It’s the dog days of summer, and the heat is on all across the country. This is especially true for Major League Baseball teams in the hunt for playoff seeds and fantasy baseball owners vying for the same prize. Yet, there are some who, despite their best efforts, things haven’t gone their way. To these people, I offer the adage of pre-2016 Cubs fans: There’s always next year.
In an effort to discuss the 2020 fantasy baseball season, I enlisted the help of 11 Pitcher List writers who, along with myself, drafted the first two rounds of a standard 5×5, head-to-head categories league. We simply randomized our draft order and went ahead with 24 picks based on who we would take if drafting for a 2020 fantasy baseball team with the knowledge we have now. Each writer then broke down why they took that player where they did and what their expectations are for his 2020 season. Along with my two picks, I added in a few honorable mentions that I had expected to be drafted, or at least considered myself.
1.1 Mike Trout (Alex Fast)
It seems as if every year there is a conversation as to who the 1.1 pick should be in drafts. The conversation always goes: “Should it be Mike Trout or X?” In 2019, it was Trout vs. Mookie Betts. In 2018, it was Trout vs. Jose Altuve. In 2020 it will—likely—be Trout vs. Christian Yelich. While the variables may change, the constant is always Trout. Considering his 2019 performance, I see no reason as to why Trout shouldn’t be the overall No. 1 pick.
Yes, Yelich may finish as the No. 1 player in 2019. Yes, the stolen bases lacked in 2019. Yes, Trout’s hitting below .300 (for now) for the first time since 2015 (where he hit .299). No, Trout—to my recollection—hasn’t finished the season as the No. 1 overall fantasy player in quite some time. With all that said, Trout is always in the top three which is exactly why you draft him. While there’s a chance you won’t be getting the best fantasy player of 2020, you’ll undoubtedly be getting one of the best. That consistency makes him the clear No. 1 draft pick of the 2020 season.
1.2 Christian Yelich (Andrew Gould)
This is shaping up to be the easiest decision of 2020 drafts. While I was hoping Alex would kindly leave me Trout, Yelich has the best case of anyone yet to claim the No. 1 throne. He has defiantly silenced the skeptics—myself included—by following his MVP campaign with 36 home runs and 23 steals. No, I haven’t time-traveled to October. Those are his numbers near the end of July. Also batting .337, Yelich could feasibly finish the season first in batting average, homers, and steals. He’s a super-duper-star who should go no lower than second next year. Oh, by the way, his launch angle is also way up.
1.3 Ronald Acuña (Nick Pollack)
As juiced balls take center stage, stolen bases are becoming a dying commodity. With Trout and Yelich already off the board, Ronald Acuña should be the No. 3 pick next year as he has everything you want: power, speed, average, a strong lineup around him, and that oh-so-precious “youth” we talk about so much as he’ll be entering his 22-year-old season. A 30/30/.300 season with 200 combined runs and RBI is surprisingly attainable, and while Bellinger is a lovely option, Acuña’s speed puts him over the edge.
Don’t overthink this. Get Acuña third.
1.4 Cody Bellinger (Travis Sherer)
I was a little surprised Cody Bellinger didn’t go third. I get Acuña steals bases, but he is nowhere near the hitter that Bellinger is. The guy is on pace to hit .330, hit 50 home runs, and walk 100 times. Has any else ever done that? The answer is no. But has anybody ever hit .330, hit 50 home runs, walk 100 times, and steal 15 bases? Bellinger is on pace to do that as well.
I was really deciding between Bellinger and Mookie Betts. It was only four months ago that Betts was the undisputed No. 2. He is capable of stealing as many bases as Acuña and is a better hitter. What sealed the deal for me is Bellinger’s radical change in approach. He has turned into one of the most efficient hitters in the league, cutting his strikeout rate from a respectable 23.89% to an elite 15.69% and raising his walk rate from a respectable 10.92% to an elite 14.99%. For Bellinger at least, this year’s outburst is not just thanks to a live ball. He’s a different hitter this year.
Also, the Dodgers bomber will qualify for first base and outfield next year, having already accumulated enough games there (13) to earn multipositional eligibility in most leagues for next season.
1.5 Max Sherzer (Andy Patton)
I can’t say I was thrilled to pick fifth. It was clear that Trout, Yelich, Bellinger, and Acuña would go Nos. 1-4, and I knew I’d have a few options at No. 5 overall. I considered Betts, who went sixth, as well as Nolan Arenado, Aaron Judge, and Francisco Lindor.
Ultimately, I landed on the best pitcher in the game, Max Scherzer. What isn’t there to love about Mad Max? He’s currently in the midst of his third straight season with a K/9 above 12, his 1.67 BB/9 is his lowest since 2015, and he’s also boasting a 2.41 ERA (2.09 FIP), and a 0.99 WHIP. There is no debate that he is the best pitcher in baseball right now, fantasy or otherwise, and I see no reason why he won’t continue to dominate in 2020. Sure he’s 35, but his stuff has not taken a hit and his durability has never been a cause for concern in the past.
Picking fifth is tough, and I’m not usually one to go with an arm in the first, but Mad Max was my best bet at this spot.
1.6 Mookie Betts (Scott Chu)
If I told you there was a guy who, at his worst, would put up 24 home runs, 20 steals, an elite batting average and OBP, and 200 combined runs and RBI, you’d want that player, right? Especially after I told you he has MVP potential and more walks than strikeouts? Well, that’s Betts.
For all of the chatter about his down season and how he’s disappointed as the consensus No. 2 overall pick, he’s been awfully good at hitting baseballs. As of this moment, he’s still arguably a top-25 overall player (and basically is, according to ESPN’s Player Rater, in standard 5×5 leagues). At the top of your draft, you’re looking for the perfect blend of floor and ceiling, and that’s basically what Betts is going to give you. He provides value in virtually every category, and at 26 years old, there’s a decent chance we haven’t even seen the best that he has to offer. After the Trout-Yelich combo right at the top, he’s worthy of consideration.
Oh, and before we forget, we’ll be just one year removed from a 32-home run, 30-stolen base season with a .346/.438/.640 batting line. There is an extremely finite number of human beings capable of such a feat, and if I can add one to my fantasy baseball roster, you better believe I’m going to do it.
1.7 Juan Soto (Alex Drennan)
“To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect.”
113 R, 125 RBI, 44 HR, 7 SB, .303/.418/.625
The first line comes from a 19th-century poet, the second a 21st-century sabermetrician, and both are equally Wild(e). Is it possible that Juan Soto suddenly evolves into baseball’s best hitter next season? Absolutely. His plate discipline ranks in the top 4% for each of the past two seasons, his batted-ball distribution has seen a decrease in ground balls and an increase in both pull and opposite field percentage, and his weak contact has decreased. Is it likely that he’ll lead the league in OPS like Dan Szymborski’s model predicts? If Yelich and Trout have anything to say about it, probably not. The shortstops are the sexier picks at this point in the draft, Lindor especially, but drafting Soto’s floor of 100 runs, 100 RBI, and 30 home runs with the ZiPS projection as an attainable ceiling is worth the top-10 pick.
1.8 Francisco Lindor (Austin Bristow II)
Had it not been for a spring training injury, Francisco Lindor would have been the consensus fourth overall pick in 2019 drafts. As it stands now, I see very little stopping him from pushing as high as the fifth overall pick in the upcoming 2020 season. After proving last season that he was indeed a reliable source of steals, little could be said of the 25-year-old’s faults. Now, in 2019, Lindor has improved his batting average to a .302 mark while on pace for nearly a 30-30 season.
Maybe the only slights I can conceive against Lindor would be a lack of supporting cast around him, though the Indians offense (translated: Jose Ramirez) definitely seems to be coming around as of late. Otherwise, he does play a very deep, talented position in shortstop. That said, I see him as the topper on an impressive tiered cake that is the shortstop landscape of the day. While the talent may be deeper, Lindor is the best of the best.
1.9 Aaron Judge (Dave Cherman)
With the No. 9 pick in the first round, I took Judge. I get the concern some have: He missed time last year with an oblique injury and he’s done so again this year, but when he’s healthy, he’s just too good to not own. He’s got the average back to the .284 mark from his rookie season and is an absolute stud in three other categories, even if you can’t bet on him to run much anymore. We had some concerns about his .357 BABIP in his rookie season, but he’s carried a higher mark than that every season without issue, so that could just be who he is. Also, if you’re in an OBP league, I don’t know how you don’t take Judge and his career 16.6 walk rate in the first round. Oh and, per FanGraphs, he’s managed to improve upon his batted-ball distribution by hitting more line drives than ever before with a higher hard-hit rate and a soft-hit rate BELOW 8%. That’s nuts. His 7.6% is the lowest of anyone with at least 150 plate appearances, and his 56.8% hard-hit rate is the highest of anyone with those same parameters.
Don’t overthink things. The guy is a surefire first-round pick.
1.10 Trevor Story (Daniel Port)
A dead horse you are going to see me beat over and over again from here on out all the way through the offseason is that I firmly believe it is essential to get a five-category contributor in the one of the first two rounds. It makes everything else so much easier, especially when it comes to average and steals. Now, I’m not reinventing the wheel here or anything. We saw Trout, Yelich, Betts, Acuña Jr., Lindor, Trevor Story, and (spoiler alert) Fernando Tatis Jr. all go in the first 13 picks. Each and every one of these players either makes elite contributions in all five main roto categories (including 20-plus stolen bases) or would have if he had played a full season. Four of those seven players are gone before the fifth pick. Six of them went in the top 10. It’s a rare thing to get, and in my opinion, it makes Story the real standout in this ground because he’s still available in the back end of the first round. Don’t believe me?
Obviously Trout, Yelich, and Acuña are in a class all their own, but check out the comparison between Lindor, Betts, and Story over the past two seasons combined.
It’s a pretty close competition in a standard 5×5 roto league, right? It’s worth noting a well that while Betts and Lindor outpace Story over the past two years, they are leadoff hitters (Story mostly hits second in the lineup) and therefore have more scoring opportunities and have more plate appearances than Story. This makes all that more remarkable that he leads the trio in both home runs and RBI and matches them in stolen bases. In 2019, Story is on pace for 115 runs scored with 30-plus home runs and 20-plus stolen bases. Given that this is his second consecutive year putting up these kinds of numbers, how can we not draft him in the same places that we look at Lindor and Betts? I know already I’ll be jumping all over Story in the back half of the first round in all my drafts next year ahead of the likes of even Judge or Soto as they just don’t contribute across the board in the way that Story does.
1.11 Gerrit Cole (Nicklaus Gaut)
I normally don’t like picking around turns but in this case, I was happy to because any earlier and I would’ve been tempted to take a hitter. That is an absolutely crazy statement for me to make given I never take pitchers in the first round. Like, never ever. But given the current offensive environment in baseball, I think I’m going to lock down a pitcher in the first two rounds more often than not. And the list of guys I’d consider in the first is very small: Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Jacob deGrom, Chris Sale. For me, Cole is the safest bet to return first-round value; he’s not old and becoming brittle like Scherzer/Verlander, doesn’t have a pattern of fading during the most important part of the fantasy season like Sale, doesn’t play for the Mets like deGrom. Cole is putting up Captain Insane-O numbers with a 37.3% strikeout rate and a 2.94 ERA that’s right in line with his 2.89 SIERA. And at only 29 years old and playing for one of the best teams in baseball—and one of the most trusted in regard to player management—I’m not certain we’ve seen the best of Cole yet.
1.12 Alex Bregman (JT Kohout)
Alex Bregman is probably the safest pick outside of the top five, and getting him to start the turn is a great start to my draft. The plate discipline gains he made a season ago have shown themselves to be legitimate, with an 81:61 BB/K ratio in 460 plate appearances. There’s really no questions on what you’re getting with a healthy Bregman: a solid average, great RBI and run totals, five to 10 stolen bases, and elite place discipline with dual eligibility at shortstop and third base.
