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Groovin’ with Govier: Fantasy Baseball Roundup (7/18)

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Michael Govier

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Get into the groove as I take you on a stadium tour across the fantasy baseball realm! It is my hope that you will find this article both entertaining and informative. Don’t forget about our stellar season-long fantasy baseball coverage at FTN Fantasy. Save a couple bones with my promo code MJGOVIER when you sign up so you can get access to outstanding pieces like Matty Davis’ Weekly Hitter Planner. Also, I’ve started a weekly video complement to this article. Each week a new episode will be live at 6 p.m. ET every Saturday on the FTN Network YouTube channel. Take advantage of the live chat in real-time to ask questions related to this week’s article or for questions you have for the following week’s action.

 

It is my ultimate goal for you to absorb and apply winning fantasy baseball wisdom from each edition of Groovin’ with Govier. It’s similar to when Neo was offered the blue or the red pill. If you continue reading this, you take the plunge to find out how far my fantasy baseball analysis can take you. Every Tuesday we’re catching a ride on the Nightrain in search of the ultimate … a league championship! Let’s cut the crap and get down to business with the latest need-to-know reference points across the baseball realm. 

Alan Trejo Captured the Moment with His First Homer of 2023

Sell Sell Sell!

Most fantasy managers are aware that the MLB trade deadline is coming up Tuesday, Aug. 1. That’s two weeks from right now, assuming you are reading this on the day it publishes. From my experienced perspective there are four teams (Royals, A’s, White Sox and Tigers) out of playoff contention in the American League, three (Rockies, Nationals, Pirates) in the National League. That leaves 23 teams left who either are confident they are heading to the playoffs or at least hopeful still of making a run. That’s quite a logjam. How will this bunching up of teams end up impacting the trade market by Aug. 1? Well, I expect at least one more team (LAA) to be added to this list by the deadline. Then it’s time for the chaos to reign down on high from the Mt. Olympus of the baseball gods! Here’s a few other musings to consider as the trade deadline approaches:

The Mets, Padres & Yes, Even the Cardinals May Be a Factor Still

Sure, many people reading this will think it seems silly at this point, but I just don’t think it’s over yet for any of these three teams. Over the years we have seen plenty of meltdowns, bad breaks and epic runs by teams to secure playoff berths. Plus it’s never been easier to sneak into the MLB playoffs than it is right now. Don’t believe me? Let’s go back just two years to the 2021 season. The Cardinals would end up making the NL Wild Card in 2021 despite being 47-48 as of July 20 of that year. On that same date Oakland (55-42), the Mets (50-43), San Diego (55-42), Cincinnati (49-46), Philadelphia (47-46), Toronto (48-43), Cleveland (47-45) and Seattle (51-44) would end up missing the playoffs despite holding winning records July 20. Eight teams who had hopes in July were left holding the bag. So forget that Juan Soto crap! He ain’t going nowhere. A.J. Preller has invested too much capital to bail or sell now. Preller goes down with the ship, for better or worse. I wouldn’t be surprised to see smaller offensive parts added to the roster instead.

The Mets offense is in dire need of a spark. Tommy Pham’s hot run couldn’t last forever. Over the last 15 days, the Mets are hitting .213 as a team, .227 over the last 30. The Polar Bear, Pete Alonso, has looked horrendous since he came back from injury, striking out 26.5% of the time with a .145 BABIP and a 66 wRC+. After owner Steve Cohen publicly put the onus on the players June 28, the team eventually reeled off a six-game winning streak all against challenging NL West competition. Then they lost their last two games before the ASB. Now here we are. These next 12 games before Aug. 1 will essentially define the rest of the Met’s 2023 season. Though the offense has been trash, the Mets did score seven or more runs four times over that winning streak.

As for the Cardinals, I only mentioned them here because they never die. They haunt my dreams forever. Even when it seems like they have no chance, they come back from the great beyond once more. 

The Teams We Love Will Fade Away, But What About the Players?

