Hold/Fold: A Look Back… and Ahead

“Feels like the end of the world
But it’s only the beginning of it all” ~ Halestorm “Black Vultures”

I love baseball. I’m always so sad, bordering on depression, when the season ends. 6 months with no meaningful games is a relative eternity. That said, for fantasy players, the offseason can be exciting. It is your chance to reimagine your team without the day to day, week to week pressure of performance. It’s the end of the world, and at the same time it’s the beginning of a new one.

I knew from the second that Jim took a chance on me, especially including me in the rankings, that I’d end up writing this column at the end of the year. I think accountability is an important part of life, even (or perhaps especially) in fantasy. If your losses are always someone else’s fault, how do you ever become a better player?

So here it is, my accountability record for 2019. What I got really right, and what I got really (really) wrong, and where I stand on them for next season.

Wrong
Let’s start with wrong so we can finish on a high note.

Jurickson Profar

Umm, can we pretend I never said he could potentially be top 100 overall at the end of the year? Profar moved to a better team, with a better lineup, in the same division . . . and he sucked. Sure, the ballpark was tougher, but he’s a former #1 overall prospect. And at 26 he went from a 20/10 season with a 107 OPS+ to a 20/9 season with . . . a 90 OPS+. That my friends, is not a good direction.

That said, he was very much the same hitter as he was at 25. He actually walked slightly more and struck out slightly less this year. He hit the ball slightly harder and in the air a little more often too. The biggest change is that he hit a lot more pop-ups and he pulled the ball a lot more often. The skillset and tools remain. I’m just not sure about the opportunity. I’d take a late flier on him in deep leagues, but I wouldn’t hold onto him or draft him in shallow leagues.

JA Happ

After 2 consecutive good seasons, Happ cratered hard in 2019. I thought he was a lock to post number 3 starter numbers and roughly a strikeout per inning. Instead, he lost 2 strikeouts per 9 and saw his ERA jump nearly a run and a half. And none of the metrics say he was unlucky. Just a huge miss on my part. He’ll turn 37 this postseason. With his age and that downturn, I’m not holding any shares of Happ in any league next season.

Matt Carpenter

I touched on this already, so I’ll keep it brief. Instead of 30+ home runs he hit 13, and the strikeouts spiked too. At 34 next year, Carpenter may have a rebound in him, but I’d rank him as a flier in shallow and deep leagues alike. Besides, Edman, DeJong, Goldschmidt, and Wong are all more deserving of infield jobs next year. He’ll be more interesting if the Cardinals move Edman to the outfield, but barring that, his run as an underrated fantasy star looks to be over.

Freddie Freeman and Max Muncy

I suppose it is also wrong when you think a player will suck and he doesn’t, so I’ll include Freeman here. I thought the power wouldn’t come back, but in the year of the juiced ball, of course it did. That said, he needs elbow surgery and any changes to the ball could see his power slide back into the 25 home run range. He’s a nice player and a real-life star, but I’m not sure he’s a fantasy star moving forward.

And Muncy’s 2018 was real and the Dodgers didn’t drastically platoon him as I feared, so he’s still good and a solid option for next year.

Right

Jack Flaherty

I loved Jack Flaherty entering the season, and for a few months he was yet another player who made me look like an idiot. But when he turned it on, he really turned it on. He was, bar none, the best pitcher in baseball in the second half. Incredible performance. I told you he was good! I loved him as an ace this season, and I love him even more as an ace for next season. No, he won’t repeat his second half, but I’d easily draft him with deGrom and Scherzer next year.

Josh Donaldson and Kris Bryant

I said in the preseason that I thought Donaldson would bounce back and I wasn’t ready to give up on Bryant as an MVP-level performer yet. Neither may have quite reached those lofty heights, but Donaldson hit 37 home runs and drew 100 walks while Bryant hit 31 homers and drove in 108. They finished 20 and 22 respectively in fWAR among hitters this year. Still plenty in the tank for both. I’m drafting and trading for with confidence this offseason.

Max Kepler

The long foreseen breakout finally “sort of” happened. 30th in hitter fWAR, 36 home runs, good plate discipline numbers – yeah, Kepler arrived. The .252 average, .244 BABIP and the utter lack of steals are the only major drags on his performance. I don’t see these improving much so dock him a bit in roto leagues for that, but otherwise, he looks like a solid number 2 outfielder for next season.

Joc Pederson and Kole Calhoun

I said both were due to rebound, and both cleared .230 in batting average and 30 home runs. They basically gave you Kyle Schwarber production for a lot less than it cost to get Kyle Schwarber. Pederson, I still like for next year. Calhoun . . .  I’d hold off there. I don’t know where he ends up, and that will determine how much he plays. But I do believe Joc can keep rocking for you next year too.

Matt Olson

I said don’t draft Rhys Hoskins, wait on Matt Olson. And then Olson, despite missing over a month with an injury, goes and outproduces Hoskins anyway. I love Matt Olson. You should too.

It was a fun year. We’ll see if I get to do this again, or if the times I was terrible were just too much and I get canned. Either way, I loved it, and thanks for reading!

 

 

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Seth Bias

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I'm Seth. I love baseball, especially the Braves, and rock n' roll on vinyl. Books, sandals and tacos too, though I find most of my money for those things going to vinyl these days. Once turned Prince Fielder into Justin Verlander and Paul Goldschmidt in a dynasty league. Also ashamed to say I once cut Jose Ramirez. I don't hate your favorite team unless your favorite team is the Nationals or Phillies. May or may not have cried when David Justice hit that home run in game 6 of the 95 World Series - though if you actually ask me, I'll claim I did not.

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