I’m a big fan of redemption stories, and one that I’ve followed for much of the season is that of Cedric Mullins, who continued his journey towards a starting major league role with a 2-5 performance that included a walk and a stolen base. On the season, the soon-to-be 26-year-old outfielder is hitting .275 with two home runs, seven SBs, 14 runs scored, and six RBI. While he has just six extra-base hits in 132 plate appearances, he’s managed to claim the top spot in the batting order thanks to his ability to slap the ball into play and run his way to first base. Statcast is not a big fan of his profile (which is hardly a surprise considering that it usually isn’t a fan of slap-and-run guys like Mullins), but for fantasy purposes, seven stolen bases and a decent batting average is worth its weight in gold. I simply love rooting for players like Mullins, who came into the league with high expectations, struggled initially, but is clawing and fighting his way into a job. Baseball loves redemption, after all—that’s why the home team always get their chance in the bottom of the ninth, no matter the score. Someone has to win eventually, and it’s good to see players like Mullins scrapping their way through the upper minors to get back to the Show.
Speaking of gold, it should be noted that the switch-hitting Mullins has a somewhat favorable schedule to end the season, with only matchups against the Red Sox and Blue Jays remaining. Power never has been and is unlikely to ever be part of his game due to his diminutive stature (5’8, 175 pounds) and the fact that he never hit 15 home runs in any year of his pro career thus far, but he should be able to hit more singles and steal another base or two by the end of the season. If you’re in a deeper format and need every last steal, Mullins could be a player to target.
For those of you out of the race in 2020 (which is most of us), we have to consider what we do with a guy like Mullins entering 2021. We don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the 2018 preseason, where helium carried him up draft boards only to leave many disappointed and frustrated. We also don’t want to totally ignore what he’s done, either, as speed is a precious resource in most fantasy formats and reliable sources of it, particularly sources that don’t need to be drafted in the first five rounds, are incredibly scarce.
I will be the first to admit that I am not smart enough to give you a detailed explanation of how you should weigh Mullins’ success for your 2021 projections. I’m not even close. I do, however, have advice for you—let the smart people hammer that out. Folks like Ariel Cohen (creator of the ATC projection system) spend their energy on perfecting such a process. If you want to know more about how that sausage is made, I highly recommend this video from PitchCon, where Ariel took us through a lot of the high-level concepts of how projection systems like his work and how they use the data available to create projections. It’s fascinating stuff and helps humble people like me who start thinking they know something about projecting baseball players.
For those of you looking ahead to 2021, I give this advice: watch the projection systems, learn about the projection systems, and play with the projection systems until you find a system or methodology you like. It is one of the best forms of draft preparation and should be the driver of your valuations and draft boards. In 2021, a projection system you feel confident in will be more important than ever, and I can’t imagine succeeding in 2021 drafts without that effort and time put into the projections.
With that out of the way, let’s see how every other hitter did Tuesday:
Marcell Ozuna (OF, Atlanta Braves)—4-9, 2 HR, 2B, 2 R, 5 RBI. Ozuna now tops the NL leaderboards in home runs (17) and RBI (53) and would probably be a much bigger story if not for his teammate Freddie Freeman doing equally impressive things. According to the Razzball Player Rater (which I personally prefer to ESPN’s Player Rater for various reasons), Ozuna has been fantasy’s second-best outfielder in 2021 and should be ranked somewhere near the top-10 going into 2021 depending on his health and where he ultimately signs as a free agent.
Max Stassi (C, Los Angeles Angels)—4-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI. Stassi started the season on fire, hitting four home runs in his first seven starts, but then cooled off considerably until quite recently, hitting .440 and slugging .840 over his last seven games. While you have to consider Stassi’s season a success up to this point, with only four games left on his schedule and with them being against some tough Padres and Dodgers pitchers, it might be time to look elsewhere for your starting catcher to close out the season.
