Speculation is finally laid to rest, baseball will happen this year! One thing we know about the season is going to be an abbreviated one. The new challenge that lies ahead will be trying to navigate the unknown landscape. The much shorter season will lend itself to a variety of different tactics to play fantasy baseball. As we embark on the 60 games season, we need to look at players and situations very differently than in the past.
This piece is the opening act of a multi-part series, looking at the streaks of individual players. Part one is going to feature several hitters and pitchers taking inside the top 50 ADP. Players that, after a few rounds, are the nucleus that you construct your roster around. These types of players are no brainers, right? We will dive into a few of the top MLB talent’s periods of struggle and see how much that could affect them in 2020 if carried over.
Hitters – 20 Game Cold Stretch
60 Game Season (33.3% of the season)
Pitchers – 5 Game Cold Stretch
60 Game Season / 12 GS ( 41.6% of season)
Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Cody Bellinger was on a record-breaking start to last years as he batted over .400 through March and April. He did finish the season with 47 HRs, 121 Runs, 115 RBI and a .305 batting average, that helped catapult him to an NL MVP. As you look at the chart, there was a regression towards the end for Bellinger. He is still a young player developing so he could swing either way, but that sure was a steady decline.
20 Game Cold Stretch – .194 AVG, 2 HR, 0 SB
Jose Ramirez, 3B, Cleveland Indians
It was a tale of two halves for Jose Ramirez, as he made every owner sick to their stomach in H1 and demolished in H2. Great player, no doubt, but if it were to take him 81 games to find the groove again, there would be trouble in 2020. For his career in the first half of a season, Ramirez sports a .272 AVG with more HRs, RBI, Runs, and SBs than his career second halves. Which J-Ram will emerge in 2020?
20 Game Cold Stretch – .158 AVG, 0 HR, 2 SB
Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals
Harper put up another impressive season of stats(35 HR, 98 Runs, 114 RBI, and 15 SBs). While he did hit a few longballs, Harper struggled early with a plus-30% K%. He has been a slightly better hitter as the season goes on for his career. Just a slow start for Harper in 2019 that you won’t be able to afford a shortened 2020. Harper has been plagued by IL stints as well. Any injury would be worth more of the season gone than the usual 162 game season.
20 Game Cold Stretch – .147 AVG, 2 HR, 0 SB
Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs
Javier Baez is one of the MLB’s carefree hitters in terms of plate discipline. He was top 10 in Swing%(55.2%) and led the MLB in SwStr%(18.4%). So it shouldn’t be too big of a shock to see how streaky is. Baez had a cold stretch from June 2nd through June 29th, which was almost unplayable. Luckily, he had many high points in the year to help stabilize his season. A very streaky player like Baez could be scary to own in 2020.
20 Game Cold Stretch – .195 AVG, 1 HR, 0 SB
Ketel Marte, 2B/OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
2019 was a breakout season for Ketel Marte with career highs in every category of note. Marte’s 20 streak was very early in the season. He progressively got better as the season went on. If he starts 2020 with the same cold stretch, it’s going to be very difficult to hold onto him and see if last year was a fluke or the new Ketel Marte.
20 Game Cold Stretch – .224 AVG, 1 HR, 0 SB
Jacob deGrom, SP, New York Mets
Jacob deGrom had a stellar season as he posted 204 IP, 2.43 ERA, and 255 strikeouts. The perennial Cy Young candidate was nearly flawless last year. 2020 will be a different version of a season, and even deGrom experienced a small hiccup. For a brief five-game stretch from April to early May, deGrom went 1-4 and gave up 16 earned runs. While that doesn’t sound so bad, you are investing a ton of draft capital in getting him.
5 Game Cold Stretch – 5.33 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 28 K
Max Scherzer, SP, Washington Nationals
Scherzer continued his dominance in the NL by going 11-7 with 243 Ks in 172 1/3 IP. Similar to deGrom, Scherzer started a little bumpy in 2019. For an early-season five-game stretch, he went 1-2 while giving up 18 earned runs. Was it the bouncy ball, the weather, or is father time catching up? Not saying Scherzer is terrible, but that if another skid of such length happens to start 2020, it could be trouble for the overall numbers. Adjustment periods will be vastly shorter.
5 Game Cold Stretch – 5.24 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 33 K
Clayton Kershaw, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Kershaw hasn’t surpassed the 200 IP mark since 2015, which has a lot of fantasy owners concerned. Please make no mistake though; his 178.1 IP with 3.03 ERA and 189 Ks still firmly puts him inside the top 50 ADP. Like Scherzer and deGrom, Kershaw struggled from early in the year and bounced back over the long haul. The chart is a good indication of what to look for in regards to Kershaw performing. As the strikeouts took a dip, he started to struggle.
5 Game Cold Stretch – 5.44 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 24 K
Chris Paddack, SP, San Diego Padres
Fastball-changeup extraordinaire, Chris Paddack, bust onto the scene in a big way last year. Even as the Padres tried to limit his workload to 140 IP, he was able to strike out over a batter per inning. The wheels came off late for Paddack and sent a fantasy owner into fits. The rookie pitcher became exposed to more of the league and was left in games too long. Paddack is still a work in progress at the age of only 24. Careful what you draft and hope its early 2019 Paddack and not the later.
5 Game Cold Stretch – 8.41 ERA, 1.71 WHIP, 22 K
Lucas Giolito, SP, Chicago White Sox
2019 was a year that Lucas Giolito would not be able to forget. The breakout came after the disaster in 2018. Mechanical changes helped bring out the most in his repertoire. When he was on, like in May(1.74 ERA), June(2.50 ERA), and August(2.45 ERA), everything was perfect. The other months had over a 5.00 ERA. Below, the chart is a good look at the rollercoaster that was Giolito’s season. The back and forth struggles could be challenging to prepare for, with only 10-12 games started.
5 Game Cold Stretch – 6.67 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 30 K
Quick Final Thoughts
The longer the season, the better chance skill will overperform luck. A shorter season will allow for high peaks and low valleys in a season to become magnified. There are going to be fewer portions of the season to allow for corrections. When play does resume, it’s going to make for a wild season. Be ready to alter plans during the season like never before. Good luck!