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.