Baseball is back after a long delay, but for only a short while.
It'll make for a Fantasy Baseball season unlike we've ever seen, which means we can't lean on precedent like we normally do.
So why not lean on our collective wisdom? I came up with eight questions that seem relevant to our new reality and presented them as a survey to my Twitter and Facebook followers.
Here are the results ...
1. Which player have you upgraded the most with the delay?
Three months of no baseball is enough time for just about every injured player to get healthy again, so it's no surprise to see players once destined for the IL at the top of this list. That group includes James Paxton, Mike Clevinger, Justin Verlander, Shohei Ohtani, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Eugenio Suarez and Aaron Hicks, who are all coming back from injuries of varied severity, but the big winner here is probably Rich Hill. A June return seemed so far away in March that he was barely getting drafted back then, but now the 40-year-old has recovered from elbow surgery and is ready to pick up where he left off with a 3.30 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 10.7 K/9 the past three years.
Tyler Glasnow and Lance McCullers are the only others with enough votes to register here. Their draft stock was originally dampened by workload concerns, but now with only 60 games on the schedule, they have a chance to be used much like any other starting pitcher.
Received two votes: Willie Calhoun, OF, TEX; Alex Verdugo, OF, LAD; Corey Knebel, RP, MIL; Andrew McCutchen, OF, PHI; Ryan Braun, OF, MIL; Yoenis Cespedes, OF, NYM; Jordan Hicks, RP, STL; Johnny Cueto, SP, SF
My choice: Rich Hill
2. Which player have you downgraded the most with the delay?
But wait, didn't Aaron Judge also rank high on the "upgraded" list? He did indeed, which is what makes surveys so fun! I'm more with the consensus here. Having extra time to recover from an injury only matters if it's enough time to recover, and Judge has only recently picked up a bat. The stress fracture in his rib dates back to last fall, and just like in February, the process of ramping up again may undo all of his progress, potentially even resulting in surgery.
Blake Snell is kind of in the same boat, having already needed a cortisone short in the same elbow that required surgery last year. Any setback has the potential to be a season-ender with such a short schedule.
Technically, the correct answer to this question would be Michael Pineda and Domingo German, who both face lengthy suspensions that won't be reduced along with the schedule (German won't be able to return at all now), but those responses are obvious and boring. I think Josh Hader is a good call with former closer Corey Knebel now expected back for the start of the year. Craig Counsell never wanted Hader confined to the ninth inning.
3. Which team is best positioned to win a championship?
I do believe the top four teams here are the correct four — and perhaps in the correct order. The Twins might have the best lineup and the Yankees the best bullpen, but the Dodgers have the best starting rotation and depth everywhere they might need it. Each of those three teams already dominated last year and then added a big piece this offseason (Mookie Betts to the Dodgers, Gerrit Cole to the Yankees and Josh Donaldson to the Twins).
The Astros of course lost Cole to the Yankees, but they're getting a full year from Zack Greinke, not to mention Lance McCullers back from injury, and have young players like Kyle Tucker that they have yet to get involved. They'll certainly be in the mix.
I like the enthusiasm for the Reds here, too. They acquired Trevor Bauer down the stretch last year and then added bats like Nick Castellanos, Mike Moustakas and Shogo Akiyama this offseason, giving them the best starting rotation and maybe the best lineup in their division.
My choice: Dodgers
4. Who do you consider to be the game's premier power hitter?
Giancarlo Stanton was long regarded as the game's best power hitter, and despite a bumpy first couple years with the Yankees, that reputation is apparently still intact. And he still produces the sort of exit velocities that would rank among the league leaders, most of which are also represented here. The big omission is Miguel Sano, who performed at a 50-homer pace last year while ranking second in average exit velocity and first in hard-hit rate. He received just two votes, one less than Yordan Alvarez.
First in hard-hit rate last year, though, was Aaron Judge — and by no small margin. In fact, he has ranked first in that category three years in a row, suggesting that injuries have been the main thing preventing him from repeating the 52-homer season he had as a rookie. And as should be abundantly clear now if you've read this far, injuries are already showing signs of thwarting his 2020 season.
By the way, Mike Trout has actually led the majors in ISO two years in a row, so the easier path would be just to presume he's the best at everything and move on.
