Fantasy Baseball Takeaways: Injury gods, leave Jacob deGrom alone

·4-min read

I feel like we have to start today’s column with Jacob deGrom, and it’s for all the wrong reasons. Forget fantasy baseball for a second; deGrom is in the midst of a legendary season, and it’s exhausting for so many recurring injuries to get in his way.

The only thing that can stop deGrom these days is bad luck and the medical file.

Some years belong to athletes and entertainers. U2 owned 1987, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa split 1998, Megan Rapinoe captured 2019. I guess George Orwell and Van Halen can argue over 1984.

DeGrom’s had his fingerprints all over 2021, with a set of pitching stats that look like Wiffle Ball numbers: 67 IP, 26 H, 4 ER, 8 BB, 111 strikeouts; that’s a 0.54 ERA and 0.507 WHIP. His ERA+, an index of the stat adjusted to the current league average and context, is 719, an utterly absurd number. I thought peak Pedro Martinez was the best pitcher I’d ever see — his ERA+ peaked at 291 in 2000, in the middle of the steroid offensive era — but deGrom’s start to this season smashes all the rules.

And just for grins, deGrom is hitting .423 at the plate. He’s driven in six runs this year, and he’s allowed seven (three unearned). You could deep dive absurd deGrom stats all day.

Instead, we worry. DeGrom’s dominant Wednesday turn (nine straight Cubs retired, eight by strikeout) was shortened by right shoulder soreness. He’ll have an MRI on Thursday. DeGrom’s dealt with elbow issues this year, side soreness, and a tight back. Can’t the injury gods leave this one alone? I want 2021 to go down as the Year of deGrom.

I’m trying to be optimistic and realistic at the same time. Of course, those two themes are often at conflict. It’s going to be a long day.

Brandon Belt back and raking 

It was no surprise to see the Giants boat race the Diamondbacks — I’m wondering if the poor Snakes will ever win another road game. It’s awfully hard to lose 22 in a row, anywhere, at anything. But let’s give the San Francisco offense some credit; this unit can mash. The Giants are eighth in OPS and ninth in runs, and their beautiful home park has not been an offensive drag the last two years.

Keep those archways open.

Brandon Belt is healthy again and should return to a stronger fantasy foothold. He’s on a nifty 7-for-11 series (thanks, Zona), with three walks and a couple of homers. He’s capable of hitting for what qualifies as a plus average in today’s game, and his home park is no longer a liability for him. Belt qualifies at first and the outfield, and is still free to grab in about three-quarters of Yahoo leagues.

Last chance to scoop up Schoop 

Detroit’s lineup is not one we gravitate towards — actually, we love to stream against it — but the Tigers are getting excellent mileage out of Jonathan Schoop. The locked-in righty rapped out three more hits against the Royals, pushing his average up to .272. He’s hit 11 homers.

Schoop always been a sneaky source of contact (despite a hacker’s approach; he chases a lot), but it’s even better this year — strikeouts are down a speck, and walks are at a career best. Looks like a career year in his age-29 season.

The time to add Schoop is long-gone in the medium and deep leagues, but shallow formats present an opportunity. I just wonder if he’ll be in Detroit all summer; this is the type of player (productive, versatile) contenders should be gravitating towards.

Anthony Bender's bagel parade

I gave Anthony Bender some video promotion at the top of the story, but here’s the text if you missed it. Fire-breathing dragons show up in the bullpen all the time, and I always prefer to add these players in-season, as opposed to devoting resources to them before the year. Bender wasn’t in Miami’s circle of trust before the season — despite a great spring — but he’s been a knockout artist since getting an opportunity.

He’s yet to allow an earned run over 17.2 innings. The five walks are okay, not great, but it’s mitigated by 22 strikeouts. Perhaps Bender can be what Nick Anderson was in 2019. Bender passes the eye test, too, a 97-mph heater and a slider that both grade as plus pitches. 

The Marlins haven’t given Bender a lot of high-leverage work yet — no saves, no wins — but when you’re pitching this well, you usually force a meatier role. And even if Bender doesn’t get those handshakes or elusive victories, I want him for the dominant ratios and the strikeout rate. At last check, he was rostered in just one percent of Yahoo leagues. Get on board.

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