My Ride-or-Die Guys for 2021

Analyzing 13 players that I keep finding on my 2021 fantasy teams.

Sleepers. Breakouts. Busts. Fades. Prospects. ZiPS projections. Steamer projections. Rankings on rankings on rankings on rankings.

Fantasy draft season is full of opinions and analysis across the spectrum and throughout the fantasy baseball industry. I guarantee if you spend more than 10 minutes searching the internet, you can easily find just about any player outside the top-25 or so on multiple, completely-contradictory lists where he might be declared anything from a league-winner on one site to a monumental disaster on another. I’m looking at you Adalberto Mondesi.

More than anything else each draft season, you want to avoid echo chambers which simply reinforce your own beliefs about different players. Instead, find voices in the industry that can be your compass – those you feel you can relate to, that challenge your own opinions about players, and who season-after-season seem to be more often right than wrong, simply holding the bike for you while you get your balance before letting go to allow you to pedal on your own towards a championship (or possibly crash and scrape your knee).

Note: this analogy is brought to you by the fact that I spent the early part of the socially-distanced pandemic teaching my two daughters how to ride their bicycles. 

Terms like sleepers and breakouts, busts and fades are quite subjective and the lines between them often blurry.

So for today, let’s scrap them entirely. I’ll let you decipher what constitutes a breakout versus a sleeper and so forth.

Below is a simply a list of the players, at various prices and ADPs, that I find myself most commonly targeting in drafts, in no particular order. These are the guys that I seem to have the most shares of on my handful of fantasy teams entering the 2021 season.

You’ll also notice a few plugs below for some articles written by my teammates here at Pitcher List during the offseason. What can I say – I’m a company man. But also, the staff here at Pitcher List is incredibly bright, and I am always learning from them, trying to improve my own BABIP as it were.

 

 

Ian Happ (OF – CHC)

 

Current ADP (FantasyPros): 149.0

Current ADP (NFBC): 161.56

2020: .258 AVG, .505 SLG, .866 OPS, 27 R, 12 HR, 28 RBI, 1 SB (57 games)

2019: .264 AVG, .564 SLG, .898 OPS, 25 R, 11 HR, 30 RBI, 2 SB (58 games)

Things that excite me: A former first-round pick with a strong pedigree of raking throughout his time in the minor leagues, Happ had an up-and-down first two seasons in the majors with the Cubs before surprisingly being sent back to the minors for the first half of 2019. Happ then re-joined the club in late July that season, playing 58 games while sporting a tidy .898 OPS with 11 home runs and 30 RBI (which translates to a 31 HR, 84 RBI pace over a full 162-game season).

In 2020, the switch-hitting center-fielder was even better, as he secured an everyday spot as the Cubs’ leadoff man thanks in part to his patience at the plate and willingness to take a walk, setting the table in front of Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Willson Contreras, and Javier Báez. From Opening Day through September 5th, Happ was nothing short of sensational, sporting a Juan Soto-esque .674 SLG and 1.093 OPS to go along with an extraordinary 185 wRC+, while providing early-round fantasy value in the process. For reference, the only two players who finished with a wRC+ greater than 185 in 2020 were Soto and Freddie Freeman.

Ian Happ‘s Breakout 2020 Season

Unfortunately, the 26-year-old then went into a deep slump over the final three weeks of the season, hitting just .157 over his final 17 games without a single home run and sporting a dreadful 26 wRC+. Some theorize that Happ’s September swoon was directly related to him fouling a ball off his face in a Thursday afternoon game against the Pirates on September 3rd (although he hit two home runs in the following game). Either way, Happ’s slump to finish out the regular season really tanked his overall season stat line, creating a valuable buying opportunity heading into 2021 drafts.

Happ also rebounded with a nice showing in the postseason, going 4-for-8 with a homer in two losses to the Marlins which was encouraging to see. He’s also currently hitting .300 with a .917 OPS during spring training through Sunday’s action.

Given how amazingly productive he was in the first two-thirds of the 2020 season, as an encore to a nice second-half stretch in 2019, I’m optimistic that Happ can provide tremendous fantasy value again in 2021 at the top of the Cubs’ lineup given his current ADP. He won’t provide much in the way of steals, but he should contribute plenty in the other categories. Not to mention the fact that he offers an extremely valuable array of multi-position eligibility in Yahoo! formats (2B, 3B, and OF).

