Archive for the ‘Demigods’ Category

Carroll Leads Elite Group

Thursday, November 16th, 2023

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Entering the 2023 DTBL Draft back in March, many believed this was going to be one of the stronger rookie classes in recent memory.  Eight months later, that belief has been pretty much validated.  Three of the league’s top five finishers in Batting PAR this season were DTBL rookies.  Two of the top five in Pitching PAR as well, including a relief pitcher whose cohorts rarely sniff the top of that leaderboard.  All five of those rookies figure to be top contenders not only for this Rookie of the Year award, but Most Valuable Player and Cy Young as well.  If these players continue to perform at this level, this could go down as the best rookie class in league history.  Only one could win the league’s top rookie honor though.  As quite possibly the primary reason why the Demigods were able to win their first ever DTBL Championship, it is not a surprise that outfielder Corbin Carroll is the 2023 DTBL Rookie of the Year.

Following a short stint in the big leagues to close out the 2022 season, Carroll retained his MLB rookie eligibility and entered this season as the NL Rookie of the Year favorite, an award he would go on to win handily.  Known for his speed and modest power, Carroll exceeded almost all reasonable expectations for his first full season.  He swiped 54 bases, ranking second in the league behind Ronald Acuna.  He hit .285 with 25 home runs, 76 runs batted in and 116 runs scored.  As mentioned in the Demigods’ championship article, Acuna and Carroll became just the second and third players in DTBL history to steal 50+ bases with 25+ home runs in a single season.  The other was Hanley Ramirez in 2007 with the Mavericks in what happened to be his DTBL rookie season as well (he also won ROY that year).  While stolen bases absolutely exploded across the league this season, Carroll still stood well above most of his peers in that regard.

The Demigods managed to land a franchise altering talent with the eighth pick of the draft.  That’s not to say that many of the teams who picked ahead of them are kicking themselves for their selections, because most of the players picked ahead of Carroll had outstanding seasons in their own right.  But Carroll was the perfect fit for a Demigods squad that needed an offensive boost.  He led the team in Batting PAR and stolen bases, accounting for about a quarter of the team’s totals in both of those categories.  No chance the Demigods would have finished anywhere near second place in stolen bases without him, and he helped them considerably in the other four offensive categories as well.  Carroll was a welcomed addition to a team that has had pretty much the same high caliber infield mix for quite some time, but had been a bit short on impact outfielders.  Along with teammate Freddie Freeman, Carroll should receive serious consideration for Most Valuable Player as well.

The Rookie of the Year vote was quite interesting.  All ten ballots had the same five players on them.  There were plenty of other players who did not receive a single vote that would have been serious contenders most other years: American League Rookie of the Year winner Gunnar Henderson and his Orioles teammate Adley Rutschman, just to name two.  So while the ballots were consistent on the five players chosen, they were wildly different on which of the five received which vote.  Carroll was the convincing top choice, receiving six first place votes and three seconds for a total of 86 points.  The only other player to receive multiple first place tallies was Darkhorses pitcher Spencer Strider.  Strider led the league with 281 strikeouts, beating every other pitcher by more than 40 whiffs.  He also led the league with 20 wins, three more than the next best.  He received a pair of first place votes for this award, along with two seconds and five thirds, for a total of 62 points.  Right behind him is Mavericks shortstop Bobby Witt Jr, who actually had very similar numbers to Carroll.  Witt had five more homers (30) than Carroll and five fewer stolen bases (49).  Not sure we’ve ever simultaneously had a pair of rookies who packed so much punch with their elite stolen base totals.  Witt got one first place vote, three seconds and four thirds, finishing with 57 points.  The fourth and final player to receive a first place vote is Diamond Dogs outfielder Julio Rodriguez.  The first overall pick in the draft had a season that would have made him a lock for this award most years.  Rodriguez led all rookies with 32 home runs while stealing 37 bases as well.  He and Witt are the first rookies to join the 30/30 club since Acuna did it in 2019.  In this vote, Rodriguez was hurt by receiving just three top three votes:  one first and a pair of seconds.  That gave him a total of 43 points.  Finally, the fifth player who appeared on every ballot is Darkhorses reliever Felix Bautista.  The Mountain had one of the most dominant reliever seasons of all time, not just among rookies.  He saved 33 games while accumulated 110 strikeouts in just 61 innings, with a 1.48 ERA.  Unfortunately, he succumbed to an elbow injury in late August and will likely miss most, if not all, of the 2024 season.  Bautista only received fourth and fifth place votes, placing him fifth with 12 points.

Click here to view the full voting results.

The tentative schedule for announcing the other two awards is next Monday, November 20th for Cy Young and Wednesday the 22nd for Most Valuable Player.  Expect to see all five of these Rookie of the Year vote receivers in the mix for one of those awards as well.

Demigods Reach Divinity

Friday, November 10th, 2023

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A year ago, the Moonshiners, who entered the DTBL in 1999, finally won their first league title on their 24th attempt.  That made the Demigods, who entered the league a year after the Moonshiners, the longest tenured team without a title.  And wouldn’t you know it, for a second consecutive year, a team has won their first title in their 24th try.  It was not an easy task as no team ever took complete control of things and virtually every team was in the mix for the title at one point or another throughout the season.  By the stretch run though, it was down to two serious contenders.  In the end, the Demigods’ league best offense pushed them over the top as they were able to hold off the Darkhorses to win by 4 1/2 points.  All other challengers fell double digits off the pace.  For the very first time, Dom’s Demigods are the DTBL Champions.

It has been a steady climb for the Demigods since their very disappointing last place finish in 2019, having improved their place of finish every season since then.  A year ago, they were a serious title contender but ultimately fell 10 1/2 points behind the Moonshiners to finish in third place.  It was a mediocre offense that kept them from reaching their ultimate goal.  They turned their focus to fixing that weakness through the draft by selecting hitters with their first four picks.  And boy did that plan pay off as they fairly easily led the league in batting points with 43.  The pitching staff was not quite as successful as a year ago, but only the Darkhorses exceeded their 32 1/2 pitching points.  Interestingly enough, their 75 1/2 total points was not a franchise high water mark.  In 2014, they accumulated 86 1/2 points while finishing in second place.  That total would have lapped the field this year.  In a very competitive league from top to bottom in 2023, the Demigods proved to be the best of the bunch.

The Demigods offensive turnaround really started the minute they selected Corbin Carroll with the eighth pick in the draft.  Carroll would go on to have about as strong of a rookie campaign as we’ve ever seen, although several players can actually make that claim this year as it was an absolutely loaded rookie class.  Not many of the teams picking ahead of the Demigods should have big regrets about their selections.  But to get this kind of season out of an eighth overall pick is quite remarkable.  Carroll led all rookies, and finished second overall, with 10.7 Batting PAR.  He hit .285 with 25 home runs and 54 stolen bases.  Prior to this year, only one player in DTBL history had a season with 25+ HR and 50+ SB, Hanley Ramirez in 2007.  Of course, Ronald Acuna blew away both of those figures this year as well and fellow rookie Bobby Witt Jr fell just one stolen base shy of joining the club.  Carroll was a nice complement to a pair of longtime Demigods stalwarts who had their typical great seasons:  Freddie Freeman and Francisco Lindor.  Both topped 7 PAR making the Demigods the only team with three of the top 10 in the Batting PAR leaderboard.  After missing all of 2022 due to injury and then a PED suspension, Fernando Tatis Jr returned to elite form as a 25/25 HR/SB club member.  Jose Altuve returned in May from a broken thumb suffered in the WBC and put up his usual stellar numbers as well.  Early round draft picks from the Cubs outfield, Seiya Suzuki and Ian Happ, were nice additions too.  This has been a very deep offensive roster for quite some time.  Carroll and crew took it to a new level this season.

