Infirmary Report

Welcome to the Infirmary Report, a place where all Injury List Designations will be listed by team, in an effort to help you organize all of the injuries that are happening in the world of baseball in 2021. Here’s hoping that the list of players here doesn’t get too extensive at times, but if it does, we at RotoFanatic have got you covered. Keep coming back as there will be regular updates throughout the season.

 

Arizona Diamondbacks

 

Kole Calhoun – Torn meniscus, right knee: 10 day-IL (April 1, 2021)

Calhoun had surgery to fix his right knee at the beginning of March, with a timeline of four to six weeks for recovery. Pavin Smith and Tim Locastro will both platoon in right field in his absence, and both are worth a quick look should they emerge as the starter.

Zac Gallen – Hairline fracture in his right forearm: 10 day-IL (April 1, 2021)

The timetable for his return is tricky, because it depends on the severity. He was able to pitch while injured, though his velocity was down and he was unable to use his curveball. Since it was discovered early in its stages of development, it is a small fracture, and thus, limiting his arm usage is key. He needs time to heal and then ramp up his activity. Ideally, a mid-May or early June return seems likely and optimistic. This should bring about some clarity in the Diamondbacks’ rotation, as Tyler Widener has been slotted within their rotation. That said, the Arizona rotation is ugly.

Tyler Clippard – Capsule sprain in his right shoulder: 60 day-IL (March 29, 2021)

Clippard said his arm felt weak in his final Spring outing where he didn’t return a batter. His velocity was low and he said that he felt weird. He has since been shut down for six weeks, with a re-evaluation forthcoming. Clippard was going to be a late inning option for holds and some saves, but now his value will have to be waited upon. Stefan Crichton takes over as the next in line should Joakim Soria falter.

 

 

Atlanta Braves

 

Mike Soroka – Achilles tendon, right foot: 10 day-IL (April 1, 2021)

Still recovering from his injury sustained in 2020, Soroka has thrown simulated games and has been able to move to and from first base a lot more quickly than before. He threw a Spring Training game and struck out two batters in tow innings. If and when he does come back at full strength, he is someone to add to your team as he should help in almost every category but strikeouts. The Braves haven’t denied the idea of an early return either, leaving late April and early May as possibilities.

 

 

Baltimore Orioles

 

Chris Davis – Lower back strain: 60 day-IL (March 26, 2021)

Davis continues to be the owner of the worst contract in all of baseball, and is still signed until the end of 2022. He won’t be back until at least the end of May.

Hunter Harvey – Oblique injury: 60-day IL (March 16, 2021)

On the one hand, it was not an arm injury for the hard throwing right hander, who was being tabbed as a potential closer for the Orioles. On other hand, oblique injuries take a long time from which to recover, so it could be until June. While it seems like a closer by committee designation is the likeliest of routes, don’t be surprised of Tanner Scott gets the ball first. Cesar Valdez, Dillon Tate and Paul Fry all have a shot too.

 

 

Boston Red Sox

 

Eduardo Rodriguez – Dead arm: 10 day-IL (April 1, 2021)

Never a good sign to have a dead arm so early in his return, but it’s quite understandable for someone who missed all of 2020. Rodriguez will be needed by Boston as their rotation is by no means their strength. He will be expected to carry the brunt of the workload while they wait for Chris Sale to return to full strength.

Chris Sale – Tommy John surgery: 60 day-IL (April 1, 2021)

As of now, Sale has yet to even throw off a mound. Pitching coach Dave Bush said that the goal is for Sale to pitch at some point this year, which is a very vague outlook. He could very well pitch one inning on the last day of the season, given that quote, or he could be back after the All-Star Break. He is behind schedule, and thus, your expectations of him need to be lowered.

 

 

Chicago Cubs

 

Austin Romine – Sprain, right knee: 10 day-IL (April 1, 2021)

The knee is feeling better as he was able to do some light hitting and throwing. Still, being a catcher, his knees will need be at 100% to be behind the plate as the backup to Willson Contreras. He is looking like someone who will be back a few weeks into the season.

Rowan Wick – Oblique: 10 day-IL (April 1, 2021)

Wick has begun ramping up activity as he tries to come back from the injury to his ribs. He’s thrown from the mound and played catch, but is still aways from being back in the lineup. When healthy, expect him to be the top setup man, and possibly the next in line for saves should Kimbrel falter. He looks to follow up on last year’s career best 27% strikeout rate.

 

 

Chicago White Sox

 

Eloy Jimenez – Ruptured left pectoral tendon: 60 day-IL (April 1, 2021)

Jimenez suffered the injury while leaping in an attempt to catch a home run ball in a Spring Training game. The timetable for a full recovery is estimated at costing him much, if not all, of the 2021 season. A crushing blow for the White Sox and those who invested an early round pick in the slugger. He is expected to be fully healthy come 2022. Options for replacement for the White Sox include Andrew Vaughn, Leury Garcia or Adam Engel. They could go the free agency route too. Until anything is solidified, expect some sort of a platoon with inconsistent playing time.

Adam Engel – Hamstring: 10 day-IL (April 1, 2021)

Engel hurt himself while making a play in the outfield, and is expected to miss a couple of weeks, which should include the beginning of the season. Look for him to try and win a shot as an everyday outfielder for the White Sox, but is also someone with minimal upside.

 

 

Cincinnati Reds

 

Sonny Gray – Back: 10 day-IL (March 29, 2021)

Gray had back spasms and had to take some time off to recover. He’s now gone from playing catch to throwing off of a mound and now into the bullpen. He said he felt fine, but noted that getting into games is key. Look for him to miss about a week or so to ramp up his arm strength before starting his season with the Reds.

Michael Lorenzen – Shoulder strain: 10 day-IL (March 29, 2021)

Seems to be very minor in that he may only miss a start or two. He looks to be ready to be the Reds’ SP5, and if he can develop the curveball he’s been tinkering with, he may prove some value going forward.

Shogo Akiyama – Hamstring: 10 day-IL (March 29, 2021)

After leaving the team with a personal issue, Akiyama returned to the Reds only to suffer an injury to his hamstring, that manager David Bell as already said will cost him a few weeks. He has only recently returned to baseball activities, such as playing catch. He will be looking to carve himself out a role within the Reds’ lineup, as their lineup looks pretty solidified as is.

 

 

Cleveland Indians

 

Nobody yet to report.

 

 

Colorado Rockies

 

Scott Oberg – Blood clots: 60 day-IL (March 27, 2021)

Oberg underwent surgery to repair blood clotting within his body. He will not be returning anytime soon and his career is in jeopardy. Daniel Bard looks likely to be the Rockies’ closer.

Kyle Freeland – Shoulder strain: 10 day-IL (April 1, 2021)

Freeland looks likely to miss about a month of action due to a shoulder strain. The news is positive given how severe it looked when he was on the mound. He should be able to ramp up his recovery just after the season begins, if all goes right. When healthy, he was looking to be a part of the Rockies’ rotation. Austin Gomber looks to be slotted within their rotation, but the situation and location of where they play doesn’t make it ideal at all.

Brendan Rodgers – Hamstring: 10 day-IL (April 1, 2021)

The promising rookie hurt himself while trying to steal a base. He was pressing for playing time with Garrett Hampson and Ryan McMahon, but now will be fighting even harder to maintain his health going forward. Once back, he warrants some attention for his bat and speed potential. Keep an eye on how Garrett Hampson does to start the season, as his speed potential could play well in Colorado.

 

 

Detroit Tigers

 

Nobody yet to report.

 

 

Houston Astros

 

Pedro Baez – Covid-19 (March 30, 2021)

Baez missed some time due to testing positive for the Coronavirus, but has returned to camp. He will, unfortunately need some time to ramp himself back to game mode, and may miss time to open the season. While am IL spot is probably unnecessary, it may be up to a week or more before he makes his 2021 debut.

Forest Whitley – Tommy John surgery (March 17, 2021)

The promising prospect suffered yet another setback in his young career, this time requiring surgery to fix his UCL, and costing him his entire 2021 season. He’ll look to get back on track for next year, but he may never live up to the hype that followed him to the Astros.

Framber Valdez – Finger, left hand: 10 day-IL (April 1, 2021)

Valdez survived a season-ending scare, as his left ring finger will not require surgery. As such, while he looks to pitch in 2021, the timeline for a return is unknown, but increasingly optimistic. The Astros need him as soon as possible, as they have a gaping hole late in their rotation currently filled by Luis Garcia. Keep monitoring him to see for any setbacks or progress.

