Fantasy Baseball, to cut or not to cut: Mark Melancon and the infinite sadness

·3-min read

We spend lots of time in this space talking about fantasy baseball pickups. We do our share of buying and holding.

But sometimes the story is about a drop. And it’s nothing personal, Mark Melancon, but it’s time for me to move on. I'm done with the infinite sadness.

It’s not me, it’s you. Farewell and goodnight.

(I know, I know, it's a hard C, not a soft C, in his surname. And we've run with this bit before, sure. Call it a seven-year itch.)

Daulton Varsho #12 and Mark Melancon #34 of the Arizona Diamondbacks have fantasy value
Is Mark Melancon (right) a fantasy baseball closer on the brink? (Norm Hall/Getty Images)

Melancon’s had a solid career. He’s recorded 250 career saves, and led the majors a couple of times. He had 39 handshakes for San Diego last year, best in baseball.

But Melancon is currently in his age-37 season, and his strikeout rate has been under league average for most of his career. This year, the line is flat-out ugly: 10.1 IP, 18 H, 11 R, 8 ER, 3 BB, 4 K. Even if we cut him a break for the usual batted-ball bad luck mumbo jumbo, this looks like a pitcher who could be near the end of his usefulness; his fastball is barely over 90 mph these days.

Soft rock gets scary at the end of a career arc.

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We have to be fair when we appraise Melancon’s recent slump (he was torched for four runs Wednesday against Miami, and also for four runs last week against Colorado) — he did miss about a week with Covid-19. Perhaps he’s simply dealing with fatigue. The Diamondbacks call Melancon’s slump a mechanics issue — teams always say that, and sometimes it’s even true — and Melancon hasn’t lost his closer job yet. He’ll get more time to fix things.

But it's time to cut Mark Melancon

I only had one Melancon share, in a deliciously-fun 8x8 head-to-head league I compete in. We should have a talk about fantasy baseball formats before the 2023 season; I’d like to encourage people to give head-to-head a try. It’s fun to have a weekly carrot placed in front of you, and a specific rival to root against. We have five weekly moves to consider, and there’s some fun strategy involved. There’s a playability in this format that I really enjoy.

The league has 12 managers. Some teams went after saves aggressively, and some are punting. I did a semi-punt but came away with Corey Knebel, Tanner Rainey and Melancon. I’ll have to decide how much I want to turn into the skid. It's a lot easier to junk closers when it's a head-to-head format and the save is just one category out of 16.

It’s plausible that Melancon will right the ship and start closing smoothly, but I can live with that. He’s on a team not expected to contend, or even finish above .500. If he’s closing games regularly come July, he’ll probably be traded. If he continues to scuffle, he’s likely to get replaced.

This felt like a low-upside, low-floor situation. And sometimes I just need some fresh blood anyway, the fantasy manager’s version of retail therapy.

For what it’s worth, Dane Dunning was my corresponding add. In this format, any quasi-reliable starting pitcher has value. The eight pitching categories reward steady volume — innings, wins, saves, walks, strikeouts, ERA, WHIP and quality starts. Dunning might never be a true ace, but he’s shown positive signs in his last three starts. He’s also averaging about a strikeout per inning.

Friday’s turn against Boston should be interesting. The Red Sox offense has been a first-month flop, but there’s still plenty of name-brand talent on that roster. I’ll give Dunning a scouting watch on one of my primary TVs.