Groovin' with Govier: Fantasy Baseball Roundup (3/15)
FTN's Michael Govier dives in on the top news around fantasy baseball to find the actionable advice heading into the 2023 MLB season.
Mar 15, 2023, 8:39 AM EDT
Welcome to the opening Spring Training edition of Groovin’ With Govier! If you’re new here (regulars: skip), I dissect various players and strategies related to the current fantasy baseball landscape. Don’t forget our 2023 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide is available right now. Save a couple bones with my promo code MJGOVIER when you sign up so you can get access to Eric Cross, Matty Davis, Vlad Sedler and many more FTN whiz-kids. With that, I take a cue from Team Nicaragua’s own Duque Hebbert and bring you the best stuff I can muster for the week of March 13. Hebbert is a reminder to us all that we should give everything we have to our endeavors no matter the scale of the situation. You never know who’s paying attention.
I express these words with little fanfare or hype. No pride comes from sharing this annual routine. Every fantasy baseball draft season, there are players I label possibly unjustly as dangers to my fantasy baseball success. They become blocked from gaining entry to my pre-draft rankings and certainly my draft queue. Am I the only one who has this issue? As always, hit me up on Twitter to explain yourself further.
For reasons I will explain, certain players fail to impress me. Or they outright fail to grab my attention. My lack of interest in these afterthoughts could be due to an obvious jump in statistical output that is ripe for regression, similar to the players I mentioned last week for the Danny Santana Tribute Award. If it’s not the blatant regression that goads me, it’s a fundamental, base instinct within my healthy (healthy as in large in size) gut reminding me with persistent repetition that a certain player is not going to have a productive year. This message is relentless with persuasive powers that guide my hand to click the mouse button while perusing Yahoo or the NFBC website with judgment for removal or downgrade on my pre-draft ranking list. These players not only have their fate sealed with a Jon Snow-type certainty in my realm, but I also may be limiting my potential for greatness during that fantasy baseball season. Yes, data will always be a part of my draft prep much as it is for every other fantasy manager. Still, let’s see how when keeping it real goes wrong with certain players I have developed a block for.
Initially I let the hangover of his buzzkill 2022 season impact my judgment. Then suddenly, I realized I had allowed this preconceived notion to unfairly label Nick Castellanos as somebody else’s problem. Year one in Philly for Castellanos was his least productive season since his second full season in the majors (I don’t count the pandemic bozo season). He finished with a .694 OPS despite an .801 mark for his career. His infield pop-up rate (classic sign of pressing too much) jumped up to nearly 11% from his career norm of 3.4%. When you mix in his 12% reduction in HHR, 4% reduction in barrel rate and steady decline in HR/FB ratio, you have a player that clearly was pressing too much.
I believe this was due to the pressure he may have felt to deliver in his first season in a Phillies uniform. This stress may also have been exacerbated by his frustration with the dead baseball that was implemented last season. I allowed the recency bias of his fluky 2022 to become reason enough for me to avoid him in drafts. But … it’s never too late to change folks! After realizing all Castellanos had been a victim of his own internal pressure to succeed, I immediately made the move to grab him in last week’s 12 team roto Beat Gover OC on NFBC. From that revelation came a clarity that I was only hurting myself by missing out on what Castellanos has in store for us in 2023. Read my lips: Draft Castellanos this year!
Every year I have a bug up my butt about Nolan Arenado. It’s just plain silly! Even during 2021 when he had a subpar year hitting .255 with a 113 wRC+, he still cranked 34 bombs and drove in 105 runs with a .239 ISO. Looking back, either the exploitation of Coors Field or an uncalled-for label as a defense-first third baseman somehow created a block in my brain for Arenado. I’m not kidding. Maybe one time over the last seven fantasy seasons I drafted Arenado. Why would I limit myself to such constraints? This example feels the most egregious and pointless of them all because year in and year out Arenado delivers the goods outside of stolen bases. He’s a hitter who helps any fantasy team increase their odds of claiming victory. I am not proud of this bias, but it’s very true. I know there are other fantasy players out there who have a player they refuse to draft like I do with Arenado.
I got it into my head that Kolten Wong was in line for the lifestyle of a platoon player in his new home in the northwest. My reasoning had to do with Dylan Moore inking a contract in February that includes incentive bonuses for surpassing 400 PA. Did I really think Dylan Moore was a threat to Wong’s playing time?! Apparently I did. That’s why I’m doing this exercise. Understanding why the simplest news blurb can alter my approach to a player allows me to prevent similar errors from infiltrating future fantasy baseball draft preparation. Armed with this expectation, I was ignoring Wong in all my drafts because I saw him as a liability and due to my belief that 2B is loaded with depth. During the offseason the Mariners made a couple big trades to reshuffle the roster, including the one that brought Wong to town for Jesse Winker and Abraham Toro. With the roster reorganized, I went over every MLB 40-man roster last month (which I strongly encourage you all to do so you’re aware of all the minor leaguers who will have the quickest route to The Show).
Booyah! It became as clear as Crystal Pepsi to me that Wong was in a position atop that lineup to at least match his career best 117 wRC+ from last season. Yes, the risk of a platoon still remains. No, I am not expecting Wong to be the top scoring 2B in fantasy baseball. I simply needed to actively remove the bias I constructed for Wong so that he becomes an option in my pre-draft rankings. This doesn’t change the fact that Dylan Moore is a utility player who will start games against left-handed pitchers because Wong only mustered 1 XBH in 96 PA against lefties last year. The risk Wong presents remains. On average he is the 26th 2B taken in fantasy baseball drafts since March 1 on NFBC. Now, after this adjustment in my process, at least I have him included as a possibility for my remaining squads, including the Main Event, March 25 in Las Vegas. With an entry fee of $1,750, I can’t afford to assume anything.
