Bernie on the Scene: Early Season Observations

Bernie on the Scene: Early Season Observations

This article is part of our Bernie on the Scene series.

Now that we have seen the first glimpse of the 2020 baseball season, this old scout has some observations that may or may not sustain for all 60 games.

Sliders, cutters and curves are the name of the game on the mound. Today's pitchers use any pitch in their arsenal, at any count. And man, can they throw those breaking balls. Hitters are off-balance and lunging at balls in the dirt. That's a huge difference from even five years ago, when fastballs were kings. Seek out great breaking ball pitchers for your fantasy teams.

If they remain healthy, the Yankees tandem of Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge may finally deliver the firepower the club has been waiting to see. They may finally rival Mantle and Maris. The big difference this year is conditioning. Both Stanton and Judge look to be in marvelous shape, slimmed down and fit. Each has to be fed a steady diet of sliders and curves. Not cutters. They don't move enough. And if I'm an opposing manager, they never, and I mean never, see a fastball.

On the Indians TV broadcast, color analyst Rick Manning said we will not have a 20 home run hitter this season. I'm not so sure. His over number was 18. I'll take the over. 

Phillies shortstop, and one of my forever favorite players, Didi Gregorius looks to be healthy and swinging a solid bat. He was a steal in most drafts. 

Mike Yastrzemski of the Giants has surfaced as a sleeper hitter. I'm not sure he'll sustain a lofty batting average, but he may still be on your waiver wire as a nice pickup.

We have seen the hot Teoscar Hernandez of the Blue Jays show up … so far. Beware. I think he will turn cold as ice at some point soon. But ride him for now. 

No, I still don't believe in Colin Moran. You've been warned. Twice now. Don't be fooled by his quick start. If he sustains, I'll tip my cap.

Speedster Myles Straw of the Astros intrigues me. Especially since Mallex Smith of the Mariners can't get on base or stay in the lineup. Same goes for the Pirates Jarrod Dyson. Those guys are on the club to run, but they can't steal first base. I'm looking at Straw for some stolen bases.

Zack Godley is a nice addition for the pitching starved Red Sox. He may help your fantasy team, but who knows where they'll use him. He can start and he can close. So you may want to take a flier. Just remember that he is very umpire dependent. He has to get the low strikes with outstanding breaking balls.

Christian Vazquez has come out hunting for the Red Sox. He has hit some home runs and his bat looks blazing hot. To the contrary, the Yankees Gary Sanchez is a huge glacier. How long do we wait for Sanchez? Trust me, there isn't much in the way of hitting on the catcher waiver wire. Keep him and hope. Remember that I said Austin Romine and Isiah Kiner-Falefa were sleepers. I still like them both.

I have been singing the praises of the White Sox Luis Robert since the first time I saw him when he came stateside in 2018. He's a fantastic athlete with huge power. You won't be able to trade for him now, but do try.

The more aggressive edition of Yoan Moncada who showed up last season is a very dangerous guy. Now he can be trusted. It is the White Sox pitching that will hold them back … this year. But just wait. 

Francisco Lindor is chasing bad pitches. He and his Cleveland teammates have to take a page out of Carlos Santana's playbook. See more pitches. Lay off. Make the pitcher bring the ball up.

The Brewers are waiting for for Christian Yelich's bats to learn that it's summer. I'm not worried. He's a true hitter and he'll find his stroke. He is trying too hard. He has to relax and just be himself.

In addition to Yelich, these guys are off to slow starts: Nolan Arenado, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Joey Gallo, Matt Olson, Francisco Lindor, Mookie Bett$, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, Yoenis Cespedes, Max Kepler, Jose Altuve, Josh Bell, Shohei Ohtani, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cody Bellinger, Eduardo Escobar, Ronald Acuna, Josh Donaldson, Eugenio Suarez, George Springer, and many more. Now, don't you feel better? Your fantasy teams will come alive when these players wake up. And they will. But breaking balls are hurting every one of these guys.

I have to stop myself from dropping guys I know can hit. Once I drop them, they hit. I have to stay disciplined. I'm just sayin'.

