This list was originally half Marlins players and had to rewrite it when they got suspended. Okay not really… But when in doubt, blame Florida. With less than one full week of data, it’s hard to see through the statistical noise, but I tried to focus on the categories that provide meaningful information the most quickly, focusing on Max exit velocity, swinging strike rate and contact rate. Though in many of the cases, the biggest changes in value come from increased plate appearance opportunities, which are especially valuable in this chaotic shortened season. I wish I could’ve written about even more players, so let me know in the comments which ones you think deserve more attention. Without further ado, here’s the list!
Eric Hosmer (1B, San Diego Padres)
Hosmer is captain of the gravy train. No, I’m not expecting you to get that reference. Hoz has long been a maddening player because we realized he could be great if he just hit fewer grounders, and yet he wouldn’t change. Well it seems that he finally has. Yes, I know he’s only had 8 Plate Appearances so far, but he has a noticeably different swing. So far the results have been promising, though I’d still be excited if he was hitless. He’s already managed to launch all 6 of his batted balls in the air, with two barrels and excellent overall velocity. Although he may no longer possess even chip-in stolen bases, he’s always had the talent to be a .290 30 HR hitter with more flyballs, and given the high run production floor, I’m buying wherever I still can in AVG leagues.
Kyle Lewis (OF, Seattle Mariners)
Lewis was somewhat surprisingly quite the sleeper coming into 2020, with an ADP of 376, despite his first-round pedigree combined with his huge splash in 2019 (.268 with 6 Home Runs in just 75 PA). He’s shown this year that despite his injury-riddled minor league campaigns, the mammoth power is real, but unfortunately so is his strikeout problem. He’s already posted the 11th highest Max exit velocity in the bigs but with a 44% K% rate, though the latter number should regress to 35%. With his high barrel rate, he can still find success a la Aaron Judge or peak Khris Davis and I still have hope he’ll improve on that front with more reps. He’s an upside add if you’re hurting for power, and you gotta bet on that upside in this short season.
Joey Votto (1B, Cincinnati Reds)
When a longtime All-Star comes off back-to-back weak seasons with guns blazing, you should pay attention. Votto’s mashing to the tune of .389/.450/.722 with 2 Home Runs, 5 RBI and 5 R in 20 PA, and while he won’t keep this pace up, there’s a lot to like. His contact and plate discipline have been excellent as usual, with a microscopic 1.3% Swinging Strike rate and 97% Contact Rate. Unfortunately, the exit velocity hasn’t arrived yet, with no barrels and an average exit velocity of 85 mph, below the 88 mph he’s averaged the past two years. He could still pull a Yuli Gurriel with his combo of bouncy balls and a homer-friendly home park to keep pulling fly balls, and hit .300 with 6-7 more home runs, which is plenty useful.
Jose Peraza (2B/SS/OF, Boston Red Sox)
Peraza beat out Chavis for the opening day gig, and he came out swinging. At everything. His 63% swing rate has worked for him so far though, as he’s faster than the approaches beer-bellied Willians prototype and is hitting a solid .294/.294/.412 (at least if you’re not in an OBP league). He’s getting a fair amount of time at leadoff, which is juicy ahead of Boston’s Murderah’s row. But what really has me optimistic is his exit velocity, which has jumped from 85 mph to 89 mph so far, with a 2020 Max eV (107 mph) that ranks 64th. This can and will all regress, but if Peraza can add even moderate pop to his already strong 88th-percentile sprint speed and high contact, we could be looking at a return to his 2018 value, with the chance of going beyond that in his age-26 season. Add in 12-team formats for a multi-position utilityman with solid five-category upside.
David Fletcher (2B/SS/3B/OF, Los Angeles Angels)
I’m not going to stop trying to make Fletch happen. Fletcher’s lack of pop made him so overlooked that we went undrafted in my AL-only league… not to say that ever made sense. But now that Fletcher’s the leadoff man in LA ahead of Rendon and Trout, his fantasy value has gotten a big boost. No, I don’t think his .533 AVG or .615 BABIP are sustainable, especially with a 69% GB% rate. His xBA of .293 and xSLG of .351 will cool your jets. But he should continue to be a nice source of runs, average and stolen bases, and his quadruple-eligibility makes him a great utility bench piece.
Victor Caratini (C/1B, Chicago Cubs)
I’ll admit to completely overlooking Caratini’s contributions last year, perhaps for no other reason than his name sounds like a Pokemon. But with the early returns, I’m scooping him up wherever possible. Reason #1 is his 111 mph max exit velocity, which ranks 8th in the MLB so far and bodes well for his power upside being real. Reason #2 is his early plate discipline, with a 92% contact rate (78% last year) and excellent 3% SwStr%. But reason #3, the big Carahuna, is that his biggest obstacle to value, playing time, has opened up with the DH in the NL. It’s entirely possible that playing mostly DH will allow him to focus more on hitting, and he’s the rare catcher-eligible player with the bat to hang at DH. He could easily hit .270 with 7-8 home runs, and I wouldn’t be surprised for him to turn in a Mitch Garver-esque campaign. He’s a must-add in all two-catcher leagues and single-catcher 15-teamers, though if he keeps this up he’ll be a 12-team add too.
