A tradition since 2010, RotoExperts At the Park is now available to you on RotoExperts.com. Over the past seven seasons, my exclusive interviews with Major League Baseball players and coaches, designed to bring you key Fantasy Baseball insights, have only been available on radio. Now, in an effort for a wider audience to enjoy my Q and As with your most important Fantasy players, you’ll be able to find the clips right here, as well as On Demand via iTunes, Google Play, Audioboom and other sources. When you come here for the audio, I will add in some key extra Fantasy insights. In this edition, we cover the Washington Nationals.
Nationals bench coach on the evolving closer situation and more
Chris Speier covers a variety of topics here with me, and it’s always intersting to get the insights of coaches, as they often tend to be straightforward and break down specific parts of the game in detailed fashion. Speier’s comments on Bryce Harper simply indicate that the 2015 MVP is healthy again, and his Fantasy owners should remain highly confident in him after a first month that looked a lot like the version of two seasons ago. Most importantly, he outlines the Nationals closer situation, which should start to come into sharper focus when Koda Glover is expected to return from the DL this weekend. Speier admits it’s an open audition right now, even though Blake Treinen has been moved out of the mix. Shawn Kelley has allowed home runs in each of his past two appearances, and Glover earned back to back saves in two of his final three outings before he hit the DL. There’s more analysis on that to come here from a Nationals insider, but I am confident it’s just a matter of time before Glover is the definite closer in this situation. We also touched briefly on Joe Ross, but he was not able to sustain his success of his first start and has found himself back in the minor leagues. The Washington Post has cited the unreliability of his changeup and mechanical issues as prime reasons for the rotation spot being taken away. It appears that Ross should be cut now in Fantasy, as he now has to go through a continuing process to round out his arsenal, and that could take some significant time.
Nationals insider with MASN’s Mark Zuckerman
Nationals beat reporter Mark Zuckerman offered further insights on the closer situation, and how Kelley and Glover may be utilized going forward: “I think there are people in the organization who believe Koda Glover is going to be the guy, they maybe didn’t want to throw that all at him just yet. They think he has the stuff, they think he has the makeup, but they want to maybe give him time to ease into it. For now, Shawn Kelley will get most of the chances, but because of his arm history, he’s had two Tommy Johns, they’re very cognizant of not overworking him. I think they’re going to find spots when Kelley is not available, to try Koda Glover out in the ninth inning and see how he does with it, and at some point maybe he is ready to take over full time.”
Engel’s Angle: Glover may be available in some leagues right now, and you should add him if you can. It does not seem like the Nats can rely on Kelley to be their main guy, and they likely want Glover to just show he can handle the job on consistent back-to-back days before they officially hand him the job. He should show he can do that pretty soon after he returns, as he has already closed consecutive games once in April. Until then, he will at least share some save chances with Kelley.
And here’s Zuckerman’s views on Harper: “I think health is number one. You could just see last year that he couldn’t reach out to those outside pitches that he used to and be able to drive it to the opposite field. His neck was hurting, he never completely admitted what it was, but you can tell between that and his throwing arm that something wasn’t all there. At the same time, I think there was a period, midseason or so, that he did get a little impatient. I think he started to expand the zone a bit and started chasing. It took him awhile but I think by the end of the season he was over that. I think it was really just health in the end. He came into this year healthy and having Murphy and Zimmerman hitting behind him, he’s got all the faith in those other guys in the lineup, so he is not afraid to take his walks. As you saw two years ago, you can still take a lot of walks and be the MVP, so he knows that’s the right approach for him. “
Engel’s Angle: Harper’s Hard Hit rate is over three percent better than last season, and his line drive rate is up nearly four percent, more commensurate with his 2015 levels. His swing rate outside the zone is down three percent from 2016 and he is even swinging at less pitches inside the zone. Obviously, his .429 BABIP is outraegous, as is the .380 ISO, but as Speier and Zuckerman have indicated, he is healthy, showing better plate discipline, and is looking worth the faith you kept in him if you drafted Harper in the first round.
Healthy Ryan Zimmerman makes swing tweaks, open to sabermetric input
In the clip below, I talk to one of Fantasy Baseball’s hottest producers so far, Ryan Zimerman. After noting how long he has been with the organization, he says staying healthy has been a simple reason for his great April. It has been already highlighted locally that Zimmerman has made some changes to his swing, especially after consulting with teammate Daniel Murphy and hitting coach Rick Schu, as outlined by Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post. Here’s a detailed piece on his new launch angle. Zimmerman sort of downplays the changes but does admit to making some adjustments. He also notes that he is open to the sort of sabermetric input that Murphy has embraced, as you will hear more on that here. Zimmerman’s hard hit rate of 42 percent is the best of his career so far. Zimmerman has obviously put some good offseason input to use. You obviously still have to worry about his health, and when opposing pitchers find ways to exploit the new approach. But he should adjust well at this point of his career to any different ways he is attacked. Still, I would sell high on Zimmerman if you can, because while his swing has changed, the skepticism about his health should not.
Daniel Murphy jumps into the numbers
Murphy told the Washington Post this season that he dives into the info on sites like Fangraphs, and in the interview below, he alludes to being unique in that regard. But he steers clear of any claims that he may have helped Zimmerman at all, although the Boswell article I previously linked to above would show otherwise. Murphy talks about how the Mets hitting coaches played a big part in his October 2015 breakout, and the momentum has continued through the early part of 2017. When Murphy was with the Mets, he was always a humble, deferring type, but was known throughout the clubhouse for his intensity when studying hitting. He’s taken that approach to Washington, even coming out of the dugout recently to share a hitting tip with a teammate on his tablet in the on-deck circle. Murphy is hitting more line drives this year so far, but his ISO has not slipped, and he’s in for another impressive season in Fantasy Baseball.
Max Scherzer: “I love being a first round pick.”
If you spent a first-rounder on Max Scherzer, you can hear his great reaction below. We also talk about the fact that he has not made less than 30 starts in the past eight seasons. There was a preseason concern about a knuckle issue, but obviously it was not enough to keep this reliable stalwart out. When you roster Scherzer, you have certainty and peace of mind, which is not easy to find in the Fantasy game.