2.13 Fernando Tatis Jr. (JT Kohout)
I decided to pair the safety of Bregman with the huge upside of Tatis. Tatis obviously isn’t going to sustain his .434 BABIP he has so far in his major league career, and some regression also needs to be baked into that 29.3% HR/FB rate. But looking at the players in baseball that have legitimate 30/30 upside in Yelich, Acuña, Lindor, Story, Betts, and Tatis, I felt like I could take the risk that even if Tatis is more of a .270-ish hitter than the .326 rate he’s currently at, it comes with the big power and speed he’s shown this year. I am expecting a jump in his plate discipline with the walk rate creeping up closer to 10% and the strikeout rate coming down to the 28% area. Overall, starting my 2020 team with the safety of Bregman and the obvious upside of Tatis is about as good of a start as I could have expected.
2.14 Rafael Devers (Nicklaus Gaut)
After taking Cole first and my second pick coming back around quickly, I knew I’d have my choice of a number of acceptable hitters, with my top group consisting of Freddie Freeman, Arenado, Bregman, and Rafael Devers. Bregman would’ve been my top choice but he got snapped up, so I decided on Devers instead. Same as with Cole, Devers is putting up the best numbers of his life. He hits in the middle of a great lineup, and considering he’s only 22 years old, I’m not sure this will be his best year—which is something, seeing as he’s currently slashing .329/381/.579 with 21 home runs, 82 RBI, 86 runs, and eight stolen bases. Pairing him with Cole gives me a solid base across most categories, which should allow me more freedom in making my next picks.
2.15 Nolan Arenado (Daniel Port)
I swear it wasn’t my intention to draft two Rockies in the first two rounds, but at some point, the value became too good. To snag the most consistent hitter in fantasy baseball not named Trout with the 15th pick in the draft is an absolute steal and a half. Just pencil him in now for a near .300 average, 30-plus home runs, 100-plus runs, and 100-plus RBI. It’s just what he does year in and year out, like clockwork. Check out this consistency:
It’s remarkable. If I were making the full rankings, Arenado would likely have slotted in at No. 8 or No. 9, right behind Lindor. I’d even put him ahead of Judge just for the counting numbers. Only four players hit over .290 with 30-plus home runs, 100-plus runs, and 100-plus RBI, with three out of four of those players never pulling it off before in their careers. Arenado has put up at least those numbers EACH OF THE PAST THREE YEARS. Over that time period, Arenado was 15th in average, fifth in home runs, fifth in runs, and first in RBI. Sure, he doesn’t steal any bases, but when you factor in his elite production in the four of the five roto categories, picking Arenado here is a no-brainer as he should likely be considered a top-eight pick, and I would still pick him ahead of Soto at No. 6 without hesitation.
2.16 Justin Verlander (Dave Cherman)
With my second pick, I grabbed the third pitcher off the board in Verlander. Cole is a free agent after this season, and while he’s overwhelmingly likely to re-sign in the place that has made him a superstar, it’s possible he moves on and almost any other fantasy situation would be a downgrade. Meanwhile, Verlander just got bumped to No. 1 on The List thanks to another elite season that is only marred by a sky-high HR/9 that currently sits at 1.74; he’s never posted a mark above 1.19 before in his career. Don’t be scared by his FIP and SIERA because once that HR/9 starts falling, all the peripheral numbers are going to start looking better. I’d even argue the strikeout and walk rates have regressed because he’s in his own head about homers. Once he starts feeling more comfortable pitching to guys again, he’ll nibble less and attack more. But even as it stands, are you complaining about his 32.8% strikeout rate? I didn’t think so. If it regresses somehow to 30%, are you going to be mad at that in the slightest? Didn’t think so again. He can’t keep going like this forever, but the clock is not going to strike midnight on him in 2020.
2.17 Freddie Freeman (Austin Bristow II)
After three seasons of wondering if Freeman would ever choose a side on the perverbial superstar fence, it’s clear that he’s hopped, skipped, and jumped off the fence to hang out with the studs of MLB. Freeman is one of the best pure hitters in baseball, topped only by Whit Merrifield and Bellinger in line-drive rate and by Bellinger and four others in hard-hit rate. Freeman is currently on pace for nearly 40 home runs, more than 40 doubles, and about 120 RBI and runs each while currently slashing .303/.395/.562. The dude is an absolute stud in the middle of a fantastic Atlanta offense.
This may be seen as a homer pick, but I was willing to take Freeman as high as 11 in my intial rankings I put together for this draft. The floor is a near .300 average, 30-plus home runs, and 210-plus combined runs and RBI. He may not provide steals, but he’ll reliably provide everything else.
2.18 Kris Bryant (Alex Drennan)
After a season in which he hoisted both a World Series and MVP trophy, the sky was the limit for Kris Bryant. He had the approach; he had the power; he had everyone’s attention. 2017 was considered a “down year” for power, and the perception was not aided by Giancarlo Stanton’s second-half power surge nor Judge’s breakout. Now, two years later, it seems more like 2016 was an up year for KB.
Even if Bryant’s home run total remains closer to 30 than 40, he remains an elite run producer. From 2015-2017, Bryant ranked third in runs scored, trailing only Charlie Blackmon and Paul Goldschmidt in that span. This season, Bryant ranks ninth in runs, but when adjusting for his lack of plate appearances compared with the rest of the top 10, he ranks fifth. While he may not be pairing this elite run production with 100-plus RBI, only Xander Bogaerts and Anthony Rendon are projected to accomplish that this season; prior to 2019, none of the hitters taken after Bryant accomplished that feat. This is the second time I passed on shortstop when it would have been prudent not to, but I can’t resist the 119 R, 80 RBI, 30 HR, .290/.390/.520 line that also provides some position flexibility later on in the draft.
2.19 Shohei Ohtani (Scott Chu)
In his first 180 games, Shohei Ohtani has swatted 36 home runs, stolen 18 bases, and has 102 RBI. He’s hit .289 in those 180 games and slugged .546. That’s a pretty good hitter, eh? One with some obvious fantasy value, to be sure. Maybe not a first-rounder but definitley a consideration in the first couple of rounds. Well, that same very good hitter also has the ability to strikeout more than a batter an inning and provide 100-plus innings of a 3.50 ERA. That’s two really good players in one roster spot. It breaks the way current fantasy evaluation tools work.
Ohtani isn’t a five-tool contributor, you see. In fact, he’s far from it. It’d be more accurate to say he’s an eight-tool player. Batting average/OBP, runs, RBI, home runs, stolen bases … AND strikeouts, wins, ERA, and WHIP (though the limited innings means he’s not a full contributor in each of the last four categories). If your brain is exploding, then you understand why we are so excited about the concept of Ohtani. He’s a 25-year-old who is poised to change the way we think about baseball players. I will be drafting him in pretty much every league that I can, and you should too.
I understand the arguments that he may be moved to closer or become an opener. I understand the worries about his at-bats and innings. The thing is, he can do both, and he can do both very well.
Notably, if this was a Yahoo league where he’s not just one player, he’s suddenly rather uninteresting. I’d have likely pivoted to another hitter such as Javier Báez, Trea Turner, Adalberto Mondesi, or Blackmon or even deGrom. All were deserving of that slot, but none can do what Ohtani does.
2.20 Manny Machado (Andy Patton)
I also struggled with this pick. deGrom was immediately tempting, but I didn’t want to go quite that pitcher heavy—even in a mock draft. Bryce Harper and J.D. Martinez were also considered, as was Stanton.
Ultimately I went with Manny Machado, who is well on pace to top 30 home runs for the fifth consecutive year and is on pace to eclipse his career-high of 37. A 40-home run season with a .270 average and 90-plus RBI is not out of the question here, and even though his strikeout rate has come up and his batting average has gone down, it’s hard to pass up a shortstop-eligible player with 40-home run power late in the second round.
San Diego was expected to suppress some of his power, but that doesn’t look like the case so far. In a lineup with Tatis, Hunter Renfroe, Eric Hosmer, and eventually Luis Urias, Machado should be a machine for runs, RBI, and home runs in 2020.
2.21 Trea Turner (Travis Sherer)
Turner was a tough decision for me. I was pulled in three different directions between Turner, Rendon, and Walker Buehler. In the end, I settled for the oft-injured shortstop. Stolen bases are the most difficult stat to find, and despite Turner missing 40-ish games in 2019, his 21 thefts rank as eighth-most in the league. He is still the best speed option out there—you just have to hope he only misses one month and not two.
If Turner finishes out 2019 healthy, he will play around 100 games, probably hit 13 homers and steal 33 bases while approaching a .300 average. If he were to only miss one month, those numbers go up to 20 home runs and 45 stolen bases. That is first-round production, not to mention the 100-ish runs he scores and high percentages for a speed guy. In the end, I am pretty happy with the combined 65 home runs and 65 stolen bases my first two picks could get in 2020.
2.22 Jacob deGrom (Nick Pollack)
I’m a bit shocked that I went with a starter after I’ve preached so much about chasing consistent bats, but I simply couldn’t turn down a Tier 1 starting pitcher at the back-half of the second round with a good chunk of bats I’d be happy to grab early in the third.
deGrom should be a lock for 180-plus innings of an ERA hovering 3, 200-plus strikeouts, and a 1.10 WHIP, with plenty of room for more. You know this; we all know this. He lost his slider and changeup to start the year, reclaimed it, and has been the man of our dreams since. I anticipate him to go much earlier in the second round next year, and at this discount, I didn’t have much of a choice.
2.23 Anthony Rendon (Andrew Gould)
If we were drafting beyond the second round, I would have snagged Sale as the last clear ace off the board and hoped Rendon or J.D. Martinez made it back to the third. We’re all going to look back on this exercise in October and laugh over Martinez going undrafted when he mounts another .300, 35-homer campaign.
However, Rendon also needs more love. As of July 27, Trout, Bellinger, and Yelich are the only players with a higher wOBA. He’s hitting a phenomenal .317/.405/.610 with 22 home runs, 76 RBI, and 74 runs despite missing time with an elbow injury early in 2019. There’s more injury risk than you’d like this early, and he’s no longer a threat to steal double-digit bases. Those are simply reasons not to take him in the first round. Unless the free agent signs somewhere with a terrible hitting environment, Rendon is a four-category star who warrants a second-round investment.
2.24 Xander Bogearts (Alex Fast)
Coming into the 2019 season, I was very high on Bogaerts. While 90% of my bold predictions will not come true, it’s looking more and more likely that Bogaerts will end the year being a top-three shortstop, if not the best fantasy shortstop in baseball. In the middle of the 2018 season, I wrote a piece about how Bogaerts was having a career year. At that point, Bogaerts was hitting the ball harder than he ever had before and seemed to have fully recovered from a wrist injury that was sapping a lot of his power and keeping fantasy owners away at the beginning of the 2018 campaign. Since that article was published, Bogaerts has kept up his torrential pace. His 2019 campaign will likely end with career highs in home runs, average, OBP, wRC+, wOBA, slugging percentage, and WAR, and while 2020 may bring some regression to it, I think there is plenty under the hood (increasing barrel rate, higher exit velocity and launch angle, sustainable xBA and xWOBA, etc.) that proves 2019 can be sustainable.
I was shocked Sale went undrafted. I understand that he got off to a slow start and his overall numbers aren’t what we expected, but since his fifth start of the season on April 23, Sale has pitched 111 innings to the tune of a 3.57 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and a 38.6% strikeout rate.
The underlying numbers for the entire season paint a better picture of Sale and help to explain his atyipcal results thus far. Sale has pitched to a 3.07 SIERA, more than a run under his 4.26 ERA for the year. This notable difference may be explained by a nearly career-high .309 BABIP (Sale put up a .323 BABIP in 2015) and a career-low left-on-base rate of 69.1%.
At the end of the day, Sale has as much upside as any pitcher in the league, and I think he’ll likely find himself with a top-24 ADP come April.
Since 2017, there may be no better hitter than Martinez. In the time, Martinez ranks first in the majors in home runs, second in RBI and batting average, and third in slugging percentage. The man can hit.
While he may be having a “down year” by his standards, Martinez is still on pace for 35 homers and nearly 200 combined runs and RBI. He’s already played 26 games in the outfield as well, so he staves off the dreaded DH-only designation for another year. I had Martinez ranked in my personal top 24 before the draft, and I believe he’ll likely be drafted in the second round of most 2020 drafts before all is said and done.
Taking Merrifield in the second round may not be a sexy pick, but it very well may be warranted. He seems as likely as anyone to put up a 20-30 season while batting .300. Since Merrifield’s first full season in 2017, he ranks fourth in the majors in stolen bases and leads the top six on that list in homers, runs, and RBI.
Everyone wants to get a big steals guy without sacrificing the other four hitting categories. Merrifield is a standout in both steals and batting average, without hurting you in the other three categories. He may not be a league winner, but he’s a very safe pick in the first few rounds.
Moving from Merrifield’s safety to his teammate’s dynamic upside, it’s clear why Mondesi should be considered in the second round. Mondesi is as likely as any player to lead the majors in stolen bases. Since his 2018 debut, he has played 157 games while batting .270, hitting 21 home runs, totaling 95 runs and 89 RBI, and stealing 63 bases. Only Mallex Smith and Turner have stolen more bases in the past two seasons, and it took each of them 230 games to steal 69 and 64 bases respectively.
Mondesi is a high-risk, high-reward player. He could easily compete for the No. 1 player in fantasy with his dynamic skill set, but the downside could be a player who can’t hack it in the majors. However, now that we’ve seen a second season where he’s been successful at the plate and on the basepaths, I’m ready to buy in. He may not have a top-24 ADP in 2020, but I doubt he’ll be much lower than 30.
Maybe a surprise inclusion in this piece, I think Ketel Marte could sneak into the back half of the second round of 2020 drafts. The 25-year-old is on pace for 35 homers while slashing .316/.374/.569. Another swing changer, the underlying numbers totally support Marte’s breakout. He has a career-high hard-hit rate, fly-ball rate, and swing rate. He is swinging more often while maintaining his fantastic contact rate, resulting in his 2019 stud turn. While he may not be the base stealer we once thought he could be, it seems likely he’ll swipe near double-digit bags each year.
While we don’t know for sure that Marte can continue this new level of production going into next season, I for one am very interested in a second baseman who is a five-category producer. I wouldn’t be surprised to see his ADP settle around 30 or even creep a bit closer to the second round.
After a 2018 season that seemed almost completely unsustainable, Báez has come out and produced eerily similar numbers in 2019. Offseason critics—myself included—pointed to Javy’s 26% strikeout rate and his 24% HR/FB rate as clear indicators of regression in the coming year. Well, 104 games into the season and Báez has struck out at a 29% rate, while 25.5% of his fly balls have flown over the outfield walls. Baseball is weird.
The one area that has regressed for Báez is his stolen bases. After stealing 21 bags in 30 attempts last season, Javy has slipped to just seven in 12 attempts this year. That is a bit disappointing for sure, but at the end of the day, he’s still on pace for nearly 40 home runs and 220 runs and RBI combined. The risks and criticisms of the offseason are still relevant, but Báez has shown he can outperform standard industry expectations over a season and a half. What’s stopping him from doing it next year?
2018 was seen as a down season for Blackmon because he only hit .291 with 29 homers and 12 steals. Well, the steals may be a thing of the past for 33-year-old Blackmon, but the average is back up to .319 and he’s on pace for about 35 home runs in 2019. The question for Blackmon comes down to his age and how quickly he’ll regress. Coors Field will help to keep his BABIP and power numbers up, but it seems clear the athleticism is beginning to slip. I expect he’ll settle into the late third round and very well may be an early-round bargain for his believers.
In his first season outside of Washingto, D.C., Harper has been … fine. I felt that he should be included in this section mainly because of name value. I mean, I took this guy sixth overall in my points league this year! I was convinced he’d be hitting nearly 40 home runs again in a strong Philadelphia lineup. That simply hasn’t happened, as he’s hit 18 in 105 games, on pace for 27 total. It’s hard to say whether fantasy owners are ready to push Harper out of the second-round discussion, but I would take any of the above players before Bryce at this point. We’ll see how he finishes out the 2019 season, but I’m not planning on taking him before the fourth round at this point.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@FreshMeatComm on Twitter)
How is Springer not even an honorable mention? Likelihood of first round numbers if he doesn’t suffer the leg injury.