his last game in the majors.

Juan Soto, Bo Bichette, Yordan Alvarez, Teoscar Henandez, Whit Merrified and Trevor Story were other players being drafted in the first three round in NFBC drafts last spring that got off to slow starts. I actually was able to pick up Merrified and Story off of waivers in a shallow, 10-team league. Both of them have rebounded, although Story is currently on the injured list.

In that same shallow, 10-team league, I picked up Kyle Schwarber off the waiver wire back on April 27th. Schwarber is only hitting .208 at the break, but he has 29 home runs – second in the league behind Aaron Judge. His slugging percentage is above .500, and I fully expect for him to regress back to his career batting average of .233, which I can live with.

Can a stud player suddenly go cold and drop off the map, never returning value? The answer, of course, is yes. But most of the time, the players you drafted in early rounds will bounce back to their mean after a slow start. This is positive regression, and I have used this statistical reality to make a lot of good trades through the years. I encourage you to do the same. 

LESSON 2: ROOKIES WON’T RESCUE YOUR SEASON

I’m not including Bobby Witt and Julio Rodriguez because you had to draft them in one of the middle rounds to roster them. The No. 1 and No. 2 rookies have had an immediate effect in fantasy baseball, although Witt got off to a very slow start. But consider some of the other top rookies that were drafted later, or picked up with a significant outlay of FAAB.    

Adley Rutschman was billed as a perfect catcher prototype, without blemish or flaw. He may yet be a huge Dynasty asset, but not in redraft leagues. Another catcher, M.J. Melendez of the Royals, has also been a bust. First baseman Spencer Torkelson was demoted by the Tigers on Sunday. The Tigers! C.J. Abrams just got dropped in my 15-team TGFBI league.

What about pitchers? It’s more of the same story. Consider Tampa Bay’s Shane Baz, the No. 1 pitching prospect on most lists. He just went on the 60-day injured list, but he wasn’t that great when he was playing, compiling a 1-2 record, with a 5.00 ERA and 1.33 WHIP. You’re not dropping Baz in Dynasty, but you’ve cut him by now in your redraft league.

Baz is not the only rookie pitcher to disappoint. There’s Seattle’s George Kirby, who went for more than $300 of FAAB in my TGFBI and was demoted. Rumor has it that he will be called up again soon. How about MacKenzie Gore, who was also a FAAB darling in April. He is no longer in the starting rotation for San Diego and is not pitching out of the bullpen.

I could go on with more rookies that have disappointed. And it’s not just a 2022  phenomenon. How about Jarred Kelenic, the No. 1 prospect from 2021, who has been up and down the baseball escalator for the past two seasons. Kelenic sure can hit that minor league pitching, but he’s shown no ability to climb above the Mendoza Line in the majors.

LESSON 3: DRAFTING CLOSERS EARLY IS A FOOL’S ERRAND

Josh Hader and Liam Hendriks were drafted early in the third round of my TGFBI league. Hendricks has 18 saves and is tied for ninth with Greg Soto. Hader leads the league with 27 but has a 4.50 ERA. That’s the same ERA that Raisel Iglesias is sporting at the break. Iglesias was the third relief pitcher off the board in most drafts, and his NFBC ADP was 52.

If you drafted one of those relief pitchers, you don’t read my columns – or you disagree with my philosophy on not paying up for saves. Still, if you had waited until the 15th round in your 12-team league, you could have landed Taylor Rogers. He’s No. 2 on the saves list right now, just one behind Hader. Of course, you had a little luck there, too.

Speaking of luck, you might have considered it lucky if you had drafted Daniel Bard at the end of your draft. Those who didn’t draft Bard, could have probably gotten him off the waiver wire early in the season. Pitching in the unfriendly confines of Coors Field, Bard has 20 saves, an ERA of 2.02 and 1.01 WHIP. Who saw that one coming? Not me.

What I did do is pick up Paul Sewald with a small outlay of FAAB in my TGFBI league. I also picked up Ryan Helsley, Jorge Lopez, Scott Barlow, Dave Robertson and Tanner Scott for little, or no FAAB, in two other leagues. All of them have double-digit saves – more than Giovanny Gallegos. At the risk of repeating myself, the lesson is don’t draft closers early.  

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about baseball and football for CreativeSports. You can follow Thomas on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

TGFBI diary, part 2

Two months ago, I wrote my first installment chronicling my experience in The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational, beginning with my first ever draft on February 28th. This was in diary form, and it involved more than just sharing my strategy, lineup and waiver-wire moves. I’ve also written about my thoughts and feelings as the season has unfolded. It was full of raw emotion.

In the last two months, there has been more raw emotion as I’ve ridden the emotional rollercoaster, while competing against 464 of the best fantasy baseball managers in the world. Like any rollercoaster ride, there are plenty of ups and downs. But suffice it to say that the arrow is pointing up since my last update. Here’s The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational Diary, Part 2.

MAY 17, 2022

I’ve got a man crush on Sandy Alcantara. The dude is a stud. I’m do glad I drafted him instead of Aaron Nola. There’s always a lot of love for Nola, but Alcantara is the most underrated pitcher in baseball. Eight innings, three hits allowed, one earned run, one walk, five strikeouts and the win. I’ve moved up to 328th overall. That’s an improvement over 423rd just twelve days ago.

MAY 19, 2022

Just when things were looking up for Doubting Thomas comes the news that Max Scherzer may be headed for the IL. This comes one day after he picked up his fifth win. Mad Max removed himself from the game in the sixth inning, complaining of left side discomfort. “Discomfort” doesn’t sound awful, but pardon me for being pessimistic. Scherzer is no spring chicken at 37.

MAY 20, 2022

There’s a reason why they call me Doubting Thomas. No matter how good things are going, I am always waiting for the other shoe to fall. It fell this morning when I learned that Scherzer is headed for the IL with an oblique strain. Is it a mild strain? Oh, no. Scherzer is going to be out for 6-8 weeks. What a gut punch just as I was starting to turn things around with my pitching.

MAY 23, 2022

I cashed in on three FAAB bids last night, and this may prove to be my most lucrative haul so far this season. I picked up utility player Brendan Donovan ($52), Pitcher Jeffrey Springs ($44) and A’s outfielder Seth Brown ($7). Donovan is going to hit for a high average in a good Cardinals lineup and play all over the field. Springs has a rotation spot with an excellent Rays team.

MAY 26, 2022

No pitching, no problem! My hitters just keep on crushing it. Rafael Devers, Jared Walsh and Tyler Naquin all went yard Tuesday. Yesterday, it was Dansby Swanson and Seth Brown. I told you that guy was going to pay off. Charlie Morton had another miserable night but Spencer Strider came in to relieve Morton, pitching 2.2 hitless, scoreless innings to get the win. I’ll take it.

MAY 28, 2022

When I completed my draft three months ago, pitching was supposed to be my strength. I have only 21 total pitching points in my TGFBI league. It’s pretty damn hard to compete with that kind of production.

At least, my hitters are still producing, with Jared Walsh hitting his 10th home run of the year last night. Rafael Devers, meanwhile, is batting .342 and could be the AL MVP.

MAY 31, 2022

Nineteen! That’s how many pitching points my team has in a 15-team league out of a possible 75. The latest disaster was Spencer Strider’s first start at Arizona. I felt so good about him when he was pitching in long relief, and I guessed he would be even better as a starter. This was the easy game, and now Strider gets pitches at Coors Field Saturday. My team has slipped to 301st overall.

JUNE 17, 2022

I’m back from a two-week vacation, and a change of scenery was all I needed. My team has gone from 301st to 175th overall. It’s not as though I didn’t touch the team, still doing my FAAB bids and setting my lineup twice a week under the disapproving eye of my wife. I was right about Donovan, picked up four weeks ago. He’s hitting .341 and is now eligible in the outfield which is huge.

JUNE 18, 2022

Uncle Charlie, welcome back! Morton pitched seven shutout innings yesterday against Chicago, striking out nine. He gave up only three hits and no walks. The nine strikeouts came six days after he struck out 12. His ERA is still 5.08 and his WHIP 1.37, P he’s moving in the right direction. Several weeks ago, I made some moves to focus on repairing my terrible ERA and WHIP. It’s working.

JUNE 20, 2022

I have not managed my $1,000 FAAB money well and risk running out before the season is half over. Like real life, when you’re short on money, you tighten your belt and spend less. I picked up relief pitcher Brad Hand and starting pitcher Matthew Liberatore for a total FAAB outlay of $8. Call me Thrifty Thomas. I now have 40.5 pitching points. That’s double what I had three weeks ago.    

JUNE 21, 2022

Jose Berrios is killing me softly. He gave up six earned runs and nine hits last night and gets the lion’s share of the blame for dropping my team from 189 to 221 overall. The three quality starts in a row lured me into taking him off the bench against the White Sox. And more bad news with the announcement that Manuel Margot is lost perhaps for the season with a knee injury. I can’t buy a break.

 JUNE 24, 2022

The pitching disease has spread to my bullpen. Normally reliable Ryan Pressly gave up four runs on three hits and two walks, lasting only one-third of an inning in a blown save that reverberated from Yankee Stadium to Texas. Pressly has not been that good, and it would be just my luck if Dusty decides to turn closing duties over to Rafael Montero, 3-0, four saves, 1.88 ERA and 1.01 WHIP.

JUNE 26, 2022

Sunday, bloody Sunday. The blood is mine after another abysmal start by none other than Jose “Batting Practice” Berrios. I had elected to start him last Monday, and he was locked in my lineup for two starts against the White Sox on Tuesday and Milwaukee today. I really should have known better. Berrios has an ERA of about 20 in the United States this year, and both of these games were on the road.

JULY 2, 2022

I’ve been chasing saves all season long, and I may have caught a break with the addition of Lou Trivino last Sunday. I picked him up with $3 of FAAB and he earned a save last night with a clean inning in Seattle. The poor guy still has an ERA above 7.00, but the A’s are so bad that he’s their best closer option since Dany Jimenez went on the IL. Brad Hand also got a save last night against St. Louis.

JULY 6, 2022

I’m mad about Max. Scherzer, that is. He’s back, baby. Off the IL after seven long weeks, pitching like a madman last night in Cincinnati. Six innings, two hits allowed, no runs, no walks. And eleven strikeouts. Fifteen swinging strikes in only 79 pitches. The Mets ace should be suing for nonsupport because his teammates got him no runs, losing to the hapless Reds 1-0. No worries! Max is back.

JULY 9, 2022

“I’m on the top of the world lookin’ down on creation. And the only explanation I can find. Is the love that I’ve found, ever since my pitching came around. Fantasy pitchers put me on the top of the world.” I’ve got Karen Carpenter’s voice in my head, and why not? Today, I find woke up to find myself 113th overall in TGFBI.  Just two months ago, I was 423rd and on the verge of taking my own life.

JULY 10, 2022

Stupid Smeltzer, or is it Stupid Seltzer? After all, I was the one who started this guy against the Rangers last night. The Rangers. That juggernaut that makes opposing pitchers quake on the mound. At least, if you’re name is Smeltzer. Three gopher balls. Kole Calhoun looked like Aaron Judge. Seven earned runs, three walks and an early shower. You needed that shower, Smeltzer, because you stink.  

 Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, also writes about baseball and football for CreativeSports. You can follow Thomas on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

Chasing closers update

I posted a blog two months ago, shortly after the 2022 Major League Baseball got underway, on the subject of relief pitchers and saves. Suffice it to say, that a lot has happened in the past three months, but my philosophy on closers hasn’t changed. I won’t pay up for them because saves are only one of ten categories in a 5×5 rotisserie leagues, and you shouldn’t put too much emphasis on it.

It’s easy to spot an amateur in your fantasy baseball league. He or she is the manager who eagerly adds relief pitchers, hoping for more saves, while neglecting the starting pitcher rotation. This is the same manager who drafted Josh Hader, or Liam Hendriks, in the second or third round. Every year, I watch managers squander early round picks for a player who is going to get his or her team one stat – a save.

A second or third round pick should be used on a starting pitcher who will contribute to your team in four categories, or a position player who will help in four or five. I selected Max Scherzer and Sandy Alcantara with those picks in The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational. I have no regrets. Alcantara is on pace to win the NL Cy Young, and Scherzer was off to a fine start before he went on the injury list.

This doesn’t mean that I punt the saves category. I am currently tied for seventh in my 15-team TGFBI league with 31 saves. That’s the middle of the pack. In the past ten days, I have picked up eight of those saves with four rostered relief pitchers – and only one of them was drafted by yours truly. Ryan Pressly was taken in the fourth round of my draft, and he has 18 or those 31 saves in spite of missing some time on the IL.

I picked up Paul Sewald back on May 8th for a $10 FAAB outlay. That’s $10 of my $1,000 FAAB money, or 1%. Sewald leads the Marines with nine saves. The other two relief pitchers were picked up recently – Brad Hand on June 19th and Lou Trivino on June 26th. Hand and Trivino have just a handful of saves. Sewald picked up two saves last week, and Hand secured a save last night in St. Louis.

If you need to add a closer, I would recommend Sewald, Hand and Trivino in that order. Sewald seems to have a hold on the closer job in Seattle. Trivino picked up the last three saves for Oakland with Dany Jimenez on the IL. Many analysts think Seranthony Dominguez and Hand will share the closer job in Philadelphia now that Corey Knebel is out. But Hand has 130 career saves and Dominguez has 18.

The good news is that all three of these relief pitchers are available in more than half of Yahoo and ESPN leagues. Sewald and Hand have excellent ratios, which is extremely important to me and should be to you. The last thing in the world a manager needs is a relief pitcher destroying his ratios – even if he does pick up some saves. If my math is correct, ERA and WHIP represent twice as many categories as saves.

In addition to this trio, there are others to consider. No one has more talent than Ryan Helsley. I added him to a public league team in May, and the 27-year-old fireballer has nine scoreless appearances in his last 10 trips to the mound for the Cardinals, picking up five saves and two wins while also striking out 22 in that span. Giovanny Gallegos was believed to have a lock on the closer job, but not anymore.

My TGFBI team is not the only one where I am chasing saves. I was in 11th place in that category on the above-mentioned public league team until I added Helsley, Jorge Lopez and Tanner Scott. Now, I’m in fourth place in that category. Lopez’s rostership percentage grew last month as he had continued to earn saves for Baltimore, while compiling a 0.73 ERA. However, you should check your waiver wire.

