Archive for the ‘Jackalope’ Category

Acuna Slugs, Steals Way to MVP

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2023

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The 2023 baseball season saw unprecedented change as a result of significant new rules:  a pitch clock, banning of the shift, limiting pickoff attempts and larger bases.  With the exception of the drastic decrease in average time of games, probably the most noticeable change this year was stolen bases coming back in style.  There were 1,652 stolen bases across the DTBL this season, an incredible 53% increase over a year ago and the highest league total since 1999.  In fact, we were just nine steals shy of this being a record breaking season for steals.  Almost every player with at least average speed increased their stolen base output this year.  But one player took that to an extreme while continuing to be one of the best hitters in the game.  Ronald Acuna Jr stole 73 bases while hitting 41 home runs, a pair of milestones no other player in DTBL history has ever come close to reaching.  In a unanimous decision, the Jackalope and Braves outfielder is the 2023 DTBL Most Valuable Player.

Acuna’s 73 stolen bases led the league by 19.  He is the first DTBL player to steal 70+ bases since Jacoby Ellsbury in 2009 and that 73 figure ranks third highest in league history, just five shy of the league record 78 by Jose Reyes in 2007.  Needless to say, his 41 home runs are the highest total ever among players with 70+ steals.  That mark was previously held by Kenny Lofton who hit 14 home runs with his 75 steals in 1996.  Even if you bump the HR/SB milestones down to 30/50, Acuna is still the first player in league history to reach those marks.  Oh, Acuna also hit .338, which put him second in line for the batting title, and led the league with 149 runs scored.  His 106 runs batted in, despite hitting leadoff all year, also put him in the top 10 of the league.  It was truly one of the best offensive seasons in league history.  By PAR, it currently ranks as the best season in all years that have been calculated (2005-present), by a wide margin.  His 19.0 Batting PAR blows away Aaron Judge’s previous high from last year at 12.2.  I should mention that this PAR total will likely be lowered when I get around to doing the post-season adjustment.  This is because stolen bases were drastically overrepresented in the PAR totals this year since the leaguewide total was so significantly higher compared to recent years.  That said, the adjustment isn’t going to cost him 6+ points, so this should remain the best Batting PAR individual season to date by a comfortable margin.  There is no question that Acuna had one of the best single season performances in DTBL history.

The Jackalope selected Acuna with the first pick in the 2019 Draft.  He immediately had one of the best rookie seasons in league history, hitting 41 homers with 37 stolen bases, earning him Rookie of the Year and runner up for MVP.  It was certainly a sign of what was to come for this five tool phenom.  Unfortunately, his ascendence was put on pause in 2021 when he tore his ACL halfway through the year and then missed the first month of the 2022 season as well.  In these abbreviated seasons, he did not flash the same type of power he had shown previously, but the speed was still there.  Then this season happened, leaving little doubt that he is now back to full strength and better than ever.  While not directly fantasy related, his ’23 stat that I found most impressive was his 11.4% strikeout rate.  He had been in 23%-30% range his entire career, and then suddenly cut that in half this year.  While the Jackalope finished a distant fifth place with Acuna, it would be scary to think how bad their offense would have been without him.  He joins Gerrit Cole for a Jackalope sweep of the non-rookie awards.  They’ll look for more contributions from the rest of the roster next year.

As expected, Acuna won this award unanimously, the second straight season in which the MVP winner received all of the first place votes after Judge did the same a year ago.  No other player even received half as many total points as Acuna’s perfect 100.  In fact, Acuna was the only player who even appeared on every ballot.  Five different players received second place votes, making it a tight race for all of the other finishing positions.  The runner-up is Demigods outfielder and Rookie of the Year winner Corbin Carroll.  The sparkplug to the Demigods championship winning offense, Carroll finished second in the league behind Acuna in both stolen bases (54) and Batting PAR (10.7).  If our league’s MVP vote mimicked real life where sports MVP awards often simply go to the best player on the best team, Carroll would have been the choice.  He received half of the second place votes and finished with 49 total points.  Third place will be shared by a pair of players who have things in common with Carroll.  The first being his Demigods teammate Freddie Freeman.  Freeman was another key cog for the championship squad.  The veteran first baseman hit .331 with 29 home runs and even stole 23 bases.  He received a pair of second place votes and three thirds to finish with 37 points.  The other player with 37 points is Mavericks shortstop Bobby Witt Jr, who shares Carroll’s status as a rookie with elite power and speed.  Witt stole 49 bases while hitting 30 home runs.  Very few players in league history have reached the HR/SB levels that all three of Acuna, Carroll and Witt hit this year.  Witt now had a third place MVP finish to go along with his third place ROY standing.  For MVP, he only received one second place tally, but four thirds allowed him to tie Freeman.  There is yet another tie for fifth place.  Moonshiners star Shohei Ohtani was the unanimous choice for AL MVP.  But in this league, his pitching prowess doesn’t increase his value, making his season slightly less significant while still incredibly impressive.  Ohtani hit .304 with 44 home runs and 20 stolen bases.  I hear he had a pretty good year on the mound as well.  Ohtani only appeared on three ballots, but did get a second place vote, pushing his total up to 15 points.  That ties him with yet another rookie, Diamond Dogs first overall draft pick, outfielder Julio Rodriguez.  Rodriguez’s DTBL career got off to a bit of a slow start.  He made up for it in the final months of the season though, accumulating 32 homers and 37 stolen bases.  Like Ohtani, he received a single second place vote, but with more down ballot support to also reach 15 points.  So that’s three DTBL rookies among the top six MVP vote getters.  The future is certainly bright.