On the pitching side of things, the Demigods were able to patch together a solid group that was beset by injuries and underperformance from one of their long time aces.  Zac Gallen was easily their best pitcher, and among the best in the entire league.  He led the staff with 17 wins and 220 strikeouts.  His 3.47 ERA and 1.12 WHIP were also best among qualified Demigods.  Perhaps the move that saved this staff from becoming a colossal disappointment was the free agent signing of Justin Steele the first week of the season.  He accumulated 5.4 PAR, second on the staff, in five months on the active roster.  Usual staff ace Max Fried had an injury plagued campaign that limited him to just 60 innings, while veteran Aaron Nola had an extremely disappointing year by his high standards.  A shoulder injury cost Joe Musgrove the final two months of the season, after having a very good year to that point.  So it was not a smooth ride for the Demigods rotation, but it all worked out in the end.  The bullpen has never really been a focal point for the Demigods and this year was no different.  David Bednar was outstanding though and helped push them to the middle of the pack in saves.  Top to bottom, it wasn’t a special season for this pitching staff.  However, they were able to piece together a staff that was good enough to get the job done.

The Demigods season got off to a really slow start.  They were near the bottom of the standings for most of the first two months of the season and were in ninth place as late as Memorial Day.  They moved up to the middle of the pack in early June and basically plateaued there for the better part of the middle two months of the season.  It wasn’t until the last week of July that they moved into the top three and then really caught fire in early August.  On September 5th, they moved into first place for good, holding onto the top spot for the final 3 1/2 weeks of the season.  The Darkhorses proved to be their only competition down the stretch, with a squad that was basically the opposite of the Demigods:  league’s best pitching staff but a mediocre offense.  The Demigods pitching was a bit better than the Darkhorses hitting though, which proved to be the difference.

With the Moonshiners and Demigods both winning their first titles in their 24th seasons, there are no long time members of the league left without a championship.  The Komodos now have the distinction of being the longest tenured team without a title, but that drought is just seven years now.  The more notable droughts belong to the Cougars and Choppers who haven’t won a title in their last 27 and 24 tries, respectively.  We will see if another streak ends in 2024.  Congratulations to Dom and the Demigods on the 2023 DTBL Championship!

2023 Season Preview: Part II

Wednesday, March 29th, 2023

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Happy Opening Day Eve!  Let’s get one more part of the 2023 season preview out of the way before the first pitch of the season.  The remaining parts will probably have to wait until at least Friday as I will be attending the Braves/Nats opener tomorrow afternoon and will likely be watching baseball all evening as well.

Tonight, we’re going to cover two more teams.  It is interesting that these two particular teams fall into this section of the preview series together because, with the exception of the champion Moonshiners, these were probably 2022′s two most pleasant surprises.  So a fall down to the seventh and eighth places where these projections have them would be a bit disappointing.  At the same time, it also sets them up to be pleasant surprises again this season if they were to contend for the title again.  Not to spoil what’s to come later this week, but these two teams are within 10 projected standings points of every team but one.  So we’re already looking at teams that could very conceivably be in the championship hunt.  Here are the teams projected to finish in seventh and eight place in 2023.

 

Dom’s Demigods

Category – Projected Rank (2022 Rank)

  • Batting Average – 10th (6th)
  • Home Runs – 2nd (7th)
  • Runs Batted In – 7th (6th)
  • Runs Scored – 4th (3rd)
  • Stolen Bases - 1st (7th)
  • Earned Run Average – 7th (2nd)
  • WHIP Ratio – 8th (2nd)
  • Wins – 7th (5th)
  • Saves - 4th (6th)
  • Strike Outs - 9th (2nd)
  • Total Batting Points – 3rd (5th-T)
  • Total Pitching Points – 8th (2nd)
  • Total Points – 8th (3rd)

Summary:

The first thing that sticks out when looking at the Demigods projections is how wildly different the rankings are compared to their ’22 finish in a wide variety of categories.  Last year, the Demigods rode an elite power pitching staff to the second most pitching points in the league.  This year, they are projected to be near the bottom in their best pitching categories from last year (ERA, WHIP, Ks).  Meanwhile, they were a below average team in both power and speed on offense a year ago, but are now projected near the top in home runs and first place in stolen bases.  All of this would make sense if they underwent a massive roster retooling in the offseason and draft, but that didn’t really happen.  Although, the return of Fernando Tatis Jr from injury and suspension will undoubtedly give their offense a boost.  Tatis returns to an infield that remains quite potent with Freddie Freeman and Francisco Lindor.  They will be without Jose Altuve for the first quarter of the season though after he broke his thumb getting hit by a pitch in the WBC.  First round draft pick Corbin Carroll should give a nice boost to an outfield that could use it.  His speed alone does give some credence to the stolen base ranking surge.  If the Demigods could ever get a full season out of Byron Buxton, that could be a game changer.  These projections do have him as their top outfield producer.  The pitching staff is essentially unchanged from last year, at least among the most important guys, making the fall in projected points quite peculiar.  The rotation brings back Max Fried, Aaron Nola, Joe Musgrove, Zac Gallen and Robbie Ray, all of whom had good seasons a year ago and are projected to be well above average again this year.  They even added Kyle Wright to supplement this core.  As long as most of these guys stay healthy, I do not see them falling near the bottom of the league in ERA, WHIP and strikeouts.  The bullpen is decent, but perhaps in a precarious spot with a couple closers on bad teams in David Bednar and Kyle Finnegan.  I think there is good reason for the Demigods to be optimistic following their third place finish a year ago, despite these projections.  This is a solid roster top to bottom.

 

Kat’s Komodos

Category – Projected Rank (2022 Rank)

  • Batting Average – 4th (4th)
  • Home Runs – 7th (2nd)
  • Runs Batted In - 2nd (2nd)
  • Runs Scored – 8th (2nd)
  • Stolen Bases - 6th (6th)
  • Earned Run Average – 5th (7th)
  • WHIP Ratio – 10th (9th)
  • Wins - 1st (4th)
  • Saves - 9th (5th)
  • Strike Outs – 4th (7th)
  • Total Batting Points – 5th-T (3rd)
  • Total Pitching Points – 6th (6th-T)
  • Total Points – 7th (4th)

Summary:

The Komodos have a pretty exciting young core of hitters returning this season.  Much like the Demigods pitching staff, the Komodos have basically the same offense as last year.  Jose Ramirez remains one of the most dependable stars in the game and could be a legit 30/30 threat this season with the expected increase in steals across the league.  With a full season under his belt, Wander Franco could be on the verge of breaking into the upper stratosphere of players in ’23.  He is paired with another consistently solid shortstop in Corey Seager.  Meanwhile, Willy Adames has quietly become a force at that position as well.  The newcomer to the infield is Thairo Estrada, who has a chance to become an elite power/speed guy too.  The Komodos probably have the best outfield of any team covered so far, led by Yordan Alvarez.  The duo of Luis Robert and Starling Marte are coming off injury plagued seasons, but both remain elite talents when healthy.  If Cody Bellinger were to return to his old form, this would be a tough outfield to beat.  The pitching staff has some question marks going into the season, but it is worth noting these projections already take into account that Walker Buehler is likely to miss the entire season recovering from Tommy John surgery.  Luckily for the Komodos, their two breakout pitching stars from a year ago, Shane McClanahan and Framber Valdez are back for more this season.  The Komodos pitching staff will probably go as the Astros go, because after McClanahan, their top three hurlers all play in Houston:  Valdez, Luis Garcia and first round pick Cristian Javier.  I can think of worse teams to be saturated with than the defending World Series champs.  It is hard to project what the Komodos will get from their relievers.  Devin Williams is the only sure thing closer on the roster.  Jhoan Duran and Rafael Montero (another Astro) have nasty enough stuff to help ERA, WHIP and strikeout totals even if they don’t get many saves.  The Komodos will look to build off of their first ever top half finish a year ago.

 

Back To Basics

Tuesday, March 28th, 2023

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After having written a grand total of just four blog posts in the past eight months, I am aiming to do four or five this week alone.  Most of them will make up our annual DTBL season preview series.  However, before I get to that, I want to do a quick review of the recently completed draft.  The 2022 draft was rather unusual with a majority of the first round picks being pitchers.  This year, things were back to normal.  The first round was comprised of mostly young hitters.  While the beginning of the 2023 DTBL draft was rather predictable, it was also quite interesting.

The draft kicked off with the Diamond Dogs making the first  pick for the second consecutive season.  Last year, they went a bit off the board in selecting pitcher Shane Baz, a move which backfired quickly as he hurt his elbow soon after the draft and eventually had Tommy John surgery.  This year, the Dogs played it more conventionally, selecting the clear best available player in the draft in outfielder Julio Rodriguez.  Not only was Rodriguez the consensus best available player in this draft, I’ve seen dynasty rankings that have him #1 among *all* MLB players heading into this season.  He broke into the big leagues with a 28 home run and 25 stolen base season, earning him AL Rookie of the Year honors.  It has been quite some time since a player had such a dominant rookie season in both of those categories.  He has true five category star potential and should be a cornerstone for the Diamond Dogs franchise for years to come.