Josh James – Hip: 10 day-IL (April 1, 2021)

The ever-so-promising yet often-injured pitcher will miss some time due to a hip injury and a physical setback he suffered recently. Upon returning, look for him to gain the role of a multi-inning reliever to start his season.

Justin Verlander – Tommy John Surgery: 60 day-IL (March 17, 2021)

In an attempted comeback, Verlander has started throwing, but is still nowhere near pitching again. He will likely pitch again in 2022, and thus needs to be dropped in all redraft formats for this year.

 

 

Kansas City Royals

 

Adalberto Mondesi – Oblique: 10 day-IL (March 31, 2021)

Coming out of nowhere, Mondesi was placed on the IL a day before Opening Day with an oblique injury that will cost the speedy shortstop at least two weeks. Keep an eye going forward, as obliques can be tricky to get rid of and also a recurring problem. Nicky Lopez was called up as a subsequent replacement, but isn’t the best of pickups until he proves to be more than he’s been when given the chance to play.

 

 

Los Angeles Angels

 

Felix Pena – Hamstring: 10 day-IL (March 31, 2021)

Pena injured himself in a Spring Training game and received the news that it is a Grade 1 strain. It looks as if he will miss multiple weeks into the season. A talented bullpen arm for the Angels, Pena was looking to be a later inning setup man to newly signed Raisel Iglesias, but he will now wait for that opportunity.

Franklin Barreto – Elbow: 60 day-IL (March 31, 2021)

Barreto was looking to make camp and play a utility role, but instead likely gives way to Luis Rengifo to take over that role.

 

 

Los Angeles Dodgers

 

Tommy Kahnle – Elbow, 60 day-IL (March 25, 2021)

The former Yankee was signed this past off-season and required Tommy John surgery for his elbow. He is unlikely to pitch in 2021 as a result, and cleared the way for the Dodgers to sign Jimmy Nelson.

Caleb Ferguson – Elbow, 60 day-IL (March 18, 2021)

He is recovering from his second Tommy John surgery and is unlikely to pitch in 2021 as a result.

Joe Kelly – Shoulder: 10 day-IL (April 2, 2021)

Kelly has had a rough Spring Training, battling shoulder stiffness and being under the weather. Upon returning, he will be slotted in the bullpen, presumably for multi-inning usage.

Brusdar Graterol – undisclosed: 60 day-IL (April 2, 2021)

Graterol will miss extended time with the Dodgers.

 

 

Miami Marlins

 

Nobody yet to report.

 

 

Milwaukee Brewers

 

Jacob Nottingham – Thumb, 10 day-IL: (April 1, 2021)

Despite having surgery on it in the offseason, Nottingham still had setbacks upon returning to the lineup late in camp. He looks like he’s on his way to the IL, as the Brewers already have depth at the catcher position with Narvaez and Pina.

 

 

Minnesota Twins

 

Josh Donaldson – Hamstring

Donaldson began limping after rounding first base following a hit in the season opener. With a history of injuries, this is just another in the disappointing career of the third baseman. It remains to be seen for how long he will be sidelined or how the Twins will handle his absence, but Luis Arraez looks to benefit from this as he can play all over the field and will help fantasy owners with average and runs scored.

Edwar Colina – Inflammation, right elbow: 10 day-IL (April 1, 2021)

The hard throwing bullpen piece for the Twins felt inflammation and hasn’t yet pitched in 2021. Thought to be a setup man, he will need additional time before making that a reality. The Twins have plenty of pother bullpen options and can afford to wait.

 

 

New York Mets

 

Seth Lugo – Bone spur, right elbow: 10 day-IL (April 1, 2021)

Lugo hasn’t yet started throwing, but the Mets are optimistic that it will start soon. He had surgery in February, and seems likely to start the year on the IL, potentially missing all of April.

Carlos Carrasco – Hamstring: 10 day-IL (April 1, 2021)

Hurt during some conditioning drills, Carrasco was set to miss 6-8 weeks, which translates to 4-6 weeks of the actual season when it’s all said and done. David Peterson and Joey Lucchesi will have a chance to take over in the rotation and attempt to solidify themselves as a long term solution in the meantime. Here’s hoping the best for Carrasco, who has overcome so much in order to be back in baseball.

Noah Syndergaard – Tommy John Surgery: 60 day-IL

Syndergaard recently threw off a mound to a live batter, with no swings, in his latest step forward to a full recovery. In that bullpen session he hit 97mph on the radar gun. While a June return seems optimal, a post All-Star Break seems likely, though it remains to be seen how he continues to progress.

Jose Martinez – Torn meniscus, left knee: 60 day-IL

Martinez tore his meniscus at first base and is expected to miss up to four months as he recovers.Without a DH in the National League, Martinez seems destined to remain on the waiver wire while playing for a deeply talented Mets team.

 

 

New York Yankees

 

Luke Voit – Torn meniscus, left knee: 10 day-IL (March 31, 2021)

Voit will miss at least three weeks of the season due to surgery to clean up his meniscus. He will stop all baseball activities for three weeks and then begin to ramp up his workload to hopefully return sometime in May. Jay Bruce has made the Yankees in an attempt to give them some offensive firepower at first, though there are plenty of internal options to slide over there too.

Miguel Andjuar – Right hand and wrist soreness: 10 day-IL (March 31, 2021)

Andjuar begin the season on the IL after succumbing to the pain he was feeling all winter while playing in the Dominican League. He was fighting for a roster spot, but looks likely to be facing an uphill battle when he eventually does return. While seeing a hand specialist for the injury, he remains nowhere near being ready for any baseball action or activities. Even when he returns, he is an injury or two away from becoming relevant in 2021.

Zack Britton – Elbow: 60 day-IL (March 31, 2021)

Britton had surgery in March to remove a bone chip in his elbow. There is no timetable for a return to action, but some speculation has him returning at some point in June, upon which he may record the odd save with plenty of holds opportunities. Until then, look for a returning Chapman to record a majority of the saves for the Yankees, while Chad Green gets the odd save.

Luis Severino – Tommy John Surgery: 60 day-IL (March 16, 2021)

Severino has been throwing off a mound, but is limited to only fastballs. He’s looking to return at some point this year, but really shouldn’t be counted on for too much.

 

 

Oakland Athletics

 

Trevor Rosenthal – Shoulder: 10 day-IL (March 30, 2021)

Set to make his Spring Training debut, Rosenthal was placed on the IL with shoulder inflammation. This is some what concerning, as it came so close to the start of the season, and anyone who invested in Rosenthal was likely scrambling for a replacement. Jake Diekman looks to be the first man up to get saves, while Sergio Romo also has experience at the job should the opportunity arise.

Mike Fiers – Hip: 10 day-IL (March 29, 2021)

Fiers has yet to throw against any batters at all this Spring, as he’s gone from having back tightness to hip soreness. He has been placed on the 10-day IL.

 

 

Philadelphia Phillies

 

Nobody yet to report.

 

 

Pittsburgh Pirates

 

Steven Brault – Lat strain: 60 day-IL (April 1, 2021)

Brault will be shut down from throwing and baseball activities for about a month after suffering the injury in a Spring game. Likely non-surgical, he is procedure that will take about 10 weeks to heal before a return. He may go into the Pirates’ rotation when he starts up again.

Blake Cederlind – Tommy John Surgery: 60 day-IL (March 24, 2021)

After suffering a UCL strain, Cederlind had Tommy John Surgery and will miss the 2021 season.

 

 

San Diego Padres

 

Austin Nola – Fractured finger: 10 day-IL (March 29, 2021)

After injuring his finger, Nola has been taking swings off a tee and looks to be ramping up to be ready for Opening Day. He will attempt to take some live batting and test it out. Should he miss anytime, Victor Caratini will replace him behind the plate. Nola will likely already be missing games when You Darvish pitches since the pitcher prefers Caratini from his days as a Cub.

Trent Grisham – Hamstring: 10 day-IL (March 29, 2021)

Grisham has been hampered by a hamstring issue and has been placed on the injured list. The Padres have enough depth to ensure that Grisham won’t need to rush back into the line-up.

