That time of the year is here: You jumped into first place in your standings behind the prowess of Shane McClanahan, Joe Ryan, and Nathan Eovaldi. Now they’re all on the IL and you’ve got to figure out what to do. First step: don’t panic. Second step: start emptying your bank account and sending all that money to sketchy charities because you’re not going to recover from those losses. Wait, I said don’t panic, right? Um, well, I guess I’m not good at this. Let’s try again!
Remember when I wrote like 1,000 words on why it didn’t make sense that Nathan Eovaldi — a guy who hasn’t pitched a full season since the Obama administration — was a top pitcher not only on the Player Rater, but on the odds boards for AL Cy Young winner? Imagine if you placed that $100 bet on Eovaldi now. Sorry if you did — don’t say I didn’t warn you. He had a 90% chance to get sidelined by an obstacle, and like clockwork, he fell on his sword. I love a mixed metaphor, like Hari-Clockie! Per the local fishwraps, Eovaldi won’t take the mound until mid-to-late August. Say goodbye to your fantasy playoffs!
Let’s see if we can find somebody in this mess to fix up your team.
The Angels ended up holding onto generational blockbuster superstud Shohei Ohtani, making him cry in the dugout in the process. Apparently, their acquisition of Lucas Giolito seemed to embolden the front office that they could actually pull off the miracle of making the Wild Card — again, with a 90% chance of failure. Gio went out and allowed 5 homers over his first two starts as an Angel, leaving a dent in fantasy managers brave enough to roll with a guy I called “not as good as you think.” Gio’s 12+ ERA / 10+ FIP since joining the Angels is all any manager needs to see — he shouldn’t be on your fantasy roster.
Per Fangraphs, the Angels’s playoff odds have dropped from 13% to 3% in a week. If you’re an Angels fan like Coolwhip, it makes you wonder how good of a team the Angels could have rebuilt by trading Ohtani. I mean, I think LeBron James would have donned a helmet and spikes if it meant getting Ohtani to a legit contender. As a lifelong resident of the Bold North, I remember well what happened when the Timberwolves traded Kevin Garnett — he won a Championship in Boston, and made the rest of us happy by thanking his Minnesota family. Will Shohei win a Series with the Dodgers and thank his Anaheim family next year? Ohtani’s a nice dude. I hope so.
This is the long way of saying, that if I’m Shohei Ohtani‘s agent — actually who is Ohtani’s agent? Nez Balelo — agent of other superstars like Sandy Alcantara and Ryan Braun. Woof. ENYWHEY. If I’m an agent for the greatest player since George Herman Ruth, and my client has a 3% chance of making the playoffs, and a 75% chance of making nearly half a billion in a contract next season, I’m telling my player to “DON’T FREAKING GET HURT.” The Angels will likely be out of playoff contention next week, meaning everything Ohtani does from August until the end of September is for Sho (hehe!). Literally. He doesn’t need to prove himself anymore. But we’re still talking about a guy who not that far removed from Tommy John surgery, has a huge workload, and throws sliders 22% of the time. If I’m Nez Balelo, the last thing I want Ohtani doing is stealing bases or throwing sliders 22% of the time in meaningless games when the biggest contract in MLB history is on the line. It took less than three games for Tyler Glasnow to go from changing his grip to feeling a pinch to tearing his UCL and then getting Tommy John surgery. Remember Jack Flaherty and Elieser Hernandez? Both pitchers lost nearly full seasons because of injuries sustained while batting; Flaherty is just getting back to speed, and Hernandez never really recovered. These things can happen fast. Prayer circle that Ohtani takes it easy to finish the year and then finds a team that actually wants to win. If he was an NFL or NBA player, he’d just sit out the rest of the year — it’s the norm in those leagues that stars on losing teams protect their own interests. How many millions are tied up in Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving, and half of the 76ers “Project” squad? They sat so they could run on other teams. But just like we’ve learned the fantasy lessons of those players protecting their interests, a scenario where Ohtani takes it easy for the rest of 2023 will be nightmare fuel for your fantasy squad. I’m not saying it’s happening. But I am saying, “This makes sense in so many ways, so prepare for the worst now.”
Speaking of me being occasionally correct, when we filter for the top pitchers over the past few weeks, Tarik Skubal tops the list. Good job, me! Skubal is 2-1 over his last 4 games, albeit with an ugly 5.21 ERA. His FIP is still a stellar 1.27, and his control is so good that Janet Jackson calls him up for beats. The Tigers have a 1% chance of making the playoffs, but AJ Hinch might want to give the team a taste of what it’s like to compete. Hinch has been there before, and the AL Central is going to be just as much of a mess next year as it is this year. Skubal likely won’t finish the year as your playoff savior — there’s just too much risk in pushing a guy who missed a full year of baseball — but there are still scenarios out there where he contributes another 30ish IP of 10+ K/9 and literally no walks.
The same scenarios apply to Eduardo Rodriguez, who refused a trade to the Dodgers, ostensibly because his family enjoyed Detroit. I mean, I get it. I’ve been to LA and I’ve seen that traffic. Shout out to Uber drivers who care about your life and don’t actively try and drive you off a pier. E-Rod liked something about Detroit so much that he decided to stay in Detroit instead of going for a championship with the freaking Dodgers. Good for you, E-Rod, even though you’re definitely not a guy I’d want to hang out with.
Now, much like a commercial break that made you wait 5 minutes before bringing you back to the content you came here for, let’s talk about Brady Singer. We’ve practically done this article before: talk about Ohtani, the Tigers pitching staff, and then Brady Singer. I’m a record on a loop! But now Skubal has been the best pitcher in MLB over the past 3 weeks, and Singer is…SP10. The difference between the two? Singer is still available in 50% of leagues. Over his last 4 games, Singer has a 2.67 ERA, 2.90 FIP, a K/9 of 9.00 and BB/9 of 1.00. Oh, his swinging strike % is also 13%, which is nice. As I’ve said before: Singer could easily end up with 0 wins on the rest of the year on that atrocious Royals team.
The usual caveats apply: we’re running out of meaningful fantasy season for rankings. Top SPs have less than 30% of their starts remaining, and many of them may have tempered IP expectations as teams expand rosters in September. Spencer Strider is great, but the Braves have an 11 game lead in the division and Strider has already experienced some tiredness — we can’t reasonably expect him to throw the IP load he’s been doing so far.
Hunter Greene is on track to return mid-August and Rudy sees him getting 6 meaningful starts for the rest of the year — that’s a nice addition if a team happens to put him on the waiver wire.
Kyle Gibson has also been lights out for the past month — maybe playing meaningful ball has shaped his mindset? He’s a good streamer option, but don’t be surprised if he reverts to his usual pumpkin ways.