 

Rafael Devers (3B – BOS)

 

Current ADP (FantasyPros): 41.0

Current ADP (NFBC): 41.56

2020: .263 AVG, .483 SLG, .793 OPS, 32 R, 11 HR, 43 RBI, 0 SB (57 games)

2019: .311 AVG, .555 SLG, .916 OPS, 129 R, 32 HR, 115 RBI, 8 SB (156 games)

Things that excite me: Well for starters, that 2019 stat line above excites me more than anything. Sign me up for some more of that.

Without the benefit of a normal spring training to get his timing down, Rafael Devers slumped mightily out of the gate last season, just like many of his Red Sox teammates, to the tune of an anemic 45 wRC+ over his first 21 games. Then, after a pair of three-hit games in mid-August, things clicked back into place for Devers, as the career .279 hitter reverted back to his sensational 2019 form. Over his final 36 games, the smooth-swinging left-hander posted a .923 OPS along with an extraordinary 144 wRC+.

Rafael Devers‘ Cold Start and Hot Finish in 2020

The 25-year-old’s hit tool rates amongst the best in baseball, he hits in a hitter-friendly ballpark, and occupies a spot in the heart of a strong lineup, surrounded by Alex Verdugo, Xander Bogaerts, and J.D. Martinez (although I’m not crazy about him currently being penciled in to bat fifth to open the season, but I doubt that will last). Devers has always profiled as the type of hitter that could contend for a batting title, yet that initial slump out of the gate last season has suppressed his fantasy value in drafts this spring to the point where I find myself grabbing him any chance I can get.

 

Nick Castellanos (OF – CIN)

 

Current ADP (FantasyPros): 83.0

Current ADP (NFBC): 82.29

2020: .225 AVG, .486 SLG, .784 OPS, 37 R, 14 HR, 34 RBI (60 games)

2019: .289 AVG, .525 SLG, .863 OPS, 100 R, 27 HR, 73 RBI (151 games)

Things that excite me: Castellanos’ 2020 season was essentially what I’ll call the “inverse-Devers”. He came storming out of the gates, ranking amongst the league-leaders in homers, RBI, SLG, and OPS through the season’s first few weeks. Then the wheels fell off, and he fell into a deep slump for the remainder of the season.

But the underlying skills remained intact, he continued to make hard contact like he has throughout his entire career, he played in every single game, and still finished with 14 home runs in 60 games, which translates to a 38-HR pace over the course of a full season.

Nick Castellanos‘ “Inverse Devers” in 2020

My Pitcher List colleague Chad Young (@chadyoung) posted an insightful piece titled “Nick Castellanos‘ Secretly Exciting 2020″ in early February about the Reds’ slugger, so I’ll simply guide you that direction for a more in-depth discussion about the 28-year-old right fielder.

I’ll simply take solace in the fact that Castellanos’ – a lifetime .274 hitter – had the misfortune of a .257 BABIP (career .329) in 2020 while still posting an elite barrel % and yet again finishing in the top-10% of the league in xSLG for the fifth consecutive season. The guy simply rakes, as evidenced by his 51-game stretch in 2019 after being traded to the Cubs where he hit .321 with 16 homers and a prodigious .646 SLG and 1.002 OPS over a two-month stretch to finish out the season.

For years in Detroit, the thought process with Castellanos was that all those hard-hit balls – and doubles in particular – would eventually turn into home runs. For a player who has never cracked the 30-HR plateau in his career, I’m willing to bet that this is the year he finally does it, thanks in large part to his track record of making consistent hard contact coupled with the bandbox he calls home at Great American Ballpark (which ranked #1 via ESPN Park Factors for home runs in 2018 and 2020).

 

Giancarlo Stanton (DH/OF – NYY)

 

Current ADP (FantasyPros): 110.0

Current ADP (NFBC): 120.4

2020: .250 AVG, .500 SLG, .887 OPS, 12 R, 4 HR, 11 RBI, 1 SB (23 games)

2019: .288 AVG, .492 SLG, .894 OPS, 8 R, 3 HR, 13 RBI (18 games)

2018: .266 AVG, .509 SLG, .852 OPS, 102 R, 38 HR, 100 RBI, 5 SB (158 games)

Things that excite me: If you’ve followed me this off-season, I’m the unofficial conductor of the Stanton rebirth hype train. I’ve already written about Stanton in detail here back in December. And then again recently here. So I’ll keep this brief.

A few months ago I ‘invested’ $25 into the exploding phenomenon that is NBA Top Shot. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I decided that I very well might just lose the $25, and I was okay with that. But just maybe, that small investment could turn out to be profitable (and so far, it has been). With Stanton, I feel the exact same way. If I lose an 8th-10th round draft pick by taking a flier on him, I can sleep with that. But the profit potential is worth the gamble in my mind.

This one is all about price. Is there risk? Absolutely. Has Stanton proven to be one of the most injury prone players in baseball? No question about it.

But right now, he’s healthy. Last we saw him, he was crushing the ball in the postseason (.308 AVG, 6 HR, 13 RBI, 1.426 OPS in 7 games). He will be the full-time DH for the Yankees formidable lineup, in hopes of limiting the chance of injury. And this spring, he looks like this:

Thus far in spring training, a healthy Stanton is hitting .333 with a 1.011 OPS through Sunday’s games. The slugger-formerly-known-as-Mike even caught the attention this week of esteemed MLB.com columnist and Hall of Fame sports reporter Mike Lupica (@MikeLupica) with his recent piece titled “Stanton poised to live up to MVP pedigree“.

Stanton played full seasons in 2017 (159 games) and 2018 (158 games) and no one questions his power or skills, as the underlying Statcast metrics all remain strong. If he plays, he will produce in the heart of a potent Yankees lineup. I certainly would not recommend drafting Stanton early in drafts. But at this discounted price point, going outside the top-100 picks, I’m willing to roll the dice that the 31-year-old can remain healthy-ish this season given the minimal investment.

 

Rhys Hoskins (1B – PHI)

 

Current ADP (FantasyPros): 141.0

Current ADP (NFBC): 163.92

2020: .245 AVG, .503 SLG, .887 OPS, 35 R, 10 HR, 26 RBI, 1 SB (41 games)

2019: .226 AVG, .454 SLG, .819 OPS, 86 R, 29 HR, 85 RBI, 2 SB (160 games)

Things that excite me: Hoskins’ 2020 season mirrored that of Rafael Devers discussed above. Hoskins stumbled out of the gate, possibly from the shortened summer camp and lack of a traditional spring training. The notoriously streaky first baseman failed to hit a single home run over his first 16 games, hitting just .208 during that stretch with only five RBI and a paltry .283 SLG and .691 OPS that would make Billy Hamilton proud.

Then things clicked. Hoskins proceeded to go on an absolute tear over the next month, hitting 10 home runs over the course of his final 25 games with a .622 SLG and sparkling .991 OPS before his season ended prematurely due to an elbow injury to his non-throwing arm. Hoskins required Tommy John surgery in the offseason but has already returned to game action (he homered and stole a base earlier this week) and appears on track to be in the Phillies’ Opening Day lineup. Hoskins has always had a keen eye at the plate, drawing tons of walks in the process which boosts his value in OBP leagues and helps him contribute more in runs than one might expect. Hoskins hit second all last season, batting in front of Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto which offers him plenty of lineup protection while simultaneously hitting in one of the most favorable ballparks in all of baseball. If he can carry over the adjustments he made last season and pick up where he left off in late August/early September, the 28-year-old slugger makes for an attractive target in the later rounds, as he feels like a lock for 30 home runs (and maybe 90 runs + 90 RBI) with the potential for more.

 

Jack Flaherty (SP – STL)

 

Current ADP (FantasyPros): 27.0

Current ADP (NFBC): 31.44

2020: 4-3 record (9 starts), 40.1 IP, 4.91 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 49 K

2019: 11-9 record (33 starts), 196.1 IP, 2.75 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 231 K

Things that excite me: Another player who I have written about this spring, I’m all-in on Jack Flaherty this season. In the interest of avoiding being repetitive, check out my recent profile on Flaherty for a full breakdown of what went wrong for the 25-year-old right-hander in 2020, what my expectations are for 2021, and a comparison to one of baseball’s elite starting pitchers.

