Saturday, March 16, 2019

Astrology 2019 Projected Lineups - Water Division

Next in line to preview is the Water Division, which is the home of Cancer, my home sign. I'm starting this post with the Crabs (formerly known as the Decapods), even though I led with Pisces in the list on the hub page - the two signs had the same amount of points in my bootleg ranking system. As a reminder of said system, signs gets 5 points for each Tier I player in their talent pool, continuing in descending order, finishing off with 1 point per Tier V player. And the color coding is as follows: Green = Tier I, Blue = II, Yellow = III, Red = IV, Purple = V

Cancer's two Tier I players exemplify the number one worst situation as far as positional ability vs. eligibility. Since Manny Machado and Trea Turner are only qualified to play shortstop, one of them has to be the DH, which means that position-less power threat Nelson Cruz must remain on the bench. Now, it's true that Machado will gain eligibility at the hot corner in short order with his new team in San Diego, but moving there would be displace Tier III third baseman Eugenio Suarez, who's ranked above Cruz. The real solution would be if Turner could line up at second base, which he totally could in real life, based on his skill set and 42 career games there. Heck, he could even line up in center field, which he did for 45 games in 2016.

Speaking of center field, the Crabs might be in line for some eligibility issues there in 2020, as Tier II outfielder Charlie Blackmon is slated to move to right field in favor of Virgo former first baseman Ian Desmond. Speaking of primary first basemen playing center, Cody Bellinger will give way to new Sagittarius acquisition A.J. Pollock, although the latter's  injury-prone status gives hope that the second generation big leaguer could maintain his eligibility. Meanwhile, fellow Tier III Andrew Benintendi has top tier defender Aries Jackie Bradley blocking his way in center for Boston. Rounding out Tier III is legendary catcher Yadier Molina, while Tier IV first baseman Jesus Aguilar's 2018 breakout is the main reason why Bellinger qualifying in the outfield is such a big deal.

The reason why Cancer has to squeeze every fantasy point out of its offense is a dearth of a quality, dependable pitching staff. The only hurlers Tier II or above are both closers, and while Blake Treinen put up otherworldly 2018 numbers and Felipe Vazquez throws gas whatever his name is, relief pitchers are a notoriously fickle source of points. Also Tier V relief pitcher Will Smith will languish on the bench for most of the fantasy season. Their top two starting pitchers, new teammates Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin, have durability and inconsistency concerns (respectively... no, actually both have each). They say pitching wins championships, and if Michael Wacha doesn't return to prominence and Aaron Sanchez doesn't overcome his finger issues, this could be a long summer (or at least a short fall) for the Decapods.

Outside of consensus top catcher in the game J.T. Realmuto and his new Phillies teammate shortstop Jean Segura, this projected Pisces lineup will look a lot different than the one they'd be eligible to field on Opening Day. 2018 saw Tier III first baseman Rhys Hoskins lose his first base eligibility, thanks to the ill-fated plan of putting him in left field, but he'll get that back early in 2019. Until then, Jurickson Profar is actually qualified to line up at first, despite the fact that he'll be the primary second baseman for the A's this year, leaving Marwin Gonzalez to fill in until the great roster shuffle happens. And perhaps the biggest boon to this lineup will be when superprospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. gets over his oblique injury and gets the call to the big leagues.

When Vlad Jr. comes up, Tier IV third baseman and 2018 AL Rookie of the Year Miguel Andujar will shift to DH, which is his best "position" in real life too. Speaking of defensively limited sluggers, Nicholas Castellanos will patrol the outfield for this sign, since defense doesn't matter in fantasy. Both Tommy Pham and Tier V outfielder Michael Conforto have center field eligibility, but the latter was worth a win BELOW replacement level with his glove last year. If Realmuto struggles or goes down via injury, the Fish have a pretty good backup plan in Tier IV backstop Francisco Cervelli.

Despite his advanced age, Justin Verlander pitched himself back into Tier I status with the pitcher-whispering Astros organization. He's joined in Tier I by closer Aroldis Chapman, who will headline another stacked Yankees bullpen. Injury concerns push Clayton Kershaw into Tier II, as he has battled back issues in recent seasons. I don't know if the recent prognosis that Yankees ace Luis Severino will miss all of April would bump him down out of Tier II status, but I've already made these color-coded lists, and I'm not going to change them now. Tier IV starter German Marquez has proved that he can succeed in the rarefied air of Coors Field, and promises to lead another promising Rockies pitching staff this season.

In a near identical situation to Cancer above, Scorpio has both SS and DH gummed up by single-position-eligible players: in this case it's Indians star Francisco Lindor and Rockies slugger Trevor Story, the latter of whom could absolutely play second base (38 career games there in the minors) if this were a simulation rather than a fantasy lineup. That arrangement would allow Asdrubal Cabrera to function as a utility bench piece, and get Tier IV outfielder Marcell Ozuna into the lineup as DH. As things stand now, with fellow Tier II's Giancarlo Stanton and Juan Soto occupying the corner outfield spots, Ozuna will have to languish on the bench. Rangers slugger Joey Gallo is also eligible in the outfield, but it makes more sense for him to line up at first base, despite the presence of vastly overpaid Eric Hosmer on the roster. Behind the plate, Yasmani Grandal should continue to be a big asset, given that the fantasy season doesn't extend into the real life playoffs, where the switch-hitter has a history of choking with the Dodgers.

Also similar to Cancer's roster, the strength of this team is 100% its offense, as the best pitchers on the staff are of the Tier III variety. James Paxton has ace-level stuff, but has yet to prove that he can stay healthy consistently. Jameson Taillon is a good bet to continue his breakout streak with the Pirates, given his former prospect pedigree. Charlie Morton is another Tier V candidate, if the analysts bothered to do a deeper dive into the position that shows up more often than any other on a fantasy roster... Meanwhile in the bullpen, Cody Allen's new job with the Angels assures that he should go back to getting plenty of save opportunities, which wasn't the case at the end of his last year in Cleveland, where he was all but supplanted by trade acquisition Aries lefty Brad Hand late last season.

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