It's hard to believe, but Monday night one-quarter of the 2018 fantasy baseball season officially went in the books in permanent ink.
If you're not yet taking your team's current standing to heart, you're behind schedule. The same goes for reacting to the on-field results to date, as many things have definitively changed and warrant value adjustments for individual players. Though I often say I don't care about my fantasy teams' standings while the calendar reads April, I'm firmly aware of my place(s) today, and since I'm a believer in accountability, they're currently first, second, second, second, third, fifth, fifth, seventh, seventh and ninth.
While those aren't entirely dissatisfying results, they signify work to be done to shore up all 10 rosters -- something I'm presuming is the case for you, too.
As there isn't a moment to lose, what follows is my list of recommendations to improve your fantasy teams. They are "Nine Things I'd Be Doing With My Teams Right Now":
1. Trading for Paul Goldschmidt now, while I still can. I know his season has been painfully disappointing to date, his .316 wOBA through 43 Arizona Diamondbacks games at least 53 points lower than it has been through the same number in any of his previous five seasons, but I also don't think what ails Goldschmidt is something that isn't fixable. Critics will cite Chase Field's new humidor or the loss of A.J. Pollock behind him in the lineup causing opposing pitchers to work around Goldschmidt more frequently in the coming weeks, but neither is a sound argument.
The humidor does seem to be adversely impacting offense at Chase Field this season, as our Park Factors page attests, but Goldschmidt's batted-ball metrics (fly ball and hard-contact rates, exit velocity, launch angle) aren't worlds off where they usually are, and to the "working around" thought, pitchers were attacking the strike zone against him with greater rigor this season than they ever have before and throwing a larger dose of breaking balls to him before Pollock got hurt.
What seems to plague Goldschmidt this year is his timing. Two statistics stand out to me: He has outright missed on 29 percent of his swings against fastballs and 13 percent of all fastballs seen this season, well above his 21 and 9 percent career rates, the one pitch for which his rates seem significantly different. He has also seen a substantially greater "Strike 1" rate, 68 percent thus far, which is nearly 6 percent higher than his number in any other season and almost 10 percent higher than his career rate entering the season, signaling that opposing pitchers know his timing is off and are exploiting it early in the count. I think these are fixable things, perhaps with as little as one extended session with the coaching staff or a perfectly-timed home run, which overnight can turn him back into the fantasy superstar he has long been.
Not that I'm projecting a return to top-10-overall status, as I had downgraded my projection for Goldschmidt following news of the humidor's installation, but if he's coming at anything beneath a top-25-overall player's price tag, I'm in. All in.
2. Trading away the struggling Chris Archer. Remarkably, Archer enters play Thursday on a roster in 94.0 percent of ESPN leagues, despite the fact that he also ranks 125th among starting pitchers on the Player Rater with the seventh-worst ERA (5.64) among 93 qualifiers. His swinging-strike rate, which at 14.5 percent this season is still in line with his performances in any of the past four seasons, is probably why, but it's also a stronger bargaining chip than it is a sign of greater things ahead. Archer continues to struggle keeping the ball in the park, with his 42.5 percent ground ball and 41.8 percent hard-contact rate (per FanGraphs), both career worsts, hinting that his new baseline is that of a pitcher with a final 1.25 homers-per-nine-innings ratio (or worse). He's also having increasing issues with left-handed hitters, his .391 wOBA allowed to them this season his highest since his six-appearance, 2012 cup of coffee and marking the third consecutive campaign the number has risen.
Chances are, he's still being regarded by many as "unlucky," and will be widely regarded as a bounce-back candidate. If he'd still fetch top-25 starting pitcher value -- say, fetching a Justin Turner, J.T. Realmuto or Yoan Moncada -- I'd cash his chip in now.
3. Selling off any saves I can afford to. They might be one-tenth of the calculation in a traditional Rotisserie league and typically a hefty part of the scoring in traditional points leagues, but saves seem like they should be even easier to fill in the cheap this season, in which more managers than ever are going matchup- rather than role-oriented with their bullpen strategies. Already, eight teams appear to be full-fledged committees -- the Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, Chicago White Sox, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Angels, Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals and Toronto Blue Jays -- or at least have been entrusting multiple pitchers with the ninth inning, and another eight teams have incumbents who don't have 25-save seasons on their résumés. This isn't to say that I completely disbelieve in Brad Boxberger, Brad Hand, Kelvin Herrera, Brandon Morrow or Hunter Strickland, all of whom reside in the latter group of eight, but it also seems that most people believe in their maintaining near their current level of production all year. I see that as an opportunity, and would prefer to cash their chips in knowing that, as seems to be the case year after year, a good number of save-getters should enter the talent pool at the cost of a mere waiver pickup, a group I expect could include Carl Edwards Jr., Kyle Barraclough, Yoshihisa Hirano, Mychal Givens, Joe Jimenez and/or Seranthony Dominguez.
4. Following up on that thought, getting myself a middle-relief dynamo (or three). This one's league-dependent, as the shallower the player pool and the more infrequent your lineup changes, the less value middle relievers have in your league. Still, in this strikeout-rich, pitching-specialized era, a dominant middle man can have a huge bearing on your team's standings, not just in ERA and WHIP but also potentially in terms of strikeouts. So far this season, a whopping eight qualified relievers have at least a 40-percent strikeout rate, which is more than we saw through a comparable amount of time in either 2017 (7) or 2016 (3). Josh Hader (51 strikeouts) actually ranks 33rd among all pitchers in K's, and Adam Ottavino, Chad Green and Archie Bradley all rate on the Player Rater among the roster-worthy (read: top 210 overall) in standard mixed formats. The aforementioned Edwards and Chris Devenski aren't far behind, and Richard Rodriguez of the Pittsburgh Pirates is creeping up the "dominant middle reliever" list. These players provide you a sizable benefit in leagues with games-started caps, as they should always be active for you in any spot where you're not slotting in one of that day's starters, and I'd call it mandatory to roster at least one.