The right-hander put forth one of the most dominant pitching stretches in baseball history in the second half of 2019, and nothing about his skills have changed. The Cardinals’ ace features a Scherzer-esque fastball-slider combination while mixing in some sinkers and curveballs and got off to a great start last season before everything went sideways. The Cardinals 2020 season was a complete circus, ravaged by COVID-19 outbreaks and quarantines. The only consistent thing about the team’s season was how inconsistent it was.

I’m simply throwing out the shortened 60-game season for St. Louis and for Flaherty in particular. He started the year strong (7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 6 K) in a win over the Pirates on Opening Day. He then finished the season strong, battling valiantly in a playoff loss against a strong Padres lineup (6 IP, 6 H, ER, BB, 8 K). I’m discarding everything that happened in between (such as that disastrous 9 ER outing against the Brewers which ballooned his ERA in the process) and have Flaherty ranked firmly in my Top 10 starting pitchers heading into 2021.

 

Blake Snell (SP – SD)

 

Current ADP (FantasyPros): 45.0

Current ADP (NFBC): 46.32

2020: 4-2 record (11 starts), 50.0 IP, 3.24 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 63 K

2019: 6-8 record (23 starts), 107.0 IP, 4.29 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 147 K

2018: 21-5 (31 starts), 180.2 IP, 1.89 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 221 K

Things that excite me: I included Snell’s American League Cy Young Award-wining 2018 season above because that certainly is what excites me the most, although I’ll be the first to admit that we likely won’t see a ceiling quite that high again for Snell.

With that said, there is much to like about the left-hander heading into 2021. For starters, he has moved out of the difficult terrain that is the AL East to the much-more friendly NL West. I feel like this fact is being undersold by fantasy analysts throughout the industry. While it sounds very quite simple, it’s an incredibly impactful change.

Instead of facing a designated hitter every three innings or so, he gets to face a pitcher (at least for 2021, as it stands now). And instead of facing lineups that include the Yankees, Red Sox, and Blue Jays regularly, he’ll get to match-up against the Rockies and Diamondbacks and Giants several times over the course of the season. In fact, the Padres are scheduled to face the Giants in both weeks 23 (four-game set in San Fran) and 24 (three-game set at home) during the fantasy baseball playoffs in H2H formats, so stock up on your Padres pitchers. Additionally, Petco Park is a historically friendly environment for pitchers as well.

And then there’s hope that Snell will finally be allowed to pitch deeper into games with his new club, after the Rays and their analytical approach to pitching have limited the 28-year-old to frequently only pitching 4-5 innings at a time in recent seasons to preserve his workload and prevent him from facing the batting order for the third time. This change should directly lead to more opportunities for wins and quality starts for Snell, both of which increase fantasy value as well.

Don’t just take it from me. One of the preeminent voices of Baseball Twitter, the Pitching Ninja (Rob Friedman), said recently on the Ben & Woods Podcast that Snell is “gonna tear it up this year”. Additionally, through Sunday, Snell has looked terrific in spring training with his new club, having pitched 9.1 scoreless innings with as many strikeouts as base-runners allowed (7).

Snell’s dominance was on full display during the World Series against the mighty Dodgers last fall (8.1 IP, 2 H, ER, 2 BB, 15 K across two starts). He has the track record and hardware to prove that he is a one of the best pitchers in baseball. And now that he’s pitching in a much more favorable division and ballpark, I think Snell is primed for another Cy Young-caliber season.

 

Yoán Moncada (3B – CHW)

 

Current ADP (FantasyPros): 85.0

Current ADP (NFBC): 85.72

2020: .225 AVG, .385 SLG, .705 OPS, 28 R, 6 HR, 24 RBI, 0 SB (52 games)

2019: .315 AVG, .548 SLG, .915 OPS, 83 R, 25 HR, 79 RBI, 10 SB (132 games)

Things that excite me: In my bold predictions article last week, I predicted Moncada would win the AL MVP this season. And while admittedly that is quite a stretch, his pedigree, lineup, and 2019 performance are certainly what excite me the most about the Chicago third baseman. The former top overall prospect in baseball broke out as a fantasy force in 2019, putting up elite across-the-board fantasy production before being slowed by a hamstring injury in the second half of the season. Then, before last season’s shortened 60-game season even started, Moncada contracted COVID-19 and never fully recovered, as he has been very transparent in discussing the negative impact that the virus had on him physically, as he never felt close to 100%. Much like Flaherty above, I’m simply erasing Moncada’s 2020 season from my memory, Men-In-Black style.

