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Position Eligibility (# of Games)
The number of games a player needs to have played during the previous season in order to qualify at a position.
ALL
Batters
Pitchers
C
1B
2B
SS
3B
OF
ATL (OF)
OUT
G
57
AB
228
AVG
.289
HR
14
RBI
38
SB
14
R
43
We may now have the answer to the question: "Who else would you draft 1.1 besides Mike Trout?" Acuna Jr., before his 22nd birthday, led all players in fantasy earned auction value last year while nearly pulling off a 40-40 season, slightly edging out Cody Bellinger in overall value. Christian Yelich would have likely won the title had his season not ended prematurely, but the fact Acuna Jr. began 2017 in High-A and ended 2019 as he did is an astounding feat. His barrel rate last season was in the 95th percentile, as was his xSLG and overall offensive production when putting the ball in play. There simply are not enough superlatives to describe what Acuna Jr. can bring to a fantasy roster as he contributes to all five categories and does so exceedingly well in four of them. His deal keeps him in Atlanta for the foreseeable future and health would be the only thing that could derail this production train.
We may now have the answer to the question: "Who else would you draft 1.1 besides Mike Trout?" Acuna Jr., before his 22nd birthday, led all players in fantasy earned auction value last year while nearly pulling off a 40-40 season, slightly edging out Cody Bellinger in overall value. Christian Yelich would have likely won the title had his season not ended prematurely, but the fact Acuna Jr. began 2017 in High-A and ended 2019 as he did is an astounding feat. His barrel rate last season was in the 95th percentile, as was his xSLG and overall offensive production when putting the ball in play. There simply are not enough superlatives to describe what Acuna Jr. can bring to a fantasy roster as he contributes to all five categories and does so exceedingly well in four of them. His deal keeps him in Atlanta for the foreseeable future and health would be the only thing that could derail this production train.
MIL (OF)
G
57
AB
216
AVG
.315
HR
14
RBI
39
SB
9
R
41
Some wondered about Yelich's ability to repeat his stellar MVP season, with much of the discussion centering on his HR/FB rate. Well, Yelich did not reach 35.0% in 2019, but he did still post a 32.8 mark in that category -- the best in the league. Yelich's 2019 campaign was unfortunately cut off at 130 games by a fractured kneecap, but he left no doubt what type of offensive force he has become, finishing second in MLB in BA and OBP and first in SLG while setting career highs in HR and SB, numbers that easily could have earned him another MVP had he stayed healthy. Yelich is expected to recover from his injury early in the offseason, so health should not be a concern when Opening Day rolls around. He has established himself as one of the best players in the entire league, and given his power/speed/OBP prowess, he will be worthy of a top-3 selection in just about every format.
Some wondered about Yelich's ability to repeat his stellar MVP season, with much of the discussion centering on his HR/FB rate. Well, Yelich did not reach 35.0% in 2019, but he did still post a 32.8 mark in that category -- the best in the league. Yelich's 2019 campaign was unfortunately cut off at 130 games by a fractured kneecap, but he left no doubt what type of offensive force he has become, finishing second in MLB in BA and OBP and first in SLG while setting career highs in HR and SB, numbers that easily could have earned him another MVP had he stayed healthy. Yelich is expected to recover from his injury early in the offseason, so health should not be a concern when Opening Day rolls around. He has established himself as one of the best players in the entire league, and given his power/speed/OBP prowess, he will be worthy of a top-3 selection in just about every format.
LAD (1B)
G
57
AB
202
AVG
.282
HR
16
RBI
40
SB
5
R
41
In his third season, Bellinger patched up some of the holes in his batting profile that had surfaced in 2018 and made the leap to superstardom. The NL MVP's production was mostly front-loaded -- he slashed .336/.432/.692 and slugged 30 of his homers in the first half -- but a refined plate approach was evident throughout. After posting an 0.45 BB/K between 2017 and 2018, Bellinger raised that mark to 0.88 in 2019, good for sixth among qualified hitters. He also turned in a .982 OPS versus lefties, a 200-point jump from his first two years. As if the big power numbers and improved contact rate weren't already enough, Bellinger added value by chipping in 15 steals and playing Gold Glove defense in right field. Bellinger's peak fantasy season might have already arrived, but since he won't turn 25 until July and is the centerpiece of a stacked Dodgers lineup, he'll be a reasonable top-five selection in drafts.
In his third season, Bellinger patched up some of the holes in his batting profile that had surfaced in 2018 and made the leap to superstardom. The NL MVP's production was mostly front-loaded -- he slashed .336/.432/.692 and slugged 30 of his homers in the first half -- but a refined plate approach was evident throughout. After posting an 0.45 BB/K between 2017 and 2018, Bellinger raised that mark to 0.88 in 2019, good for sixth among qualified hitters. He also turned in a .982 OPS versus lefties, a 200-point jump from his first two years. As if the big power numbers and improved contact rate weren't already enough, Bellinger added value by chipping in 15 steals and playing Gold Glove defense in right field. Bellinger's peak fantasy season might have already arrived, but since he won't turn 25 until July and is the centerpiece of a stacked Dodgers lineup, he'll be a reasonable top-five selection in drafts.
COL (3B)
G
58
AB
219
AVG
.306
HR
15
RBI
45
SB
1
R
38
Arenado has been the model of consistency in Major League Baseball, hitting between .287 and .315 with 37-42 homers and 110-plus RBI in each of the last five seasons. He hit exactly .315 against both lefties and righties in 2019. Of course, Coors Field helps, but Arenado was well above average on the road last season, slashing .277/.346/.521, up from .248/.325/.447 in 2018. The barrel rates and exit velocity numbers aren't going to wow anyone, but it doesn't really matter with a player with this track record, in this park. Those lower on Arenado will say he is approaching the downward slope of the aging curve, and while he signed an eight-year, $260 million extension last February, there's still a threat of him being shipped out of Colorado. The biggest knock against him is the lack of speed; rotisserie players are justified in wanting at least a little speed from a first-round hitter.
Arenado has been the model of consistency in Major League Baseball, hitting between .287 and .315 with 37-42 homers and 110-plus RBI in each of the last five seasons. He hit exactly .315 against both lefties and righties in 2019. Of course, Coors Field helps, but Arenado was well above average on the road last season, slashing .277/.346/.521, up from .248/.325/.447 in 2018. The barrel rates and exit velocity numbers aren't going to wow anyone, but it doesn't really matter with a player with this track record, in this park. Those lower on Arenado will say he is approaching the downward slope of the aging curve, and while he signed an eight-year, $260 million extension last February, there's still a threat of him being shipped out of Colorado. The biggest knock against him is the lack of speed; rotisserie players are justified in wanting at least a little speed from a first-round hitter.
LAD (OF)
G
57
AB
213
AVG
.305
HR
10
RBI
31
SB
9
R
47
Betts saw his batting average drop 51 points, saw his steals total nearly cut in half, hit fewer homers than he did in 2019, and yet was still a 95th percentile hitter by Statcast measures. Betts' 2019 season should not be looked at in a disappointing lens as much as we should appreciate the amazing level of production Betts brought to the table in 2018. A deeper look into the batted-ball data on Betts shows a slight dip in hard-hit balls, but everything else is very much in line with his overall performance. The main issue is 2018 blows the curve for the numbers. You would be best served looking at 2018 as the best-case numbers for Betts with his career averages being a damn fine baseline to build a roster around. He is one year from free agency and the Red Sox decided they did not want to pay him in his final year of arbitration. The threat of San Diego loomed, but Betts landed in an ideal spot with a February trade to the Dodgers, for whom he should lead off.
Betts saw his batting average drop 51 points, saw his steals total nearly cut in half, hit fewer homers than he did in 2019, and yet was still a 95th percentile hitter by Statcast measures. Betts' 2019 season should not be looked at in a disappointing lens as much as we should appreciate the amazing level of production Betts brought to the table in 2018. A deeper look into the batted-ball data on Betts shows a slight dip in hard-hit balls, but everything else is very much in line with his overall performance. The main issue is 2018 blows the curve for the numbers. You would be best served looking at 2018 as the best-case numbers for Betts with his career averages being a damn fine baseline to build a roster around. He is one year from free agency and the Red Sox decided they did not want to pay him in his final year of arbitration. The threat of San Diego loomed, but Betts landed in an ideal spot with a February trade to the Dodgers, for whom he should lead off.
CLE (SS)
G
58
AB
242
AVG
.281
HR
13
RBI
32
SB
9
R
43
Despite missing three-plus weeks, Lindor posted numbers most would be envious of. The shortstop opened the season on the IL with calf and ankle injuries, debuting April 20. After sitting the opener of a doubleheader, Lindor didn't miss another game all season, recording his third straight 30-home run season and second consecutive 20-steal campaign. Lindor possesses one of the most consistent skill sets in the league, rating above average in nearly every category, glued together by an excellent contact rate. However, he's also more of a compiler than most fantasy studs since he doesn't pop in any specific category. This is where Lindor's durability comes into play since his volume elevates counting stats into the elite range. There's always a chance he incurs another injury like last season, but so could anyone. His combo of skills, consistency and durability put Lindor firmly in first-round consideration.
Despite missing three-plus weeks, Lindor posted numbers most would be envious of. The shortstop opened the season on the IL with calf and ankle injuries, debuting April 20. After sitting the opener of a doubleheader, Lindor didn't miss another game all season, recording his third straight 30-home run season and second consecutive 20-steal campaign. Lindor possesses one of the most consistent skill sets in the league, rating above average in nearly every category, glued together by an excellent contact rate. However, he's also more of a compiler than most fantasy studs since he doesn't pop in any specific category. This is where Lindor's durability comes into play since his volume elevates counting stats into the elite range. There's always a chance he incurs another injury like last season, but so could anyone. His combo of skills, consistency and durability put Lindor firmly in first-round consideration.
NYM (P)
DTD
GS
12
IP
76.0
W
6
SV
0
K
97
ERA
2.37
WHIP
1.000
For the second straight season, deGrom won the National League Cy Young Award. Remarkably, he's won just 21 games over that span, but his pristine ratios have properly swayed the voters to do the right thing. Like all great pitchers, deGrom constantly adapts. His fastball velocity ticked up for the fourth consecutive campaign, so deGrom threw it a little more. He also increased slider usage while cutting back on his curve and bagging the sinker. The result was a 26.2 K-BB%, fourth best in the league. The main difference between 2019 and the previous season was deGrom's home-run rate doubled, accounting for the bump in ERA to 2.43 after a 1.70 mark in 2018. With Max Scherzer's health a concern, deGrom is a candidate to be the first pitcher off the board, along with Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander. If wins weren't still an issue, deGrom would likely be the consensus top pick among hurlers.
For the second straight season, deGrom won the National League Cy Young Award. Remarkably, he's won just 21 games over that span, but his pristine ratios have properly swayed the voters to do the right thing. Like all great pitchers, deGrom constantly adapts. His fastball velocity ticked up for the fourth consecutive campaign, so deGrom threw it a little more. He also increased slider usage while cutting back on his curve and bagging the sinker. The result was a 26.2 K-BB%, fourth best in the league. The main difference between 2019 and the previous season was deGrom's home-run rate doubled, accounting for the bump in ERA to 2.43 after a 1.70 mark in 2018. With Max Scherzer's health a concern, deGrom is a candidate to be the first pitcher off the board, along with Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander. If wins weren't still an issue, deGrom would likely be the consensus top pick among hurlers.
BOS (OF)
G
53
AB
203
AVG
.315
HR
14
RBI
42
SB
1
R
37
For a player with this kind of power -- among the most prolific in the game -- 36 home runs in a record-setting HR season qualify as a slight disappointment. While Martinez didn't finish north of 40 as he did in 2017 and 2018, he did clear the .300 BA threshold. He also cleared triple digits in RBI for the fourth time in five seasons and surpassed 200 runs-plus-RBI for the second consecutive year. The fact is, he's so much more than "Just Dingers." Martinez has chipped away at his K%, lowering it to 21%, and he walks more than 10% of the time. While certainly not a good defender, Martinez still qualifies as an OF-eligible player, one who has the luxury of playing most of his games at DH. If a 21st ranked finish among hitters is what we can expect in a "down" year from Martinez, then consider us very much in at a second-round cost. He's still going to be only 32 years old for most of the 2020 season.
For a player with this kind of power -- among the most prolific in the game -- 36 home runs in a record-setting HR season qualify as a slight disappointment. While Martinez didn't finish north of 40 as he did in 2017 and 2018, he did clear the .300 BA threshold. He also cleared triple digits in RBI for the fourth time in five seasons and surpassed 200 runs-plus-RBI for the second consecutive year. The fact is, he's so much more than "Just Dingers." Martinez has chipped away at his K%, lowering it to 21%, and he walks more than 10% of the time. While certainly not a good defender, Martinez still qualifies as an OF-eligible player, one who has the luxury of playing most of his games at DH. If a 21st ranked finish among hitters is what we can expect in a "down" year from Martinez, then consider us very much in at a second-round cost. He's still going to be only 32 years old for most of the 2020 season.
LAA (OF)
G
50
AB
172
AVG
.302
HR
15
RBI
34
SB
5
R
39
For the first time in a few years, Trout will not be the consensus first overall pick in drafts as Christian Yelich and Ronald Acuna Jr. will challenge him for the top spot. His rate stats remain the best in the league but Trout has averaged only 129 games the past three years. Plus, there are concerns Trout will not run enough to keep up with Yelich and Acuna. He's still just 28 years old and the last time Trout posted an 11-steal season (2015), he followed it with 30, 24 and 22 before dipping to 11 in 2019. As mentioned, Trout's production on a rate basis is unmatched, as he's slashed .303/.447/.634 the past three campaigns. His 2019 season ended in early September with soreness in his right foot, requiring a surgical procedure to relieve the pain. Trout will be back to full health in the spring but for some is an injury risk. It's hard to believe, but many will be settling for Trout with the third pick.
For the first time in a few years, Trout will not be the consensus first overall pick in drafts as Christian Yelich and Ronald Acuna Jr. will challenge him for the top spot. His rate stats remain the best in the league but Trout has averaged only 129 games the past three years. Plus, there are concerns Trout will not run enough to keep up with Yelich and Acuna. He's still just 28 years old and the last time Trout posted an 11-steal season (2015), he followed it with 30, 24 and 22 before dipping to 11 in 2019. As mentioned, Trout's production on a rate basis is unmatched, as he's slashed .303/.447/.634 the past three campaigns. His 2019 season ended in early September with soreness in his right foot, requiring a surgical procedure to relieve the pain. Trout will be back to full health in the spring but for some is an injury risk. It's hard to believe, but many will be settling for Trout with the third pick.
COL (SS)
G
55
AB
213
AVG
.286
HR
14
RBI
33
SB
8
R
38
On the surface, Story's 2019 campaign was much like the previous year and his rookie campaign, making 2017 the outlier. That said, considering the league-wide spike in power and overall offense, perhaps last season was a small step back. This is corroborated by a small dip in xwOBA (an estimation using Statcast metrics). Story's batted-ball profile was a near match to 2018, save for fewer barrels, likely accounting for the drop in xwOBA. Specifically, his GB/LD/FB ratios and hard-hit rate were close to 2018 levels. Not only did Story carry over his improved contact rate, he continued to run, swiping 23 bags, reinforcing a strong floor. Add in Coors Field and decent durability (656 plate appearances each of the past two seasons), the 27-year old is one of the best at a stacked shortstop position. Story warrants first-round consideration and $30-plus in auctions as he contributes across the board.
On the surface, Story's 2019 campaign was much like the previous year and his rookie campaign, making 2017 the outlier. That said, considering the league-wide spike in power and overall offense, perhaps last season was a small step back. This is corroborated by a small dip in xwOBA (an estimation using Statcast metrics). Story's batted-ball profile was a near match to 2018, save for fewer barrels, likely accounting for the drop in xwOBA. Specifically, his GB/LD/FB ratios and hard-hit rate were close to 2018 levels. Not only did Story carry over his improved contact rate, he continued to run, swiping 23 bags, reinforcing a strong floor. Add in Coors Field and decent durability (656 plate appearances each of the past two seasons), the 27-year old is one of the best at a stacked shortstop position. Story warrants first-round consideration and $30-plus in auctions as he contributes across the board.
NYY (P)
GS
12
IP
77.0
W
6
SV
0
K
106
ERA
2.92
WHIP
1.013
The Yankees made Cole the priority of their offseason, inking him to a nine-year, $324 million contract in December, the largest deal ever for a pitcher. He had the prototypical career season in his walk year with an old-school stat line of 20 wins, a 2.50 ERA and 300-plus strikeouts looking a lot like the Ryan Express when he too pitched for Houston. The difference is Cole got the run support Ryan rarely got when pitching in the Astrodome, but Cole did not need too much run support. Most of his Statcast numbers were in the 95th percentile or higher, and he has simply been dominant since leaving the shackles of the Pittsburgh pitching approach for whatever magic sauce the Astros dip their starting pitchers in before games. The term "ace" is thrown around too liberally these days, but the phrase is absolutely how to describe Cole and his production.
The Yankees made Cole the priority of their offseason, inking him to a nine-year, $324 million contract in December, the largest deal ever for a pitcher. He had the prototypical career season in his walk year with an old-school stat line of 20 wins, a 2.50 ERA and 300-plus strikeouts looking a lot like the Ryan Express when he too pitched for Houston. The difference is Cole got the run support Ryan rarely got when pitching in the Astrodome, but Cole did not need too much run support. Most of his Statcast numbers were in the 95th percentile or higher, and he has simply been dominant since leaving the shackles of the Pittsburgh pitching approach for whatever magic sauce the Astros dip their starting pitchers in before games. The term "ace" is thrown around too liberally these days, but the phrase is absolutely how to describe Cole and his production.
STL (P)
GS
13
IP
74.0
W
6
SV
0
K
89
ERA
2.80
WHIP
0.973
While 2018 was the breakout for Flaherty's delicious slider, 2019 was the breakout season for Flaherty as a pitcher. That seems silly to say when we look back at the midpoint of the season and find Flaherty 4-5 with a 4.90 ERA in his first 17 starts, but it was. At that time, Flaherty was getting the strikeouts, but 1.9 homers per nine innings limited his success. Flaherty changed his tune over his final 16 starts, going 7-3 with a 0.93 ERA and allowing six homers over his final 106.1 innings of work. He was simply masterful down the stretch for the Cardinals, holding opponents to a .139 batting average over those 16 starts. The real Flaherty lies somewhere in between those two groupings of stats. It is worth noting he has thrown over 400 innings the past two seasons, including 213.1 IP in 2019 when you include postseason work. That, plus the slider usage, is something to consider before going all-in.
While 2018 was the breakout for Flaherty's delicious slider, 2019 was the breakout season for Flaherty as a pitcher. That seems silly to say when we look back at the midpoint of the season and find Flaherty 4-5 with a 4.90 ERA in his first 17 starts, but it was. At that time, Flaherty was getting the strikeouts, but 1.9 homers per nine innings limited his success. Flaherty changed his tune over his final 16 starts, going 7-3 with a 0.93 ERA and allowing six homers over his final 106.1 innings of work. He was simply masterful down the stretch for the Cardinals, holding opponents to a .139 batting average over those 16 starts. The real Flaherty lies somewhere in between those two groupings of stats. It is worth noting he has thrown over 400 innings the past two seasons, including 213.1 IP in 2019 when you include postseason work. That, plus the slider usage, is something to consider before going all-in.
SD (SS)
G
54
AB
209
AVG
.292
HR
11
RBI
30
SB
10
R
37
In his rookie campaign, Tatis blew away the lofty expectations that accompanied his rise up the prospect rankings. Among players with 300 or more plate appearances, Tatis placed 11th in wRC+ (150) while ranking in the top 15 in traditional metrics such as batting average (.317), slugging percentage (.590) and OPS (.969). The phenom was limited to 84 games due to a pair of stints on the injured list, but when healthy he flashed an impressive combination of speed and power, swatting 22 home runs and utilizing baseball's 18th-best sprint speed (29.3 ft/s) to swipe 16 bases. Tatis' high strikeout rate (29.6%) and unsustainable BABIP (.410) portend some batting-average regression, but he'll be only 21 years old on Opening Day and should improve his plate discipline as he matures. Even with some imperfections, Tatis possesses the necessary tools to be a legitimate 30-30 threat for many seasons to come.
In his rookie campaign, Tatis blew away the lofty expectations that accompanied his rise up the prospect rankings. Among players with 300 or more plate appearances, Tatis placed 11th in wRC+ (150) while ranking in the top 15 in traditional metrics such as batting average (.317), slugging percentage (.590) and OPS (.969). The phenom was limited to 84 games due to a pair of stints on the injured list, but when healthy he flashed an impressive combination of speed and power, swatting 22 home runs and utilizing baseball's 18th-best sprint speed (29.3 ft/s) to swipe 16 bases. Tatis' high strikeout rate (29.6%) and unsustainable BABIP (.410) portend some batting-average regression, but he'll be only 21 years old on Opening Day and should improve his plate discipline as he matures. Even with some imperfections, Tatis possesses the necessary tools to be a legitimate 30-30 threat for many seasons to come.
HOU (SS)
G
58
AB
210
AVG
.290
HR
13
RBI
38
SB
2
R
41
This is what 80-grade plate skills look like: a 17.2 BB% and 12 K% over 690 PA as a 25-year-old. It was Bregman's second straight year with more walks than strikeouts, and he added 10 home runs to his 2018 total. Batting mostly 2-4 in one of the American League's most prolific offenses, Bregman finished with 234 runs-plus-RBI, ranking fourth in MLB, and added a handful of steals en route to a second-place finish in the MVP voting. There is some evidence to suggest he was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the juiced ball, but you're not buying Bregman for 40-plus homers. You're buying him because he has arguably the highest four-category floor in the game for anyone not named Mike Trout or Nolan Arenado. Bregman has reached 155 games played in each of the last three years and the Astros will be returning most of their offense around him. He maintains shortstop- and 3B-eligibility heading into 2020.
This is what 80-grade plate skills look like: a 17.2 BB% and 12 K% over 690 PA as a 25-year-old. It was Bregman's second straight year with more walks than strikeouts, and he added 10 home runs to his 2018 total. Batting mostly 2-4 in one of the American League's most prolific offenses, Bregman finished with 234 runs-plus-RBI, ranking fourth in MLB, and added a handful of steals en route to a second-place finish in the MVP voting. There is some evidence to suggest he was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the juiced ball, but you're not buying Bregman for 40-plus homers. You're buying him because he has arguably the highest four-category floor in the game for anyone not named Mike Trout or Nolan Arenado. Bregman has reached 155 games played in each of the last three years and the Astros will be returning most of their offense around him. He maintains shortstop- and 3B-eligibility heading into 2020.
CLE (3B)
G
57
AB
214
AVG
.266
HR
11
RBI
36
SB
10
R
35
The 2019 season for Ramirez was a three-part play. The opening act saw the 2018 MVP candidate hit .214/.309/.325 over the first three months of the season with five HR. The 18 steals helped sustain some value in what looked like a completely lost season for many fantasy owners' first-round pick, but it was obviously not the production they envisioned. The second act saw Ramirez hit .320/.354/.691 from July 1 until he broke his hamate bone Aug. 24, with 15 HR, six steals and 45 runs driven in. Joey Gallo injured his hamate two weeks earlier than Ramirez and never came back in 2019. All Ramirez did was come back in the final week of the season, hit three more HR in three games, knock in eight more runs and try his best to push his club into the postseason. Another 30-30 season could be in store for Ramirez in 2020 if he can recover his OBP skills from 2018 as he did in the second half.
The 2019 season for Ramirez was a three-part play. The opening act saw the 2018 MVP candidate hit .214/.309/.325 over the first three months of the season with five HR. The 18 steals helped sustain some value in what looked like a completely lost season for many fantasy owners' first-round pick, but it was obviously not the production they envisioned. The second act saw Ramirez hit .320/.354/.691 from July 1 until he broke his hamate bone Aug. 24, with 15 HR, six steals and 45 runs driven in. Joey Gallo injured his hamate two weeks earlier than Ramirez and never came back in 2019. All Ramirez did was come back in the final week of the season, hit three more HR in three games, knock in eight more runs and try his best to push his club into the postseason. Another 30-30 season could be in store for Ramirez in 2020 if he can recover his OBP skills from 2018 as he did in the second half.
The rest of our Fantasy Baseball Outlooks & Rankings are reserved for RotoWire subscribers.
ATL (OF)
OUT
G
57
AB
228
AVG
.289
HR
14
RBI
38
SB
14
R
43
We may now have the answer to the question: "Who else would you draft 1.1 besides Mike Trout?" Acuna Jr., before his 22nd birthday, led all players in fantasy earned auction value last year while nearly pulling off a 40-40 season, slightly edging out Cody Bellinger in overall value. Christian Yelich would have likely won the title had his season not ended prematurely, but the fact Acuna Jr. began 2017 in High-A and ended 2019 as he did is an astounding feat. His barrel rate last season was in the 95th percentile, as was his xSLG and overall offensive production when putting the ball in play. There simply are not enough superlatives to describe what Acuna Jr. can bring to a fantasy roster as he contributes to all five categories and does so exceedingly well in four of them. His deal keeps him in Atlanta for the foreseeable future and health would be the only thing that could derail this production train.
We may now have the answer to the question: "Who else would you draft 1.1 besides Mike Trout?" Acuna Jr., before his 22nd birthday, led all players in fantasy earned auction value last year while nearly pulling off a 40-40 season, slightly edging out Cody Bellinger in overall value. Christian Yelich would have likely won the title had his season not ended prematurely, but the fact Acuna Jr. began 2017 in High-A and ended 2019 as he did is an astounding feat. His barrel rate last season was in the 95th percentile, as was his xSLG and overall offensive production when putting the ball in play. There simply are not enough superlatives to describe what Acuna Jr. can bring to a fantasy roster as he contributes to all five categories and does so exceedingly well in four of them. His deal keeps him in Atlanta for the foreseeable future and health would be the only thing that could derail this production train.
MIL (OF)
G
57
AB
216
AVG
.315
HR
14
RBI
39
SB
9
R
41
Some wondered about Yelich's ability to repeat his stellar MVP season, with much of the discussion centering on his HR/FB rate. Well, Yelich did not reach 35.0% in 2019, but he did still post a 32.8 mark in that category -- the best in the league. Yelich's 2019 campaign was unfortunately cut off at 130 games by a fractured kneecap, but he left no doubt what type of offensive force he has become, finishing second in MLB in BA and OBP and first in SLG while setting career highs in HR and SB, numbers that easily could have earned him another MVP had he stayed healthy. Yelich is expected to recover from his injury early in the offseason, so health should not be a concern when Opening Day rolls around. He has established himself as one of the best players in the entire league, and given his power/speed/OBP prowess, he will be worthy of a top-3 selection in just about every format.