My choice: Aaron Judge
5. Who is your go-to for stolen bases?
With this question, I had hoped to uncover the universally accepted fallback plan for the most vexing of categories, but if we do all share the same plan, it's not revealed in these results. Counting on Trea Turner and Ronald Acuna means you're devoting your first-round pick to the stolen bases — which, hey, I've made the argument to do in more places than one — and Adalberto Mondesi is the odds-on favorite to lead the majors in the category. Nothing sneaky about any of those responses.
And I don't know that I actually have a go-to for stolen bases myself. Any time I can grab Jose Ramirez in Round 2, I do, but of course, I'm at the mercy of my draft position there. I've come back around to Garrett Hampson with the DH coming to the NL, believing now he'll definitely play enough to contribute in the one category, if not others. Cavan Biggio, Kyle Tucker and Scott Kingery are three off-list steals sources who I find myself drafting often.
My choice: Jose Ramirez
6. At what age is age a factor?
Many respondents rightfully pointed out that the age where age is an issue varies by position, but I was more interested in learning the broad perception than conducting a data-backed study. And overall, people landed right where I perceive it to be, in the early-to-mid 30s. I was surprised how many went so old with it, like we're still living in the Steroids Era, but that was so long ago now that ... frankly, I'm not sure what they were thinking. Sure, you could start tallying up examples of players still thriving in their mid-to-late 30s, but it's a short list. Your fingers would be enough to cover it.
And of course, the idea is to anticipate the decline and not be surprised by it, so if anything, you want to aim a little young. I start worrying at about age 30 for catchers and middle infielders and about age 32-33 for everyone else.
Received one vote: 28, 38, 41
My choice: 32
7. Which prospect doesn't get enough love?
A proper response requires fairly extensive prospect knowledge, so I'll own my part in this mostly unhelpful display. For what it's worth, I support the top two here, believing Carter Kieboom has been unfairly downgraded (more in redraft leagues than dynasty) for his poor showing as an injury replacement for Trea Turner early last season. Former first-round pick Alex Kirilloff, meanwhile, put up monster numbers in 2018 only to have a wrist injury pull him down last year. Enthusiasm was higher for both at this time last year, but I'm not sure the long-term outlook has changed much for either.
The others I think are getting about the love they deserve. It's not like any are strangers to top-100 lists. Noelvi Marte, an 18-year-old shortstop who has yet to reach Class A, may only be known to true prospect hounds, but they all like him.
So what about my choice? Tigers pitcher Tarik Skubal is ranked but is also a newcomer to prospect lists this year, and I think he may actually be as good as his 2.42 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 13.1 K/9 last year. I could go with him, but I'll go with the eighth overall pick in last year's draft, a third baseman with an advanced approach and the potential to add power before reaching the majors.
Received two votes: Gavin Lux, 2B, LAD; Nate Pearson, SP, TOR; Forrest Whitley, SP, HOU; Julio Rodriguez, OF, SEA; Ian Anderson, SP, ATL; Matt Manning, SP, DET; Sixto Sanchez, SP, MIA; Tarik Skubal, SP, DET; Vidal Brujan, 2B, TB; Kyle Wright, SP, ATL; Jazz Chisholm, SS, MIA; Shane Baz, SP, TB; Austin Hays, OF, BAL; Jose Garcia, CIN
My choice: Josh Jung, 3B, TEX
8. Who is your dark horse pick to lead the majors in saves?
Not everyone has the same interpretation of what a dark horse is, so I acknowledge that responses like Taylor Rogers and Ken Giles aren't having to reach as far as Corey Knebel and Seth Lugo. But even though different calibers of relievers are represented here, the responses reveal a level of enthusiasm for particular saves sources. I can certainly share it for Nick Anderson, who showed Josh Hader-like upside after joining the Rays last year but may need to break free from a closer committee to make that sort of impact.
It's funny to see the name Craig Kimbrel as a dark horse for the saves title given his track record as one of the most dominant closers ever, but I get it. He was genuinely miserable in limited action last year and has something to prove now. It's also funny to see two Mets relievers and two Braves relievers here, but both are situations where faith in the incumbent has diminished. Personally, I think Mark Melancon is better than he gets credit for and has an even better chance to hold off Will Smith when there are only 60 games for him to lose his job.
My choice: Mark Melancon