The Cuban switch-hitter enters 2021 fully healthy—he even starred in a music video during the offseason (see above; how fun is that?)—and will once again be a fixture in the heart of a loaded White Sox offense. There’s even some nice stolen base upside as well if new manager Tony LaRussa gives his players the green light on the base paths this season in Chicago. Moncada’s 162-game pace based on his 2019 production would have looked something like this:

  • 102 runs
  • 31 home runs
  • 97 RBI
  • 12 steals
  • .310-315 AVG.

I expect big things from the 25-year-old this season and think he has a great chance at vastly outproducing his current ADP.

 

Jordan Hicks (RP – STL)

 

Current ADP (FantasyPros): 214.0

Current ADP (NFBC): 242.36

2020: Did not pitch (opted out of season)

2019: 29 appearances, 0-2 record, 14 saves, 3 holds, 28.2 IP, 3.14 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 31 K

2018: 73 appearances, 3-4 record, 6 saves, 25 holds, 77.2 IP, 3.59 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 70 K

Things that excite me: Exhibits A (100-102 mph fastball) and B (nasty slider) below. Hicks and Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman share the MLB record with the fastest recorded pitch in MLB history (105 mph).

The 24-year-old flamethrower possesses a closer’s arsenal and has been viewed as the closer-of-the-future in St. Louis for a few years, and I believe the future is now. Hicks seized that role in 2019 before an elbow injury sidelined him, requiring Tommy John surgery. He then electively opted out of the 2020 season, due to an underlying chronic health condition: Hicks has type-1 diabetes. I’ll admit the strikeout rate hasn’t quite been as impressive as you’d expect given his repertoire, but I expect there is still some unlocked potential there, which comes with better command.

The Houston native has had ample time to recover from his previous injury and should be ready to reclaim his role as the Cardinals’ closer in short order. While they have a few other options in house (Giovanny Gallegos, Alex Reyes, Andrew Miller), the team clearly would love to see Hicks perform well and run away with the job as he’s proven more than capable in the past. Gallegos in particular looms as a threat to take over as the Cardinals’ stopper, as he has been terrific over the past two seasons, but I wonder if St. Louis would rather deploy him earlier in games to put out fires when necessary and leave the ninth inning for Hicks. Regardless, with an ADP outside of the top 200, I find the price is right for taking a chance on Hicks.

The Cardinals should be in playoff contention this season, bolstered by the offseason acquisition of Nolan Arenado, which should yield plenty of save opportunities for Hicks if and when he re-claims the job. With the closer market in fantasy baseball this season as unsettled and cloudy as I can ever remember (more on that below), Hicks is a guy I’ve been targeting in the later rounds to anchor my bullpen.

On an unrelated note, I recommend this very cool breakdown this week from former major-leaguer Trevor Plouffe on his show Sequence (Jomboy Media) in which Plouffe explains how he identified that Jordan Hicks was tipping his pitches two years ago during Spring Training.

 

Jesse Winker (OF – CIN)

 

Current ADP (FantasyPros): 219.0

Current ADP (NFBC): 210.73

2020: .255 AVG, .544 SLG, .932 OPS, 27 R, 12 HR, 23 RBI, 1 SB (54 games)

2019: .269 AVG, .473 SLG, .830 OPS, 51 R, 16 HR, 38 RBI (113 games)

Things that excite me: Players who hit in the middle of their lineup and call Great American Ballpark their home excite me (see Nick Castellanos above). It’s a hitter’s paradise. Left fielder Jesse Winker boasts a shiny career .280 AVG and .859 OPS. He’s been a good hitter, despite never being given a full opportunity to thrive in Cincinnati, constantly being platooned as a part-time player due to concerns of lefty/righty splits in a traditionally crowded Reds’ outfield.

Winker is a career .195 hitter against LHP compared to .299 against RHP which is why it was very encouraging to see him hit better against lefties (.265) than righties (.252) in the abbreviated 2020 season. Small sample size noted, but that excites me.

Winker has only played more than 100+ games in a season once since joining the team in 2017 and even in that season (2019) he only played 113 games. But heading into 2021, he is slated to be the Reds’ everyday left fielder and likely occupy a spot in the heart of the Reds’ lineup, possibly even hitting in between mashers Nick Castellanos and Eugenio Suárez.