Some wondered about Yelich's ability to repeat his stellar MVP season, with much of the discussion centering on his HR/FB rate. Well, Yelich did not reach 35.0% in 2019, but he did still post a 32.8 mark in that category -- the best in the league. Yelich's 2019 campaign was unfortunately cut off at 130 games by a fractured kneecap, but he left no doubt what type of offensive force he has become, finishing second in MLB in BA and OBP and first in SLG while setting career highs in HR and SB, numbers that easily could have earned him another MVP had he stayed healthy. Yelich is expected to recover from his injury early in the offseason, so health should not be a concern when Opening Day rolls around. He has established himself as one of the best players in the entire league, and given his power/speed/OBP prowess, he will be worthy of a top-3 selection in just about every format.
LAD (1B)
G
57
AB
202
AVG
.282
HR
16
RBI
40
SB
5
R
41
In his third season, Bellinger patched up some of the holes in his batting profile that had surfaced in 2018 and made the leap to superstardom. The NL MVP's production was mostly front-loaded -- he slashed .336/.432/.692 and slugged 30 of his homers in the first half -- but a refined plate approach was evident throughout. After posting an 0.45 BB/K between 2017 and 2018, Bellinger raised that mark to 0.88 in 2019, good for sixth among qualified hitters. He also turned in a .982 OPS versus lefties, a 200-point jump from his first two years. As if the big power numbers and improved contact rate weren't already enough, Bellinger added value by chipping in 15 steals and playing Gold Glove defense in right field. Bellinger's peak fantasy season might have already arrived, but since he won't turn 25 until July and is the centerpiece of a stacked Dodgers lineup, he'll be a reasonable top-five selection in drafts.
In his third season, Bellinger patched up some of the holes in his batting profile that had surfaced in 2018 and made the leap to superstardom. The NL MVP's production was mostly front-loaded -- he slashed .336/.432/.692 and slugged 30 of his homers in the first half -- but a refined plate approach was evident throughout. After posting an 0.45 BB/K between 2017 and 2018, Bellinger raised that mark to 0.88 in 2019, good for sixth among qualified hitters. He also turned in a .982 OPS versus lefties, a 200-point jump from his first two years. As if the big power numbers and improved contact rate weren't already enough, Bellinger added value by chipping in 15 steals and playing Gold Glove defense in right field. Bellinger's peak fantasy season might have already arrived, but since he won't turn 25 until July and is the centerpiece of a stacked Dodgers lineup, he'll be a reasonable top-five selection in drafts.
COL (3B)
G
58
AB
219
AVG
.306
HR
15
RBI
45
SB
1
R
38
Arenado has been the model of consistency in Major League Baseball, hitting between .287 and .315 with 37-42 homers and 110-plus RBI in each of the last five seasons. He hit exactly .315 against both lefties and righties in 2019. Of course, Coors Field helps, but Arenado was well above average on the road last season, slashing .277/.346/.521, up from .248/.325/.447 in 2018. The barrel rates and exit velocity numbers aren't going to wow anyone, but it doesn't really matter with a player with this track record, in this park. Those lower on Arenado will say he is approaching the downward slope of the aging curve, and while he signed an eight-year, $260 million extension last February, there's still a threat of him being shipped out of Colorado. The biggest knock against him is the lack of speed; rotisserie players are justified in wanting at least a little speed from a first-round hitter.
Arenado has been the model of consistency in Major League Baseball, hitting between .287 and .315 with 37-42 homers and 110-plus RBI in each of the last five seasons. He hit exactly .315 against both lefties and righties in 2019. Of course, Coors Field helps, but Arenado was well above average on the road last season, slashing .277/.346/.521, up from .248/.325/.447 in 2018. The barrel rates and exit velocity numbers aren't going to wow anyone, but it doesn't really matter with a player with this track record, in this park. Those lower on Arenado will say he is approaching the downward slope of the aging curve, and while he signed an eight-year, $260 million extension last February, there's still a threat of him being shipped out of Colorado. The biggest knock against him is the lack of speed; rotisserie players are justified in wanting at least a little speed from a first-round hitter.
LAD (OF)
G
57
AB
213
AVG
.305
HR
10
RBI
31
SB
9
R
47
Betts saw his batting average drop 51 points, saw his steals total nearly cut in half, hit fewer homers than he did in 2019, and yet was still a 95th percentile hitter by Statcast measures. Betts' 2019 season should not be looked at in a disappointing lens as much as we should appreciate the amazing level of production Betts brought to the table in 2018. A deeper look into the batted-ball data on Betts shows a slight dip in hard-hit balls, but everything else is very much in line with his overall performance. The main issue is 2018 blows the curve for the numbers. You would be best served looking at 2018 as the best-case numbers for Betts with his career averages being a damn fine baseline to build a roster around. He is one year from free agency and the Red Sox decided they did not want to pay him in his final year of arbitration. The threat of San Diego loomed, but Betts landed in an ideal spot with a February trade to the Dodgers, for whom he should lead off.
Betts saw his batting average drop 51 points, saw his steals total nearly cut in half, hit fewer homers than he did in 2019, and yet was still a 95th percentile hitter by Statcast measures. Betts' 2019 season should not be looked at in a disappointing lens as much as we should appreciate the amazing level of production Betts brought to the table in 2018. A deeper look into the batted-ball data on Betts shows a slight dip in hard-hit balls, but everything else is very much in line with his overall performance. The main issue is 2018 blows the curve for the numbers. You would be best served looking at 2018 as the best-case numbers for Betts with his career averages being a damn fine baseline to build a roster around. He is one year from free agency and the Red Sox decided they did not want to pay him in his final year of arbitration. The threat of San Diego loomed, but Betts landed in an ideal spot with a February trade to the Dodgers, for whom he should lead off.
CLE (SS)
G
58
AB
242
AVG
.281
HR
13
RBI
32
SB
9
R
43
Despite missing three-plus weeks, Lindor posted numbers most would be envious of. The shortstop opened the season on the IL with calf and ankle injuries, debuting April 20. After sitting the opener of a doubleheader, Lindor didn't miss another game all season, recording his third straight 30-home run season and second consecutive 20-steal campaign. Lindor possesses one of the most consistent skill sets in the league, rating above average in nearly every category, glued together by an excellent contact rate. However, he's also more of a compiler than most fantasy studs since he doesn't pop in any specific category. This is where Lindor's durability comes into play since his volume elevates counting stats into the elite range. There's always a chance he incurs another injury like last season, but so could anyone. His combo of skills, consistency and durability put Lindor firmly in first-round consideration.
Despite missing three-plus weeks, Lindor posted numbers most would be envious of. The shortstop opened the season on the IL with calf and ankle injuries, debuting April 20. After sitting the opener of a doubleheader, Lindor didn't miss another game all season, recording his third straight 30-home run season and second consecutive 20-steal campaign. Lindor possesses one of the most consistent skill sets in the league, rating above average in nearly every category, glued together by an excellent contact rate. However, he's also more of a compiler than most fantasy studs since he doesn't pop in any specific category. This is where Lindor's durability comes into play since his volume elevates counting stats into the elite range. There's always a chance he incurs another injury like last season, but so could anyone. His combo of skills, consistency and durability put Lindor firmly in first-round consideration.
BOS (OF)
G
53
AB
203
AVG
.315
HR
14
RBI
42
SB
1
R
37
For a player with this kind of power -- among the most prolific in the game -- 36 home runs in a record-setting HR season qualify as a slight disappointment. While Martinez didn't finish north of 40 as he did in 2017 and 2018, he did clear the .300 BA threshold. He also cleared triple digits in RBI for the fourth time in five seasons and surpassed 200 runs-plus-RBI for the second consecutive year. The fact is, he's so much more than "Just Dingers." Martinez has chipped away at his K%, lowering it to 21%, and he walks more than 10% of the time. While certainly not a good defender, Martinez still qualifies as an OF-eligible player, one who has the luxury of playing most of his games at DH. If a 21st ranked finish among hitters is what we can expect in a "down" year from Martinez, then consider us very much in at a second-round cost. He's still going to be only 32 years old for most of the 2020 season.
For a player with this kind of power -- among the most prolific in the game -- 36 home runs in a record-setting HR season qualify as a slight disappointment. While Martinez didn't finish north of 40 as he did in 2017 and 2018, he did clear the .300 BA threshold. He also cleared triple digits in RBI for the fourth time in five seasons and surpassed 200 runs-plus-RBI for the second consecutive year. The fact is, he's so much more than "Just Dingers." Martinez has chipped away at his K%, lowering it to 21%, and he walks more than 10% of the time. While certainly not a good defender, Martinez still qualifies as an OF-eligible player, one who has the luxury of playing most of his games at DH. If a 21st ranked finish among hitters is what we can expect in a "down" year from Martinez, then consider us very much in at a second-round cost. He's still going to be only 32 years old for most of the 2020 season.
LAA (OF)
G
50
AB
172
AVG
.302
HR
15
RBI
34
SB
5
R
39
For the first time in a few years, Trout will not be the consensus first overall pick in drafts as Christian Yelich and Ronald Acuna Jr. will challenge him for the top spot. His rate stats remain the best in the league but Trout has averaged only 129 games the past three years. Plus, there are concerns Trout will not run enough to keep up with Yelich and Acuna. He's still just 28 years old and the last time Trout posted an 11-steal season (2015), he followed it with 30, 24 and 22 before dipping to 11 in 2019. As mentioned, Trout's production on a rate basis is unmatched, as he's slashed .303/.447/.634 the past three campaigns. His 2019 season ended in early September with soreness in his right foot, requiring a surgical procedure to relieve the pain. Trout will be back to full health in the spring but for some is an injury risk. It's hard to believe, but many will be settling for Trout with the third pick.
For the first time in a few years, Trout will not be the consensus first overall pick in drafts as Christian Yelich and Ronald Acuna Jr. will challenge him for the top spot. His rate stats remain the best in the league but Trout has averaged only 129 games the past three years. Plus, there are concerns Trout will not run enough to keep up with Yelich and Acuna. He's still just 28 years old and the last time Trout posted an 11-steal season (2015), he followed it with 30, 24 and 22 before dipping to 11 in 2019. As mentioned, Trout's production on a rate basis is unmatched, as he's slashed .303/.447/.634 the past three campaigns. His 2019 season ended in early September with soreness in his right foot, requiring a surgical procedure to relieve the pain. Trout will be back to full health in the spring but for some is an injury risk. It's hard to believe, but many will be settling for Trout with the third pick.
COL (SS)
G
55
AB
213
AVG
.286
HR
14
RBI
33
SB
8
R
38
On the surface, Story's 2019 campaign was much like the previous year and his rookie campaign, making 2017 the outlier. That said, considering the league-wide spike in power and overall offense, perhaps last season was a small step back. This is corroborated by a small dip in xwOBA (an estimation using Statcast metrics). Story's batted-ball profile was a near match to 2018, save for fewer barrels, likely accounting for the drop in xwOBA. Specifically, his GB/LD/FB ratios and hard-hit rate were close to 2018 levels. Not only did Story carry over his improved contact rate, he continued to run, swiping 23 bags, reinforcing a strong floor. Add in Coors Field and decent durability (656 plate appearances each of the past two seasons), the 27-year old is one of the best at a stacked shortstop position. Story warrants first-round consideration and $30-plus in auctions as he contributes across the board.
On the surface, Story's 2019 campaign was much like the previous year and his rookie campaign, making 2017 the outlier. That said, considering the league-wide spike in power and overall offense, perhaps last season was a small step back. This is corroborated by a small dip in xwOBA (an estimation using Statcast metrics). Story's batted-ball profile was a near match to 2018, save for fewer barrels, likely accounting for the drop in xwOBA. Specifically, his GB/LD/FB ratios and hard-hit rate were close to 2018 levels. Not only did Story carry over his improved contact rate, he continued to run, swiping 23 bags, reinforcing a strong floor. Add in Coors Field and decent durability (656 plate appearances each of the past two seasons), the 27-year old is one of the best at a stacked shortstop position. Story warrants first-round consideration and $30-plus in auctions as he contributes across the board.
SD (SS)
G
54
AB
209
AVG
.292
HR
11
RBI
30
SB
10
R
37
In his rookie campaign, Tatis blew away the lofty expectations that accompanied his rise up the prospect rankings. Among players with 300 or more plate appearances, Tatis placed 11th in wRC+ (150) while ranking in the top 15 in traditional metrics such as batting average (.317), slugging percentage (.590) and OPS (.969). The phenom was limited to 84 games due to a pair of stints on the injured list, but when healthy he flashed an impressive combination of speed and power, swatting 22 home runs and utilizing baseball's 18th-best sprint speed (29.3 ft/s) to swipe 16 bases. Tatis' high strikeout rate (29.6%) and unsustainable BABIP (.410) portend some batting-average regression, but he'll be only 21 years old on Opening Day and should improve his plate discipline as he matures. Even with some imperfections, Tatis possesses the necessary tools to be a legitimate 30-30 threat for many seasons to come.
In his rookie campaign, Tatis blew away the lofty expectations that accompanied his rise up the prospect rankings. Among players with 300 or more plate appearances, Tatis placed 11th in wRC+ (150) while ranking in the top 15 in traditional metrics such as batting average (.317), slugging percentage (.590) and OPS (.969). The phenom was limited to 84 games due to a pair of stints on the injured list, but when healthy he flashed an impressive combination of speed and power, swatting 22 home runs and utilizing baseball's 18th-best sprint speed (29.3 ft/s) to swipe 16 bases. Tatis' high strikeout rate (29.6%) and unsustainable BABIP (.410) portend some batting-average regression, but he'll be only 21 years old on Opening Day and should improve his plate discipline as he matures. Even with some imperfections, Tatis possesses the necessary tools to be a legitimate 30-30 threat for many seasons to come.
HOU (SS)
G
58
AB
210
AVG
.290
HR
13
RBI
38
SB
2
R
41
This is what 80-grade plate skills look like: a 17.2 BB% and 12 K% over 690 PA as a 25-year-old. It was Bregman's second straight year with more walks than strikeouts, and he added 10 home runs to his 2018 total. Batting mostly 2-4 in one of the American League's most prolific offenses, Bregman finished with 234 runs-plus-RBI, ranking fourth in MLB, and added a handful of steals en route to a second-place finish in the MVP voting. There is some evidence to suggest he was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the juiced ball, but you're not buying Bregman for 40-plus homers. You're buying him because he has arguably the highest four-category floor in the game for anyone not named Mike Trout or Nolan Arenado. Bregman has reached 155 games played in each of the last three years and the Astros will be returning most of their offense around him. He maintains shortstop- and 3B-eligibility heading into 2020.
This is what 80-grade plate skills look like: a 17.2 BB% and 12 K% over 690 PA as a 25-year-old. It was Bregman's second straight year with more walks than strikeouts, and he added 10 home runs to his 2018 total. Batting mostly 2-4 in one of the American League's most prolific offenses, Bregman finished with 234 runs-plus-RBI, ranking fourth in MLB, and added a handful of steals en route to a second-place finish in the MVP voting. There is some evidence to suggest he was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the juiced ball, but you're not buying Bregman for 40-plus homers. You're buying him because he has arguably the highest four-category floor in the game for anyone not named Mike Trout or Nolan Arenado. Bregman has reached 155 games played in each of the last three years and the Astros will be returning most of their offense around him. He maintains shortstop- and 3B-eligibility heading into 2020.
CLE (3B)
G
57
AB
214
AVG
.266
HR
11
RBI
36
SB
10
R
35
The 2019 season for Ramirez was a three-part play. The opening act saw the 2018 MVP candidate hit .214/.309/.325 over the first three months of the season with five HR. The 18 steals helped sustain some value in what looked like a completely lost season for many fantasy owners' first-round pick, but it was obviously not the production they envisioned. The second act saw Ramirez hit .320/.354/.691 from July 1 until he broke his hamate bone Aug. 24, with 15 HR, six steals and 45 runs driven in. Joey Gallo injured his hamate two weeks earlier than Ramirez and never came back in 2019. All Ramirez did was come back in the final week of the season, hit three more HR in three games, knock in eight more runs and try his best to push his club into the postseason. Another 30-30 season could be in store for Ramirez in 2020 if he can recover his OBP skills from 2018 as he did in the second half.
The 2019 season for Ramirez was a three-part play. The opening act saw the 2018 MVP candidate hit .214/.309/.325 over the first three months of the season with five HR. The 18 steals helped sustain some value in what looked like a completely lost season for many fantasy owners' first-round pick, but it was obviously not the production they envisioned. The second act saw Ramirez hit .320/.354/.691 from July 1 until he broke his hamate bone Aug. 24, with 15 HR, six steals and 45 runs driven in. Joey Gallo injured his hamate two weeks earlier than Ramirez and never came back in 2019. All Ramirez did was come back in the final week of the season, hit three more HR in three games, knock in eight more runs and try his best to push his club into the postseason. Another 30-30 season could be in store for Ramirez in 2020 if he can recover his OBP skills from 2018 as he did in the second half.
WAS (SS)
G
53
AB
222
AVG
.284
HR
7
RBI
24
SB
17
R
38
Turner had 171 fewer plate appearances in 2019 than he had in 2018, and met or nearly exceeded his statistics across the board. He missed time early in the season when the Nationals were struggling, and returned to help carry them all the way to a World Series victory. Tim Locastro is the only player in baseball with a higher sprint speed than Turner, and Turner does not hesitate to use his speed on the bases under the aggressive style of Davey Martinez. There is absolutely no doubt Turner's skills and abilities are worth $35-plus in auctions and a first-round pick in straight drafts, but the fact that he has had just one season in which he avoided the injury bug is what holds many back from drafting him. There are safer players out there to acquire for your team, but there are precious few that offer the production that Turner is capable of when he's healthy. He could be a top-five player in a full season.
Turner had 171 fewer plate appearances in 2019 than he had in 2018, and met or nearly exceeded his statistics across the board. He missed time early in the season when the Nationals were struggling, and returned to help carry them all the way to a World Series victory. Tim Locastro is the only player in baseball with a higher sprint speed than Turner, and Turner does not hesitate to use his speed on the bases under the aggressive style of Davey Martinez. There is absolutely no doubt Turner's skills and abilities are worth $35-plus in auctions and a first-round pick in straight drafts, but the fact that he has had just one season in which he avoided the injury bug is what holds many back from drafting him. There are safer players out there to acquire for your team, but there are precious few that offer the production that Turner is capable of when he's healthy. He could be a top-five player in a full season.
PHI (OF)
G
56
AB
200
AVG
.265
HR
13
RBI
39
SB
5
R
37
Harper added 11 points back to his batting average and drove in a career-high 114 runs in his first season with Philadelphia, finishing as a top-20 fantasy hitter. His K% ticked up to 26.1, but Harper improved his barrel rate and posted the highest hard-hit rate of his career. According to Statcast, given the quality of his contact and plate discipline, Harper was "deserving" of 16 additional points in BA and 21 additional points in SLG. Per FanGraphs, Harper had the third lowest soft-contact rate among qualified hitters. The big separator between Harper and other sluggers in his price range: stolen bases. He's averaged 13.25 stolen bases per season over the last four years and has only been getting better in terms of efficiency on the basepaths. There are no questions about his playing time; Harper is a relatively safe investment with upside.
Harper added 11 points back to his batting average and drove in a career-high 114 runs in his first season with Philadelphia, finishing as a top-20 fantasy hitter. His K% ticked up to 26.1, but Harper improved his barrel rate and posted the highest hard-hit rate of his career. According to Statcast, given the quality of his contact and plate discipline, Harper was "deserving" of 16 additional points in BA and 21 additional points in SLG. Per FanGraphs, Harper had the third lowest soft-contact rate among qualified hitters. The big separator between Harper and other sluggers in his price range: stolen bases. He's averaged 13.25 stolen bases per season over the last four years and has only been getting better in terms of efficiency on the basepaths. There are no questions about his playing time; Harper is a relatively safe investment with upside.
BOS (3B)
G
57
AB
227
AVG
.286
HR
13
RBI
37
SB
2
R
40
We have seen this script before: positive rookie year followed by a sophomore slump, and then a huge breakout year. Devers dedicated himself to getting into shape after his disappointing 2018 season, and the hard work paid off with a monster offensive season in 2019. His exit velocity, hard-hit rate and expected batting average were each in the 90th percentile, and he drastically reduced his strikeout rate from 25% to 17% last season. He has power to all fields, but also can be neutralized by lefties as he had a .996 OPS vs righties but a .744 OPS against lefties last season with just seven of his 32 homers coming off southpaws. It is unlikely there is another step forward coming in 2020, because it is nearly impossible to expect Devers to get over 700 plate appearances in consecutive years. Devers could be dealing with the pressures to do even more with the bat to make up for what Boston loses this winter.
We have seen this script before: positive rookie year followed by a sophomore slump, and then a huge breakout year. Devers dedicated himself to getting into shape after his disappointing 2018 season, and the hard work paid off with a monster offensive season in 2019. His exit velocity, hard-hit rate and expected batting average were each in the 90th percentile, and he drastically reduced his strikeout rate from 25% to 17% last season. He has power to all fields, but also can be neutralized by lefties as he had a .996 OPS vs righties but a .744 OPS against lefties last season with just seven of his 32 homers coming off southpaws. It is unlikely there is another step forward coming in 2020, because it is nearly impossible to expect Devers to get over 700 plate appearances in consecutive years. Devers could be dealing with the pressures to do even more with the bat to make up for what Boston loses this winter.
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NYM (P)
DTD
GS
12
IP
76.0
W
6
SV
0
K
97
ERA
2.37
WHIP
1.000
For the second straight season, deGrom won the National League Cy Young Award. Remarkably, he's won just 21 games over that span, but his pristine ratios have properly swayed the voters to do the right thing. Like all great pitchers, deGrom constantly adapts. His fastball velocity ticked up for the fourth consecutive campaign, so deGrom threw it a little more. He also increased slider usage while cutting back on his curve and bagging the sinker. The result was a 26.2 K-BB%, fourth best in the league. The main difference between 2019 and the previous season was deGrom's home-run rate doubled, accounting for the bump in ERA to 2.43 after a 1.70 mark in 2018. With Max Scherzer's health a concern, deGrom is a candidate to be the first pitcher off the board, along with Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander. If wins weren't still an issue, deGrom would likely be the consensus top pick among hurlers.
For the second straight season, deGrom won the National League Cy Young Award. Remarkably, he's won just 21 games over that span, but his pristine ratios have properly swayed the voters to do the right thing. Like all great pitchers, deGrom constantly adapts. His fastball velocity ticked up for the fourth consecutive campaign, so deGrom threw it a little more. He also increased slider usage while cutting back on his curve and bagging the sinker. The result was a 26.2 K-BB%, fourth best in the league. The main difference between 2019 and the previous season was deGrom's home-run rate doubled, accounting for the bump in ERA to 2.43 after a 1.70 mark in 2018. With Max Scherzer's health a concern, deGrom is a candidate to be the first pitcher off the board, along with Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander. If wins weren't still an issue, deGrom would likely be the consensus top pick among hurlers.
NYY (P)
GS
12
IP
77.0
W
6
SV
0
K
106
ERA
2.92
WHIP
1.013
The Yankees made Cole the priority of their offseason, inking him to a nine-year, $324 million contract in December, the largest deal ever for a pitcher. He had the prototypical career season in his walk year with an old-school stat line of 20 wins, a 2.50 ERA and 300-plus strikeouts looking a lot like the Ryan Express when he too pitched for Houston. The difference is Cole got the run support Ryan rarely got when pitching in the Astrodome, but Cole did not need too much run support. Most of his Statcast numbers were in the 95th percentile or higher, and he has simply been dominant since leaving the shackles of the Pittsburgh pitching approach for whatever magic sauce the Astros dip their starting pitchers in before games. The term "ace" is thrown around too liberally these days, but the phrase is absolutely how to describe Cole and his production.
The Yankees made Cole the priority of their offseason, inking him to a nine-year, $324 million contract in December, the largest deal ever for a pitcher. He had the prototypical career season in his walk year with an old-school stat line of 20 wins, a 2.50 ERA and 300-plus strikeouts looking a lot like the Ryan Express when he too pitched for Houston. The difference is Cole got the run support Ryan rarely got when pitching in the Astrodome, but Cole did not need too much run support. Most of his Statcast numbers were in the 95th percentile or higher, and he has simply been dominant since leaving the shackles of the Pittsburgh pitching approach for whatever magic sauce the Astros dip their starting pitchers in before games. The term "ace" is thrown around too liberally these days, but the phrase is absolutely how to describe Cole and his production.
STL (P)
GS
13
IP
74.0
W
6
SV
0
K
89
ERA
2.80
WHIP
0.973
While 2018 was the breakout for Flaherty's delicious slider, 2019 was the breakout season for Flaherty as a pitcher. That seems silly to say when we look back at the midpoint of the season and find Flaherty 4-5 with a 4.90 ERA in his first 17 starts, but it was. At that time, Flaherty was getting the strikeouts, but 1.9 homers per nine innings limited his success. Flaherty changed his tune over his final 16 starts, going 7-3 with a 0.93 ERA and allowing six homers over his final 106.1 innings of work. He was simply masterful down the stretch for the Cardinals, holding opponents to a .139 batting average over those 16 starts. The real Flaherty lies somewhere in between those two groupings of stats. It is worth noting he has thrown over 400 innings the past two seasons, including 213.1 IP in 2019 when you include postseason work. That, plus the slider usage, is something to consider before going all-in.
While 2018 was the breakout for Flaherty's delicious slider, 2019 was the breakout season for Flaherty as a pitcher. That seems silly to say when we look back at the midpoint of the season and find Flaherty 4-5 with a 4.90 ERA in his first 17 starts, but it was. At that time, Flaherty was getting the strikeouts, but 1.9 homers per nine innings limited his success. Flaherty changed his tune over his final 16 starts, going 7-3 with a 0.93 ERA and allowing six homers over his final 106.1 innings of work. He was simply masterful down the stretch for the Cardinals, holding opponents to a .139 batting average over those 16 starts. The real Flaherty lies somewhere in between those two groupings of stats. It is worth noting he has thrown over 400 innings the past two seasons, including 213.1 IP in 2019 when you include postseason work. That, plus the slider usage, is something to consider before going all-in.
WAS (P)
GS
11
IP
71.0
W
5
SV
0
K
98
ERA
2.92
WHIP
0.972
For the first time since 2012, Scherzer failed to eclipse the 200-inning plateau as he visited the IL twice. His first stint was due to an inflamed bursa sac, requiring a cortisone injection. Soon after coming back, Scherzer returned to the IL, this time with a rhomboid strain. He was activated Aug. 22 and it wasn't long before he was back to being Mad Max, fanning 54 over his final 38 innings. Scherzer had another scare in the playoffs as he was scratched from Game 5 of the World Series before starting Game 7. By the numbers, Scherzer's strikeout and walk rates were typically elite but his average exit velocity was the highest since Statcast began tracking in 2015, leading to his highest WHIP since 2014. Scherzer's 35-year-old arm has a lot of mileage and injury concerns are real. The result is Scherzer will be discounted. He's still elite, but could be risky for the "one year too late" crowd.
