I love players like David Fletcher (INF/OF, Los Angeles Angels). While at first glance, a two-for-three performance with a run scored and two walks doesn’t really sound all that exciting, it’s the little things a manager gets from him day-in and day-out that makes me a big fan.
Let’s start with the obvious—his positional flexibility is pretty darn cool. In most leagues, he can be plugged in as a second baseman, shortstop, third baseman, and outfielder. On draft day, that’s probably what most people targeted him for, and that’s OK. While it’s hard to put a numerical value on positional flexibility, in a season where players could hit the IL in large numbers, having a player who can slide into multiple positions helps managers by broadening the types of players they can look for in free agency. For example, if a fantasy team loses their second baseman, they don’t have to go out and find a replacement second baseman. Instead, they can use Fletcher at second base, and use that roster spot to address something else. In a “normal” year, that’s a fairly useful thing. In 2020, it’s a critical advantage.
In the preseason, there was real concern that Fletcher would have a hard time cracking the lineup for the Angels. He was looking more like a bench guy who would platoon in against lefties. Surprisingly, he has appeared in all five games for the Angels batting right at the top of their order, and that’s exactly what fantasy managers want to see. Fletcher is an ideal leadoff hitter due to the fact that he almost never swings and misses—in fact, he led all of baseball in 2019 with a 2.3% swinging strike rate and a 91.1% contact rate, which he’s carried into the start of the 2020 season. A guy who makes tons of contact and who gets on base not only makes his real life manager happy, he puts himself in a position to score a lot of runs behind guys like Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, Shohei Ohtani, and Justin Upton. With those bats coming up right after him, he should continue to see plenty of pitches that he can hit. And when he gets on base, he has a really good chance of touching home plate shortly thereafter.
If there’s one weakness to his game, it’s his lack of double-digit power or speed. In 158 games in 2019, he only hit six home runs and stole just eight bases, and there’s little to suggest that a spike in either number is on the horizon. He simply doesn’t hit the ball terribly hard and he’s not terribly fast. While the limited speed is more forgivable, as eight steals is still more than a lot of other players, it’s easy to overlook a guy who has so little home run power.
If I could make one request to those who read this, it would be to forgive the 5’9, 175 pound utility man for what he lacks, and instead to focus on what he has. If he can continue to lead off for the Angels, Fletcher could easily be a high-level contributor in runs scored and batting average. That, combined with a handful of stolen bases and extreme positional versatility, makes for a pretty interesting player. He’s available in over half of Yahoo leagues and about 25% of ESPN leagues according to FantasyPros, so I highly recommend opening up your league’s free agent pool ASAP to see if he’s someone you can grab right now. I would definitely take Fletcher over guys like Hanser Alberto, Miguel Andujar, Niko Goodrum, Jose Peraza, Jose Iglesias, Garrett Cooper, or Adam Frazier, and even teammate Tommy La Stella. I’d keep going, though I would probably need more team context to make more recommendations. Feel free to ask in the comments!
Javier Baez (SS, Chicago Cubs) – 3-5, 2 HR, 2B, 3 R, 3 RBI. Baez will always be an aggressive hitter, but due to his other-worldly hand-eye coordination and ability to consistently make hard contact, his free-swinging approach works far better than you might expect. He’s hitting third around some very good hitters, and should once again provide plenty of power and counting stats with a strong batting average. And while I don’t think he’ll ever go back to stealing a ton of bases, his chip-in speed is at least somewhat reliable.
Carlos Santana (1B, Cleveland Indians) – 4-6, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB. It was a quality double-header for Santana that showed a little bit of everything that Santana can do. He hit a home run, got some counting stats, and walked more than he struck out. The plate discipline is probably his most eye-popping tool, and sure enough he already has six walks to just two strikeouts through five games. If the boosted power we saw in 2019 sticks around, he could easily be a top-ten first baseman in all formats.
Tim Anderson (SS, Chicago White Sox) – 4-9, HR, 2 2B, 3 R, RBI. The young and exciting White Sox haven’t gotten off to the hot start many hoped for, and before yesterday’s games the same could be said for the reigning AL batting champion. Anderson’s unwillingness to walk often leaves him prone to slumps. However, when he heats up he can do a lot of damage really quickly, as you can see from his statline from the doubleheader. If the big bats behind him can turn it around, and there’s every reason to believe that they will, Anderson can continue to pile up the hits and runs along with plenty of stolen bases. If they don’t, he will be pretty tough to hold on to in leagues that don’t use a middle infielder due to how incredibly deep shortstop can be.
Kevin Pillar (OF, Boston Red Sox) – 3-4, 2 2B, R, RBI. He’s performed well in all three games he’s played in, but a part-time player is really tough to roster in this wildly unpredictable season. If there’s one thing that’s worth keeping an eye on, it’s that Pillar hasn’t struck out (or walked) in any of his at bats so far. A return to a sub-15% strikeout rate was a key part of his surprise performance in 2019, and holding on to that will be his best chance at being a relevant player outside of AL-only formats.
A.J. Pollock (OF, Los Angeles Dodgers) – 3-5, R. While it’s great that he was able to cobble together some hits, this was just his third start of the season and he has yet to hit above seventh in the order. I can’t imagine keeping him on a roster in 10- to 12-team leagues right now.
Bryan Reynolds (OF, Pittsburgh Pirates) – 2-4, 2B, R, SB. He was 0-17 coming into to this one, so seeing multiple hits, an extra base hit, and a steal should help his fantasy managers step away from the ledge of dropping him, which I firmly believe would be a mistake in almost any format. He should still be a solid contributor in batting average, though where he hits in the order (he has hit both second and fifth so far) will dictate whether he provides runs or RBI.
Luis Robert (OF, Chicago White Sox) – 3-8. He has a hit in each of his first five major league games, which is great, though he does also have a strikeout in each game as well. I think that the strikeouts will settle down as he continues to adjust to major league pitching, and I have nothing but excitement for the rookie. He has plenty of power and speed, and as the team heats up, we should see even more of what Robert can do.
Whit Merrifield (2B/OF, Kansas City Royals) – 1-4, HR, R, 3 RBI. In 58 games against the Tigers since the start of 2017, Merrifield is hitting .357/.392/.635 against the Tigers with 11 home runs, 15 stolen bases, 56 runs scored, and 38 RBI. As I mentioned yesterday, he’s an extremely consistent player, but it’s interesting to see how much damage he does to a single opponent (albeit one that has struggled with pitching for a few years). He should be in your season-long fantasy lineups every single day, and if you’re a DFS player, you might want to consider spending some extra resources when he’s leading off against the Tigers.
Josh Donaldson (3B, Minnesota Twins) – 2-3, HR, R, 2 RBI. While he hasn’t been as hot as the Twins offense as a whole, he did manage to his his first home run, and drive in his first two runners of the season. He should do plenty more of both of those things as the #2 hitter in the Twins lineup, though be prepared for him to score a few more runs and have fewer RBI than normal due to his slightly higher place in the batting order.
J.D. Davis (3B/OF, New York Mets) – 2-3, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI. The popular draft day sleeper made plenty of hard contact back in 2019, and now has his first home run of the 2020 season. He’s hit in the cleanup spot in back to back games now, which is a sign that the Mets might let him make the most of his power potential.
Wil Myers (3B/OF, San Diego Padres) – 2-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI. While his strikeout rate skyrocketed in 2019 to 34.3% and remains elevated at the start of 2020, it’s worth nothing that he still hit 18 home runs and stole 16 bases for the Padres last year. He could be an under-appreciated asset in OBP leagues as a power and speed contributor in an improving Padres lineup.
(Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)