Asdrubal Cabrera (2B/3B, Washington Nationals)
If you bet against Kieboom getting the starting gig with Russian money, you’ve earned quite a few Asd-rubles. Oy. He’s hitting .308/.357/.615 with 1 HR, 2 RBI and 2 R. Betting on a 34-year-old to have a breakout is probably folly, but it is something that a player with a 20% K rate the past two years currently has a SwStr% of 0%, which is intriguing from a player with moderate power. He hasn’t had to sacrifice power for contact either, with an average eV of 93 mph. I think he can do enough to keep the starting role, and could even outshine the far more popular Kendrick. Fantasy baseball is ageist so propping up a boring vet is the sound of settling, but I’m going to make a speculative add A-Cab for Cutie.
Tommy LaStella (2B/3B, Los Angeles Angels)
After the Rendon signing, La Stella seemed to be destined for a platoon or role. But while his competitor David Fletcher has been the hotter hitter, Andrelton Simmons’s nasty-looking leg injury leaves room for both Fletcher and La Stella to receive regular at-bats. La Stella seems to be doubling down on his strategy of making lots of contact to hit pulled flyballs, with a 55% FB% so far, but it’s not clear yet if that will be enough to make him better than the below-average regular he had been in years past. But in deep leagues, the playing time alone makes him worth the gamble.
Edward Olivares (OF, San Diego Padres)
While Olivares was not a top 10 prospect on most lists, The FWFB Fantasy Benefit listed him as the #8 prospect, commenting “He might be one of the most underrated prospects in baseball. It also said that his power had been average, it would jump up as he matures. That may have already happened, as he took no time to get a Max eV of 110 mph (top 30 in MLB). Like another popular sleeper, Sam Hilliard, he tore up the minors last year with serious power/speed numbers… though more on the speed end than power (18 HR, 35 SB). It looks like he won’t hit for a great average based on his minors rates, he could be a .250 20/20 over a full season. Unfortunately, he hasn’t yet landed regular playing time, so for now, he’s more of a speculative add but one who could be quite intriguing. If you have room to sub him out, I’d add him in 15-team, though in weekly formats or with limited bench spots, he’s safest to add only in deeper formats, but keep a close eye on him if his role Oli-varies.
Bradley Zimmer (OF, Cleveland Indians)
You can’t flim-flam the Zimm-zamm. As long as he stays on the field, that is. The most important thing is Zimmer is healthy and playing, but it’s also a good sign that so far he’s hit the ball with authority, with a 107 mph Max exit velocity. Not only that, but so far he’s displaying an improved 77% Contact rate and 9% SwStr% rate, which of course could always slip but even at age 27 I still believe Zimmer has upside for a peak Steven Souza-esque season if healthy. Although he’s penciled in as the starting left fielder, he hasn’t quite seen full-time reps, but I could get behind taking him above Olivares.
Austin Nola (1B/C, Seattle Mariners)
I already liked Nola for his rare catcher utility, although it’s not easy to use the word “excited” for players that make their rookie debut at age 29. Statcast thinks he got lucky last year and dislikes him even more this year, but at least for now, he has regular playing time mostly guaranteed with Tom Murphy out with a broken foot for several weeks. While he lacks solid power, he does hit for solid contact and draws walks, with an 84% Contact% and 5% SwStr% which are both great, especially for a catcher. If you play in a deep league or two-catcher league, he can provide value just by producing like a league-average catcher and playing most days. He’s like flossing, not fun but unwise to ignore. UPDATE: He’s day-to-day with a swollen knee, monitor closely.
Andrew Benintendi (OF, Boston Red Sox)
Look, I’m a Red Sox fan (sort of) so I take no joy in saying that this year might be time to throw out your super benintendo cartridge. His Statcast page looks like a bluebird with hypothermia. His contact rate has been Joey Gallo-esque so far, and his exit velocity of 81 mph is terrible too. Of course, he’ll bounce back from being this awful, but I can’t see him being better than Peraza right now, and as a #9 hitter, his accumulation skills, the primary driver of his value, take a major hit. A 60 game season requires bold moves and this one sounds crazy, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Benintendi is the Ender Inciarte of last year. Cut AB and find someone who will rack up more quality ABs.
Michael Chavis (1B/2B, Boston Red Sox)
The rise of the Jose Perazor means that we don’t need a Chave. If he thought he could hit his way into relevance, he’s doing the opposite of that, striking out in half of his at-bats and no tates to show for it. He may end up getting part-time at-bats with a few homers, but there’s nothing here remotely interesting for shallower formats.
Cameron Maybin (OF, Detroit Tigers)
I thought that maybe I’d be interested for some late-game power/speed, but Maybin not. The biggest reason I was intrigued was the possibility of him leading off, and instead, he’s batting 6th. And thus far, he’s struck out in half of his at-bats. He could still prove to be interesting, but there are so many other more interesting power/speed options that I doubt I’ll miss him much, and I doubt there will be a mad dash to scoop him back up if he gets hot.
18-Team & AL-Only
Jarrod Dyson (OF, Arizona Diamondbacks)
As is tradition, some news came out about Dyson’s role that sent everyone flocking to pick him up, then reality hit. And the reality is that not only can Dyson still not hit his way out of a wet toilet paper bag, he’s not the leadoff hitter. And why would he be, as he’s not even very fast anymore. Cut him loose now, let your Dyson vacuum do the sucking.
Photo by Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire