“That, my dear Algy, is the whole truth pure and simple.” “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” ~ Oscar Wilde ” The Importance of Being Earnest
Much like the truth, the obvious is seldom actually obvious. The obvious is something that should be blatantly clear but is being obscured by any myriad of factors. In fantasy baseball, those factors include things like recency bias, personal bias, positional scarcity (or lack thereof), and a growing obsession with drafting prospects as the game trends younger.
So, with the season starting for the Mariners and Athletics this week over in Japan, you’re running out of time to get your team ready for opening day. So here’s a series of quick-hitting “obvious” thoughts, that maybe aren’t so obvious to everyone else. I’m splitting this into 2 categories: Pre-Draft, for those who haven’t drafted yet (obviously), and Post-Draft, for those who have (also, hopefully obvious).
Maybe it’s because I follow just about every baseball-related thing imaginable on Twitter, but my feed has been blowing up the last few days with people posting their predictions for the season, only one of these is relevant, but I’ll share them with you anyway so you can make fun of me come October.
NL MVP: Kris Bryant
AL MVP: Alex Bregman
NL CY: Jacob deGrom
AL CY: Gerrit Cole
NL ROY: Kyle Wright
AL ROY: Eloy Jimenez
Breakout: Jurickson Profar
That’s how mine went. Maybe I’d have done them differently if I hadn’t done them on a whim – maybe not. Either way, they lead us to:
Obvious Fact Number 1: Out of all the answers I scrolled through (which was all of them, to the best of my knowledge), I am the ONLY person I saw picking Kris Bryant as the 2019 NL MVP. I’m not bothered on behalf of my pick. I’m bothered on behalf of everyone else’s. Nolan Arenado, Aaron Judge, Freddie Freeman, Paul Goldschmidt, Alex Bregman, Javy Baez, Trea Turner . . . all of these names are frequently being drafted ahead of Kris Bryant. They also appear more often on prediction lists than Bryant.
I know he burned you last year – but he was hurt. Do you know what he already has that no one else in that list does? An MVP trophy. Just last year he was still considered a potential first-round pick. Are we really writing off a former ROY and MVP entering his 5th season? Are we really saying he no longer has a place among the truly elite? I ain’t ready to say that yet. And I’m not ready to draft like that yet either.
Obvious Fact Number 2: In case the struggles of Lance Lynn, Alex Cobb, and Greg Holland taught you nothing last year, it seems obvious to me that Spring Training matters – especially for pitchers. So if you are still drafting Kimbrel and Keuchel before your bench spots – you are setting yourself up for disappointment. No matter how much you work out or hit or pitch against college guys, only major leaguers can truly prepare you for the challenge of facing major leaguers. The same goes for injured arms like Mike Foltynewicz, Clayton Kershaw, Carlos Martinez, etc – if they missed most or all of Spring Training, don’t draft them like they didn’t. I’m not saying they couldn’t have a fantastic second half – all of them. I am saying that April matters too, so don’t punt April for a July based strategy.
Obvious Fact Number 3: This seems really, really obvious, but I see it happen all the time, so I’m just going to say it: Don’t. . . Draft. . . Speed. . . I’m being absolutely 100% serious here. Speed, in addition to other attributes, is fine. But speed doesn’t matter if a guy can’t hit. Don’t pass up Joc Pederson’s 25 home runs for the chance Delino DeShields can hold down a job all year and steal 50. Again, I’m fine with whatever you do on your bench, but power is a more reliable fantasy barometer than speed. Don’t pay for a fast guy that can’t hit or an Inciarte type who really holds back your power in roto leagues.
Obvious Fact Number 1: Don’t hold on to your bench – unless your bench is Vlad Jr, Eloy Jimenez and Tatis Jr of course. Stats are your friend. Help and upgrades now are more important than hope later. Many a league is won or lost based on your willingness to make an early snap move to improve. Nobody in yearly redraft leagues drafted Juan Soto last year – but if you were willing to drop a bench guy and gamble on him, he may well have won it for you.
Obvious Fact Number 2: In direct contrast to fact 1, don’t get twitchy. If you know what you’ve got, and you trust what you’ve got, don’t make a move just to make it. Ain’t nothing wrong with a tried and true approach.
Obvious Fact Number 3: Don’t overvalue the “closer” label. Someone will. Plenty of guys enter the season with “closer” attached. It’s rare that even two-thirds of them end the season the same way. If you happen to be that person you’ll miss out on some good opportunities. If you aren’t that person, you’ll be able to find that person and offer them “Closer Shane Greene” for “Not A Closer Colin McHugh” and sneakily drastically improve your pitching potential.
Obvious Fact Number 4: Don’t do anything during the first week. It’s always an overreaction (unless a guy gets hurt). However, beginning in week 2, if guys you took in the last 3 rounds aren’t hacking it, move on. In week 3, if guys you took in the last 6 rounds aren’t cutting it, move on. Last 9 rounds for week 4, last half for week 5, and if they haven’t figured it out by week 6, move on from all but your top 5 picks, because you’ll never properly replace them anyway. Wait a week, then don’t wait. Don’t hold and hope. Hold and hope is a 34-year-old man keeping a sweater he liked in college in the hopes that it will one day be retro, and on that day he will be skinny enough to wear it again. Don’t be that man. (That man is me. Don’t be me is pretty solid life advice in any situation).