What Shane Bieber has done in his two starts is beyond remarkable. He has been like a surgeon. He is locked in and everything is working. Again, hitters are impatient. I can't remember seeing a starting staff so dominant as the Indians starters have been. But the team's bats have been silent.

Mike Clevinger's delivery is totally messed up. His fastball velocity is down, and he isn't confident using that pitch. His fastball is drifting back over the plate. He needs to call his buddy Trevor Bauer and get straightened out.

Ross Stripling has delivered dividends for the faithful. He's a solid starter on a good Dodgers club.

The Diamondbacks' Robbie Ray is totally out of sync. He is trying to throw too hard once again, and I'm on the brink of cutting him in all my leagues. There is pitching on most waiver wires, and I'm not as patient with pitching as I am with hitting. Even though he's on a lousy team, Brady Singer may be a better fit for the Robbie Ray slot. 

Do I trust a guy like Erick Fedde of the Nationals? He's a perfect example of a pitcher off to a good start. But I have my doubts. Show me more, please. And how long do we wait for the Athletics' Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas? I'm not waiting long. I was hesitant when I took them, and now I'm upset at myself.

Two of my favorite pitchers work for the Braves. I'm very bullish on Max Fried and Mike Soroka – as is everyone. Fried intrigued me back when he got hurt with the Padres. He knows how to pitch.

The Astros are the team that first got rid of the sinking fastball with their pitchers. They went with the four-seamer and convinced Gerrit Cole that was the way to go. Hitters golf those two-seamers out of the park, so keep the ball up. That is against baseball pitching history. Tom Seaver built his career on keeping the ball at the knees. That just shows you how the game has changed. When he has two strikes on a hitter, Cole throws the ball up in his eyes. There is no way a guy can hit that. It just looks so good, he swings.

There is no such thing as a true closer anymore. With games being played every day for 11 or  12 consecutive days, any late inning guy might get a chance to close games. So don't hold back picking up a traditional eighth-inning pitcher.

I wonder when Mark Melancon will break down? Not if, when?

Sorry, I think Dansby Swanson will cool off. He's not a .300 hitter. And Freddie Freeman will heat up. He is a .300 hitter.

Stolen bases are down again. We should eliminate stolen bases from fantasy categories. They have gone the way of the "win." 

The Indians will never re-sign Brad Hand. He'll be gone. And I'll be happy. He's my Jason Kipnis for this season. The sooner he's gone, the happier I'll be. 

So here are guys I'm getting to like more:

Miguel Rojas, Marlins

Kyle Lewis, Mariners

Starlin Castro, Nationals

Mark Canha, Athletics

Luis Arraez, Twins (The Twins think this guy can win a batting title)

Cesar Hernandez, Indians (The Indians aren't running their top-5 hitters though)

Enrique Hernandez, Dodgers

Jose Peraza, Red Sox

So here are guys I'm getting to like less:

Jean Segura, Phillies

Austin Hays , Orioles

Adalberto Mondesi, Royals

Josh Donaldson, Twins

Renato Nunez, Orioles

David Dahl, Rockies

Kyle Schwarber, Cubs

Rougned Odor, Rangers

HEADING HOME

Keep in mind that MLB has reduced doubleheaders to seven innings. That will impact pitching. And I think there will be plenty of doubleheaders.

For the first seven or so games, pitching has been way ahead of hitting. Can that last? Again, unless and until these big bats can adjust to breaking balls, some guys might continue to struggle. They have to make adjustments. A perfect example might be Edwin Encarnacion. He has to be fed nothing but fast breaking wrinkles, which he can't hit. Watch that carefully and act accordingly for all your big sluggers.

I'll be doing three articles for forbes.com in early August. One will discuss young players I think would make good trade bait. I hope you watch for it. Probably August 4.

Follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff. Please. And thank you for doing that.

Be safe out there. Wash your hands. And the rest of your body, too.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bernie Pleskoff
Bernie Pleskoff is a former professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners.
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