Welcome to another edition of “The Week That Was”, where we look back at the last seven days with respect to the world of baseball with a touch of fantasy. These past seven days didn’t have a lot of major trades or free agent signings, but it did feature the start of Pitchers and Catchers, which is quite liberating. It’s a sign that things are getting closer to Opening Day and that means more and more drafts will be happening. I know for me, personally, I’m already making cuts in one of my leagues, and I’m trying to make decisions in another. There’s never any down time, and with life the way it is, you may need something to help you organize your thoughts. That’s where RotoFanatic comes in. We’ve got you covered.
Just a reminder that all ADP listed down below are from the NFC listings and taken February 1, unless otherwise noted.
C.J. Cron, 1B, Colorado
minor league contract
First baseman/DH C.J. Cron signs minor-league deal with the #Rockies, his fifth team in five years.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) February 15, 2021
This one came almost out of nowhere, but with Ian Desmond opting out of baseball for 2021, Cron looks like a very suitable replacement. The only real caveat here is that it is a minor league deal, which could mean that they weren’t overly confident in the medicals, following knee ligament surgery in August of last year. Essentially, it’s a nice little gamble on someone who had some nice sneaky value going into 2020 after hitting 25 home runs for the Twins in 2019. Unfortunately for him, Cron’s shortened season was even shorter due to a multitude of injuries, and when he did play, he wasn’t able to really get things going. Still, he’s someone to keep an eye on this year, as a lot of projections systems love him and his situation.
Pretty interesting projections, considering he’s still on a minor league deal. However, his power potential being in Coors is unquestionably in play here, as his batting average projections look to be career highs. Added to that, before his injuries, he was hitting the ball harder and square on, as his Barrel Rate over his 2019 and 2020 seasons were among the elite. Looking over at Carm’s (@carmsclubhouse) incredible Barrel Board, his bat, not in Coors, has played very well for quite awhile:
At the end of the day, his ADP is at 387, but it will undoubtedly skyrocket soon. For context, I reached for him in the 18th round of our RotoFanatic Mock Draft, which is a 15 team league, and he’s on my bench. I think he has a legitimate chance to help you win your league while costing next to nothing. Go get him right now. Read the rest of this later.
Trevor Rosenthal, RP, Oakland
1-year contract, $11 million
Closer Trevor Rosenthal and the Oakland A’s are in agreement on a one-year, $11M contract, sources familiar with the deal tell ESPN.
Rosenthal had been seeking a four-year contract originally. Reliever market cratered and he gets one with deferred money. @JonHeyman was first.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 18, 2021
The A’s were very busy this week, as they moulded their bullpen in the final week and did quite the impressive job if I do say so myself. It’s been a long road back to reclaiming his status as one of the elite closers in the game, since missing all of 2018 with Tommy John surgery. Since then, he’s regained the velocity that made him a success in St. Louis and has actually made his changeup incredibly effective. Though thrown with a lower frequency than in his previous pre-injury years, it actually had an 80% Whiff Rate and a 46.2% PutAway Rate, making it a lethal weapon. Looking at the Data Monster, it shows considerable improvement over his two years since making a comeback.
In reality, he had himself a marvellous 2020 season. He was about average with regards to what sort of whiffs were to be expected, but was near the elite in the likelihood of generating swinging strikes. What’s even better is that he showed no signs of slowing down, as he recorded two or more strikeouts in each of his final five appearances while walking none. To me, that helps alleviate any questions of him potentially slumping had the season gone on longer. He looks to have a strangle hold on the closer spot for the A’s, who now have a loaded bullpen. Sergio Romo, Jake Diekman, Lee Trivino and Yusmeiro Petiit all highlight the pure depth in Oakland. Be on the lookout for Mike Carter (@mdrc0508) and his Bullpen Reports in the near future as he will go into much more in depth analysis. For now, just know that Rosenthal needs to be owned.
Brett Gardner, OF, New York Yankees
1-year contract, $4 million
The Yankees and Brett Gardner have agreed to a one-year deal with a $4 million guarantee, per source. Deal includes player and team options for 2022.
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) February 19, 2021
For a brief moment there, the world believed that the Yankees would be moving on from their most tenured player, and finally give their home grown talent, Clint Frazier, a chance to play. Instead, the Yankees do what they do best (and to be fair, it’s a nice gesture): they took care of their own. Brett Gardner has been around since 2008 and will likely be a Yankee for life. Now, in his 14th season, the ageless wonder now brings some versatility and stability to the Yankees and their outfield, which is filled with injury concerns. He should see a fair amount of at bats with the Yankees as he’s usually one of the healthiest players they have. Keep an eye on him with regards to age, as his fantasy value has always been tied to posting seasons of double digit home runs and steals. If his legs start to go, so does any value he possesses. Right now, with a 679 ADP, he’s free in drafts, but should really only be owned in all AL Only leagues and really deep leagues due to the fact that he will play.
Toronto Blue Jays will start the season in Dunedin Florida
Blue Jays Update On 2021 Home Location: pic.twitter.com/b2Eu5iknjs
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) February 18, 2021
Interesting development here for the Blue Jays, as the dates in question are so far linked to only May 2, with no word on where they will play after that. Last year the Jays played in Buffalo, and their offence seemed to enjoy it, as it led to it being one of the most offensively charged ballparks in all of baseball. This year, they will begin the year in Dunedin, Florida where they will be surrounded in familiar grounds. Using their Spring Training complex is a unique opportunity for the Jays here, as they will be able to have an extra long time to scour and understand the dimensions of their home field. To compare the last two seasons:
Off the top, it looks like a bit of an offensive downgrade for the Jays as the dimensions seem a bit larger in 2021 down in Florida. Specifically out in left field, it’s a significant jump in footage making it possible for a slight drop in power for right handed hitters. However, with the Jays and their offence being as strong as it is, I don’t see them in too much trouble. The benefit here is for their pitching, which can should enjoy having more field with which to work, hopefully upgrading their status even more. For now, though, just know that the Jays will be playing their home games in warm weather outdoors with a bigger field.
Phillies’ catcher J.T. Realmuto breaks his thumb
Philadelphia Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto suffered a broken thumb in his throwing hand and is expected to miss up to a month. He should be ready for Opening Day but will be out a number of spring games after signing a free agent deal for five years and $115M.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 18, 2021
A tough to pill to swallow for owners, since anytime lost by Realmuto is big. That said, it was reported over the weekend that he was able to catch and hit while wearing a cast, so perhaps clearing his health by Opening Day isn’t just a possibility but more of a probability. The best catcher in the game, Realmuto brings a sense of legitimacy to the position that is lacking anyone close to being elite. He was slotted to play most of the Phillies’ games and looks to still be ready to do so. He’s my number one ranked catcher by far and probably worth his cost of a 34 ADP, since he’s that much better and consistent over everyone else. I recently drafted him in the RotoFanatic February Mock, which featured the TGFBI 2-catcher components in the upcoming drafts. At 46th overall, I was pretty happy to get someone who return 25+ home runs and just under ten stolen bases. Combined with a batting average close to .280, and you have yourself someone worth so much more than any other catcher.
Athletics’ catcher Sean Murphy has surgery for collapsed lung
Athletics’ SP Frankie Montas is diagnosed with Covid-19
Frankie Montas is not in camp currently due to COVID-19. Sean Murphy had surgery for a collapsed lung this offseason and is also not in camp.
— Martín Gallegos (@MartinJGallegos) February 17, 2021
Apparently it was a spontaneous thing, where he woke up in the middle of the night suffering from severe pain from coughing. He opted to have the surgery to fix his lung to ensure that it never happens again. As manager Bob Melvin said,
For now, he looks to be ready for Opening Day. The plan is for him to arrive in Arizona and then start baseball activities by the beginning of March. After that, he hopes to play in some Cactus-League baseball games and be prepared for the season. That said, he does drop down a notch or two for me, given that we don’t know how he will handle the diagnosis and recovery. Still, if all goes to plan, look for him to live up to his projections and more going forward in 2021.
