And that’s a wrap, folks. The 2019 season is in the books, and six long months of joy, agony, amazement and despair have come to a close. I hope you all had success and/or fun in your leagues, and I want to thank you for letting me jump in here four times a week to barrage you with blurbs. It has been the best writing experience of my career thus far, and I am so humbled and happy that I got to share it with you. Pitcher List is an amazing place, and it’s only going to get better, including an offseason that will be the most robust we’ve had since our formation.
For my final write-up of the season, I’m going to share a handful of the story lines I was most intrigued by in 2019 as well as a few that I think will be fun to watch in the winter:
- The rise of the slappy. I like to refer to slap-hitters with limited power and speed as “slappies,” and this season saw several such players rise to fantasy prominence. Jeff McNeil was probably the most heralded if you don’t count the breakouts of Ketel Marte and DJ LeMahieu (who previously had this profile), but others such as Bryan Reynolds, Luis Arraez, Kevin Newman, and David Fletcher also provided key contributions for fantasy players throughout the season. In 2000, the league as a whole hit .270. In 2019, the league hit .252. From 2000-2009, the league never hit below .262. Since 2010, the league has never hit better than .257. Batting average is harder to find than ever, and guys who can provide it are extremely valuable.
- The fall of the rabbit. At the end of 2018, a popular story line was the drop in stolen bases. This coming offseason, expect the story to be bigger and bolder, as the league’s base totals dropped to 2281—193 fewer than the historically low totals from 2018. Expect speed to go earlier and more often in drafts, but don’t panic and overpay for a guy such as Mallex Smith or Delino DeShields.
- Youthful exuberance. The youth movement is baseball is well underway, and it covers all segments of the fantasy game. Pete Alonso, Fernando Tatis Jr., and Yordan Alvarez stole the show with their incredible skills, but many less heralded guys such as Tommy Edman, Christian Walker, Mike Yastrzemski, and even Jon Berti delivered the fantasy goods when called upon. The fantasy community already had a painful weakness to young players, and I only expect it to get worse (or better, depending on your perspective) in 2020.
Once again, thank you all for your readership, feedback, banter and time in 2019. We at Pitcher List look forward to providing even more content this offseason and beyond.
Oh, and by the way, if you’re at all interested in filling your off season with some fantasy curling action, follow me on Twitter (@ifthechufits) for updates and announcements. It’s going to be great.
Paul Goldschmidt (1B, St. Louis Cardinals)—3-4, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, BB, SB. This was not the season fantasy players expected when they drafted Goldschmidt. While he did hit 34 home runs, this was only his third stolen base of the season, and his 116 wRC+ was the worst his career. He finished as fantasy’s 13th-best first baseman despite a strong September, and it’s time to start wondering whether he really can be a top-50 player in 2020.
George Springer (OF, Houston Astros)—4-4, 3 R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI. His 39 home runs are a career high, and he did it in just 122 games. While injuries have been a concern in the past, Springer played at least 140 games each season from 2016-2018 and should be counted on for at least that many next year. There’s no reason he can’t eclipse 40 home runs in a full season, and the fact that it can come with an excellent batting average and OBP makes him more than worthy of a top-50 pick in next spring’s drafts.
Brad Miller (1B/2B/3B/OF, Philadelphia Phillies)—4-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI. The power isn’t really a question—he actually hit 30 home runs back in 2016 when he was with the Rays. He slugged .565 in half a season this year and can be a useful fill-in in deep leagues when he faces right-handed pitching; however, he’s unlikely to fill a full-time role any time soon which makes him suitable only in NL-only formats or DFS.
Rafael Devers (3B, Boston Red Sox)—3-5, R, 2B. A .311 batting average, 32 home runs, and 244 combined runs and RBI constitute a breakout, right? He was absolutely fantastic all season long and will be an early-round pick in 2020. Again, the stolen bases are pretty fluky, and anything more than five is unlikely, but even without them he’s an elite fantasy asset.
Adeiny Hechavarria (2B/SS, St. Louis Cardinals)—3-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI. Well, that’s pretty neat. Hechavarria isn’t really fantasy-relevant (the nicest thing I can say about him is that he has a 93 wRC+ against lefties), but he did hit two home runs, so I am somewhat obligated to include him here.
Matt Thaiss (1B/3B, Los Angeles Angels)—3-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 2B, 4 RBI. He has power and is willing to take a walk, but that’s about it right now. He’ll need to work on making contact over the winter to gain any fantasy (or real-life) impact, but he showed the ability to hit for average and limit strikeouts in the minor leagues. Hopefully more exposure to big league pitching will allow him to make adjustments.
Elvis Andrus (SS, Texas Rangers)—2-4, R, 2 SB. Andrus’ 30th and 31st stolen bases on the season likely shook up more than a few final standings in the 11th hour. He’s been an amazingly consistent fantasy asset for his speed, and 2020 should be no different, especially now that he’s added a just a little bit of pop to his game.
J.D. Davis (3B/OF, New York Mets)—2-4, R, HR, 2 RBI. His .979 OPS over the second half is sure to draw some attention over this offseason thanks to his ability to make consistent quality contact with above-average plate discipline. It’s not hard to imagine him as a 30-home run hitter with a high batting average next season with a full-time role.
Will Smith (C, Los Angeles Dodgers)—2-3, R, HR, 3 RBI. It was a solid 54-game debut in Dodger Blue for Will Smith, who hit 15 home runs with a .253/.337/.571 line in 196 plate appearances. His power and patience will make him a promising fantasy catcher in 2020, and his long-term outlook is as rosy as it’s ever been.
Sam Hilliard (OF, Colorado Rockies)—1-5, R, BB, 2 SB. There’s double-digit speed and power in there if he gets regular playing time, but that’s not something I anticipate. The Rockies have jerked a multitude of outfielders over the years, including several much more touted prospects such as Ramiel Tapia and David Dahl.
Michael A. Taylor (OF, Washington Nationals)—2-2, R, 2B, 2 SB. He teased us with a power/speed combo from 2015-2017, but it seems that the Nationals aren’t happy enough with those numbers to overlook his contact woes. He’s a bench guy who is likely to stay on the bench for the foreseeable future. A trade to a new team could make him semi-relevant in deeper leagues, though.
Teoscar Hernandez (OF, Toronto Blue Jays)—2-3, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI, BB, SB. From a fantasy perspective, Teoscar and his teammate Randal Grichuk are virtually indistinguishable. I suppose Teoscar has a better chance at stealing eight bases or so, but that’s it. He has utility as a fifth outfielder in 15-team formats, but his low batting average makes it difficult to use him anywhere else. I am a bit encouraged by his walk-rate gains, though, and if he can take a step in reducing strikeouts, there’s hope for a brighter future.
Garrett Hampson (2B/SS/OF, Colorado Rockies)—0-6, 3 K. He went just 2-16 with no home runs or stolen bases in his final home series, which is a major bummer considering how hot he was for the final month.
(Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire)