Draft Prep: 2020 NL-Only Offseason Guide

Andy Patton examines 36 players who joined the National League this offseason and how they should be valued in NL-only leagues.

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.) where a bump in your rankings would occur.

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, and Avisail Garcia, who are joining the NL for the first time.

If you play in one of those formats, 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. That means no Zack Greinke, Nicholas Castellanos, Yasiel Puig, Franmil Reyes and Tanner Roark, among others.

 

Top 10 Rounders

 

There are four players who joined the NL this offseason who you should consider taking among the first 10 rounds, including an obvious first round choice.

 

Mookie Betts, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers

 

In one of the most memorable offseason trades in recent baseball history, the Boston Red Sox decided they didn’t want to pay Mookie Betts market value, and shipped him alongside David Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a group of prospects and young outfielder Alex Verdugo.

You don’t need me to tell you how valuable Betts is as an asset. He’s been an MVP candidate and fantasy stud for each of the past four seasons. Now, in Los Angeles with an excellent lineup around him, there’s no reason Betts won’t produce elite fantasy numbers again in 2020.

30 home runs 20 steals, 130 runs, 80 RBI and a .300 batting average are all reasonable expectations for the 27-year-old, and even if he falls short in one or two categories the rest of the production will easily make him worth his draft slot in the top four picks.

 

Jonathan Villar, 2B/OF, Miami Marlins

 

The Baltimore Orioles basically handed Villar to the Marlins, who are reportedly going to play him in center field this season. Villar had a massive breakout in 2019, hitting 24 home runs with 40 steals and rewarding fantasy owners in a major way. He also broke out back in 2016, before taking a big step back in 2017. This floor is assuredly making some owners hesitant.

That, plus a move to a bigger park and an equally bad lineup is some cause for concern, but Villar is a near certainty to steal 30+ bases if he stays healthy, and while 24 home runs is potentially ambitious it’s not crazy to imagine a 15/30 season with 150 or so combined runs and RBI. Add in the positional versatility of him being 2B eligible and likely gaining OF eligibility in a few weeks, and you have yourself a very solid early round pick.

Villar is a solid second round pick in NL-only formats, and any owner who grabs him will be happy to not have to chase steals later in the draft.

 

Tommy Pham, OF, San Diego Padres

 

The Padres brought Tommy Pham back to the National League, and he’s expected to slot near the top of a solid San Diego batting lineup. A solid five-tool contributor, fantasy owners can expect a .270 or so average with 20/20 and  170+ runs and RBI – numbers that make him an excellent pick in the third or fourth round.

However, San Diego’s park could easily sap some of his power, and a degenerative eye condition was alleviated in Tampa with the dome, and could come back and impact him in sunny San Diego. Plus, he uses the middle of the field more than most hitters, and could see a decrease in production in Petco’s cavernous center field dimensions.

None of this is enough to knock him down too far, but that – plus some injury risk – makes him a little riskier than many other players around this range. The upside is likely higher, so owners will have to decide how lucky they are feeling in those first few rounds.

 

Omar Narvaez, C, Milwaukee Brewers

 

Narvaez broke out into a very viable fantasy catching option these past two seasons, with the power finally following suit in 2020 with 22 round trippers. Now, he’ll head away from the cavernous dimensions of T-Mobile park to the much friendly confines at Miller Park in Milwaukee – which could help him post another 20+ home run season with a .270+ batting average, numbers that place him near the top of all fantasy catchers.

Narvaez does struggle mightily against left-handers, which could push him into a platoon, but if you are looking to secure your catcher position in an NL-only league – which is never a bad idea – Narvaez is a solid pick in the 9-10 round range.

 

Middle Rounds (10-20)

 

For NL owners salivating at the idea of finally getting to own lefty hurler David Price, it’s absolutely worth noting that he is a long time removed from the stud he was earlier in his career. Injuries have hit him hard in two of the last three seasons, and 2019’s 4.28 ERA and 1.31 WHIP were his worst marks since 2009. However, a 3.62 FIP and a 28 percent strikeout rate show there’s still plenty left in the tank, and if you’re willing to gamble on him staying healthy he’s a good ratio stabilizer with plus strikeout potential that should be available in the 8-9 round range.

Right-hander Emilio Pagan‘s fantasy value took an absolute tumble when he was traded away from Tampa Bay, where he was the closer, to San Diego where he will serve as a set-up man to Kirby Yates. Pagan’s ratios (36% strikeout, 4.9% walk) and ERA (2.30) still make him an appealing fantasy target, but his value is downgraded considerably in standard saves leagues. Grab him as a handcuff in the later rounds, or in the 8-9 round range if your league counts holds and/or K/9.

The Phillies took a chance on reclamation project Didi Gregorius this offseason, signing him to a one-year deal and slotting him in at shortstop. Gregorius is coming off a down 2019 campaign, but hit .268 or higher with 20+ home runs in each of the three previous seasons. Citizens Bank Park is good to pull-heavy lefties, and being in a solid lineup should allow Sir Didi to post 170+ runs and RBI, with 20 or so home runs and a decent average. He’s a risk, but in the 10-12 round range the upside is well worth it.

Avisail Garcia will join the National League for the first time after eight years in the AL, and coming off a 2019 campaign that saw him post career-highs in home runs (20) and stolen bases (10) while slashing .282/.332/.464. He’s going to play a lot of left field, likely as the strong side of a platoon, and should come close to 20 home runs with a solid average again in 2020. He’s worth a look in the 11-12 round range.

The Braves added veteran Travis d’Arnaud to their catcher mix, alongside fellow veteran Tyler Flowersd’Arnaud is a great power hitter, capable of blasting 20 home runs with a .250 average which would make him among the best NL catching options. He could also succumb to injury or fall into a timeshare with Flowers, hampering his value. If you like to wait on catchers, d’Arnaud isn’t the worst gamble in the 12-14 round range.

The Reds went ham this offseason, signing a whole bunch of players to mix into their outfield picture. One of them is Nori Aoki 2.0, Japanese hitter Shogo Akiyama, who comes to the states after hitting .321/.399/.497 in his last five seasons. That’s more or less what Aoki put up, and with consistent playing time and a spot near the top of the order, Akiyama could be a nice source of batting average and runs. He’ll leave the yard occasionally, but his speed is hard to predict. He stole a lot of bases in Japan, but also got caught a ton. He’s a gamble, with playing time a major concern, but his upside is worth a risk in Round 15 or so.

The Padres are replacing the retired Ian Kinsler with post-hype sleeper Jurickson Profar, who should be the team’s everyday second baseman. Profar’s 2018 and 2019 numbers look really similar, with 20 home runs in each year, 10 and nine stolen bases and virtually identical strikeout and walk rates. The problem? His average sunk to .218 last year, making him nearly unrosterable. Assuming he can maintain that 20/10 pace again in 2019, Profar is a very solid middle infield option in NL-only leagues, in the 16-17 round range.

The Diamondbacks made two big acquisitions in their outfield, trading for Starling Marte and also signing longtime Angels right-fielder Kole Calhoun. Calhoun is expected to occupy a starting spot for Arizona, and while last year’s 33 home runs seems like an outlier (his 22.8 HR/FB rate is well above his career norm) there’s no reason to believe he can’t hit 25ish with 160+ runs and RBI. He could fall into a platoon if his numbers against lefties aren’t good, but he’s still a very worthwhile starting outfielder, and worth a look in the 16-17 round range.

The Mets are shoving veteran right-hander Rick Porcello into the back end of their starting rotation, in the hopes that he can rebound from a disastrous 2019 campaign. Armed with little strikeout potential and a not-so-great defense behind him, I see very little upside in drafting Porcello, as his floor is very unrosterable. He’s going in the 18-19 round range in NL-only leagues currently, and if you’re desperate for an innings-eater or a quality starts guy, I can see the appeal. I’d be letting him go, however.

Remember Blake TreinenAfter a few up-and-down years with the Nationals, Treinen found himself in Oakland, posting one of the best reliever seasons of all-time in 2018. His 0.78 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 31.8% strikeout rate and 38 saves had him squarely among the best closers in the league. A disastrous 2019 season saw everything fall apart for Treinen, and he ended up losing his job and signing with the Dodgers to be a bridge to Kenley JansenI don’t hate drafting Treinen in the 17-18 round range, either because your league counts holds or because you’re banking on him returning to form. However, at age 31 and without a clear path to saves, he’s not going to be my favorite pick in this particular portion of an NL-only draft.

A lot of what was written about Treinen can apply here to Dellin Betancesexcept instead of coming off a bad season he’s coming off an injured one, where he only threw 0.2 innings. After spending his entire career in pinstripes, Betances didn’t go too far for his next uniform, where he’ll suit up with the Mets. The big right-hander has only posted an ERA above 3.00 once since 2014, but with a lingering injury and behind at least Edwin Diazand maybe Seth Lugo in the pecking order for saves, Betances shouldn’t be a target except in K/9 or holds leagues.

Josh Lindblom has only thrown 15 big league innings since 2014, but a two-year stint in Korea saw him post remarkably good numbers, enough for Milwaukee to give him a three-year guaranteed deal and to slot him right into their rotation. It’s really difficult to know what exactly you’re getting if you draft Lindblom this year, although expecting anything close to his overseas numbers is likely foolish. Most projection models have him with a mid-4.00 ERA, a 1.30 WHIP and underwhelming strikeout numbers – which could make him an okay target in the final few rounds. If you believe there’s more upside, take him in the late-teens. He’s about as unpredictable as it gets.

Wade Miley‘s last two seasons have been among the best in his career, thanks mostly to a massive increase in his cutter usage, which is a much, much better pitch than his four-seam fastball. A move to Cincinnati is never good for any pitcher, however, and even though he’s been better lately he is still a league-average arm with very little strikeout potential. I think I’d rather gamble on him than Lindblom, but the upside is considerably less. If you need an innings-eater to round out your rotation, Miley’s not a bad 19-20 round pick.

Late Rounds

 

The move to Toronto and full-time at-bats saw first baseman Justin Smoak‘s fantasy value rise tremendously, but he’s fallen back to earth after an ugly 2019 campaign where he hit just .208 and lost playing time to Rowdy Tellez down the stretch. Now, Smoak looks like a near every day starter at first base for the Brewers, and it’s not hard to imagine him hitting 25-30 home runs with a .240 or so batting average – numbers that would make him well worth an investment in rounds 18-20. He’s even better in OBP leagues, where his career 11.7% walk rate would play up nicely.

At this point, we have virtually no way to gauge the fantasy value of new Cardinals left-hander Kwang-Hyun Kim, because we don’t know his role. If he wins the fifth starter job, he’s certainly worth a gamble in the 23-25 round range. However, it’s looking more and more like he might be ticketed for an immediate bullpen role, which saps his value. I’m comfortable letting someone else take the leap on him, since I don’t think the upside is all that high.

The Twins converted star right-hander Brudsar Graterol into a reliever last season, and he made his big league debut with 9.2 innings in relief. He then got flipped to the Dodgers in the Kenta Maeda trade, and looks like a future pen ace in Los Angeles. While he’s the kind of reliever who could eventually hold fantasy relevance, I have a hard time seeing it in 2020, making him a late-round flyer at best for those of you in K/9 or holds leagues.

Fresh off a World Series win, the Nationals decided to upgrade one of their biggest areas of weakness by signing Will Harris away from the runner-up Houston Astros. Harris posted an elite 1.50 ERA last year with a 0.93 WHIP and a 27.1 percent strikeout rate. He’ll be in a set-up role to Sean Doolittlebut I’d be happy to roster him as a handcuff or closer-in-waiting type player with one of my final picks.

The Brewers inked former A’s left-hander Brett Anderson to a one-year deal this offseason, and he appears locked into a rotation spot. While his 3.89 ERA and 1.31 WHIP from last year look playable, he posted an abysmal 12.1% strikeout rate last year, and has almost never posted strikeout numbers worth owning in fantasy. He’s not a horrible last pick if you need an innings-eater or a quality start machine, but a rough injury history, a move to a smaller park and a lack of strikeout appeal won’t make Anderson a hot commodity on draft day.

The Cubs plugged their hole at second base by signing veteran Jason KipnisKipnis has struggled in the batting average department in the past three seasons, but he’s reliably posted around 15 home runs and seven steals. He’ll hit at the bottom of the order, but in a small park and with a decent lineup around him, it’s not hard to imagine the veteran repeating those numbers with a solid amount of runs as well. He’s not a bad final pick in NL-only leagues.

 

Deep Sleepers/Waiver Wire Finds

 

One of baseball’s best stories last year was the resurgence of Hunter Pencewho made the All-Star team as the DH for the Texas Rangers. Injuries limited him in the second half, but he still hit .297 with 18 home runs and six steals, providing an absolute bargain for those who snatched him off the waiver wire. Now he’s back in San Francisco, expected to play a key role off the bench with occasional starts mixed in. In leagues that allow daily roster changes, he could be worth a spot on your bench if he is getting semi-regular playing time.

Jake Marisnick‘s career has played out very similar every year: He plays in over 100 games with roughly 300 at-bats, he hits around 10 home runs with around 10 steals and a batting average around .230. Now that he’s out of Houston and in New York with the Mets, it’s possible he gets more opportunities to pinch-hit and/or pinch-run. However, his overall production will likely be similar, making him waiver wire fodder throughout the season.

The Brewers added a whole mess of infielders from the American League, with most of them competing for bench roles. Among them, Brock Holt seems the most likely to make the team, thanks to his positional versatility and the nature of his guaranteed contract. Holt his .297 in 295 plate appearances with Boston last year, with just three home runs and one steal. He’ll likely play a similar amount in 2020, but offers little upside for fantasy.

Speaking of Brewers additions from the American League, they doubled up on former Mariner first baseman when they signed Ryon Healy to a minor league deal (technically they tripled up when you count Logan Morrison). Healy has a chance to play some 1B/3B for the Brew Crew this season, but he’s not projected to make the Opening Day Roster at this point and therefore should not be drafted in NL-only leagues. If he does get a chance to start, he’s a cheap source of power and little else.

Speaking of Brewers additions from the American League (x2) they also went ahead and signed former Tigers infielder Ronny Rodriguez to a minor league deal. Rodriguez hit 14 home runs with three steals in a half season with Detroit, but slashed a pitiful .221/.252/.438. He won’t have a fantasy impact unless he falls into a starting role, which seems very unlikely.

Welington Castillo has been a reliable low-end fantasy catcher for the better part of a decade, but the past two seasons have really taken a toll on him. He’s now in camp with the Nationals, a team that is very well set with Kurt Suzuki and Yan Gomes behind the plate. Castillo won’t have fantasy value unless someone gets hurt or he ends up on a different team, but he’s worth keeping an eye on if you’re catcher needy.

It seems like forever ago that Jharel Cotton tantalized us with that beautiful changeup. Still just 28, Cotton has not thrown in the big leagues since 2017, thanks to TJS and a hamstring injury. Now he’s in camp with the Cubs competing for the fifth rotation spot, and while he’s not worth investing in on draft day, he would be worth an add if he wins the job and strings together a few nice starts.

After back-to-back solid years with the Astros, Hector Rondon inked a one-year deal with the Diamondbacks. He projects as a set-up man, limiting his fantasy value to those in holds leagues, but his career 3.49 ERA and 24.9% strikeout rate are appealing enough to keep an eye on him, and even own him as a handcuff for Archie Bradley.

Despite an injury-filled, egregiously bad season in Detroit last year, Josh Harrison looks to have a good shot at a bench role with the Phillies in 2020. He’s posted double-digit home runs and steals as recently as 2017, and he likely won’t post a .187 batting average again, so maybe there’s some deep NL-only league potential here if he works his way into semi-regular playing time.

The Giants have a handful of candidates for the back of their rotation, including Tyson Ross and Trevor Cahill. Cahill is having the better spring, but both are expected to begin the year either in the bullpen or the minor leagues. If they do make their way into the rotation, they could be streaming options.

Shelby Miller hasn’t been good since 2015, but the Brewers are going to give him a shot at the final spot in their rotation. All signs indicate he won’t get it, and will likely accept an assignment in AAA. Considering his 9.15 ERA in the past two seasons, that’s probably for the best. If he has himself a renaissance year he could be worth a midseason add, but I wouldn’t count on it.

One of the reasons Yolmer Sanchez signed with the Giants was the opportunity to compete for an everyday role at second base. However, Roster Resource doesn’t even have him on the 26-man, instead going with Mauricio Dubon, Donovan Solano and Wilmer Flores. Sanchez has very little appeal in fantasy even if he is playing nearly every day, so he’s not worth anything unless that happens.

 

Photo by Ric Tapia/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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Account / Login