Click here to view the full voting results.

And with that, we have concluded DTBL awards season.  Hopefully soon, I’m going to get the post-season PAR update done.  I anticipate it is going to cause significant changes in the numbers across the board due to the wild statistical shifts that occurred this season.  It will probably be worth writing about at some point.  In the meantime, I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving!

Cole Reaches Pitching Apex

Monday, November 20th, 2023

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Gerrit Cole has been one of the best pitchers in baseball ever since making his big league debut in 2013.  The first overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft has been anchoring rotations for the better part of a decade.  Yet the Cy Young award had eluded him, both in MLB and the DTBL.  Until this year.  Cole put up his usual exceptional numbers.  But this time he was actually rewarded for it.  The Jackalope and Yankees righty finally earned the American League Cy Young award in a unanimous decision.  In the DTBL, the competition was a little stiffer, but he came out on top there as well.  For the first time in his career, Gerrit Cole is the DTBL Cy Young award winner.

While Cole is known mostly as a power pitcher who can sometimes be victimized by home runs, inflating his ERA along the way, it was actually the ERA and WHIP numbers this year that ultimately set him apart from the field.  He was the only qualified pitcher to post a sub 1.0 WHIP (0.98) and his 2.63 ERA trailed only Blake Snell, who threw nearly 30 fewer innings.  While still an elite total, his 222 strikeouts only ranked fifth in the league.  Cole was one of just four pitchers to throw over 200 innings this season, further cementing his workhorse status.  He led all DTBL hurlers with 11.8 Pitching PAR.  Part of what pushed this Cole season to a higher level was his ability to keep the ball in the park more often.  After surrendering a league leading 33 home runs in 2022, he lowered that figure to a very respectable 20 in 2023, the first time his HR/9 was under 1.0 since 2018.  Perhaps the 32 year old Cole is gracefully transitioning to more of a finesse pitcher than he was earlier in his career.

Originally selected by the Mavericks with the ninth pick of the 2014 DTBL Draft, Cole spent one season with the Mavericks before being traded to the Jackalope in exchange for Aroldis Chapman prior to 2015.  He has been the Jackalope ace ever since.  Cole has topped 200 strikeouts six times and this was the fifth season in which he won at least 15 games for the Jackalope.  Assuming they keep him around, sometime early next season he should pass Felix Hernandez as the Jackalope career leader in strikeouts.  Including his season with the Mavericks, he passed the 2,000 career strikeout milestone in September.  While this was his first Cy Young winning campaign, it would be hard to make an argument for it being the finest season of his career.  That would have to be 2019 when he struck out 326 batters, the highest single season total for any DTBL pitcher not named Randy Johnson.  He also won 20 games with a 2.50 ERA and 0.90 WHIP that year.  Unfortunately for him, Justin Verlander also had an incredible season in ’19, bumping Cole to second in the Cy Young vote.  This is the sixth straight year that Cole has received Cy Young votes, and seventh time overall.  He is a six time DTBL All-Star, making the team every year since 2018, excluding the 2020 season when there was no game.  Cole is the first Jackalope Cy Young winner since Jake Arrieta in 2015.

Unlike the AL Cy Young vote, Cole did not win this one unanimously.  He was placed first or second on all 10 ballots though, making him the only player who can make that claim.  He received seven first place tallies and three seconds to secure 91 of the possible 100 total points.  Two other pitchers were within shouting distance of Cole.  Darkhorses rookie Spencer Strider, fresh off his second place finish in the Rookie of the Year vote, now has another runner-up finish.  Strider lapped the field with 281 strikeouts and also led all pitchers with 20 wins.  He had an impressive 1.09 WHIP as well.  What probably cost him this award was his good but not great 3.86 ERA, more than a run higher than Cole’s.  Strider received a pair of first place votes and three seconds.  His 66 total points were enough to put him in second place.  Just behind him is the NL Cy Young winner, Choppers lefty Blake Snell.  Snell finally regained the magic that earned him Rookie of the Year and a second place Cy Young finish in his DTBL rookie season with the Cougars in 2018.  This year, he led all qualified pitchers with a 2.25 ERA and was third in strikeouts with 234.  Snell received the final first place vote and four seconds for a total of 57 points.  Cole, Strider and Snell were the only pitchers to receive top two votes and to appear on every ballot, comfortably placing them ahead of the rest of the pack.  The fourth place finisher is the champion Demigods ace Zac Gallen.  Perhaps a bit under the radar prior to the Diamondbacks pennant winning run this fall, Gallen has been dominant for two straight seasons now.  This season, he set career highs with 222 strikeouts and 17 wins, finishing only behind Strider in the latter category.  Gallen received a pair of third place votes and 23 total points.  Rounding out the top five is Darkhorses reliever Felix Bautista.  In his DTBL debut season, he saved 33 games while striking out 110 in just 61 innings.  His 1.48 ERA was lowest among all pitchers who threw at least 60 innings this year.  Bautista appeared on seven ballots, accumulating 13 points.  So that’s an impressive fifth place finish for both Rookie of the Year and Cy Young for the dominant reliever, despite missing the final month of the season.

Click here to view the full voting results.

Two down, one to go.  Probably not a lot of suspense surrounding the Most Valuable Player award, but you will just have to wait a couple days for the official announcement.  Look for that on Wednesday.

2023 Season Preview: Part IV

Monday, April 3rd, 2023

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It is now time for the final installment of the 2023 DTBL season preview series.  If you thought we’d seen the last of projected ties after the last section where three teams were slotted to finish tied for fourth place, you’d be wrong.  There are two more teams with exactly four more projected standings points than that trio, which puts them in a tie for second place in these standings.  Then, in a bit of a departure from the norm, the projected champion has a fairly decent lead over all challengers according to these numbers.  That is particularly surprising since that team is expected to have a below average offense.

Based strictly on 2022 results, the presense of two of these teams in the final preview section is quite surprising.  But then if you look at the rosters and examine the reasons for the disappointing seasons a year ago, it starts to make sense.  All three of these squads have the goods to win the DTBL in 2023.  Here are the projected top three teams in the league heading into the 2023 season.

 

Jay’s Jackalope

Category – Projected Rank (2022 Rank)

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

Summary:

Impressively, the Jackalope are expected to finish at or above their point total from last year in all 10 categories.  That’s how you go about turning a disappointing finish one season into championship contention the next, by improving across the board.  While I mentioned the Kings being one of the most balanced teams in the league, the Jackalope probably deserve the title in that regard.  They are projected to finish in the top four in both batting and pitching points.  No other team can claim that.  Having said that, the pitching projections mainly expected full healthy seasons from the Jackalope hurlers, and the season is off to a bad start in that regard.  With Tyler Glasnow, Luis Severino and Triston McKenzie all starting the season on the I.L., they are down three projected rotation pieces.  That still leaves them with two of the best pitchers in the game though in Gerrit Cole and Luis Castillo.  They also have Lance Lynn returning to anchor a spot.  The newcomers who will need to pick up the slack early are Brady Singer and Andrew Heaney.  The bullpen is also banged up heading into the season, most notably without top closer Raisel Iglesias.  Alex Lange, Giovanny Gallegos and Jason Adam give them some other interesting options in relief.  The good news is, they should get all of those ailing pitchers back at some point.  Perhaps the offense will need to carry the load early on though.  Fortunately, they are equipped to do just that.  Ronald Acuna is back to full health and could be a legit 40/40 candidate this year.  His Braves teammate Michael Harris joins him in the Jackalope outfield as well.  Like Acuna, the first round pick Harris figures to be an elite power and speed guy.  And then there is Adolis Garcia, giving the Jackalope three outfielders with at least 20/20 HR/SB projections.  If Giancarlo Stanton can stay healthy, this should be the best outfield in the league outside of the Mavericks.  On the infield, Paul Goldschmidt is the main returning cog.  There are several new additions here, including Jeremy Pena and Josh Jung, with Cal Raleigh behind the plate.  The infield is unproven compared to the outfield, but there are a bunch of young guys with breakout potential.  It has been a couple disappointing seasons in a row for the Jackalope.  These numbers point to a big turnaround in 2023 though.

 

Mike’s Moonshiners

Category – Projected Rank (2022 Rank)

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

Summary:

The Moonshiners finally won their first DTBL championship in 2022 thanks to solid contributions throughout the roster.  On the offensive side of things, they didn’t have any single player with eye-popping numbers.  Kyle Tucker was the only Moonshiner in the top 15 of Batting PAR.  But they got very good seasons out of pretty much everybody.  So they will attempt to defend the title with another strong, deep roster that actually has room for improvement on offense.  The infield is particularly deep with Vladimir Guerrero Jr, Rafael Devers and Tim Anderson leading the way.  Amed Rosario and Ryan Mountcastle return after being two key breakout performers from a year ago.  They lost the benefit of Daulton Varsho occupying a catching slot while spending most of his time in the outfield, but replaced him in that spot with MJ Melendez who will likely do the same thing:  play most days in the outfield while holding down a catching spot.  Varsho will still be a valuable contributor for the Moonshiners as well, but will have to do it as an outfielder.  He’s joining an outfield that already has two of the most dynamic players in the game in Shohei Ohtani and Kyle Tucker.  After a couple straight seasons of excellent work as both a hitter and a pitcher, the Moonshiners had a more complicated decision to make this winter on Ohtani’s position status for ’23.  Ultimately, they opted to leave him in the outfield where he’s been excellent the past three years.  Meanwhile, Tucker is one of only three players (Acuna, Judge) with a 7+ Batting PAR projection for this season.  Part of the reason why the Moonshiners elected to keep Ohtani in the outfield is because they already have arguably the best starting rotation in the league.  Justin Verlander, Alek Manoah and Yu Darvish were three of the top five finishers in Pitching PAR last year, with Verlander taking home the Cy Young award.  Unfortunately, he’ll start this season on the I.L.  Dustin May, Reid Detmers and Jeffrey Springs were all added to the roster in the draft, giving the Moonshiners incredible depth in the rotation.  The bullpen suffered a crushing blow with Edwin Diaz tearing his ACL during a WBC postgame celebration.  This seventh place saves projection was pre-Diaz injury, so they will be hard pressed to not finish near the bottom of the league in saves.  Clay Holmes is probably their best bet to rack up saves.  But Diaz is irreplaceable across all of his numbers.  The Moonshiners certainly have the talent to defend their title.  It just might come in a different manner this time around.

 

David’s Darkhorses

Category – Projected Rank (2022 Rank)

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

Summary:

When I first saw these projections, I thought maybe I made a mistake.  How could a team that was among the worst in the league in pitching points last year be far and away the best pitching staff on paper heading into this season?  Well, there are actually a couple credible explanations for this.  First, Jacob deGrom is projected to throw 175 innings this season according to FanGraphs Depth Charts.  That would be 175 more innings than the Darkhorses got from him a year ago.  And on a per inning basis, there is no better starting pitcher in baseball than deGrom.  Of course, you could argue that 175 innings from him is pretty unrealistic since he hasn’t reached that number since 2019.  The other big change is the addition of Spencer Strider to the rotation.  Strider was far and away the best pitcher available in this year’s draft.  So with those two guys in the fold, it is close to a lock the Darkhorses will have a much improved staff.  47 pitching points may be a tad optimistic though.  Strider isn’t the only fireballer joining the rotation.  Hunter Greene was added to the mix as well.  Logan Webb is the key returning rotation piece.  The bullpen being projected to finish second in saves is a product of a lot of unsettled closer situations across the league.  The Darkhorses only have two sure things for saves themselves in Kenley Jansen and Felix Bautista.  Andres Munoz should be a positive contributor out of the pen regardless of how many save opportunities he gets.  Four of the Darkhorses first five draft picks were pitchers.  Combine that with the return of deGrom and the optimistic outlook for the pitching staff starts to make sense.  It is also interesting that a team expected to take a big step back in batting points would still come out on top of the projected standings, but here we are.  Part of that is because of Bryce Harper’s elbow injury recovery, which is baked into these numbers perhaps more pessimistically than recent news would suggest is warranted.  He could be back sooner than later.  And they could use him because no individual hitter has a Batting PAR projection over 4.  Believe it or not, Tommy Edman is the top guy on that list.  He along with Xander Bogaerts, Andres Gimenez and Brandon Lowe make up a solid middle infield.  The Darkhorses could use a return to old form from at least one of their third base pair of Alex Bregman and Matt Chapman.  J.T. Realmuto remains one of the best catchers in the game.  Christian Yelich is another guy from whom they could use a bounce back season.  George Springer is the most reliable producer in the outfield.  All in all, this is a very talented roster and a championship would not be terribly surprising.  I would not blame you if you question them being the preseason favorites though.

 

So there you have it.  We’ve previewed the 2023 season for all 10 teams.  Here are the full projected standings and team point totals for the ten categories:

 

With all the rule changes, it is hard to know exactly what to expect during this 2023 baseball season.  I do expect it to be a lot of fun though.  Good luck to all!

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 II

Wednesday, April 6th, 2022

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In the second part of the 2022 DTBL preview series, we’ll take a look at three teams that are projected to finish in the bottom half of the standings.  However, as covered in the first part, this most definitely doesn’t mean these teams aren’t championship contenders.  What these three teams have in common is that they expose some flaws in my projection system, in different ways.  These projections consider the full 28 player roster at the completion of the draft.  Even players who may be slated to spend most or all of the season off the active roster are counted just as much as the teams’ stars.  Team totals are scaled to a target total of 8,285 plate appearances and 1,220 innings pitched.  If a team’s extra five players skew more towards a certain position group compared to the rest of the league, this could alter their numbers either positively or negatively.  One of the teams covered below is the only team in the league with three catchers on their roster at the moment.  So they are disproportionally hurt in these projections by having an extra player at the weakest position.  Meanwhile, another team has only one extra hitter, meaning that the guys who will compose their regular lineup are not being offset by as many bench players as other teams.  Just something to keep in mind.  Here are two teams slated to tie for seventh place and another team one spot ahead of them.

 

Kelly’s Cougars

Category – Projected Rank (2021 Rank)

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

Summary:

The Cougars are the team I mentioned above with three catchers on the roster.  In addition to that, they only have two extra hitters on the roster at the moment.  So catchers make up about 19% of the batting roster compared to more like 12% for most teams.  So it would be reasonable to assume they are capable of much more than these hitting projections suggest.  That said, the offense is clearly their weaker unit.  Perhaps their two most important hitters made moves into and out of Colorado in recent weeks.  Kris Bryant is a decent bet to revitalize his career in the thin air of Denver.  Meanwhile, Trevor Story is moving to the lower altitude of Boston.  Besides those two, the other big change from last year is the addition of first round pick Cedric Mullins who broke out a 30/30 season in 2021, seemingly from nowhere.  Perhaps it is a big ask for a repeat, but a 20/20 season would be rather useful as well.  Salvador Perez had one of the best fantasy seasons from a catcher in league history last year.  His 48 home runs were five more than any other catcher had every recorded in the DTBL.  If he comes close to repeating that, the Cougars will have a huge leg up on the rest of the league.  Jose Abreu continues to produce for them as well.  The Cougars pitching staff has a good chance to be the league’s best.  Corbin Burnes, Lucas Giolito and Kevin Gausman were all outstanding a year ago.  They are joined by second round pick Carlos Rodon who is coming off the best season of his career as well.  All four of those pitchers have excellent projections for this season.  Ryan Pressly leads a bullpen that has five guys who are decent bets to lead their respective teams in saves this season.  The other four are Corey Knebel, Scott Barlow, Alex Colome and Lucas Sims.  Even if one or two of them don’t pan out, they should have a good chance of finishing at or near the top of the saves category.  This is definitely a championship caliber pitching staff.  The question will be if the veteran led offense can provide enough punch to push them to the top.

 

Jay’s Jackalope

Category – Projected Rank (2021 Rank)

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

Summary:

The Jackalope remain one of the most talent rich franchises in this league.  The problem is that their roster is currently loaded with red flags.  Actually, I should say red crosses as almost literally half the pitching staff is not at full health entering this season.  And their best overall player, Ronald Acuna Jr, also won’t play until at least May as he recovers from a torn ACL that cost him a good chunk of last season.  If the Jackalope can somehow scrape together enough healthy bodies, they could be dangerous.  Paul Goldschmidt, Jared Walsh, Anthony Rendon and Adalberto Mondesi make up an impressive group of 1B/3B.  Rendon returning to form is one of the biggest keys for this team.  The middle infield is bolstered with Jonathan India joining Dansby Swanson.  The outfield is young with plenty of potential.  Giancarlo is the star, but Jarred Kelenic and Adolis Garcia will be asked to keep the group above water until Acuna returns.  Unless injuries just become too much to overcome, the Jackalope are a safe bet not to be the league’s worst batting team like they were in 2021.  The pitching staff is an absolute MASH unit right now.  Newcomer Garret Crochet was lost for the season with a UCL tear.  His White Sox teammate Lance Lynn will miss the first two months with a knee injury.  It is not certain that Tyler Glasnow will pitch this season.  Luis Castillo will start the season on the injured list too.  That puts almost all of their eggs in Gerrit Cole’s basket.  It is imperative that he be one of the best pitchers in baseball if the Jackalope have any chance.  The other starting pitchers they will count on will be Sean Manaea, Tanner Houck, Jordan Montgomery and Triston McKenzie who have had varying levels of success in their careers to date.  The bullpen has a chance to be a real strength for the Jackalope, though maybe not in the saves category.  Raisel Iglesias and Giovanny Gallegos will have to carry them in that category.  But a healthy Luis Severino could give the whole pitching staff a boost as a starter in a relief slot.  The good news for the Jackalope is that in a couple months there will probably be several other teams absolutely ravaged by injuries too.  The question is if they will be able to keep pace with so many guys out early.

 

Charlie’s Thunder Choppers

Category – Projected Rank (2021 Rank)

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

Summary:

Last year, the Choppers wound up neck-and-neck with the Kings in the title race pretty much all season, before tailing off a bit down the stretch.  Can they keep it together all the way to the finish line this time?  Their hitters will need to outperform these projections to make that happen.  The Choppers went heavy on pitching in the draft, so their offense remains largely in tact from a year ago when they finished tied for second most batting points.  So a drop to ninth would be pretty disappointing.  The projections show a team without any elite hitters, but a lot of very good ones.  Pete Alonso and Whit Merrifield are easily their best infielders.  D.J. LeMahieu, Anthony Rizzo and Jorge Polanco are all solid players, but not great bets to provide huge fantasy value at this stage of their careers.  The outfield is a little deeper with more upside.  Franmil Reyes, Joey Gallo and Kyle Schwarber are all decent picks to lead the league in home runs.  Gallo is particularly interesting now that he will have a full season of aiming for the short porch in right at Yankee Stadium.  The only problem here is that none of these guys can run.  In fact, Merrifield is the only player on the roster projected to steal more than 15 bases.  While the Choppers may not replicate their ’21 offensive numbers, they have a great shot of improving upon an already strong pitching staff.  Their first four draft picks were all starting pitchers:  Dylan Cease, Blake Snell, Eduardo Rodriguez and Logan Gilbert.  Those four join a staff that already contained three ace level pitchers in Brandon Woodruff, Shane Bieber and Chris Sale.  Sale will miss the first couple months of the season with a rib injury, but they have more than enough depth to cover that.  In fact, no other team has anything even close to this kind of starting pitching depth.  The bullpen should be good enough to protect their status as one of the league’s best total pitching staffs.  Emmanuel Clase and Jordan Romano lead the relief crew.  It would be quite shocking if the Choppers aren’t near the top of the league in pitching points.  As long as their offense isn’t a huge flop, they should once again find themselves in a pennant race this year.  2021 was their highest finish since winning the championship in 1999.  Can they move up one more spot and end that 23 year title drought?

 

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.

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 III

Thursday, April 1st, 2021

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Today is Opening Day!  No, that isn’t an April Fools’ joke.  It is really happening.  Starting today, we will have meaningful baseball to watch nearly every day for the next seven months.  That is a welcome change from this time a year ago when we didn’t know when we would have that opportunity again.  While there is still a great deal of uncertainty heading into the season, at least we should expect this to resemble a normal season far more so than in 2020.

As for the DTBL, the teams that are projected to finish near the top of the standings are not a huge surprise.  Last year, many teams were in the hunt for a the championship for most of the short sprint.  But the two teams that broke away from the pack in the end are expected to be right there again this season.  The third favorite is probably the most star-studded team in the league that had several things go wrong a year ago to derail their championship hunt.  This year’s projected top three happens to be the same three that were tabbed as preseason favorites a year ago, but in the reverse order.  Here are the three projected championship favorites for the 2021 DTBL season.

 

Jay’s Jackalope

Category – Projected Rank (2020 Rank)

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

Summary:

The Jackalope came close to winning a title a year ago on the strength of the league’s best pitching staff.  But their offense just wasn’t quite good enough to close the deal.  These projections paint a very similar picture heading into 2021.  The starting rotation looks like the best in the league with the Jackalope expected to finish in the top two of every pitching category except for saves.  They have added exciting young fireballer Sixto Sanchez to a group that already contained several of the best pitchers in the game.  Gerrit Cole is a perennial Cy Young contender at this stage of his career.  Luis Castillo, Tyler Glasnow and Dinelson Lamet may not be spoken of in the same terms as Cole, but all are well established fantasy stars.  And Lance Lynn keeps getting better with age.  As intriguing as Sanchez is, he may have a tough time cracking this rotation if it is fully healthy.  The Jackalope bullpen is not quite as strong.  Raisel Iglesias is the only well established closer.  But the rest of the group could be in line for saves at some point, and will add impressive strikeout totals regardless.  That group includes Giovanny Gallegos, Drew Pomeranz and Jake Diekman.  The Jackalope will probably need to beat this eigth place batting points projection to win the title this year.  What was once the league’s best infield in the not so distant past, has fallen off a bit lately.  Paul Goldschmidt, Anthony Rendon and Adalberto Mondesi are back to lead the way.  They used their first round draft pick to bring in shortstop Dansby Swanson.  They will also look to last year’s first rounder, Keston Hiura, to be a bigger factor in 2021.  In the outfield, Ronald Acuna has the highest batting PAR projection in the league, which forecasts an impressive 42 home runs and 30 steals.  Giancarlo Stanton is the returning sidekick.  But the rest of the outfield is new, including Ramon Laureano and Leody Tavares.  With the pitching staff nearly certain to lock up a significant amount of points, the Jackalope will just need a few pleasant surprises on offense to win it all this year.

 

David’s Darkhorses

Category – Projected Rank (2020 Rank)

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

Summary:

It is not surprising that the defending champions are one of the favorites again this year.  But this is still a very interesting forecast, which seems to indicate a significant change in the Darkhorses strengths and weaknesses.  Last year, they had far and away the best offense in the league with a good, but not great pitching staff.  These projections show them with an elite pitching staff, tied with the Jackalope for most pitching points, but with not quite as strong of an offense.  What makes this even more interesting is that they didn’t have a pitching focused draft at all.  Mike Soroka was the only pitcher selected by the Darkhorses in the first five rounds.  Perhaps it boils down to Jacob deGrom being the most dominant pitcher in the league, according to these numbers.  His 11.3 PAR projection is nearly two full points better than the next highest pitcher.  They could also benefit from better seasons out of Patrick Corbin, Jose Berrios and Chris Paddack.  The Darkhorses probably have the best bullpen in the league again this year, thanks to Liam Hendriks and Brad Hand.  Joakim Soria and Hector Neris were solid additions as well who should help boost the save total.  Perhaps the forecasted drop in batting points is a small point of concern, but the Darkhorses still feature an extremely deep lineup.  J.T. Realmuto is probably the best catcher in the league, giving them a huge leg up on most teams at that position.  Third basemen Alex Bregman and Matt Chapman look to bounce back from injury plagued seasons.  Brandon Lowe was one of the breakout stars of ’20.  Xander Bogaerts remains a steady presence at shortstop.  Dominic Smith joins the squad to provide some more power out of the first base position.  The outfield trio of Bryce Harper, George Springer and Christian Yelich is hard to top.  It is actually quite impressive that the Darkhorses were as good as they were last year despite getting so little from Yelich, who should be expected to return to form this year.  This is a very deep roster, top to bottom.  The batting projection seems rather pessimistic.  I would expect the Darkhorses to be one of the teams to beat again this year and a safe bet to finish in a top two spot for what would be an impressive fourth straight season.

 

Marc’s Mavericks

Category – Projected Rank (2020 Rank)

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

Summary:

I hate to start by raining on a parade, but the Mavericks batting projections may be a tad inflated because of a flaw in my system.  They completed the draft with just one catcher on the roster, a very good one at that.  So their batting numbers are not dragged down by the typical below average output of a pair of catchers like every other team.  Also, they include a full season of Eloy Jimenez, who is now expected to miss most of the season with a pec injury.  So it might be fair to chop off a point here or there on the batting side of things.  That said, this is unquestionably an elite offensive team.  Their Opening Day lineup will likely consist of players with 2+ PAR projections in every slot but two.  Nobody can touch the Mavericks talent in the outfield, in particular, even without Jimenez.  Mike Trout and Juan Soto might be the two best baseball players on the planet.  Aaron Judge isn’t far behind when healthy.  Nick Castellanos is very good as well.  The Mavericks infield has plenty of star power too.  Manny Machado, Ozzie Albies and Javy Baez are all among the top players at their respective positions.  Eric Hosmer should give them more production at first base than they have had in recent years.  Didi Gregorious and Nick Madrigal are nice luxuries as depth middle infielders.  Finally, Yasmani Grandal is one of the top catchers in the league too.  There just aren’t any weaknesses with the Mavericks bats.  The pitching staff is a little less of a certainty, but also has high upside.  Stephen Strasburg missing almost all of 2020 was a major blow, but he should be good to go this year.  Jack Flaherty also had some health issues and was slightly disappointing a year ago.  Clayton Kershaw, on the other hand, had a bit of a career resurgence and once again appears to be a guy the Mavericks can count on to carry the rotation.  They also have a host of other starters with big potential.  The bullpen is a bit of an unknown in terms of save productivity, but could be a plus.  Kenley Jansen is the main guy, as usual.  James Karinchak has potential to be an elite closer.  Jordan Romero figures to be the beneficiary of the Kirby Yates injury for Toronto.  As usual, the Mavericks are one of the top contenders to win the championship.  This year, they are the pre-season favorites.  Can they end a three year streak of slightly disappointing mid-standings finishes?  Pretty good chance, I would say.

 

That wraps up our preview of the ten teams for the 2021 season.  Here are the full projected standings and team point totals for the ten categories:

 

Good luck to everyone this season.  Let’s hope it is a full, safe and healthy one for all.  Happy Opening Day!

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.

2020 Season Preview: Part IV

Thursday, July 23rd, 2020

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It’s Opening Day!  Nearly four months after the originally scheduled start of the 2020 season, we will finally be able to watch live baseball games that count, starting with the World Series Champion Nationals hosting Gerrit Cole and the Yankees.  While I’m disappointed I won’t be able to attend that game, I couldn’t be more excited to have baseball back.  Nobody knows what to expect out of this 60-game mad dash to October.  But I intend to enjoy every minute of it.  Or at least until the White Sox first excruciating loss.

