I have a problem. It’s a problem usually emblazoned onto a fantasy site with two upper case letters in bright red, my scarlet letters.
Not Available. I know this is the true meaning of the acronym. Any player with this suffix affixed to their names are in the minor leagues, unable to contribute to our MLB squads unless you have cooler league rules than mine. My problem is rather simple. I haven’t had a team without an NA player for at least the past 5 years. I do not have an NA slot in any of my leagues.
Every draft, every year, I walk away with a hitter that I have every hope will be called up many months earlier than they probably will. There’s a rush to tracking MILB stats, watching your little buddy level up like it’s an RPG, getting increasingly angry when said player’s team refuses to call him up. Heck, I even love drafting the waiver chaff that will be gumming up my starting line up for a few months waiting for that NA to disappear, like a butterfly turning back into a caterpillar.
I love my non-NA players, but they’re not my special child. There is often no next level for them unless they go on one of those Aristedes Aquino level runs that make you wonder if the Matrix has finally been corrupted. NA means a lot of things to me beyond Not Available:
Let’s be honest though; a good chunk of my Not Available players turn out to be Newb Atrocities. For every Juan Soto or Oneil Cruz who gets called up and immediately produces, there are hundreds of Jo Adells.
Jo Adell? Did you hear he hit a home run almost 600 feet yesterday and leads Triple-A in homers? And he could be traded to a rebuilding team and immediately be slotted in as a starting OF? And maybe he hits between the 5-7 spots in the line up, and he drops his K% below 25% for more than a month and now I’m sitting atop a throne of found money! I am a king and all else are peasants, them with their Brandon Marshes and Hunter Renfroes! What ho, nary a scoundrel shall find employ on this, my team of plenty! We trade in ingots in this house, baby, and I can smell your team off-gassing from 20 miles away. It smells like a car interior whose previous owner hotboxed unfiltered Lucky Strikes who also left 30 half-finished McDonald’s fish sandwiches in the trunk for several months. Our glory has manifested! Our team has declared itself a non-profit mega church, and we’ll be seeking donations so I can charter private jet flights to your front door, where I’ll knock but leave a picture of me holding my nose explaining that your team stank so I couldn’t stick around.
You see how easy it is to get carried away!
Usually, I add a small piece reminding everyone to step back a bit and get some perspective. Not now though! Be deranged! Hoard all the prospects! Field a team of NA players and tell everyone the scoring in your league is now following golf’s line of “smaller is better.”
Golf: Smaller is Better. I missed my calling with copywriting.
A Blurbstomp Reminder
We will analyze player blurbs from a given evening, knowing that 1-2 writers are usually responsible for all the player write-ups posted within an hour of the game results. We will look at:
Flowery Diction – how sites juice up descriptions of player performance
Q and Q – when a site contradicts a player valuation on back-to-back blurbs
Stephen A. Smith IMG_4346.jpeg Award – Given to the player blurb that promises the most and delivers the least.
Bob Nightengale Memorial Plaque – when a blurb is obviously wrong
The hope is that by season’s end, we’ll all feel more confident about our player evaluations when it comes to the waiver wire. We will read blurbs and not be swayed by excessive superlatives, faulty injury reporting, and micro-hype. I will know that I have done my job when Grey posts, and there isn’t a single question about catchers that he did not address in his post. Onward to Roto Wokeness!
The Dodgers didn’t have much of an answer for Shohei Ohtani. Freeman was able to get to him with a solo homer in the fourth inning for the only run scored. It was one of only two runs scored in the game as the Dodgers shut out the Angels. The 33-year-old first baseman is hitting .323/.403/.558 with 14 homers, 47 RBI, and ten steals across 340 plate appearances.
I always preach less is more, but at this point my soapbox has been reduced to a sudsy oatmeal. When you attempt to squeeze a box score into one of these blurbs, you end up with, “…Only one run scored. It was one of only two runs scored in the game.” I appreciate the word count minimum blurbists probably face, and also the tedium of the job that leads to the frittering away at stylistic boundaries.