Speaking of guys with elite power and speed talent, the Mavericks selected shortstop Bobby Witt Jr with the second pick.  Witt also joined the rookie 20/20 fraternity with 20 home runs and 30 steals.  The stolen base aspect of his game will give the Mavericks the only thing they were missing from their extremely potent offense.  Witt is of course the son of former MLB pitcher Bobby Witt, who had a one season stint in the DTBL with the Metros in 1997.

The first pitcher selected was Spencer Strider by the Darkhorses at #3.  Strider was an under the radar prospect who made his presence felt immediately at the big league level.  He struck out 202 hitters in just 131 innings pitched, while posting a 2.67 ERA and a sub 1.0 WHIP.  Like Rodriguez being the first hitter taken, there was little doubt that Strider would be the first pitcher off the board.

Strider’s Braves teammate, outfielder Michael Harris II was the fourth pick, taken by the Jackalope.  Harris is yet another huge power and speed contributor.  He hit 19 home runs with 20 steals while posting a .297 average.  In almost any other year, he would have been the best five category player available.  Perhaps playing in a loaded Braves lineup does give him the best immediate outlook among these top hitters though.

The first non-DTBL rookie selected was outfielder Bryan Reynolds.  The Cougars picked him up in the fifth slot.  Reynolds was a surprising drop by the Komodos this winter, but the Cougars were happy to add him to their roster.  He could be an especially nice addition if the Pirates were to trade him to a team that would offer more lineup protection.

It is almost hard to believe, but prior to this year there had not been a catcher selected in the first round of the draft since 2017 (Gary Sanchez and Willson Contreras).  The Choppers ended that drought by choosing Adley Rutschman at #6.  Rutschman had been the #1 prospect in baseball heading into last season according to many publications, and one of the most highly touted catching prospects in modern history.  He had a very good rookie campaign and should give the Choppers a leg up on most of the league at an extremely shallow position.

The second and final pitcher of the first round was Cristian Javier, selected by the Komodos with the seventh pick.  Javier had a decent stint with the Jackalope back in 2021, but fell off the league roster last year as the Astros kept shuffling him between the rotation and bullpen.  He established himself as an extremely valuable starter last season though, highlighted by his dominant performance in the Astros combined no-hitter in Game 4 of the World Series.

The next two picks are the consensus top two prospects in baseball heading into this season, as the others drafted ahead of them have already exhausted their MLB rookie eligibility.  The Demigods took speedy outfielder Corbin Carroll with the eighth pick.  Carroll stole 33 bases across three levels last season.  Oh, he also has pop.  He hit 28 home runs in his ’22 minor and major league season.

Third baseman Gunnar Henderson went to the Kings in the ninth slot.  Corner infield wasn’t exactly a position of need for the Kings going into the draft, but they are certainly happy to have Henderson now with Rhys Hoskins out for the year.  Henderson doesn’t have quite the same speed as the other hitters picked ahead of him, but he can run a bit and certainly has big league raw power.

Finally, the defending champion Moonshiners selected catcher MJ Melendez with the last pick of the first round.  Melendez filled in admirably behind the plate for the Royals when Salvador Perez got hurt last summer.  This year, he will likely spend most of his time in the outfield, but should catch often enough to maintain catcher eligibility.  His bat should make him an extremely valuable commodity as long as that remains the case.

To pull back the curtain a bit on my own draft process, this wound up being as predictable of a first round as I can recall.  Since I had the ninth pick, I had exactly nine guys who I had settled on as potential selections.  As it turns out, only Henderson remained from that list when my pick came up, which made my decision pretty easy.  While I didn’t map out exactly which team I expected to take which player, not one of the first round selections was even remotely surprising to me.

Now it is time to dive into the season preview.  I’m actually hoping to get the first part out later tonight, or tomorrow at the latest.  So be on the lookout for that!

2022 Season Preview: Part III

Saturday, April 9th, 2022

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We’re two days into the 2022 season.  Not surprisingly, with most teams running their top pitchers out there for their first game or two, pitchers seem to have the upper hand so far.  In this next installment of the season preview series, we’ll take a look a three more teams that are projected to finish with nearly identical point totals.  What perhaps gives these teams a small leg up on the squads covered previously is that none of them are slated to finish near the bottom of the league in batting or pitching points.  That doesn’t mean they are without holes though.  No team can make that claim coming into this season.  Here we have a pair of strong hitting teams with reasonable expectations to have their best finish ever and a defending champion who hasn’t finished in the middle of the pack in almost a decade.  Here are the team’s projected to finish in the third through fifth positions of the final standings.

 

Kat’s Komodos

Category – Projected Rank (2021 Rank)

  • Batting Average – 4th (3rd)
  • Home Runs – 6th (8th)
  • Runs Batted In - 2nd (8th)
  • Runs Scored – 6th (7th-T)
  • Stolen Bases – 4th (1st)
  • Earned Run Average – 8th (10th)
  • WHIP Ratio – 10th (10th)
  • Wins - 1st (6th-T)
  • Saves – 5th (4th)
  • Strike Outs - 7th (10th)
  • Total Batting Points – 3rd-T (5th)
  • Total Pitching Points - 7th (10th)
  • Total Points – 5th (9th)

Summary:

Since joining the league in 2018, the Komodos have been looking to make their first run up the standings, having yet to finish higher than eighth place.  This could be the year they do it.  They have had a pretty strong offensive squad for a while now, but the pitching staff has been an anchor.  While these projections don’t show the pitching to be among the league’s best, it does show signs of improvement.  Let’s start with their strong batting lineup though.  In the past two drafts, the Komodos have been able to add a pair of the most dynamic young stars of the game in outfielder Luis Robert and shortstop Wander Franco.  Robert’s injury early last season set the Komodos back, but his return for the final two months launched the upward trajectory of this team.  If he can stay healthy for a full season this time around, he could be a MVP candidate.  Speaking of MVP candidates, Jose Ramirez has annually become one of those.  This year should be no exception.  He has probably become the most consistent producer of both home runs and stolen bases in the entire league.  Franco joins Corey Seager to give the Komodos an enviable shortstop duo.  The ageless Nelson Cruz moves over to first base for this first time in his DTBL career after playing in the field for the first time since 2018 for a single game last year.  That shouldn’t be a problem for the Komodos though, as they were a little thin at that position anyway.  Yordan Alvarez and Starling Marte are the other stars of the outfield besides Robert.  An important player for this team will be Cody Bellinger, who has struggled mightily for a couple years since finishing third in the MVP race in 2019.  Walker Buehler has been carrying the Komodos pitching staff for years.  He might have some help now.  Young lefty Shane McClanahan was a very nice second round pickup.  Veteran Nathan Eovaldi is a reliable contributor as well.  A pair of Astros pitchers, Framber Valdez and Luis Garcia, provide solid depth to the rotation.  The bullpen looks very good as well, and got a boost last week when Craig Kimbrel was traded to the Dodgers.  These projections don’t account for the fact that he should be a safe bet for a large save total.  Aroldis Chapman and Mark Melancon make it very likely the Komodos will finish near the top of the league in saves.  This is the highest the Komodos have been projected to finish since they joined the league.  And looking at the roster, that checks out.  This is their strongest squad yet.

