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4 Burning Questions (Fantasy Baseball)

by Alex Altmix | @Altmix_23 | Featured Writer
May 7, 2019

Will Bryce Harper snap out of his early-season funk?

I love to be inspirational. Making people feel better just feels good. If you’re all about feeling inspired, however, this week’s Burning Questions might not be for you. That’s a warning for you, Bryce Harper and Travis Shaw owners. For the rest of us, here’s to hoping we see a little magic this MLB season, because fans deserve it. No pressure, Christian Yelich.

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Is Bryce Harper going to be this bad all season?
Let me first clarify and make sure we’re all on the same page here. Harper has been far from the most disappointing player in fantasy so far this season. But with a .226 AVG, six HRs, and only one SB, he’s been far from good.

Want to hear the bad news first? Harper has a BABIP of .301, not significantly below his career average of .317. It’s not as if he’s gotten incredibly unlucky thus far. He is striking out more than he ever has in his career with a 29.8% K rate. On top of all of that, the 330 Million Dollar Man is almost on pace to make more soft contact than the previous two seasons combined. No wonder he’s been booed by his own fans.

Ready for the good news? Err… What’s that? There is no good news?! Ouch.

Really though, any good news I conjure up here will be exactly that: conjured up. Harper owners must cling to the following hopes: He didn’t get a full spring training, so maybe he’s still warming up. The 2015 NL MVP does have a proven track record with certain statistics like K% and soft-hit rate, and hopefully he’ll get closer to his averages as the season goes. Finally, he’s in a good place to hit and is cemented in the middle of a great lineup, so that can’t hurt.

In all reality, none of those things should be too consoling for Harper owners searching for answers. He’s struggled so far, and that’s about all there is to it. Nothing screams that a breakout is soon coming. Unfortunately, investors might have to come to grips with the fact they drafted the version of him that he is proving to be more years than not: a .250 hitter with 30 homers and 15 steals. That’s not bad, but it’s not what drafters or the Phillies paid for.

What should owners do with Travis Shaw?
If you were unfortunate enough to have listened to my earlier advice and drafted Travis Shaw, I personally apologize. Saying Shaw has been lost at the plate so far this year doesn’t even do it justice; he’s been a complete and utter train wreck. The bright side has to be that Shaw is still playing most days on a great offensive club. If he can turn it around, he’s in a fantastic all-around position to succeed. When you’re hitting .174 with a 31.1% strikeout rate, however, you obviously aren’t finding any success.

All of Shaw’s stats are down, and there’s no explanation. He’s 29, in his prime, and has been fairly successful in all four of his previous major league seasons.

Three possible reasons seem to be the most likely.

First, Shaw could be injured. This assumption seems to be the most unlikely, though, because he was this bad in spring training as well. That means the injury would have had to come during the offseason, in all likelihood. For that to have happened and no one besides the club to know about it seems improbable. 

The next is that Shaw has struggled even more against lefties this season. That seems like a no-brainer considering his overall stat line. But when I say he’s struggled even more, I mean way more. Get this, Shaw has three hits and zero walks in 31 plate appearances versus lefties this season. Also hit by a pitch, that’s good for a whopping .100 AVG. Of course that’s affecting his line, but it could also be throwing him off against righties, too.

The final potential reason might actually be no reason at all. Shaw might just be in a slump! Maybe his swing is off or something of the sort. For owners, this would represent the most optimistic scenario.

Most likely, it’s a combination of the second and third reasons. What does that mean for owners? Honestly, they should actually hope the Brewers sit him down for the foreseeable future against lefties. He’s not doing any good against them anyway, so he might as well not do any harm. If they relegate him to a platoon and he can eventually find a way out of his slump, the upside in that lineup is worth hanging onto for now. Understandably, though, time is running out for him to prove his worth. Give him a few more weeks and say some prayers or something. If his line still looks like this at the end of May, cut him loose.

Who is the closer in Atlanta?
Craig Kimbrel! Oh wait, the question was “who is,” not “who should be.” Apologies again. For now, it’s either A.J. Minter or Luke Jackson. Minter hasn’t exactly had an inspiring year, while Jackson hasn’t exactly had an inspiring career. Career > Year, so I guess we go with Minter? In all seriousness though, Minter’s the main guy. I say main because it wouldn’t be a shock to see Jackson also finish with a handful of saves.

Believe it or not, the Braves are handling Minter as well as a club can possibly handle a struggling closer. In the last week, he’s pitched in multiple ninth innings, but both were non-save situations in which the Braves were winning. He tossed two clean innings with five strikeouts and no hits or walks. The Braves know Minter has the stuff to close; they’re just handling him with kid gloves right now. That’s just fine, and when Minter gets it fully figured out, he’ll step right into the closer’s job on a mostly full-time basis.

Will someone hit 60 home runs this season?
You bet your Wisconsin cheese curds and Spotted Cow! Christian Yelich is going to be the first since Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa in 2001 to do it, ladies and gentlemen. Right now, about a fifth of the way through the year, he’s on pace for roughly 75 dingers. While I’m taking the under on that number, I truly believe Yelich is going to hit 60. I won’t deny that his HR/FB% is unsustainably high, but there’s just something special about the young man right now. Like I said above, we’re more than due for a little magic in baseball, and this might just be it. The 6’3″, 195-pound Yelich, who still looks like a young kid, will top 60 home runs this season. Believe it. He’ll be the new “non-steroid” home run king. How’s that for inspirational?

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Alex Altmix is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Alex, check out his archive or follow him @Altmix_23.

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