Unfortunately, baseball is a game that will break our hearts just as much as it fills our noggin with sweet moments of dopamine hits. I covered this last week, but the Marlins, Dbacks and Reds are all fun teams to root for who I also expect to revert back to the lower level in the second half. Read more of last week’s article here for those who want to know exactly why. For this exercise, I want to focus on what that means for certain players as the trade deadline looms. Would the Reds entertain trading Joey Votto? I admit that seems extremely unlikely right now. But if the team tanks quickly enough over the next two weeks, maybe they would consider it. I just wonder if he would as well. His bat would be a big help for teams in need of a veteran lefty hitter with pop. Most likely not happening though. Nick Senzel is the guy for me who is most likely expendable to the Reds at this point. If Senzel lands with the Dodgers or Mariners, that would make him more intriguing, because he would likely have a regular role. I’ve also heard about or seen a few Jonathan India rumors on Twitter, but that seems like garbage to me. Dude is still only 26 years old. Not happening. TJ Friedl could be on the move before India is. I’ll also put Friedl on the move over Jake Fraley, who is still locked in with controllable years, as he won’t be a free agent until 2027. Ben Lively might be the guy who is most likely to be dealt if Cincinnati falters. It seems like he is new on the scene to many. Yet, he was traversing in MLB circles back in 2019 with the Royals. He’s also 31 years old! Lucas Sims could also be on the move now that he is healthy and producing enough to be traded.

As for the Dbacks, their starting pitching looks awful outside of the master Zac Gallen. Merrill Kelly is about to return, which will be a boost for the rotation. But what about trading Kelly if the team’s record gets worse? Any team that acquires Kelly secures his services for next year and has a team option for 2025. I’m curious if they see the writing on the wall this year and start to move one or two veterans out of town or clear up room for their youngsters by moving guys away who are interfering with consistent playing time. Carson Kelly and Nick Ahmed are ideal players to move on from while Pavin Smith and Kyle Lewis are slumming it at AAA waiting for a bus ticket out of there. One other note of importance is how the two Dominic’s (Dominic Fletcher and Dominic Canzone) fit into Arizona’s future. It seems like one of them could be moved to improve the Dbacks’ pitching corps.

Finally, we have the Marlins. Their team batting average for the season of .265 combined with solid pitching and defense has defined this team’s record in 2023. In fact, the only two reasons why I expect them to slip in the second half are due to their division and their challenging schedule. I also expect some more unlucky breaks when it comes to their batting average as we move forward in the season. It happens. The Marlins have lost four straight as of this writing. When they fall closer to .500 in two weeks’ time, GM Kim Ng will realize the harsh truth of the moves that need to be made. Right off the bat it seems clear that if anybody wants Jean Segura, they can have him. RP Dylan Floro makes sense too. Maybe even Tanner Scott as well. The decisions become even more challenging when it comes down to Jorge Soler and whether they move him. He is their most powerful bat by far, but he does maintain an opt-out clause he can execute in his contract after the 2023 season. Soler is absolutely someone to keep an eye on heading to the deadline. Veterans Jon Berti and old man time Yuli Gurriel are also possible pieces on the move. I suppose Johnny Cueto could be a possible moving part for a team that actually wanted to acquire his services for some reason. In fact, Joey Wendle and Garrett Cooper also have trade value for contenders. The Marlins have several players they could move on from and not really miss them. Of course, the Marlins won’t trade all of these players, as they still have to field a team, but they do have several veteran bats who could be a part of trade chatter over the next two weeks. Then again, they could continue their small ball ways in pursuit of that last playoff spot. If I had to pick one of these three teams to make the playoffs, I actually would pick the Marlins. 