This final 2020 DTBL preview article will cover the two teams projected to finish in the top two spots in the standings.  While I didn’t do extensive research to verify this, I believe these are the two teams that in recent years the annual projections tend to get the most wrong.  But in opposite directions.  The past two seasons, the Darkhorses were projected to finish in sixth and seventh places.  They actually finished in second both years.  Meanwhile, the Jackalope were picked to finish fourth and tied for first in ’18 and ’19, while ending up in tenth and seventh places those seasons.  So is it a good or bad sign for these teams to top the projections this year?  Time will tell.  The talent on both rosters should give them a leg up on most of the competition though.  Here are the teams projected to finish at the top of the standings.

David’s Darkhorses

Category – Projected Rank (2019 Rank)

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

Summary:

This is the 10 year anniversary of the last of the Darkhorses 4-peat championships.  While the franchise fell off a bit at the beginning of last decade, they have been a consistent title contender in recent years.  Last year, they had the best offense in the league, by a wide margin.  But a middle of the pack pitching staff prevented them from being able to keep up with the Kings.  Interestingly, these projections show their hitters taking a step back, but major improvement from the pitchers.  That league best offense from ’19 remains almost entirely intact.  There are several MVP candidates on this roster, including outfielders Christian Yelich and Bryce Harper, third baseman Alex Bregman, and if you consider positional value, catcher J.T. Realmuto should be on that list as well.  The Astros duo of George Springer and Michael Brantly round out a very solid outfield.  Xander Bogaerts, Josh Bell, Matt Chapman and newcomer Brandon Lowe complete an infield this is also well above average.  Really, there is no noticeable hole on the batting side of this roster.  The pitching staff received most of the attention in the draft, and could be a much improved group in 2020.  First round pick Chris Paddack joins a rotation that already has arguably the best pitcher in baseball in Jacob deGrom.  Jose Berrios and Patrick Corbin are solid mid-rotation pieces as well.  One player who should really benefit from the late start to the season is James Paxton, who would not have been healthy enough to pitch back in April, but should be good for a full season starting now.  The same could be said for reliever Corey Knebel, although his upside is limited in terms of saves.  Liam Hendriks, Brad Hand and Taylor Rogers form a very strong trio of closers that should put the Darkhorses near the top of the saves category.  If you think these projections might be a little light on the Darkhorses power potential, they probably should be viewed as the favorites to win it all this season.  No team enters the season with a more complete, and currently healthy roster.

Jay’s Jackalope

Category – Projected Rank (2019 Rank)

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

Summary:

These projections are a little shocking, especially on the pitching side of things.  As mentioned up top, the Jackalope have a recent history of not meeting expectations, at least those established by using this projection system.  So maybe being picked as the favorite for the second consecutive year isn’t a great thing.  The batting projections make some sense because this roster is loaded with good hitters.  Reigning Rookie of the Year and MVP runner-up Ronald Acuna leads the way.  His five category prowess gives the Jackalope a solid base on which to build.  If healthy, Giancarlo Stanton is a nice second piece in the outfield.  Ryan Braun could be one of the top beneficiaries to the full time DH in the National League.  The Jackalope infield is solid all around, led by veterans Anthony Rendon, Josh Donaldson and Paul Goldschmidt.  First round pick Keston Hiura has exciting potential as well.  He could be the best pure hitter taken in the draft this year, despite not having as much acclaim as the players taken ahead of him.  Gary Sanchez remains one of the best offensive catchers in baseball.  There is a lot to like about the Jackalope’s offensive potential.  Where I think they may have a hard time reaching these projections is on the mound.  The methodology used to create these numbers may be inflating the pitching numbers a bit because of the lack of depth in the rotation.  With Luis Severino out for the year, the Jackalope only have five healthy starting pitchers entering the season.  So the gaudy numbers of Gerrit Cole aren’t weighed down by any depth pieces.  If the rotation stays completely healthy, they should be in good shape.  If not… well, things could get ugly.  Luis Castillo and Tyler Glasnow will be Cole’s sidekicks.  Dinelson Lamet was a nice addition to the rotation.  The bullpen is a concern.  Raisel Iglesias is the only closer with pretty good job security.  Sean Doolittle should get the bulk of the save opportunities early on though.  Clearly, the Jackalope have the talent needed to win the title despite four straight seasons in the bottom half of the league.  But I’m not sure I would anoint them as the favorites, as these projections do.

 

Now that we’ve taken a glance at all ten teams, it is time to post the full projected standings.  First, here are the numbers my spreadsheets spit out for this 60-game schedule:

And here is what my original 162-game projections looked like when I compiled them after the draft in late March. Keep in mind that these were computed using projections for some players who have since gotten hurt or opted out of the season:

Baseball is back! I hope you enjoy the start of the season.