 

Dom’s Demigods

Category – Projected Rank (2021 Rank)

  • Batting Average – 2nd (4th)
  • Home Runs – 8th (3rd)
  • Runs Batted In – 9th (6th)
  • Runs Scored – 1st (5th)
  • Stolen Bases - 2nd (9th)
  • Earned Run Average – 5th (7th)
  • WHIP Ratio – 5th (7th)
  • Wins – 9th (3rd)
  • Saves – 7th (10th)
  • Strike Outs - 3rd (3rd)
  • Total Batting Points - 3rd-T (4th)
  • Total Pitching Points – 6th (7th)
  • Total Points – 4th (6th)

Summary:

The Demigods were a better team last year than their sixth place finish might have indicated.  Unfortunately, one of the reasons why they fell short of expectations may be playing out again this year.  Their best player, Fernando Tatis Jr, missed time during two stretches with a shoulder injury, yet still managed to finish in the top five in Batting PAR.  This year, they will be without Tatis for a quite a while with him recovering from a broken wrist.  Wrist injuries have a history of sapping players of power even when they do return.  So that’s not great for the Demigods.  On a positive note though, this team has plenty of other great hitters.  Freddie Freeman moves to Los Angeles where he will be a key cog in the Dodgers juggernaut lineup, which also contains Demigods third baseman Justin Turner.  C.J. Cron, Jose Altuve, Francisco Lindor and Josh Donaldson join them to form what might be the league’s deepest infield.  If you include catchers in that, their standing is even stronger as Willson Contreras and Mitch Garver are among the best catching duos.  The outfield doesn’t have quite as much depth, but there is upside there.  People say this every year, but, if Byron Buxton can just stay healthy, he could be one of the best players in the game.  Ketel Marte, J.D. Martinez and Austin Meadows are all solid contributors.  While the Demigods may not be elite in the power categories, they are likely to finish near the top in batting average, runs and stolen bases.  On the pitching front, the rotation welcomes AL Cy Young winner Robbie Ray who has the benefit of no longer pitching in the AL East, as he signed with the Mariners this winter.  Freddy Peralta jumps from the bullpen to a rotation spot.  Aaron Nola, Max Fried and Joe Musgrove return to give the Demigods a full rotation of five pitchers with PAR projections north of 4.  They are the only team in the league that can make that claim.  The past two years, the Demigods have completely punted the saves category, recording a grand total of 18 over two seasons.  That included two of the three lowest team save totals in league history.  This figures to change this year with Gregory Soto likely to be the Tigers closer, David Bednar in the mix for the Pirates and Diego Castillo and Ken Giles both among the Mariners committee approach.  The bullpen is still a weakness for the Demigods, but might actually earn them a couple points this year.  The Demigods have an excellent shot at finishing in the top half for the first time since 2018 and could even win the whole thing for the first time if things break their way.

 

Kevin’s Kings

Category – Projected Rank (2021 Rank)

  • Batting Average – 6th (8th)
  • Home Runs - 3rd (1st)
  • Runs Batted In – 4th (1st)
  • Runs Scored – 5th (1st)
  • Stolen Bases – 7th (8th)
  • Earned Run Average - 3rd (2nd)
  • WHIP Ratio – 4th (1st)
  • Wins – 4th (1st-T)
  • Saves – 8th (8th)
  • Strike Outs - 5th (1st)
  • Total Batting Points – 5th (2nd-T)
  • Total Pitching Points - 4th (1st)
  • Total Points - 3rd (1st)

Summary:

Since I never got around to writing a championship article for the 2021 Kings, let me quickly sum it up here.  They were not a vintage championship squad.  They took advantage of competition that was weakened due to injuries and other unfortunate circumstances.  The Kings were by far the least affected team among the title contenders in those areas last season.  Will they be so lucky again this year?  Well, they are the only team in the entire league that is projected to finish in the top half of the league in both batting and pitching points.  So on solid balance alone, they ought to have a shot.  The Kings surprisingly led the league in the power categories a year ago.  Don’t expect a repeat of that.  The offense is pretty solid across the board though.  The infield is led by three guys who changed MLB uniforms this off-season:  Matt Olson, Marcus Semien and Carlos Correa.  The breakout of third baseman Austin Riley was a key to the Kings title run.  Josh Bell is the main addition here, in quest of holding onto the power category leads.  Will Smith is one of the best catchers in the game, and hasn’t slapped anyone recently, as far as I know.  Another major figure in the Kings ’21 breakthrough was outfielder Tyler O’Neil, who they picked up as an undrafted free agent early in the season.  He and Mookie Betts have the Kings highest batting PAR projections.  Randy Arozarena, A.J. Pollock and Dylan Carlson join them to make up a very good outfield.  The Kings easily led the league in pitching points last year.  That will be tough to duplicate.  However, they used their first round pick on Trevor Rogers to provide support to Max Scherzer, Zack Wheeler and Frankie Montas.  At some point, you have to figure Scherzer will slow down.  He has held a spot as one of baseball’s best pitchers for basically a decade straight now.  Wheeler appears ready to take the reigns as the staff ace if necessary though.  This is still a very strong rotation, but perhaps not as deep as a few other teams.  The bullpen is not great, as they have been scraping by without any elite closers for several years now.  Not one of their relievers is on firm ground as a closer.  Matt Barnes and Camilo Doval are the most likely to get saves.  Paul Sewald figures to give them a boost in other categories.  The past seven years, the roller coaster Kings have either finished in a bottom two spot or won the league every time.  So will this version be a bottom feeder or a champion?  There seems to be no other possibility.

A Pitcher Takeover

Tuesday, March 29th, 2022

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We are in the midst of the 30th annual DTBL Draft.  With almost three decades of history to draw from, there is a pretty typical pattern in how the first round of the draft plays out.  Normally, a majority of those early picks are young players who made their MLB debut the previous season.  And among those players, the first round tends to skew towards hitters.  Young hitters are generally more projectable than pitchers.  TINSTAAPP (There is No Such Thing as a Pitching Prospect) is a common refrain in baseball for a reason.  Well, you can throw all of that out when analyzing the 2022 DTBL Draft.

For the first time since 2003, a majority of the first round picks were pitchers.  The six starting pitchers taken in the first round was a league record, blowing past the previous high of four.  While these pitchers did skew young, they are not all DTBL rookies and even fewer were MLB rookies last year.  This was truly a first round group of ten that did not resemble any previous year’s new crop.  Perhaps this is a product of the pandemic shortened 2020 season that saw some position players pushed to the majors due to not having minor league opportunities for development, while pitchers were kept on a more conservative path that led to guys who may have otherwise debuted in ’20 being pushed to ’21.  But with many of the pitchers drafted in this first round not actually being MLB rookies, who knows?  Probably just a one year oddity.

The draft started with the Diamond Dogs making their first ever selection after taking over the Beanballers roster.  They chose young right handed starting pitcher Shane Baz.  This was a bit of a surprise, but not because of Baz’s pedigree.  Most MLB prospect rankings that have been released this winter have Baz among the top 15 prospects in the game.  And in most cases, he is the top ranked prospect who has already made his MLB debut.  The Rays hurler, stolen from the Pirates as the third piece of the Chris Archer trade, made his debut in late September.  His three regular season starts were impressive enough to earn him a start in the ALDS as well.  The future is bright for Baz.  Unfortunately for the Diamond Dogs, Baz underwent elbow surgery just days after this selection.  The good news is it wasn’t a career altering elbow surgery like Tommy John, but rather a cleanup procedure that should just keep him out a few weeks.  He will begin his DTBL career on the injured list though.

With the second pick, the Komodos took the guy who most people probably expected to go #1, Baz’s Rays teammate Wander Franco.  The phenom shortstop had been the #1 ranked prospect for several years before making his much anticipated MLB debut in June.  He proceeded to have a very solid season, hitting .288 with seven home runs, earning him a third place finish in the AL Rookie of the Year vote.  While he only stole a couple bases in the big leagues last year, speed is certainly part of his game as well.  He has been touted as a true five tool player.  Having just turned 21 earlier this month, he figures to be a fixture in the Komodos infield for a very long time.

While Franco was the most highly touted hitter to debut last year, second baseman Jonathan India was the most productive.  The Jackalope selected him with the third pick.  The Reds infielder hit .269 with 21 homers, 69 RBI, 98 runs scored and 12 stolen bases, earning him the National League Rookie of the Year honor.  This marks the fourth straight year that the Jackalope have used a first round pick on an infielder.  This pick feels quite a bit safer than their last similar pick of second baseman Keston Hiura with the fourth pick in 2020.  India should be able to hold down that spot for the foreseeable future.

The Cougars followed with the breakout star of 2021, making outfielder Cedric Mullins the fourth overall pick.  Mullins still has DTBL rookie eligibility, however, this is not his first time on the league roster.  He was added in 2019, but went undrafted and then unsigned in a very forgettable season.  2021, on the other hand, was rather memorable for Mullins.  He became the latest addition to the 30/30 Club, slugging exactly 30 home runs and stealing exactly 30 bases.  The latter wasn’t a huge surprise, but the power seemingly came from nowhere.  He had seven career home runs before last season.  Even if he can’t repeat that feat, he still has enormous fantasy potential because of the power and speed combo that so few possess.

