Fantasy Baseball Week That Was & Will Be: Canning Can Do It
Glenn Colton takes an in-depth look at the past week of the MLB season and what's to come for fantasy baseball owners moving forward.
Week That Was and Will Be (April 19, 2021)
Pitchers to grab and avoid highlight the Week That Was and Will Be.
Griffin Canning : The Angels’ hurler pitched pretty well this week tossing five innings, giving up just two runs while striking out five. That is 12 strikeouts against just three walks in 10 innings. I was very high on Canning during draft season and continue to be. Last year’s pedestrian numbers hid a late season resurgence. Again, in early 2021, some surface numbers are hiding real value. Stated another way, do not let that 5.23 ERA fool you. For one thing, the 3.80 xFIP says the ERA is coming down. Moreover, the lofty 17% swinging striker rate and meager 21% hard hit rate both say the strikeouts will stay and the ERA will fall. I continue to be very high on Canning. [ps – want more proof? Ok, well 2021 is starting off like 2020 ended: three of his pitches sport swinging strike rates in double digits. Stated another way, the arsenal is there!]
For the Week That Will Be: Canning gets Texas this week and then gets to enjoy a Texas/Seattle two step the following week. Sign me up!
Rafael Dolis: With Jordan Romano and Julian Merryweather on the shelf and Kirby Yates out for the year, Rafael Dolis seems to be the next man up for saves. While I might throw in token bids in FAAB, the high walk rates and low first pitch strike rates of the last two years worry me. Walks plus that little park in Dunedin (and the equally bad pitchers’ parks of New York and Baltimore) say danger lurks. Grave danger (is there any other kind? as I channel Col. Nathan Jessup from A Few Good Men). Proceed at your own risk.
For the Week That Will Be: I probably avoid this whole Jays’ pen situation but if you are in a deep league and want to take a low dollar shot at lightning in a bottle, David Phelps or Ryan Borucki might be worth a shot.
Taylor Widener : The Diamondbacks’ hurler tossed six innings of shutout ball this week but struck out only three. On the year, the good news is his 1.59 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. The bad news is only 11K in 17 IP, an unsustainable .250 BABIP and an equally unsustainable 85+% strand rate. Given the above and his 8.10 ERA in 100 IP in AAA in 2019 (yes, you read that right), there is reason to worry here. Do not overreact to the current success.
For the Week That Will Be: Widener visits the bandbox that is Great American in Cincy. Pass. I am not that brave. Are you?
Anthony DeSclafani : The man others (not me) call Tony Disco pitched very well Friday, tossing 6 innings of one run ball, walking only 1 and striking out 4. On the year, Anthony has pitched 17 innings, struck out 16 and posts a very symmetrical 1.06 ERA and WHIP. Sweet.
For the Week That Will Be: I am not in love with a start in Phili but the increased swinging strike rate and over 50% ground ball rate makes me guardedly optimistic. In the end, I see a good season from Anthony in SF like Smyly and Gausman before him. Thus, if he is available, get him now as the Phili start is not that scary given the season-long upside.
Joe Ross : With Strasburg and Corbin pitching badly, the Nats needed Joe Ross to pitch well and he did just that this week tossing six innings of shutout ball while striking out five and walking just one. Nicely done. That said, I would not get too excited. Two pitch starters rarely enjoy long term success, especially when they are the fastball/slider combo (which combine for about 90% of Ross’s offerings this year thus far)
For the Week That Will Be: With the Mets and Cardinals coming up this week and fresh film for them to watch of those two pitches, I have no interest in rostering Ross for the week that will be. Proceed at your own peril.
What to do if your FAAB bids did not go as planned:
If you did not get the pitchers you want, consider these middle relievers on teams with weak or unsettled closing situations: Ryan Borucki mentioned above -- given all the injuries in the Jays’ pen, there is opportunity (moreover, his 55% ground ball rate gives me some solace that the home run ball will not be a huge problem); Kolby Allard – 8K in 4 hitless innings in his April 13 and 16th outings (who doesn’t need some cheap K’s?).
If you are in the mood to gamble, how about Brandon Marsh? If you missed out on players you need now, why not lock up a potential everyday power/speed guy who is likely to be up soon? After all, how long can the Angels really roll with Jon Jay , Scott Schebler and what is left of the once great Albert Pujols as they try to win this year?
And Last But Not Least:
The moment you have been waiting for (just play along) -- Schultz says: “There comes a point in every baseball season where every experienced practitioner of the rotisserial arts must confront the rhetorical question that has vexed fantasy philosophers for years: “Is Byron Buxton a fantasy stud now?”
As the 2021 season is young, it’s very easy to recap what Buxton has accomplished. To the delight of everyone who still believes in the once and (hopefully) future Golden Goose of Fantasy Baseball, the Twins centerfielder came out of the (batter’s) box with a .469 batting average, slugging 5 home runs and stealing a base. Of course, to the dismay of those same believers, he also tweaked his hamstring and is now caught up in the pandemic-related shutdown of the Twins baseball-related activities.
This road is one that has been well-travelled and many fine folks have opted for the off-ramps and alternate routes. Since coming to the major leagues as a highly-touted 21-year-old phenom, B-Bux has followed every tantalizing burst of excitement with a lengthy stint on the disabled list or, more troubling, a performance that gets him sent to the minors. While his fielding remains stellar, gold gloves don’t win you rotisserie titles.
Buxton has carried over his domination from the 2020 pandemic-season, where he hit 13 home runs in 39 games (while, of course, getting carted off the field in the process), into the 2021 season. While it might be simplistic to say that Buxton’s emergence corresponds with the fact that he’s reached the magic age of 27, a more nuanced explanation might be that he’s not running with the same frequency that made him a 5-tool threat. The Twins are a team built for power, not speed. If there’s a correlation between Buxton’s health and less stolen base attempts, that’s a bargain the Twins and, quite frankly, his roto-owners will accept in a heartbeat. Buxton’s not going to turn into Nelson Cruz on the basepaths but it may be time to start looking at him as a 4½ tool threat.
Regardless, when it comes to Buxton, those who believe need no extra reasons to do so while those who don’t have long stopped listening.”
Response: Personally, I believe but the Rules of Engagement for fantasy baseball that Rick Wolf and I live by say one cannot invest full value roto capital in an injury prone player. If you rostered Buxton at the requisite 25-40% discount off of full value, good for you!