Draft Prep: 2020 AL-Only Offseason Guide

Andy Patton evaluates 31 players joining the American League this offseason, and how to value them in AL-only formats.

For most fantasy owners, monitoring the offseason trades and free agent signings is about finding players who are joining a better opportunity (i.e. more playing time, better ballpark, etc.) in order to bump them up in your rankings.

However, for those who play in AL- or NL-only leagues, the offseason gives your league a completely new set of players to evaluate and ultimately determine draft value for. For example, a fantasy owner who has been in an AL-only league for the past decade has never had the pleasure of owning Anthony Rendon  until now. The same goes for Yasmani Grandal and Hyun-Jin Ryu in the AL, and guys like Mookie Betts, Omar Narvaez, Avisail Garcia, and Jurickson Profar, who are joining the NL for the first time.

If you play in one of those formats, all the changes can be a bit overwhelming. That’s where I come in to help! As a veteran AL-only player, I will attempt to put a round value on the players who changed leagues over this offseason to help you prepare for your upcoming drafts.

Note: For simplicity’s sake, I did not include players who switched leagues at the trade deadline last year as they were available in both leagues and therefore are not “new” to the league. That means no Zack Greinke, Nick Castellanos, Yasiel Puig, Franmil Reyes, and Tanner Roark, among others.

Also for some reason, I named my tiers after Abba songs. Enjoy!

 

Tier 1: Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!

 

There are five players who joined the AL this offseason who you should consider taking among the first 10 rounds, including one who could be a first rounder.

 

Anthony Rendon, 3B, Los Angeles Angels

 

The biggest addition to the American League landscape, Rendon signed a massive seven-year, $245-million-dollar deal to join Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, and the Los Angeles Angels offense in 2020.

Rendon is coming off a year where he set career highs in batting average (.319), wOBA (.413), barrel rate (12%), hard-hit rate (46.6%) and contact rate (88.3%). He’s still just 29 years old, and while a move away from Nationals Park to Angels Stadium is a small step down, hitting behind Trout and alongside Ohtani, Justin Upton and, eventually, Jo Adell seems like a solid gig for Rendon.

There’s a very real potential for a .300+ batting average, 35 home runs and well over 200 combined runs and RBI, if he can stay healthy. While he won’t add many steals, he’s well worth a selection in the late first/early second round of AL-only drafts. You can always find steals later, but his consistent production in all four other offensive categories is unparalleled.

 

Yasmani Grandal, C, Chicago White Sox

 

Grandal joins the American League for the first time in his career, and immediately becomes the second most desirable catcher on the market, outside of Gary Sanchez. Where you target Grandal depends on how you like to approach roster construction behind the dish, but it’s worth noting that depth behind the plate gets really thin really fast in AL-only formats, so he might be worth the high asking price.

Grandal is not only an elite pitch-framer, he’s a solid all-around hitter who has blasted 22 or more home runs in each of the last four seasons. He won’t add much in the batting average department, making him more valuable in OBP leagues, but even at age 31 there’s virtually no other catcher I’d rather have in an AL league.

The White Sox still have James McCann, which should allow Grandal to play first or DH on occasion, keeping him in the lineup and fresh and making him that much more appealing. If you want to snatch a catcher early, Grandal is a fourth- or fifth-round pick. If you prefer to wait on catchers, he won’t be your guy.

 

Josh Donaldson, 3B, Minnesota Twins

 

Donaldson is the third big addition to the AL landscape, although unlike the first two he is at least a familiar face. After inking a four-year deal with Minnesota, Donaldson will get a chance to feast on AL Central pitching in an excellent batting lineup, and there’s little reason to expect anything less than 30+ home runs and 200 combined runs and RBI.

Sure, he’s 34 and missed huge chunks of 2018 with injury, but he’s been remarkably healthy otherwise and has the advantage of getting occasional DH days if needed now that he’s back in the AL. ADP shows him going around the fifth round in AL formats, but I’d be happy with him in Round 4, as high-floor guys like Donaldson tend to hold more value in deeper leagues.

 

Hyun-Jin Ryu, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays

 

Ryu quietly put together a Cy Young-caliber season with the Dodgers last year, spending the majority of the season flirting with a sub-2.00 ERA. He parlayed that into a mega contract with the Blue Jays, which will land the soft-tosser in the vaunted AL East.