The pitching run began in earnest with the fifth pick that the Demigods used on lefty Robbie Ray.  Ray had a solid run with the Moonshiners from 2017-2019.  But a brutal 2020 knocked him completely out of the league last season.  All he did while away was win the AL Cy Young with a league leading 2.84 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 284 strikeouts.  Good call by me removing him from the league roster.  He’s back now and should provide an immediate boost to the Demigods pitching staff.

The Darkhorses selected the pitching breakout star of the year at #6.  Giants righty Logan Webb started his career with a couple mediocre seasons that did not provide much of a hint that he would become the staff ace of one of the best teams in baseball in 2021.  Webb won 11 games with a 3.03 ERA and 158 strikeouts in 148 innings pitched for the Giants last year before becoming a postseason horse with a pair of dominant starts against the Dodgers in the NLDS.  He will play a major role in the Darkhorses retooled rotation that only has two holdovers (Jacob deGrom and Jose Berrios).

The Moonshiners were just a respectable pitching staff away from being a serious championship contender last year.  They attempted to fix that glaring weakness by selecting young Blue Jays hurler Alek Manoah at pick number seven.  Another highly touted prospect, Manoah did not disappoint in his first big league season.  He had a very respectable 3.22 ERA and 1.05 WHIP along with nine wins and 127 strikeouts.  Given the Blue Jays offensive firepower, he figures to be a solid candidate to win double digit games along with strong numbers in the other three categories.

We got a brief break from all those pitchers with the Mavericks selecting second baseman Jazz Chisholm with the eighth pick.  Chisholm struggled in his 2020 debut, leaving questions about his ability to hit big league pitching.  Those questions were answered in 2021.  He hit 18 home runs while stealing 23 bases.  Again, that combination of power and speed makes him an exciting fantasy prospect.  Add to that the serious lack of depth at second base right now and you have a player who should be among the league’s best at his position.  The Mavericks had to have been thrilled to add a player like him this late in the first round.

Back to starting pitchers with pick number nine.  The Choppers reacquired a player they had picked up on a whim late in 2020, White Sox righty Dylan Cease.  Cease technically still has DTBL rookie status since he was never placed on the Choppers active roster in 2020.  He was subsequently dropped from the league last year due to his erratic performance in ’20.  He finally harnessed his stuff last year though, with an extremely impressive 226 strikeouts in 165 innings, along with a 3.91 ERA and 13 wins.  Still just 23 years old, Cease has the potential to be one of the league’s premier strikeout pitchers.

Rounding out the first round was yet another pitcher who had a great 2021 campaign.  Marlins southpaw Trevor Rogers was never a particularly highly touted prospect.  So his rookie campaign went largely under the radar.  He posted a 2.64 ERA with a 1.15 WHIP and 157 strikeouts in 133 innings.  That earned him a spot on the NL All-Star roster and a runner-up finish in the NL Rookie of the Year vote.  Rogers joins a Kings staff that led the league in pitching points last year, but was looking for another consistent presence behind Max Scherzer and Zack Wheeler.  They now have three of the NL East’s best pitchers.

The run on starting pitchers didn’t end in the first round.  Four more were selected in round two and exactly half of the first 22 picks were starting pitchers.  It seems unlikely we will see anything like this in the near future.

Peralta Nabs Rookie Honor

Monday, November 22nd, 2021

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For as long as this league has existed, teams have employed the strategy of using real life starting pitchers who qualify as relievers in relief pitcher slots to attempt to gain an advantage in the wins and strikeout categories.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not.  There is usually a price to be paid in the ERA and WHIP categories when an additional, sometimes marginal starting pitcher is utilized.  But when that extra starter is an All-Star caliber pitcher, the calculus changes quite dramatically and it becomes a huge boon to a pitching staff.  The Demigods took a chance on Freddy Peralta in the eighth round of this spring’s draft, and boy did it pay off.  He is the 2021 DTBL Rookie of the Year.  This is the second straight year the award has been won by a Demigod, following Fernando Tatis Jr. a year ago.

Peralta struck out 195 batters, which was almost twice as many as any other DTBL reliever recorded and was a single season league record for a pitcher occupying a reliever slot, just surpassing Chris Sale’s breakout season of 2012 in which he pitched almost 50 more innings than Peralta did this year.  Peralta won 10 games, which may not seem especially impressive, but in today’s suppressed starting pitcher win environment, it was another nice bump for the Demigods.  The last DTBL reliever to win more games than that was Josh Collmenter in 2014.  The real risk of using starters as relievers is the damage they could do to ERA and WHIP.  But Peralta was elite in those categories as well, posting a 2.81 ERA and 0.97 WHIP.  In total, he accumulated 6.85 PAR to lead the Demigods staff.  Usually, its a bad sign if a reliver leads a team in pitching PAR.  But in this case, Peralta was a legitimate ace.  That PAR total was tops among DTBL rookies as well.  I do not have complete awards records prior to 2005. But in the years since, Peralta is the first DTBL designated relief pitcher to win Rookie of the Year.

It is probably safe to call the selection of Peralta in the eighth round a steal for the Demigods, even with him moving to a starting pitcher slot next year.  He was not enough to boost the Demigods into contention this year, but combining him with Max Fried, Aaron Nola and Joe Musgrove does give them a solid foundation on which to build.  The Demigods back-to-back Rookie of the Year winners, Peralta and Tatis, may have arrived with different pedigrees:  Tatis was the first overall pick in the draft while Peralta was taken 74th.  But both should be huge figures in the team’s future.

Peralta did have strong competition for this award.  Of the nine ballots cast, Peralta was the first choice on seven of them.  The other two ballots had him second, for a total of 84 points.  That gave him the award by a comfortable margin.  Finishing second was Beanballers hurler Chris Bassitt, who might have won this award had he not suffered a gruesome injury when he was hit in the face with a line drive in August and missed most of the remainder of the season.  Bassitt won 12 games with a 3.15 ERA.  He did not receive any first place votes, but was the consensus runner up with five second place votes and 48 total points.  Just behind him was Moonshiners outfielder Ryan Mountcastle who led all DTBL rookies with 33 home runs.  The Moonshiners first round selection received the two first place tallies that didn’t go to Peralta and appeared on all nine ballots for a 43 point total.  The third and final player to appear on every ballot was Kings outfielder Randy Arozarena.  The 2020 Postseason breakout star and 2021 American League Rookie of the Year validated his status as the second overall pick in the draft with a 20/20 season.  He had exactly 20 home runs and stolen bases.  Arozarena received one second place vote and a slew of third through fifths for 37 points.  Rounding out the top five is Mavericks starting pitcher Tyler Mahle.  He led DTBL rookies with 13 wins and 197 strikeouts.  He was a great find for the Mavericks in the sixth round and helped save a staff ravaged by injuries.  Mahle tallied 14 points in finishing fifth.

Click here to view the full voting results.

After going months without posting a blog entry, I’m going to try to cram three in consecutive days.  The plan is to announce the Cy Young winner tomorrow and MVP on Wednesday.  Stay tuned!

A Sticky Situation

Friday, June 18th, 2021

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Oh, hey!  It only took me two and a half months to write my first in-season post!  Obviously, I’m not going to be doing the monthly awards posts this season, but I will try to get back into a more regular writing schedule as the summer progresses.  It certainly hasn’t been a lack of potential content that has kept me away.  From the seemingly daily no-hitters of the spring, a rash of injuries like we’ve never seen before, the nose-dive in scoring across the league and now the pending implementation of punishment to pitchers caught doctoring balls, it’s been a pretty compelling 11 weeks.

I will list all of the weekly and monthly batter and pitcher honors that have been accumulated so far this season at the bottom of this article.  But first, let’s take a look at the leaguewide statistical trends, how they may have played a role into MLB’s decision to crack down on pitcher’s foreign substance use, and what effect that enforcement may have moving forward.

