In any fantasy season, you’re going to get plenty of things right and plenty of things wrong. The good news is that you don’t need a particularly high hit rate to have a winning fantasy season. You just have to be a little better than the league average, and maybe get a good bounce here or there. It’s actually liberating when you think about it.
Let’s talk about two middle infielder calls I got wrong before the year, with possible takeaways or lessons learned (you always want to be careful with that; not everything stands as a teaching point, but you always want to be accountable and be open-minded to something that can be applied further).
Tommy Edman and Dansby Swanson overcome bad batting slots
Edman was one of my hits of 2021, and yet he was near the top of my fade list this year. The Cardinals made a manager switch and I wasn’t confident Edman would keep last year’s leadoff spot — after all, last year’s .308 OBP and 91 OPS+ (where 100 is average) didn’t sound like a leadoff man to me.
When the season opened, I felt validated — Edman was slotted ninth while Dylan Carlson grabbed the leadoff spot. Alas, Carlson got off to a .196 start through a couple of weeks, while Edman was slashing .341/.413/.634. Edman was soon promoted to the leadoff spot, and he’s been there most of the year.
And he’s easily returned value on his preseason ADP.
Edman has shown improvement in his OBP skills this year, and he’s also been a little more willing to run — after a steal-happy 2021 season. I don’t feel bad about not forecasting those things. And of course, a lower batting slot in the NL isn’t as bad as it once was, since we now have universal DH and don’t have to worry about lousy-batting pitchers ruining the overlap of a lineup.
Like Edman, Swanson’s useful 2021 fantasy season was largely driven by volume. Swanson played in 160 games — Edman logged 159 himself — and did well with the counting stats: 78 runs, 27 homers, 88 RBIs, nine steals. This offset a .248 average and .311 OBP — Swanson’s 97 OPS+ basically profiled him as a slightly below-average hitter. And with the Braves lineup looking stacked from top to bottom, I worried where Swanson might fit in this year.
The Atlanta coaching staff must have agreed because Swanson was parked in the bottom third of the order into the second week of May. And he didn’t receive a full-time promotion until late May when injuries and slumps led to Swanson getting a shot in the No. 2 slot.
That’s been nirvana to Swanson, the spot he’s turned into a star; he’s slashing .388/.431/.619 in his No. 2 assignments, with 27 runs, seven homers, 25 RBIs and six steals over 32 games.
What we’re seeing is Swanson’s career year, parked into his age-28 season.
Should I have given his past pedigree more consideration? He was one of baseball’s top prospects about six or seven years back. Maybe last year’s home-run jump deserved more respect. Of course, Swanson also has 12 steals this year, already a career-high. I don’t see how anyone gets to that projection before the year.
Edman and Swanson are currently the No. 2 and No. 3 shortstops, respectively, in banked 5x5 fantasy value (Edman also qualifies at second, his common position, where he ranks second; he’s the No. 6 outfielder). At least in the case of Swanson, I do have him on one of my important teams. You see, I have a respected and wise co-manager who somehow talked me into Swanson before the season, despite my concerns and passionate protest. Sometimes you get saved from yourself, and this was one of those times.
Maybe next year I’ll be less lineup sensitive, especially given the changing shape of NL hitting orders. And it’s not like Edman or Swanson were ever in danger of losing their playing time — Edman won a Gold Glove last year, while Swanson generally profiles as a plus shortstop. It’s also worth noting that both players were entering sweet spots with their career arcs; Edman, his age-27 campaign, while Swanson settled into his age-28 year. That’s always worth considering, too.