5. Getting shares of the Los Angeles Dodgers' offense (with one exception). The Dodgers' offense has gotten off to a forgettable start and the team's playoff chances have been questioned in recent days, but it's important to remember that the team has been ravaged by injuries thus far and is only now seemingly getting healthier. The aforementioned Turner's return gives the team its best all-around hitter, and the returns of Yasiel Puig and Logan Forsythe provide the Dodgers maximum opportunity to exploit daily matchups, a great thing from a runs/RBIs perspective as it should mean turning over the lineup more often. I'd guess that Turner, Cody Bellinger, Chris Taylor and Puig are all attainable on the trade market in most leagues, especially since the team as a whole is regarded as matchups-driven and therefore there's a perception that it won't provide fantasy teams necessary volume. Taylor is the most attractive target, as the team's leadoff man and therefore the most likely to benefit from rolling over the lineup, as well as a multi-eligible fantasy player.
As for the exception, Yasmani Grandal is the one Dodgers hitter whose asking price is probably currently too high. The team's other injuries have already pressed him into No. 3 duty in the lineup more often this year (15) than last (12), and he's on pace to set career highs in terms of games played (147), games started at catcher (120) and innings caught (1,136 2/3). The Dodgers should temper his playing time -- and presumably also his spot in the order -- now that they have these other hitters back.
6. Trading for Matt Olson and Mike Zunino in advance of what I anticipate will be massive power outbursts for either just around the corner. Neither slugger's year-to-date stats have offered much in the way of encouragement, and both are high-strikeout hitters destined for career streakiness, but the underlying contact-quality metrics for both have been excellent. Olson's Statcast metrics are right in range with those from 2017, and he's second among batting title-eligible hitters in FanGraphs' Hard% (50.5). Zunino's 101.2 mph average exit velocity on fly balls and line drives, per Statcast, is second only to Giancarlo Stanton's 102.9 mph, and Zunino has a 46.2 Hard% per FanGraphs. I know I'm the guy who predicted in the preseason that Matt Chapman will out-homer Olson, but that was a more pro-Chapman than anti-Olson note and I still think it's within the realm of possibility. I do, however, anticipate that Olson could hit another 30 homers this year, and Zunino might have 25 more in his bat.
7. Contacting Luis Castillo's manager in the hopes the right-hander will cost anything noticeably less in trade than his SP28 ADP. The Cincinnati Reds sophomore's early struggles have caused me to take a much closer look at him, and all I see is a pitcher who has been obliterated by horrendous, horrendous luck. To that point, among 93 ERA qualifiers, he has the 15th-worst BABIP (.315), 15th-worst home run/fly ball percentage (14.5), eighth-worst left on base percentage (65.4) and he has the 36th-best SIERA (3.87), with the latter number better than that of Carlos Martinez, Dallas Keuchel or Gio Gonzalez. I won't hide the fact that Castillo's hard-hit rate has soared -- 90.2 mph Statcast average exit velocity, up from 84.9 last year -- but his changeup, his "out" pitch, has been top-notch, with a 32 percent swinging-strike rate that represents an improvement upon his 24 percent rate in 2017. I'm a tad hesitant to pay his exact draft-day price tag, but I'm not entirely opposed to the idea, and to tie this to a previous name in the column, I don't think it's completely outrageous to deal Archer for him (especially since it might net you an intriguing throw-in).
8. Putting my trust in Colorado Rockies pitchers in their road starts. I'd add some of the Coors Field starts to the equation if the opponent is weak enough, but the hook here is the wide availability of pitchers Tyler Anderson, German Marquez and Kyle Freeland, who have played large parts in the team sporting the seventh-best road ERA so far this season (3.38). Only the Houston Astros (16), Cleveland Indians (14) and Washington Nationals (14) have more road quality starts this season than the Rockies (13). Anderson (23.1 percent) and Freeland (22.6), in fact, both have greater overall (as in, including the Coors games) strikeout rates than the league average (22.5 percent), which is a strong sign of their progress. Jon Gray (26.7 percent K rate, 20th among qualifiers) is an automatic in his road games, but it's not a stretch to declare all five members of the Rockies' rotation worthy of streaming discussion in every road outing. In fact, Anderson might find his way into the top 75 fantasy starters overall come season's end.
9. Making my move for Andrew Benintendi in dynasty leagues. I'm often looking for a reasonable buy-in point for franchise-caliber chips on the trade market, and while it might seem early in the year to be making future-minded moves, it's not inconceivable that your team needs exactly that today. Benintendi is a player whose year-to-date numbers aren't overwhelming, meaning he might be coaxed off a team that either needs to plug multiple roster holes or could be blown away by a package of one-year rental pieces. Most all of his underlying numbers say he has spun his wheels this year (or better), and Statcast's hard-contact metrics suggest the quality of his batted balls hasn't really declined much, either. Benintendi has some of the most polished plate discipline of anyone in the game, and he'll be a category-filler for years. This might be your final opportunity to even get his manager to consider trading him.