The word is out that José Quintana will be subbing in as the elf on the shelf for at least the next three months as he heals from surgery to his rib. Even before this went down, I had been making moves to select Tylor Megill in my drafts. He’s essentially an afterthought for most fantasy managers based on his ADP of 381. However, it’s also looking like lefty David Peterson will claim the lucrative fifth spot in the Mets’ rotation. I’ve ridden Peterson to victory in the past as a streamer on more than one occasion. He will load up the bases with walks though. He sported a 4.09 BB/9 in 105 IP last year. There’s also the lingering draconian cliche of not having your rotation pieces be all righties or lefties. Megill is a righty, Peterson is not. That single factor may cinch the job for Peterson. Megill has shown better control in The Show than Peterson has, but Megill has a tendency to allow more dongs. He had a home run to fly ball rate of 18.8% in 89 IP in 2021. During 2022 Megill only managed 47 IP thanks to a shoulder strain and biceps tendinitis while still surrendering 7 taters in that span. Both pitchers are having excellent spring performances. These next two weeks may determine who gets the nod. It’s that tight. I’m leaning towards Megill because I already have invested a few picks in him. Not a legitimate reason to draft him just to be clear.
Cleveland has an assortment of young players who tantalize the senses of the most rigid of fantasy managers. Will Brennan just turned 25 years old, had a sampling of the good life last year and has consistently made quality contact at every stop along the way within the Cleveland system. Myles Straw will be challenging to supplant in CF. He was one of four different Guardians to take home a gold glove award last year. There is hope though for Brennan lovers. The top of the AL Central will be competitive. Meaning Terry Francona will create lineups most conducive for winning baseball games. If Straw is average, he likely stays in the lineup (I expect that outcome is likely because he was so useless as a fantasy asset last year). So where can Brennan find playing time this year? Brennan is a lefty should a platoon scenario break out. It’s also possible Brennan will snag playing time from the other two youngsters Kwan and Oscar Gonzalez. Brennan’s fate is not tied up exclusively with Straw’s by any definition. Still, it seems likely that an injury is the most realistic path to a lengthy game log in 2023. Consider this conundrum in your upcoming drafts when you hover the mouse button over the draft icon.
Remember me Eddie!? Seriously, what is the longest gap in between appearances for a player who remained with the same team throughout? I waited many moons for Yonny Chirinos to return with 7 IP in 2022. The only thing I have waited longer for is to see Rage Against the Machine come through metro Detroit on tour. I guess I’ve settled for nothing. Anyways, the Rays have a rotation spot up for grabs until Tyler Glasnow comes back. As of this moment, Glasnow still has not begun throwing as he recovers from his grade 2 oblique injury. Chirinos has challenges from Josh Fleming and forever prospect Luis Patiño. All three pitchers can end up as bullpen arms too. Chirinos has given up 7 ER on 8 hits with 5 K and 3 BB in 4 IP this spring. Little confidence is inspired from that stat line. It’s spring training though so I don’t care so much about the results as I do his stuff.
At 28 years old, Tim Lopes seems primed to swoop in as a temporary solution for the friars until Tatis comes off suspension April 20. Lopes has played all over the infield during spring and has outfield experience to lean on as well. Lopes signed a minor league deal with San Diego in December without hesitation. Coming into Tuesday, he was perfect in all 6 of his SB attempts along with belting out 14 hits in 31 AB. Don’t believe the hype! In 10 days he may only be a memory. Keep in mind the player pool is currently diluted thanks to the WBC. Plus even if Lopes makes the roster out of spring, he is unlikely to be a regular. I cannot find a sensible foundation to build an argument for drafting Tim Lopes outside of 30 team leagues. It’s too bad because he appears to be a real stand-up fella.
Jared Shuster/Dylan Dodd
Will Atlanta make an annual thing out of releasing a hot young pitching prospect loose to open every season? Cue the Spencer Strider references, because the Braves have officially made it clear that both Jared Shuster and Dylan Dodd have a real shot to make the Opening Day roster. This is a reality now because Ian Anderson and Bryce Elder have both been optioned to the minors. Deuces are wild in Atlanta’s camp at the moment. It is worth noting that Anderson or Elder can be brought back up to camp before opening day. Dodd and Shuster’s numbers in spring are money so far. The sample size is minimal, but the time for Atlanta to set up their rotation for the regular season is now. Both Dodd and Shuster are lefties. Shuster’s latest effort against the Pirates concluded with 5 Ks over 3.2 IP. Dodd was equal to the task recently as well with 4 K’s against 2 hits over 4 shutout innings versus Baltimore. Dodd made the jump from High-A to Triple-A during 2022. Shuster went from Double-A to Triple-A during 2022, where he threw 48 innings. Those 48 innings were marred by the dong as he allowed 10 (!) homers in that span. I was talking about prospects with Chris Blessing last week on the Pallazzo Podcast. In fairness to Shuster, Chris reminded me just how homer-happy Triple-A ball has become. Which sample size for Shuster deserves more merit? There can be only one!
Right here is a classic example of too much analysis. Starling Marte had double groin surgery in the offseason and is now 34 years old. If he showed a decrease in his skills last year, I would understand the skepticism to avoid him. In his favor is a prime spot in a tasty lineup. Last year Marte had an ADP of 31. For 2023, when you mix in a tad bit of fear, you are able to snatch him 60 picks later or more! He’s produced a 134 and 136 wRC+ respectively over the last two years. There are no signs to me (other than the classic preseason injury terror) that Marte should be going beyond pick 50 this season. Marte all day.