For the first time since 2012, Scherzer failed to eclipse the 200-inning plateau as he visited the IL twice. His first stint was due to an inflamed bursa sac, requiring a cortisone injection. Soon after coming back, Scherzer returned to the IL, this time with a rhomboid strain. He was activated Aug. 22 and it wasn't long before he was back to being Mad Max, fanning 54 over his final 38 innings. Scherzer had another scare in the playoffs as he was scratched from Game 5 of the World Series before starting Game 7. By the numbers, Scherzer's strikeout and walk rates were typically elite but his average exit velocity was the highest since Statcast began tracking in 2015, leading to his highest WHIP since 2014. Scherzer's 35-year-old arm has a lot of mileage and injury concerns are real. The result is Scherzer will be discounted. He's still elite, but could be risky for the "one year too late" crowd.
CLE (P)
GS
11
IP
73.0
W
6
SV
0
K
85
ERA
2.84
WHIP
1.123
Clevinger checks all the boxes of a fantasy ace. He features three plus pitches, led by a 96-mph fastball. His next best is a slider generating a 21.8% swinging strike mark followed by a change inducing swinging strikes 15.9% of the time. The only blemish is his curve with just 26th percentile spin, leading to a slightly-lower 13.9% swinging-strike rate but a hefty .405 BABIP. After a 200-inning campaign in 2018, Clevinger only threw 126 last season, with two IL stints. The first came after straining his back in his second start of the year. Clevinger spent nine weeks on the shelf before returning, only to go back for an ankle injury. After the minimum stay, Clevinger returned and never looked back. The Indians may be conservative so he may not reach the 200-inning plateau this season, but there's no reason he shouldn't come close. One last tidbit: Clevinger is 29, though he seems five years younger.
Clevinger checks all the boxes of a fantasy ace. He features three plus pitches, led by a 96-mph fastball. His next best is a slider generating a 21.8% swinging strike mark followed by a change inducing swinging strikes 15.9% of the time. The only blemish is his curve with just 26th percentile spin, leading to a slightly-lower 13.9% swinging-strike rate but a hefty .405 BABIP. After a 200-inning campaign in 2018, Clevinger only threw 126 last season, with two IL stints. The first came after straining his back in his second start of the year. Clevinger spent nine weeks on the shelf before returning, only to go back for an ankle injury. After the minimum stay, Clevinger returned and never looked back. The Indians may be conservative so he may not reach the 200-inning plateau this season, but there's no reason he shouldn't come close. One last tidbit: Clevinger is 29, though he seems five years younger.
HOU (P)
GS
12
IP
76.0
W
6
SV
0
K
71
ERA
3.08
WHIP
1.039
The last memory we have of Greinke was his heroic effort in Game 7 of the World Series as he did all he could to keep the Astros in the game before Howie Kendrick killed the dream. Greinke has had double-digit win totals for 12 consecutive seasons, bested only by teammate Justin Verlander. Outside the one hiccup in 2016, Greinke's ERA has remained strong and his worst WHIP in the past decade was the 1.27 number that same season. The move to the American League mid-year did not put too much of a dent into his production, as he changed his pitching approach. He became more of a groundball pitcher with Houston. You may not think of him as a staff ace, but you best draft him as one if you want to get him on your roster. If you think he'll be there in the fourth round, you will be mistaken. He is not the staff ace in Houston with JV there, but Greinke can absolutely be your staff ace with his track record.
The last memory we have of Greinke was his heroic effort in Game 7 of the World Series as he did all he could to keep the Astros in the game before Howie Kendrick killed the dream. Greinke has had double-digit win totals for 12 consecutive seasons, bested only by teammate Justin Verlander. Outside the one hiccup in 2016, Greinke's ERA has remained strong and his worst WHIP in the past decade was the 1.27 number that same season. The move to the American League mid-year did not put too much of a dent into his production, as he changed his pitching approach. He became more of a groundball pitcher with Houston. You may not think of him as a staff ace, but you best draft him as one if you want to get him on your roster. If you think he'll be there in the fourth round, you will be mistaken. He is not the staff ace in Houston with JV there, but Greinke can absolutely be your staff ace with his track record.
LAD (P)
GS
12
IP
75.0
W
6
SV
0
K
78
ERA
3.24
WHIP
1.053
Kershaw was a top-12 starting pitcher on our Earned Auction Value Calculator last season, but was not even the most valuable Dodger. Still, it was nice to see him rebound from the disappointing 2018 statistical performance and return to the form we've grown accustomed to this decade. Even with the injuries here and there, he is still a safe staff ace because when he is pitching, you are getting terrific results. The 3.03 ERA was his worst ERA since his rookie season and he has not had a WHIP above 1.10 since the 2010 season. The days of 200-plus strikeouts may be a thing of the past, but you cannot buy ratios and consistent wins production from pitchers these days like Kershaw has put up when he's been healthy. He is a low-end SP1 these days, so a first-round pick would be foolish, but a third-rounder would not be depending on how you want to build your roster. Absolutely no skills risk in play here.
Kershaw was a top-12 starting pitcher on our Earned Auction Value Calculator last season, but was not even the most valuable Dodger. Still, it was nice to see him rebound from the disappointing 2018 statistical performance and return to the form we've grown accustomed to this decade. Even with the injuries here and there, he is still a safe staff ace because when he is pitching, you are getting terrific results. The 3.03 ERA was his worst ERA since his rookie season and he has not had a WHIP above 1.10 since the 2010 season. The days of 200-plus strikeouts may be a thing of the past, but you cannot buy ratios and consistent wins production from pitchers these days like Kershaw has put up when he's been healthy. He is a low-end SP1 these days, so a first-round pick would be foolish, but a third-rounder would not be depending on how you want to build your roster. Absolutely no skills risk in play here.
WAS (P)
DTD
GS
11
IP
71.0
W
6
SV
0
K
84
ERA
3.30
WHIP
1.070
For just the second time in his career and for the first time since 2014, Strasburg topped 200 innings, tossing 209 frames, fifth most in MLB. His season ended with World Series MVP honors after he set new personal highs with 18 wins and 251 punchouts during the regular season. Strasburg's fastball velocity was down a tick, but he adjusted his repertoire, throwing fewer four-seamers while increasing use of his sinker and curve. He all but eliminated his slider, relying on offspeed stuff half the time. The result was a career-high 13.4% swinging-strike rate, buoyed by a 24% mark with his changeup. After opting out of his contract and declining the qualifying offer, Strasburg entered free agency only to return to Washington on a seven-year deal. Health remains a risk, but his new arsenal could be easier on his arm. If you're willing to bet on that narrative, Strasburg can be a fantasy ace at a discount.
For just the second time in his career and for the first time since 2014, Strasburg topped 200 innings, tossing 209 frames, fifth most in MLB. His season ended with World Series MVP honors after he set new personal highs with 18 wins and 251 punchouts during the regular season. Strasburg's fastball velocity was down a tick, but he adjusted his repertoire, throwing fewer four-seamers while increasing use of his sinker and curve. He all but eliminated his slider, relying on offspeed stuff half the time. The result was a career-high 13.4% swinging-strike rate, buoyed by a 24% mark with his changeup. After opting out of his contract and declining the qualifying offer, Strasburg entered free agency only to return to Washington on a seven-year deal. Health remains a risk, but his new arsenal could be easier on his arm. If you're willing to bet on that narrative, Strasburg can be a fantasy ace at a discount.
LAD (P)
GS
11
IP
67.0
W
5
SV
0
K
76
ERA
3.09
WHIP
0.985
Buehler didn't take many days off, posting the first of what should be many 30-start campaigns. Early, the Dodgers limited Buehler's in-game workload as he's just two years removed from Tommy John surgery and they wanted their prized righty fresh for the playoffs. Buehler did his part, allowing just one run in 12.2 postseason frames, but his club of course came up short. With Buehler fronting their rotation, the Dodgers' championship window remains wide open. The 25-year-old right-hander deploys a four-pitch arsenal, featuring a 97-mph fastball he used 60% of the time along with a slider, cutter and curve evenly split the rest of the time. The result was a 3.26 ERA and 1.04 WHIP, with a 24.2 K-BB%, seventh best among qualified starters. Most will group Gerrit Cole, Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer together. Buehler belongs in the next tier, perhaps even at the top.
Buehler didn't take many days off, posting the first of what should be many 30-start campaigns. Early, the Dodgers limited Buehler's in-game workload as he's just two years removed from Tommy John surgery and they wanted their prized righty fresh for the playoffs. Buehler did his part, allowing just one run in 12.2 postseason frames, but his club of course came up short. With Buehler fronting their rotation, the Dodgers' championship window remains wide open. The 25-year-old right-hander deploys a four-pitch arsenal, featuring a 97-mph fastball he used 60% of the time along with a slider, cutter and curve evenly split the rest of the time. The result was a 3.26 ERA and 1.04 WHIP, with a 24.2 K-BB%, seventh best among qualified starters. Most will group Gerrit Cole, Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer together. Buehler belongs in the next tier, perhaps even at the top.
CLE (P)
GS
12
IP
75.0
W
6
SV
0
K
88
ERA
3.36
WHIP
1.133
In Bieber's rookie campaign, his 4.55 ERA was more than a run higher than his 3.23 xFIP and 3.45 SIERA. Once again, the ERA estimators proved prescient as Bieber posted a 3.28 ERA, perfectly supported with a 3.23 xFIP and 3.36 SIERA. Bieber's 93-mph fastball isn't overpowering, but he deploys a four-pitch mix with excellent control, changing speeds and eye levels effectively. The result is a dominating 25.5 K-BB%. Curiously, Bieber's average exit velocity allowed, and hard-hit rate are very poor, around 4th percentile. Last season's .296 BABIP wasn't affected much, but there's noteworthy concern as evidenced by a .246 xBA -- 17 points higher than his actual .229 mark. The high average exit velocity was responsible for 31 homers in 214.1 innings. Bieber will be drafted as an ace, rightfully so. Just beware there's some risk if he doesn't induce weaker contact. If he does, he's elite.
In Bieber's rookie campaign, his 4.55 ERA was more than a run higher than his 3.23 xFIP and 3.45 SIERA. Once again, the ERA estimators proved prescient as Bieber posted a 3.28 ERA, perfectly supported with a 3.23 xFIP and 3.36 SIERA. Bieber's 93-mph fastball isn't overpowering, but he deploys a four-pitch mix with excellent control, changing speeds and eye levels effectively. The result is a dominating 25.5 K-BB%. Curiously, Bieber's average exit velocity allowed, and hard-hit rate are very poor, around 4th percentile. Last season's .296 BABIP wasn't affected much, but there's noteworthy concern as evidenced by a .246 xBA -- 17 points higher than his actual .229 mark. The high average exit velocity was responsible for 31 homers in 214.1 innings. Bieber will be drafted as an ace, rightfully so. Just beware there's some risk if he doesn't induce weaker contact. If he does, he's elite.
CHC (P)
GS
12
IP
71.0
W
5
SV
0
K
87
ERA
3.68
WHIP
1.056
Darvish may have had the best 6-8 season with a 3.98 ERA in the history of baseball. Through his first seven starts, Darvish was 2-3 with a 5.79 ERA, 1.71 WHIP and eight homers allowed in 32.2 innings. Over his final 24 starts, he went 4-5 with a 3.58 ERA and 0.92 WHIP while striking out 192 batters and walking 29 in 146 innings. It was as if the pitch command that had been absent since before his Tommy John surgery finally found its way back home after being lost by United baggage claim at O'Hare. The one issue which plagued him in the summer was multi-homer games as he had seven such games, including three with three or more homers allowed. The exciting part is we finally saw the old Darvish skills back on display as the season wore on. They were not consistently there, but the signs are now finally pointing in the positive direction. He cannot anchor your staff but is a strong complementary SP2.
Darvish may have had the best 6-8 season with a 3.98 ERA in the history of baseball. Through his first seven starts, Darvish was 2-3 with a 5.79 ERA, 1.71 WHIP and eight homers allowed in 32.2 innings. Over his final 24 starts, he went 4-5 with a 3.58 ERA and 0.92 WHIP while striking out 192 batters and walking 29 in 146 innings. It was as if the pitch command that had been absent since before his Tommy John surgery finally found its way back home after being lost by United baggage claim at O'Hare. The one issue which plagued him in the summer was multi-homer games as he had seven such games, including three with three or more homers allowed. The exciting part is we finally saw the old Darvish skills back on display as the season wore on. They were not consistently there, but the signs are now finally pointing in the positive direction. He cannot anchor your staff but is a strong complementary SP2.
CIN (P)
GS
12
IP
73.0
W
5
SV
0
K
78
ERA
3.33
WHIP
1.082
Spring training can be helpful in evaluating a pitcher, but it does come with some risks. Castillo sported a 12.46 ERA over four Cactus League appearances amid reports that his velocity was down. It turned out that Castillo was working on improving his slider, rather than relying more on his two best pitches, his changeup and four-seamer. Given the disparity between Castllo's first half of 2018 when his velocity was down to his second-half when the velocity was up, it was natural to be concerned. That concern cost you a breakout if you downgraded him accordingly. Castillo's fastball velocity (96.5 mph) actually improved, allowing him to post video-game quality results with his changeup (48% whiff rate, .193 WOBA against). If you want to look for a concern, Castillo's August and September were shaky, and he was limited to five starts in September.
Spring training can be helpful in evaluating a pitcher, but it does come with some risks. Castillo sported a 12.46 ERA over four Cactus League appearances amid reports that his velocity was down. It turned out that Castillo was working on improving his slider, rather than relying more on his two best pitches, his changeup and four-seamer. Given the disparity between Castllo's first half of 2018 when his velocity was down to his second-half when the velocity was up, it was natural to be concerned. That concern cost you a breakout if you downgraded him accordingly. Castillo's fastball velocity (96.5 mph) actually improved, allowing him to post video-game quality results with his changeup (48% whiff rate, .193 WOBA against). If you want to look for a concern, Castillo's August and September were shaky, and he was limited to five starts in September.
MIL (P)
GS
0
IP
29.0
W
1
SV
14
K
48
ERA
2.79
WHIP
0.862
Hader seemed destined to reprise the versatile late-inning role he occupied in 2018, but when both Corey Knebel and Jeremy Jeffress were injured in the spring he was needed to close games. Hader did that about as well as anybody, picking up more saves in 2019 than just two pitchers. He had some issues with the long ball, but he also improved his K:BB and posted minuscule ratios for the third straight year. In most cases those numbers would make Hader a lock to close, but it could be argued he is more valuable pitching in several situations instead of just one, and manager Craig Counsell could use him as such and let Knebel be the primary closer. Hader strikes out batters at a historic pace, using mainly a fastball that comes in from an angle that baffles hitters. That alone makes him an elite relief option, and he should be treated as a top closer even if he isn't getting all the saves for the Brewers.
Hader seemed destined to reprise the versatile late-inning role he occupied in 2018, but when both Corey Knebel and Jeremy Jeffress were injured in the spring he was needed to close games. Hader did that about as well as anybody, picking up more saves in 2019 than just two pitchers. He had some issues with the long ball, but he also improved his K:BB and posted minuscule ratios for the third straight year. In most cases those numbers would make Hader a lock to close, but it could be argued he is more valuable pitching in several situations instead of just one, and manager Craig Counsell could use him as such and let Knebel be the primary closer. Hader strikes out batters at a historic pace, using mainly a fastball that comes in from an angle that baffles hitters. That alone makes him an elite relief option, and he should be treated as a top closer even if he isn't getting all the saves for the Brewers.
TB (P)
IL-10
GS
12
IP
70.0
W
5
SV
0
K
85
ERA
3.34
WHIP
1.143
Since 2017, Morton has outpitched his peripherals, and he was doing so again to begin his first year with the Rays. However, he fought off regression by ratcheting up his skills. On May 19, Morton's ERA was 2.65 compared to a 3.74 xFIP and 4.07 SIERA. The rest of the way, his ERA rose to 3.21, but his xFIP was 3.11 with a 3.36 SIERA. There was some ERA regression, but a 1% increase in K% coupled with a 5.4% drop in BB% softened the blow. Integral to his success was allowing a scant 15 homers in 194.2 innings. Morton's bread and butter is one of the highest spinning curves in the league, helping to compensate for a fastball losing a tick or two. Skills-wise, there's no concern. However, Morton will be 36 years old, with a checkered injury history, coming off a campaign where he set personal bests in innings and starts. Ace level pitching is rare, so Morton will cost. That said, caveat emptor.
Since 2017, Morton has outpitched his peripherals, and he was doing so again to begin his first year with the Rays. However, he fought off regression by ratcheting up his skills. On May 19, Morton's ERA was 2.65 compared to a 3.74 xFIP and 4.07 SIERA. The rest of the way, his ERA rose to 3.21, but his xFIP was 3.11 with a 3.36 SIERA. There was some ERA regression, but a 1% increase in K% coupled with a 5.4% drop in BB% softened the blow. Integral to his success was allowing a scant 15 homers in 194.2 innings. Morton's bread and butter is one of the highest spinning curves in the league, helping to compensate for a fastball losing a tick or two. Skills-wise, there's no concern. However, Morton will be 36 years old, with a checkered injury history, coming off a campaign where he set personal bests in innings and starts. Ace level pitching is rare, so Morton will cost. That said, caveat emptor.
TB (P)
GS
10
IP
57.0
W
5
SV
0
K
72
ERA
3.00
WHIP
1.088
Regression was expected for the 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner as Snell's 1.89 ERA was lower than his 3.16 xFIP and 3.30 SIERA. Sure enough, his 4.29 ERA last year was significantly higher than the 3.31 xFIP and 3.56 SIERA. In terms of skills, Snell was essentially the same pitcher he was the year he took home the hardware. Perhaps if Snell didn't miss about two months after surgery to remove loose bodies from his elbow, his ERA would have corrected, but it didn't have the chance. The encouraging news is that when Snell returned in September, his velocity was just a tick below normal, so he should be 100% heading into 2020. The only blemish is a high walk rate, resulting in an elevated WHIP. However, a strikeout rate north of 30% helps mitigate the impact. Snell may fall a couple dozen innings short of the elite, but he's still a fantasy ace. Invest with confidence.
Regression was expected for the 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner as Snell's 1.89 ERA was lower than his 3.16 xFIP and 3.30 SIERA. Sure enough, his 4.29 ERA last year was significantly higher than the 3.31 xFIP and 3.56 SIERA. In terms of skills, Snell was essentially the same pitcher he was the year he took home the hardware. Perhaps if Snell didn't miss about two months after surgery to remove loose bodies from his elbow, his ERA would have corrected, but it didn't have the chance. The encouraging news is that when Snell returned in September, his velocity was just a tick below normal, so he should be 100% heading into 2020. The only blemish is a high walk rate, resulting in an elevated WHIP. However, a strikeout rate north of 30% helps mitigate the impact. Snell may fall a couple dozen innings short of the elite, but he's still a fantasy ace. Invest with confidence.
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PHI (C)
G
51
AB
191
AVG
.277
HR
9
RBI
29
SB
3
R
32
Realmuto finished as easily the top fantasy catcher despite a slightly disappointing season. There was an expectation that his offensive numbers would reach a new level with the move from Miami to Philadelphia, and while he did manage a career-high 25 homers, his .275/.328/.493 slash line was a near match for his .277/.340/.484 line from 2018. Still, not many other catchers can manage his combination of average and power, and throwing in his nine steals (three more than any other catcher) made him the clear top option at the position. He's also elite defensively, and the Phillies seemed to never want to take him out of the lineup, giving him 130 starts behind the plate, the most in the league. That volume pads his counting stats but may also have contributed to the meniscus surgery he required in late September, making him a bit of health risk heading into 2020.
Realmuto finished as easily the top fantasy catcher despite a slightly disappointing season. There was an expectation that his offensive numbers would reach a new level with the move from Miami to Philadelphia, and while he did manage a career-high 25 homers, his .275/.328/.493 slash line was a near match for his .277/.340/.484 line from 2018. Still, not many other catchers can manage his combination of average and power, and throwing in his nine steals (three more than any other catcher) made him the clear top option at the position. He's also elite defensively, and the Phillies seemed to never want to take him out of the lineup, giving him 130 starts behind the plate, the most in the league. That volume pads his counting stats but may also have contributed to the meniscus surgery he required in late September, making him a bit of health risk heading into 2020.
NYY (C)
G
46
AB
171
AVG
.228
HR
13
RBI
31
SB
0
R
27
Sanchez had a strong bounce-back season in 2019, recovering the power production that appeared lost for a lot of 2018 while finding some middle ground with his batting average after two radical swings the prior two seasons. He will earn his walks when willing to accept them from pitchers that do not want to challenge him. He will also pile up his strikeouts as the next time he shortens up on a swing will be the first time. His career average exit velocity is an impressive 91 mph and 43% of his batted balls are classified as Hard Hit, and he attempts to generate that outcome with every swing. Sanchez had a .474 expected weighted on base average on contact with the baseball in 2019, which was the highest figure in all of MLB. The risk with Sanchez isn't the production, it is the expectation of production. Unlike some Yankee fans, you can accept him for what he is rather than what he is not.
Sanchez had a strong bounce-back season in 2019, recovering the power production that appeared lost for a lot of 2018 while finding some middle ground with his batting average after two radical swings the prior two seasons. He will earn his walks when willing to accept them from pitchers that do not want to challenge him. He will also pile up his strikeouts as the next time he shortens up on a swing will be the first time. His career average exit velocity is an impressive 91 mph and 43% of his batted balls are classified as Hard Hit, and he attempts to generate that outcome with every swing. Sanchez had a .474 expected weighted on base average on contact with the baseball in 2019, which was the highest figure in all of MLB. The risk with Sanchez isn't the production, it is the expectation of production. Unlike some Yankee fans, you can accept him for what he is rather than what he is not.
CWS (C)
G
54
AB
176
AVG
.244
HR
10
RBI
26
SB
1
R
26
Grandal bet on himself in 2019, eschewing a multi-year offer from the Mets in favor of a one-year pact with the Brewers. The gamble paid off, as he had the best season of his career and signed an even better long-term deal with the White Sox this past offseason. With the Brewers, Grandal set career highs in all of HR, RBI and SB. A career-high 513 AB certainly helped, but his numbers were supported by some nice underlying stats, as he hit lefties (.926 OPS) better than ever and finished with the best walk rate of his career. The added playing time may have caused some wear, as Grandal's OPS was over 100 points worse after the break, but he will be 1B-eligible in 2020 as a result, and in the AL he should DH more often than play first when he's not catching. If the at-bats remain steady, Grandal could hit even more homers on the South Side in a park that was one of the most favorable for HR in 2019.
Grandal bet on himself in 2019, eschewing a multi-year offer from the Mets in favor of a one-year pact with the Brewers. The gamble paid off, as he had the best season of his career and signed an even better long-term deal with the White Sox this past offseason. With the Brewers, Grandal set career highs in all of HR, RBI and SB. A career-high 513 AB certainly helped, but his numbers were supported by some nice underlying stats, as he hit lefties (.926 OPS) better than ever and finished with the best walk rate of his career. The added playing time may have caused some wear, as Grandal's OPS was over 100 points worse after the break, but he will be 1B-eligible in 2020 as a result, and in the AL he should DH more often than play first when he's not catching. If the at-bats remain steady, Grandal could hit even more homers on the South Side in a park that was one of the most favorable for HR in 2019.
MIN (C)
G
45
AB
142
AVG
.261
HR
9
RBI
25
SB
0
R
25
Garver took a quantum leap in his second full season. His 31 home runs ranked second among catchers, and he did that despite amassing just 359 plate appearances, 20th among backstops. The Twins made a concerted effort to keep their catchers well rested and didn't alter the plan even with Garver's success. Garver also improved with his defense as he changed up his catching stance behind the plate to get lower and improve his pitch framing. He went from -16 DRS to 0 DRS at catcher as a result. Garver drew walks (11.4 BB%), made hard contact and had a passable strikeout rate (24.2 K%), which indicate his improvement was mostly legitimate. However, a 29% HR/FB rate is clearly unsustainable. Thankfully, the inevitable dip in rate stats should be offset to an extent by more playing time, as Garver is the team's clear top catcher with Jason Castro leaving via free agency.
Garver took a quantum leap in his second full season. His 31 home runs ranked second among catchers, and he did that despite amassing just 359 plate appearances, 20th among backstops. The Twins made a concerted effort to keep their catchers well rested and didn't alter the plan even with Garver's success. Garver also improved with his defense as he changed up his catching stance behind the plate to get lower and improve his pitch framing. He went from -16 DRS to 0 DRS at catcher as a result. Garver drew walks (11.4 BB%), made hard contact and had a passable strikeout rate (24.2 K%), which indicate his improvement was mostly legitimate. However, a 29% HR/FB rate is clearly unsustainable. Thankfully, the inevitable dip in rate stats should be offset to an extent by more playing time, as Garver is the team's clear top catcher with Jason Castro leaving via free agency.
CHC (C)
G
48
AB
162
AVG
.265
HR
9
RBI
25
SB
1
R
21
Contreras was an above-average offensive catcher in 2019 for the third time in four seasons. The one "down" season saw him perform at a league-average level relative to his position. Last year looked a lot like the guy we fell in love with in 2017, which is what owners who bought him on the cheap wanted to see from the catcher. He maintains his excellence against left-handed pitching, but the bounce-back numbers from 2019 came from his resurgence against righties as he improved his OPS against them by 150 points over 2018. The Statcast numbers do not validate the performance as most of Contreras' expected statistics are nearly a full deviation below his actual outcomes from 2019. That's despite the fact his 42% hard-hit rate was easily the best of his four-year career. Bake in some regression in the numbers, but the skills here have proven to be relatively stable even if the outcomes are a bit wonky.
Contreras was an above-average offensive catcher in 2019 for the third time in four seasons. The one "down" season saw him perform at a league-average level relative to his position. Last year looked a lot like the guy we fell in love with in 2017, which is what owners who bought him on the cheap wanted to see from the catcher. He maintains his excellence against left-handed pitching, but the bounce-back numbers from 2019 came from his resurgence against righties as he improved his OPS against them by 150 points over 2018. The Statcast numbers do not validate the performance as most of Contreras' expected statistics are nearly a full deviation below his actual outcomes from 2019. That's despite the fact his 42% hard-hit rate was easily the best of his four-year career. Bake in some regression in the numbers, but the skills here have proven to be relatively stable even if the outcomes are a bit wonky.
