Fantasy Baseball Takeaways: No one's running in New York

Scott Pianowski
·4 min read

You can get almost anything you want in New York. Great food, a lovely show, an all-night party.

Wait, you want stolen bases? This isn’t the city for you.

The Mets have three steals on the fresh season, which ranks last in the majors, and they’ve been caught four times — the only team with a success rate under 50 percent.

This traffic signal is dead red.

Francisco Lindor’s problem has been with his bat — a .203/.317/.261 slash is a dreadful start through three weeks — though anyone rational expects Lindor to come around. But is he done as a major base stealer? He had a modest six steals last year, and he’s 0-for-1 since joining New York.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 27: Francisco Lindor #12 of the New York Mets looks on during warm-ups prior to the start of the game against the Boston Red Sox at Citi Field on April 27, 2021 in New York City. Boston Red Sox defeated the New York Mets 2-1. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Francisco Lindor is still smiling despite a sluggish start. (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Over in the Bronx, the Yankees were 14th in steals last year, so it’s not like these guys can’t run. This season, it’s a matter of not wanting to. The Yanks have tried for a bag just five times, the lowest count in the league. And two of those steals came from Mike Tauchman, currently a member of the Giants.

Ultimately, offensive efficiency is about scoring runs, and the Mets and Yankees aren’t doing much of that, either. The Mets rank last in runs scored, while the Yanks are 25th. Both teams are getting on base at a reasonable clip, but the power hasn’t been there (the Mets are dead last in slugging, the Yankees 22nd).

There are plenty of trade targets here for a shrewd fantasy player. Michael Conforto and Jeff McNeil are two Mets I’d try to inquire about, discretely. DJ LeMahieu’s early slump was never a reason for concern; his bat has perked up in recent games. Gio Urshela is one of the most underrated players in baseball.

But if you look to acquire some of these diamond dogs, just know what you’re getting. Your New York heroes aren’t going to do much in the steal column. Station to Station is the Big Apple soundtrack.

Angels a good test for Chris Flexen 

Is Chris Flexen going to be a periodic streamer, or can he enter the full Circle of Trust? His Friday start against the Angels should give us a good idea.

Flexen was outstanding in his last turn, holding the Red Sox to one run — in Fenway, no less — over seven innings. Flexen struck out seven and has a tidy K/BB rate (23/5) on the year. He was effective, if fortunate, in the previous turn against the Astros (one run allowed, despite 10 hits).

Flexen’s 2.74 ERA plays in any format, but the 1.35 WHIP doesn’t jive with that first number — and when an ERA and WHIP don’t agree, we tend to trust the WHIP. Flexen’s 3.70 SIERA is probably a good bet for the balance of the year.

The Angels, Friday’s opponent, are fifth in team OPS. In shallow and medium formats, I understand if you sit this one out. Flexen gets the Rangers next week, a better draw — Texas slots 18th in runs, 20th in OPS. (If only Flexen could pitch against his own team, the Mariners. That’s a stream target we can all sign off on.)

Austin Riley putting it together

Given all the star power in the Atlanta lineup, I understand if you don’t focus on Austin Riley. He’s generally in the bottom half of the order. He was a respected prospect a few years back, though he never cracked the Top 20 league-wide. His career slash is an ordinary .241/.307/.449.

But Riley looks like a maturing batter in his third season. He’s off to a .301/.416/.452 push this year with three homers. His walk rate has improved significantly, he’s trimmed his strikeouts a little bit, and he’s hitting the ball harder than ever. It’s a shame he’s commonly slotted in the No. 7 slot, but that’s the depth of the Braves speaking.

Riley snuck over the 50 percent roster threshold this week, but there’s still time to add him in the shallower pools. A breakthrough season is already underway.