If you’ve ever moderated a message board in your life, you understand the tedium. I was paid to do so in my twenties, and boy howdy, it’s a painful boredom that moves far beyond the time-elasticizing doldrums of your least favorite class in high school. Every innocuous Terms of Service-obedient post rolling my eyeballs backwards to create a brutal fugue state, one that’s heightened when a troll or persnickety crank decided to test the mods. All the while the rip tide of information menaces to finally snag your exhausted psyche and drown you in the waters of ennui.
Bob Nightengale Memorial Plaque
Lewis will get a breather after he went 2-for-11 with an RBI and two runs scored while starting all four games of the team’s series with Detroit. Kyle Farmer will take over at the hot corner and bat seventh in the opener with Boston.
One problem: Royce Lewis did not start one of those games. He came in as a substitution, which is a meaningful distinction. Lewis seems to be playing less these days, rather than ramping up his workload or at least stabilizing his playing time. Seems like you could look at a game log and figure out that he didn’t start pretty easily? Once you’ve fixed that, can you tell me what happened to Alex Kirilloff? Like why he no hit maybe at all?
Bob Nightengale Memorial Plaque
Ruiz lined a soft single to left field to score the game’s first run, then stole his 38th base of the season shortly afterwards. He added another RBI single in the seventh and made it to third before being stranded, then singled in the ninth to put the tying run at third base before stealing second again. Nothing about the .270/.327/.348 batting line has come easy, and he’s had issues at times hitting, but the steals have made him a fantasy mainstay.
I’m no scientist of hitting, but a Juan-Pierre type with a .270 batting average and a .320 xBA says he hasn’t had a lot of problems hitting. We’re ten calendar days away from the mid-point of the 2023 season, and Esteury Ruiz will hit 40 steals by Friday. Every bit of criticism one read about Ruiz this off-season followed a familiar pattern, in that the tired phrase “you can’t steal first base” lazily lifted its head from the dinner table. Let’s look at how Max Kepler’s triple slash line is analyzed on the same evening.
“Kepler singled with a runner on second in the second inning to bring in the first run for the Twins. He later homered off Garrett Whitlock in the sixth to give the Twins the lead. The 30-year-old outfielder is hitting .200/.272/.406 with nine homers and 21 RBI across 173 plate appearances.”
Well then. Kepler’s line appears with no mention of his struggles. Meanwhile, Ruiz has completely defied expectations and still gets a wet blanket thrown over his performance. I was no great siren singing his praises this spring, even though I’d owned him several times last season (my bench is always hungry for wasted NA stashes), and still thought he’d be a better bet for cheap speed than your Myles Straws or Tommy Edman.
Sometimes fantasy writers get annoyed that a player is having any kind of success and it comes out sideways. I wonder who else has gotten that treatment recently…
Stephen A. Smith IMG_4346.jpeg Award
His third-inning shot off Kodai Senga proved to be the game-winning hit, giving the Cards an early 4-1 lead. Walker extended his hitting streak to 10 games in the process, a stretch that’s seen him bat .400 (14-for-35) with three of his five big-league homers on the year as well as a much-improved 17.9 percent strikeout rate. There are still rough patches in his game to work on — he’s gone 0-for-3 on steal attempts during his hitting streak — but the 21-year-old has merely scratched the surface of his talent so far.
Jordan Walker has a 136 wRC+ in 145 plate appearances. He has a 15/6/19/3/.303 line despite hitting out of the eighth spot in the Cardinals lineup for most of the season, and being sent down to Triple-A which would have broken a weaker guy. I don’t even need to be listing all these qualifications, as one third of this blurb already talks him up.
But what does going caught stealing stats have to do with a hitting streak? No one’s trying to put lipstick on a pig when writing about Jordan Walker, because the lipstick is already in several tacky layers. Perhaps that’s where the inclination to temper our expectations kicks in, but why? Also, he stole a base in the very next game! He’s a rookie and we want him to focus on hitting the paint off the bouncy balls, and playing good enough defense that he stays in the lineup. Anything else is gravy, as the gravy advocates preach.
I also need to note that we are reaching critical mass regarding hyphen usage in baseball writing. In that blurb analysis alone, there were ten hyphens! Why is BIG LEAGUE hyphenated? Why is THIRD INNING hyphenated?? Are we entering a new phase of language that already left me behind?
Find out next week, reader friends!