KC (C)
G
50
AB
191
AVG
.246
HR
9
RBI
28
SB
0
R
21
Perez missed the entire season recovering from Tommy John surgery, but in the year of the resurgent catchers, he was not really missed by fantasy players. Perez's value comes in his ability to absorb a lot of playing time, although Ned Yost even cut back on that in recent years. Twenty homers and 70 RBI could be a safe baseline for Perez despite the layoff, but can we put him down for 55-plus runs again? It will be interesting to see how new manager Mike Matheny manages his playing time in 2020 given Jorge Soler's best position is DH, although there has been talk of giving him time at first base. It will be nice to have Perez back in the player pool, but the year off is going to have an impact on his numbers. Perhaps his body needed the rest more than others given his big workloads, as he likely feels much older than his actual 29 years of age.
Perez missed the entire season recovering from Tommy John surgery, but in the year of the resurgent catchers, he was not really missed by fantasy players. Perez's value comes in his ability to absorb a lot of playing time, although Ned Yost even cut back on that in recent years. Twenty homers and 70 RBI could be a safe baseline for Perez despite the layoff, but can we put him down for 55-plus runs again? It will be interesting to see how new manager Mike Matheny manages his playing time in 2020 given Jorge Soler's best position is DH, although there has been talk of giving him time at first base. It will be nice to have Perez back in the player pool, but the year off is going to have an impact on his numbers. Perhaps his body needed the rest more than others given his big workloads, as he likely feels much older than his actual 29 years of age.
LAD (C)
DTD
G
44
AB
148
AVG
.243
HR
7
RBI
25
SB
1
R
21
Austin Riley is the first to come to mind when thinking of players who started hot upon arrival before fading, but Smith followed a similar path. After getting the call to be the Dodgers' primary backstop in late July, Smith went off for nine homers in 19 games, driving in 25 runs in 62 at-bats. He then hit .183/.277/.305 over his final 26 regular-season games and ended his year by going 1-for-13 in the NLCS. Smith's strong strikeout rate from Triple-A did not carry over, as he fanned at a 26.5% clip with the major-league team, though it's important to note that Smith has a history of making adjustments and cutting down on his K-rate in his second go at a level. A first-round pick in 2016, Smith has always been able to take a walk and he's a plus behind the plate. There's upside here but downside too, as the Dodgers may not be patient if Smith starts in a similar fashion to how he finished 2019.
Austin Riley is the first to come to mind when thinking of players who started hot upon arrival before fading, but Smith followed a similar path. After getting the call to be the Dodgers' primary backstop in late July, Smith went off for nine homers in 19 games, driving in 25 runs in 62 at-bats. He then hit .183/.277/.305 over his final 26 regular-season games and ended his year by going 1-for-13 in the NLCS. Smith's strong strikeout rate from Triple-A did not carry over, as he fanned at a 26.5% clip with the major-league team, though it's important to note that Smith has a history of making adjustments and cutting down on his K-rate in his second go at a level. A first-round pick in 2016, Smith has always been able to take a walk and he's a plus behind the plate. There's upside here but downside too, as the Dodgers may not be patient if Smith starts in a similar fashion to how he finished 2019.
NYM (C)
G
44
AB
148
AVG
.291
HR
6
RBI
24
SB
0
R
16
The Mets reeled Ramos in last winter on a two-year, $19 million deal, a pittance for a player who posted a 132 wRC+ in 2018. Ramos couldn't replicate that career-best mark, but he still paid off for fantasy managers, playing the third-most games among catchers while batting .288 with 14 homers and 73 RBI. He was less valuable in real-life terms, however, rating poorly as a pitch framer and struggling to control the run game, as he yielded 21 more steals than any other backstop. Even his power was more questionable than the surface stats suggest; Ramos' average launch angle was zero degrees, lowest among all hitters with at least 100 batted-ball events. The underwhelming pool of catchers will help prop Ramos' value up again, but his defensive shortcomings, escalating groundball rate and poor track record of durability prior to 2019 put him at risk of seeing his numbers dip more than some may assume.
The Mets reeled Ramos in last winter on a two-year, $19 million deal, a pittance for a player who posted a 132 wRC+ in 2018. Ramos couldn't replicate that career-best mark, but he still paid off for fantasy managers, playing the third-most games among catchers while batting .288 with 14 homers and 73 RBI. He was less valuable in real-life terms, however, rating poorly as a pitch framer and struggling to control the run game, as he yielded 21 more steals than any other backstop. Even his power was more questionable than the surface stats suggest; Ramos' average launch angle was zero degrees, lowest among all hitters with at least 100 batted-ball events. The underwhelming pool of catchers will help prop Ramos' value up again, but his defensive shortcomings, escalating groundball rate and poor track record of durability prior to 2019 put him at risk of seeing his numbers dip more than some may assume.
SD (C)
G
46
AB
151
AVG
.272
HR
6
RBI
20
SB
1
R
20
Mejia still has a fair amount of his shine despite a 2018 trade from Cleveland and a finish outside the top 35 at the catcher position in 2019. The main reason he didn't earn more value was a lack of playing time, as he spent time in the minors, on the IL with knee and oblique issues and split duties with Austin Hedges when active. When on the field in 2019, Mejia was close to a league average offensive rate contributor. He was especially hot coming out of the break, slashing .309/.361/.527 over a 37-game stretch before the oblique injury popped up. We had seen a similarly torrid stretch from Mejia in September of 2018, and the next step will hopefully be finding a greater level of consistency and staying healthy for a prolonged stretch in 2020. He has a track record of posting K-rates in the teens in the minors, and even with Hedges still in town, Mejia could sneak into the C1 discussion.
Mejia still has a fair amount of his shine despite a 2018 trade from Cleveland and a finish outside the top 35 at the catcher position in 2019. The main reason he didn't earn more value was a lack of playing time, as he spent time in the minors, on the IL with knee and oblique issues and split duties with Austin Hedges when active. When on the field in 2019, Mejia was close to a league average offensive rate contributor. He was especially hot coming out of the break, slashing .309/.361/.527 over a 37-game stretch before the oblique injury popped up. We had seen a similarly torrid stretch from Mejia in September of 2018, and the next step will hopefully be finding a greater level of consistency and staying healthy for a prolonged stretch in 2020. He has a track record of posting K-rates in the teens in the minors, and even with Hedges still in town, Mejia could sneak into the C1 discussion.
STL (C)
COVID-19
G
44
AB
165
AVG
.267
HR
4
RBI
23
SB
1
R
19
For the third straight season, Molina player fewer games than the previous year. The culprit was lingering thumb woes, sending the veteran to the IL twice. The first was at the end of May, lasting just over the minimum. The tendon strain in his right thumb never fully healed so he returned to the IL on July 11. He was activated Aug. 12, playing the rest of the season and playoffs with no issues. After clubbing a combined 38 homers the previous two campaigns, Molina only managed 10 last year. His thumb could have been the reason, but the numbers point to bad luck. Molina's average flyball distance, a leading indicator for homers, was longer than 2017 and 2018. At some point, the tremendous amount of squatting must catch up to Molina. It likely has, at least in terms of durability. Offensively, he's been the same guy since 2017. It's worth taking advantage if the discount is steep enough.
For the third straight season, Molina player fewer games than the previous year. The culprit was lingering thumb woes, sending the veteran to the IL twice. The first was at the end of May, lasting just over the minimum. The tendon strain in his right thumb never fully healed so he returned to the IL on July 11. He was activated Aug. 12, playing the rest of the season and playoffs with no issues. After clubbing a combined 38 homers the previous two campaigns, Molina only managed 10 last year. His thumb could have been the reason, but the numbers point to bad luck. Molina's average flyball distance, a leading indicator for homers, was longer than 2017 and 2018. At some point, the tremendous amount of squatting must catch up to Molina. It likely has, at least in terms of durability. Offensively, he's been the same guy since 2017. It's worth taking advantage if the discount is steep enough.
BOS (C)
G
45
AB
153
AVG
.261
HR
6
RBI
19
SB
1
R
20
In 2018, Vazquez underperformed his batting average by 40 points according to the expected stats, but everything else was as expected. In 2019, nothing that happened was expected. He increased his homer total by 20, although his average exit velocity and launch angles in 2019 were identical to what he had done the previous season. Yes, he made more hard contact, but there was no demonstrable change in his flyball rate, or his pull rate. He simply went from hitting one of every 25 flyballs for a home run to one of every six for a home run. It's almost like something was up with the baseball last year. The xStats are bearish on Vazquez for 2020 because his actual batting average and slugging percentage were both nearly 50 points above his expected numbers. Bake in two scoops of regression with your Vazquez expectations. Last season was fun for those who threw the dart.
In 2018, Vazquez underperformed his batting average by 40 points according to the expected stats, but everything else was as expected. In 2019, nothing that happened was expected. He increased his homer total by 20, although his average exit velocity and launch angles in 2019 were identical to what he had done the previous season. Yes, he made more hard contact, but there was no demonstrable change in his flyball rate, or his pull rate. He simply went from hitting one of every 25 flyballs for a home run to one of every six for a home run. It's almost like something was up with the baseball last year. The xStats are bearish on Vazquez for 2020 because his actual batting average and slugging percentage were both nearly 50 points above his expected numbers. Bake in two scoops of regression with your Vazquez expectations. Last season was fun for those who threw the dart.
MIA (C)
COVID-19
G
50
AB
163
AVG
.264
HR
6
RBI
20
SB
1
R
17
Alfaro didn't appear to be hurt by the tougher home park in his first season in Miami, posting the same .262 batting average and 95 wRC+ that he recorded the season prior. His growth in his second full season showed up in his home run total, which increased from 10 to 18, and in his strikeout rate, which fell from 36.6% to a still-high 33.1%. It's fair to wonder if he can keep recording respectable batting averages while striking out that much, especially given that it took a .364 BABIP to get him there last season. He's always been a high-BABIP player due to his hard contact, though, with a .385 mark for his career. Statcast does suggest he overachieved a bit, but not as much as one might think, giving him an xBA of .246. Alfaro isn't an elite catcher, but he'll have no competition for starts next year and easily clears low offensive bar at the position, making him a fine fantasy option.
Alfaro didn't appear to be hurt by the tougher home park in his first season in Miami, posting the same .262 batting average and 95 wRC+ that he recorded the season prior. His growth in his second full season showed up in his home run total, which increased from 10 to 18, and in his strikeout rate, which fell from 36.6% to a still-high 33.1%. It's fair to wonder if he can keep recording respectable batting averages while striking out that much, especially given that it took a .364 BABIP to get him there last season. He's always been a high-BABIP player due to his hard contact, though, with a .385 mark for his career. Statcast does suggest he overachieved a bit, but not as much as one might think, giving him an xBA of .246. Alfaro isn't an elite catcher, but he'll have no competition for starts next year and easily clears low offensive bar at the position, making him a fine fantasy option.
ARI (C)
G
41
AB
120
AVG
.258
HR
7
RBI
20
SB
0
R
16
Being shipped to Arizona in the trade for Paul Goldschmidt was a major blessing for Kelly, as he blossomed when finally out of Yadier Molina's shadow in St. Louis. Kelly received his first extended playing time in his age-25 season and delivered 18 home runs in 365 plate appearances (85 starts). He was solid defensively and his framing graded out exceptionally well. He had a 13.2 BB%, .232 ISO and a hard-hit rate in the 58th percentile. Manager Torey Lovullo utilized a heavy rotation behind the plate for a good chunk of the season, but Kelly was clearly the top choice at the end of the day and finished with some of the best offensive rate stats among catchers (his 108 wRC+ was identical to J.T. Realmuto's mark). Alex Avila -- who received 49 starts at catcher last season -- is headed for free agency, and while Avila could return, Kelly sets up to see an even heavier workload in 2020 regardless.
Being shipped to Arizona in the trade for Paul Goldschmidt was a major blessing for Kelly, as he blossomed when finally out of Yadier Molina's shadow in St. Louis. Kelly received his first extended playing time in his age-25 season and delivered 18 home runs in 365 plate appearances (85 starts). He was solid defensively and his framing graded out exceptionally well. He had a 13.2 BB%, .232 ISO and a hard-hit rate in the 58th percentile. Manager Torey Lovullo utilized a heavy rotation behind the plate for a good chunk of the season, but Kelly was clearly the top choice at the end of the day and finished with some of the best offensive rate stats among catchers (his 108 wRC+ was identical to J.T. Realmuto's mark). Alex Avila -- who received 49 starts at catcher last season -- is headed for free agency, and while Avila could return, Kelly sets up to see an even heavier workload in 2020 regardless.
WAS (C)
G
34
AB
112
AVG
.268
HR
6
RBI
20
SB
0
R
14
The late-career offensive resurgence of Suzuki continued in 2019 as the catcher continues to make the most of his limited playing time. The 63 runs he drove in represented his highest total since the 2010 season, and the 17 homers were the second most of his career. He continues to hit for a solid average from the catching position, and is aging like a fine wine. He will be in the second year of his two-year deal with the World Champs and we should once again expect somewhere around 350 plate appearances with double-digit homers and a .270-ish batting average from him. We don't need him to play more than he does, because this version is productive enough for the position he plays. Even if he decides to start playing his age, these skills will age gracefully. The late-career power has to fade at some point, but when the ball is live, he has taken full advantage of it.
The late-career offensive resurgence of Suzuki continued in 2019 as the catcher continues to make the most of his limited playing time. The 63 runs he drove in represented his highest total since the 2010 season, and the 17 homers were the second most of his career. He continues to hit for a solid average from the catching position, and is aging like a fine wine. He will be in the second year of his two-year deal with the World Champs and we should once again expect somewhere around 350 plate appearances with double-digit homers and a .270-ish batting average from him. We don't need him to play more than he does, because this version is productive enough for the position he plays. Even if he decides to start playing his age, these skills will age gracefully. The late-career power has to fade at some point, but when the ball is live, he has taken full advantage of it.
OAK (C)
G
34
AB
115
AVG
.270
HR
5
RBI
16
SB
0
R
20
It's hard to start a career much hotter than Murphy did. After missing most of the early part of the season with knee issues, he made his first career start in early September and went on to hit .414 with four homers in his first nine games of the month. He came down to earth after that, grabbing just one hit in 10 games over the rest of the month, but it was enough to make him the starting catcher heading into the playoffs. He will hold onto that job this season and should be a viable option in most formats. The 25-year-old hit .288/.369/.521 across his last two seasons in the minors, and scouts project him to hit for plus power with an average or better hit tool. His defense has a chance to be excellent, so he could rank near the top of the position in games played, with the one big caveat that he has missed significant time with injuries in each of the last two seasons.
It's hard to start a career much hotter than Murphy did. After missing most of the early part of the season with knee issues, he made his first career start in early September and went on to hit .414 with four homers in his first nine games of the month. He came down to earth after that, grabbing just one hit in 10 games over the rest of the month, but it was enough to make him the starting catcher heading into the playoffs. He will hold onto that job this season and should be a viable option in most formats. The 25-year-old hit .288/.369/.521 across his last two seasons in the minors, and scouts project him to hit for plus power with an average or better hit tool. His defense has a chance to be excellent, so he could rank near the top of the position in games played, with the one big caveat that he has missed significant time with injuries in each of the last two seasons.
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LAD (1B)
G
57
AB
202
AVG
.282
HR
16
RBI
40
SB
5
R
41
In his third season, Bellinger patched up some of the holes in his batting profile that had surfaced in 2018 and made the leap to superstardom. The NL MVP's production was mostly front-loaded -- he slashed .336/.432/.692 and slugged 30 of his homers in the first half -- but a refined plate approach was evident throughout. After posting an 0.45 BB/K between 2017 and 2018, Bellinger raised that mark to 0.88 in 2019, good for sixth among qualified hitters. He also turned in a .982 OPS versus lefties, a 200-point jump from his first two years. As if the big power numbers and improved contact rate weren't already enough, Bellinger added value by chipping in 15 steals and playing Gold Glove defense in right field. Bellinger's peak fantasy season might have already arrived, but since he won't turn 25 until July and is the centerpiece of a stacked Dodgers lineup, he'll be a reasonable top-five selection in drafts.
In his third season, Bellinger patched up some of the holes in his batting profile that had surfaced in 2018 and made the leap to superstardom. The NL MVP's production was mostly front-loaded -- he slashed .336/.432/.692 and slugged 30 of his homers in the first half -- but a refined plate approach was evident throughout. After posting an 0.45 BB/K between 2017 and 2018, Bellinger raised that mark to 0.88 in 2019, good for sixth among qualified hitters. He also turned in a .982 OPS versus lefties, a 200-point jump from his first two years. As if the big power numbers and improved contact rate weren't already enough, Bellinger added value by chipping in 15 steals and playing Gold Glove defense in right field. Bellinger's peak fantasy season might have already arrived, but since he won't turn 25 until July and is the centerpiece of a stacked Dodgers lineup, he'll be a reasonable top-five selection in drafts.
NYM (1B)
G
55
AB
209
AVG
.263
HR
15
RBI
43
SB
0
R
35
Alonso's 80-grade power plays in any environment, but the juiced ball made him especially lethal in his debut season. After breaking camp with the Mets, Alonso immediately justified his top-prospect billing early on, notching 12 extra-base hits and 17 RBI in his first 12 games. His power pace only slowed moderately from there, as the 25-year-old went on to lead MLB with 53 homers, breaking Aaron Judge's two-year-old rookie record. Almost just as encouragingly, Alonso kept his strikeout rate at an acceptable level (26.4%), something that had been a concern as he made the jump from Triple-A. Since he doesn't steal bases, Alonso would probably need to trade more pop flies for line drives to emerge as anything more than a neutral asset in batting average, but the high floor he offers in three categories makes him a comfortable early-round fantasy selection in 2020, and likely, many years to follow.
Alonso's 80-grade power plays in any environment, but the juiced ball made him especially lethal in his debut season. After breaking camp with the Mets, Alonso immediately justified his top-prospect billing early on, notching 12 extra-base hits and 17 RBI in his first 12 games. His power pace only slowed moderately from there, as the 25-year-old went on to lead MLB with 53 homers, breaking Aaron Judge's two-year-old rookie record. Almost just as encouragingly, Alonso kept his strikeout rate at an acceptable level (26.4%), something that had been a concern as he made the jump from Triple-A. Since he doesn't steal bases, Alonso would probably need to trade more pop flies for line drives to emerge as anything more than a neutral asset in batting average, but the high floor he offers in three categories makes him a comfortable early-round fantasy selection in 2020, and likely, many years to follow.
ATL (1B)
G
49
AB
183
AVG
.301
HR
10
RBI
38
SB
1
R
33
Freeman slugged his way to one of the better seasons of his career in 2019, piecing together a .295/.398/.549 slash line with 38 homers and 121 RBI over 158 games. He sported a 12.6 BB% and his xBA, xSLG and xwOBA all ranked in the 92nd percentile or above. One slight blemish: Freeman noticeably struggled against southpaws, hitting just .255 in 175 plate appearances, which was down from his outstanding .309 average against lefties in 2018. Freeman continues to prove why he's one of the best first basemen in the game, both in real life and rotisserie baseball, with his only real weakness in the latter coming in the stolen-base department. The 30-year-old is a disciplined hitter who puts up stellar numbers in four categories every year. Not much should change for Freeman heading into the 2020 campaign, as he'll once again serve as the No. 3 hitter behind two of the brightest young stars in the game.
Freeman slugged his way to one of the better seasons of his career in 2019, piecing together a .295/.398/.549 slash line with 38 homers and 121 RBI over 158 games. He sported a 12.6 BB% and his xBA, xSLG and xwOBA all ranked in the 92nd percentile or above. One slight blemish: Freeman noticeably struggled against southpaws, hitting just .255 in 175 plate appearances, which was down from his outstanding .309 average against lefties in 2018. Freeman continues to prove why he's one of the best first basemen in the game, both in real life and rotisserie baseball, with his only real weakness in the latter coming in the stolen-base department. The 30-year-old is a disciplined hitter who puts up stellar numbers in four categories every year. Not much should change for Freeman heading into the 2020 campaign, as he'll once again serve as the No. 3 hitter behind two of the brightest young stars in the game.
STL (1B)
G
59
AB
218
AVG
.271
HR
12
RBI
37
SB
1
R
35
Goldschmidt's first season with the Cardinals was the worst of his career since his rookie campaign. The change in venue from Chase Field to Busch Stadium accounts for a lot of the discrepancy, but not all of it. Statcast data shows Goldschmidt's average exit velocity and hard-hit rate dropped for the second straight season along with his xBA, xSLG and xwOBA. It wasn't much, but since he's on the other side of 30 years old, it's worth noting. Another area of concern is Goldschmidt's patience has declined four years in a row. Finally, while the veteran slugger launched over 30 homers for the third straight season, his extra-base hits dropped precipitously, suggesting Goldschmidt was aided by the reduced-drag ball. Putting it together, there are signs of decline, but the slope is gentle. If the market overreacts to last season's slide, don't hesitate to invest.
Goldschmidt's first season with the Cardinals was the worst of his career since his rookie campaign. The change in venue from Chase Field to Busch Stadium accounts for a lot of the discrepancy, but not all of it. Statcast data shows Goldschmidt's average exit velocity and hard-hit rate dropped for the second straight season along with his xBA, xSLG and xwOBA. It wasn't much, but since he's on the other side of 30 years old, it's worth noting. Another area of concern is Goldschmidt's patience has declined four years in a row. Finally, while the veteran slugger launched over 30 homers for the third straight season, his extra-base hits dropped precipitously, suggesting Goldschmidt was aided by the reduced-drag ball. Putting it together, there are signs of decline, but the slope is gentle. If the market overreacts to last season's slide, don't hesitate to invest.
CHC (1B)
G
56
AB
200
AVG
.285
HR
10
RBI
37
SB
2
R
32
There's nothing particularly exciting or sexy about drafting Rizzo, but he's one of the most consistent run producers in the game. While 27 home runs don't look great in a record-setting home-run season, he maintained a sub-15% K-rate and boosted his BB%, resulting in an OBP over .400 for the first time in his career. In total, his offensive contributions added up to a 141 wRC+, which put him 13th among qualified hitters. He's not a barrel rate darling, but Rizzo had a .391 xwOBA (16th, min. 100 PA), and his xBA was even higher than his actual average. Only three players have driven in more runs than Rizzo over the last five seasons (Nolan Arenado, Edwin Encarnacion, Nelson Cruz), and he has not fallen short of 600 PA since his first year with the Cubs in 2012. Throw in 5-to-10 stolen bases -- nothing to sneeze at in today's game -- and you have a fine building block for any fantasy team.
There's nothing particularly exciting or sexy about drafting Rizzo, but he's one of the most consistent run producers in the game. While 27 home runs don't look great in a record-setting home-run season, he maintained a sub-15% K-rate and boosted his BB%, resulting in an OBP over .400 for the first time in his career. In total, his offensive contributions added up to a 141 wRC+, which put him 13th among qualified hitters. He's not a barrel rate darling, but Rizzo had a .391 xwOBA (16th, min. 100 PA), and his xBA was even higher than his actual average. Only three players have driven in more runs than Rizzo over the last five seasons (Nolan Arenado, Edwin Encarnacion, Nelson Cruz), and he has not fallen short of 600 PA since his first year with the Cubs in 2012. Throw in 5-to-10 stolen bases -- nothing to sneeze at in today's game -- and you have a fine building block for any fantasy team.
OAK (1B)
G
57
AB
207
AVG
.261
HR
14
RBI
37
SB
0
R
32
Olson missed time early with a hamate injury, yet still came back to hit a career-best 36 homers in 127 games last year in a pitcher's ballpark. The dude simply crushes baseballs as all of his Statcast batted-ball data was in the 90th percentile or higher, except his expected batting average. He absolutely mashes righties (.288/.380/.577 last year), but has also been at least league average against lefties in his career. The flyball and pull-heavy approach works for him as the hard contact allows him to hit through and over the shifts put in his way. He is already a top-10 first baseman and could be a top-3 first baseman if he can avoid the injury bug in 2020. He has 40-homer potential even if the baseball reverts back to its 2018 characteristics; he'll hit 50 if the 2019 regular season baseball sticks around. Invest in full in this first baseman, and you will get your money's worth.
Olson missed time early with a hamate injury, yet still came back to hit a career-best 36 homers in 127 games last year in a pitcher's ballpark. The dude simply crushes baseballs as all of his Statcast batted-ball data was in the 90th percentile or higher, except his expected batting average. He absolutely mashes righties (.288/.380/.577 last year), but has also been at least league average against lefties in his career. The flyball and pull-heavy approach works for him as the hard contact allows him to hit through and over the shifts put in his way. He is already a top-10 first baseman and could be a top-3 first baseman if he can avoid the injury bug in 2020. He has 40-homer potential even if the baseball reverts back to its 2018 characteristics; he'll hit 50 if the 2019 regular season baseball sticks around. Invest in full in this first baseman, and you will get your money's worth.
CWS (1B)
G
55
AB
217
AVG
.281
HR
11
RBI
39
SB
0
R
30
Abreu has been an underrated model of consistency through his first six seasons in the majors, playing at least 145 games and batting at least .280 with 25-plus home runs and 100-plus RBI in all but one of those years. Thanks in part to good health and breakouts from Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada, Abreu established a new career high with 123 RBI, making him the surprise AL leader in the category. Though the 33-year-old Abreu has now reached the point where power-oriented first base/DH types often begin to tail off, his 2019 batting profile doesn't sound any major alarms. His walk (5.2%) and strikeout (21.9%) rates were roughly in line with his career marks, and his hard-hit (40.7%) and barrel (12.8%) rates were actually personal highs. After reupping with the Pale Hose on a three-year deal this offseason, Abreu should be a good bet to once again finish as a top-10 fantasy first baseman.
Abreu has been an underrated model of consistency through his first six seasons in the majors, playing at least 145 games and batting at least .280 with 25-plus home runs and 100-plus RBI in all but one of those years. Thanks in part to good health and breakouts from Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada, Abreu established a new career high with 123 RBI, making him the surprise AL leader in the category. Though the 33-year-old Abreu has now reached the point where power-oriented first base/DH types often begin to tail off, his 2019 batting profile doesn't sound any major alarms. His walk (5.2%) and strikeout (21.9%) rates were roughly in line with his career marks, and his hard-hit (40.7%) and barrel (12.8%) rates were actually personal highs. After reupping with the Pale Hose on a three-year deal this offseason, Abreu should be a good bet to once again finish as a top-10 fantasy first baseman.