Since I will be using PAR numbers throughout this analysis, I should explain the slight differences in how these numbers are being calculated this year compared to years past.  Usually, the constants that make up the PAR formula are determined by taking the previous five seasons data.  So for our last normal full season of 2019, during the season, PAR was calculated using numbers from 2014-2018.  Then when the season ends, I do an across-the-board adjustment to include the recently completed season and remove the earliest season from the set.  So the post-2019 update included numbers from 2015-2019.  Those were also the numbers used during the shortened 2020 campaign.  The difference being that I did not perform a post-season update after last season.  Due to the extremely unusual nature of the ’20 season, I decided to exclude its season totals from my calculations, not only for 2020, but moving forward as well.  So heading into this season, I’m still using that same set of numbers from 2015-2019 to calculate PAR in 2021.  When the season ends, the adjustment will be to lump in 2021 and remove 2015, making the included years 2016-2019 and 2021.  Usually, the post-season adjustment has a very minor impact on the numbers.  However, I suspect the impact will be much greater this year, because unless things change dramatically over the next few months, the 2021 season totals won’t look anything like those from 2015.

As things stand today, PAR paints a pretty clear picture of what is going on in baseball in 2021.  Across the league, hitters have combined to accumulate just 14.57 PAR.  That is setting a full season pace well under 40 PAR.  Hitters accumulated 69 PAR last year in just a 60 game season.  The record for lowest total batting PAR for a 162 game season is 141 in 2014.  As mentioned in the previous paragraph, this year’s numbers will be adjusted after the season, which will certainly cause batting PAR numbers to increase.  But this is staggering stuff.  Compared to recent seasons, hitters are simply not putting up anywhere near the normal level of offensive production.  Meanwhile, pitchers have already accumulated 126 PAR and are on pace for around 300 for the season, well above the expected total of 225.

JUNE 21 ADDENDUM:

In retrospect, quoting mid-week leaguewide PAR numbers may have been a tad misleading.  One part of the PAR formula for all of the counting categories is number of weeks a player has spent on the active roster (as a ratio over 26, the total number of weeks in the season).  This value is incremented at the beginning of the week, causing the threshold needed to reach replacement level to increase in those categories.  I figured we were far enough into the season for this to be of little consequence.  And that is generally true for individual players, but not when looking at the league as a whole.  Following the completion of the past week, hitters have now accumulated a total of 42.74 batting PAR.  That’s still well below normal and on pace to break the full season futility record.  But not to the same degree as the 14.57 number I mentioned above.  Another factor I neglected to mention is that the abundance of injuries to position players so far this season has caused far more teams to have injured players occupying active roster spots than we would typically see at this point in the season.  And players who accumulate no stats will see their PAR numbers drop like a rock.  So there are some other factors besides the reduced offensive environment that are causing these low batting PAR totals this season.

END OF ADDENDUM

Interestingly, the league batting average of .257 is actually up a tick from last year, but still well below the the .267 number from 2019.  It is the rest of the offensive categories that have cratered.  We are on pace for 2,840 home runs to be hit.  That would be almost 700 fewer than 2019.  Runs scored and RBIs are down more than 10% from two seasons ago.  On the pitching side, the league WHIP of 1.124 would be a record low, by a considerable margin.  ERA is down almost 0.4 points from two seasons ago.  And the strikeout record is likely to be broken once again this year.  What’s happening this year isn’t exactly a continuation of the three true outcome (home runs, walks, strikeouts) revolution of recent seasons.  Only one of those outcomes is continuing to increase:  strikeouts.  Which means pitchers are getting the upper hand like never before.

Enter the sticky substance debate.  I think it is pretty clear at this point that the prevalence of pitchers using sticky substances has had a significant impact on the game, and most would agree that the fewer balls in play it has seemingly caused is not a good thing.  So a crackdown on this is appropriate and long overdue.  The issue is the manner in which it is being implemented and the timing.  It certainly would have been more logical to start this enforcement of the rules at the beginning of the season, or maybe wait until next year.  And perhaps some compromises could have been made on what substances are and are not allowed.  We will have to wait and see if the unintended consequences are severe (see Glasnow, Tyler).  And we will also have to wait and see how dramatic of an impact it has across the game.  However, I am hopeful that the intended consequences of increased offense will materialize and kill any thoughts of more drastic rule changes like moving the pitcher’s mound further from the plate.  So put me down as being in favor of the crackdown, but not the timing or manner in which it is being implemented.

Now here’s a list of players who have excelled so far this season in spite of, or maybe because of, the foreign substance boom.  As usual, these are strictly determined by who had the highest PAR total for a given week or month.

Batters of the Week:

Week 1 (4/1 – 4/4) – Nick Castellanos, Mavericks
Week 2 (4/5 – 4/11) – Ronald Acuna, Jackalope
Week 3 (4/12 – 4/18) – Ronald Acuna, Jackalope
Week 4 (4/19 – 4/25) – Fernando Tatis, Demigods
Week 5 (4/26 – 5/2) – Kris Bryant, Cougars
Week 6 (5/3 – 5/9) – Yordan Alvarez, Komodos
Week 7 (5/10 – 5/16) – Aaron Judge, Mavericks
Week 8 (5/17 – 5/23) – Fernando Tatis, Demigods
Week 9 (5/24 – 5/30) – Fernando Tatis, Demigods
Week 10 (5/31 – 6/6) – Ryan Mountcastle, Moonshiners
Week 11 (6/7 – 6/13) – Bo Bichette, Beanballers

Pitchers of the Week:

Week 1 (4/1 – 4/4) – Zack Wheeler, Kings
Week 2 (4/5 – 4/11) – Clayton Kershaw, Mavericks
Week 3 (4/12 – 4/18) – Shane Bieber, Choppers
Week 4 (4/19 – 4/25) – Brandon Woodruff, Choppers
Week 5 (4/26 – 5/2) – Zack Wheeler, Kings
Week 6 (5/3 – 5/9) – John Means, Beanballers
Week 7 (5/10 – 5/16) – Freddy Peralta, Demigods
Week 8 (5/17 – 5/23) – Zack Wheeler, Kings
Week 9 (5/24 – 5/30) – Brandon Woodruff, Choppers
Week 10 (5/31 – 6/6) – Jacob deGrom, Darkhorses
Week 11 (6/7 – 6/13) – Zach Davies, Beanballers

Quite a list of stars on the hitting side, including two players who won back-to-back weekly honors.  Unsurprisingly, they parlayed those weeks into monthly honors as well.  Zack Wheeler has won the weekly pitcher award three times, with Brandon Woodruff adding a pair.  Surprisingly, league Pitching PAR leader Jacob deGrom only has one weekly honor so far.

April Batter of the Month:

Ronald Acuna, Jackalope
.341 AVG, 8 HR, 18 RBI, 25 R, 3 SB, 2.10 PAR

April Pitcher of the Month:

Gerrit Cole, Jackalope
1.43 ERA, 0.717 WHIP, 4 W, 0 SV, 62 K, 4.41 PAR

May Batter of the Month:

Fernando Tatis, Demigods
.353 AVG, 9 HR, 26 RBI, 21 R, 8 SB, 3.01 PAR

May Pitcher of the Month:

Kevin Gausman, Cougars
0.73 ERA, 0.757 WHIP, 5 W, 0 SV, 49 K, 4.67 PAR

Not sure any player in baseball is having a more under the radar stellar campaign than Kevin Gausman.  He is right on deGrom’s heels for the PAR lead.  Two of the previous three first overall draft picks, Ronald Acuna and Fernando Tatis, are off to tremendous starts as well.  They are third and first in Batting PAR, respectively.  In between them is Moonshiners first baseman Vladimir Guerrero, who surprisingly does not appear anywhere above.

2021 Season Preview: Part II

Wednesday, March 31st, 2021

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I’m not going to post the full projected standings until all ten teams have been revealed, but here is a spoiler alert:  there is a pretty wide point gap between the top and bottom half of the standings.  Usually, I like to bucket the teams with similar point projections into the same preview article.  But the three way tie for seventh place made that a little tough to do.  The first team that will be covered in this piece is only one point ahead of those teams.  Meanwhile, this article will cover yet another projected tie, with a pair of teams picked to finish in fourth place.  Those teams are a full 16 points clear of sixth place.  The three teams covered here feature a little more roster balance than those slated to finish below them.  However, they are not fully loaded teams on paper.  One of these squads had a very disappointing 2020 season, another had promise but faded to the bottom half, while the third would like to build on the momentum built in the shortened campaign.  Here are the teams projected to finish in fourth through sixth places.