Be sure to check out this deep-dive on Winker by another one of my Pitcher List colleagues, Matt Wallach (@Wallach18), posted last month in which Matt examined with great detail the strides that Winker made in 2020. It bears mentioning that Winker’s 2020 performance was a study in extremes, as the 27-year-old absolutely absolutely sizzled in August (.369 AVG, 10 HR, 1.257 OPS) while struggling miserably in July and September. I’m not expecting Winker to hit .300 or crank 30 homers this season although I’m hopeful. But with an ADP outside the top-200, I think he makes for an intriguing fantasy target in the later rounds given the improvements we saw in 2020 and the friendly environment he calls home.

 

Mitch Garver (C – MIN)

 

Current ADP (FantasyPros): 209.0

Current ADP (NFBC): 204.19

2020: .167 AVG, .264 SLG, .511 OPS, 8 R, 2 HR, 5 RBI (23 games)

2019: .273 AVG, .630 SLG, .995 OPS, 70 R, 31 HR, 67 RBI (93 games)

Things that excite me: 31 home runs over a span of 93 games is laughably ludicrous. That’s a 54-HR pace over the course of a full season. Now granted, no catcher is ever gonna play near that many games – but still, holy smokes. Garver’s 2019 and 2020 seasons could not be more polar opposites, as he was out-of-this-world in 2019 – winning the AL Silver Slugger Award and leading all of major league baseball in ISO (.357) – and then he was downright horrendous in 2020.

Kyle Horton here at Pitcher List (@hortonimo) did a wonderful profile of Garver over the winter, exploring everything that went wrong for the Twins’ catcher during an injury-riddled 2020 season when he battled a nagging intercostal muscle strain which certainly limited him. It’s hard to simply disregard how awful Garver was over the small 23-game sample. But that’s just it – we’re essentially talking about one bad month.

I’m not sure if the 30-year-old will fully rebound in 2021 or not. After all, he came out of nowhere to produce that sensational 2019 campaign so it’s certainly possible – if not probable – that the 2019 season will serve as the outlier in an otherwise nondescript career. Time will tell. But the catcher position in fantasy baseball this season is an absolute landfill that lacks inspiring options in my opinion. Garver’s price tag is dirt cheap, so I find myself throwing a dart late in drafts and hoping Garver recaptures just some of that 2019 magic, especially since he’s projected to hit in the middle of a strong Twins lineup.

Extra note: The guys over at Twins Daily expect a bounce-back season for Garver in 2021. 

 

Frankie Montas (SP – OAK)

 

Current ADP (FantasyPros): 169.0

Current ADP (NFBC): 160.61

2020: 3-5 record (11 starts), 53.0 IP, 5.60 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 60 K

2019: 9-2 record (16 starts), 96.0 IP, 2.63 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 103 K (and then suspended 80 games for testing positive for PEDs)

Things that excite me: Montas had a breakout performance during the 2019 season, thanks in large part to keeping the ball on the ground and the success of his slider, which worked as a put-away complement to his powerful sinker and splitter. Montas appeared on track to repeat his success in early 2020, as he was 2-1 with 1.57 ERA and 1.00 WHIP across 23 innings through his first four starts.

Then just like that, he was bombed for 9 ER in just 1.2 IP in Arizona, and his season went off the rails. Much like Jack Flaherty above, that one particular bad outing wrecked his overall season stat line in a shortened season ripe with small samples sizes. Montas battled with back issues for the remainder of the abbreviated season and never got back on track, although he did strike out 13 Mariners (I know, the Mariners…) in his final regular season outing before scuffling again during the playoffs.

To further complicate matters, Montas contracted COVID-19 earlier this spring, although he has already made a full recovery and appears on track to be ready for Opening Day.

Montas had a dazzling spring debut this past week, spinning three scoreless innings while sitting 95-97 mph with his fastball (and touching 99 mph) while working in his off-speed stuff as well. He currently boasts a 3.00 ERA and 1.00 WHIP this spring with six strikeouts across six innings pitched. Ryan Bloomfield (@RyanBHQ)—a highly-recommended Twitter follow for fantasy baseball players—also passed along this great note recently in regards to the effectiveness of Montas’ fastball in 2020 with that filthy splitter from the clip above. I generally don’t enjoy rooting for players who have tested positive for PEDs in the past, but if we’re simply looking for fantasy value, the 27-year-old right-hander is certainly in a good position to outperform his ADP this season in Oakland.

 

Amir Garrett (RP – CIN)

 

Current ADP (FantasyPros): 248.0

Current ADP (NFBC): 292.55

2020: 21 appearances, 1 save, 7 holds, 18.1 IP, 2.45 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 26 K

2019: 69 appearances, 22 holds, 56.0 IP, 3.21 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 78 K

Things that excite me: The reliever pool in fantasy baseball this season is just a hodgepodge of uncertainty clouded with a sprinkle of who-the-hell knows.

Colomé or Rogers?

Pomeranz or Melancon or Pagán?

Neris or Bradley (or Alvarado)?

Soria or Crichton?

Anderson, Castillo, or Fairbanks?

And only time will tell with teams like Atlanta, Texas, Detroit, and San Francisco among others.

The whole reliever landscape this season just gives me heartburn, and it’s very possible—if not probable—that I’ll consider punting saves in certain formats this season. I’m simply unwilling to use earlier round picks on relievers that have a tenuous—at best—grasp on their team’s closer role and am opting to continue stockpiling bats and starters in those middle rounds while attempting to make some educated guesses in the later rounds (see: Jordan Hicks above).

Enter Amir Garrett.

The 6″5′ left-hander has stated publicly this offseason that he wants the role of closer in Cincinnati. That excites me, as a closer needs to exude confidence.

The 28-year-old had a breakout season in 2020 and seems poised to relish in the closer role in 2021. Walks have always been a bug-a-boo with Garrett, but he did a better job in 2020 of limiting free passes. Even more encouraging, a look at some of his underlying advanced metrics shows Garrett ranked amongst the league-leaders in 2019 in barrel %, xBA, and xSLG, showing a propensity for limiting hard contact.

Garrett and his trusty slider seem to have a leg up on the job in Cincinnati as of this writing, with reliever Lucas Sims working his way back from an injury. The former 22nd round pick in 2011 made his spring debut this past weekend and struck out the side, another very encouraging sign. As long as he can limit the damage against right-handers, Garrett has a real shot at running away with the job and securing 25-30 saves in Cincinnati this season, which would be a bargain at his current ADP.

 

Honorable mention: Ian Anderson (SP-ATL), Alex Reyes (SP/RP – STL), Nick Senzel (OF – CIN), Aaron Hicks (OF – NYY), Patrick Corbin (SP – WAS), Jordan Montgomery (SP – NYY)

 

Photos by Carlos Herrera, Frank Jansky, Mary Holt/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Jacob Roy (@jmrgraphics3 on IG) and Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)

Lucas Spence

Writer for Pitcher List and contributor for FantasyPros and InStreetClothes. Certified Physician Assistant trained in Emergency Medicine + Urgent Care services. Proud husband and father of three. Follow him on Twitter @lspence24. "No amount of money ever bought a second of time." - Tony/Howard Stark

  • Lucas, I am also hoping for big things from Snell as well, and he’s been a keeper of mine for a few years. Are we concerned though about pitching in Coors? Is he likely going to be a must-sit for those games?

    • Lucas Spence Lucas Spence says:

      Thanks for reading – and for the question. I’m not at all concerned about Coors Field for an away pitcher (in this case San Diego/Snell). The Padres only make 3 trips to Coors this season, so you would think Snell would be lined up to pitch there once or probably twice. None of which come in September during the fantasy playoffs either. If I’m hoping to get 28-30 starts from Snell, I’m not going to lose sleep over 1-2 of them. Coors is also less daunting without Arenado as well. I’d be comfortable starting Snell regardless, with just slightly lower expectations in those 1-2 outings – and think he would still pile up K’s and have a good chance at a QS and/or a win.

  • Avatar John says:

    On Stanton I think you mean 2017 and 2018. He has 7 homers combined the last 2 reg. seasons. If he had just gotten hurt last year, he’d still be going much higher. I also still love him this year though.

    • Lucas Spence Lucas Spence says:

      You’re absolutely right John. His last two healthy seasons were 2017-2018. That was a typo on my part, which I’ve now corrected. (insert palm-face emoji). I type a lot of numbers. Thanks for reading and keeping me honest! Glad to hear I’m not the only one on the Stanton Rebirth hype train.

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