PIT (1B)
G
54
AB
193
AVG
.275
HR
12
RBI
35
SB
0
R
31
Following a year in which Bell hit just 12 homers, the 27-year-old first baseman broke out for 37 long balls, 116 RBI and 94 runs scored over 143 contests. He went ice cold after the All-Star break, batting .188 without a homer in his first 24 games of the second half, and missed the final couple weeks of the season with a groin injury. However, he still finished with a 135 wRC+ and 2.5 fWAR. Bell's power surge in 2019 was fueled by a more aggressive approach at the plate and helped by an inflated 23.9% HR/FB (9.2% in 2018). While he had a sizable platoon split, Bell was not far below league average against lefties, and his poor defense is not going to cost him playing time in Pittsburgh. Despite the late slide, he is still in the conversation to go top 10 among first basemen in 2020 drafts, though he'll need to put together another strong campaign to prove 2019 was not a fluke.
Following a year in which Bell hit just 12 homers, the 27-year-old first baseman broke out for 37 long balls, 116 RBI and 94 runs scored over 143 contests. He went ice cold after the All-Star break, batting .188 without a homer in his first 24 games of the second half, and missed the final couple weeks of the season with a groin injury. However, he still finished with a 135 wRC+ and 2.5 fWAR. Bell's power surge in 2019 was fueled by a more aggressive approach at the plate and helped by an inflated 23.9% HR/FB (9.2% in 2018). While he had a sizable platoon split, Bell was not far below league average against lefties, and his poor defense is not going to cost him playing time in Pittsburgh. Despite the late slide, he is still in the conversation to go top 10 among first basemen in 2020 drafts, though he'll need to put together another strong campaign to prove 2019 was not a fluke.
CLE (1B)
G
58
AB
207
AVG
.266
HR
11
RBI
33
SB
1
R
36
Santana was a huge profit earner in 2019; he was taken just inside the top 200 on average in the NFBC last March and was the 32nd ranked hitter when it was all said and done. The big surprise was his .281 BA, 13 points above his previous career high and more than 50 points above his 2018 mark. His 91.8 mph average exit velocity ranked in the 95th percentile (min. 100 PA) and it seemed like Santana was making a conscious effort to use the whole field more, as his Pull% was 45.6 after sitting in the 50s for most of his career. Even so, Statcast says he deserved a BA closer to .265. His power numbers could dip too if MLB deadens the ball again, but Santana has some of the best and most consistent plate skills in the game (16.5 K%, 15.4 BB% for career). Further, he has missed a total of five games over the past two years, so this is extremely bankable production, likely at a cost-effective price once again.
Santana was a huge profit earner in 2019; he was taken just inside the top 200 on average in the NFBC last March and was the 32nd ranked hitter when it was all said and done. The big surprise was his .281 BA, 13 points above his previous career high and more than 50 points above his 2018 mark. His 91.8 mph average exit velocity ranked in the 95th percentile (min. 100 PA) and it seemed like Santana was making a conscious effort to use the whole field more, as his Pull% was 45.6 after sitting in the 50s for most of his career. Even so, Statcast says he deserved a BA closer to .265. His power numbers could dip too if MLB deadens the ball again, but Santana has some of the best and most consistent plate skills in the game (16.5 K%, 15.4 BB% for career). Further, he has missed a total of five games over the past two years, so this is extremely bankable production, likely at a cost-effective price once again.
CWS (1B)
G
47
AB
173
AVG
.249
HR
13
RBI
36
SB
0
R
30
Encarnacion has worn four different uniforms over the past four seasons but the change of scenery has not slowed down his assault on baseballs. The 36-year-old joined the Yankees in a mid-June trade from Seattle and belted 34 home runs between the two clubs despite missing most of August and September with wrist and oblique injuries. While Encarnacion's ability to make contact has declined over the past three seasons -- his swinging-strike rate jumped to above 10% in 2017 and has remained there since -- he continued to hit the ball out of the park in 2019 due in part to a 22.5 degree average launch angle that ranked among the top five in the league. Encarnacion is unlikely to hit for a high average, but he will be a solid bet to extend his eight-year run of 30-plus homers in 2020 if he lands a full-time job. The Yankees declined his $20 million option.
Encarnacion has worn four different uniforms over the past four seasons but the change of scenery has not slowed down his assault on baseballs. The 36-year-old joined the Yankees in a mid-June trade from Seattle and belted 34 home runs between the two clubs despite missing most of August and September with wrist and oblique injuries. While Encarnacion's ability to make contact has declined over the past three seasons -- his swinging-strike rate jumped to above 10% in 2017 and has remained there since -- he continued to hit the ball out of the park in 2019 due in part to a 22.5 degree average launch angle that ranked among the top five in the league. Encarnacion is unlikely to hit for a high average, but he will be a solid bet to extend his eight-year run of 30-plus homers in 2020 if he lands a full-time job. The Yankees declined his $20 million option.
TEX (1B)
IL-10
G
54
AB
169
AVG
.260
HR
8
RBI
26
SB
7
R
26
Santana was one of the biggest fantasy surprises of 2019. The utility man opened the season at Triple-A after signing a minor-league deal with the Rangers. He earned a promotion to the big club in mid-April and eventually became a fixture in the lineup, hitting .283/.324/.534 with 81 RBI and 81 runs over 511 plate appearances while playing everywhere except pitcher and catcher. The switch hitter was one of nine players to post a 20-20 season, belting 28 home runs -- he hit just 13 over his previous five seasons combined -- and chipping in 21 steals across 130 games. Santana could stand to improve his plate discipline (4.9 BB%, 29.6 K%) and the track record is not there, but this kind of power/speed combination is increasingly difficult to find in today's game. After the Rangers traded Delino DeShields Jr., GM Jon Daniels said Santana is likely to get the bulk of the playing time in center field in 2020.
Santana was one of the biggest fantasy surprises of 2019. The utility man opened the season at Triple-A after signing a minor-league deal with the Rangers. He earned a promotion to the big club in mid-April and eventually became a fixture in the lineup, hitting .283/.324/.534 with 81 RBI and 81 runs over 511 plate appearances while playing everywhere except pitcher and catcher. The switch hitter was one of nine players to post a 20-20 season, belting 28 home runs -- he hit just 13 over his previous five seasons combined -- and chipping in 21 steals across 130 games. Santana could stand to improve his plate discipline (4.9 BB%, 29.6 K%) and the track record is not there, but this kind of power/speed combination is increasingly difficult to find in today's game. After the Rangers traded Delino DeShields Jr., GM Jon Daniels said Santana is likely to get the bulk of the playing time in center field in 2020.
ARI (1B)
G
52
AB
172
AVG
.262
HR
10
RBI
29
SB
1
R
30
The departure of Paul Goldschmidt last offseason opened up the job at first base in Arizona, and Walker began the season in a short-side platoon role alongside Jake Lamb after spending the last few years looking like a Quad-A player. Lamb went down with an injury in early April and Walker immediately staked his claim to the starting role with a .994 OPS through the first 28 games. He did struggle at times but still posted a 112 wRC+ while starting 132 games at first base, and he shaved his strikeout rate to just 22.8% in the second half. He mashed 29 home runs and had an 11.1 BB%, which represents the best mark of his professional career. Walker is more or less a prototypical power-hitting first baseman and actually had reverse splits, hitting for a better BA and SLG against righties than lefties. He should enter spring training as the Diamondbacks' top option at first base.
The departure of Paul Goldschmidt last offseason opened up the job at first base in Arizona, and Walker began the season in a short-side platoon role alongside Jake Lamb after spending the last few years looking like a Quad-A player. Lamb went down with an injury in early April and Walker immediately staked his claim to the starting role with a .994 OPS through the first 28 games. He did struggle at times but still posted a 112 wRC+ while starting 132 games at first base, and he shaved his strikeout rate to just 22.8% in the second half. He mashed 29 home runs and had an 11.1 BB%, which represents the best mark of his professional career. Walker is more or less a prototypical power-hitting first baseman and actually had reverse splits, hitting for a better BA and SLG against righties than lefties. He should enter spring training as the Diamondbacks' top option at first base.
PHI (1B)
G
56
AB
202
AVG
.233
HR
11
RBI
33
SB
0
R
32
Hoskins didn't have to play left field or carry the Phillies' offense on his own, but those changes failed to have the desired effect in his age-26 season. His offensive performance took a step back almost everywhere, as his slash line dropped from .246/.354/.496 to .226/.364/.454 and his homer total fell from 34 to 29. Outside of a 16.5% walk rate (fifth-best among qualified hitters), those numbers aren't really good enough for a first baseman on a contending team, especially considering the league-wide power explosion, though there doesn't appear to be an immediate threat to Hoskins' playing time. Statcast doesn't offer much hope for a regression-related bounceback, suggesting he overachieved his xBA (.216) and xSLG (.405). A better performance in 2020 can't be ruled out given Hoskins' past success and hitter-friendly home park, but he's less interesting than he was last offseason.
Hoskins didn't have to play left field or carry the Phillies' offense on his own, but those changes failed to have the desired effect in his age-26 season. His offensive performance took a step back almost everywhere, as his slash line dropped from .246/.354/.496 to .226/.364/.454 and his homer total fell from 34 to 29. Outside of a 16.5% walk rate (fifth-best among qualified hitters), those numbers aren't really good enough for a first baseman on a contending team, especially considering the league-wide power explosion, though there doesn't appear to be an immediate threat to Hoskins' playing time. Statcast doesn't offer much hope for a regression-related bounceback, suggesting he overachieved his xBA (.216) and xSLG (.405). A better performance in 2020 can't be ruled out given Hoskins' past success and hitter-friendly home park, but he's less interesting than he was last offseason.
SD (1B)
G
59
AB
228
AVG
.263
HR
8
RBI
33
SB
1
R
28
Hosmer may not ever eclipse the 25-homer mark in his career; if he could not do it in 2019, it may just never happen. He elevated the ball more than he did in 2018, but it was a return to his 2016-17 ways more than anything else. Just once in the past seven seasons has he had a GB/FB rate below 2.0. He fell one run shy of driving in 100 runs for just the second time in his career despite being an everyday player nearly his entire career. That ability -- the ability to play every single day -- is what his value hinges upon. He needs to compile to produce fantasy value as he does not have any one skill that can stand alone if the playing time suffers due to injury. He was the 20th-ranked first baseman at the end of 2019, and there is nothing in the Statcast numbers to say there is anything better for him hidden underneath. He is a low-risk, low-reward player, and there is safety in that for fantasy players.
Hosmer may not ever eclipse the 25-homer mark in his career; if he could not do it in 2019, it may just never happen. He elevated the ball more than he did in 2018, but it was a return to his 2016-17 ways more than anything else. Just once in the past seven seasons has he had a GB/FB rate below 2.0. He fell one run shy of driving in 100 runs for just the second time in his career despite being an everyday player nearly his entire career. That ability -- the ability to play every single day -- is what his value hinges upon. He needs to compile to produce fantasy value as he does not have any one skill that can stand alone if the playing time suffers due to injury. He was the 20th-ranked first baseman at the end of 2019, and there is nothing in the Statcast numbers to say there is anything better for him hidden underneath. He is a low-risk, low-reward player, and there is safety in that for fantasy players.
HOU (1B)
G
52
AB
203
AVG
.291
HR
7
RBI
30
SB
1
R
26
Gurriel set a new personal best in homers, clubbing 31, the same number he totaled the previous two seasons combined. Of all batters hitting at least 30 home runs, Gurriel's average flyball distance was the shortest. While average flyball distance correlates better to homers than average homer run distance, it's worth noting that Gurriel's average home run distance was second shortest to teammate Alex Bregman, both taking advantage of the ball and the Crawford boxes. Otherwise, it was business as usual, though Gurriel also set career bests in games and plate appearances. Unless the Astros decide to transition an outfielder to first, Gurriel should again be the primary first baseman while retaining dual eligibility at the hot corner. Beware, there's usually someone at the table influenced by recency bias and Gurriel is already a risk to drop back if the ball is closer to the 2018 version. Don't overpay.
Gurriel set a new personal best in homers, clubbing 31, the same number he totaled the previous two seasons combined. Of all batters hitting at least 30 home runs, Gurriel's average flyball distance was the shortest. While average flyball distance correlates better to homers than average homer run distance, it's worth noting that Gurriel's average home run distance was second shortest to teammate Alex Bregman, both taking advantage of the ball and the Crawford boxes. Otherwise, it was business as usual, though Gurriel also set career bests in games and plate appearances. Unless the Astros decide to transition an outfielder to first, Gurriel should again be the primary first baseman while retaining dual eligibility at the hot corner. Beware, there's usually someone at the table influenced by recency bias and Gurriel is already a risk to drop back if the ball is closer to the 2018 version. Don't overpay.
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ATL (2B)
IL-10
G
58
AB
236
AVG
.292
HR
9
RBI
31
SB
7
R
39
Albies finished as the fifth-best 2B on our Earned Auction Value calculator behind Jonathan Villar, Ketel Marte, DJ LeMahieu and Eduardo Escobar. Albies could be the guy atop that list in 2020. He has two full seasons at the big-league level before his 23rd birthday and has shown progress in all three seasons he has spent at the big-league level. He has missed six games over the past two seasons, and has made the most of his playing time even if his stolen-base total doesn't match his speed. Fifteen steals is the new 25 steals in today's environment, and even a 47-point jump in Albies' OBP only led to two more stolen-base attempts in 2019 than he attempted in 2018. He has the luxury of being one of the pieces in a talented lineup in which Ronald Acuna Jr. has a lot of the spotlight, which somewhat diminishes how much Albies has accomplished at such a young age. There is more in the tank here.
Albies finished as the fifth-best 2B on our Earned Auction Value calculator behind Jonathan Villar, Ketel Marte, DJ LeMahieu and Eduardo Escobar. Albies could be the guy atop that list in 2020. He has two full seasons at the big-league level before his 23rd birthday and has shown progress in all three seasons he has spent at the big-league level. He has missed six games over the past two seasons, and has made the most of his playing time even if his stolen-base total doesn't match his speed. Fifteen steals is the new 25 steals in today's environment, and even a 47-point jump in Albies' OBP only led to two more stolen-base attempts in 2019 than he attempted in 2018. He has the luxury of being one of the pieces in a talented lineup in which Ronald Acuna Jr. has a lot of the spotlight, which somewhat diminishes how much Albies has accomplished at such a young age. There is more in the tank here.
HOU (2B)
G
56
AB
222
AVG
.315
HR
10
RBI
30
SB
4
R
38
Altuve failed to hit .300 for the first time since 2013, albeit falling just two points -- or one hit -- short. He shattered his career high in homers with 31, doing it in just 124 games, his fewest played since his 2011 rookie campaign. Altuve missed just over five weeks with a strained hamstring. He was put on the IL on May 11, slashing just .243/.329/.472 at the time. After returning June 12, Altuve posted a .320/.363/.581 line, more reminiscent of his usual production. Altuve's power spike came despite a decrease in both exit velocity and launch angle. He was graced by good fortune with some help from the ball. Altuve remains one of the best at his position; he's just no longer one of the best overall, primarily due to waning steals. That said, there's a question how long he can remain elite with his skill set as his Statcast numbers (average exit velocity, barrels, xBA and xSLG) are middle of the pack.
Altuve failed to hit .300 for the first time since 2013, albeit falling just two points -- or one hit -- short. He shattered his career high in homers with 31, doing it in just 124 games, his fewest played since his 2011 rookie campaign. Altuve missed just over five weeks with a strained hamstring. He was put on the IL on May 11, slashing just .243/.329/.472 at the time. After returning June 12, Altuve posted a .320/.363/.581 line, more reminiscent of his usual production. Altuve's power spike came despite a decrease in both exit velocity and launch angle. He was graced by good fortune with some help from the ball. Altuve remains one of the best at his position; he's just no longer one of the best overall, primarily due to waning steals. That said, there's a question how long he can remain elite with his skill set as his Statcast numbers (average exit velocity, barrels, xBA and xSLG) are middle of the pack.
KC (2B)
G
58
AB
240
AVG
.300
HR
6
RBI
26
SB
11
R
35
Merrifield ranked among the top 40 hitters in rotisserie baseball last season, but he was a second-rounder on average in the NFBC last March because of the 45 he posted in the SB column the year before and was a bit of a letdown at that acquisition cost. He was thrown out on the basepaths as many times as he was in 2018, in 25 fewer attempts. Perhaps because of his diminished efficiency, Merrifield's attempts were scaled back as the season wore on (20 attempts in the first half, 10 after the break). While Merrifield is relatively new to the scene, he's already going to be 31 on Opening Day and speed is usually the first skill to go as a player advances to this stage on the aging curve. The rest of the numbers look pretty safe given his bat-to-ball skills and expected volume, but if his SB chances are reduced further under new manager Mike Matheny, Merrifield will fall closer to the pack at second base.
Merrifield ranked among the top 40 hitters in rotisserie baseball last season, but he was a second-rounder on average in the NFBC last March because of the 45 he posted in the SB column the year before and was a bit of a letdown at that acquisition cost. He was thrown out on the basepaths as many times as he was in 2018, in 25 fewer attempts. Perhaps because of his diminished efficiency, Merrifield's attempts were scaled back as the season wore on (20 attempts in the first half, 10 after the break). While Merrifield is relatively new to the scene, he's already going to be 31 on Opening Day and speed is usually the first skill to go as a player advances to this stage on the aging curve. The rest of the numbers look pretty safe given his bat-to-ball skills and expected volume, but if his SB chances are reduced further under new manager Mike Matheny, Merrifield will fall closer to the pack at second base.
MIL (2B)
G
54
AB
206
AVG
.301
HR
10
RBI
29
SB
5
R
33
Triple-A pitchers provided little challenge, and Hiura earned his first trip to the majors in mid-May thanks to a Travis Shaw injury. Hiura showed the hitting skills that made him a Top-10 prospect in baseball, but the Brewers still sent him back down when Shaw returned. Shaw struggled mightily, and Hiura became a regular in the big-league lineup in late June. All he did after that was impress at the plate, posting a .956 OPS the rest of the way. Hiura did strike out in 30.7 percent of his MLB at-bats last year, but he has the bat speed to cut that at least closer to league average. Of greater concern is Hiura's defense, which won't hurt his value in most formats but could lead to him being subbed out for a defensive replacement more than desired. Despite the flaws Hiura will be an everyday player and hit near the top of the batting order, and he has all the tools to be a five-category contributor.
Triple-A pitchers provided little challenge, and Hiura earned his first trip to the majors in mid-May thanks to a Travis Shaw injury. Hiura showed the hitting skills that made him a Top-10 prospect in baseball, but the Brewers still sent him back down when Shaw returned. Shaw struggled mightily, and Hiura became a regular in the big-league lineup in late June. All he did after that was impress at the plate, posting a .956 OPS the rest of the way. Hiura did strike out in 30.7 percent of his MLB at-bats last year, but he has the bat speed to cut that at least closer to league average. Of greater concern is Hiura's defense, which won't hurt his value in most formats but could lead to him being subbed out for a defensive replacement more than desired. Despite the flaws Hiura will be an everyday player and hit near the top of the batting order, and he has all the tools to be a five-category contributor.
NYY (2B)
G
54
AB
200
AVG
.280
HR
13
RBI
34
SB
2
R
31
The game is in a great place with a multitude of talented youngsters, and Torres is near the front of the class with his potential. The young slugger took over minority ownership of the Baltimore franchise in 2019, hitting 13 of his 38 homers against the bottom-feeding Orioles pitching staff and also hit 29 of his 38 homers against right-handed pitching on the season. His home/road splits are not as drastic as one would assume with his friendly home stadium, though his expected stats paint a somewhat worrisome picture for his 2020 projections. While his expecting batting average was identical to his actual mark, his expected slugging percentage was 64 points below his actual SLG. None of his batted-ball events ranked in the top 10 percentile on the year, but some of his actual outcomes ranked in the overall top 20. It would be best to taper the 2020 expectations rather than expect another step forward.
The game is in a great place with a multitude of talented youngsters, and Torres is near the front of the class with his potential. The young slugger took over minority ownership of the Baltimore franchise in 2019, hitting 13 of his 38 homers against the bottom-feeding Orioles pitching staff and also hit 29 of his 38 homers against right-handed pitching on the season. His home/road splits are not as drastic as one would assume with his friendly home stadium, though his expected stats paint a somewhat worrisome picture for his 2020 projections. While his expecting batting average was identical to his actual mark, his expected slugging percentage was 64 points below his actual SLG. None of his batted-ball events ranked in the top 10 percentile on the year, but some of his actual outcomes ranked in the overall top 20. It would be best to taper the 2020 expectations rather than expect another step forward.
ARI (2B)
G
57
AB
209
AVG
.301
HR
9
RBI
29
SB
4
R
32
Many enjoyed the happy fun ball in 2019, but perhaps none more than Marte. He went from a slightly better than league average offensive producer to one 50 percent better than the league average while playing in the same park. Amazing what doubling your launch angle and getting pull-happy for the first time in your career could do for a player in 2019. None of Marte's batted-ball events made the top 10 percent of the Statcast leaderboards, but the playing time allowed him to make the most of what he was doing. The expected stats do not support the final 2019 numbers as his expected batting average was 34 points lower than his actual mark while his expected slugging percentage was 92 points below his actual SLG. It's a friendly reminder when someone breaks out to the level that Marte did in 2019, the best move for the next season is to project regression rather than another level of statistical ascension.
Many enjoyed the happy fun ball in 2019, but perhaps none more than Marte. He went from a slightly better than league average offensive producer to one 50 percent better than the league average while playing in the same park. Amazing what doubling your launch angle and getting pull-happy for the first time in your career could do for a player in 2019. None of Marte's batted-ball events made the top 10 percent of the Statcast leaderboards, but the playing time allowed him to make the most of what he was doing. The expected stats do not support the final 2019 numbers as his expected batting average was 34 points lower than his actual mark while his expected slugging percentage was 92 points below his actual SLG. It's a friendly reminder when someone breaks out to the level that Marte did in 2019, the best move for the next season is to project regression rather than another level of statistical ascension.
MIA (2B)
G
55
AB
201
AVG
.269
HR
7
RBI
22
SB
13
R
30
The 108-loss Orioles weren't shy about giving the speedy Villar the green light in 2019, allowing him to finish second in the majors in steals. At the dish, he showed an improved eye (8.5 BB%) to go with some solid pop (career-best .179 ISO), propelling him to a .274/.339/.453 line (107 wRC+). Villar's shoddy defense in the middle infield was an issue, however, and mostly explains the disconnect between his real-life and fantasy value. To that end, the Orioles moved on from Villar this winter, sending him to Miami for a low-level prospect rather than paying the $10 million-plus he was due in arbitration. Considering the Marlins fielded a similarly poor offense in 2019, Villar should remain active on the bases, but the move to Miami hurts his power outlook. Additionally, Villar is a prime candidate to be dealt midseason, and a trade to a contending club may put him at risk of falling into a utility role.
The 108-loss Orioles weren't shy about giving the speedy Villar the green light in 2019, allowing him to finish second in the majors in steals. At the dish, he showed an improved eye (8.5 BB%) to go with some solid pop (career-best .179 ISO), propelling him to a .274/.339/.453 line (107 wRC+). Villar's shoddy defense in the middle infield was an issue, however, and mostly explains the disconnect between his real-life and fantasy value. To that end, the Orioles moved on from Villar this winter, sending him to Miami for a low-level prospect rather than paying the $10 million-plus he was due in arbitration. Considering the Marlins fielded a similarly poor offense in 2019, Villar should remain active on the bases, but the move to Miami hurts his power outlook. Additionally, Villar is a prime candidate to be dealt midseason, and a trade to a contending club may put him at risk of falling into a utility role.
NYM (2B)
DTD
G
56
AB
209
AVG
.311
HR
7
RBI
28
SB
3
R
34
Even after batting .329 over his first two-plus months of MLB action in 2018, McNeil was slated to open last season in a utility role until injuries intervened. Suffice it to say, McNeil now owns a full-time lineup spot after demonstrating that the exceptional contact skills he exhibited as a rookie weren't a fluke. More surprisingly, McNeil showed he wasn't merely a slap hitter, either. He raised his barrel rate from 2.4% to 4.8%, allowing him to tap into power (62 extra-base hits) that was mostly absent from his minor-league profile. The 2019 baseball undoubtedly helped McNeil, but his high batting-average floor and spot near the top of the order are enough to make him a quality building block for fantasy teams even if the power production proves unsustainable. McNeil's eligibility at three spots (second base, third base and outfield) only burnishes his value further.
Even after batting .329 over his first two-plus months of MLB action in 2018, McNeil was slated to open last season in a utility role until injuries intervened. Suffice it to say, McNeil now owns a full-time lineup spot after demonstrating that the exceptional contact skills he exhibited as a rookie weren't a fluke. More surprisingly, McNeil showed he wasn't merely a slap hitter, either. He raised his barrel rate from 2.4% to 4.8%, allowing him to tap into power (62 extra-base hits) that was mostly absent from his minor-league profile. The 2019 baseball undoubtedly helped McNeil, but his high batting-average floor and spot near the top of the order are enough to make him a quality building block for fantasy teams even if the power production proves unsustainable. McNeil's eligibility at three spots (second base, third base and outfield) only burnishes his value further.
ARI (2B)
G
56
AB
216
AVG
.269
HR
10
RBI
37
SB
1
R
30
Escobar didn't play an inning at shortstop for the first time in his career. However, he's gained second-base eligibility (the first time he's ever had it entering a full season), and second base has been thinned out, making Escobar arguably the most appealing he's ever been. His .269 batting average in 2019 was right in line with his .272 mark from the season prior, but he really broke out in the power department, where his 35 homers smashed his previous career high (23). There are reasons aplenty to suspect he overachieved in that category. His 31.5% hard-hit rate, while a personal Statcast-era best, trailed the league-wide average by three points. We all know about the 2019 baseball, and a player like Escobar who doesn't have much of a track record as a power hitter is tough to project in that department for 2020. Even if we use 2017-18 as our baseline, that's still a nice get outside the top 100.
Escobar didn't play an inning at shortstop for the first time in his career. However, he's gained second-base eligibility (the first time he's ever had it entering a full season), and second base has been thinned out, making Escobar arguably the most appealing he's ever been. His .269 batting average in 2019 was right in line with his .272 mark from the season prior, but he really broke out in the power department, where his 35 homers smashed his previous career high (23). There are reasons aplenty to suspect he overachieved in that category. His 31.5% hard-hit rate, while a personal Statcast-era best, trailed the league-wide average by three points. We all know about the 2019 baseball, and a player like Escobar who doesn't have much of a track record as a power hitter is tough to project in that department for 2020. Even if we use 2017-18 as our baseline, that's still a nice get outside the top 100.
LAD (2B)
G
57
AB
181
AVG
.249
HR
11
RBI
34
SB
1
R
36
Let's take a moment to appreciate Muncy for a second. We all know the story about him being DFA'd by Oakland and grabbed by the Dodgers and his breakout in 2018. Six weeks into 2019, Muncy was hitting .242 with five HR and 18 RBI, and looked like a bust for fantasy owners. He went on to hit .253 with a .383 OBP, 30 HR, 90 runs and 80 RBI the rest of the way. In the process, he equaled his HR total from 2018 and obliterated his runs and RBI. Yes, he wasn't as good as 2018 overall, but he was still darn good and those who held true despite the slow start were handsomely rewarded. The skills over the past two years have been rather stable, but Muncy did see his flyball rate come down in 2019. Muncy has more value in OBP leagues as the batting average has a low ceiling with the strikeouts, but it certainly hasn't cut into his run production. The added bonus is three-position eligibility in 2020 (2B, 3B and 1B).
Let's take a moment to appreciate Muncy for a second. We all know the story about him being DFA'd by Oakland and grabbed by the Dodgers and his breakout in 2018. Six weeks into 2019, Muncy was hitting .242 with five HR and 18 RBI, and looked like a bust for fantasy owners. He went on to hit .253 with a .383 OBP, 30 HR, 90 runs and 80 RBI the rest of the way. In the process, he equaled his HR total from 2018 and obliterated his runs and RBI. Yes, he wasn't as good as 2018 overall, but he was still darn good and those who held true despite the slow start were handsomely rewarded. The skills over the past two years have been rather stable, but Muncy did see his flyball rate come down in 2019. Muncy has more value in OBP leagues as the batting average has a low ceiling with the strikeouts, but it certainly hasn't cut into his run production. The added bonus is three-position eligibility in 2020 (2B, 3B and 1B).
TOR (2B)
G
55
AB
191
AVG
.241
HR
8
RBI
30
SB
7
R
34
One of the Blue Jays' top prospects, Biggio received the callup to the big leagues in late May and was eased into the starting role at second base, starting 84 games at the position. He also started eight games in the outfield, four at DH and two at first base. Overall it was a solid rookie campaign as he posted a .234/.364/.429 slash line with 16 home runs and 14 stolen bases. He continued the trend of a high-strikeout rate from the minors (28.6%), but he also had a 16.5 BB%, which would have been top five in MLB among qualified hitters had Biggo logged enough plate appearances to qualify. Biggio's sophomore campaign should see him in an everyday role in Toronto, and his quality rookie campaign and 20-20-plus potential make him an appealing fantasy asset, even more so if he can reduce the strikeouts.
One of the Blue Jays' top prospects, Biggio received the callup to the big leagues in late May and was eased into the starting role at second base, starting 84 games at the position. He also started eight games in the outfield, four at DH and two at first base. Overall it was a solid rookie campaign as he posted a .234/.364/.429 slash line with 16 home runs and 14 stolen bases. He continued the trend of a high-strikeout rate from the minors (28.6%), but he also had a 16.5 BB%, which would have been top five in MLB among qualified hitters had Biggo logged enough plate appearances to qualify. Biggio's sophomore campaign should see him in an everyday role in Toronto, and his quality rookie campaign and 20-20-plus potential make him an appealing fantasy asset, even more so if he can reduce the strikeouts.
STL (2B)
G
53
AB
198
AVG
.293
HR
5
RBI
21
SB
9
R
33
After spending the first two months of the season with Triple-A Memphis, Edman earned a promotion in June and never looked back, finishing with a team-best 123 wRC+ across 92 games while playing third base (41 starts), second base (23) and the outfield (11). The rookie also led the Cardinals in average (.304) and slugging percentage (.500), while he ranked second in OBP (.350) despite a poor 4.6 BB%. While there are reasons to believe Edman's high average is sustainable (.292 xBA per Statcast), underlying numbers -- 4.1% Barrels/PA and .425 xSLG per Statcast -- suggest he may not be able to keep up the same home run pace (11 in 349 plate appearances) in 2020. Either way, Edman's value is buoyed by his impressive speed, as he went 24-for-25 in stolen base chances between Memphis and St. Louis. He started all nine playoff games and, even without a set position, should see plenty of opportunities in 2020.
After spending the first two months of the season with Triple-A Memphis, Edman earned a promotion in June and never looked back, finishing with a team-best 123 wRC+ across 92 games while playing third base (41 starts), second base (23) and the outfield (11). The rookie also led the Cardinals in average (.304) and slugging percentage (.500), while he ranked second in OBP (.350) despite a poor 4.6 BB%. While there are reasons to believe Edman's high average is sustainable (.292 xBA per Statcast), underlying numbers -- 4.1% Barrels/PA and .425 xSLG per Statcast -- suggest he may not be able to keep up the same home run pace (11 in 349 plate appearances) in 2020. Either way, Edman's value is buoyed by his impressive speed, as he went 24-for-25 in stolen base chances between Memphis and St. Louis. He started all nine playoff games and, even without a set position, should see plenty of opportunities in 2020.
CIN (2B)
IL-10
G
54
AB
202
AVG
.257
HR
12
RBI
33
SB
1
R
28
After signing one-year contracts in back-to-back years, Moustakas was finally able to land that elusive multi-year deal, which the Reds handed him coming off a season in which he posted the best ISO, BB% and OPS of his nine-year career. The power output wasn't totally a product of the short porch in right field at Miller Park, as he posted a markedly better OPS away (.920) than at home (.765) and hit 21 of his HR on the road. Moustakas provides almost no speed with 18 career steals, but his power should remain steady in a home ballpark that rates even more favorable for HR than his last. Moustakas spent most of last season at 3B, but he opened the campaign at 2B and held his own, so the Reds will slot him in there to kick off the 2020 campaign. He hit lefties better than righties last season, so expect him to slide into an everyday role with his new club and occupy a spot in the middle of the batting order.
After signing one-year contracts in back-to-back years, Moustakas was finally able to land that elusive multi-year deal, which the Reds handed him coming off a season in which he posted the best ISO, BB% and OPS of his nine-year career. The power output wasn't totally a product of the short porch in right field at Miller Park, as he posted a markedly better OPS away (.920) than at home (.765) and hit 21 of his HR on the road. Moustakas provides almost no speed with 18 career steals, but his power should remain steady in a home ballpark that rates even more favorable for HR than his last. Moustakas spent most of last season at 3B, but he opened the campaign at 2B and held his own, so the Reds will slot him in there to kick off the 2020 campaign. He hit lefties better than righties last season, so expect him to slide into an everyday role with his new club and occupy a spot in the middle of the batting order.
COL (2B)
G
52
AB
173
AVG
.283
HR
5
RBI
17
SB
12
R
29
If you're a believer in the theory that September stats can predict breakouts the following year, Hampson is a target for you. He did next to nothing the first five months of the season while either riding the bench or riding the shuttle back and forth from Triple-A. Then September came, and he hit five homers, scored 16 runs and stole nine bases while batting .318. Prorate those statistics over an entire season, with half the games coming in Coors, and it's easy to get excited about his 2020 potential. The most encouraging part of September is that Hampson built his success around greatly improved contact, likely a byproduct of him getting regular playing time down the stretch. He has well above-average speed and a solid hit tool, but the Rockies' roster doesn't have a full-time role for Hampson right now. That situation could work out one way or another by springtime, but for now, it limits his value.
If you're a believer in the theory that September stats can predict breakouts the following year, Hampson is a target for you. He did next to nothing the first five months of the season while either riding the bench or riding the shuttle back and forth from Triple-A. Then September came, and he hit five homers, scored 16 runs and stole nine bases while batting .318. Prorate those statistics over an entire season, with half the games coming in Coors, and it's easy to get excited about his 2020 potential. The most encouraging part of September is that Hampson built his success around greatly improved contact, likely a byproduct of him getting regular playing time down the stretch. He has well above-average speed and a solid hit tool, but the Rockies' roster doesn't have a full-time role for Hampson right now. That situation could work out one way or another by springtime, but for now, it limits his value.
COL (2B)
G
56
AB
185
AVG
.270
HR
9
RBI
31
SB
2
R
27
McMahon finally got regular playing time in 2019, but it took him until the second half of the season to make the most of it. A .256/.332/.399 first-half slash line gave way to a .244/.326/.500 slash line after the break, and he hit 17 of his 24 homers after the intermission. Can anyone explain his 41% HR/FB in the second half despite his flyball rate declining from the first half? Us neither. There is still a lot of noise in this stat line, but both his average exit velocity and his hard-hit rate were in the 90th percentile last season. The strikeout rate remains rather high, which should temper expectations for him because Coors Field or not, it is tough for anyone to hit for average while striking out 30% of the time. McMahon missed qualifying at three positions by one game in 2019, if you play in the standard 20-game rule format. If you use 10 or 15, enjoy his 1B/2B/3B eligibility.
McMahon finally got regular playing time in 2019, but it took him until the second half of the season to make the most of it. A .256/.332/.399 first-half slash line gave way to a .244/.326/.500 slash line after the break, and he hit 17 of his 24 homers after the intermission. Can anyone explain his 41% HR/FB in the second half despite his flyball rate declining from the first half? Us neither. There is still a lot of noise in this stat line, but both his average exit velocity and his hard-hit rate were in the 90th percentile last season. The strikeout rate remains rather high, which should temper expectations for him because Coors Field or not, it is tough for anyone to hit for average while striking out 30% of the time. McMahon missed qualifying at three positions by one game in 2019, if you play in the standard 20-game rule format. If you use 10 or 15, enjoy his 1B/2B/3B eligibility.
The rest of our Fantasy Baseball Outlooks & Rankings are reserved for RotoWire subscribers.
COL (3B)
G
58
AB
219
AVG
.306
HR
15
RBI
45
SB
1
R
38
Arenado has been the model of consistency in Major League Baseball, hitting between .287 and .315 with 37-42 homers and 110-plus RBI in each of the last five seasons. He hit exactly .315 against both lefties and righties in 2019. Of course, Coors Field helps, but Arenado was well above average on the road last season, slashing .277/.346/.521, up from .248/.325/.447 in 2018. The barrel rates and exit velocity numbers aren't going to wow anyone, but it doesn't really matter with a player with this track record, in this park. Those lower on Arenado will say he is approaching the downward slope of the aging curve, and while he signed an eight-year, $260 million extension last February, there's still a threat of him being shipped out of Colorado. The biggest knock against him is the lack of speed; rotisserie players are justified in wanting at least a little speed from a first-round hitter.
Arenado has been the model of consistency in Major League Baseball, hitting between .287 and .315 with 37-42 homers and 110-plus RBI in each of the last five seasons. He hit exactly .315 against both lefties and righties in 2019. Of course, Coors Field helps, but Arenado was well above average on the road last season, slashing .277/.346/.521, up from .248/.325/.447 in 2018. The barrel rates and exit velocity numbers aren't going to wow anyone, but it doesn't really matter with a player with this track record, in this park. Those lower on Arenado will say he is approaching the downward slope of the aging curve, and while he signed an eight-year, $260 million extension last February, there's still a threat of him being shipped out of Colorado. The biggest knock against him is the lack of speed; rotisserie players are justified in wanting at least a little speed from a first-round hitter.
CLE (3B)
G
57
AB
214
AVG
.266
HR
11
RBI
36
SB
10
R
35
The 2019 season for Ramirez was a three-part play. The opening act saw the 2018 MVP candidate hit .214/.309/.325 over the first three months of the season with five HR. The 18 steals helped sustain some value in what looked like a completely lost season for many fantasy owners' first-round pick, but it was obviously not the production they envisioned. The second act saw Ramirez hit .320/.354/.691 from July 1 until he broke his hamate bone Aug. 24, with 15 HR, six steals and 45 runs driven in. Joey Gallo injured his hamate two weeks earlier than Ramirez and never came back in 2019. All Ramirez did was come back in the final week of the season, hit three more HR in three games, knock in eight more runs and try his best to push his club into the postseason. Another 30-30 season could be in store for Ramirez in 2020 if he can recover his OBP skills from 2018 as he did in the second half.
The 2019 season for Ramirez was a three-part play. The opening act saw the 2018 MVP candidate hit .214/.309/.325 over the first three months of the season with five HR. The 18 steals helped sustain some value in what looked like a completely lost season for many fantasy owners' first-round pick, but it was obviously not the production they envisioned. The second act saw Ramirez hit .320/.354/.691 from July 1 until he broke his hamate bone Aug. 24, with 15 HR, six steals and 45 runs driven in. Joey Gallo injured his hamate two weeks earlier than Ramirez and never came back in 2019. All Ramirez did was come back in the final week of the season, hit three more HR in three games, knock in eight more runs and try his best to push his club into the postseason. Another 30-30 season could be in store for Ramirez in 2020 if he can recover his OBP skills from 2018 as he did in the second half.
BOS (3B)
G
57
AB
227
AVG
.286
HR
13
RBI
37
SB
2
R
40
We have seen this script before: positive rookie year followed by a sophomore slump, and then a huge breakout year. Devers dedicated himself to getting into shape after his disappointing 2018 season, and the hard work paid off with a monster offensive season in 2019. His exit velocity, hard-hit rate and expected batting average were each in the 90th percentile, and he drastically reduced his strikeout rate from 25% to 17% last season. He has power to all fields, but also can be neutralized by lefties as he had a .996 OPS vs righties but a .744 OPS against lefties last season with just seven of his 32 homers coming off southpaws. It is unlikely there is another step forward coming in 2020, because it is nearly impossible to expect Devers to get over 700 plate appearances in consecutive years. Devers could be dealing with the pressures to do even more with the bat to make up for what Boston loses this winter.
We have seen this script before: positive rookie year followed by a sophomore slump, and then a huge breakout year. Devers dedicated himself to getting into shape after his disappointing 2018 season, and the hard work paid off with a monster offensive season in 2019. His exit velocity, hard-hit rate and expected batting average were each in the 90th percentile, and he drastically reduced his strikeout rate from 25% to 17% last season. He has power to all fields, but also can be neutralized by lefties as he had a .996 OPS vs righties but a .744 OPS against lefties last season with just seven of his 32 homers coming off southpaws. It is unlikely there is another step forward coming in 2020, because it is nearly impossible to expect Devers to get over 700 plate appearances in consecutive years. Devers could be dealing with the pressures to do even more with the bat to make up for what Boston loses this winter.
LAA (3B)
G
48
AB
178
AVG
.315
HR
11
RBI
37
SB
1
R
33
The secret is out: Rendon is really good at baseball. It took some luck and a national stage in the playoffs, but the cat is out of the bag. His career year netted him a seven-year, $245 million deal with the Angels. Rendon's skills were just a tick better than usual, but enough to elevate him to an elite level. A few extra flyballs and the ideal average flyball distance to take maximum advantage of the added 5-to-10 feet of travel combined to yield 34 homers, Rendon's first visit north of 30. His AVG increased for the fourth year in a row, helping Rendon smash his previous personal best in runs and RBI. Following a season of this nature, gravity usually takes hold, dragging production down a tad. Even so, Rendon has established a high, bankable floor, worthy of a high pick or healthy bid. World Series helium will raise the price. Pay for the reliability and stability, but don't pay for last year's stats.
The secret is out: Rendon is really good at baseball. It took some luck and a national stage in the playoffs, but the cat is out of the bag. His career year netted him a seven-year, $245 million deal with the Angels. Rendon's skills were just a tick better than usual, but enough to elevate him to an elite level. A few extra flyballs and the ideal average flyball distance to take maximum advantage of the added 5-to-10 feet of travel combined to yield 34 homers, Rendon's first visit north of 30. His AVG increased for the fourth year in a row, helping Rendon smash his previous personal best in runs and RBI. Following a season of this nature, gravity usually takes hold, dragging production down a tad. Even so, Rendon has established a high, bankable floor, worthy of a high pick or healthy bid. World Series helium will raise the price. Pay for the reliability and stability, but don't pay for last year's stats.
CWS (3B)
DTD
G
55
AB
212
AVG
.274
HR
10
RBI
31
SB
6
R
33
Something was in the water on the South Side of Chicago; the free-swinging Tim Anderson won the batting title and his free-swinging teammate Moncada raised his batting average 80 points from 2018. We always knew this kid could hit as the ball flies off his bat and his Statcast batted-ball data lives in the 80th percentile or above, but we wondered if he could make enough contact to take full advantage of that. We have our answer. Moncada reduced his strikeout rate, and while 27.5% is still not great, it is an improvement over the previous years and that is what we want to see from young hitters. The shift from second base to third base puts a premium on the power numbers from the position, and Moncada answered that call last year. Of his 50 career homers, 42 have come from the left side of the plate, so while he switch hits, the production is lopsided in favor of his time against righties.
Something was in the water on the South Side of Chicago; the free-swinging Tim Anderson won the batting title and his free-swinging teammate Moncada raised his batting average 80 points from 2018. We always knew this kid could hit as the ball flies off his bat and his Statcast batted-ball data lives in the 80th percentile or above, but we wondered if he could make enough contact to take full advantage of that. We have our answer. Moncada reduced his strikeout rate, and while 27.5% is still not great, it is an improvement over the previous years and that is what we want to see from young hitters. The shift from second base to third base puts a premium on the power numbers from the position, and Moncada answered that call last year. Of his 50 career homers, 42 have come from the left side of the plate, so while he switch hits, the production is lopsided in favor of his time against righties.
MIN (3B)
IL-10
G
56
AB
200
AVG
.260
HR
13
RBI
34
SB
1
R
34
Following a disappointing 2018 season, Donaldson bounced back with the Braves, hitting .259/.379/.521 with 37 home runs and 94 RBI. The third baseman had a career-high 47.5% hard-hit rate, which ranked eighth among qualified hitters. The former American League MVP benefitted from a talented lineup around him in Atlanta, maximizing the impact of his 70 extra-base hits. Donaldson also ranked ninth among qualified hitters with a walk rate of 15.2%, and he trimmed his K-rate slightly to 23.5% despite a downtick in Z-Contact%. He will hit in the middle of another talented lineup after inking a long-term deal with the Twins. Target Field plays slightly worse for right-handed power than Truist Park in Atlanta. Injuries cost Donaldson significant time in 2017 and 2018, but he showed he can still be a highly-productive and valuable fantasy asset when healthy.
Following a disappointing 2018 season, Donaldson bounced back with the Braves, hitting .259/.379/.521 with 37 home runs and 94 RBI. The third baseman had a career-high 47.5% hard-hit rate, which ranked eighth among qualified hitters. The former American League MVP benefitted from a talented lineup around him in Atlanta, maximizing the impact of his 70 extra-base hits. Donaldson also ranked ninth among qualified hitters with a walk rate of 15.2%, and he trimmed his K-rate slightly to 23.5% despite a downtick in Z-Contact%. He will hit in the middle of another talented lineup after inking a long-term deal with the Twins. Target Field plays slightly worse for right-handed power than Truist Park in Atlanta. Injuries cost Donaldson significant time in 2017 and 2018, but he showed he can still be a highly-productive and valuable fantasy asset when healthy.
CHC (3B)
DTD
G
56
AB
208
AVG
.284
HR
10
RBI
29
SB
1
R
39
In a way, Bryant has become a victim of his own potential. He's not a perennial first rounder, so what? Bryant is a consistently solid fantasy asset with slightly depressed numbers hitting out of the two hole as the added plate appearances don't completely mitigate the lost RBI opportunities. Last season, Bryant rebounded from a disappointing 2018 campaign which was hindered by a lingering shoulder issue. In 2019, Bryant avoided the IL, though he did sit out the last week with an ankle sprain. The result were numbers just a smidgen lower than the previous two campaigns. It will be curious to see if new Cubs skipper David Ross keeps Bryant batting second. His career .385 OBP is worthy, though a .516 SLG plays in a run-producing spot as well. Third base isn't as deep as usual. Securing Bryant early, maybe even at a discount, locks up a reliable performer at the hot corner with added outfield eligibility.
In a way, Bryant has become a victim of his own potential. He's not a perennial first rounder, so what? Bryant is a consistently solid fantasy asset with slightly depressed numbers hitting out of the two hole as the added plate appearances don't completely mitigate the lost RBI opportunities. Last season, Bryant rebounded from a disappointing 2018 campaign which was hindered by a lingering shoulder issue. In 2019, Bryant avoided the IL, though he did sit out the last week with an ankle sprain. The result were numbers just a smidgen lower than the previous two campaigns. It will be curious to see if new Cubs skipper David Ross keeps Bryant batting second. His career .385 OBP is worthy, though a .516 SLG plays in a run-producing spot as well. Third base isn't as deep as usual. Securing Bryant early, maybe even at a discount, locks up a reliable performer at the hot corner with added outfield eligibility.
CIN (3B)
G
51
AB
184
AVG
.272
HR
13
RBI
33
SB
1
R
28
Suarez turned a good power season into an epic one with a strong finishing kick, hitting 20 homers while batting over .300 with a 12% walk rate over the final two months of 2019. He fell just short of the NL homer title with 49, but it was nonetheless a career year. The only drag on his value is his lack of speed, and the lack of production from his teammates -- those 49 homers translated into 103 RBI, one less than the previous year when he hit 34 home runs. His counting stats should improve in 2020 with the addition of Mike Moustakas, who will play second base to allow Suarez to remain at third. Suarez hit for similar power at home and on the road, though he hit for a far better average at Great American Ball Park. One concern is his strikeout rate spiked to 28.5%, putting a strain on his batting average.
Suarez turned a good power season into an epic one with a strong finishing kick, hitting 20 homers while batting over .300 with a 12% walk rate over the final two months of 2019. He fell just short of the NL homer title with 49, but it was nonetheless a career year. The only drag on his value is his lack of speed, and the lack of production from his teammates -- those 49 homers translated into 103 RBI, one less than the previous year when he hit 34 home runs. His counting stats should improve in 2020 with the addition of Mike Moustakas, who will play second base to allow Suarez to remain at third. Suarez hit for similar power at home and on the road, though he hit for a far better average at Great American Ball Park. One concern is his strikeout rate spiked to 28.5%, putting a strain on his batting average.
TOR (3B)
G
57
AB
212
AVG
.297
HR
9
RBI
34
SB
0
R
28
Once he overcame a spring oblique injury, Guerrero arrived in Toronto in late April for one of the most anticipated debuts in recent memory. Given the hype that surrounded him as baseball's top prospect along with his exorbitant cost in fantasy drafts and auctions, it's not totally unfair to view Guerrero's first season as disappointing. Even so, the fact that he was an above-average hitter (105 wRC+) at 20 years old is reason enough to be bullish about his outlook moving forward. Guerrero may have set the wheels in motion for a breakout based on the adjustments he made in the second half, when he slashed .293/.349/.452 and enjoyed a stretch from late July to late August where he was one of the majors' top hitters. Despite not meeting the sky-high expectations as a rookie, Guerrero won't come at a discount in 2020, as his reputation as a generational hitter remains intact in the minds of many.
Once he overcame a spring oblique injury, Guerrero arrived in Toronto in late April for one of the most anticipated debuts in recent memory. Given the hype that surrounded him as baseball's top prospect along with his exorbitant cost in fantasy drafts and auctions, it's not totally unfair to view Guerrero's first season as disappointing. Even so, the fact that he was an above-average hitter (105 wRC+) at 20 years old is reason enough to be bullish about his outlook moving forward. Guerrero may have set the wheels in motion for a breakout based on the adjustments he made in the second half, when he slashed .293/.349/.452 and enjoyed a stretch from late July to late August where he was one of the majors' top hitters. Despite not meeting the sky-high expectations as a rookie, Guerrero won't come at a discount in 2020, as his reputation as a generational hitter remains intact in the minds of many.
MIN (3B)
G
49
AB
178
AVG
.236
HR
14
RBI
33
SB
0
R
31
Sano bounced back from a disappointing 2018 season that saw him sent to the minors, fulfilling his promise as an elite power hitter. Sano missed the first month after suffering a cut on his right heel in a freak accident, but returned in shape and focused. He proceeded to hit 34 home runs in just 105 games with a career-high .922 OPS. Sano has a high strikeout rate (36.2%) but offsets his whiffs by drawing walks (12.5 BB%) and making his contact count. He was second in MLB in average exit velocity (94.4 mph) and first in percentage of balls hit 95-plus mph. Sano has outstanding agility for a player his size (272 pounds) and a powerful throwing arm, but he's still a slight liability at third base (-5 DRS). He'll eventually need to move to 1B or DH. Wherever he plays, Sano looks poised to become one of the best power hitters in the league so long as he stays healthy and keeps in shape.
Sano bounced back from a disappointing 2018 season that saw him sent to the minors, fulfilling his promise as an elite power hitter. Sano missed the first month after suffering a cut on his right heel in a freak accident, but returned in shape and focused. He proceeded to hit 34 home runs in just 105 games with a career-high .922 OPS. Sano has a high strikeout rate (36.2%) but offsets his whiffs by drawing walks (12.5 BB%) and making his contact count. He was second in MLB in average exit velocity (94.4 mph) and first in percentage of balls hit 95-plus mph. Sano has outstanding agility for a player his size (272 pounds) and a powerful throwing arm, but he's still a slight liability at third base (-5 DRS). He'll eventually need to move to 1B or DH. Wherever he plays, Sano looks poised to become one of the best power hitters in the league so long as he stays healthy and keeps in shape.
NYM (3B)
G
55
AB
174
AVG
.299
HR
10
RBI
28
SB
1
R
26
The Mets acquired Davis from the Astros in the offseason, and injuries allowed him to see steady playing time at third base to open the season. He performed well but was relegated to a bench role following the return of Todd Frazier. Davis was thrust back into a starting role -- this time in the outfield -- at the end of July and excelled over the rest of the season, hitting .331 with a 1.100 OPS and 13 homers in 55 games. His offensive breakout was largely supported by his underlying numbers; his average (.307) and slugging percentage (.527) were in line with Statcast's expected marks (.308 and .534), while his average exit velocity (91.3 mph) and barrel rate (7.1%) were well-above average. Davis wasn't as successful on the defensive side of things, as he graded out poorly in left field and at the hot corner, but he did enough with his bat to earn his fair share of opportunities between both spots in 2020.
The Mets acquired Davis from the Astros in the offseason, and injuries allowed him to see steady playing time at third base to open the season. He performed well but was relegated to a bench role following the return of Todd Frazier. Davis was thrust back into a starting role -- this time in the outfield -- at the end of July and excelled over the rest of the season, hitting .331 with a 1.100 OPS and 13 homers in 55 games. His offensive breakout was largely supported by his underlying numbers; his average (.307) and slugging percentage (.527) were in line with Statcast's expected marks (.308 and .534), while his average exit velocity (91.3 mph) and barrel rate (7.1%) were well-above average. Davis wasn't as successful on the defensive side of things, as he graded out poorly in left field and at the hot corner, but he did enough with his bat to earn his fair share of opportunities between both spots in 2020.