 

Kevin’s Kings

Category – Projected Rank (2020 Rank)

  • Batting Average – 10th (10th)
  • Home Runs – 2nd (9th)
  • Runs Batted In – 2nd (10th)
  • Runs Scored – 4th (10th)
  • Stolen Bases - 10th (2nd)
  • Earned Run Average – 8th (8th)
  • WHIP Ratio – 10th (9th)
  • Wins – 6th (8th)
  • Saves – 6th (8th)
  • Strike Outs – 7th (6th)
  • Total Batting Points – 6th (10th)
  • Total Pitching Points – 8th (9th)
  • Total Points – 6th (9th)

Summary:

Last year’s Kings title defense was one of the worst this league has ever seen, perhaps only challenged by the 2017 Kings who also finished in ninth place the year after winning the title.  But in 2020, the Kings were a two-time defending champ that stumbled to its fewest standings points since 2009 and second worst total since the league expanded to six teams.  The total collapse of the offense was especially shocking.  But these projections show some major improvements there, particularly in the power department.  First round pick Randy Arozarena will try to give Mookie Betts some help in a depleted outfield.  Betts has been carrying this offense for years and remains one of the best players in the league.  Besides Betts and Arozarena though, the only other hitter with a 4+ PAR projection is first baseman Matt Olson, who can’t possibly hit below the Mendoza line again, can he?  The Kings could really use more from infielders Carlos Correa, Rhys Hoskins and Mike Moustakas as well.  A bunch of old friends are back in the fold for the Kings as they used draft picks to reacquire outfielder A.J. Pollock, second baseman Ryan McMahon and pitcher Marcus Stroman.  Late bloomer Mike Yastrzemski and bright newcomer Dylan Carlson were also nice additions to the outfield.  The pitching staff looks nothing like the group that helped win three of the past five titles.  The reliable veteran duo of Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander is now just Scherzer.  Frankie Montas, Lance McCullers, Zack Wheeler and Ian Anderson all have intriguing upside, but also very large shoes to fill.  One of those four will need to ascend to elite status for the Kings pitching staff to return to respectability.  Stroman is another steady veteran presence for the rotation, but he hasn’t pitched in a real game since 2019.  The bullpen is almost entirely new, but lacking certainty in closer roles.  Richard Rodriguez, Matt Barnes and Amir Garrett all offer potential in that category though.  The Kings will have a lot to overcome to prove that last season was a fluke.  But their recent track record of yo-yoing between the top and bottom of the standings could bode well for them.

 

Dom’s Demigods

Category – Projected Rank (2020 Rank)

  • Batting Average – 2nd (4th)
  • Home Runs - 3rd (10th)
  • Runs Batted In - 3rd (5th)
  • Runs Scored – 3rd (3rd)
  • Stolen Bases – 5th (6th)
  • Earned Run Average – 7th (5th)
  • WHIP Ratio – 6th (4th)
  • Wins – 4th (2nd-T)
  • Saves – 10th (10th)
  • Strike Outs - 6th (4th)
  • Total Batting Points – 2nd (5th)
  • Total Pitching Points – 7th (4th-T)
  • Total Points – 4th-T (7th)

Summary:

The Demigods were much better than their seventh place finish might have indicated a year ago.  They were an above average team in almost all facets and finished with a point total that would have put them in the top half of the standings virtually any other season.  So 2020 was definitely a step in the right direction after a dreadful 2019.  And these numbers show a glimmer of hope for further improvement.  Most notably, their third place projection in home runs would be welcomed after finishing dead last in ’20.  It is not really any new additions that are causing that though, but rather an anticipated return to form for players like J.D. Martinez, who they cut in February and then redrafted this month.  Six hitters are projected for at least 30 home runs:  Martinez, reigning co-MVP Fernando Tatis Jr., Freddie Freeman, Francisco Lindor, Byron Buxton and C.J. Cron.  Tatis is clearly the headliner and a likely MVP candidate again this season.  Josh Bell, Jose Altuve and Austin Meadows are bounceback candidates.  Wil Myers quietly returned to solid contributor status last season.  The Demigods probably have one of the best catching tandems with Travis d’Arnaud joining Willson Contreras.  This is a very strong group of hitters, from top to bottom.  The second place batting projection makes sense.  Where they will need to exceed expectations is on the pitching side.  Aaron Nola remains the staff ace and a safe bet to put up very strong numbers again this season.  Zac Gallen’s health is an immediate concern, although the worst case scenario seems to have been avoided for now.  If healthy, he has star potential as well.  A return to health for Corey Kluber would be a major blessing for the Demigods who haven’t been the same without him for most of the past couple seasons.  Veteran Kenta Maeda was a legit Cy Young contender a year ago.  Max Fried is the one youngster in the rotation with untapped potential.  It appears the Demigods will once again punt the saves category.  Last year, they recorded just six of them all season.  Some combination of Rafael Montero, Chris Martin and Matt Wisler should put them ahead of that mark this year, but still likely to finish at or near the bottom.  Freddy Peralta starting the season in the Brewers rotation gives them a potential wild card though.  This is a very solid Demigods squad.  It would not be surprising to see them contend this season.

 

Mike’s Moonshiners

Category – Projected Rank (2020 Rank)

  • Batting Average – 6th (7th)
  • Home Runs – 5th (8th)
  • Runs Batted In – 5th (6th)
  • Runs Scored – 6th (4th)
  • Stolen Bases – 4th (8th-T)
  • Earned Run Average – 4th (2nd)
  • WHIP Ratio – 3rd (5th)
  • Wins – 7th (2nd-T)
  • Saves - 1st (2nd)
  • Strike Outs - 8th (2nd)
  • Total Batting Points – 5th (7th)
  • Total Pitching Points – 4th-T (2nd)
  • Total Points – 4th-T (3rd)

Summary:

Besides the champion Darkhorses, perhaps no team had a more positive 2020 season than the Moonshiners who posted their highest finish since 2011.  That was mostly accomplished on the strength of their pitching staff.  While the pitchers are probably still ahead of the hitters, this does appear to be a more balanced squad this season.  I doubt many people would be able to correctly guess who is the Moonshiners projected batting PAR leader for this season.  If you guessed outfielder Kyle Tucker, congratulations!  Tucker is a very strong candidate for breakout star of 2021.  He has immense power and speed projectability.  Most of the other stars of the Moonshiners offense are hulking sluggers, like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Miguel Sano, Max Muncy and Rafael Devers.  But Tucker isn’t the only strong hitter and runner.  Shortstop Tim Anderson can also contribute in all five categories.  Michael Conforto shouldn’t be overlooked either.  Newcomer Ryan Mountcastle should give a boost to the Moonshiners outfield, as should Shohei Ohtani who is returning to the offensive side of things after a disappointing and injury riddled 2020 on the mound.  Part of the reason why the Moonshiners were able to shift Ohtani back to the outfield is because of the extensive depth of their starting rotation.  Yu Darvish returned to form as one of the best pitchers in baseball last year and figures to continue that form in San Diego this year.  Veterans Zack Greinke, Charlie Morton and Kyle Hendricks aren’t overwhelming at this stage of their careers, but they are still very productive and reliable pitchers.  The potential breakout star on the pitching side for the Moonshiners is Jesus Luzardo.  The first place saves projection is perhaps a tad optimistic as it includes a full season’s worth of saves out of Kirby Yates who won’t pitch this year.  But they still ought to be in decent shape with Edwin Diaz, Trevor Rosenthal and Jake McGee as either certain or very likely closers.  While the fourth place projection in pitching points isn’t particularly impressive, I’m not sure any other team can match the Moonshiners pitching depth, so there is upside here.  Combine that with what appears to be an improved offense and you should have the makings of a contending ballclub.

 

Predictably Unpredictable

Tuesday, March 16th, 2021

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There is no blueprint for how to approach a fantasy baseball draft following a 60 game, pandemic affected season.  How much weight do you put in players’ performances in such a short sample size?  Is it safe to ignore the poor numbers of a veteran player with a long track record of success?  How do you judge a rookie who made his MLB debut after not being able to play in real minor league games for almost a full year?  Can the breakout stars of 2020 be trusted to repeat their performances over the long haul of a full season?  And finally, how do you judge the players who actually contracted and recovered from COVID-19?  Nobody knows the right answers to any of these questions.  And based on the results of the first round of the 2021 DTBL Draft, it would seem there were many different answers among the league’s members.

