Postseason baseball has no bearing on Fantasy Baseball, but it's viewed much more widely than the baseball that does, such as some random game in June. And many who play Fantasy Baseball can't help but form opinions about what they see. If they take those opinions into next year's draft ... well, you can scrap my initial premise. Perhaps postseason baseball has a bearing on Fantasy Baseball after all.
But should it? I want to be careful here because even the players whose teams survive the longest will appear in no more than 20 games. By baseball standards, that's still an awfully small sample, and those who make sweeping generalizations based on small-sample outcomes are condemning themselves to disappointment.
So I don't want to say Yordan Alvarez has gone from being a potential first-rounder to the obvious No. 1 pick just because he blew out the competition in October. We already knew he had few peers in terms of batting average and power potential. That he demonstrated it over a three-week sample shouldn't really move the needle.
I also don't want to say Adolis Garcia is now a second-round pick because he happened to hit a bunch of homers over a short period of time. We already knew he had top-of-the-scale power, but even as he delivered on it, his walks remained low and his strikeouts high. He was the same player, only hotter.
I don't want to say those things because I don't know how the next week would have gone. Or the next week. Or the next.
Case in point is Nick Castellanos, who homered five times over a three-game span at one point this postseason only to finish in an 0-for-20 slump. Case in point is the entire Phillies team, you could even say.
Baseball, as we all know perfectly well but are predisposed to forget when we see something different unfolding in front of us, is a game of peaks and valleys. We'd all be wise not to assess an established player on his latest peak or valley.
But what about those who are not so established? What about those who had us scratching our heads going into the postseason? Is a few weeks of elevated production definitive proof of a full-fledged breakout? Obviously not, and even for those who fit that description, I want to be careful not to make too much of too little. But I also can't ignore the imprint they've made on the many people watching. Their 2024 stock had room to improve, and for better or worse, it has.
That's especially true for these six.
TEX Texas • #17 • Age: 34
You may remember Eovaldi was enjoying a career year, ranking among the top pitchers in Fantasy, when a forearm strain put him out of commission in late July. The velocity dip that accompanied that injury persisted in his September return, and his 9.30 ERA for the month figured to make him a major risk heading into his age-34 season. But his postseason dominance has changed all of that. He owes it in some part to improved velocity, but Lance Brozdowski of Marquee Sports Network says the changes are more extensive than that, noting a lower release point and likely mechanical adjustment. Eovaldi isn't getting any younger and remains injury-prone, but at least we can say that whatever "broke" for him late in the year now appears to be "fixed."
Aaron Nola SP
PHI Philadelphia • #27 • Age: 30
Given that 2023 marked his second year in three with an ERA around 4.50 (4.46, to be exact), it stood to reason that Nola might not get as much benefit of the doubt in 2024. But then he reminded everyone of his upside in the postseason. Granted, his final start was the worst of the four and echoed his regular-season struggles with two home runs allowed, but the overall stat line speaks for itself. It wasn't just happenstance either. Nola says he fixed his delivery to be more direct to the plate, which allowed him to work the edges of the zone. A look through his game log supports the idea that he was misfiring rather than declining. The high points were still ace-like, including nine starts with seven innings or more and three earned runs or fewer.
Evan Carter LF
TEX Texas • #32 • Age: 21
The surprising September production for the late-season call-up has continued into October, but perhaps even more notable than Carter's superlative on-base skills and burgeoning power/speed combo is how the Rangers have responded to them. Even during this pressure-packed time, with their championship hopes on the line, they haven't hesitated to move him up the batting order. He's gone from batting ninth, like during his September trial run, to batting fifth to, most recently, batting third. Anyone who's tangled with Michael Harris the past couple years can tell you what the nine hole does for a player's run and RBI totals, but it doesn't seem like Carter will fall into the same trap of being a juggernaut offense's "second leadoff man."
ARI Arizona • #32 • Age: 25
Few rookies disappointed more in 2023 than Pfaadt, whose regular helpings of meatballs made us wonder how he could have led the minors in strikeouts just a year before. We're getting an inkling now in the postseason. The showstopper came in Game 3 of the NLCS, when Pfaadt iced a broiling Phillies lineup over 5 2/3 innings, allowing just two base runners while striking out nine. It turned the tide of the series and put the Diamondbacks in the position they're in now. His other three starts have been on the shorter side, but he has a 17 percent swinging-strike rate across the four, which is in a different stratosphere from his 12 percent mark during the regular season. His midseason move to the opposite side of the pitching rubber may finally be paying dividends, improving his fastball location and the chase potential on his sweeper.
Jose Abreu 1B
HOU Houston • #79 • Age: 37
Abreu's disappointing 2023 seemed like an obvious case of decline for a 36-year-old, but his big postseason showing is at least reason to pause and reconsider. None of his four home runs were wall-scrapers. The shortest was 424 feet. The average was 436 feet with an exit velocity of 109.2 mph. He hit exactly four balls that hard over the first two months of the regular season, homering just once. In fact, the more you dig into his 2023 numbers, the more you realize how much they were dragged down by a miserable start. Factoring in the postseason, he hit .258 (98 for 380) with 21 homers from June 1 on, striking out a fairly typical 20.9 percent of the time. That's not quite who Abreu was in his prime, but it's also not a player who's washed.
Jose Leclerc RP
TEX Texas • #25 • Age: 30
It was pretty clear heading into the postseason that Rangers saves leader Will Smith had lost the confidence of his manager. Aroldis Chapman seemed like the obvious choice to replace him, but instead, the Rangers have turned to Leclerc, whose past stints as closer were scuttled by injuries and inconsistency. As you can see, he hasn't exactly been a lock-down option in the ninth, but manager Bruce Bochy keeps running him out there in the game's most pivotal moments. Maybe the Rangers bring in someone else this offseason, but if not, you have to figure Leclerc will be one of the top 20 relievers drafted. And to be fair, he did have a 1.99 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 11.9 K/9 over the final two months of the regular season.