Ohtani Will Most Likely be Dealt

Shohei Ohtani Los Angeles Angels Fantasy Baseball Groovin' with Govier

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how trading Shohei Ohtani isn’t like trading most players due to the nature of his routine as a pitcher and a hitter. My conclusion was that it was most likely he would play it out for the Angels before leaving after the year. Now that it seems very clear that Ohtani will explore free agency in search of his final MLB destination, I have come to the realization that the Angels will sell Ohtani to the team who is most excited about renting him for three months (hopefully). Angels owner Artie Moreno got all hot and bothered when the possibility of trading Ohtani to the crosstown Dodgers came up. That’s not going to happen. So who will pony up the most assets to rent the services of a living legend? I think the Giants are a real possibility. And it would be salt in the wound for the Dodgers who would have to go through Ohtani in the NL West. The Giants have prospects they can spare, because they are in win-now mode in my book. With 107 wins in 2021 and then a drop to a .500 record last season, the Giants have to feel they are close to contending for a championship. Luis Matos, Joey Bart and a couple other lesser-known minor leaguers might do the trick. Or what if the Angels demanded pitching prospect Kyle Harrison instead? Definitely a large price to pay for a possible rental, but this is arguably the greatest rental player of all time. And the Giants would know more about whether they had the inside track on securing Ohtani’s services long term. I think there is a possible deal to be made there. I guess I have to acknowledge that the annoying Yankees could offer up some solid pieces for a deal. But I am inclined to think the Yankees current management doesn’t want to just rent a player, even one as good as Ohtani. Within the next two weeks we will start to get a clearer picture of where Ohtani may end up. This is by far the most exciting MLB trade deadline story in recent memory. Moreso than the Juan Soto sweepstakes, which happened just last year! I think that says it all.

Epic Rap Battles of H2H History

It’s that time of year where every fantasy baseball manager in a head-to-head league needs to look ahead with an eye toward the playoffs. Sure, in real-life most managers or head coaches will drop the coach-speak about not looking ahead by taking it one game at a time. Whatever. In H2H fantasy baseball the matchups during the playoff weeks matter a great deal. The reason these matchups carry so much weight has everything to do with the pain and agony of witnessing six months of dedication disappear in a week’s time. Basically, it’s like playing fantasy football except every week (fantasy football just got served). Every H2H player reading this knows the pain of watching a season’s worth of success go right down the tubes after one bad playoff week seals the championship door shut from the inside. I don’t wish this gut-wrenching experience upon any fantasy manager, even my rivals. With baseball specifically, a playoff loss is the most brutal loss in all of fantasy sports because of the 24 weeks prior it took just to get that point. All the hours dedicated to waiver wire speculation, trade negotiations with managers of varying personalities, injuries, streaming pitchers who blow up for 9 ER in one start, digging deep in the minor leagues for potential prospects who may or may not break out, the hitting slumps that drag hitting categories down with them and any other random break good or bad that comes with the territory over a full baseball season.

Playoff structures vary among H2H leagues, but generally there are six teams that make the playoffs. Let’s use my long time H2H home league Bless You Boys as a template for standard H2H playoff action. BYB has 14 teams but only six playoff spots up for grabs. The playoffs consist of three rounds. The top two seeds get a bye in round one. Unfortunately, we’re as archaic as Oakland Coliseum in this respect because we still use divisions in our league. That means our two top seeds go to division winners. I’m not thrilled about this aspect of BYB. There is no meaningful point to divisions in fantasy baseball — especially in our league where every year we draw team names for completely new divisions. It’s not like we have rivalries dating back 100 years. Nobody is flying anywhere for games. There are no regional aspects that create the need for divisions in fantasy baseball. It’s pointless! Without divisions, everybody can play each other once. In BYB we could play every team once over the first 13 weeks. Then over the final six weeks of the regular season (yes, we only play 19 weeks of the regular season because our playoffs end Sunday, Sept. 10, robbing us of the remaining three full weeks of the season) opponents could be selected by a random number generator with teams labeled as such to fairly complete the regular season schedule. Why does this matter? Because come playoff time in BYB with our current divisional format, the winner of each division gets the top two seeds regardless if someone else had a better record in another division. Without divisions the top two teams in a H2H league would be the top two best records no matter what because there are no technicalities to award a team with an inferior record an edge over the best two records in the league. Eliminating divisions also prevents one division from being lopsided over the other. Last year I got a lot of guff for how easy I had it in my division as I was able to win it by a hair at the close of the regular season. This year my division got tougher by pure chance because that’s how the division draw shook out. No divisions means no unfair advantages. Period. 

