Fantasy Baseball Weekly Planner: Week 9 (2020)
Congratulations! If you’re still reading this column with intent to use it for the final week of the 2020 fantasy baseball season, then you’re probably competing for a championship. This is it. Buckle up.
As we’ve highlighted all season, anything can happen. The final week of Major League Baseball’s regular season may not actually be the final week of Major League Baseball’s regular season. Games can be canceled, moved, determined by a coin toss — at this point, does anything surprise us? With that, we take one final look at the week that will decide the outcome of your fantasy league.
Colorado Rockies at Giants (4), at Diamondbacks (4)
Certainly, when you drafted players from the Colorado Rockies, you were looking for their home ballpark to aid in your team’s offensive numbers. It happened, as the average for runs-per-game in Colorado sits at 12.52 — only a tick below last year’s average of 12.88 — but volume remains the key. Thankfully, the Rockies still have volume in Week 9.
Colorado won’t have the benefit of its home stadium, but it will get a league-leading eight games in seven days. It may not be the best trade-off for fantasy owners, but Rockies hitters won’t lose their value in Championship Week.
Toronto Blue Jays vs. Yankees (4), vs. Orioles (3)
Prior to this year, the narrative about the Toronto Blue Jays was that the team’s young core would soon grow into a playoff contender. “Soon” turned to “now,” and the Blue Jays find themselves clinging to a Wild Card spot as we turn to the final week of the season.
For fantasy owners, we should get the best that Toronto has to offer. Granted, they have a four-game series against the Yankees — which might mean facing Gerrit Cole again — but they also have a full schedule of games and one last push for a playoff berth.
Cincinnati Reds vs. Brewers (3), at Twins (3)
If we’re highlighting the Blue Jays for arriving in 2020, then the same can be said about the Cincinnati Reds. Cincinnati had an extremely slow start to the year but has since made a push for the playoffs that now leaves them in a battle for both the second spot in the division — with the new playoff format, this grants a playoff berth — and the Wild Card.
Unfortunately for fantasy owners, Cincinnati only has six games scheduled for Championship Week, but the importance of each game means that we shouldn’t see random “off-days” for any key players.
Miami Marlins at Braves (4), at Yankees (3)
We keep pointing to the Miami Marlins for one reason or another, but they deserve immense recognition for entering the final week of the season inside the playoff picture. Currently, the Marlins are ahead of the Phillies in the divisional race for the second seed and are three games over .500 where all other teams chasing them in the Wild Card are below .500. This is it for Miami. It can control its destiny and lock up its first playoff appearance in 17 years.
The Marlins may have all road games ahead — not ideal — but with seven games in seven days on the schedule, we can keep using players from Miami in our fantasy lineups.
Milwaukee Brewers at Reds (3), at Cardinals (1), vs. Cardinals (1), at Cardinals (3)
One of the other teams of the week with 8 games schedule is the Milwaukee Brewers, but volume is not the only reason they’re on this list.
The Brewers are known for late-season surges thanks to Christian Yelich. Over the last two years, Milwaukee is a ridiculous 39-14 in September games — losing exactly seven games in each season. Yelich, in those two Septembers, hit .350 with 13 home runs in 35 games. It’s now-or-never for the Brewers, but it’s definitely not over yet.
Each week, I’ve made it a point to mention the hitter currently in the lead for Offensive WAR. For almost the entire season, this honor belonged to Fernando Tatis, Jr. No more.
Freddie Freeman has caught fire. He is currently riding an 11-game hit streak, but he also has multiple hits in eight-of-his-last-nine contests.
Perhaps the most interesting note about Freeman is that he was one of the first Major League Baseball players to test positive for COVID-19 before the season began. This led to difficult decisions as to how to value Freeman in 2020. Clearly, it won’t hurt where he ends the season among other hitters.