When Scott’s ERA ballooned to 6.14 on April 24th, no one expected him to ever be in the discussion for the closing job in Miami. But Scott had 12 scoreless efforts in 13 appearances in June, with only one blip, while picking up eight saves. He got another save last night and is closing for a team who’s climbed back into the Wild Card race in the National League. And Scott is available in more than half of Yahoo and ESPN leagues.   

Will Smith has notched three saves for Atlanta while Kenley Jansen has been on the IL, and he’s widely available in most leagues. However, I don’t have Smith or A.J. Minter rostered on any fantasy team. Other managers have been rushing out to add one, or both of them but not me. Why? Because I think Kenley Jansen will be back in less than a week, pushing both to a supporting role in the Braves bullpen.

Let me add a caveat. I’m a fantasy baseball writer, not a doctor. If I’m wrong about Jansen, Smith is available in more than half of Yahoo and ESPN leagues, and Minter is even more widely available. If one of them ends up closing exclusively for the defending world champions, that’s a good pickup. If you still want more ideas on chasing saves, here are three more players available in more than half of leagues.

JHOAN DURAN, TWINS (49% YAHOO, 21% ESPN)

Emilio Pagan has almost twice as many saves as Duran, but anyone who follows baseball know that the latter is the better arm. I added Duran to one of my public league teams this week, expecting him to get more saves in the second half. One of Minnesota’s top pitching prospects, he relies on a power sinker and a fastball that has touched triple digits on the radar gun. That fits the bill for a top-notch closer.

TANNER RAINEY, NATIONALS (47% YAHOO, 15% ESPN)

Save opportunities are few and far between in the nation’s capital, but Rainey gets them when they roll around. He’s notched 12 so far, and had a 2.88 ERA.32 WHIP and 30:11 K:BB over 25 innings while going 11-for-14 in save chances through the end of June. Rainey became the closer for the Nationals late last year Kyle Finnegan struggling down the stretch, and he’s likely to maintain that role through the season.

JASON ADAM, RAYS (22% YAHOO, 5% ESPN)

I know, I know. You don’t chase saves in the Tampa Bay bullpen, but this 30-year-old righty should be on your radar in deeper leagues. Adam was non-tendered by the Cubs after posting a 5.91 ERA last season, but the Rays offered him a contract. Know that this guy misses bats, as he owns a 37.0 % strikeout rate in 24.1 innings across the last two seasons. He only has three saves so far, but that will change.

 Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about baseball and football for CreativeSports. You can follow Thomas on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

Here’s the pitch

I was having a good day on Sunday until I received a live scoring update on my TGFBI team and saw that Jose Berrios had given up a season high eight earned runs to the Milwaukee Brewers before being pulled in the third inning. He has given up five home runs in his last two starts and struck out only two as his ERA soared to 5.86 and his WHIP 1.39. He has only 64 strikeouts over 78.1 innings.

Wasn’t it just three months ago that I had felt so good about my pitching staff on this team? After all, I had drafted Max Scherzer, Sandy Alcantara, Berrios and Charlie Morton to anchor my pitching staff. Only one out of four has met my expectations. Morton got off to a miserable start, only recently starting to show signs of life, and Scherzer has been out with an oblique injury since May 18th.

It’s not a stretch to believe that some readers are enduring similar struggles with starting pitchers. You may have drafted Lucas Giolito with a second- or third round pick. He had his first decent start in more than three weeks on Monday, having allowed 30 runs (27 earned) over his previous 25.2 innings. There are some advanced stats, including a .360 BABIP, that suggest he’s had some bad luck, too.   

There are other starting pitchers that were drafted in the early rounds that have also been more than a little disappointing. Lance Lynn, Trevor Rogers, Blake Snell and Jack Flaherty were all top 50 pitchers according to NFBC ADP. None of them have returned any value. You shouldn’t be dropping any of them, but you’re probably leaving them on your bench unless you’re a glutton for punishment.

As we near the midpoint of the season, you may need help. There’s always a chance you can trade for someone, but trading for an impact arm will cost you a pretty penny. What about the waiver wire? If you play in a shallow league, there’s probably a number of good options. If you play in a deep league like TGFBI (15 teams in each league), it’s going to be more difficult. But it’s not impossible.

I was able to pick up Spencer Strider for a song in mid-April on that team when he was still pitching in long relief for the Braves. He was already missing a lot of bats, and I speculated that the Braves would move him into the starting rotation. Did you happen to catch him pitching on national television against the Dodgers on Sunday night? He might still be available in your league. Check right now.

More than a month after I acquired Strider, I picked up Jeffrey Springs. He had also been in the Rays bullpen (are you seeing a theme here?) but had moved into the starting rotation by that time. Springs has a 3-2 record, with a 2.25 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. He also misses some bats, striking out a season-high nine batters in his last start. Like Strider, he might be available in some shallow leagues.  

Here are some starting pitchers that are available in at least 50 percent of Yahoo and ESPN leagues:

KEEGAN THOMPSON (SP, CUBS, 50%/44%)

Thompson started out the season in long relief for the Cubs, and he’s aging like a fine wine. If you were streaming Thompson earlier this month, you suffered through two dismal starts. But in his last two starts, he’s given up a total of six hits and one earned run while striking out 16 over 12 innings. The right-hander has been effective overall this season (7-2, 3.10 ERA, 1.15 WHIP).

ROSS STRIPLING (SP, BLUE JAYS, 38%18.7%)

Stripling also emerged from the bullpen to pitch well as a member of the Blue Jays rotation, logging a 2.81 ERA before Tuesday night’s game. The good news is that he plays for a team who will provide run support. The bad news is that he pitches in the AL East against teams like the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays. Stripling doesn’t miss many bats, but he has an ERA close to 3.00 and a WHIP close to 1.00.

TYLER WELLS, SP, ORIOLES, 26%/22%)

Here’s another pitcher who was plucked from the bullpen. At the beginning of the season, he was expected to pick up where he left off last year as the Orioles closer. Instead, he joined the starting rotation. He’s won each of his past five decisions, registering a 1.97 ERA and 0.88 WHIP. As a flyball pitcher, he’s surely benefitted from them pushing the wall back in Camden Yards.

DEVIN SMELTZER (SP, TWINS, 17%/14.4%)

I was attracted to Smeltzer because of his name and picked him up for my TGFBI team shortly after he was promoted from Triple-A St. Paul on May 25th. He has earned a permanent spot in the Twins rotation. With a funky delivery, he has a quality slider and curveball that can offset unimpressive fastball velocity. He’s similar in some ways to Stripling, with an ERA and WHIP in the that range.  

JUSTIN STEELE (SP, CUBS, 6%/3.8%)

For the deeper leagues, take a look at Steele. His 4.39 ERA and 1.48 WHIP may not impress you but know that he plays in the weak NL Central division and is continuing to improve, while missing a lot of bats.  The 23.8 K% last year was promising for a rookie, but the 10.9 BB% along with a 1.9 HR/9 offset the gains from his strikeouts. He has improved on those stats and is a diamond in the rough.

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about baseball and football for CreativeSports. You can also follow Thomas on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

New talent, new blood

With the major league baseball season nearing the halfway point, many fantasy baseball managers are feeling discouraged as they fall in the standings. You may be one of them. What you need right now is an injection of new talent. If you find yourself in that boat, consider three rookies who have been called up in the last few days. All three are rostered in fewer than half of fantasy leagues. 

One caveat here about this threesome of talented young players is that two of them have already seen time in the majors before their most recent call-up. Riley Greene, the highest-ranked prospect of the trio, offers both power and speed. The Detroit outfielder made his major league debut on Saturday, going 2-for-3 with a pair of runs scored. On Sunday, he went 0-for-2 but walked twice. 

In an earlier column I wrote about drafting Oneil Cruz in The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational. Then he got off to a slow start in Triple-A this year, and it looked like he wouldn’t be called up anytime soon by Pittsburgh. He was barely hitting .200 in May and was also injured, so I dropped him because I needed the space on my bench for all of my injured players (there are no IL spots in TGFBI). Then things changed quickly.

Cruz slashed .279/.379/.527, with eight home runs and four steals in his last 34 games before being called up Monday by the Pirates. The 23-year-old shortstop electrified the fantasy baseball world with a strong run at Double-A last season, followed with six games at Triple-A and two games with the Pirates. He hit .466, with six home runs in those eight games in Triple-A and the majors and people took notice.

The third player, Alex Kirilloff had already gotten 244 at-bats in the majors between this year and last before he was recalled by the Twins on Friday. He was hitting below the Mendoza line when he was sent down last month, but he hit nine long balls and had 25 RBI at Triple-A. He’s gone 2-for-10 since he rejoined the Twins lineup. In spite some skepticism, I picked him up in my TGFBI league.  

There’s also C.J. Abrams, who hasn’t actually arrived yet but is reportedly on his way. The 21-year-old shortstop looked like a deer in the headlights in 55 at-bats earlier this year but got hot at Triple-A. He was pulled from the lineup at Triple-A El Paso on Sunday and could be joining the Padres soon depending on the severity of Manny Machado’s ankle injury. Stay tuned on that one. 

The four above-mentioned players aren’t the only ones out there. Before I go on, let me take a moment to brag. Playing in a 15-team league, I have been scrambling for more than a month to find players on the waiver wire to help my team. Here are the three players I picked up with a modest expenditure of FAAB money on May 22nd – Jeffrey Springs, Brendan Donovan and Seth Brown.

Springs was another one of those Tampa Bay project pitchers. He was DFA’d by the Red Sox last February after a poor 2020, but the Rays traded for the left-handed reliever. After numerous appearances from the bullpen, he earned the trust of Kevin Cash. He started in the pen again in 2022 but was moved into the starting rotation last month and has flourished. 

Springs has three effective pitchers which has resulted in three wins and an impressive 1.45 ERA. He also has a 0.91 WHIP and 50 strikeouts. The biggest improvement was in his changeup, which he now throws 36.6% of the time. Statcast has graded it as a top-20 overall pitch in terms of run value, giving him a three-pitch selection that he is locating better than he ever has during his pro career.

The Rays hurler is now rostered in 72 percent of Yahoo leagues and 58 percent of ESPN leagues. If he’s still out there, grab him immediately and don’t forget to thank me. If he’s rostered by someone else in your league, offer a trade. You could trade a player like Charlie Blackmon or Trent Grisham for him – especially if you play in a league with five starting outfielder positions to fill.  

Speaking of outfielders, I love Donovan. The versatile Cardinals rookie has made an impact with his bat, but he’s also eligible at two infield positions. Hitting near the top of a St. Louis lineup that includes Tommy Edman, Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado and fellow rookie Nolan Gorman, Donovan has gone 14-for-25 (.560) in his last six games, with seven runs and seven RBI.

This is the kind of production that has forced manager Oli Marmol to find a place for Donovan in the lineup. The 25-year-old has a .338/.447/.466 slash line with one home run, two steals, 20 RBI, 22 runs and 13 doubles in 159 plate appearances. With a roster percentage at 52 percent in Yahoo leagues and 33 percent in ESPN leagues, you might be able to jump on the Donovan train today.

I wrote a column on Donovan and the other Cardinals rookies on May 24th, but I want to circle back on Juan Yepez. Yepez, eligible in both the outfield and at least one infield position, got the one thing he desperately needed Monday when Tyler O’Neill went on the IL – a clear path to playing time He’s slashing .285/.340/.477, with six home runs, 18 runs scored and 16 RBI in just 130 at bats.

If you play in a deeper league, consider adding Seth Brown. He’s rostered in only 5 percent of Yahoo and ESPN leagues. A poor man’s Joey Gallo, Brown is also eligible in the outfield and at first base in most leagues, and is on pace to hit 25 home runs for Oakland.   Brown, 29, was finally given an extended look at the big-league level in 2021, hitting 20 bombs in only 307 plate appearances.

Outside of going deep at a solid 14.1 AB/HR clip, the 29-year-old’s output has been underwhelming. He’s struck out 29% of the time while posting a disappointing 7.5% walk rate on route to slashing .202/.269/.404. There are some reasons to be optimistic about his offensive upside, however. His .230 BABIP in 2021 is a case for positive regression in his batting average.  

On the subject of deeper leagues, I picked up Cubs lefthander Justin Steele two weeks ago on my TGFBI team for $1 of FAAB. Steele, 26, made his major-league debut in 2021 as a reliever. His 23.8 K% was promising for a rookie, but the 10.9 BB% was troubling. Since he had worked as a starter throughout his minor-league career, it wasn’t a shock when he was moved into the starting rotation.

Steele became a popular streamer after striking out 19 batters in two consecutive starts against Arizona, but he quickly fell from grace in a nightmare outing at Cincinnati on May 26th. Since that time, he’s been much better, even picking up his second win of the season Saturday at home against the Braves. He’s widely available in every league and has a juicy matchup at Pittsburgh on Thursday.

Another widely available player that I’m happy to have added with a low FAAB expenditure was rookie catcher Gabriel Moreno. The 22-year-old backstop was one of the top breakout prospects in the minors in 2021, and it was no surprise when he was called up by Toronto recently. In his first five games, the Blue Jays rookie has hit .421. He hasn’t shown much power yet, but it’s early.

Toronto has indicated that Moreno is their catcher of the future, and he could continue to get playing time – even when Danny Jansen returns from the IL. It was supposed to be Jansen and Alejandro Kirk behind the plate this year before Jansen got injured and Moreno got the call. Moreno has also played the infield in the minors, and it’s possible he could get some playing time there.

I don’t talk as much about Statcast metrics as much as other fantasy writers because I am also looking at other factors like team context, playing time and track record. However, this tool developed to analyze and predict player is useful in finding players who have been unlucky and could be worth adding from the waiver wire. One such player for me was Patrick Wisdom of the Cubs.

Wisdom, 29 got a chance to show what he could do last season and there was a propensity to hit home runs and strike out. When he makes contact, he has the traits to generate home runs. He hits the ball in the air (31.4 GB%) and hits the ball hard (92nd percentile maxEV). He has 12 home runs so far in 2022, and statcast data indicates he deserves more. He’s available in about 50 percent of leagues.  

In the list below, I’ve identified three first basemen who have been unlucky, according to Statcast metrics. While there are many statistics to consider, hitting the ball hard is a near the top of my list. All of these players on this list are hitting the ball hard and experiencing outcomes that are worse than expected. And all of them are available in more than half of fantasy leagues.