Yadiel Hernandez (DH, Washington Nationals)—2-4, HR, 2B, 2 R, 3 RBI. Signed back in 2016 out of Cuba, Hernandez really broke out in AAA last season hitting 33 home runs with a 1.100 OPS in 508 plate appearances. A somewhat crowded outfield in Washington has kept the 32-year-old mostly at the alternate site or on the bench, but the 23-32 Nationals don’t have much to play for at the moment so they are looking to see what they have in the left-handed hitter. With five games left to play and mostly right-handed starters on deck, Hernandez should get a few more games to show off the hitting ability and plate discipline he showed over the last few years on the farm. He’s never really been projected to hit for a boatload of power, but with a slew of older players either having mutual options or becoming free agents in 2021, Hernandez might be a mildly interesting flyer at the end of deep league drafts or on a watch list.
Freddie Freeman (1B, Atlanta Braves)—3-5, HR, 2B, 3 R, 2 RBI. He’s worthy of consideration for the NL MVP, even if voters may be more interested in giving it to Fernando Tatis Jr. (assuming that Tatis continues to pick it back up over the final week). It’s crazy to think that at the start of the season he was suffering from a serious case of COVID-19, and yet he managed to get his body back into shape and be one of the best first basemen in all of baseball. He’ll likely be the top first baseman in 2021 drafts (no disrespect intended to Jose Abreu) and will be viewed as one of the safest infielders available.
Juan Soto (OF, Washington Nationals)—1-4, HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 2 SB. He’s not even 22 yet. HE’S NOT EVEN 22 YET. Through 42 games, he’s hitting .345/.480/.683 with an almost silly 20.1% walk rate and 14.5% strikeout rate. Oh, and just for giggles, he’s stolen four bases in September. Either he or Tatis Jr. are probably the number one dynasty players out there (though I’m not opposed to the “it’s Trout until it isn’t” line of reasoning), and both could even find ways to grow since, you know, THEY AREN’T EVEN 22 YET.
Dylan Carlson (OF, St. Louis Cardinals)—3-4, 2B, 3B, 2 R, 2 RBI. While 2020 hasn’t been the debut many hoped for from the hyped-up young outfielder, Carlson has seemed to put a few things together lately, driving in six runners over his last six games. While his remaining schedule isn’t exactly easy, the Cardinals do still have six games remaining on their schedule and he should continue to start for those contests. While looking for a more consistent bat might be a bit preferable, he should get plenty of volume from now until Sunday if you need him in your championship run.
Corey Seager (SS, Los Angeles Dodgers)—3-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB. Seager has yet to go more than two games in a row without a hit this season and his .985 OPS is over 100 points higher than his breakout in 2016. According to Razzball, he’s been the 20th most productive player in fantasy, though that still only makes him the sixth-best shortstop behind Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr., Trea Turner, Trevor Story, and Tim Anderson. He should be ranked somewhere near the top-10 going into next season, though I doubt many will believe he can hit 30 home runs or steal more than five bases. The lack of loud power or speed may make him underappreciated throughout the offseason like it has in the past, which could somehow make him a bargain.
Andrew Stevenson (OF, Washington Nationals)—3-7, 2B, 3B, 2 R, 2 RBI. Speed is probably Stevenson’s best tool, even if it has yet to lead to stolen bases in the majors. He’s on a seven-game hitting streak and assuming he continues to lead off like he has the last three games, he should be able to steal at least one base (if not two or three) in the final series against the Mets, who continue to struggle to contain opposing base stealers.
Aaron Hicks (OF, New York Yankees)—2-4, 3B, 2 R, 3 RBI, SB. The plate discipline and OBP continue to impress, but his .410 OBP in September is actually higher than his slugging (.391). There’s obvious value in OBP leagues as a player who can accumulate counting stats in the middle of the Yankees order with a strong OBP, but the lack of power makes him more of a niche player in 10- and 12-team formats and a bit of a liability in standard leagues.
