7 Burning Questions (Fantasy Baseball)
The MLB All-Star break brings with it the worst day on the entire sports calendar. None of the four major sports have a single game Wednesday. It does, however, provide baseball fans with two nights of glorious, carefree, baseball fun. Furthermore, the All-Star break also provides fantasy baseball players the perfect opportunity to catch their breaths, reevaluate their rosters, and even just soak in and marvel at the year so far. This week, Burning Questions will help you do just that. Enjoy.
At the 2019 MLB All-Star break…
Who has been the fantasy MVP?
Max Scherzer made a hard push down the stretch, but ultimately, this one easily came down to Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger. It’s almost unbelievable to even say, but Bellinger — who has hit .336 with 30 home runs — has simply not been as good as Yelich. This really came down to the stolen bases. The fact that Yelich finished the first half with 11 more steals (and one more homer) set him apart from Bellinger. They’ve both been amazing, but Christian Yelich is your first half fantasy MVP.
Who has been the biggest steal?
This award could have gone to 20 different players. The top of the player rater is littered with guys who weren’t picked anywhere near the top few rounds. But the undisputed winner is … Pete Alonso! Alonso somehow miraculously went from undrafted to a top-12 batter in the first half. His 30 home runs put him on pace to shatter the rookie record. If you read last week’s edition of Burning Questions, you saw that I have my reservations about the Mets first baseman in the second half. Thus far, though, he’s been the biggest steal.
Which drafted player has been the biggest steal?
Amongst a crowded field, no one stood out in the first half as much as DJ LeMahieu. Maybe it was the fact that no one, and I mean no one, expected him to provide much fantasy value moving away from Coors Field. Somehow, LeMahieu bucked expected regression and is currently a top-10 batter. Not too shabby.
Who has been the biggest non-injury disappointment?
On the pitching side of things, Blake Snell and Edwin Diaz made hard pushes for this not-so-illustrious honor. Offensively, Matt Carpenter was incredibly lucky to squeak through without “winning.” When push came to shove, not one single player was as big of a disappointment as poor Travis Shaw. Coming off of back-to-back 30 home run seasons, there was no reason to doubt him heading into this year. What did that confidence get drafters? It got them a .164 average, a measly six home runs, and a demotion to Triple-A before the first half was said and done. Not only was Shaw the first half’s biggest disappointment, but he was so bad that he’s not even around to potentially rectify the situation after the All-Star break.
What has been the biggest pitching surprise?
Kirby Yates has 30 saves! Seriously guys, Kirby Yates, the closer for the .500 San Diego Padres, has 30 saves! Think about it this way: Yates has closed out 30 of the Padres’ 45 wins. That’s two-thirds of their victories. He leads every other closer by at least six saves, and he wasn’t even picked near the league’s elite closers. Whether he’ll continue at this pace is anyone’s guess, but he’s been one heck of a surprise so far.
What have been the biggest batting surprises?
It was impossible to narrow this down to just one, so you get a three-way tie! Here it goes:
- How could I ignore the fact that Yelich has a genuine chance at the NL quintuple crown? He trails Bellinger by four runs, leads in home runs, trails by one stolen base, and is within easy striking distance of the NL batting title. The only category where he trails significantly is RBIs. Let’s be honest, though, who thinks Josh Bell — the only player ahead of Yelich by more than four — is going to keep up his current pace? This will be a fun second-half storyline to watch.
- Speaking of Bell, his 84 RBIs can’t go unnoticed. If you would’ve asked me before the season, I wouldn’t have even been shocked if he didn’t have half that number at the break. What a surprise his numbers have been.
- Finally, the last big surprise is one that just keeps on giving. By that, I simply mean the eye-popping number of unexpected batters who sit near the top of the player ranker. Bell, Alonso, LeMahieu, Rafael Devers, Domingo Santana, Ketel Marte, Eduardo Escobar, and others are all part of a group of players no one predicted for massive success. Yet every single one of the guys listed above are among the top-20 ranked batters.
Who could have huge second-half runs?
Matt Olson (1B – OAK)
Remember when Olson hit 24 home runs in just 59 games in 2017? Well, buckle up for potentially another fun ride from him in the second half. He seemed to prove in the last week or two that his hand surgery from earlier in the year is behind him. Give him another four days to rest up, and Olson will be ready to smash bombs throughout the rest of the season.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (3B – TOR)
This is a gut call here, as Guerrero has made a lot of soft contact in the bigs. He’s too good to struggle for long, however, so I’m saying the rookie goes on an absolute tear that lasts at least a month.
Jesus Aguilar (1B – MIL)
I can hear former Aguilar owners griping already, but his hard-hit rates aren’t much different from last season. What has changed is his HR/FB rate, which has dropped almost 10%. If the Brewers give him another chance, I bet Aguilar gets back on track to hit 20+ second-half home runs.
Justin Smoak (1B – TOR)
Here’s another player whose numbers say he should be better. Smoak’s definitely been the unfortunate owner of some bad breaks thus far, and another tear like he went on in 2017 could certainly be in the cards.