ROWDY TELLEZ, 1B, MILWAUKEE

Tellez’s roster percentage dropped below 50 percent in both Yahoo and ESPN leagues since he’s been struggling through a power outage, going almost three weeks without a home run. He does have 33.8% career chase rate. Still, Tellez for the season has an 88th percentile barrel rate and a 72nd percentile hard-hit rate. He hits in the middle of the order for the Brewers in a great hitter’s park.

CHRISTIAN WALKER, 1B, DIAMONDBACKS

Walker homered twice on Sunday and has 18 for the season. But he’s rostered in less than 40 percent of Yahoo and ESPN leagues. Okay, the .201 average is a drag, but Walker ranks third in batting-average bad luck — Statcast suggests he should be batting .278. And while a .469 slugging percentage is no embarrassment, the expected number shoots up to .621.

CHRISTIAN BETHANCOURT, C/1B, ATHLETICS

Athletics first baseman Christian Bethancourt got off to a slow start this season after four years away from the majors, but he has emerged as a top power hitter in recent weeks. His exit velocity has always put him in the top 20 percent of big-league hitters, but a swing adjustment in late May enabled his exit velocities to surge to an elite level. He’s also eligible at catcher.

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about baseball and football. You can follow Thomas on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

Perks of being a homer

Most fantasy managers playing the game are baseball fans, and everyone has a favorite team. If you read my bio, you know I’ve been a St. Louis Cardinals fan since 1964. Most of the time, I’m careful to separate my love/hate relationship with the Cardinals from my preferences in fantasy. The reason is because it is difficult to keep my emotions out of my player analysis.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t draft Cardinals players, or add some from the waiver wire. It only means that I try to look at the players objectively in comparing them to players on other teams. Recently, however, I had an epiphany. Since I follow the Cardinals more closely, I will have some insights other fantasy managers might not have. Why not use this to my advantage?

The recent catalyst to put this epiphany into practice occurred this month when the Cardinals management did something uncharacteristic. They started calling up young players, and the callups came early and often. Four players in four weeks. Excitement stirred in Cardinal Nation, and it reached a fever pitch when top prospect Nolan Gorman was promoted last Friday.

Gorman, one of the best pure power hitters to be called up all season, was no secret to the fantasy community. He went for $278 in my TGFBI League. My bid of $111 wasn’t even close. I did manage to grab Gorman off of the waiver wire in one of my public leagues, and he’s off to a fantastic start. He’s gone 5-for-10, with a .500/.583/.700 slash line. He’s only struck out once.

The first thing you should do is open up a new tab and go to each league you play in and see if he’s available. Gorman’s rostership is currently 63 percent in Yahoo leagues and only 26.4 percent in ESPN leagues. Add him immediately because he has massive upside based on how he has hit at Triple-A in 2022. Gorman had a sparkling .308 batting average with 15 homers.  

It’s a very small sample size, but I’m encouraged that Gorman has only struck out once in 12 plate appearances. He was striking out at close to a 35% clip in the minors. I expect him to hit 25-30 home runs and drive in 80-85 runs batting in the middle of a Cardinals lineup that includes table-setter Tommy Edman, and All Stars Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. 

But Gorman is not the only Cardinals rookie that could improve your fantasy fortunes. If you can’t get Gorman, consider the case for adding infielder Juan Yepez, who joined the Cardinals on May 4th. He didn’t come to the majors with the same pedigree as Gorman, but he his plate discipline in the minors was better and leads me to believe he’ll hit for a higher average.

Yepez is also off to a great start in his first taste in The Bigs. In 17 games with the Cardinals and 73 plate appearances, he’s slashing .308/.384/.492, with three home runs, 12 runs scored and six RBI. I expect him to hit 20 home runs and score 65-70 runs, while hitting around .275. Yepez’s rostership is currently 50 percent in Yahoo leagues and only 22.2 percent in ESPN leagues.  

I have Yepez on two teams, but I missed out on him two weeks ago when he went for $57 in my TGFBI League. My bid of $52 fell just short, and I’m really kicking myself for underestimating his appeal. I was sure Yepez would slip under the radar – even though he hit 22 long balls and hit.289 with a .589 slugging percentage in 92 games at the Triple-A level in 2021. My bad.

While I couldn’t get Gorman or Yepez, I did finally add a dynamic Cardinals rookie for my TGFBI team on Sunday. And this is where I think my knowledge of the Cardinals paid off. Brendan Donovan, who was called up before anyone, was a seventh-round pick in the 2018 draft and really came out of nowhere. Most people don’t think he’ll stay up, but I disagree.

Donovan, a third baseman, didn’t appear to have a road to playing time unless Arenado was injured. But I think he’ll become a super utility player. He had his first start in the outfield over the weekend. He’s already slashed .319/.467/.489, with one home run, 10 runs and seven RBI, in 47 at bats. If you play in an on-base league, note that he has 11 walks in 60 plate appearances. 

One Cardinals rookie that I’m passing on – at least for now – is pitcher Matthew Liberatore. He was called up and started Saturday night’s game in Pittsburgh, allowing four earned runs on seven hits, while walking two batters and striking out three in 4 2/3 innings of work. If he had stuck around to retire one more batter, he could have gotten a win in his first major league start.

Liberatore, who was called up because of a doubleheader being scheduled last week, was sent back down after the game but then recalled Monday from Triple-A Memphis after Steven Matz landed on the IL. Frankly, it wouldn’t take much for Liberatore to be better than Matz, who signed a four-year, 44 million deal with the Cardinals a week before the MLB lockout.

Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

TGFBI diary, part 1

More than three months ago, I wrote about my excitement as I prepared for The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational. This was my first opportunity to compete in a major fantasy baseball tournament against the best managers in the game. These are pros, like Todd Zola, who make have made their living and carved out a prominent place in this world of players and statistics.

If I had to choose one word to describe my experience so far, the word would be humbling. Entering TGFBI with quiet confidence, I completed the draft and was awarded the highest grade in my league (A+). Based on the draft, I was projected to win my 15-team league and finish 97th overall in the field of 465. But things have changed quickly since the draft was completed.  

Since that time, I have been keeping a diary of my experience, beginning with the draft on February 28th. I’ve recorded more than just my strategy and moves. I’ve also written about my thoughts and feelings as the season has unfolded. With the season nearing the three-quarter pole (three quarters left), it’s time now to share some of my diary entries full of my raw emotions.

MARCH 8, 2022

I made my final pick today in the draft, and my roster is complete. Overall, I think I have a good team. My starting pitching appears to be my strength, while speed is a weakness. By design, my outfield is weak because something had to be weak and I waited late to take my first outfielder. In the coming days, I will do a deep dive and make projections in each of the 10 roto categories.

MARCH 11, 2022

I’m pumped! The baseball lockout ended late yesterday, and the regular season will start on April 7th. Let’s play ball!  Spring training will start on March 17th. The first FAAB bidding will occur on April 3rd (four days before the season starts). I am already in need of a replacement player as Cubs relief pitcher Codi Heuer was injured and will is expected to miss the season.