Austin Slater (OF, San Francisco Giants)—2-2, HR, 2 R, RBI, 3 BB, SB. He’s struggled to stay on the field, but in the 26 games he’s played, Slater has hit five home runs, stolen eight bases, and slashed .324/.442/.592. Statcast suggests that this hasn’t been the result of luck (.327 xBA, .584 xSLG), so I’ll be interested to see what the projection systems make of the 27-year-old who still sports a career slugging south of .400.
Willy Adames (SS, Tampa Bay Rays)—1-4, HR, 2 R, RBI, SB. Things have cooled off big time for Adames, who hit .289 in August but is now hitting just .177 in September. While his overall line is fair strong, and he does have three home runs in his last six games, his 50% strikeout rate over his last 15 games against less-than-elite pitching (he’s faced the Marlins, Nationals, Red Sox, Orioles, and Mets in that stretch) has me worried that opposing pitchers have found a hole in his approach that Adames will need to overcome to be successful.
Gio Urshela (3B, New York Yankees)—4-5, 2B, R, 2 RBI. He extended his hitting streak to 11 games and logged his third in a row with multiple RBI. I think this is definitely a top-200 player for 2021 who could have top-150 upside if the Yankees could ever keep the rest of their lineup healthy for more than a week at a time.
Trea Turner (SS, Washington Nationals)—3-6, 2 2B, R, RBI, BB, 2 SB. The power uptick we saw in 2019 carried over into 2020 (and then some), he’s stayed healthy, and has nine stolen bases in September. With four games against the Mets coming up, he could easily make it 10-12. Coming into September, there was mild disappointment that Turner had only stolen three bases while being caught four times in 32 games. Well, that seems a bit silly now, doesn’t it?
Dansby Swanson (SS, Atlanta Braves)—2-4, HR, 2 R, RBI. After a very cold nine games where he slashed just .054/.163/.081, Swanson is again showing signs of life at the plate, with a hit in three of his last four games and three extra-base hits. I think you need to keep starting him if you’ve been doing that all along, but the ups and downs of Swanson over the last two seasons are something I should probably look into.
Kyle Tucker (OF, Houston Astros)—4-6, 2B, R, RBI, SB. I think this is a 30-home run, 20-stolen base player in 2021 and the batting average is better than I expected. Super excited about this kid.
Kevin Pillar (OF, Colorado Rockies)—2-3, 2B, R, RBI, BB, 2 SB. Pillar has a hit in each of his last 11 starts and multiple hits in five of his last six while putting together a .957 OPS during this stretch. He’s moved up to the second spot in the lineup and while the Rockies don’t have any more home games, they do have six more games to play and have a fairly favorable schedule for right-handed hitters and for stolen bases, so if you’ve been relying on Pillar up to this point, you probably ought to keep running him out there.
David Peralta (OF, Arizona Diamondbacks)—3-4, 2B, R, RBI. The power has been a bit limited, but Peralta has performed admirably in the Arizona outfield in 2020. I see him mostly as a high-batting average guy who can also drive in runners due to his place in the batting order and the fact he’s a southpaw who hits righties well. If Peralta happens to be on your waiver wire, it’s worth noting that all of his remaining games are at home and that the Diamondbacks probably have the most hitter-friendly schedule in the league with one game against the Rangers and four against the Rockies.
J.D. Martinez (OF, Boston Red Sox)—3-5, 2 2B, R, RBI. It’s been a rough season for Martinez, though the rough season makes it less likely that he’ll opt out of his contract, which is good news for Red Sox fan (in my opinion). On the bright side, he’s on a little three-game hitting streak, so hopefully, he can string a few more hits together and end the season on a high note.
Luis Rengifo (2B, Los Angeles Angels)—2-3, RBI, 2 SB. Stealing two bases in a game gets you into the article. Move along. Nothing else to see here.
Jackie Bradley Jr. (OF, Boston Red Sox)—2-4, R, BB, SB. He’s hitting .329/.413/.529 with a 154 wRC+ in September, he has a pretty soft schedule remaining (vs BAL, @ ATL), and I don’t think they’ll see any left-handed starters. That makes JBJ a sneaky outfield play in most five outfielder formats if you need one.
Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire.