Ronald Acuna and Christian Yelich among stars off to slow starts

Dalton Del Don
·5-min read
Ronald Acuna Jr. "leads" MLB in strikeouts early in the 2020 season. (Getty Images)
Ronald Acuna Jr. "leads" MLB in strikeouts early in the 2020 season. (Getty Images)

Struggling Stars

There hasn’t been a week of baseball yet, but the season is already 9.1% finished, so patience is going to be tougher in 2020. The game’s biggest stars are off to slow starts, as Ronald Acuna and Christian Yelich are batting a combined .093, with Acuna striking out more than anyone in baseball. Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger are hitting a collective .217 (the same number as Kris Bryant’s OPS!) without homering. Mike Trout has a .673 OPS, and Trea Turner has yet to record a steal (he was thrown out Tuesday during his first attempt of the season). Add in Justin Verlander likely being lost for the season, and there are some rough starts for early ADPs.

Of course, a random six-day stretch in the middle of summer during a regular baseball season would go completely unnoticed, but with everything so accelerated, the hot streaks and cold slumps will be more impactful; they usually stand out more to start any year and especially so when there hasn’t been sports since March. Obviously, patience remains a must with these stars, but the odd 2020 setup appears to be adversely affecting baseball’s best players.

Calling The Pen

Saves are typically the trickiest fantasy category and as feared, they are more chaotic than ever to begin 2020. Josh Hader has thrown one inning (without a save), while Kirby Yates has yet to record a save and watched Drew Pomeranz close Tuesday’s win (SD reportedly didn’t want to use Yates three times in four days). Edwin Diaz’s role is extremely tenuous after blowing a save Saturday, then watching Seth Lugo slam shut the Mets’ next opportunity.

Both Aroldis Chapman (IL) and Taylor Rogers have yet to even make an appearance this season, with the latter’s absence becoming a bigger mystery with Sergio Romo closing Minnesota’s win Tuesday night. Ken Giles was placed on the IL with a forearm strain that sounds ominous, while Craig Kimbrel walked four while retiring just one batter during his lone appearance and looks finished. Each of these relievers were drafted as top-11 RPs in Yahoo leagues this year.

Let’s use Tuesday night’s action to highlight more closing situations throughout the league:

• Archie Bradley was named closer right before the start of the season and recorded his first save Tuesday. He has a 5:0 K:BB ratio and appears to be one of the few pitchers locked into the role. Arizona is a decent setup, so Bradley is suddenly extremely valuable.

• Nick Anderson is one of the best relievers in baseball, but he entered during the seventh inning of Tuesday’s win, which Oliver Drake closed out for his second save of the year. It makes sense for the Rays to utilize Anderson in high leverage situations, but this is obviously a massive blow to his fantasy value. Your format will vary, and relievers are likely to pick up far more wins than usual this season, but Jose Alvarado and Diego Castillo are strong alternatives as well, so Anderson is going to have a hard time matching his ADP. This seems like a closer-by-committee situation, but Drake is one of only five relievers in baseball with multiple saves on the season, and he’s still available in 91% of Yahoo leagues.

• Joe Jimenez is your major league leader with three saves. There’s some concern here (beyond the Tigers not continuing to win at this pace), as his velocity was down during his first two saves, when he failed to induce a single swing-and-miss. But he was hitting 95-96 mph during Tuesday’s clean outing and looked much better, and Jimenez’s role as Detroit’s stopper is solid.

• Brad Hand recorded his second save Tuesday, easing his own concerns about early decreased velo. He’s at a 4:0 K:BB ratio over two appearances, and future closer James Karinchak is hardly breathing down his neck while getting eased into seventh inning work (Sam Hill picked up Cleveland’s save during the team’s second win of a doubleheader Tuesday) … Cleveland starter Aaron Civale impressed and is plenty intriguing enough to add in the 51% of Yahoo leagues in which he’s available.

• Sean Doolittle entered the season the presumptive closer for Washington, but he entered Tuesday’s game in the seventh inning (and was working in the upper 80s). It appears Daniel Hudson may be the Nationals reliever to roster in fantasy, and he’s available in nearly 70% of leagues.

• Nick Burdi recorded the first save of his career Tuesday after Kyle Crick was placed on the IL earlier in the day. Keone Kela could return and cloudy the closing situation in Pittsburgh, but Burdi has a big fastball and is producing a ton of swings-and-misses, so he has the upside to run away with the job. He’s available in more than 90% of leagues.

• Other possible closers who are widely available on waiver wires include Anthony Bass (37% rostered), Trevor Gott (23%), Sergio Romo (11%), Wade Davis (45%), Greg Holland (28%), Jeremy Jeffress (9%), Rowan Wick (2%) and Taylor Williams (1%). At this rate, save chasers will be considering Ricky Vaughn by season’s end.

It sure is nice to have baseball back, which Tuesday included the Dodgers/Astros beef heating up.

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