APRIL 1, 2022

Oh, snap! It’s being reported that the Dodgers and White Sox have agreed to a trade that sends closer Craig Kimbrel to Los Angeles. I really thought I had a steal, drafting Blake Treinen in the middle rounds of the draft a month ago. Now, it looks like Treinen is in the same boat as Will Smith. Pity me and the poor guy who drafted Smith for overpaying for a couple of setup guys.  

APRIL 11, 2022

The first (short) weak of the season is in the books, and my team is off to a decent start. I have 90 total points and am 7th in my league and 135th overall. The hitting has been better than the pitching. Tyler Stephenson hit a home run yesterday to top off a 3-for-10 week, with 4 RBI. Ace Max Scherzer got a win but Jose Berrios lasted only 1/3 of an inning, giving up four runs.  

APRIL 12, 2022

My euphoria was fleeting. The bottom just fell out for me as I fell from 135 overall to 279th overall in just one day. My hitters only went 4 for 24 (.166) in the first week, and Adrian Houser’s crappy start didn’t help things. I really wondering if I should be rolling out these subpar starting pitchers so that they can destroy my ratios. Maybe, I need to focus on relief pitchers.

APRIL 15, 2022

What’s up with the love fest everyone had for Charlie Morton? After a less-than-inspiring start against the Reds (the worst team in baseball), he lays an egg in San Diego. He gives up nine hits, five earned runs and three walks across five innings last night. I’m beginning to think that I only have a couple of reliable starting pitchers, and my ERA and WHIP are heading for double digits.

APRIL 17, 2022

The giant shadow of Edward Aloysius Murphy Jr. (Murphy’s Loaw) is hanging over my TGFBI team. Ryan Pressly, my only good closer, got injured yesterday and was put on the 10-day IL today. With Blake Treinen now a setup man in Los Angeles and Lou Trivino sitting on the bench in Oakland, I’ve got two chances to pick up another save anytime soon – slim and none.

APRIL 18, 2022

The third FAAB run occurred last night, and I failed to land the crown jewel – MacKenzie Gore. I put in a $50 bid and he went for $253! The second-place bid was $175. Gore made his first appearance with the Padres on Friday night, and he wasn’t that great (in my opinion). Two earned runs allowed on three hits, two walks and only three strikeouts. I really don’t get it.

APRIL 19, 2022

My TGFBI team is falling apart. Injuries and COVID has hit hard. Tyler Naquin was scratched yesterday and is on the COVID list. Jose Altuve was injured Monday and is DTD. Blake Treinen has an arm injury and is also DTD. All of this happened on Monday after lineup lock. I won’t be able to move them to the bench until Friday. Not being able to set lineups daily is a real drag.  

APRIL 20, 2022

Things continue to spiral downward. After another awful start this week against the lowly A’s, Hyun Jin Ryu was put on the 10-day IL with forearm inflammation. Drafting him was a big mistake. I was hoping he would bounce back, but he picked up right where he left off in 2021. He has a 13.50 ERA and 1.77 WHIP. There’s no IL spot in this league, so I’m going to drop him. 

APRIL 21, 2022

I can’t believe how fast things change on the scoreboard. Five days ago, I was 149th overall with 85.5 points in TGFBI. Yesterday, I was 286th overall. Today, I’m back up to 164th. All it took was good outings from Sandy Alcantara and Jose Berrios. After giving up a thousand runs in his first start, Berrios went 6.0 IP, giving up only 1 ER and 1 BB in Boston. That’s more like it.

APRIL 24, 2022

It’s time to clean house! I’m dropping Hyun Jin Ryu, Anthony DeSclafani and Blake Treinen, who are all on the IL. The hardest one to let go is DeSclafani, who was good last year but seems to have regressed. His career ERA is 4.00, and only time will tell if he can bounce back, but I’m betting against it. Now, he’s looking at a stint on the IL, and I don’t want to carry him for weeks.  

APRIL 28, 2022

One glance at the standings this morning sent me looking for a bottle of sleeping pills or a rusty razorblade to put myself out of my misery. My team has slipped to 408th overall. My pitching has been awful, and I’m changing my strategy to employ more relief pitchers with strikeout potential – even if they don’t seem likely to be many saves. The main thing is to improve my ratios.

MAY 5, 2022

A week ago, I thought things couldn’t get much worse. I was wrong. This team has turned into a nightmare that I can’t wake up from. Currently I’m 423rd overall, which means that there are only 42 teams in the field that are worse than Doubting Thomas. What a humbling experience to compete in this event. I’ve had my share of bad luck, but there’s no one else to blame but myself.  

MAY 12, 2022

I love fantasy baseball! One week ago, I was in the doldrums, languishing near the bottom of the standings with 47 ½ total points. Today, I’ve gained 21 points in the standings and am currently back to 336th overall. It’s nothing to brag about, but I’m definitely moving in the right direction. My pitching still stinks, but the hitting is now 4th best in my league. Life is worth living again.

MAY 16, 2022

I still don’t understand these astronomical bids on untried pitchers. You’d think George Kirby is the second coming. I bid $257 of FAAB last night and didn’t even finish in the top two bidders. He went for $306, in spite of a lackluster start Saturday night in New York. I did pick up Chase Silseth of the Angels, who pitched six scoreless innings in his MLB debut. Let’s roll, baby!

Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

A new strategy emerges

Thousands of fantasy managers were rushing to add Reid Detmers to their team after the rookie fired the league’s first solo no-hitter of the season Tuesday night, but you might want to tap the brakes. I don’t want to throw too much shade on the accomplishment. After all, there have only been 274 no-hitters recognized by Major League Baseball (MLB) in the modern era.

Let me explain why I wasn’t rushing to the waiver wire to get Detmers after he tossed a no-no in only his 11th career start. Only a walk to Taylor Walls to lead off the sixth inning prevented the 22-year-old southpaw from pitching a perfect game. And there have been only 23 of those gems. But Detmers, who is widely available, had only two strikeouts and 10 swinging strikes.   

Detmers, 2-1 for the upstart Angels, lowered his ERA to 3.77 after the no-no, and he sports a fine 0.84 WHIP. But he only has 20 strikeouts across 31 innings – an unimpressive 5.8 K/9. He also has a Statcast page that reveals plenty of hard contact allowed. This is a player who pitches to contact. On Tuesday night, the contact was mostly weak, but that’s won’t always be the case.

In case you’re still not convinced, also consider that Detmers had a 4.47 xFIP, 1.72 HR/9, 45.1% fly-ball rate, and 32.0% hard-contact rate entering that game. THE BAT, a sabermetrics program that incorporates information like park factors and platoon splits, air density and umpires, projected Detmers to post a 4.76 ERA rest of the season. In short, Detmers has been lucky.

But I want to use two of these statistics as a springboard into what I really want to write about in this column – the 32.0% hard contact and the 45.1% fly-ball rate. Those statistics alone would be enough to get me off of a pitcher on any other year, but maybe not this year. Things are different. Readers, there is something that I have noticed and plan to capitalize on this year.

In last week’s column, I wrote about Marcus Semien and eight other hitters off to a slow start in the 2022 season. Meanwhile, a number of starting pitchers are putting up impressive numbers. You might be only mildly surprised that Michael Kopech of the White Sox leads the league with a 0.93 ERA. But you have to be shocked that Merrill Kelly is No. 3 with a 1.22.  

