One Year Too Early

  • Sometime in early January I was listening to a fantasy baseball podcast when the question was asked, “how many drafts have you participated in already?” The host of the podcast then admitted he’d already been in half-a-dozen or more and added something to the effect, “but I’m a degenerate that way.”

    I’ll plead the fifth regarding the number I got when I silently answered the question of how many drafts I had been in to so far. But by the podcaster’s standard, let me say that I too, am a degenerate. But so be it. Here’s to baseball and the people who love it; one person who loves the game is Sarah Langs and with her I wholeheartedly agree “baseball is the best.”

    As I drove on to work, my normal rapt attention to the advice being proffered began to drift and I found myself wondering what exactly is too early. That’s when it hit me, there is indeed a “too early” in fantasy baseball. But it doesn’t have anything to do with the time of year you draft, but rather, when you draft some players in any given single draft.

    I’ve heard that you can’t really win your league with your first-round pick, but you can lose a league if you choose poorly in that critical round. I believe that sage wisdom, but I’m not talking about that either. This isn’t about drafting guys too soon in a given year, but rather from year-to-year.

    I’m talking about those players who we are fully amped over and as such seemed to find their way onto most, if not all of your rosters. Those guys who, when you select them, you do so with a little smugness behind a wry grin. You have just made the steal of the draft. You know. I mean you really know he’s gonna be all that and a bag of chips. Some would  then league-winners. And you just know this is the year this guy goes from ho-hum to homering at a Judge-esq pace. Guys who have had dramatic platoon splits but have made that one adjustment in the off-season which will lead to their first selection to the mid-summer classic. Pitchers with 40 grade command of a 65-grade fastball but who have tweaked their mechanics to turn them into the second coming of Greg Maddux. I want to believe. I bet you do too.

    These are the players we love. Still, they are the players who break our hearts, and as such, we want nothing to do with them the following year, or ever again for that matter. In that situation we might even hum some Pete Townsend tune, vowing not to get fooled again. But that could cost us. I mean, what if we were just a year too early on the guy and our wounded pride, enough of the heart nonsense, keeps us from buying at the now opportune time to do so? What if.

    So, without further blabbing, who might those guys be in 2023?

    Jesus Sanchez: If you’d have asked me last year to call the over-under on 24.5 homers for the Miami slugger with the 70 raw power grade, I’d have kindly shaken my head and said, “too easy, he’ll get there, it’s just a matter of how far past that number he surges.” Yeah, Sanchez got me last year. If he got you too, you might this year be looking at his teammate Bryan De la Cruz and rooting for him simply because you don’t want Sanchez to succeed (if he won’t thrive when you believed in him, then he should never thrive). But let’s think about that. It seems De La Cruz has been pegged to be a 2023 breakout. I know he had a great September last year. A really great one. A league-winner finish. All true. But can he do it over the full year? Maybe. But will he do it at Sanchez’s expense? Maybe. But maybe not. Fangraphs has Sanchez at about 60% of the at-bats they have De La Cruz projected for.  Were we – or rather was I – just a year too early on Sanchez. He still has 70-grade pop. He’s still on a team where if he hits he’ll play. I think new manager Skip Schumacher will give folks a chance and if he capitalizes, he’ll play. And he could capitalize on it. The first game of ST he went 1 for 2 with a stolen base, which reminded me, I loved his speed too. And with the rule changes making it easier to steal bases…

    Maybe don’t go all-in on Sanchez but pay attention. He might be a worthy late-round flyer, or an early season waiver claim that pays off. And if skipper Skip platoons the pair, well, Sanchez is on the stronger side.

    Next up, Bobby Dalbec.  I can’t help but hear myself say Bobby Dalbec in the same tone and with the same exasperation Jim Mora once stammered “playoffs.” IYKYK. If you’re not familiar with the clip, it’s worth a Google. Of course, you might be so dumbfounded by BD’s inclusion here that you exclaimed in your own way. But hear me out. Dalbec, like Sanchez, has prodigious 70-grade raw power. Yes, the game is changing, it is getting faster, but, power still plays and if we learned anything from 2022, it is that power can be hard to come by. I know the Sox have Casas to play first. I know they snagged Justin Turner and paid up for the services of Masahiro Tanaka but I also know they lost JD Martinez and Xander Bogarts.  Zips projection systems are not a fan of the BoSox. They have Devers doing Deverish things to the tune of 33 round-trippers and before the news broke of his surgery, they had Story at 21 bombs but with over 500 plate appearances to get there. I for one don’t think he’ll get there.

    Next up, according to Zips is, yep you guessed it, Robert Vernon, “Bobby” Dalbec, with 20. And he could do it – nevermind that many other projection systems have him around 12 bombs for 2023. He could double the 20 projected by zips. He could. Robert Vernon could.

    I’ve been really high on him in the past, but this year I don’t have him rostered anywhere. Still, if the Sox need a power boost, and they do, they might look to Dalbec. Maybe they play Dalbec and maybe he gives us what we wanted from him last year. Good. Power. Numbers. He’s only 2 years away from hitting 25 bombs. That performance was what made me draft him early and often last year. Was I a year too early? Could be. Maybe this year, draft him later and as needed.

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    Moving to the mound, Hunter Greene comes to mind.

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