Thursday was supposed to be the first day we heard the crack of the bat and umpires screaming “Strike three” after the emphatic pop of the catchers’ glove. It was supposed to be the day we heard the roar of the crowd, cheering for the home team on Opening Day.
Instead, there was silence.
Thursday was also the day the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard became the third top-20 fantasy pitcher (at least in Roto Rage’s mind) to undergo Tommy John surgery since the end of February, joining the Yankees’ Luis Severino and Boston’s Chris Sale.
That’s right, Thor had his power taken away from his right arm and will have to wait until 2021 to be able to lift Mjölnir again.
Syndergaard may not have always pitched like a superhero last season, but he stayed healthy and made 32 starts after starting 32 games in the previous two seasons combined. He finished 10-8 with 202 strikeouts over 197²/₃ innings, but had career-worst marks in ERA (4.28), WHIP (1.23), walks (50) and runs allowed (101). He also allowed the most earned runs (94) among qualified NL pitchers.
Roto Rage ranked Syndergaard as the No. 12 overall starter, believing the 27-year-old would resemble a healthy version of the hulking pitcher who went 37-22 with a 2.93 ERA and almost 10 strikeouts per nine innings from 2015-18.
From Feb. 19-March 16, Syndergaard’s average draft position rested between 64.23 and 69.68, according to Fantasy Alarm (it now hovers around 300, which is great value for dynasty leagues), meaning he was being drafted as a No. 1 or No. 2 starter. If your draft is complete, and there’s no chance of a redraft, that’s a big void to fill. Your only choice is to take a shot on a pitcher who may have been ignored during the draft.
If Cleveland’s Aaron Civale (239.40 ADP) is available, grab him. He was 3-4 with a 2.34 ERA and 46 strikeouts last year, and a great sleeper heading into 2020. There is a shot he went undrafted.
Dylan Bundy (232.02) is not a name you normally associate with success, but that’s because he was an Oriole. Now, he is in a more pitcher-friendly park with a solid Angels defense behind him. He is just 27 and was the fourth-overall pick in 2011 for a reason. He is worth a shot.
Pittsburgh’s Mitch Keller (236.30) was 1-5 with a 7.13 ERA in 11 starts last year, but he struck out 12.2 per nine innings. The 23-year-old was 36-22 with a 3.12 ERA and 566 strikeouts over six seasons in the minors. The potential is there.
The White Sox’s Dylan Cease (258.53) throws hard, strikes out a lot of batters (10 per nine in 14 big league starts, 11.4 per nine in the minors) and is on a team with an improved offense, which should help him pick up wins.
Other options who could turn into viable options include Cincinnati’s Anthony DeSclafani (244.26), the White Sox’s Michael Kopech (249.82), the Dodgers’ Alex Wood (280.93) or Miami’s Pablo Lopez (309.40). You could also take a shot on one of Syndergaard’s potential replacements — like Steven Matz (267.41), former Cy Young award winner Rick Porcello (286.91) or even Michael Wacha (592.63), in the hope he rediscovers his 2015 All-Star form.
If the pandemic has delayed your draft, you have time to devise a new strategy. Though a pitcher like Syndergaard may have been your target in that sixth-round range, maybe you opt for a position player like the Yankees’ DJ LeMahieu (62.48), the Cardinals’ Paul Goldschmidt (64.83) or the White Sox’s Eloy Jimenez (65.65) and wait on a pitcher — if you feel the Cubs’ Yu Darvish (62.71), the Rays’ Tyler Glasnow (70.71) or the Twins’ Jose Berrios (74.01) are too much of a reach or will be available in the next round.
If you’re concerned your rotation will take a hit if you wait longer, you’re wrong. There are plenty of viable starters available: Atlanta’s Mike Soroka (91.77), Cincinnati’s Sonny Gray (99.00), Philadelphia’s Zack Wheeler (108.00) or Oakland’s Frankie Montas (110.13), a Roto Rage favorite who was one of the best starters in the majors last year (9-2, 2.63 ERA, 103 strikeouts) before a PED suspension ended his season after 16 starts. You also shouldn’t ignore Oakland’s Jesus Luzardo (119.02), Boston’s Eduardo Rodriguez (121.46), San Diego’s Dinelson Lamet (125.03) or Arizona’s Zac Gallen (125.35).