Kelly, pitching for the Diamondbacks, has a career ERA of 4.00. His ADP at NFBC was 529 before the season started. He wasn’t being drafted in even the deepest leagues. Before you conclude that Kelly is a statistical outlier, consider Miles Mikolas (ADP 400), Paul Blackburn (ADP 560), Brad Keller (ADP 640) and Chad Kuhl (ADP 885) all have ERAs under 2.00.

All of these pitchers have at least five starts and a minimum of 30 innings pitched, except Kuhl. He’s pitched 29.2 innings, and two of his five starts were at Coors Field. Kuhl is 3-0 with a 1.82 ERA and 0.84 WHIP. Kuhl, who has a lifetime ERA of 4.28, was released by the Pirates and was not even expected to secure a rotation spot with Colorado when he signed a one-year deal.

Do you smell what you’re stepping in, fantasy manager? Something may be rotten in Denmark, but something is even more rotten here in Mudville. Consider this scene, repeated too many times already in major league parks around the nation. A slugger lays into a pitch, and the ball jumps off his bat at more than 100 mph. It sails toward the outfield wall and then…is caught.

It’s the ball, dummy. Barrels aren’t what they used to be. Batters are hitting ball after ball and are convinced that they’re gone because the last few seasons have conditioned them to expect a ball hit squarely on the bat will carry over the wall for a home runs. The ball changed after the home-run happy 2019 season, and it’s clear to even the casual observer that it’s changed again.

Home runs are down early in 2022 and not by a tiny little bit either. Teams are averaging 0.90 homers per game, down from 1.22 last year and 1.39 in 2019 – the year MLB shattered a record with 6776 home runs. The previous league record was 6105. I’m not advocating that we return to the “fun ball” of 2019, but the “dead ball” of 2022 is a real drag (pun intended). But I digress. 

It’s unlikely that this column will change the minds of the MLB powers that be. Therefore, the task at hand is to devise a strategy to take advantage of this trend – at least for as long as it continues. I suggest that the savvy manager stream starting pitchers that benefit from this dead-ball environment. But be advised that a new ball could be introduced before the season is over.  

I did want to add a caveat. Be sure to do your homework before you start a streamer because a bad outing can destroy your ratios. One key thing you should look at is matchups. You don’t start a pitcher against the Dodgers or Yankees unless it’s a pitcher you have confidence in. And it’s unlikely you’ll be that much confidence in  confident someone you found on the waiver wire.

There are other considerations, in addition to matchups. How deep is the league you play in? The deeper the league, the lower quality of pitchers you will find. The strategy I am recommending works best in 10-team leagues and works fine in 12-team leagues. In 15-team leagues, I would be more cautious. With that said, here are five that are rostered in less than 50 percent of leagues.

BRAD KELLER, SP, KANSAS CITY

The 26-year-old Keller wasn’t on anyone’s radar screen this season after staggering to a 5.39 ERA in 26 starts in 2021. Lacking overpowering stuff, Keller relies on being a groundball pitcher, and he saw that percentage drop below 50 percent for the first time in his career. Enter the dead ball, and Keller, 1-2, has lowered his ERA to 1.74 and WHIP to 0.84 in 31 innings.

TYLER ANDERSON, SP, LA DODGERS

Another beneficiary of the dead ball, Anderson has been hanging by a thread in major league baseball for years. He has a lifetime ERA of 4.55 and 1.30 WHIP. He had a 4.53 ERA with Pittsburgh and Seattle in 2021, but the Dodgers needed a lefthander and signed him to a one-year contract before the season started. In five starts, he’s 3-0, with a 2.78 ERA and 0.97 WHIP.

JAMESON TAILLON, SP, NY YANKEES

Taillon’s normal 50% groundball rate dropped to 33% last year when he returned to baseball after a two-year absence. This led to a career worst 1.50 HR/9 in his first year with the Yankees. He managed to struggle to an 8-6 record, but his ERA was 4.30 in 144 innings. He had offseason surgery and no one expected him to start the season 2-1, with a 2.84 ERA and 1.14 WHIP.    

JOSH WINDER, SP, MINNESOTA

Get ‘em while they’re hot because Winder is lined up to start Thursday’s game against the Astros. If you think this isn’t an ideal matchup, you’re right. But I’ll have Winder in my starting lineup on at least one team after the Twins’ top prospect beat the Rays and the Athletics in his first two starts. He has a 2-0 record, 1.61 ERA, 0.72 WHIP and 20 strikeouts across 22.1 innings.

BRUCE ZIMMERMANN, SP, BALTIMORE

Okay, swallow hard. I’m recommending a Baltimore pitcher to stream in Saturday’s game at Detroit. Zimmermann is coming off his second win of the year against the Royals and has six starts with a 2.67 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 30 strikeouts across the 30.1 innings. He being stretched out as he tossed a season-high 85 pitches in his last game, and a 2.79 FIP supports his ERA.

Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

Life below Mendoza Line

Mario Mendoza first caught the eye of a Pittsburgh Pirates scout while playing for the Mexico City Red Devils (Diablos Rojos) of the Mexican League in 1970. His defensive prowess, not his bat, prompted the Pirates to offer him a contract. Mendoza, who played for three franchises during his Major League career, batted less than .200 in three of his first four seasons.

As Mondoza’s struggles continued, his teammates began to make fun of him indirectly by warning anyone on the team hitting below .200 that he had strayed below the Mendoza Line. Later, the Mendoza Line terminology caught on in the MLB and became the gold standard for the absolute minimum threshold for competence at the Major League level.

Flash forward to the present and consider the strange case of Marcus Semien. He signed a 7-year, $175 million contract with the Texas Rangers before the lockout last December. No one was overly concerned when Semien went 7 for 34 (.206) in spring training. He was coming off his best season, having swatted 45 home runs, scoring 115 runs and driving in 102. What could go wrong?

Plenty, as evidenced by his struggles in April. As of this writing, Semien is hitting .184, with a slugging percentage of .243. Those kind of numbers make Mendoza look like an All-Star infielder in comparison.   Semien, who has the fifth-worst OPS of any qualified player, is still looking for his first home run. He is the only player with a bottom-10 average who was a top-50 fantasy pick.

Semien had an ADP of 36 in all of the National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) drafts before the season started. Remember that these are the best fantasy players in the world who are competing with their own money on the line in high-stakes events. An ADP of 36 was just too rich for my blood, so I don’t have Semien on any of my teams, but that’s about to change. 

I traded for the 31-year-old Rangers infielder last week in one of my public leagues. While I wasn’t about to pay full price for Semien in March, I’m glad to get him at a discount because I’m a believer in regression – both positive and negative. In simple terms regression means going back to what was done in the past. In other words, I think Semien is going to improve.

But you might wonder who I traded for the struggling slugger. None other than Jesus Luzardo, the Miami pitcher who’s created quite a buzz in fantasy and reality circles. The buzz started back in spring training when Luzardo’s fastball was clocked at 98-99 mph. It’s carried over into the regular season, as is now 2-2, with a 3.08 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 35 strikeouts across 20.1 innings.

I had offered the Semien manager another player when I made an attempt to buy low. But the rival manager countered with Luzardo and I accepted the counter offer. It would be rare for me to turn down an offer where I’m trading a waiver wire pickup early in the season for a proven a top-50 player. The trade could backfire on me if Luzardo has a Cy Young season, but I’ll take my chances.

