With the news of MLB implementing a 60 game shortened season, which players will excel the most in fantasy given the circumstance?
It is still unclear whether we are going to see an MLB team take the field in 2020. However, if the MLB is to have a season, it will be a shortened one, making fantasy baseball all the more difficult. Fantasy owners will have to adapt to a shortened season, meaning that they will have to target players that have a tendency to get hot off the get-go. In this article, we will be exploring three players, who have a strong track record of producing in the early stages of recent seasons.
We all know that DJ LeMahieu had a fantastic 2019 campaign, leading the Yankees to the ALCS and making a strong case for MVP. If you examine his past season more closely, you’ll realize how much stronger LeMahieu’s first half was than his second. The star second baseman slashed .336/.383/.518/.900 in his first 81 games as a Bomber, but in his 64-game second half, LeMahieu hit a still impressive .316/.365/.519/.883.
Furthermore, DJ put up 63 RBI and 113 hits in the early stages of the year but only had 39 RBI and 84 hits to cap it off. Although DJ played 17 more games in the first half, he still had an MVP-worthy beginning of the year, suggesting that he has the potential to do the same in 2020.
To make this argument even more persuasive, let’s look back to LeMahieu’s 2018. Two years ago, DJ, put up a solid stat-line of .276/.321/.428/.749. In the first half, Lemahieu had a higher average (.280/.270), OBP (.326/.315), SLG (.433/.421), and OPS (.760/.735) (First half /Second half). There is a great case to grab DJ early no matter what, but when you factor his history of hot-starts, he becomes all the more valuable in this shortened 2020 fantasy season.
Last year, Yasmani Grandal had a breakout season with the Brewers, proving to be a top backstop in all of baseball. Additionally, MLB.com listed Grandal as the best catcher in the league going into 2020. With the likelihood of a shortened season, Grandal becomes an even larger threat as he has a strong tendency to start the season off exceptionally well.
Grandal, in his first 84 games last season hit .259/.372/.525/.897 to go along with 19 HR and 48 RBI. In his mediocre second half, Grandal slashed .229/.388/.398/.787 with only 29 RBI and nine home runs. He also had 68 strikeouts in his second half, three less than his 71 in his first. He had 50 less PA in the later stages of the season, clearly depicting just how much better Grandal’s first half was than his second.
Keep an eye on Grandal in a shortened 2020 season, also because he is now a member of the White Sox, meaning that he will be hitting in Guaranteed Rate Field, one of the top hitter-friendly ballparks in the majors.
Obviously I don’t need to persuade you to draft one of the best pitchers of his era in Max Scherzer. However, I will argue that in a shortened season he is poised to outshine his fellow stars Jacob DeGrom and Gerrit Cole. Scherzer has a long history of producing fantastic numbers in the earlier stages of past seasons. For example, the Nats’ stud, in the first half of his 2017 Cy Young campaign, went 10-5 with an ERA of 2.10, a miraculous WHIP of .779, and 12.1 SO/9. In the second half though, Scherzer went 6-1, had an ERA of 3.24, a WHIP of 1.120, and 11.8 SO/9.
In 2018, throughout his first 20 starts of the year, Scherzer put up an ERA of 2.41, a WHIP of .899, and 12.2 SO/9. In his final 13 games, the superstar had an ERA of 2.72, a WHIP of .930, and 12.3 SO/9. To stay consistent with his past, Scherzer had to put up monster numbers in the first half of 2019 and that he did. He posted an ERA of 2.30, a WHIP of .982, and a SO/9 of 12.6.
Unfortunately, Scherzer missed the majority of games in July and August last year so his stats from the second half are of too small a size to be compared with his first-half numbers. Overall, Scherzer clearly has a tendency to pitch much better earlier in the season than later, making him not only a very attractive pick this season, but also potentially the first pitcher off the board.
DeGrom and Cole both are superstar pitchers and will, without a doubt, be key contributors in their respective teams’ fight to win a championship. However, they both have a tendency to produce stronger numbers towards the ends of past seasons.
Both pitchers are going to produce amazing numbers regardless of the shortened season. However, Max Scherzer’s first-half statistics are at a different and more elite-level than both DeGrom and Cole’s, making Scherzer the best pitcher in this year’s fantasy baseball draft.