Fire and Ice – Early September
The 2020 MLB season is a mess of short sample sizes and hot takes, so how you interpret and apply them to your fantasy leagues is up to you. This gets particularly difficult when you’re applying a couple of weeks’ worth of data to a player’s long-term outlook. In most cases, drastically increasing or decreasing your valuation of a player is unwarranted, but other times players can show meaningful and sustainable improvements (or regression) of which you should immediately take note. My goal is to illustrate that there is a wide range of current valuations and opinions on a given player’s performance that may or may not impact their dynasty rankings. At the end of the day, it’s up to the fantasy manager on how to interpret all of that data and apply it to your league.
Below are a handful of player valuations, each has a number of different factors affecting my current and dynasty outlooks, using a scale ranging from ? ? ? as the best outlook to ❄️❄️❄️ as the worst outlook.
All statistics below are as of 8/31/2020
Zac Gallen, Age: 25, Pos: SP, Arizona Diamondbacks
2020 Season: 1 W, 47 K’s, 2.09 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 9.8 K/9
Gallen is one of the hottest pitchers in MLB. During August he posted four straight quality starts, working at least seven innings in three of them, with a 1.91 ERA and 32:7 strikeout to walk ratio. He relies on a four-pitch mix that features a low 90’s four-seam fastball, cutter, curveball, and changeup. Gallen attacks hitters with a balanced usage of each of his pitches and while he has increased his cutter usage this season, his curveball has been particularly elite with a batting average against of only .040 and whiff rate of nearly 40 percent. Gallen’s rise in dynasty started during the 2019 season and those who bought into the hype are certainly being rewarded. His ranking has been on the rise as well but he is still being underrated, somehow. He is an ace.
Eric Hosmer, Age: 30, Pos: 1B, San Diego Padres
2020 Season: 7 HR, 2 SB, .302/.356/.583
Hosmer has always been one of those guys whose hype and real-life production never quite translated to fantasy production. The lefty has generally been a good source of average, runs, and stolen bases (for a 1B) but from a corner infield position you’re generally looking for more power production. Analysts have long since pointed to Hosmer’s high groundball rate and extremely low launch angle, but in 2020 this has all changed. Mechanical changes have led to a drastic increase in launch angle when compared to prior years, up over 10 degrees from 2018, and he’s ranking in the 75th percentile or better in the majority of advanced hitting metrics. Hosmer has the highest hard-hit rate of his career and has reduced his strikeout rate to a career-low. His changes are real and there is no reason to think they are not sustainable. First base is still a loaded power position and I’d prefer roster Hosmer as a utility player rather than my primary first basemen, but he needs to be in your lineup every day right now. From a dynasty perspective, he’s not going to be a huge mover in the rankings yet, but the upside is starting to come to fruition.
Lance McCullers, Age: 26, Pos: SP, Houston Astros
2020 Season: 3 W, 32 K’s, 5.06 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 7.7 K/9
McCullers is coming off an up and down August in which he posted a 4.94 ERA over 27.1 IP with 22 strikeouts, mainly being dragged down by one start against Arizona that he gave up eight earned runs. He’s been on a decent run over his last four outings, posting a couple of quality starts and working at least five innings in each appearance. Overall, the numbers for McCullers are down in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. He appears to be fully healthy with no workload restrictions, but we have enough data to see some changes in his approach, primarily working with a tick lower velocity and pitching to more contact, with more emphasis on his sinker (13.5% whiff rate) and less usage of his curveball (37.2% whiff rate) leading to a decrease in strikeouts. He is still an effective starter, and also had a bit of bad luck (3.92 FIP), but the days of throwing 24 straight curveballs are surely behind him. From a fantasy perspective, the most appealing part of McCullers’ package [phrasing- Ed.] was his strikeout upside, so without that and coupled with a tick down in velocity his profile is closer to a mid-rotation starter than an SP2, which is still a valuable starting pitcher, but not coveted like he was pre-injury. It’s worth noting he introduced a cutter in his last outing against the As which could be a nice addition to his arsenal.
Chad Kuhl, Age: 27, Pos: SP, Pittsburgh Pirates
2020 Season: 1 W, 20 K’s, 2.52 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 7.2 K/9
For deep dynasty leagues, a name that someone in your league has had their eye on is Chad Kuhl. Returning this year after missing the entire 2019 season with Tommy John surgery the expectations were not too high. Kuhl began the year in the bullpen, but in August he transitioned back into the rotation. Since then, he’s started four straight games and only gave up more than one earned run in one of those games, while posting a 2.95 ERA to go along with 16 strikeouts. Like McCullers, he also is featuring a revised pitch mix, headlined by nearly abandoning his four-seamer. Despite reaching the mid-90s in 2018, hitters managed an over .300 average when Kuhl threw his fastball. This year he’s turned more to his sinker and breaking pitches, which have kept hitters off balance and resulted in a significantly higher strikeout rate. However, Kuhl has had some luck on his side this season, with a 100% strand rate (yes, that’s 100%), and as evidenced by his 5.46 FIP. Expect Kuhl to be in for a bit of regression over the rest of the season. He’s simply not someone I’m looking to add to my roster in a dynasty, no matter how deep.
Jo Adell, Age: 21, Pos: OF, Los Angeles Angels
2020 Season: 2 HR, 0 SB, .173/.225/.280
I need not explain to you who Jo Adell is or why he is one of the more sought-after dynasty players out there. What I will tell you is that he is struggling in his first appearance in the majors, highlighted by his 44% strikeout rate and 5% walk rate. He’s getting a heavy dose of breaking pitches and is continuing to chase them out of the zone. It’s not uncommon for prospects, no matter the pedigree, to struggle out of the gates. Some fellow named Mike Trout slashed .220/.281/.390 over 40 games to start his professional career, and I think he’s doing ok now. As a sign of life and upside, Adell slugged two homers this past Saturday evening with his first going 430 ft. and an exit velocity of nearly 110 mph. He’s a special talent, and you’re strongly advised to hold onto him in your dynasty league, especially while he’s adjusting to life in the major leagues.
Edwin Encarnacion, Age: 37, Pos: DH, Chicago White Sox
2020 Season: 6 HR, 0 SB, .174/.268/.430
Edwin has seen a steady decrease in production over the past couple of years, but after signing a one-year deal with the White Sox, many thought he might have a bounce-back season. This hasn’t been the case, as he’s been dealing with a lingering shoulder injury and is on a career-low pace in just about every offensive category. Though he’s historically been an aggressive hitter, this profile is showing its age with a career-worst chase rate and swing and miss percentage. Ultimately, I think Edwin is not seeing the ball as well as he did during his prime and while he may have a few good games sprinkled in the rest of the season, Chicago’s electric offense and playoff aspirations may lead to seeing Edwin as a bench option more often than being plugged in every day. From a dynasty perspective, there isn’t much left to see here, and you may be better off using the roster spot on someone else.