 

Finally, for those managers sitting in a position of luxury waiting for the playoffs to roll around, there really is no excuse for not having a photographic memory of every series matchup that takes place during the playoff weeks that matter. With emphasis on the weeks that matter alluding to the teams that are confident they will be skipping the opening round. For example, right now I am the number one seed in BYB. Even if I slip to the two seed, I have built up enough of a cushion to feel reasonably comfortable focusing on the semifinal matchup instead of the opening round as my first playoff week. Our semifinal week starts the week of Aug. 28. I am pining over the matchups and series for that week more than I am for the championship week, because if I lose the semifinal, the following week’s matchups will mean nothing to me. That is my suggestion to all H2H players. When it comes to adding players off the wire or making trades, fantasy managers should focus all moves on the expected first playoff week of action based on where the team resides today. If I win my semifinal matchup because I positioned my players with the most beneficial matchups, I will worry about the championship week when I get there. Don’t get too greedy. Some fantasy managers who want it all may end up with nothing instead.

Pointless Act

It’s important to find time for levity in each day we inhabit this planet. If we can do so with brevity, then we have completed the levity/brevity/regularity trifecta for the day! So let me introduce this week’s most innocuous transaction as found on MLB’s own website. Get ready to be shocked!

Screenshots

Logan Allen, SP, Cleveland Guardians

Shane Bieber landed on the IL last week with inflammation in his elbow. It sucks because I was actually looking at Bieber as a possible addition for my leagues where I can trade in preparation for the H2H playoffs. The good news though is Logan Allen is back on the scene without any real concern of losing a spot in the rotation now. I was slightly more bullish on Allen than I was on Tanner Bibee when the two made their debuts earlier this year. Bibee won the first go-around, but don’t count Allen out just yet. I love his breaking pitch and he gets to return against the slumping Pirates in Pittsburgh. Allen is a must-add in 12-teamers and deeper. 

Dane Myers, OF, Miami Marlins

It’s really quite incredible how every year there is another player who comes up and makes noise with his production, and I’ve never heard of him. That’s Dane Myers. Since debuting on the Fourth of July, he has played in nine games while manning CF. After going 3-4 Monday night in St. Louis, Myers has six multi-hit games already!  Talk about taking advantage of an opportunity. Myers was a sixth-round pick in the 2017 MLB Draft by my bozo Tigers. Myers was a two-way player who started as a pitcher in the minors before focusing exclusively on hitting in 2021. That’s incredible! Myers is a definite add right now if he’s available. Even in 12-teamers. He’s so hot right now.

Nick Pivetta, SP (Sorta), Boston Red Sox

Talk about the dream pairing! Nick Pivetta came in after the opener Brennan Bernardino pitched two innings to start the game against Oakland Monday night. Pivetta then proceeded to strike out 13 hapless Athletics hitters over 6 innings of hitless baseball. Plus he only walked two. Pivetta has really found a groove lately for Boston, first as a reliever and now as a follower after the opener. If Boston has mastered the proper usage of Pivetta that maximizes his efficiency while allowing him to continue to whiff bats, Pivetta could be a crucial piece for fantasy baseball teams in the second half. (Yes, I understand that he did this against Oakland.)

Jorge Polanco, 2B, Minnesota Twins

Jorge Polanco is out on his rehab assignment right now hoping to return to full health with the Twins soon. He’s had knee and hamstring issues now over the last year that have been causing him to hit the IL multiple times. I still love his bat. If he’s able to stay on the field, he will be a big boost to a disappointing Twins offense.  This could also spell bad news for my main man Edouard Julien. Julien has already shown in a short time that he belongs in The Show. Unfortunately, the pressure is on in Minnesota to take home the AL Central crown. That division is just an absolute dumpster fire of a situation this year. It would stand to reason that it wouldn’t be too challenging. 