It would be disrespectful to list Fernando Tatis, Jr. in this section week-after-week and then suddenly drop him in the final installment because of a cold streak. Said cold streak does need to be highlighted, however, as fantasy baseball MVP for nearly the entire season has slowed down at an inopportune time.
Tatis has a total of two hits over his last eight games and has only two home runs in the month of September. His dominance throughout the entire season should give fantasy owners some belief that he can still deliver in a key matchup, but it’s a tough pill to swallow right now.
Baseball is a game of numbers and milestones. The shortened season has obviously thrown some of our key numbers into disarray — for example, there was a legitimate question if someone would hit .400 over a 60-game span — but one of the psychological barriers for hitters appeared to be 20 home runs. That is, would anyone hit 20 home runs in a short season?
The answer appears to be “yes.” Luke Voit currently sits at 19 home runs with a week left to hit one more. He’s probably the only one who would get this milestone — it’s not impossible that someone like Mike Trout gets hot — but Voit also has a three-home-run-lead on those chasing him. He was an unlikely pick to win Major League Baseball’s home run title, but the race is now his to lose.
It’s quite amazing what Adalberto Mondesi has done. His 17 stolen bases lead Major League Baseball in that category — the next-highest is Trevor Story with 14 — but he ranks second-to-last among qualified hitters in Offensive WAR. This is largely because he’s hitting .210 with a .243 on-base percentage. The fact that Mondesi is still a viable fantasy option with those numbers is nothing short of incredible.
One of the quieter, but excellent races in 2020 is for the American League Rookie-of-the-Year Award.
At the beginning of the year, Luis Robert was an easy pick to be in the running. He was clearly starting with the Chicago White Sox and had all the tools to be productive. The emergence of Kyle Lewis, however, was one of the bright spots for this unorthodox season.
Lewis and Robert have each had their stretches of success at the plate, and they have essentially pushed all other contenders out of the running. It will be interesting to see if one steps up and claims the title with a big week to close out the year.
Let’s tip our collective hat one more time for Shane Bieber and his absurd season. As of this writing, Bieber ranks first among qualified starting pitchers in Major League Baseball in the following categories: WAR, ERA, xFIP, wins, strikeouts, and strikeouts-per-inning. Especially considering how almost everyone chasing Bieber in one of the aforementioned categories pitches in the National League, Bieber is a near-guarantee to win the American League Cy Young Award.
What an unbelievably bad time for Jacob deGrom to have his worst start of the season.
In his last game, deGrom went only two innings against the Phillies and surrendered three earned runs. It was the only start of the year in which he allowed more than two earned runs.
The game was not a random dud, however. deGrom left because of a hamstring injury, and it’s an easy explanation as to why he struggled as much as he did. The problem is that fantasy owners will need to navigate Championship Week without deGrom at full strength.
This one is quite interesting. And quite important.
As soon as Justin Verlander was placed on the injured list, there was a debate as to whether-or-not we would see him pitch again in 2020. It appears that, not only may Verlander return to game action, but do so at the most important time of the fantasy baseball season.
Obviously, we have no idea what to expect from Verlander — or when to expect it — but this is a situation that absolutely deserves monitoring for a last-minute Championship push.
Brady Singer was one of the many high-end pitching prospects to debut in 2020 and, while he’s taken a little while to get to this point, Singer is absolutely dominating.
Singer’s worst outing — in terms of earned runs — came earlier in September, and his ERA ballooned to a season-high 5.58. Since then, however, Singer has been unhittable. He has allowed a total of three hits over 14 innings in 2 starts. He didn’t allow a run and struck out 16 batters over the two games.
If Singer has truly turned a corner, then he did so at the best possible time of year.
If you want to dive deeper into fantasy baseball, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Baseball Tools as you navigate your season. From our Lineup Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup, based on accurate consensus projections – to our Waiver Wire Assistant – that allows you to quickly see which available players will improve your team, and by how much – we’ve got you covered this fantasy baseball season.