As for Frankie Montas, he was about a week into his Covid-19 diagnosis, which means, on average he has about another week to go or so. His symptoms appear to be flu-like, which is unfortunate for him and for his owners. Here’s to him having a speedy recovery, but it’s unknown if and when that will fully be. The long term effects of the Coronavirus are different for each individual, so we unfortunately don’t know how this will hurt Frankie Montas. It’s a situation to monitor. Speaking of pitchers getting Covid-19…..
Indians’ SP Shane Bieber is diagnosed with Covid-19, but reports to camp
Cy Young winner Shane Bieber has reported to spring training after recovering from COVID-19.https://t.co/YjkeZOd8LJ
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 20, 2021
Something else to monitor here, as there was a scare with Bieber earlier this week. Apparently his symptoms were very very minor, and he was merely following league protocols and staying away. Fingers crossed that this there are no long term effects and that he is, essentially, asymptomatic to the Coronavirus. For now, he confidently remains as within the top tier of pitchers, a Top 10 pick in drafts, and a fantasy ace. If he shows any signs of slowing down because of Covid-19, you can make your adjustments to his projections, but for now, he is one of the best players in all of fantasy baseball for 2021.
Angels’ SP/DH Shohei Ohtani throws bullpen session
Shohei Ohtani threw a 27-pitch bullpen session today. Angels say top velo was 90.
— Jeff Fletcher (@JeffFletcherOCR) February 18, 2021
This was a small piece of news that garnered more and more attention from me as I started to investigate. At first, I started to think that this was just a standard bullpen session where the Angels wanted to see what they had in Ohtani for 2021. Would he continue along this path of trying to pitch? I didn’t know. My initial reaction was frustration, because we saw what happened over the past two seasons with injuries to his arm. He was unable to recoup what he had done back in 2018 on the mound, but still be a very productive hitter. In 2019, he hit 18 home runs and stole 12 bases, with a solid .286 batting average, as a full-time DH. In 2020, his minimal pitching attempts were porous at best as he reinstated himself into the rotation earlier than anticipated, and subsequently only pitched twice. Still, by season’s end as a hitter, he finished with seven home runs, seven stolen bases and a .190 batting average. In my mind, I thought that the pitching experiment was over and the Angels would have themselves a future first baseman for outfielder. Then, manager Joe Maddon talked about how the Angels don’t want to limit him to just one start a week with other days being for rest and for being a Designated Hitter, and I thought they were making a huge mistake. So I looked into it more, and found a fantastic article by Fabian Ardaya (@FabianArdaya) from The Athletic, detailing Ohtani’s offseason. Since we last saw him play, Ohtani has changed his diet, gained (muscle) weight to get him back to 225 pounds, improved his vertical leap, studied film, threw earlier in the offseason than he’s used to, and had batting practice sessions with live pitching before Spring Training. Perhaps one of the biggest things he did was when visited the Seattle Driveline Facility in order to use as much data as he could to figure out how and when his body reacts to optimal rest periods, and to work on his conditioning. All in all, with these improvements, compared to the limitations that he faced last year when the Covid pandemic first hit, there’s a potential for a completely revamped and improved Ohtani. With a 226 ADP, there is risk taking a player here whose roles on his respective team are still undefined. It’s unknown how he will react to these changes and if his body will hold up. I would say this: if you feel confident in your pitching staff by around the 200’s ADP-wise, then I would jump on Ohtani to give you the icing on your cake. I would not take a chance on him if you didn’t draft pitching early. In all other situations, however, I would wait until more is known, which should come within the upcoming weeks. That being said, going forward, it looks like more emphasis on pitching is on its way.