The 24-year-old Luzardo has already had his share of injuries. He underwent Tommy John surgery before he was drafted, and his 2019 was limited to 12.0 innings. He’s never reached 100 innings in any major league season, and he was 6-9, with a 6.61 ERA and 1.62 WHIP across 25 starts last year. Perhaps, Luzardo really has found lightning in a bottle down in Florida, but I doubt it.

On the other side of the ledger, Semien has hade a slugging percentage above .500 in his last two full seasons. I am fully aware that those were the only two seasons that the infielder slugged above .500 and that he has batted over .265 only once his career. That’s why I felt so strongly that Semien was overvalued in 2022 drafts coming off a career season, but the upside is undeniable.    

Fantasy managers should actively look for someone in their league who is willing to sell low on Semien.  But don’t offer the farm. For those who have Semien rostered, be open to accepting an offer if you can get reasonable value. If someone offers you Teoscar Hernandez, take that offer. The Blue Jays outfielder is on the IL but should return soon. If you can get an ace like Sandy Alcantara, go for it.

In the meantime, Semien managers should consider benching him until he shows signs of life. Don’t drop him in any leagues. Even in the shallowest formats, his upside is simply too great – especially in a year when many hitters are off to disappointing starts. There are eight other players drafted in the top 100 at NFBC that are hiding below the Mendoza Line. There are two other top 50 players.

One of the top 50 players, Whit Merrifield, was dropped in one of the leagues I’m playing in, and I scooped him up off of waivers a couple of weeks ago. Merrifield, who’s only hitting two points above Semien, had an ADP of 30 at NFBC. I would have been willing to pay that price for him but wound up finding better values in my three leagues. I was amazed to get him off of waivers.

I have another claim in for the other top-50 NFBC player who’s hitting below .200. It’s Tyler O’Neill, who was a 5-star stud in 2021. The 27-year-old Cardinals outfielder had 34 home runs, 89 runs scored, 80 RBI and 15 stolen bases last season but is hitting only .171 this year. He only has one home run, but his other counting stats are still decent, with 11 runs, 13 RBI and three stolen bases.

The other six players that were in the NFBC top 100 but are languishing below the Mendoza Line are Jose Altuve, Ketel Marte, Jorge Polanco, Brandon Lowe, Yasmani Grandal and Adalberto Mondesi. The only one of those players I wouldn’t recommend buying low on is Mondesi. He was hitting only .140 when he hit the IL, and he is simply too much of an injury risk to buy at any price.        

Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

It’s a brave new world

Let’s take a break from baseball with the 2022 NFL Draft beginning tonight. When the draft rolls around every April, the pundits tell us how it’s going to unfold. And they’re usually wrong – just like the ones who proudly display their NCAA basketball brackets. Then there all those busted brackets from amateurs like me who took their recommendations.  

In reality, the NFL draft has always been difficult to predict, but this year is it’s even more unpredictable because it will unfold in an unsettled world where more than a dozen established fantasy football studs will start the season on new teams. There is no consensus No. 1 overall player, and there is no star quarterback whom teams will be vying for in the top 10.

The 2022 class is dominated by pass-rushers, offensive tackles and some wide receivers. The latter will be the ones fantasy players will be interested in. Garrett Wilson of Ohio State is expected to be the first wideout off the board. With blazing speed and highlight reels full of full-extension grabs, he could make a difference wherever he lands. Atlanta is a likely destination.

But wait. What if either Green Bay or Kansas City trades up to grab Wilson, or Jameson Williams from Alabama? Both of them traded away their alpha dog receivers. if the Packers are infatuated with Williams or the Chiefs see Wilson as a high target wideout in their offense, these rookies have a much higher upside than if they wind up in New York, or Atlanta.

I’m not predicting that either team will trade up, but both clubs have the ammunition to significantly rise on draft night to nab one of the consensus top receivers in this class, which could disrupt other clubs’ plans to get a big-time pass catcher at some point in the first round or early second.  A Packers or Chiefs trade up could trigger a feeding frenzy on at that position.

Just in case you’ve been asleep for several weeks, or focused on baseball, let’s review how the NFL and its parallel fantasy universe got unsettled. The unprecedented player movement in the spring of 2022 can be viewed holistically as a game of dominoes, with one move leading to another, to another and another. There were the moves and countermoves.

Looking back, I think the Packers trading Davante Adams to Las Vegas, which came with a new contract, was the lynchpin because it reset the bar for receivers. That move directly led to the Chiefs trading star receiver Tyreek Hill to Miami. Hill’s agent said in an interview that Kansas City was close to a new deal with Hill but the Adams trade ended negotiations.

I wish I had been a fly on the wall when Hill’s agent told his client that Adams got a record-setting contract. Can’t you hear Hill’s response? “I’m worth just as much as Adams.” Based on their first-round fantasy draft positions last year, that’s not far from the truth. I’m sure Hill’s agent reported back to the Chiefs and that was all she wrote for Hill in Kansas City.

Then all hell broke loose. Suffice it to say, March Madness didn’t just apply to basketball as a series of league-altering trades, signings and drama followed. Aaron Rodgers ended up staying put, but Russell Wilson went east to the Mile High City. Cleveland acquired Deshaun Watson from Houston, and Indianapolis Colts traded Carson Wentz to Washington.

Not to be outdone, Tom Brady retired and unretired five minutes later. That was nothing more than a moment of comic relief from the future Hall of Fame quarterback who will play one…or two….or five more seasons in Tampa. Then he’ll retire and sign with the Raiders so that he can break George Blanda’s record. Blanda was 48 when he played for the Raiders in the 1970’s.

And that’s not all, folks. There were others players on the move. Dallas traded Amari Cooper to the Browns for not much, and Cooper will likely become Watson’s favorite target in Cleveland. While the Adams and Hill trades did nothing to boost their fantasy value, the change of scenery for Cooper could be a boon since he was becoming a lost soul in the Cowboys offense.

Speaking of lost souls, Allen Robinson went from a third-round pick to irrelevant in fantasy football last year in Chicago, but he can find new life with the Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Rams. Robinson joins Cooper Kupp, Van Jefferson and possibly Odell Beckham, Jr. But he won’t be joining Robert Woods, who was traded to the Tennessee Titans. That looks like a downgrade.

Woods will come in as the No. 2 guy on a run-first offense. But he won’t be competing with Julio Jones for targets. The Titans cut Jones after one dismal season, and rumor has Jones back in Atlanta in 2022. That rumor surfaced after Calvin Ridley was suspended through at least 2022 season for betting on NFL games during his sabbatical from the Falcons during the 2021 season.

There were other trades and signings that were football relevant but not really fantasy relevant:

• The Buffalo Bills signed Von Miller to six-year, $120 million contract.

•  The Chicago Bears trade Khalil Mack to Los Angeles Chargers.

•  The Las Vegas Raiders signed Chandler Jones to three-year deal.

•  The Los Angeles Chargers sign J.C. Jackson to 5-year, $82.5 million deal.

Bookmark this column and be sure to revisit it in three or four months from now as you prepare for your fantasy football drafts. If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably forget which players are on which team between now and then. Of course, there should be plenty of those pundits coming out of the woodwork in the dog days of summer to remind you.

Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, runs his own blog at http://www.doubtingthomassports.com. Follow Thomas on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.