Better Times Ahead for Yankees Brett Gardner and Astros Jose Altuve
Patience is a Fantasy Virtue
The suspension of Robinson Cano sent shock waves throughout the Seattle Mariners locker room, all of Major League Baseball, and every Fantasy league in the country. Losing the All-Star for half a season will have a devastating effect on every team who owns him.
Conversely, everyone who owns CF/2B Dee Gordon in a keeper league is jumping for joy. Gordon has second base and outfield eligibility this season, but beyond this season, he was going to lose his second base and middle infielder eligibility because he was destined to play every day in center field. With Cano gone until August, the Mariners have no choice but to move their converted outfielder back into the infield, which will give Gordon second base and middle infield eligibility heading into the 2019 season.
Think of the ripple effects Cano’s suspension will have for the Mariners. With Gordon now playing second base, a spot has opened up in centerfield. That spot is being filled by Gil Heredia. The drop-off from Gordon is huge. As of today, the Mariners are within striking distance of the second Wild Card. Losing Cano forces the team to juggle their lineup and defense, which could lead to another disappointing season. Instead of being buyers at the trade deadline, they could be sellers.
The ripples will affect other AL teams. If the Mariners start to fall off, that will be one less team in the Wild Card mix. A team like the Oakland A’s is only two games behind the chase, and with one less team potentially in their way, GM Billy Beane may actually be sellers in July, and not purge the team yet again. The same is true for the Toronto Blue Jays and even Tampa Bay Rays, who are only 3.5 games out of post-season play.
What are the chances Josh Donaldson joins Manny Machado on the trading block? https://t.co/e8HUwSOQ7T
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) May 17, 2018
Players like Rays catcher Wilson Ramos; Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson and pitcher J.A. Happ, (who are each free agents at the end of the year), may be staying now with their teams, as opposed to getting shipped off to some other contender. The same is true for Oakland’s Khris Davis, who is signed through 2019. The Cano suspension has potentially opened up a whole different destiny for these teams and players, as well as your Fantasy team.
Aside from the unexpected situation that can transform your Fantasy team; either in a good or bad way, are the expected changes to your roster. How you handle your team’s injuries can ultimately determine who well you fare in your league. For instance, do you have a contingency plan for your team after Zach Britton comes off the DL in a couple of weeks, and you’re sitting with temporary closer Brad Brach? Realizing Britton would be out until Memorial Day, did you plan ahead and draft an extra closer; knowing that Brach was basically half a closer, at best? Or are you know panicked and trying to trade from a position of weakness?
As it is, the Orioles are awful this year, and save opportunities have been few and far between, but having a closer on a bad team is still better than not having a closer at all. Speaking of awful, that is what the Los Angeles Dodgers have been this year. Granted, they’ve lost Corey Seager to Tommy John surgery, and Clayton Kershaw is on the DL once again, but the team has too much talent to be this bad. They are sitting at 19-26 and are six games behind the division lead, and even further away from a Wild card berth. This isn’t the usual, underachieving kind of bad, where a good team is coasting at around 500 --this team isn’t very good right now.
Kershaw realistically won’t be back until the beginning of June, and by that time it may be too little too late. As crazy at it may seem, the main purpose of his return could be to showcase him for the other 29 MLB teams. If he can string together four to six solid starts, he could very well be shipped off to a contender…(Yankees?). When your season started and you took Kershaw with the ninth pick in the first round, or spent $46 on him, I’m sure you never expected he’d be sitting with only one win heading into Memorial Day. If you’re in an NL-only league and he does get traded, and it’s to an AL team, your season will probably be over: and you, like the Dodgers should be planning for the 2019 season.
Another issue to start to determine at this time of year is when to cut bait with a player who’s underachieved. More often than not by the end of the season, the player reverts back to his career averages.
If that’s the case it bodes well for a few players. New York Yankees outfielder, Brett Gardner’s three year averages are 15 HR/.261 AVG/.745 OPS. He’s on currently on pace to only hit three home runs, to go along with a.224 AVG, and .517 OPS. Look for a small power surge from Gardner as the days are growing longer and the temperature rises. The good news for owners of Gardner is that as the Yankees’ leadoff hitter, hitting in front of the likes of Aaron Judge, Didi Gregorius, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez is paying huge dividends. He’s on pace to score a whopping 123 runs, which would be a career high.
Another player, who I’d never advocate “dumping” is Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve. The problem with a player like Altuve, who’s been underperforming, is that you probably won’t be able to get true value for him. Most teams will look at his stats and try to get him for 70 or 80 cents on the dollar. Why should you endure his sluggish start, and trade him away for less than fair value; only to watch the team you traded him to reap the rewards when Altuve turns it around?
So far this year Altuve has been anything but Altuve-like. Over the last three seasons, Altuve has averaged 102 R/21 HR/81 RBI/33 SBs/.332 AVG/.896 OPS. His numbers are down, (way down), in some categories. He’s on pace to only have 81 R/7 HR/70 RBI/7 SBs/.307 AVG/.772 OPS. Manager A.J. Hinch sensed there was a problem with his All Star second baseman and recently moved Altuve out of the three-hole into the leadoff spot. The move makes sense in many ways. Batting third, the mindset might be to be a run producer, always having to knock the ball out of the park. Although Altuve has hit 24 home runs in back-to-back seasons, he’s NOT a home run hitter. At his essence he’s a tremendous contact hitter who steals a ton of bases and hits for a high average. He’s far better suited to be a leadoff hitter than George Springer.
Look closely at this move. It may jumpstart Altuve in the way that Hinch, (and millions of Altuve owners) hopes. Batting leadoff will no doubt increase his run total, and should have him thinking more about stealing bases. The move could negatively affect his RBI total, but he’s only on pace to have 70 RBI batting third anyway. I know his owners will give up a dozen RBI if it means getting him back to 100-plus runs and 30-plus steals.
The next two months will be crucial for many MLB teams, and many questions will be answered. The same hold true in your fantasy leagues. Tread lightly over this period of time and don’t panic. Conversely, be objective regarding your team, and make the necessary moves that will either keep you in contention or get you back into it. There’s nothing worse than having an August and September with no chance in your Fantasy league. The work you do know through July will ensure you stay relevant for the entire summer.
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