Luis González, OF, San Francisco Giants

Remember this former White Sox player who appeared in 98 games for the Giants during 2022 with a decent .254 batting average and 10 steals? There were flashes of potential during his 350 PA last year that gave fantasy baseball managers hope that Luis González could do more in 2023. Sadly. he’s been dealing with surgery to recover from a herniated disc. Not an easy thing to get over. We’ll see how long González remains in the minors. Luis Matos and Austin Slater are reserve bats who play OF already. It’s possible another injury will be needed to give González another shot with the big club. 

Hyun Jin Ryu, SP, Toronto Blue Jays

Hyun Jin Ryu has not only been making strides in his rehab starts, but flat-out making plays as well. He went five strong with five K’s for AAA Buffalo last weekend throwing 46 of his 66 pitches for strikes. Toronto has plenty of options still before the trade deadline, but as of now they only have one lefty in their rotation. If Ryu is believed to be well enough to be trusted, he could find himself in their rotation pitching meaningful innings. At 36-years-old, that would be an impressive feat. If stashing him is an option in 14-teamers and deeper, it may be worth it. For his career Ryu has a 3.27 ERA (3.46 FIP).   

Trey Cabbage, 1B/OF, Los Angeles Angels 

I love Cabbage! Not the leafy veggie, but the man who has crushed baseballs in AAA all season long! When Trey Cabbage went 3-3 Sunday night against the Astros, I felt a tingle in the cockles of my heart strings. Dude has all the ability. That means speed too! He stole 24 bases in 26 tries at AAA Salt Lake City this year. My only concern for him is playing time. But if he’s starting at 1B, then we are a go for launch! The Angels have Brandon Drury and Anthony Rendon on the IL at the moment too. When they return, it makes life difficult for Cabbage. My hope is that the Angels trade a few guys to clear room for Cabbage to play full-time over the rest of the season. I’m definitely a Cabbage Patch Kid

Hunter Harvey, RP, Washington Nationals

Man oh man, I took a bath on this one. I added Hunter Harvey heavily as the closer for the Nats over the last month. I was expecting him to finish the season in that role. Now it looks like rough waters lie ahead. Even if his elbow issue doesn’t turn out to be serious, Harvey’s storied injury history may result in Washington taking it easy on him the rest of the way. With nothing on the line for them this season, it’s an easy call. And low and behold, Kyle Finnegan got the save on Monday against the Cubs in Wrigley. I dropped Harvey in every league where I didn’t have an IL spot to put him in. I suggest most fantasy managers follow suit. 

Endy Rodríguez, C, Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates are not screwing around. They called up Henry Davis recently and now they have added to the fold Endy Rodríguez, who made his debut Monday against Cleveland (they also called up rookie pitcher Quinn Priester to start that game for Pittsburgh). Endy went 0-4 in his debut. Just the way it goes sometimes. Rodríguez has excellent contact skills though. He should be able to find his way going forward. I expect he will be helpful for those fantasy baseball managers who are looking for a catcher with a decent batting average floor. It should be noted that he didn’t exactly tear up AAA this year as he batted .268 over 315 PA. He did have 25 XBH though. The best news here though is Pittsburgh can let him play every day, since their 2023 season will not result in a playoff berth.

Christian Encarnacion-Strand, 3B, Cincinnati Reds

It finally happened! The call-up that so many fantasy baseball people have been waiting for finally came down Sunday evening. Christian Encarnacion-Strand got his promotion to The Show. He went 0-2 in his debut against the Giants, which was suspended in the eighth inning tied 2-2 due to inclement weather. CES crushed it at AAA Louisville with 20 dongs and a .331/.405/.637 triple slash across 316 PA. The Twins have to be questioning their decisions after giving up both CES and Spencer Steer to the Reds. CES was the DH Monday night. Jonathan India went 3-3 with a dong and a double in the suspended game. Was that a response to CES getting the call and increasing the pressure on him? Maybe. CES is likely rostered in most leagues. If he isn’t, he’s a source for power stats that any fantasy manager would be happy to have. 

Nestor Cortes, SP, New York Yankees

Nestor Cortes New York Yankees Fantasy Baseball Groovin' with Govier

Nestor Cortes threw a 35-pitch batting practice session Monday in Anaheim. Manager Aaron Boone is hopeful the next outing for Cortes comes in a minor league game. That’s good news for Cortes who will hopefully ramp up with a rehab assignment in the hopes of being back right after the trade deadline Aug. 1. If Cortes can provide close to 70 innings similar to what Jesús Luzardo did over the final two months 2022, it will be a welcome sight for the Nasty Nestor lovers out there. I am bullish on Cortes down the stretch once he returns from injury. 

Jeremy Peña, SS, Houston Astros

Jeremy Peña is dealing with a hammy that he tweaked last weekend in an extra innings affair with the Angels in Anaheim. I did not draft Peña one time and do not have him rostered on any of my 21 fantasy baseball teams this year. I thought I might be missing out this season, but after looking over his stat line I feel fortunate that I avoided him because I thought it would be tough to replicate what he did during his rookie year. Peña seems to have a hard time even maintaining an OBP of .300 (.297). Outside of his power/speed potential, Peña doesn’t have too much to offer the fantasy baseball realm. If Peña becomes available, he has to be ignored in OBP leagues unless there are other players on the roster who can balance out his rubbish OBP. 

Edward Cabrera, SP, Miami Marlins

All signs are pointing to Cabrera taking the bump Tuesday night against the Cardinals in St. Louis. How long Edward Cabrera goes could be limited since this is his first outing since he landed on the IL June 17. Cabrera pitched a simulated game last week but didn’t go out on a rehab assignment. Expect the bullpen to be relied on plenty to big up the slack for Edward in his return. Don’t make any assumptions off of this initial start either, as he will need at least another start before it’s clear he can be relied upon for the rest of season. He should be rostered in 12-teamers and deeper though regardless of Tuesday’s outing. 

Salvador Perez, C, Kansas City Royals

Salvador Perez Kansas City Royals Fantasy Baseball Groovin' with Govier

Salvador Perez has a grade-1 hammy strain, which he sustained this past Sunday against the Rays. The good news here is that the Royals seem to think Perez can avoid an IL stint on this one. Perez has an incredible ability to overcome injuries quickly. Remember how fast Perez returned last year from a torn UCL ligament in his thumb? He homered the night he returned against the Yankees July 29 and proceeded to hit more after that. I put nothing past Perez when it comes to getting back on the field quickly. Also, all he’s really good for are homers. Just saying. 

Will Smith/Aroldis Chapman, RP, Texas Rangers

Welp, Bruce Bochy went ahead and did it. He made Aroldis the co-closer along with Will Smith. I just wrote a week ago in this article about how Smith would not fade in the second half. That he had been consistent all season long despite not throwing as much gas as Aroldis Chapman does. All that didn’t exactly go up in smoke after Bochy’s announcement, but it did put a damper on things. Chapman and Smith secured saves in back-to-back games last weekend. It’s truly a co-closer situation now in Arlington or Dallas or wherever they play now. The good news is there are plenty of chances to be had with this solid Rangers team. Maybe both will get enough nibbles to satisfy fantasy managers who roster either player. Experience tells me otherwise though. Bochy may be cagey, but he is sharp. He is going to let the players dictate who ends up with the role for good. Well played, Bochy, well played. 

Wade Miley, SP, Milwaukee Brewers 

The old man has hit the IL with elbow discomfort. That could mean a lot of things. Wade Miley ain’t getting any younger though, so I’m not optimistic he’ll bounce right back. However, the move is retroactive to last Friday, meaning he can return July 29. He also hadn’t pitched since Sunday, July 9, the last day before the ASB. Miley was outstanding in that performance going 6 shutout innings against the Reds with 8 K’s. So maybe it’s not that big a deal after all? Miley is a streamer at best in 14-teamers and deeper. Even if he did dominate the Reds for one day. 

Chris Sale, SP, Boston Red Sox

The lanky lefty will throw his first pitches off a mound since getting hurt June 1 when he throws a bullpen session Tuesday. Sale landed on the 60-day IL with a stress reaction in his shoulder blade. If he can return by early August after the trade deadline, stashing him now is a good idea if there is room to do so. 

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