OAK (3B)
G
57
AB
218
AVG
.248
HR
11
RBI
30
SB
0
R
37
Chapman burnished his reputation as one of the sport's top two-way talents in 2019, popping 36 homers and claiming his second Platinum Glove. The 26-year-old may have already reached his peak defensively, but fortunately for fantasy purposes, there's reason to think his best is yet to come on the offensive side. Though Chapman took steps forward in terms of isolated power (.257) and plate discipline (career-best 21.9 K% and 11.1 BB%), a 29-point drop in batting average from 2018 kept him from being a top-10 fantasy option at the loaded third-base position. Chapman's elite exit velocity and hard-hit rate offer hope for a turnaround in BABIP, but he'll still likely need to trade more groundballs for line drives before he becomes a trusted annual batting-average asset. Even if that never comes to fruition, Chapman's plate skills as is make him eminently valuable and give him a high floor in three categories.
Chapman burnished his reputation as one of the sport's top two-way talents in 2019, popping 36 homers and claiming his second Platinum Glove. The 26-year-old may have already reached his peak defensively, but fortunately for fantasy purposes, there's reason to think his best is yet to come on the offensive side. Though Chapman took steps forward in terms of isolated power (.257) and plate discipline (career-best 21.9 K% and 11.1 BB%), a 29-point drop in batting average from 2018 kept him from being a top-10 fantasy option at the loaded third-base position. Chapman's elite exit velocity and hard-hit rate offer hope for a turnaround in BABIP, but he'll still likely need to trade more groundballs for line drives before he becomes a trusted annual batting-average asset. Even if that never comes to fruition, Chapman's plate skills as is make him eminently valuable and give him a high floor in three categories.
LAD (3B)
G
50
AB
176
AVG
.301
HR
9
RBI
25
SB
1
R
29
Last season was a tale of two halves for Turner. The third baseman did not hit a home run until his 29th game of the season and reached the break with a modest 10 round trippers, though he sat with a solid .294 average and .375 on-base percentage. Turner then turned on the power in the second half, slugging 17 long balls and posting an 11.2 AB/HR -- 10th best in the majors among players with 150 or more plate appearances -- despite missing most of September with ankle and back injuries. Turner has been hampered by various injuries over the past three seasons, but he has proven his hitting prowess when healthy, finishing 12th among qualified players with a .388 wOBA during that three-year span. He turned 35 in November and his injury history is a concern, but Turner's sample size of success is large enough to inspire confidence in another season of solid production at the hot corner in 2020.
Last season was a tale of two halves for Turner. The third baseman did not hit a home run until his 29th game of the season and reached the break with a modest 10 round trippers, though he sat with a solid .294 average and .375 on-base percentage. Turner then turned on the power in the second half, slugging 17 long balls and posting an 11.2 AB/HR -- 10th best in the majors among players with 150 or more plate appearances -- despite missing most of September with ankle and back injuries. Turner has been hampered by various injuries over the past three seasons, but he has proven his hitting prowess when healthy, finishing 12th among qualified players with a .388 wOBA during that three-year span. He turned 35 in November and his injury history is a concern, but Turner's sample size of success is large enough to inspire confidence in another season of solid production at the hot corner in 2020.
PHI (3B)
G
54
AB
190
AVG
.253
HR
7
RBI
20
SB
6
R
27
After a very disappointing rookie season in which he hit just .226/.267/.338, Kingery needed a big step forward in his sophomore campaign. He did just that, hitting .258/.315/.474 with 19 homers and 15 steals in 500 plate appearances. While that's far from an elite batting line (good for a modest 101 wRC+), his cross-category contributions combined with his multi-positional eligibility made him a valuable fantasy asset. It would take another significant step forward for Kingery to advance from a merely useful player to a true star, however, and it's not clear that's in the cards. Even with his improved numbers, he still struck out 29.4% of the time, and Statcast suggests he overachieved in the power department, giving him a .412 xSLG. Kingery should continue to be playable in 2020 as his versatility should keep him in the Phillies' lineup on a regular basis, but don't expect a second breakout.
After a very disappointing rookie season in which he hit just .226/.267/.338, Kingery needed a big step forward in his sophomore campaign. He did just that, hitting .258/.315/.474 with 19 homers and 15 steals in 500 plate appearances. While that's far from an elite batting line (good for a modest 101 wRC+), his cross-category contributions combined with his multi-positional eligibility made him a valuable fantasy asset. It would take another significant step forward for Kingery to advance from a merely useful player to a true star, however, and it's not clear that's in the cards. Even with his improved numbers, he still struck out 29.4% of the time, and Statcast suggests he overachieved in the power department, giving him a .412 xSLG. Kingery should continue to be playable in 2020 as his versatility should keep him in the Phillies' lineup on a regular basis, but don't expect a second breakout.
MIA (3B)
G
53
AB
195
AVG
.267
HR
6
RBI
25
SB
3
R
26
This is the type of player that would be a much bigger deal in another market and another ballpark. Anderson is the guy in the Miami lineup pitchers don't want to beat them; his overall fantasy production is limited by his surrounding cast and his home park. If he hit in a better lineup and better park, 30 homers and 90-plus RBI would be a very real possibility for him in 2020. He is coming into his third full season at the major-league level and has shown improvement in the three years of MLB experience he has under his belt. He is too cheap for the Marlins to let go anywhere else, so the hope would be Derek Jeter and the other front-office officials improve his surrounding cast quicker so his fantasy value can grow in kind. For now, draft him for the improving player he is and hope his situation changes for the better while enjoying his dual-position eligibility.
This is the type of player that would be a much bigger deal in another market and another ballpark. Anderson is the guy in the Miami lineup pitchers don't want to beat them; his overall fantasy production is limited by his surrounding cast and his home park. If he hit in a better lineup and better park, 30 homers and 90-plus RBI would be a very real possibility for him in 2020. He is coming into his third full season at the major-league level and has shown improvement in the three years of MLB experience he has under his belt. He is too cheap for the Marlins to let go anywhere else, so the hope would be Derek Jeter and the other front-office officials improve his surrounding cast quicker so his fantasy value can grow in kind. For now, draft him for the improving player he is and hope his situation changes for the better while enjoying his dual-position eligibility.
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CLE (SS)
G
58
AB
242
AVG
.281
HR
13
RBI
32
SB
9
R
43
Despite missing three-plus weeks, Lindor posted numbers most would be envious of. The shortstop opened the season on the IL with calf and ankle injuries, debuting April 20. After sitting the opener of a doubleheader, Lindor didn't miss another game all season, recording his third straight 30-home run season and second consecutive 20-steal campaign. Lindor possesses one of the most consistent skill sets in the league, rating above average in nearly every category, glued together by an excellent contact rate. However, he's also more of a compiler than most fantasy studs since he doesn't pop in any specific category. This is where Lindor's durability comes into play since his volume elevates counting stats into the elite range. There's always a chance he incurs another injury like last season, but so could anyone. His combo of skills, consistency and durability put Lindor firmly in first-round consideration.
Despite missing three-plus weeks, Lindor posted numbers most would be envious of. The shortstop opened the season on the IL with calf and ankle injuries, debuting April 20. After sitting the opener of a doubleheader, Lindor didn't miss another game all season, recording his third straight 30-home run season and second consecutive 20-steal campaign. Lindor possesses one of the most consistent skill sets in the league, rating above average in nearly every category, glued together by an excellent contact rate. However, he's also more of a compiler than most fantasy studs since he doesn't pop in any specific category. This is where Lindor's durability comes into play since his volume elevates counting stats into the elite range. There's always a chance he incurs another injury like last season, but so could anyone. His combo of skills, consistency and durability put Lindor firmly in first-round consideration.
COL (SS)
G
55
AB
213
AVG
.286
HR
14
RBI
33
SB
8
R
38
On the surface, Story's 2019 campaign was much like the previous year and his rookie campaign, making 2017 the outlier. That said, considering the league-wide spike in power and overall offense, perhaps last season was a small step back. This is corroborated by a small dip in xwOBA (an estimation using Statcast metrics). Story's batted-ball profile was a near match to 2018, save for fewer barrels, likely accounting for the drop in xwOBA. Specifically, his GB/LD/FB ratios and hard-hit rate were close to 2018 levels. Not only did Story carry over his improved contact rate, he continued to run, swiping 23 bags, reinforcing a strong floor. Add in Coors Field and decent durability (656 plate appearances each of the past two seasons), the 27-year old is one of the best at a stacked shortstop position. Story warrants first-round consideration and $30-plus in auctions as he contributes across the board.
On the surface, Story's 2019 campaign was much like the previous year and his rookie campaign, making 2017 the outlier. That said, considering the league-wide spike in power and overall offense, perhaps last season was a small step back. This is corroborated by a small dip in xwOBA (an estimation using Statcast metrics). Story's batted-ball profile was a near match to 2018, save for fewer barrels, likely accounting for the drop in xwOBA. Specifically, his GB/LD/FB ratios and hard-hit rate were close to 2018 levels. Not only did Story carry over his improved contact rate, he continued to run, swiping 23 bags, reinforcing a strong floor. Add in Coors Field and decent durability (656 plate appearances each of the past two seasons), the 27-year old is one of the best at a stacked shortstop position. Story warrants first-round consideration and $30-plus in auctions as he contributes across the board.
SD (SS)
G
54
AB
209
AVG
.292
HR
11
RBI
30
SB
10
R
37
In his rookie campaign, Tatis blew away the lofty expectations that accompanied his rise up the prospect rankings. Among players with 300 or more plate appearances, Tatis placed 11th in wRC+ (150) while ranking in the top 15 in traditional metrics such as batting average (.317), slugging percentage (.590) and OPS (.969). The phenom was limited to 84 games due to a pair of stints on the injured list, but when healthy he flashed an impressive combination of speed and power, swatting 22 home runs and utilizing baseball's 18th-best sprint speed (29.3 ft/s) to swipe 16 bases. Tatis' high strikeout rate (29.6%) and unsustainable BABIP (.410) portend some batting-average regression, but he'll be only 21 years old on Opening Day and should improve his plate discipline as he matures. Even with some imperfections, Tatis possesses the necessary tools to be a legitimate 30-30 threat for many seasons to come.
In his rookie campaign, Tatis blew away the lofty expectations that accompanied his rise up the prospect rankings. Among players with 300 or more plate appearances, Tatis placed 11th in wRC+ (150) while ranking in the top 15 in traditional metrics such as batting average (.317), slugging percentage (.590) and OPS (.969). The phenom was limited to 84 games due to a pair of stints on the injured list, but when healthy he flashed an impressive combination of speed and power, swatting 22 home runs and utilizing baseball's 18th-best sprint speed (29.3 ft/s) to swipe 16 bases. Tatis' high strikeout rate (29.6%) and unsustainable BABIP (.410) portend some batting-average regression, but he'll be only 21 years old on Opening Day and should improve his plate discipline as he matures. Even with some imperfections, Tatis possesses the necessary tools to be a legitimate 30-30 threat for many seasons to come.
HOU (SS)
G
58
AB
210
AVG
.290
HR
13
RBI
38
SB
2
R
41
This is what 80-grade plate skills look like: a 17.2 BB% and 12 K% over 690 PA as a 25-year-old. It was Bregman's second straight year with more walks than strikeouts, and he added 10 home runs to his 2018 total. Batting mostly 2-4 in one of the American League's most prolific offenses, Bregman finished with 234 runs-plus-RBI, ranking fourth in MLB, and added a handful of steals en route to a second-place finish in the MVP voting. There is some evidence to suggest he was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the juiced ball, but you're not buying Bregman for 40-plus homers. You're buying him because he has arguably the highest four-category floor in the game for anyone not named Mike Trout or Nolan Arenado. Bregman has reached 155 games played in each of the last three years and the Astros will be returning most of their offense around him. He maintains shortstop- and 3B-eligibility heading into 2020.
This is what 80-grade plate skills look like: a 17.2 BB% and 12 K% over 690 PA as a 25-year-old. It was Bregman's second straight year with more walks than strikeouts, and he added 10 home runs to his 2018 total. Batting mostly 2-4 in one of the American League's most prolific offenses, Bregman finished with 234 runs-plus-RBI, ranking fourth in MLB, and added a handful of steals en route to a second-place finish in the MVP voting. There is some evidence to suggest he was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the juiced ball, but you're not buying Bregman for 40-plus homers. You're buying him because he has arguably the highest four-category floor in the game for anyone not named Mike Trout or Nolan Arenado. Bregman has reached 155 games played in each of the last three years and the Astros will be returning most of their offense around him. He maintains shortstop- and 3B-eligibility heading into 2020.
WAS (SS)
G
53
AB
222
AVG
.284
HR
7
RBI
24
SB
17
R
38
Turner had 171 fewer plate appearances in 2019 than he had in 2018, and met or nearly exceeded his statistics across the board. He missed time early in the season when the Nationals were struggling, and returned to help carry them all the way to a World Series victory. Tim Locastro is the only player in baseball with a higher sprint speed than Turner, and Turner does not hesitate to use his speed on the bases under the aggressive style of Davey Martinez. There is absolutely no doubt Turner's skills and abilities are worth $35-plus in auctions and a first-round pick in straight drafts, but the fact that he has had just one season in which he avoided the injury bug is what holds many back from drafting him. There are safer players out there to acquire for your team, but there are precious few that offer the production that Turner is capable of when he's healthy. He could be a top-five player in a full season.
Turner had 171 fewer plate appearances in 2019 than he had in 2018, and met or nearly exceeded his statistics across the board. He missed time early in the season when the Nationals were struggling, and returned to help carry them all the way to a World Series victory. Tim Locastro is the only player in baseball with a higher sprint speed than Turner, and Turner does not hesitate to use his speed on the bases under the aggressive style of Davey Martinez. There is absolutely no doubt Turner's skills and abilities are worth $35-plus in auctions and a first-round pick in straight drafts, but the fact that he has had just one season in which he avoided the injury bug is what holds many back from drafting him. There are safer players out there to acquire for your team, but there are precious few that offer the production that Turner is capable of when he's healthy. He could be a top-five player in a full season.
BOS (SS)
G
55
AB
212
AVG
.297
HR
10
RBI
38
SB
3
R
35
Bogaerts had a .309 BA and 141 wRC+, both of which ranked 14th among qualified hitters, and finished seventh in baseball with 227 runs-plus-RBI, more than Pete Alonso, Nolan Arenado and Juan Soto. Those kinds of numbers and categorical rankings imply an ascension to full-on superstardom, but you can poke holes into some parts of his age-27 campaign. His barrel rate dipped a bit from 2018, as did his xwOBA on contact. His xBA was .276 -- making him one of the 10 "luckiest" regulars in baseball (min. 450 PA) -- while his xSLG was a whopping 90 points below his actual SLG. He stole only four bases in six attempts after averaging 13.75 attempts per season from 2015-18. Mookie Betts is gone after being traded in February, and that will in theory take away some of the counting-stat production for Bogaerts. There's a ton to like here, but paying full price for last season's stats seems ill advised.
Bogaerts had a .309 BA and 141 wRC+, both of which ranked 14th among qualified hitters, and finished seventh in baseball with 227 runs-plus-RBI, more than Pete Alonso, Nolan Arenado and Juan Soto. Those kinds of numbers and categorical rankings imply an ascension to full-on superstardom, but you can poke holes into some parts of his age-27 campaign. His barrel rate dipped a bit from 2018, as did his xwOBA on contact. His xBA was .276 -- making him one of the 10 "luckiest" regulars in baseball (min. 450 PA) -- while his xSLG was a whopping 90 points below his actual SLG. He stole only four bases in six attempts after averaging 13.75 attempts per season from 2015-18. Mookie Betts is gone after being traded in February, and that will in theory take away some of the counting-stat production for Bogaerts. There's a ton to like here, but paying full price for last season's stats seems ill advised.
KC (SS)
G
53
AB
203
AVG
.266
HR
6
RBI
30
SB
16
R
31
The dream of a 70- or even 80-steal season died in July when Mondesi suffered a left shoulder subluxation shortly after his return from a groin injury. He had been running wild over the first few months, stealing 27 bags in 30 attempts. He continued to run in September until he hurt his shoulder again. Mondesi was sent for surgery in October and given a 5-to-6 month timetable, but he is expected to be ready for Opening Day. On top of the injury, there's still the question as to whether Mondesi can hit. In 2018, Mondesi was able to overcome downright bad plate discipline and slug close to .500, but the quality of his connections deteriorated last season (5.4 Brls/PA, 87.9 avg. exit velocity). His xwOBA ranked in the bottom 17th percentile among players with 100 PA. Speed is extremely scarce and Mondesi can carry the day in that category, but he needs to hit enough for it to really matter.
The dream of a 70- or even 80-steal season died in July when Mondesi suffered a left shoulder subluxation shortly after his return from a groin injury. He had been running wild over the first few months, stealing 27 bags in 30 attempts. He continued to run in September until he hurt his shoulder again. Mondesi was sent for surgery in October and given a 5-to-6 month timetable, but he is expected to be ready for Opening Day. On top of the injury, there's still the question as to whether Mondesi can hit. In 2018, Mondesi was able to overcome downright bad plate discipline and slug close to .500, but the quality of his connections deteriorated last season (5.4 Brls/PA, 87.9 avg. exit velocity). His xwOBA ranked in the bottom 17th percentile among players with 100 PA. Speed is extremely scarce and Mondesi can carry the day in that category, but he needs to hit enough for it to really matter.
CHC (SS)
G
54
AB
202
AVG
.282
HR
11
RBI
34
SB
5
R
34
Baez is an established star in MLB; he is a two-time All-Star and was the NL MVP runner-up in 2018. But is he a good second- or third-round fantasy draft pick in 2020? He missed most of September with a left thumb injury and was not a top-40 fantasy hitter in 2019. His K-rate ticked back up to 27.8%, which was the eighth-worst mark among qualified hitters. Baez has shown he can hit for a good-to-great average even with his swing-and-miss issues, as he's never hit below .273 in a full season, but there's always a chance the variance pendulum swings to the other side and we get a sub-.260 season. It's important to note that his efficiency on the basepaths took a hit, with Baez going 11-for-18 on SB attempts (61%) after going 21-for-30 in 2018 (70%). There's no doubt he'll play every day, but there are safer and arguably better options in his price range.
Baez is an established star in MLB; he is a two-time All-Star and was the NL MVP runner-up in 2018. But is he a good second- or third-round fantasy draft pick in 2020? He missed most of September with a left thumb injury and was not a top-40 fantasy hitter in 2019. His K-rate ticked back up to 27.8%, which was the eighth-worst mark among qualified hitters. Baez has shown he can hit for a good-to-great average even with his swing-and-miss issues, as he's never hit below .273 in a full season, but there's always a chance the variance pendulum swings to the other side and we get a sub-.260 season. It's important to note that his efficiency on the basepaths took a hit, with Baez going 11-for-18 on SB attempts (61%) after going 21-for-30 in 2018 (70%). There's no doubt he'll play every day, but there are safer and arguably better options in his price range.
SD (SS)
G
58
AB
226
AVG
.274
HR
12
RBI
36
SB
3
R
30
Machado has 300 million reasons not to regret leaving Baltimore, but he no doubt misses the dimensions there. The fun ball helped Machado get back to the 30-homer mark for a fifth consecutive season, but he hit the fewest doubles in a full season for his career, which ultimately cut into his overall run production. He tied for the lowest runs scored in his full-season career, and drove in 22 fewer runners than he did in 2018. His exit velocity and launch angles held up, but Petco isn't Camden, and that is ultimately what is to blame here. Machado is a compiler and has missed a total of 17 games over the past five seasons. As long as he stays healthy, he will produce, but San Diego sets a ceiling on his run production numbers, and the batting average roller coaster is tough to ignore. There is still a ton of name value here, but the fantasy value has not equaled the name value in two of the last three years.
Machado has 300 million reasons not to regret leaving Baltimore, but he no doubt misses the dimensions there. The fun ball helped Machado get back to the 30-homer mark for a fifth consecutive season, but he hit the fewest doubles in a full season for his career, which ultimately cut into his overall run production. He tied for the lowest runs scored in his full-season career, and drove in 22 fewer runners than he did in 2018. His exit velocity and launch angles held up, but Petco isn't Camden, and that is ultimately what is to blame here. Machado is a compiler and has missed a total of 17 games over the past five seasons. As long as he stays healthy, he will produce, but San Diego sets a ceiling on his run production numbers, and the batting average roller coaster is tough to ignore. There is still a ton of name value here, but the fantasy value has not equaled the name value in two of the last three years.
TOR (SS)
G
54
AB
223
AVG
.296
HR
8
RBI
27
SB
7
R
35
After Vladimir Guerrero Jr. arrived three months earlier, Bichette's late-July callup officially secured the left side of the Toronto infield for years to come. Bichette made the bigger splash of the two uber-prospects, wasting no time etching his name into history. On Aug. 8, Bichette set MLB records by doubling in his ninth straight game and notching 13 extra-base hits in the first 11 games of a career. Bichette cooled off thereafter, but he still slashed .279/.327/.483 (112 wRC+) the rest of the way while racking up runs atop the order. If there's a nit to pick, Bichette's poor success rate on the bases was disappointing given his minor-league numbers, but an 83rd-percentile Statcast sprint speed suggests there's upside to be had in that area. Bichette's spectacular 46-game sample and scope to improve as a 22-year-old makes him a worthy top-15 fantasy shortstop in a group that's as deep as ever in 2020.
After Vladimir Guerrero Jr. arrived three months earlier, Bichette's late-July callup officially secured the left side of the Toronto infield for years to come. Bichette made the bigger splash of the two uber-prospects, wasting no time etching his name into history. On Aug. 8, Bichette set MLB records by doubling in his ninth straight game and notching 13 extra-base hits in the first 11 games of a career. Bichette cooled off thereafter, but he still slashed .279/.327/.483 (112 wRC+) the rest of the way while racking up runs atop the order. If there's a nit to pick, Bichette's poor success rate on the bases was disappointing given his minor-league numbers, but an 83rd-percentile Statcast sprint speed suggests there's upside to be had in that area. Bichette's spectacular 46-game sample and scope to improve as a 22-year-old makes him a worthy top-15 fantasy shortstop in a group that's as deep as ever in 2020.
CWS (SS)
G
55
AB
216
AVG
.278
HR
8
RBI
26
SB
7
R
31
Anderson led the American League in batting average in 2019, one year removed from hitting .240. Anderson pulled this off by walking even less than he did in 2018, but also did it by posting a career-best 21% strikeout rate. The biggest driver was a .399 BABIP, which needless to say, isn't repeatable. His expected batting average was 49 points below his actual batting average, so Anderson lived off his speed and the medium contact as both his hard-hit rate and his overall exit velocity were in the bottom 40th percentile. Anderson runs, but his OBP skills are completely based on his ability to reach via the batted ball as he walked 15 times in 518 plate appearances last season. You like to see growth from youngsters as they mature, but this looks more like a fluke than actual growth. There could be more power on the way, but look for an average closer to .260 than .300.
Anderson led the American League in batting average in 2019, one year removed from hitting .240. Anderson pulled this off by walking even less than he did in 2018, but also did it by posting a career-best 21% strikeout rate. The biggest driver was a .399 BABIP, which needless to say, isn't repeatable. His expected batting average was 49 points below his actual batting average, so Anderson lived off his speed and the medium contact as both his hard-hit rate and his overall exit velocity were in the bottom 40th percentile. Anderson runs, but his OBP skills are completely based on his ability to reach via the batted ball as he walked 15 times in 518 plate appearances last season. You like to see growth from youngsters as they mature, but this looks more like a fluke than actual growth. There could be more power on the way, but look for an average closer to .260 than .300.
OAK (SS)
G
55
AB
221
AVG
.271
HR
9
RBI
28
SB
3
R
37
Semien enjoyed a monster year in 2019 for the resurgent Athletics. He has always strived to play every day, and he's done that the past two years with consecutive seasons of 700-plus plate appearances. Yes, the run production was a noticeable difference for him last year, but he changed his approach at the plate and greatly reduced his strikeout rate from the low 20s to 14% in just two seasons. Semien pushed his average exit velocity up by two miles per hour over 2018, but the launch angle did not change, so this big surge is a credit to his overall approach rather than any one change. Projecting a third season of 700-plus plate appearances would be very dangerous, and the 2019 season really stands out from the consistently average production Semien had from 2015-2018. The real Semien is in between those two stat lines. If you project another level for him, you're saying he's a top-10 player.
Semien enjoyed a monster year in 2019 for the resurgent Athletics. He has always strived to play every day, and he's done that the past two years with consecutive seasons of 700-plus plate appearances. Yes, the run production was a noticeable difference for him last year, but he changed his approach at the plate and greatly reduced his strikeout rate from the low 20s to 14% in just two seasons. Semien pushed his average exit velocity up by two miles per hour over 2018, but the launch angle did not change, so this big surge is a credit to his overall approach rather than any one change. Projecting a third season of 700-plus plate appearances would be very dangerous, and the 2019 season really stands out from the consistently average production Semien had from 2015-2018. The real Semien is in between those two stat lines. If you project another level for him, you're saying he's a top-10 player.
HOU (SS)
G
50
AB
187
AVG
.267
HR
10
RBI
35
SB
1
R
30
On May 22, Correa was slashing .295/.360/.547, well on the way to showing the previous season's performance and injury struggles were behind him. Then, he reported feeling soreness in his ribs, supposedly from an in-home massage gone wrong. Correa was diagnosed with a cracked rib and spent just over eight weeks on the IL. Over the next month or so, Correa posted a .237/.354/.575 line before succumbing to back soreness. He played three games in September before being shut down until the playoffs. While his early-season performance was encouraging and his rib injury was a fluke, the recurrence of back woes is a huge buzzkill. Under the hood, Correa's indicators resembled those from before 2018. He didn't miss a playoff game, though he batted a disappointing .191/.257/.382 in the postseason. Correa remains an impact fantasy player when healthy, but until he shows he's devoid of back issues, he's a health risk.
On May 22, Correa was slashing .295/.360/.547, well on the way to showing the previous season's performance and injury struggles were behind him. Then, he reported feeling soreness in his ribs, supposedly from an in-home massage gone wrong. Correa was diagnosed with a cracked rib and spent just over eight weeks on the IL. Over the next month or so, Correa posted a .237/.354/.575 line before succumbing to back soreness. He played three games in September before being shut down until the playoffs. While his early-season performance was encouraging and his rib injury was a fluke, the recurrence of back woes is a huge buzzkill. Under the hood, Correa's indicators resembled those from before 2018. He didn't miss a playoff game, though he batted a disappointing .191/.257/.382 in the postseason. Correa remains an impact fantasy player when healthy, but until he shows he's devoid of back issues, he's a health risk.