Going into this draft, I had absolutely no idea what to expect.  Unlike most years, there were hardly any sure-fire first round selections.  Partly because I was the owner of the second pick, I didn’t even bother trying to compile a top ten list like I normally do.  But if I had, I think I can safely say I would have been wrong on close to half of the names.  And outside of the first two picks, I’m not sure I would have correctly pegged any other players with the teams that selected them.  Besides the general unpredictability, the other abnormal theme of the first round was the number of non-DTBL rookies selected.  Four players were chosen who have previous experience on DTBL rosters.  I have complete draft records dating back to 2005.  In the previous 16 years, no more than three non-rookies were selected in any year.  While unusual, this was not terribly surprising since there just wasn’t a lot of time for newcomers to make their mark during the 2020 MLB season.

The one pick in this draft that was definitely not surprising was the first one.  The Komodos selected White Sox young star outfielder Luis Robert.  The five tool phenom hit the ground running with an incredible first month of his big league career, during which he wasn’t only one of the best rookies in the game, but one of the top players as well.  But even Robert comes with some question marks as he really struggled down the stretch, seeing his batting average fall to .233.  He was still just one steal away from a double/double HR/SB season, which would have been more like 25/25 stretched out to a full campaign.  With his power and speed, Robert is a legitimate 40/40 candidate down the road.  HR and SB were already two of the Komodos better categories, so he could help boost them among the top teams in the league in those areas.

The second pick is another player with well above average power and decent speed as well.  The Kings boosted their extremely disappointing offense from a year ago with the selection of outfielder Randy Arozarena.  Arozerana became a breakout star in October, almost singlehandedly leading the Rays offense on the way to the World Series.  While he did seemingly come out of nowhere, he actually started mashing soon after being activated from the COVID-19 list in late August.  He slugged seven homers in September before adding  an incredible 10 more in the Postseason.  Even though he made his MLB debut in 2019, Arozarena actually remains MLB rookie eligible this year since he missed so much time in 2020 recovering from the virus.  For the Kings sake, hopefully he kept up his now famous pushup regimen this offseason.  If so, he could help the Kings rebound from a shockingly disappointing 2020.

With the third pick in the draft, we had a quick throwback to last year’s draft that featured four sons of former DTBL players selected in the first 15 picks.  The Choppers selected third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes, 28 years after his father Brian, also a third baseman, played for the Choppers in the inaugural season of the DTBL of 1993.  The elder Hayes played four seasons in this league.  Ke’Bryan figures to stick around much longer.  Known mostly for his slick fielding as a prospect, Hayes burst onto the scene with a .376 average and five home runs in 85 big league at bats.  He has an advanced bat and runs well too, so there is serious five category potential here.  This marks the fourth straight year that the Choppers have selected an infielder with their first pick.  Hayes will join last year’s pick of Pete Alonso to form a strong corner duo for years to come.

So after three picks, this first round didn’t look too dissimilar from previous years.  But things started to change at four.  The Demigods selected veteran outfielder J.D. Martinez, who they had just cut from their roster last month.  I suppose this could be chalked up as a case of seller’s remorse.  Martinez struggled badly a year ago, but this came on the heels of three straight seasons of hitting at least .300 with 35+ home runs and 100+ RBI.  While he’s no youngster at 33, it seems likely that his ’20 campaign was an outlier and a product of a weird season.  Had the Demigods not picked him, some other team surely would have done so relatively early.  The surprise here is that it was the team that just cut him that made the pick.  If you ignore that fact though, Martinez makes all the sense in the world for a Demigods squad that has more than enough talent to contend and could really use his proven bat in the lineup.

The Cougars followed by selecting another non-DTBL rookie.  But this one was more of a technicality as starting pitcher Corbin Burnes is at a completely different place now than he was when the Choppers took a late flier on him as a relief pitcher in 2019.  Burnes fell out of the league last year, but now returns as a starter with huge upside.  He started nine of the 12 games he appeared in last season and put up some impressive numbers.  He had a 2.11 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 88 strikeouts in 60 innings.  This is the second straight year the Cougars have used the fifth overall pick on a starting pitcher who had fallen off the league roster the previous year.  Worked out pretty well with Lucas Giolito.  Those two should help the Cougars improve upon a rotation which somewhat held them back from being contenders a year ago.

Jo Adell entered 2020 as one of the top prospects in baseball, but probably not quite ready for the majors.  The lack of a minor league season probably prevented him from that last bit of development time he could have used before making his debut.  Instead, he was thrown into the fire with the Angels for a bulk of the season.  It did not go well.  He hit just .161 and struck out in over 40% of his plate appearances.  He is flying under the radar this spring, in large part because he lost rookie eligibility and is thus not being discussed in prospect rankings.  But he is still very much a coveted prospect with great power and speed tools.  If he can improve the hit tool, he has a chance to be a star.  He will likely start this season in the minors though.  But that did not prevent the Mavericks from selecting him with the sixth pick.  This is a luxury the Mavericks could afford with their absolutely loaded roster, particularly in the outfield.  They don’t really need anything from Adell to be a contender this season.  But the enormous upside was too much to pass up.

The next pick was another player with an uncertain role this season.  The Beanballers selected Dodgers pitcher Dustin May with the sixth pick.  May is also not a DTBL rookie.  He was picked in the sixth round by the Mavericks last year.  But not having a firm grasp on a rotation spot heading into the season made him expendable.  The Beanballers were willing to gamble on the talent.  Even if he isn’t able to crack the Dodgers rotation to start the season, it would be surprising if he didn’t get plenty of opportunities sooner than later.  May did start 10 games a year ago and had an excellent 2.57 ERA and 1.09 WHIP.  If he can improve on his strikeout rate, he has top of the rotation potential.  The Beanballers could definitely use a big season from him this year as they bide their time before Noah Syndergaard returns from Tommy John surgery.

With the eighth pick, the Moonshiners went a more traditional route, taking a rookie who made a strong impression in his debut.  Orioles outfielder Ryan Mountcastle put up numbers very similar to Hayes.  He hit .333 with five home runs in 140 plate appearances.  Mountcastle was a consistently strong hitter in the Orioles farm system for five full years before he finally got his opportunity in the big leagues last season.  He was the fifth outfielder selected in the first round.  Mountcastle should help shore up a Moonshiners offense that was below average a year ago and an outfield that should be much improved with Kyle Tucker quietly becoming a fantasy star and Shohei Ohtani returning to the offensive side of things this year.

Next, the Jackalope selected shortstop Dansby Swanson, who has had a very interesting four year DTBL career.  This is the fourth time he has been drafted, by four different teams.  He has never spent consecutive seasons on the same roster.  Originally a second round pick of the Naturals in 2017, this was his first time as a first rounder.  Swanson is coming off a career year in which he hit 10 homers with 35 RBI in a shortened season.  He was a solid contributor to the championship winning Darkhorses, but was squeezed out with their deep roster.  The Jackalope were happy to add him to their infield, which was mildly disappointing a year ago.  Their offense will feature six of their former first round picks this season.  Even a minor improvement to that offense should put them in strong contention for a title.

Finally, the defending champion Darkhorses closed out the first round by selecting another young slugger who made the most of the shortened season, but also enters 2021 with a somewhat unsettled role.  First baseman Dominic Smith was the final pick of the first round.  Smith made his MLB debut in 2017, but is still just 25 years old.  Last season, he hit .316 with 10 home runs and 42 RBI.  With Pete Alonso firmly entrenched at first base for the Mets and the designated hitter not being in play in the NL this year, Smith figures to see a bulk of his time in the outfield.  If he gets semi regular playing time, he could be a monster offensive force for a team that is already the best team in the league with the bats.  Immediately following the selection of Smith, eight of the Darkhorses ten hitters were players who hit double digit home runs a year ago.  And that doesn’t even include Alex Bregman, who is only a year removed from hitting 40.  This is a truly scary offense.

Half of the first round picks were outfielders and another could move there a year from now.  Meanwhile, only two pitchers were selected in the first ten picks.  This was despite much more league roster shuffling among hurlers than hitters.  It will be interesting to see which strategies pay off following a very unusual 2020.