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League Trends & Impact on Player Values (2023 Fantasy Baseball)

League Trends & Impact on Player Values (2023 Fantasy Baseball)

Baseball is changing, folks. I could argue that it is always changing. We have to face it. Still, a larger number of rule changes will be introduced this year, and I can only guess at future trends, which is still a useful activity for the fantasy gamer.

But that’s not my goal here. Instead, let’s look back at 2022 and consider some player advice based on current tangible trends.

When we notice a real-world trend in baseball, we should be willing to change our approach in fantasy baseball. Often, if you can change your approach before the rest of your league, you’ll have an advantage. There is probably a pithy and useful way to say this: Win your leagues by being the trendsetter.

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League Trends & Impact on Fantasy Baseball Player Values

Be the David Bowie of fantasy baseball. Here are some real-world trends to help you accomplish this goal.

Hitting

Let’s consider the long ball. In 2022, major league hitters managed to drive 5,215 baseballs out of the ballpark. This is the lowest number of home runs (if we ignore the pandemic-shortened season) since 2015 when hitters managed 4,909. Power has been steadily declining since 2019.

Several culprits may indicate this is the new norm. First, remember the 2021 season when the league wanted to clamp down on pitchers using sticky substances? There seems to be less enforcement now. Second, every ballpark introduced a humidor last year. Finally, the discussion about the juiced/de-juiced ball has seemingly disappeared. It’s de-juiced until we hear (or see) otherwise. This could be evidence enough to suggest that home run suppression will continue, or at least remain where it is.

Here’s what that means for fantasy managers. Aaron Judge‘s otherworldly 62 home runs in 2022 may have hidden the fact that it is rare to see a player hit 30 homers in today’s game. Sure, a solid hitter can get to 20 (71 players managed that feat in 2022), but only a minuscule 23 players hit 30 last year.

For your convenience, I’ve listed them below.

There are plenty of names here that we already expect to pay a premium for in our leagues, and managers should pay the premium given the 30-homer scarcity. Having several of these players might give you an edge across your offensive categories.

But I may reach for a few players this year if they are available in later rounds and if I believe they can reach the 30-homer promised land. According to FantasyPros, Rowdy Tellez has an ADP of 173 and may be a real power value. Hoskins has an ADP of 116, and this seems like a steal in that Phillies lineup, especially if I miss out on the likes of Alonso, Goldschmidt, Guerrero and Olson.

If we think beyond this list, in the same late rounds as Tellez, Steamer has Brandon Lowe at 27 homers, and he’s a great bounce-back candidate. Yet another name worth mentioning is Spencer Torkelson, who struggled last year but managed to hit the ball in the air nearly 10% more in the second half, and his exit velocity and launch angle both became elite. Don’t forget, Tork hit 30 home runs across three minor league levels in 2021 and may be a post-hype sleeper in some of your leagues.

Pitching

On the pitching side, there is also a scarcity trend: innings-pitched. Only eight pitchers (that’s it!) managed 200 IP last season. For comparison, in 2013, MLB saw 36 pitchers manage 200 IP. The ability to predict wins has possibly become harder as a result. Only 14 pitchers got 15 Wins in 2022. Three of those pitchers were on the Houston Astros, and three were on the Los Angeles Dodgers: Justin Verlander (NYM), Framber Valdez (HOU), Luis Garcia (HOU), Julio Urias (LAD), Tony Gonsolin (LAD) and Tyler Anderson (LAA).

The Mets had two pitchers on this list, Chris Bassitt and Carlos Carrasco. So simply moving Verlander over to another winning team will hopefully produce more of the same.

Regarding strikeouts, only 11 pitchers punched out more than 200 hitters.

Here’s the possible strategy:  To compete in strikeouts. It is probably better to focus on finding a starting pitcher with a stronger K% who might not pitch as many innings. It’s a process of acceptance. Consider that Spencer Strider had a K% of 38.3%, which led to 202 strikeouts in 131.2 IP. But everyone else is scooping him up.

Who else is capable of giving managers a substantial number of strikeouts in just over 100 IP?

Well, Tyler Glasnow comes to mind at 38.5%. Andrew Heaney at 35.5%. He punched out 110 guys in 72.2 IP last year. If we consider starting pitchers who may not be considered workhorses, here are a few more ideas: Blake Snell (32%), Cristian Javier (33.2%), Hunter Greene (30.9%), Jesus Luzardo (30%) and Nick Lodolo (29.7%).

These players don’t need to pitch a ton of innings to serve as significant difference-makers. And if Houston continues its winning ways, Javier is the cream of the crop.


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