TEX (SS)
G
56
AB
228
AVG
.276
HR
5
RBI
26
SB
9
R
32
Stolen bases are a funny stat. Andrus swiped at least 20 bases in each of his first nine major-league seasons, only to drop to five in an injury-scarred 2018. Last season he topped the 30-steal mark for the first time since 2013, as a 30-year-old. New manager Chris Woodward believed in Andrus enough to allow him to attempt 39 steals last year, and he was rewarded in that confidence 31 times. The 20-homer season of 2017 was an anomaly for Andrus, as he's reached double digits in that category only one other time and that was last season. His skill set is rather stable at this stage of his career in terms of his bat-to-ball skills. He does not accept many walks, which limits his OBP and stolen-base opportunities. Sometimes we see that change with age, but it has not changed in nearly 7,000 career plate appearances. Expect more of the same.
Stolen bases are a funny stat. Andrus swiped at least 20 bases in each of his first nine major-league seasons, only to drop to five in an injury-scarred 2018. Last season he topped the 30-steal mark for the first time since 2013, as a 30-year-old. New manager Chris Woodward believed in Andrus enough to allow him to attempt 39 steals last year, and he was rewarded in that confidence 31 times. The 20-homer season of 2017 was an anomaly for Andrus, as he's reached double digits in that category only one other time and that was last season. His skill set is rather stable at this stage of his career in terms of his bat-to-ball skills. He does not accept many walks, which limits his OBP and stolen-base opportunities. Sometimes we see that change with age, but it has not changed in nearly 7,000 career plate appearances. Expect more of the same.
STL (SS)
COVID-19
G
57
AB
214
AVG
.243
HR
11
RBI
31
SB
3
R
34
DeJong is a perfect encapsulation of the 2019 season. He hit 30 HR, scored 97 runs, stole nine bases, and by wRC+, he was exactly league average at 100. Normally a shortstop hitting 30 homers is something to celebrate, yet what DeJong did last year was not that special. He has an odd trend going in that his strikeout rate has improved each of the past three seasons, but his batting average has dropped in each of the past three seasons -- more than 50 points from his rookie year. He laughs at traditional splits because 27 of his 30 homers last year came off right-handed pitching and he had a worse batting average against southpaws. The season DeJong had last year harkens back to an old fantasy favorite -- Tony Batista. Go look up Batista's 2002 season, and then look at the range of outcomes for him after that season. A similar future is in store for DeJong if something doesn't change.
DeJong is a perfect encapsulation of the 2019 season. He hit 30 HR, scored 97 runs, stole nine bases, and by wRC+, he was exactly league average at 100. Normally a shortstop hitting 30 homers is something to celebrate, yet what DeJong did last year was not that special. He has an odd trend going in that his strikeout rate has improved each of the past three seasons, but his batting average has dropped in each of the past three seasons -- more than 50 points from his rookie year. He laughs at traditional splits because 27 of his 30 homers last year came off right-handed pitching and he had a worse batting average against southpaws. The season DeJong had last year harkens back to an old fantasy favorite -- Tony Batista. Go look up Batista's 2002 season, and then look at the range of outcomes for him after that season. A similar future is in store for DeJong if something doesn't change.
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ATL (OF)
OUT
G
57
AB
228
AVG
.289
HR
14
RBI
38
SB
14
R
43
We may now have the answer to the question: "Who else would you draft 1.1 besides Mike Trout?" Acuna Jr., before his 22nd birthday, led all players in fantasy earned auction value last year while nearly pulling off a 40-40 season, slightly edging out Cody Bellinger in overall value. Christian Yelich would have likely won the title had his season not ended prematurely, but the fact Acuna Jr. began 2017 in High-A and ended 2019 as he did is an astounding feat. His barrel rate last season was in the 95th percentile, as was his xSLG and overall offensive production when putting the ball in play. There simply are not enough superlatives to describe what Acuna Jr. can bring to a fantasy roster as he contributes to all five categories and does so exceedingly well in four of them. His deal keeps him in Atlanta for the foreseeable future and health would be the only thing that could derail this production train.
We may now have the answer to the question: "Who else would you draft 1.1 besides Mike Trout?" Acuna Jr., before his 22nd birthday, led all players in fantasy earned auction value last year while nearly pulling off a 40-40 season, slightly edging out Cody Bellinger in overall value. Christian Yelich would have likely won the title had his season not ended prematurely, but the fact Acuna Jr. began 2017 in High-A and ended 2019 as he did is an astounding feat. His barrel rate last season was in the 95th percentile, as was his xSLG and overall offensive production when putting the ball in play. There simply are not enough superlatives to describe what Acuna Jr. can bring to a fantasy roster as he contributes to all five categories and does so exceedingly well in four of them. His deal keeps him in Atlanta for the foreseeable future and health would be the only thing that could derail this production train.
MIL (OF)
G
57
AB
216
AVG
.315
HR
14
RBI
39
SB
9
R
41
Some wondered about Yelich's ability to repeat his stellar MVP season, with much of the discussion centering on his HR/FB rate. Well, Yelich did not reach 35.0% in 2019, but he did still post a 32.8 mark in that category -- the best in the league. Yelich's 2019 campaign was unfortunately cut off at 130 games by a fractured kneecap, but he left no doubt what type of offensive force he has become, finishing second in MLB in BA and OBP and first in SLG while setting career highs in HR and SB, numbers that easily could have earned him another MVP had he stayed healthy. Yelich is expected to recover from his injury early in the offseason, so health should not be a concern when Opening Day rolls around. He has established himself as one of the best players in the entire league, and given his power/speed/OBP prowess, he will be worthy of a top-3 selection in just about every format.
Some wondered about Yelich's ability to repeat his stellar MVP season, with much of the discussion centering on his HR/FB rate. Well, Yelich did not reach 35.0% in 2019, but he did still post a 32.8 mark in that category -- the best in the league. Yelich's 2019 campaign was unfortunately cut off at 130 games by a fractured kneecap, but he left no doubt what type of offensive force he has become, finishing second in MLB in BA and OBP and first in SLG while setting career highs in HR and SB, numbers that easily could have earned him another MVP had he stayed healthy. Yelich is expected to recover from his injury early in the offseason, so health should not be a concern when Opening Day rolls around. He has established himself as one of the best players in the entire league, and given his power/speed/OBP prowess, he will be worthy of a top-3 selection in just about every format.
LAD (OF)
G
57
AB
213
AVG
.305
HR
10
RBI
31
SB
9
R
47
Betts saw his batting average drop 51 points, saw his steals total nearly cut in half, hit fewer homers than he did in 2019, and yet was still a 95th percentile hitter by Statcast measures. Betts' 2019 season should not be looked at in a disappointing lens as much as we should appreciate the amazing level of production Betts brought to the table in 2018. A deeper look into the batted-ball data on Betts shows a slight dip in hard-hit balls, but everything else is very much in line with his overall performance. The main issue is 2018 blows the curve for the numbers. You would be best served looking at 2018 as the best-case numbers for Betts with his career averages being a damn fine baseline to build a roster around. He is one year from free agency and the Red Sox decided they did not want to pay him in his final year of arbitration. The threat of San Diego loomed, but Betts landed in an ideal spot with a February trade to the Dodgers, for whom he should lead off.
Betts saw his batting average drop 51 points, saw his steals total nearly cut in half, hit fewer homers than he did in 2019, and yet was still a 95th percentile hitter by Statcast measures. Betts' 2019 season should not be looked at in a disappointing lens as much as we should appreciate the amazing level of production Betts brought to the table in 2018. A deeper look into the batted-ball data on Betts shows a slight dip in hard-hit balls, but everything else is very much in line with his overall performance. The main issue is 2018 blows the curve for the numbers. You would be best served looking at 2018 as the best-case numbers for Betts with his career averages being a damn fine baseline to build a roster around. He is one year from free agency and the Red Sox decided they did not want to pay him in his final year of arbitration. The threat of San Diego loomed, but Betts landed in an ideal spot with a February trade to the Dodgers, for whom he should lead off.
BOS (OF)
G
53
AB
203
AVG
.315
HR
14
RBI
42
SB
1
R
37
For a player with this kind of power -- among the most prolific in the game -- 36 home runs in a record-setting HR season qualify as a slight disappointment. While Martinez didn't finish north of 40 as he did in 2017 and 2018, he did clear the .300 BA threshold. He also cleared triple digits in RBI for the fourth time in five seasons and surpassed 200 runs-plus-RBI for the second consecutive year. The fact is, he's so much more than "Just Dingers." Martinez has chipped away at his K%, lowering it to 21%, and he walks more than 10% of the time. While certainly not a good defender, Martinez still qualifies as an OF-eligible player, one who has the luxury of playing most of his games at DH. If a 21st ranked finish among hitters is what we can expect in a "down" year from Martinez, then consider us very much in at a second-round cost. He's still going to be only 32 years old for most of the 2020 season.
For a player with this kind of power -- among the most prolific in the game -- 36 home runs in a record-setting HR season qualify as a slight disappointment. While Martinez didn't finish north of 40 as he did in 2017 and 2018, he did clear the .300 BA threshold. He also cleared triple digits in RBI for the fourth time in five seasons and surpassed 200 runs-plus-RBI for the second consecutive year. The fact is, he's so much more than "Just Dingers." Martinez has chipped away at his K%, lowering it to 21%, and he walks more than 10% of the time. While certainly not a good defender, Martinez still qualifies as an OF-eligible player, one who has the luxury of playing most of his games at DH. If a 21st ranked finish among hitters is what we can expect in a "down" year from Martinez, then consider us very much in at a second-round cost. He's still going to be only 32 years old for most of the 2020 season.
LAA (OF)
G
50
AB
172
AVG
.302
HR
15
RBI
34
SB
5
R
39
For the first time in a few years, Trout will not be the consensus first overall pick in drafts as Christian Yelich and Ronald Acuna Jr. will challenge him for the top spot. His rate stats remain the best in the league but Trout has averaged only 129 games the past three years. Plus, there are concerns Trout will not run enough to keep up with Yelich and Acuna. He's still just 28 years old and the last time Trout posted an 11-steal season (2015), he followed it with 30, 24 and 22 before dipping to 11 in 2019. As mentioned, Trout's production on a rate basis is unmatched, as he's slashed .303/.447/.634 the past three campaigns. His 2019 season ended in early September with soreness in his right foot, requiring a surgical procedure to relieve the pain. Trout will be back to full health in the spring but for some is an injury risk. It's hard to believe, but many will be settling for Trout with the third pick.
For the first time in a few years, Trout will not be the consensus first overall pick in drafts as Christian Yelich and Ronald Acuna Jr. will challenge him for the top spot. His rate stats remain the best in the league but Trout has averaged only 129 games the past three years. Plus, there are concerns Trout will not run enough to keep up with Yelich and Acuna. He's still just 28 years old and the last time Trout posted an 11-steal season (2015), he followed it with 30, 24 and 22 before dipping to 11 in 2019. As mentioned, Trout's production on a rate basis is unmatched, as he's slashed .303/.447/.634 the past three campaigns. His 2019 season ended in early September with soreness in his right foot, requiring a surgical procedure to relieve the pain. Trout will be back to full health in the spring but for some is an injury risk. It's hard to believe, but many will be settling for Trout with the third pick.
PHI (OF)
G
56
AB
200
AVG
.265
HR
13
RBI
39
SB
5
R
37
Harper added 11 points back to his batting average and drove in a career-high 114 runs in his first season with Philadelphia, finishing as a top-20 fantasy hitter. His K% ticked up to 26.1, but Harper improved his barrel rate and posted the highest hard-hit rate of his career. According to Statcast, given the quality of his contact and plate discipline, Harper was "deserving" of 16 additional points in BA and 21 additional points in SLG. Per FanGraphs, Harper had the third lowest soft-contact rate among qualified hitters. The big separator between Harper and other sluggers in his price range: stolen bases. He's averaged 13.25 stolen bases per season over the last four years and has only been getting better in terms of efficiency on the basepaths. There are no questions about his playing time; Harper is a relatively safe investment with upside.
Harper added 11 points back to his batting average and drove in a career-high 114 runs in his first season with Philadelphia, finishing as a top-20 fantasy hitter. His K% ticked up to 26.1, but Harper improved his barrel rate and posted the highest hard-hit rate of his career. According to Statcast, given the quality of his contact and plate discipline, Harper was "deserving" of 16 additional points in BA and 21 additional points in SLG. Per FanGraphs, Harper had the third lowest soft-contact rate among qualified hitters. The big separator between Harper and other sluggers in his price range: stolen bases. He's averaged 13.25 stolen bases per season over the last four years and has only been getting better in terms of efficiency on the basepaths. There are no questions about his playing time; Harper is a relatively safe investment with upside.
HOU (OF)
G
53
AB
207
AVG
.280
HR
13
RBI
35
SB
2
R
37
Despite missing a month with a hamstring strain, Springer delivered the best season of his career in 2019. The injury killed Springer's chances of claiming AL MVP honors, but he still met value for those that invested an early-round pick. A recovery in the power department was the key, as Springer bounced back from a career-worst .780 OPS in 2018 to rank eighth in the majors (1.015). Juiced ball notwithstanding, Springer's gains look sustainable on some level, as his Statcast expected slugging percentage placed him in the 96th percentile of hitters. And though his three-year streak of 100-plus runs ended due to the low games total, Springer rode the wave of a prolific offense to 96 RBI, the sixth most in MLB history for a leadoff man. With Houston retaining most of its core lineup pieces in 2020, Springer won't be asked to steal much, but huge numbers in the other counting categories remain in the forecast.
Despite missing a month with a hamstring strain, Springer delivered the best season of his career in 2019. The injury killed Springer's chances of claiming AL MVP honors, but he still met value for those that invested an early-round pick. A recovery in the power department was the key, as Springer bounced back from a career-worst .780 OPS in 2018 to rank eighth in the majors (1.015). Juiced ball notwithstanding, Springer's gains look sustainable on some level, as his Statcast expected slugging percentage placed him in the 96th percentile of hitters. And though his three-year streak of 100-plus runs ended due to the low games total, Springer rode the wave of a prolific offense to 96 RBI, the sixth most in MLB history for a leadoff man. With Houston retaining most of its core lineup pieces in 2020, Springer won't be asked to steal much, but huge numbers in the other counting categories remain in the forecast.
ARI (OF)
G
51
AB
205
AVG
.288
HR
8
RBI
28
SB
11
R
34
Marte finished the year as the 13th-most valuable outfielder and the second-best Marte on our Earned Auction Value Calculator. The 2019 season was a huge disappointment for Pittsburgh, but Marte did his best to keep it afloat with a very productive season across the board. His home run, RBI and run totals were all career bests, and 2019 was the seventh consecutive season in which Marte swiped at least 20 bases. He lacks the higher exit velocity and launch angle necessary to forecast a continued future in the 20-plus homer range, even though he has done it in each of the past two seasons. Marte will have to squeeze every bit out of the contact he makes to keep things there, especially if the baseball reverts back to its previous form. Regardless, this is a five-category producer that should be one of the cornerstones of any fantasy team because he helps establish a strong statistical foundation early on.
Marte finished the year as the 13th-most valuable outfielder and the second-best Marte on our Earned Auction Value Calculator. The 2019 season was a huge disappointment for Pittsburgh, but Marte did his best to keep it afloat with a very productive season across the board. His home run, RBI and run totals were all career bests, and 2019 was the seventh consecutive season in which Marte swiped at least 20 bases. He lacks the higher exit velocity and launch angle necessary to forecast a continued future in the 20-plus homer range, even though he has done it in each of the past two seasons. Marte will have to squeeze every bit out of the contact he makes to keep things there, especially if the baseball reverts back to its previous form. Regardless, this is a five-category producer that should be one of the cornerstones of any fantasy team because he helps establish a strong statistical foundation early on.
CWS (OF)
G
56
AB
212
AVG
.288
HR
13
RBI
37
SB
0
R
32
Rather than playing service-time games with their top prospect, the White Sox locked Jimenez into the Opening Day roster after inking him to an extension late in spring training. The 23-year-old was nagged by a hamstring injury early on and took some time to adjust to MLB pitching, but by the end of his rookie year, he looked like the premium power threat he had been billed as while moving through Chicago's system. Over the last two months, Jimenez sported a manageable 24.4 K% and hit .308 with a .917 OPS, which was a top-40 mark for all batters in that span. Entering his second season, Jimenez may need to improve on a weak 6.0 BB% to vault into the elite ranks of hitters, but his pedigree and late-2019 flurry will have many pegging him for a breakout. The positive buzz may push up Jimenez's cost as draft season rolls on, so his backers should be ready to invest at least a top-75 selection to secure him.
Rather than playing service-time games with their top prospect, the White Sox locked Jimenez into the Opening Day roster after inking him to an extension late in spring training. The 23-year-old was nagged by a hamstring injury early on and took some time to adjust to MLB pitching, but by the end of his rookie year, he looked like the premium power threat he had been billed as while moving through Chicago's system. Over the last two months, Jimenez sported a manageable 24.4 K% and hit .308 with a .917 OPS, which was a top-40 mark for all batters in that span. Entering his second season, Jimenez may need to improve on a weak 6.0 BB% to vault into the elite ranks of hitters, but his pedigree and late-2019 flurry will have many pegging him for a breakout. The positive buzz may push up Jimenez's cost as draft season rolls on, so his backers should be ready to invest at least a top-75 selection to secure him.
HOU (OF)
G
56
AB
203
AVG
.271
HR
10
RBI
31
SB
7
R
35
The Astros stuck by Josh Reddick throughout the 2019 season, much to the chagrin of Tucker's fantasy owners. He did finally get some run in September and enjoyed his first taste of big-league success, and even earned a spot on the postseason roster through the World Series. On account of being stuck at Triple-A and accumulating 536 PA with Round Rock, Tucker put up a 30-30 season, leading the PCL in stolen bases. He walked at an 11.2% clip while striking out 21.6% of the time. The latter number jumped to 27.8% against big-league arms and it is a long, unconventional swing, but the batted-ball numbers were excellent and his track record suggests he will be able to make enough contact. The big question is: how much will he run? Houston as a club stole 67 bases all year (17th in total attempts), though Tucker was active on the basepaths and it's possible the Astros run more under a new manager.
The Astros stuck by Josh Reddick throughout the 2019 season, much to the chagrin of Tucker's fantasy owners. He did finally get some run in September and enjoyed his first taste of big-league success, and even earned a spot on the postseason roster through the World Series. On account of being stuck at Triple-A and accumulating 536 PA with Round Rock, Tucker put up a 30-30 season, leading the PCL in stolen bases. He walked at an 11.2% clip while striking out 21.6% of the time. The latter number jumped to 27.8% against big-league arms and it is a long, unconventional swing, but the batted-ball numbers were excellent and his track record suggests he will be able to make enough contact. The big question is: how much will he run? Houston as a club stole 67 bases all year (17th in total attempts), though Tucker was active on the basepaths and it's possible the Astros run more under a new manager.
TB (OF)
G
50
AB
187
AVG
.289
HR
12
RBI
29
SB
6
R
29
It's a bird, it's a plane, it's Meadows flying around on the hype train. Meadows is this season's chosen one, and for good reason. He checks all the boxes and will be just 24 years old in May. Last season, he increased his average exit velocity and hard-hit rate along with his barrel rate. He did fan more, but also exhibited more patience, upping his walk rate to a respectable 9.1%. Offensively, Meadows' only flaw is a poor stolen-base success rate, despite possessing 78th percentile sprint speed. A more concerning shortcoming is defense, as he rates well below average by most advanced metrics. This drawback could cost him late-game playing time if he's removed for a better defender. The talent is there for Meadows to be a top-30 fantasy player, but it's a risk with the playing time considerations. There's nothing wrong with targeting Meadows as a five-category contributor, just be wary of the helium.
It's a bird, it's a plane, it's Meadows flying around on the hype train. Meadows is this season's chosen one, and for good reason. He checks all the boxes and will be just 24 years old in May. Last season, he increased his average exit velocity and hard-hit rate along with his barrel rate. He did fan more, but also exhibited more patience, upping his walk rate to a respectable 9.1%. Offensively, Meadows' only flaw is a poor stolen-base success rate, despite possessing 78th percentile sprint speed. A more concerning shortcoming is defense, as he rates well below average by most advanced metrics. This drawback could cost him late-game playing time if he's removed for a better defender. The talent is there for Meadows to be a top-30 fantasy player, but it's a risk with the playing time considerations. There's nothing wrong with targeting Meadows as a five-category contributor, just be wary of the helium.
WAS (OF)
G
46
AB
166
AVG
.283
HR
11
RBI
35
SB
2
R
34
Given what we saw from Soto at ages 19 and 20, it seems reasonable to say a Hall of Fame foundation is being laid. Soto was a top-12 rate contributor in the game by wRC+ in 2019, and he continued to shine on the biggest stage with a .277/.373/.554 line and five homers in the postseason. His K% and BB% were nearly identical to his marks from 2018 at 20.0% and 16.4%, respectively, and his xSLG, xwOBA and xwOBA on contact all ranked within the top 5% of the league. Soto also chipped in 12 steals in just 13 attempts. With that, he finished as the No. 13 roto hitter despite making a trip to the IL in May with back spasms. This profile is truly special and there aren't really any holes in his game. Not having Anthony Rendon ahead of him to drive in may hurt Soto's RBI count and we should probably expect a return to single-digit steals, but regardless the bat is good enough to warrant a first-round pick.
Given what we saw from Soto at ages 19 and 20, it seems reasonable to say a Hall of Fame foundation is being laid. Soto was a top-12 rate contributor in the game by wRC+ in 2019, and he continued to shine on the biggest stage with a .277/.373/.554 line and five homers in the postseason. His K% and BB% were nearly identical to his marks from 2018 at 20.0% and 16.4%, respectively, and his xSLG, xwOBA and xwOBA on contact all ranked within the top 5% of the league. Soto also chipped in 12 steals in just 13 attempts. With that, he finished as the No. 13 roto hitter despite making a trip to the IL in May with back spasms. This profile is truly special and there aren't really any holes in his game. Not having Anthony Rendon ahead of him to drive in may hurt Soto's RBI count and we should probably expect a return to single-digit steals, but regardless the bat is good enough to warrant a first-round pick.
CIN (OF)
G
57
AB
228
AVG
.285
HR
12
RBI
33
SB
1
R
33
Castellanos has quietly strung together three quality seasons, averaging .287 with 25 homers, 87 runs and 88 RBI in that span. His calling card is an average exit velocity consistently above average since Statcast began tracking in 2015. Castellanos also rates high in barrels, helping support a career .333 BABIP. He needs the elevated hit rate as Castellanos walks only 6% of the time. The former third baseman turned outfielder began the season with the Tigers, slashing .278/.328/.462 before the Cubs acquired him at the deadline. Castellanos raked for his new club, posting a .321/.356/.646 line. Entering his age-28 season, Castellanos is a free agent with a good chance to sign a long-term deal. From a fantasy perspective, he provides a solid floor given his excellent durability and reliability. His upside is capped since he doesn't run, but he could flash more power in a homer-friendly venue.
Castellanos has quietly strung together three quality seasons, averaging .287 with 25 homers, 87 runs and 88 RBI in that span. His calling card is an average exit velocity consistently above average since Statcast began tracking in 2015. Castellanos also rates high in barrels, helping support a career .333 BABIP. He needs the elevated hit rate as Castellanos walks only 6% of the time. The former third baseman turned outfielder began the season with the Tigers, slashing .278/.328/.462 before the Cubs acquired him at the deadline. Castellanos raked for his new club, posting a .321/.356/.646 line. Entering his age-28 season, Castellanos is a free agent with a good chance to sign a long-term deal. From a fantasy perspective, he provides a solid floor given his excellent durability and reliability. His upside is capped since he doesn't run, but he could flash more power in a homer-friendly venue.
MIN (OF)
G
52
AB
206
AVG
.282
HR
11
RBI
34
SB
2
R
33
Rosario set career highs with 32 home runs and 109 RBI, but declined in the second half for a second consecutive season. He had 20 home runs and an .841 OPS in the first half, but just 12 home runs and a .750 OPS in the second half. Rosario is a free swinger (fourth-worst O-Swing% among qualified hitters at 46.3%), which is partially offset by an uncanny ability to make hard contact on bad balls. Despite his strong season, there were some troubling signs. Rosario had been improving his anemic walk rate, but took a step back to just 3.7%. His defense went from being seen as an asset to becoming a liability as he fell to -11 in DRS which was 29th among qualified left fielders. He also stole just three bases. Still, Rosario did reduce his whiffs (career-best 14.6 K%). He has enough power to thrive in the middle of the lineup and has upside if he can learn to lay off some of those balls outside the strike zone.
Rosario set career highs with 32 home runs and 109 RBI, but declined in the second half for a second consecutive season. He had 20 home runs and an .841 OPS in the first half, but just 12 home runs and a .750 OPS in the second half. Rosario is a free swinger (fourth-worst O-Swing% among qualified hitters at 46.3%), which is partially offset by an uncanny ability to make hard contact on bad balls. Despite his strong season, there were some troubling signs. Rosario had been improving his anemic walk rate, but took a step back to just 3.7%. His defense went from being seen as an asset to becoming a liability as he fell to -11 in DRS which was 29th among qualified left fielders. He also stole just three bases. Still, Rosario did reduce his whiffs (career-best 14.6 K%). He has enough power to thrive in the middle of the lineup and has upside if he can learn to lay off some of those balls outside the strike zone.
WAS (OF)
G
56
AB
195
AVG
.267
HR
7
RBI
24
SB
12
R
33
After a hyperextended elbow cost Robles a chance at regular run in 2018, he was turned loose in 2019, much to the delight of fantasy players. While he was below league average with the bat by real-world measures, he was a big plus in the rotisserie game. What dinged him in real life: a 5.7 BB% and .419 SLG. The batted-ball numbers from his first full MLB season are downright ugly, but Robles was only 22 years old for most of the year and he uses his legs to beat out a bunch of those weakly-hit balls (18 infield hits). He ranked near the top in sprint speed and led all outfielders by a mile in Outs Above Average, so he should have plenty of room to work through any cold stretches at the plate. There is injury risk here given all the running, diving and HBPs -- he was hit by 25 pitches last season -- but with stolen bases trending downward league wide, Robles will be treated as a hot commodity.
After a hyperextended elbow cost Robles a chance at regular run in 2018, he was turned loose in 2019, much to the delight of fantasy players. While he was below league average with the bat by real-world measures, he was a big plus in the rotisserie game. What dinged him in real life: a 5.7 BB% and .419 SLG. The batted-ball numbers from his first full MLB season are downright ugly, but Robles was only 22 years old for most of the year and he uses his legs to beat out a bunch of those weakly-hit balls (18 infield hits). He ranked near the top in sprint speed and led all outfielders by a mile in Outs Above Average, so he should have plenty of room to work through any cold stretches at the plate. There is injury risk here given all the running, diving and HBPs -- he was hit by 25 pitches last season -- but with stolen bases trending downward league wide, Robles will be treated as a hot commodity.
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