By breaking things down into segments of 10 picks at a time (as part of a larger three-part series) to highlight the safest bet, plus an underrated and overrated player, you are sure to come away with a more streamlined and less overwhelming way to plot out a course for a successful draft. While unexpected twists and turns develop in any draft and league sizes vary, walking in prepared is the best way to come out with a competitive squad.
And in 2020, when nothing is assured and the season is unlike any other, preparation is the ultimate key to fantasy success!
Morton is getting up there in age, but not when it comes to inefficiency. After taking whatever magic potion is given to pitchers down in Houston, Morton carried his success over into his first season with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2019, compiling a 3.05 ERA with a 1.08 WHIP. In addition to these quality numbers, his advanced stats paint a positive picture of his late-career resurgence: His 2019 FIP was 2.81, and his BABIP was a mere eight points lower than his career mark; whatever good luck he had, it didn’t overshadow his skills.
Tampa Bay loves to play around with their starters’ innings and workloads, but in a short season, they could feel assured in trotting Morton out there once every five days. He’s a solid addition to any fantasy rotation without requiring a high draft pick.
Jonathan Villar enjoyed an excellent year in 2019, his first year with the Baltimore Orioles: .274/.339/.453 with 24 home runs and 40 stolen bases. The counting stats helped you deal with Villar’s rough K% of 24.6.
Do you expect him to deliver relatively similar production in the hitter wasteland of Marlins Park, in a shortened season?
If you value stolen bases, Villar can probably be counted on to deliver anywhere between 12-15 in this shortened season, playing for a bottom-of-the-barrel Marlins team that will probably give its hitters the green light to run at will. The question is, can he deliver solid numbers again away from the hitter’s paradise of Camden Yards?
Cruz recently turned 40, but even at his advanced age (in sports years, of course), he’s the epitome of consistency.
Six straight seasons of 30+ home runs and 90+ RBI. Six straight seasons of a 130+ wRC+.
You can’t expect a 40-home-run-hitter in a 60-game season, but if you’re looking for cheap slugging, Cruz fits the bill. He plays for a contender and behemoth offense, offering him ample opportunities to deliver runs. You know exactly what you’re getting with Cruz, and that makes him safe — even more so in 2020.
Underrated: Tommy Pham, OF, San Diego Padres – ADP 77, Staff Composite Ranking: 75
Tommy Pham and Jonathan Villar have similar skill sets, but why do I have Villar in the overrated slot but Pham is underrated?
Well, not only is Pham available 14 picks later in drafts, but he’s in a much, much better situation with the up-and-coming Padres. He also strikes out less and walks more than Villar, while delivering both speed and power potential.
Not to mention, Pham put together a .273/.369/.450 season when his BABIP was 23 points lower than his career mark.
Roberto Osuna is still just 25 years old and has already shown the lights-out stuff needed to be a top-tier closer.
My only issue here is that his advanced stats have been painting a picture of regression in the last two seasons, making me wary of trusting his services in this shortened season. Not only has his FIP and BABIP pierced holes in his production, but we might have seen a glimpse of what regression for Osuna looks like in 2019 when he struggled in July and August to a combined 4.61 ERA (22 games). That output is salvageable in a regular 162 game season, but not in a 60-game one.
I like Osuna as a fantasy player, but I don’t want him rostered when regression hits for a full season.
Nicholas Castellanos consistently delivered counting stats as a member of the lowly Detroit Tigers, and now he’ll get to enjoy all the benefits of Great American Ballpark as a full-time outfielder for the Reds.
To me, Castellanos is both safe AND underrated.
At the floor level, you can expect something in the realm of .275/.320/.450 with 20 home runs and 70 RBI from Castellanos in a regular season.
When in doubt, always look at the numbers. Bauer’s numbers don’t lie — more and more, they’re showing that his 2018 season output was more outlier than normal.
In 2018, Bauer put together an elite season: 2.21 ERA (2.44 FIP), 1.09 WHIP, a BB/9 of just 2.93 and a HR/9 of 0.46. Great, right?
But it’s hard to look at that and not have your eyes pulled to the rest of his career, which is full of a lot of 4+ ERAs and 3+ BB/9s and WHIPs well above 1.2.
Take last season, for instance. Things started off pretty well, but it was clear control was becoming an issue, as walks continued to increase for Bauer. You can’t argue with his raw ability, but the results haven’t been reflective of that.
Maybe it’s all those innings finally catching up to him — he’s averaged 106.4 pitches per start in 61 starts since the start of 2018, the highest among qualified SPs in MLB.
One could select Bauer for the strikeouts and innings, but you’d have to swallow poor results nearly everywhere else if indeed the 2018 version of himself was an outlier. Most projection systems have Bauer ending 2020 with an ERA above 4.00, and his advanced stats support these predictions. The last thing you want with your Bauer selection is him to go through a rough patch during the shortened season and end with an ERA upwards of 5.00.
Much of what rings true about Nelson Cruz is actually echoed by his new teammate, Josh Donaldson — except Donaldson is seven years younger than Cruz.
With Donaldson, you know you’re getting great slugging and on-base percentage. You know he won’t crush your batting average and he’s an RBI threat. At the height of his powers, Donaldson can provide a lot of counting stat production.
He’s a boring, safe pick at this point in the draft, but one with sneaky upside.
Overrated: Kenley Jansen, RP, Los Angeles Dodgers – ADP 93, Staff Composite Ranking: 95
I’m probably out on Jansen this year, primarily due to back-to-back down seasons marred by injury and diminishing skills. Due to back-to-back heart surgeries, Jansen is also considered a candidate to shut down baseball activities (although indications are that he will play this season) due to concerns tied to the pandemic.
Ultimately, Jansen has seen his effectiveness decline in consecutive seasons, and he plays for a Dodgers team possessing a plethora of arms in the bullpen who can jump into a save situation as needed. The Dodgers can withstand a declining Jansen, as they have horses in the bullpen available to pick up the slack — bad news for fantasy managers entrusting him as their closer.
Brad Hand, Liam Kendriks, and Edwin Diaz are all available after Jansen in drafts, by the way.