If you pick Ryu hoping for a season similar to last year with the Dodgers, you’ll almost certainly be disappointed. Staying healthy has long been an issue for the soon-to-be 33-year-old lefty, and he relied very heavily on elite infield defense and a 82.2% left-on-base rate.

Still, if he does manage to stay healthy again he should be a solid fantasy asset, with a sub-4.00 ERA and a strong WHIP, along with decent strikeout potential. He’s going around the 6-7 round range in AL drafts, and while I probably won’t pay that premium, his upside might be worth a gamble if you can establish a few safer floor starting pitchers later on.

 

Kenta Maeda, RHP, Minnesota Twins

 

The other former Dodgers hurler to move to the American League, Maeda finds himself slotted into a strong Twins rotation. The veteran put up a strong 4.04 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 27.1% strikeout rate in 2019 with the Dodgers, and similar numbers can be expected in Minnesota. The move from the NL to the AL is never easy, but the AL Central isn’t the worst place to be, as he’ll get to feast on teams like the Tigers and Royals with regularity.

A full season would likely make Maeda among the better arms in the American League, and he has a safe floor as a solid WHIP guy who should earn plenty of wins and/or quality starts. I’d be more than happy with him as my SP2 in the 8-10 round range.

 

Tier 2: I’ve Been Waiting For You

 

The Mookie Betts trade leaves a massive hole in AL-only leagues, but savvy owners can use a 10th or 11th round pick on his replacement, Alex Verdugo, who came over from the Dodgers. Verdugo is currently battling a stress fracture in his back, which could have him open up the season on the IL, but assuming he starts regularly upon returning he is a legitimate threat to hit .300 with 15-18 home runs and a handful of steals — and is well worth a starting spot in AL-only outfields.

The Rays made a handful of moves to shuffle their outfield picture heading into 2020, including trading Tommy Pham in a deal that netted them slugger Hunter Renfroe.Renfroe is expected to start in right field and hit in the middle of the order, which should afford him a 30-35 home run season. Strikeout issues will kill his batting average, but he’s still worth a look in the 12-13 round range.

Tampa Bay’s outfield re-shuffle didn’t just include adding Renfroe, it also included Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, Jose Martinez, Manuel Margot, and Randy Arozarena, as well. I’ll get to Martinez, Margot and Arozarena later, but Tsutsugo is the most interesting one. It’s never easy to predict how a player will hit coming over from the NPB league, and without knowing how many at-bats he will get it’s even tougher. However, there’s little doubt that Tsutsugo has the ability to blast 25-30 home runs if given regular playing time, and even in a part-time OF/DH role he will have good value. I’d target him in rounds 12-13 if you’re willing to gamble on Tampa giving him enough at-bats.

The White Sox added some veteran presence to their starting rotation, signing left-hander Dallas Keuchel to a three-year deal. Keuchel will slot in behind Lucas Giolito in Chicago’s rotation, and pitching to elite pitch-framer Yasmani Grandal certainly will help him as a command-plus arm. He’s fairly well established as a 3.75 ERA, 1.30 WHIP guy with limited strikeout potential, and while a move to the AL won’t help him a bunch of starts against the Royals and Tigers will. He’s a perfectly fine, albeit boring, 13-14 round pick.

The Indians finally rid themselves of Jason Kipnis this offseason, signing former Phillies castoff Cesar Hernandez to replace him at the keystone. Hernandez hit 14 home runs with nine steals and a .279 average last year, and hitting near the top of a solid Indians lineup should make him a solid source of runs next season. He’s a bit boring, but Hernandez could contribute in all five hitting categories next year, and is a darling in OBP formats as well, despite a career-low 6.7% walk rate last year. He’s a great choice in the 13-14 round range.

The Angels, in desperate need of some reliability in their rotation, went ahead and signed former Braves right-hander Julio Teheran (16-17) to a one-year deal this offseason. Teheran could very well be the team’s Opening Day starter, and with seven consecutive seasons of over 30 starts and 174 innings pitched, he’ll be a reliable innings eater for the Halos. He’s not much of a strikeout guy, and will probably settle in around a 3.90 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP, making him a solid 15-16 round pick.

The Blue Jays are replacing Justin Smoak with Travis Shaw at first base/DH this season. The veteran had back-to-back solid seasons in Milwaukee in 2017-2018, topping 30 home runs each year, before falling off horribly last season. Toronto is a nice place for a bounceback, and if he gets regular at-bats he should once again top 30 home runs. He doesn’t contribute anywhere else, however, and the floor is rather low considering his .157 average last year. He’s not an awful gamble in the 17-18 round range.

The Red Sox signed utility player Jose Peraza to replace Brock Holt, giving them a younger option as they head toward a rebuild. Peraza has the tools to be a fantasy relevant player, namely his excellent speed, but it’s hard to say how much he’ll play this year. I suspect he ends up on the short side of a platoon with Michael Chavis at second base, and fills in around the infield and outfield periodically as well. Pick him in the later rounds if you need speed, but I don’t think 2018’s 14-homer, 23-steal season is making a comeback in Beantown.

I don’t envy the people who run Roster Resource who have to figure out what the Rays are going to do with all their new outfielders. Manuel Margot seems like a candidate to start against lefties, and could play his way into more playing time as the season goes on. He’s just 25 and has shown the ability to hit home runs and steal bases, but his hit tool is lacking and until we know his playing time situation, I wouldn’t look at him until Round 18/19 or so.

The Rangers signed a couple of veterans to round out their pitching rotation, a move that worked out really well last year with Mike Minor and Lance Lynn. I’m not as confident it will have the same results with Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles, but one can hope. Lyles looked really good down the stretch for Milwaukee last year, going 7-1 with a 2.45 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP, but he’s a career 5.11 ERA guy in 900 innings who just moved to a small ballpark in the AL West. Grab him around round 20 if you feel confident in Texas’ recent success turning pitchers around, but be weary.

Maikel Franco is the second longtime Phillies infielder to bolt to the AL this offseason, heading to Kansas City. Franco is what he is at this point, a power-hitting third baseman who doesn’t strike out much but offers little else. His .234 average last year was dragged down by a .236 BABIP, but I wouldn’t expect much more than .250 with 20 or so home runs. That’s pretty average, but nice value in the 19-20 round range in this format. He’s expected to start at third and hit near the bottom of the order.

 

Tier 3: I Still Have Faith in You

 

Ah yes. Another new Rays outfielder/DH/1B/platoon bat. Jose Martinez saw his average drop from .305 to .269 last year, while his strikeout rate jumped up and his power came down. All that, plus the likelihood that he’s a short-side platoon bat to begin the year, make him a risky fantasy asset. He’s still worth a look in rounds 20-21 or so, especially for those who want to gamble on the upside.

The Mariners brought back a familiar face to plop into the back end of their pitching rotation when they signed Taijuan Walker away from the Diamondbacks. Walker has only thrown 14 big league innings in the past two seasons thanks to Tommy John surgery, but he’s proven himself a capable fantasy asset in the past. Pitching in T-Mobile Park certainly won’t hurt, and there’s the possibility of a 4.30 ERA and decent strikeout numbers, making him a player worth taking near the end of drafts.

The Toronto Blue Jays acquired Chase Anderson from the Brewers early in the offseason and have slotted him into the No. 2 spot in the rotation behind Ryu. Anderson has made 25 or more starts in each of the last five seasons, and has twice had an ERA below 4.00 in that time. Last year’s 4.21 ERA came with a solid 1.27 WHIP and respectable strikeout and walk rates, but his peripherals were considerably less promising. He’s a reliable innings-eater at this point in his career, but in the vaunted AL East I wouldn’t take him outside of the last few rounds if you just need someone to get a handful of quality starts.

The Rangers missed out on Rendon, Donaldson and Nolan Arenado this offseason, so they settled on a one-year pact with veteran Todd Frazier. Frazier should get the majority of at-bats at third base, if he can stay healthy, but could cede time to Nick Solak if he struggles, and might even fall into a platoon at first base with Ronald Guzman or Greg Bird. At his best, Frazier will hit .250 with 25 or so home runs. At his worst, he’ll be a short-side platoon. There are worse late-round gambles.

The Baltimore Orioles are in full-on rebuild mode, and decided to let veteran, slick-fielding Jose Iglesias man shortstop for the 2020 season. Iglesias has never been much of a hitter, but there’s a chance for 10/10 if he plays every day. That might be worth the final spot on your roster if you need someone to occasionally plug into a MIF spot.

Keuchel wasn’t the only veteran lefty the White Sox brought into camp this offseason, with Gio Gonzalez set to occupy the No. 5 spot in their rotation. Gonzalez posted a 3.50 ERA in 17 starts with the Brewers last year, but underwhelming strikeout totals make him a less than appealing fantasy target — especially now that he’s battling shoulder discomfort. If you still need a starter with your final pick, he’s not the worst option.

The Mariners have an extremely bad bullpen picture heading into 2020, but they shored things up a bit by signing veteran Yoshihiro Hirano to a one-year deal. All signs point to Hirano being the closer in Seattle, and while his 4.75 ERA and 1.38 WHIP from last year are less than ideal, he had a nice 26.2% strikeout rate and a 3.95 SIERA, and could end up being a decent RP option. I’d be more than happy to have him with my final pick in the draft if I still need a closer.

 

Tier 4: Take a Chance on Me

 

Current depth charts have rookie Austin Allen, who the A’s acquired from the Padres in the Jurickson Profar trade, as the team’s backup catcher. Allen likely won’t have fantasy relevance unless something happens to starter Sean Murphy, but his raw power and the fact that he swings from the left side could make him an interesting streaming option — and he’s an instant add if Murphy gets hurt.

If you thought we were done talking about Rays outfielders, you’d be wrong. The Martinez trade also netted Tampa young outfielder Randy Arozarena. Arozarena hit .300 in 19 games with the Cardinals last year, but he’s almost certainly going to start the year in AAA, and he’s not worth drafting or picking up until he’s in the big leagues and playing every day, which might not happen in 2020.

Right-handed submariner Steve Cishek didn’t have to move too far this offseason, going to the White Sox after two straight seasons on the north side with the Cubs. Cishek was excellent with the Cubs, pitching to a 2.95 ERA with a 1.20 WHIP in 2019, but command issues and the presence of Alex Colome likely won’t net him much fantasy value with the White Sox. If your league counts holds he might be worth a look in the final round, but otherwise he’s a Colome handcuff and nothing more.

There aren’t too many left-handers who throw 100 miles per hour, which alone is enough to make Joely Rodriguez somewhat intriguing. The fact that Jose Leclerc struggled last year could make Rodriguez a fantasy asset at some point in 2020, but he isn’t really worth owning unless he’s closing games or if you are in a holds and K/9 league.

The Mariners signed former Cubs reliever Carl Edwards to a cheap one-year deal this offseason. After four straight solid seasons with the Cubs, Edwards absolutely tanked in 2019, with a ghastly 8.47 ERA and 16.7 percent walk rate. If he is able to put that ugly year behind him and look more like the talent he was from 2015-2018, he could end up in the late inning mix for Seattle this year. Keep an eye on him.

I’m willing to venture a guess the Royals have one of the oldest bullpens in the MLB, a bullpen that now includes the return of veteran Greg Holland. Holland’s command has completely vanished the last two seasons, but perhaps a return to Kansas City will help him regain that magic that lead him to 206 career saves.

The Angels collected a handful of potential starting pitchers this offseason, among them former Diamondback Matt Andriese. Andriese had solid strikeout stuff out of the pen last year, but looks like a candidate for a long or middle relief role in LA, which has virtually no fantasy value.

26-year-old outfielder Adolis Garcia blasted 32 home runs with 14 steals in Triple-A with the Cardinals last year. He ended up getting flipped to Texas, where he is competing for a backup outfielder job. He’d be an interesting pickup if he is getting even semi-regular playing time, but until that happens he can be left on the waiver wire.

 

Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire | Feature Graphic Designed by James Peterson (Follow @jhp_design714 on Instagram & Twitter)

Andy Patton

Andy is the Dynasty Manager here at PitcherList. He manages all of the prospect content on the site, while also contributing a weekly article on Deep League Adds and dynasty deep sleepers. Beat writer for the Seattle Seahawks (SeahawksWire) as well as the host of the Score Zags Score Podcast.

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