Dinelson Lamet – UCL strain: 10 day-IL (April 1, 2021)

After trying to pitch the Spring, Lamet was placed on the IL as he wasn’t fully ramped up and ready to go for the season. A risky pick in fantasy due to long term uncertainty, he gives way to the promising Adrian Morejon until he can prove that he is finally back and ready to contribute with consistency in the rotation.

Mike Clevinger – Tommy John Surgery: 60 day-IL (February 18, 2021)

Clevinger will miss the entire 2021 season after undergoing Tommy John Surgery in the offseason.

 

 

San Francisco Giants

 

Alex Wood – Back: 10 day-IL (April 1, 2021)

Wood starts the season on the IL due to back spasms. Aaron Sanchez will likely fill the void for the Giants as their fifth starter to start the year.

Tyler Beede – Elbow, 60 day-IL (February 26, 2021)

After suffering a setback from his March 2020 Tommy John Surgery recovery, Beede was moved to the 60 day-IL, putting his entire 2021 season in jeopardy. He hopes to return at some point.

 

 

Seattle Mariners

 

Kyle Lewis – Knee, 10 day-IL (March 31, 2021)

Lewis has missed almost a week of Spring Training action, and will miss the start of the season. Taylor Trammell has had a great Spring and looks likely to begin the season as the Mariners’ starting OF.

Shed Long Jr. – Shin (April 1, 2021)

After having season ending surgery for it in September 2020, Shed Long Jr. suffered a setback while fouling a ball off of his toe recently. He was slated to compete for the starting 2B job in Seattle, but last season’s breakout by Dylan Moore makes this less likely to happen for now.

Andres Munoz – Elbow, 60 day-IL (March 18, 2021)

Following his Tommy John Surgery in March 2020, Munoz was set to make his return at some point this season. He will have to wait awhile to attempt to do so following his setback in early March.

Ken Giles – Elbow, 60 day-IL (April 1, 2021)

Giles seems unlikely to pitch in 2021.

 

 

St. Louis Cardinals

 

Kwang-Hyun Kim, Back: 10 day-IL (March 29, 2021)

Kim will miss the start of the season, but will try to ramp up a workload first. Jon Gant looks to be their fifth starter in the meantime.  A return in a few weeks seems likely.

Miles Mikolas – Shoulder: 10 day-IL (March 28, 2021)

The team will cautiously take their time getting Mikolas back to speed while he recovers from shoulder tightness. He is optimistic to return sometime in May if all goes right.

Harrison Bader – Forearm: 10 day-IL (March 28, 2021)

Bader will begin the season on the IL with forearm soreness and will be sidelined for up to six weeks. This opens the door to Dylan Carlsson having everyday playing time, while possibly producing a platoon in right field.

Dakota Hudson – Tommy John Surgery: 10 day-IL (March 28, 2021)

Hudson is unlikely to pitch in 2021.

 

 

Tampa Bay Rays

 

Nick Anderson – UCL torn ligament: 60 day-IL (March 26, 2021)

Anderson, who is shut down for eight weeks, will be re-evaluated past the All-Star Break, though right now, surgery doesn’t seem necessary. Peter Fairbanks and Diego Castillo look to get the load of save opportunities for Tampa in the meantime.

Yonny Chirinos – Tommy John Surgery: 60 day-IL (February 22, 2021)

Chirinos will miss the entire 2021 season after having Tommy John Surgery last August.

Jalen Beeks – Tommy John Surgery: 60 day-IL (February 17, 2021)

Beeks will miss the entire 2021 season after having Tommy John Surgery last August.

 

 

Texas Rangers

 

Khris Davis – Left Quadricep: 10 day-IL (April 1, 2021)

Davis has been diagnosed with a Grade 2 strain of his left quadriceps, and will be placed on the IL. The timeline of this injury is about 3-4 weeks. The Rangers will use a lot of platooning and role switching this season to help accommodate their injuries.

Joely Rodriguez – Ankle: 10 day-IL (April 1, 2021)

Rodriguez will not be ready to start the season and may land on the IL. He has yet to pitch in a Spring Training game.

Jose Leclerc – Tommy John Surgery: 60 day-IL (March 31, 2021)

Leclerc is unable to pitch in 2021.

Wllie Calhoun – Groin: 10 day-IL (April 1, 2021)

Calhoun is expected to miss at least two weeks to start the season with a mild groin strain. This opens the door for Lady Tavares to take over for now, but a lot of options are there in platoon-like roles.

Jonathan Hernandez – Elbow: 60 day-IL (March 30, 2021)

Hernandez was shut down at the beginning of March for four weeks due to a low-grade UCL sprain in his elbow. He was shut down and will be out until June. Projected to be the closer earlier this offseason, Matt Bush and Ian Kennedy will be battling it out to see who gets the most saves. It is by no means a group of players worth rostering since there are so many unknowns.

 

 

Toronto Blue Jays

 

George Springer – Oblique: 10 day-IL (March 31, 2021)

Springer was day-to-day with a Grade 2 strain on his oblique, and even progressed to hitting off of a tee before the official move to the IL. He was subsequently placed on the IL as he wasn’t ready, but the Jays are optimistic he could be back once the ten days are over. For now, look for Randall Grichuk to get more at bats in his absence.

Robbie Ray – Left Elbow Contusion: 10 day-IL (March 31, 2021)

Ray hurt himself falling down some stairs, but could be back soon.

Kirby Yates – Tommy John Surgery: 10 day-IL (April 1, 2021)

Yates will not pitch this season after receiving Tommy John Surgery for his ailing elbow. Look for Jordan Romano, Julian Mayweather and Rafael Dolis to get save opportunities, as we see who can emerge as the best closing option.

Thomas Hatch – Elbow: 10 day-IL (April 1, 2021)

Hatch will miss some time with non-UCL related elbow inflammation. The MRI showed no real signs of this injury being as serious as it could have been. Once healthy, he may either be a long reliever out of the bullpen or fighting for a spot at the end of the Jays’ rotation.

Nate Pearson – Groin: 10 day-IL (April 1, 2021)

Pearson is now throwing from a mound in an effort to make the rotation at some point during the season. The Jays will be extra cautious with regard to one of their best pitching prospects.

 

 

Washington Nationals

 

Will Harris – Blood Clot – 10 day-IL (March 29, 2021)

Harris recently discovered that his bloodletting was unrelated to thoracic outlet syndrome, which could mean he will be back much sooner and healthier. When back, he should be in the mix for some holds and the odd save.

 

 

 

 

 

Rookie Ladder – 2021 Pitchers to Watch

Here is a prospect question that applies to those of us who play in redraft, keeper, and dynasty leagues: Which rookie pitcher will be the most valuable fantasy player in 2021?

I’m going to track the answer to that question throughout the season with the rookie ladder. Today we introduce the initial pitchers’ rookie ladder for the 2021 season. This is my first best guess as to where the 2021 rookie class will finish in terms of fantasy value at the end of the 2021 MLB season.

I’m sure that there will be plenty of twists and turns along the way, full of pop-up surprises and high prospect pedigree disappointments. So, I will be checking in bi-weekly to update the ladder rankings and provide notes on each player as the season progresses.

 

What went into the initial projections?

 

I started with a simple concept. My initial premise is that the rookie who will have the most productive 2021 season is the player who combines skill with opportunity. So then I broke each of those concepts down into smaller component parts.

 

Skill

 

For ‘skill’, I looked at a number of publicly available projections for the 2021 season. I used strikeouts per nine (K/9), walks per nine (BB/9), and groundball rate (GB%) projections from Derek Carty’s “THE BAT”, and FanGraphs “Steamer” projections to fill out the initial pitcher skill evaluations. Then, for pitchers with MLB data, I pored over their Statcast pages to look at things like fastball velocity, active spin rates, and pitch usage.

 

Opportunity

 

For opportunity, I started by looking at each player’s expected role for his club on FanGraphs RosterResource. This was the basic starting point, and a player projected in a starter’s role for the 2021 season gets an initial bump in the rookie ladder.

I also considered whether each player was on his organization’s 40-man roster, as well as the number of option seasons he has remaining. The reasoning being that a player that is currently on the team’s 40-man roster and has less than his full complement of three option years is more likely to be used at the MLB level than a player who is currently not on the team’s 40-man roster.

Finally, I looked at the playing time situation ahead of each of these players on the depth chart and used my own judgment as to whether the prospect in question could replace the MLB talent currently in front of him.

Then I squinted, looked at my google sheet with mock seriousness, and shuffled some players around applying my own biases. The result? Your first rookie ladder of the 2021 season:

 

PlayerTeamRole40-man?Proj. K/9Proj BB/9Proj. GB%
Ian AndersonATLSP3Yes9.43.747.4
Sixto SanchezMIASP5Yes8.02.551.4
Triston McKenzieCLESP4Yes9.72.938.6
Tarik SkubalDETSP3Yes9.63.437.6
Casey MizeDETSP5Yes7.43.042.1
Dane DunningTEXSP5Yes8.53.346.3
Garret CrochetCWSMRYes9.22.943.2
Nate PearsonTORILYes8.92.640.2
Trevor RogersMIASP4Yes9.43.046.1
Dean KramerBALSP3Yes8.33.739.7
Daulton JeffriesOAKSP5Yes8.72.641.7
Adbert AlzolayCHCSP5Yes9.03.840.6
Kohei AriharaTEXSP2YesN/AN/AN/A
Spencer HowardPHIAAAYes8.82.843.8
Michael KopechCWSLRYes11.04.339.8
Nick LodoloCINAANo9.13.245.0
Luis PatinoTBRAAAYes9.02.739.1
Mackenzie GoreSDPAAANo9.33.343.3
Deivi GarciaNYYAAAYes9.03.338.6
Matt ManningDETAAAYes8.13.344.1
Josiah GrayLADAAANo8.33.341.1
Josh FlemingTBRLRYes6.62.451.3
Wil CrowePITSP5Yes6.63.746.0
Brendan McKayTBRILYes11.23.741.0
Brailyn MarquezCHCAAYes8.83.747.4
Adonis MedinaPHIAAAYes7.03.546.8

 

TOP TEN

Ian Anderson – SP – Atlanta Braves

K/9 Projection: 9.4
BB/9 Projection: 3.7
GB% Projection: 47.4%

I shall not succumb to the temptation to fill in this blurb with Jethro Tull puns.

The Braves took a rather outlandish shot on drafting Ian Anderson 3rd overall in the 2016 MLB draft. He was a prep righthander out of cold weather Rexford, New York. But the Braves organization did its homework in scouting Anderson and developing him throughout the minors. When the club needed him in a big spot in 2020, Anderson responded with aplomb.

At first blush, Anderson’s 94 mph fastball, while above-average, doesn’t feature eye-popping velocity. And his changeup features a vertical movement profile that’s about 10% worse than the MLB average changeup. Ultimately neither of these facts really matter.

Why? Well, Anderson possesses elite extension on his fastball. You can see it when you watch him pitch. He’s able to contort his torso in such a way so as to release the ball extremely close to the plate, creating an absurd 7.3 feet of extension on the pitch. Then, he tunnels the changeup with the fastball extremely well. Finally, he repeats his delivery so uncannily well that it’s hard to tell two deliveries apart when overlaid on top of each other:

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The only real warning sign with Anderson so far is spotty control. It’s probably related to his delivery, which is designed to maximize extension but can result in him missing his spots at times. But even with the control, If he puts in a full season of work, it’s hard to not envision him as the most profitable rookie pitcher in fantasy baseball this season.

 

Sixto Sanchez – SP – Miami Marlins

K/9 Projection: 8.0
BB/9 Projection: 2.5
GB% Projection: 51.4%

Sixto Sanchez would probably be atop the leaderboard if we were looking for the most giffable rookie pitcher for 2021. He leaped into the consciousness of the average Big League fan in 2020 by flashing a diverse repertoire of filth. His ability to deal was already known to minor league observers. But, his ability to continue that mastery of his arsenal in his debut season was impressive indeed. As I remarked to a friend, he was just throwing every pitch in and around the zone and everything was moving like crazy.

Sixto will have a delayed start to his 2021 campaign, as the team has already shipped him off to minor league camp to start the season. Blame it on visa issues early in the spring and then a false-positive COVID-19 test result upon finally reporting to the team. His throwing program was behind and as a consequence, he wasn’t fully ramped up by Opening Day. He will be slotted into the Marlins rotation as soon as his arm is built up.

 

Triston McKenzie – SP – Cleveland Indians

K/9 Projection: 9.7
BB/9 Projection: 2.9
GB% Projection: 38.6%

 

With a build like a string bean, “T-Mac” was at times dominant in his minor league career in the Cleveland system. However, he also dealt with numerous injuries as a professional, including back, pectoral, and rotator cuff problems. He sparkled in his MLB debut against the Tigers on August 22, punching out 10 batters over 6 innings of work. For a brief moment, the health concerns went to the back of everyone’s mind. However, as the season wore on, those concerns reared their ugly head again:

 

 

You can see the precipitous decline in McKenzie’s average fastball velocity, dropping down about 4 mph over the course of the season. A velocity surge over his two games seems encouraging, but you have to remember that those were games in which he appeared out of the bullpen.

If his health holds up, McKenzie has the stuff to hang with Anderson and Sixto any day of the week. The trick will be how Cleveland manages him during his first full season of MLB action. The club seems to see him as part of their big league rotation, so he will likely get the opportunity to show us what he can do in 2021.

 

Tarik Skubal – SP – Detroit Tigers

K/9 Projection: 9.6
BB/9 Projection: 3.4
GB% Projection: 37.6%

 

This left-hander might go down as the deep find of the 2018 MLB draft. Detroit selected Tarik Skubal in the 9th round of the draft, but it’s pretty clear now that he possessed day one talent. Skubal simply shredded the competition in the minor leagues, as hitters at the lower levels simply could not keep up with his plus fastball. The fastball is a huge weapon. It sat at 94.4 mph in 2020, but Skubal can reach back and touch 98 with it when needed. The pitch eats up in the zone with a 98% active spin rate. This means that it’s thrown with near pure backspin, causing the pitch to frequently jump over hitter’s bats up near the letters.

Detroit has committed to using Skubal in the rotation to start the 2021 season. His success in a starting role might come down to the development of his changeup. He worked on a new changeup grip all offseason. It is a needed pitch for Skubal, who is generally death to left-handed hitters, but has a little more palatable look to opposite-handed batters. Right-handed hitters slugged .577 against him last season, so the changeup will need to be effective to give him options.

 

Casey Mize – SP – Detroit Tigers

K/9 Projection: 7.4
BB/9 Projection: 3.0
GB% Projection: 42.1%

 

Like fellow Motor City rookie Tarik Skubal, Casey Mize has also made the opening day starting rotation. When researching this piece, I was a little surprised by the skepticism of Mize’s K/9 projections. Similar to fellow ladder-mate Sixto Sanchez, Mize is maybe a little more likely to pitch to contact, relying on his diverse arsenal of offerings to lure hitters into swinging at junk, making his life easier on the mound.

Lurking within Mize’s deep arsenal is a double-plus splitter that should be an out pitch for him at the MLB level. There is a very real possibility that the numbers we are relying on to evaluate Mize are tainted by the fact that he has been keeping the splitter in his back pocket during his professional career thus far. It has certainly seemed that way this spring. Watching Mize, he’s focused on using his breaking stuff, four-seam fastball, and cutter to put hitters away. He’s been effective without heavy reliance on the splitter, and his fastball velocity is up as well. Don’t be surprised to see him climb this ladder as the season wears on.

 

Dane Dunning – SP – Texas Rangers

K/9 Projection: 8.5
BB/9 Projection: 3.3
GB% Projection: 46.3%

 

Dane Dunning was a bit of a surprising addition to the White Sox playoff push in 2020. Then, this offseason, he was shipped off to Texas for right-handed veteran Lance Lynn. The White Sox were trying to bolster their rotation for an even deeper playoff run in 2021. However, in the trade, they may have moved a pitcher who can contribute in a big-league rotation for many years.

Dunning generally made his living in the minor leagues off his sinker, a pitch with some nice boring action that he can use to generate groundball outs. However, in his MLB debut, it was his slider that stole the show:

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The slider elicited an elite 43.5% whiff rate last season. It drops off the table due to a vertical movement profile that features 12 percent more drop than the MLB average. He also mixes in a slower, downer curveball that drops 16 percent more than MLB average. So Dunning has progressed from a contact-manager to a contact-manager with a side of dominance. If he can rack up the innings this season, he might also be quick to climb this ladder.

 

Garrett Crochet – RP – Chicago White Sox

K/9 Projection: 9.2
BB/9 Projection: 2.9
GB% Projection: 43.2%

 

On pure stuff alone, Garrett Crochet probably sits alone atop this list. His fastball beguiled every hitter he faced in 2020. He threw the pitch 84% of the time and it just didn’t matter. Between his elite velocity and a funky arm-angle and stride combination, he managed a 40.5% whiff rate on the pitch. And he frequently throws the fastball right in the middle of the zone:

 

 

The team has stated that Crochet will work only from the bullpen in 2021. This limits his ceiling on the ladder, as it’s very difficult for a non-closing rookie reliever to be the most valuable arm for redraft leagues. However, the team still plans on trying to let Crochet work in the starting rotation in the future. If that comes to fruition, he could leap up in dynasty league value substantially.

 

Nate Pearson – SP – Toronto Blue Jays

K/9 Projection: 8.9
BB/9 Projection: 2.6
GB% Projection: 40.2%

 

With Nate Pearson, the talent is not really in question. His big-time stuff includes a fastball that runs up to 100 mph and a turbo slider that he throws 90+. It’s the type of dominant material you would expect from an elite closer, except that the Blue Jays are trying their hardest to see if it will work for Pearson in the starting rotation.

And that’s also the rub with Pearson. He has just had issues staying in sync and healthy due to his XL frame (listed 6’6” 245). One issue that comes with the frame is a delivery that can be inconsistent at times, leading to control issues. The other issue is just general health, meaning that 2019 is the only season in his professional career where he’s logged full-time work. He’s expected to miss the start of the 2021 season with a groin injury, as his throwing regimen has only worked up to long tossing at this point. If he can keep himself on the mound, there’s no reason he can’t jump up this list as the season progresses.

 

Trevor Rogers – SP – Miami Marlins

K/9 Projection: 9.4
BB/9 Projection: 3.0
GB% Projection: 46.1%

 

Miami’s southpaw hurler had a rough go of it in 2020, but once you dig beneath the surface stats you can see there is a lot to like with Trevor Rogers in 2021. He’s been the subject of several deep dives this offseason, so you can find further detail on him. But the snapshot is this: he added a couple of ticks of velocity in his MLB debut, and it makes everything in his arsenal play up. Especially his changeup, which could be a borderline elite pitch.

Rogers has made the opening day rotation for the Fish. He should have the opportunity to run with a starting role all season. He also has a good history of making consistent starts in his minor league career, posting 72.2 innings over 17 starts in 2018 and 136.1 innings over 23 starts in 2019. The recipe is here for a shock takeover of the top of the rookie pitching ladder.

 

Dean Kremer – SP – Baltimore Orioles

K/9 Projection: 8.3
BB/9 Projection: 3.7
GB% Projection: 39.7%

 

“Dealin’” Dean Kremer has secured a place in the Orioles OD rotation. It’s well deserved, as Kremer showed us last summer that he’s more than capable at handling MLB hitters with his arsenal. His command for a cutter, in particular, is going to make him an effective option in the starting rotation:

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He’s slotted in the middle of the Orioles rotation, and really has no one pressing him for the spot at present. While he might not post eye-popping numbers, he has the upside to acquit himself just fine in the middle of a big-league rotation.

 

THE REST

 

Daulton Jeffries and Adbert Alzolay have both obtained a gig in the starting rotation to kick off the season. Both pitchers should be watched closely, as if they start out well they will start climbing this ladder.

Kohei Arihara seems to have secured a rotation spot as well. My info on him is scant, so I’ll take a wait-and-see approach before bumping him up at all.

Michael Kopech and Josh Fleming will both start the season in long relief roles, but for very different reasons. Kopech is building his way back from both Tommy John surgery and a 2020 season-long opt-out, so the team is likely to be very patient with him. Fleming is going to be used as a weapon in a variety of roles for Tampa, so ‘long relief’ is really a catch-all term for him here.

Then, there’s a big pile of arms that could land starting roles but have been shuttled down to minor league camp for at least the start of the season. Of this group, Spencer Howard and Nick Lodolo have the best chance to climb the ladder if given the opportunity. Luis Patino, Deivi Garcia, Brailyn Marquez, and Adonis Medina are more likely to appear in relief than a starting role in 2021.

Dark Horse Cy Young and Dark Horse MVP

With the start of Major League Baseball back for 2021, it’s also that time of the year when everyone likes to look into their crystal ball and tell the world future that they foresee over the next few months of the season. The staff and crew here at RotoFanatic have done their research, computed their calculations, driven their DeLoreans, and now bring you their candidates for their Dark Horse Cy Young and Dark Horse MVP winners.

There is a big difference between last year and now, with the number of games to be played as the first and foremost biggest change. Whereas last season saw a miniature 60 game schedule, we go back to our regularly scheduled program and get 162 games in 2021, meaning that teams are going to strategize a bit differently. We may see multiple six-man rotations, closer-by-committees, multiple platoon splits, and a multitude of prospect call-ups this year, all leading to the possibility of additional opportunities for players to step up and produce. On the contrary, we could see an increase in injuries due to the fact that these players are human beings, and almost tripling their output from a year ago could have a toll on their bodies.

With so many unknowns out there, it can be difficult to predict the future. That’s where we here at RotoFanatic come into play. We’ve crossed our t’s, dotted our i’s, and looked over the data twice. We took what we know and made the best possible decisions here, while also shooting for the stars at the same time. We know that some of these are long shots, but that’s what makes it fun and is the very definition of a dark horse. We all picked players that we think should take the next step forward and see if they end up taking a leap. So sit back, relax and enjoy. And who knows, one or more of these could actually pay off.

 

Dark Horse Cy Young

 

Sandy Alcantara, Miami Marlins

Michael Govier (@mjgovier)

For Cy Young, Sandy Alcantara meets the terms of this article quite nicely. The key for him is continuing to lower the walks and increase the K’s. In his lone full sample size of 197 IP in 2019, he had a K-BB% of 8.4 with a SwStr% of 10.8. Shout-out to my fellow Rotofanatic pal Crosby Spencer for the following tidbit: Gerrit Cole went from 8% SwStr% to 16% and the K’s followed by doing so with his breaking stuff. Alcantara has an excellent 4 seamer, and he has actively said that he plans to use it more. This probably won’t lead to Cole-type whiff numbers, but he can certainly get his K9 over 9 for the first time in his career in 2021. If more K’s replace fewer walks, the sky is the limit for this opening day starter who is still only 25 years old!

 

Kyle Hendricks, Chicago Cubs

Paul Mammino (@pmamminofantasy)

 

Despite all the relative hate projections seem to have for him Kyle Hendricks has yet to post an ERA above 4 at the major league level. He has been one of the best pitchers in all of baseball over the last five seasons and last year was certainly no different. He might not get the love of some of the other aces around the game since he will never post the gaudy strikeout numbers but The Professor certainly belongs on the shortlist for best pitchers in the game. The Cubs offense seems poised for a bounce-back campaign and I could see Hendricks racking up big innings totals compared to his peers leading to large win totals. The win is certainly a stat of the past but it may be hard to bet against Hendricks winning the Cy Young if he leads the league in wins and once again continues to post a low-3’s ERA. I love watching Hendricks work and this season will be no different.

 

Kenta Maeda, Minnesota Twins

Carm Maiorano (@carmsclubhouse)

 

My love for Maeda knows no bounds. Similar to Tucker, I feel like Maeda is well-known in fantasy circles, but largely forgotten about to the casual baseball fan. Maeda is elite in both StuffERA and rfCommand, according to the #DataMonster, ranking in the 99th percentile in both metrics in 2020. His innings likely will not be limited since the Twins will be battling the White Sox all summer long for the AL Central. As a result, I’m expecting 180 innings with a 3.30 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 28-29% strikeout rate. He will be the ace of the team by season’s end, and a known quantity to everyone.

 

Brandon Woodruff, Milwaukee Brewers

Mike Carter (@mdrc0508)

I love Brandon Woodruff this year. In 2020 he led MLB in starts with 13. Ignore the win-loss record and instead look at his peripherals: 3.05 ERA, a minuscule .99 WHIP. He raised his K rate to 11.1 and lowered his walk rate to 2.2. A 31.1% K percentage. He used the changeup, sinker, and slider a little more, while slightly reducing his four-seamer usage whole adding more spin to it. Relatively unknown outside of Milwaukee or fantasy circles, look for him to step through the superstar door in 2021.

 

Lance Lynn, Chicago White Sox

Phil Goyette (@PhilOfSports)

The White Sox off-season acquisition is turned loose by new manager Tony La Russa, and winds up leading the AL in innings pitched, quality starts and wins. Marries his 2019 control (6.7% BB rate) and home run suppression (.90 HR/9) with his 2020 BABIP luck (.242 BABIP allowed) to post a sub 3.00 ERA. Leads White Sox to AL Pennant. I’m not crying, you’re crying!

 

Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels

Dave Funnell (@sportz_nutt51)

If there’s one thing I look for in the off-season, it’s the changes that players make to improve. Now sure, every off-season we read a lot of blurbs about a lot of changes that a lot of players make. They don’t always pan out but reading about what Ohtani did really impressed me. Before all else, he changed his diet and even went as far as to eating more foods that reacted best with his body to help produce physical results while aiding in his body’s recovery. He also challenged himself to leap higher and produce more leg strength and form, while in the process also upping his body weight to 225 pounds.

Unhappy with his 2020 season, he began throwing bullpen sessions and participated in batting practices much earlier than usual, thus aiding in his timing and balance with his new body. Finally, he visited Driveline, which is to me, always a positive for pitchers. In the case of Ohtani, he understood better when to rest, when he was at his peak, and subsequently redeveloped and maintained an entire workout regimen for himself. When he returned to camp, manager Joe Maddon noticed a difference in his arm stroke, a much more fluid arm motion, and a significant boost in his velocity, which was near 97 miles per hour. When he took the mound in Spring Training, he outdid himself velo-wise and went over 101 miles per hour, en route to striking out 14 batters over eight innings of work.

 

 

Don’t let his 7.88 ERA during Spring Training fool you either, as it ballooned up after a bad outing (albeit due to a blister). And while he does pose an injury risk this year, the fact is this: Ohtani has blazing stuff, he’s much more aware of himself, he’s had a full offseason to recover (something that he didn’t have last year) and he’s more focussed and aware than ever. Manager Joe Maddon wants to use him often, so maybe Ohtani puts it all together and wins a Cy Young.

 

Dark Horse MVP

 

Yoan Moncada, 3B Chicago White Sox

Michael Govier (@mjgovier)

Where the hell did the term dark horse come from anyways? I have no idea. However, I do know what a dark horse MVP and Cy Young winner should be. The player should either be someone outside the top 10 players at their position, a player with talent that hasn’t quite reached their full potential yet, or a fella who has had some bad luck through injuries or other unfortunate circumstances, but is ready to put it all back together.

For MVP, my selection is Yoan Moncada. From the moment I watched him three rows behind home plate against the Charleston River Dogs in 2015, I knew one day he would be a unique talent in MLB. His incredibly broad shoulders spoke to me as if whispering gently in my ear that Moncada was not long for the minors. His shoulders were wise. He had his break out in 2019 with a historic BABIP of .406 (not seen since WWII) supporting his .315 average along with 25 taters and 10 steals. Evil Covid-19 slowed him down last year. I mostly ignore his 2020 and flash forward right back to the MVP trail where he was originally progressing towards in 2019.

Michael Conforto, OF New York Mets

Paul Mammino (@pmamminofantasy)

When Michael Conforto first came up he looked like a future MVP candidate. He was an all fields hitter with above-average power which allowed him to become an integral member of a WS team. In only 400 at-bats in 2017, he showed what the potential looked like posting a wRC+ of 147. Over the next two years, the shape of the production changed and the AVG dropped. He was still about 20% better than average but he was selling out for more power and it seemed to hurt his overall game. In 2020 however, Conforto seemed to get back to his early career approach, posting a pull rate of 32% down from the 40%+ numbers he posted in 18 and 19. It led to an average of over 300 and a wRC+ of 157.

Conforto is poised to hit in the middle of what should be among the best lineups in baseball and if he maintains this all fields approach this should allow him to post a well above average AVG with 30+ power and a legit chance at 100 runs and RBI. Conforto is one of the best hitters in the game and a massive season for both him and Mets could propel him to an MVP.

 

Kyle Tucker, OF Houston Astros

Carm Maiorano (@carmsclubhouse)

We obviously know that Tucker projects to be an elite talent in fantasy, but he’s relatively under the radar in the real-world of baseball. While he will likely start the season in the middle-third of the lineup, he should quickly move up once he inevitably starts raking. For starters, he ranks well above-average in our #DataMonster metrics, as he’s in the 77th percentile in wOBA, 69th in expected location wOBA, and 80th in influenced wOBA. His plate discipline is also elite. A 25/25 homer/stolen base season is on the table to go with 170 combined runs and RBI. Additionally, I expect his average to climb to .275+. If he can do this, he will be the one carrying the Astros to a division crown as Jose Altuve gets older and their youthful rotation shows its cracks.

 

Tim Anderson, SS Chicago White Sox

Mike Carter (@mdrc0508)

This may seem like a homer pick, but Tim Anderson is poised for another growth year. With the injury to Eloy Jimenez, the White Sox will need their offense to step up, and Anderson will be crucial. Anderson sits atop that lineup and hit .322 last year with a career-high OBP of .357. He chipped in ten home runs and five steals. Tim Anderson is a fierce competitor who is the clear team leader on an up-and-coming team. Look for 25+ home runs, 25 steals, a .280-.290 average, a ton of runs, and lots of bat flips. Teammate Jose Abreu won the MVP last year, and “TA” could join him this year. The guy just absolutely murders fastballs: .352 in 2019, .368 in 2020.

Nolan Arenado, 3B St. Louis Cardinals

Phil Goyette (@PhilOfSports)

Everyone assumes a big ding in production moving away from Coors, but Arenado is energized by the move to a contender. He brings his Gold Glove defense to the Lou, pairing with DeJong to be the best infield left side in the Show. Also has a full season of good health, (he’s still not 30 years old), slashes .300/.375/.550, and hits 35 home runs in a bounce-back campaign.

 

Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels

Dave Funnell (@sportz_nutt51)

Perhaps this is the year he puts it all together on the mound AND behind the plate. His .190/.291/.366/.657 slash line for 2020 is very misleading for a number of reasons, the biggest of which is that he was playing injured all season. A lot of people forget the fact that, just because he was still in the lineup for the Angels, he was still recovering from forearm soreness last year, and thus his year was a lost one. Still, he finished with seven home runs and seven steals over 175 plate appearances, which is still quite substantial. Even better, his 162 game average puts him with 30 home runs, 18 steals, and a .269/.340/.503/.843 line.

While he won’t play a full 162 games in 2021, Maddon hasn’t shied away from using him more than we’re accustomed to, where he would rest the day before, the day of, and the day after he started a game on the mound. In fact, more than once this Spring he batted in games where he pitched.

As mentioned in my Cy Young talk about his off-season, Ohtani’s increased strength and mobility will only help him be a better fantasy player this year, giving him increased power at the plate with an affinity to steal. He cruised through Spring Training this year as he batted .571 with five home runs and two steals over 32 plate appearances, and while the pace that those numbers represent won’t be what we see this season, I don’t see why he can’t outproduce the RotoFanatic Projections of him, and swat more than 25 home runs and steal at least 15 bases this year while maintaining a batting average close to .280 for the Angels.

After all, that’s said and done, what do you think of our picks? Who is on the right track? Who is way too far out in left field? Who would you pick? Let us know on Twitter at @Roto_Fanatic and give us your thoughts.

Closing Remarks: Final Spring Update

Bullpen Notes 3.27.2021

As a reminder, we will update our new closer chart each week, trying to keep you abreast of what is happening in the ever-changing MLB bullpens.  Let us save you the headache!

 

Here is the worksheet:  Closer Workbook

 

Baltimore:  As noted last week, Hunter Harvey is injured and is not ready to start the season. Tanner Scott looks to get the first shot. Cesar Valdez (meh) followed by Paul Fry and Dillon Tate (watch carefully) could also get shots if Scott falters or manager Brandon Hyde uses a committee approach. If Scott is on your waiver wire, he’s worth taking a shot on.

New York Yankees: We know Aroldis Chapman is the closer, but who do we look to for holds on a contending team with both Zack Britton (elbow surgery) and Justin Wilson on the shelf? Chad Green now appears to be a prime candidate for holds. Grab him late if you want a handcuff to Chapman to start the season, or you are looking for holds. Keep in mind that Chapman is serving a two-game suspension to start the season, so Green may be in line for some opportunities that first week.

Tampa Bay: It was revealed this week that breakout candidate Nick Anderson of the Tampa Bay Rays would miss a significant portion of the season with a “slight” tear in his ulnar collateral ligament. This is a distressing report, not only for Tampa Bay, but also fantasy owners who may have paid for a breakout this season. Team officials are calling him out until the All-Start Break. This type of injury doesn’t bode well, even though he is not recommended for surgery.

The debate now becomes who is the closer in Tampa Bay?  It could come down to Diego Castillo and Pete Fairbanks.  Here’s the take: both will likely get save opportunities as Kevin Cash now has impetus to play musical chairs at closer, as his prerogative and part of the Tampa Bay methodology. I feel that Fairbanks has a higher upside, and the fact that he got the ball in the playoffs means something, right?  You may want to take a flyer on Chaz Roe, who is back from injury and has a devastating slider. He’s a prime candidate for holds.

Toronto: Staying in the AL East, we head north of the border (although they will play home games in Dunedin, Florida for the next few weeks) and find that Kirby Yates is done for the year, succumbing to Tommy John Surgery. This is quite a blow for Toronto and fantasy league owners.  Granted, most of you likely did not pay a high price for a 32-year-old arm coming off bone chip surgery in that same elbow.  Nonetheless, if you have rostered him, you will need to replace him.  Savvy owners in drafts may have handcuffed Jordan Romano to Yates; many did in slow drafts after the news of the Yates injury.  Don’t sleep on Rafael Dolis though, either.  He has some experience in the job and never discount manager preference for experience in the role.  That said, Romano has potential and is the guy to own in this bullpen.  Julian Merryweather is a deep sleeper for holds that you might want to dogear as well.

Note Romano below.  Notice the increased velocity in his slider and four-seamer last year.  He could be primed for a breakout.

 

 

Texas:  The Rangers traded away Rafael Montero this offseason, ostensibly to take some pressure off Jose LeClerc, who you may recall, they paid to be the closer two years ago. Those who may have drafted LeClerc as a sleeper option are now disappointed to learn he will start the year on the IL. So what happens here?  Mum is the word so far, but do not be surprised if Ian Kennedy, the former closer in Kansas City, might rise to the top of this decimated bullpen.  Matt Bush is here also. With LeClerc facing an unknown future in his return from injury, this bullpen is wide open.  Jonathan Hernandez is nursing a UCL injury (read: not good) and Joely Rodriguez has a bad ankle.  Look for Kennedy or a committee approach until Hernandez or more likely Rodriguez makes it back.  These could be painful saves.

San Francisco: It looks like Jake McGee has won this job, with other options Reyes Moronta and Tyler Rogers behind him at this time.  Personally, I would avoid the others and put my stock, for now, in McGee.  Should San Francisco struggle, he may become trade bait, and if he is moved, my guess would be he would not be the closer at his next stop.  Buyer beware on McGee.

San Diego:  A plethora of options a week ago, now there may be issues.  Could Emilio Pagan reemerge as a closer option?  Drew Pomeranz, whom many drafted as the first Padres’ reliever off the board this year, has been slowed with a tight forearm.  Although the team has not appeared overly concerned about this, any time the words “forearm” is used I tremble.  Pomeranz tantalizes with his potential, but if injured, he does nothing for you. Buyer beware. Pagan is being mentioned within the organization (the collective “they”) as the closer-in-waiting, but this may have as much to do with the injury situation as his stuff. Pagan will need to regain some of his 2019 mojo to make this work.  See 2019 line below:

 

Cincinnati: Here is a full disclosure from me:  I am a Lucas Sims truther, come hell or high water.  Both Sims and closer favorite Amir Garrett have been slowed by an injury to this Spring Training. Garrett has been lights out this past week; nine strikeouts.  Wow.  In several leagues this year, I have drafted both in an attempt to corner all of the team’s saves. You may choose to do the same thing with this bullpen; another option would be Minnesota, with Alex Colome and Taylor Rogers likely to have a split (maybe 60/40 Colome to Rogers?) of the save opportunities whole also getting a fair share of holds as well. My gut, and there is no information to go on with this yet, is that manager David Bell may use Garrett as a stopper with his high strikeout potential in the middle innings, while Sims gets the save opportunities. Update:  as of 3/27, Bell announced that Sims and Garrett are co-closers. Here we go; watch this battle develop over the next weeks.

 

Compounding this bullpen are other great arms like Michael Lorenzen and Tejay Antone.  How is the rotation shaking out?  Lorenzen is hurt and may start the year on the IL.  Antone could be in the rotation or a multi-inning option as well. You need a strong constitution if you own anyone in this bullpen.

Pittsburgh:  Speaking of string stomachs, what is happening in Pittsburgh?  A guy we talked about earlier as a deep sleeper, Blake Cederlind, just had Tommy John Surgery and is out for 2021. Manager Derek Shelton was coy and noncommittal about the closer situation, which most fantasy players thought would go to Richard Rodriguez.  But that may not be the case. In an interview with MLB Network, Shelton suggested that David Bednar was opening eyes in camp and might get some high-leverage work.  Shelton also suggested he might go an “unconventional route” and use a committee, a la Tampa Bay. Could Michael Feliz and play a role here?  Bednar?  Kyle Crick would seem to be the largest beneficiary of a demotion of Rodriguez to a setup role. Kyle Crick below:

 

 

Keep in mind that there are several free agents still looking for work that could pop into bullpens in the come days or weeks; guys like David Robertson and Shane Greene could be signed as the war of attrition begins in the game that is managing fantasy bullpens.

Underdog Best Ball Strategy

Last week, I wrote a piece introducing the addicting best ball platform, Underdog Fantasy. The small format drafts with an overall component are an extremely fun way for a more casual fan to play best ball without needing intense knowledge of league depth. Combined with the low price point Underdog Fantasy has easily become one of my favorite fantasy platforms. Today, I am going to peel back my own personal thought process a little bit and I’m going to give a glimpse into the strategies I like to use.

As I stated in last week’s article, the first thing I will always do in a best ball/points format is run the scoring through projections. I used The BAT for these to have both hitting and pitching projections from the same source but you could use whatever system to prefer including our very own RotoFanatic projections.

NameTeamPoints
Mike TroutLAA1743
Juan SotoWSN1686
Mookie BettsLAD1646
Ronald Acuna Jr.ATL1645
Christian YelichMIL1611
Cody BellingerLAD1605
Bryce HarperPHI1597
Freddie FreemanATL1583
Fernando Tatis Jr.SDP1557
Jose RamirezCLE1544
Trevor StoryCOL1526
Manny MachadoSDP1488
Eugenio SuarezCIN1470
Alex BregmanHOU1467
Trea TurnerWSN1458
Anthony RendonLAA1425
Marcell OzunaATL1413
Francisco LindorNYM1404
Pete AlonsoNYM1395
Anthony RizzoCHC1392

Above are the top 20 projected hitters for 2021. What you’ll see is that this top-end looks much different from the first round of most fantasy leagues. Players like Trea Turner and Fernando Tatis Jr appear lower than most Roto leagues and as you get more towards the back of the top 20, guys like Anthony Rizzo begin to sneak in. This is largely due to the depressed value of stolen bases. Since the SB is not valued nearly as highly as hitting for power, those guys who get a significant value bump from SBs are going to drop in leagues like this. Additionally, Mike Trout and Juan Soto appearing 1-2 is a good indication of how valuable OBP and drawing walks are in this scoring.

NameTeamPoints
Jacob deGromNYM1388
Gerrit ColeNYY1268
Shane BieberCLE1226
Trevor BauerLAD1219
Max ScherzerWSN1202
Aaron NolaPHI1128
Yu DarvishSDP1103
Jack FlahertySTL1087
Luis CastilloCIN1085
Lance LynnCHW1079
Lucas GiolitoCHW1058
Brandon WoodruffMIL1035
Walker BuehlerLAD1016
Stephen StrasburgWSN1011
Kevin GausmanSFG965
Patrick CorbinWSN964
Blake SnellSDP957
Clayton KershawLAD936
Robbie RayTOR933
Tyler GlasnowTBR930

Looking at pitcher projections, things near the top don’t look too different. However, a huge shock is Robbie Ray projected to finish as a top 20 pitcher. This is largely a function of the scoring system. Strikeouts are just as valuable as innings pitched and there is no penalty for hits or walks allowed. The only negative value is for earned runs. This helps flawed strikeout artists like Ray and can help make him a steal in this draft. One thing you will notice though is that pitchers are projected significantly fewer points than hitters. This may make it seem like taking an early pitcher is a waste but I look at it slightly differently.

NameTeamPointsRelValue
Jacob deGromNYM13881.99
Gerrit ColeNYY12681.82
Mike TroutLAA17431.81
Shane BieberCLE12261.76
Trevor BauerLAD12191.75
Juan SotoWSN16861.75
Max ScherzerWSN12021.72
Mookie BettsLAD16461.71
Ronald Acuna Jr.ATL16451.70
Christian YelichMIL16111.67
Cody BellingerLAD16051.66
Bryce HarperPHI15971.65
Freddie FreemanATL15831.64
Aaron NolaPHI11281.62
Fernando Tatis Jr.SDP15571.61
Jose RamirezCLE15441.60
Yu DarvishSDP11031.58
Trevor StoryCOL15261.58
Jack FlahertySTL10871.56
Luis CastilloCIN10851.56

The above table shows the top 20 players by what I am calling RelValue. This is a shorthand for Relative Value and it shows how much better a given player is than the 80th ranked player pitcher and 160th hitter. This is essentially a shorthand for a replacement level. Why did I choose those numbers? Well, assuming 3 starters for IF/OF/P and then 9 bench spots I am operating off the fact that each team will likely roster around 6 pitchers and 12 hitters. With 12 teams in each league, this means around 80 pitchers rostered and 160 hitters.

So when comparing deGrom and Trout, although Trout is expected to heavily outscore deGrom, deGrom is twice as good as a replacement-level pitcher which Trout is projected to be 80% better than replacement. In my eyes, this makes deGrom the easy top pick in any draft. I tend to loosely follow these guidelines for team and roster building.

The second major piece to the puzzle is positional allotment. In any best ball format, you need to make sure that you have the necessary pieces to cover any potential injuries. The drawback of the format is that there are not any multi-positional eligible guys but regardless we can still build out a rather string bench to cover any concerns. I have usually gone one of two ways with bench construction. The first is a fully even approach, rostering 3 additional OF/IF/P each to have 6 of each spot on my roster. This will likely lead to me avoiding zeros all season but I feel it may be the safer approach. If I do not land a super high-end pitcher early, I will likely be pivoting to the second approach, 2 bench OF/IF, and then 5 bench pitchers. This is mainly because once I do not get a top-end guy I am attacking pitching from a more is more approach. Instead of trying to remain balanced, I will front-load my offense and then take several different high-k flawed pitchers chasing the big point weeks. Overall, this should afford me some more upside potential especially if a few of those arms take a leap.

This is just a general idea of my personal Underdog Fantasy thought process and approach and I think it should be extremely helpful for you in building your rosters and for making a run at those big overall titles. Best of luck in 2021 in every league you do.

Introduction to Underdog Fantasy

One of the fastest-growing aspects of the Fantasy Baseball industry is Best Ball leagues. Between the Fantrax Best Balls, NFBC Cutlines, and many others, there are a number of different sites hosting these leagues. The appeal to these leagues is minimal in-season management. In most Best Ball leagues, the draft is the entire process. You will never have to set a lineup, worry about trades, or place FAAB bids. The site that you are playing on will handle setting an “optimal” lineup for you every week with the highest number of points possible. Then like any other fantasy league, the end of season pays out to a certain number of places. However, on wrinkle to this is the concept of an overall tournament, and that’s where Underdog Fantasy comes in.

 

What Is Underdog?

 

Underdog Fantasy burst on the scene last year right before the Fantasy Football season. They hosted a series of Best Ball leagues that were all part of a large overall contest. The top finishers in each of the different leagues through a certain number of weeks then went on to the “playoffs”. Each playoff week, placed your team in a new league against new competition and once again the winner advanced to the next round. This continued until the end of the season when a singular winner was crowned. That winner won a massive prize. Unlike some other places with large overall prizes, Underdog manages to keep the price point low, with entry fees of only $25 or $5 in order to appeal to the average fan.

Due to the success of their football products, they were able to begin hosting NBA, NHL, and now MLB contests. Their contests differ from their competitors in a number of different ways. One of the staples of typical best ball drafts is deep rosters. For NFBC Cutlines the draft is 43 rounds long, Fantrax leagues have 40 players per team. For Underdog leagues, the rosters are only 18 players total. This leads to fewer dead roster spots first and foremost, but for me, the biggest difference I notice is in the drafts. Each league consists of 12 teams with 18 man rosters and a 30-second pick clock. This means the draft moves extremely quickly leading and certainly does not drag across days at a time. The drafts are insanely fun as a result and even can feel a bit addicting. The other fun aspect of the draft speed to me is that the speed of the drafts allows you to almost immediately join another draft and test out a completely different strategy.

When it comes to any points or best ball league, you need to make sure that you know the rules. Unlike your standard 5×5 Roto league, each site handles points leagues completely differently.

 

The Rules

 

Points leagues offer a unique set of challenges but they also allow players to rank extremely easily. Since each site is unique in its overall scoring system, it is imperative before beginning any points league you get a good understanding of the scoring. However, The design of points leagues makes it extremely easy to download your favorite projections and run them through the site’s scoring to determine a set of projected points. This is much easier to do than a Roto league, where you need to worry about things like category balance and ratios. For Underdog here is the scoring system.

 

 

Before even running the scoring through a system, we can see a few main points.

  • Saves do not earn points – This means that there is no reason at all to be drafting a closer
  • Innings matter – An IP is worth just a much as a strikeout. This means that the big innings eater pitchers will have added advantages in a league like this
  • WHIP Doesn’t matter – There are no negatives for H or BB allowed so no need to necessarily worry about high walk pitchers
  • Stolen Base Value Depressed – In most fantasy leagues a single SB is worth more than an HR. However in Underdog fantasy that is not the case. A solo HR is worth 14 points (HR + R + RBI) while an SB is only worth 4. Let others chase the SB threats and focus on power
  • Also, you’ll see that 1B/2B/3B are all worth different amounts – This means when looking for later round targets Slugging and ISO will be a bit more helpful than AVG or even OBP
  • We do get points for walks – This is big for any points league as it helps add value to the Cavan Biggio’s of the world. A walk is just as good as a single

That is just an overall summary of some quick notes before even passing the scoring through a projection system. One thing that I saw when I ran the numbers through projections was that hitters score more on average, however, the replacement level of pitching is lower. This is something we can get into some more in-depth next week when I cover some strategy.

After we look at the scoring rules, the next key will always be to look at the roster spots. Underdog really likes to simplify the roster spots using only three designations: IF, OF, and P. Your starting lineup will consist of three players from each position and then you have nine bench spots to use freely. Again remember that the system will automatically choose your best performing players so you will want to make sure that your bench is set up properly, again something we will look at next week.

The biggest thing to make note of is that it does not appear that any players have dual eligibility, the site has chosen either IF or OF for each player meaning that Biggio and Tommy Edman are only IF despite being OF eligible as well on some other sites. However, the biggest news here is that the merging of all IF positions into one means we do not need to care about positional scarcity. Catchers are included in the IF position and as a result this likely makes almost all catchers undraftable in this format. The name of the game in best-ball leagues is accumulation and catchers just won’t be able to stack up. With not UT spot it appears that many of the guys who would’ve been UT only have been placed in the OF. This includes Nelson Cruz, JD Martinez, and Yordan Alvarez. In a format like this, their value may be higher than in traditional leagues where they are UT only.

This is just a sampling of some of the main things to consider when joining your first Underdog Fantasy draft. Next week I’ll go into some detail about strategies and draft builds as well as a look into ADP this far. However, if you love Best Ball drafts and want something quick and insanely fun I highly recommend Underdog Fantasy to all fantasy baseball players. They have built a beautiful easy to use site with a really engaging game type that is quick to draft.