2020 Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: The All-Scott White Team highlights sleepers and pick priorities


The goal here is to assemble a team that’s representative of myself and my priorities. 

OK, so … where to begin?

Round 1 would seem like a logical place, but of course, the player I’m taking in Round 1 is largely contingent on turn order. And while it may be true that I’m prioritizing someone like Alex Bregman above the consensus, it doesn’t rise to the level of me claiming him as my own.

No, I want to highlight players who have become such locks for me that I go into every draft expecting to get them. Binkies, you might call them. When I see them go to someone else, I feel a twinge in the back of my neck. Sometimes in the pit of my stomach. Sometimes deep in my chesty chest.

You’ll notice that many in this group only broke out last year — and for most, it was unexpected. Yeah, that’s kind of my thing now. Provided the data backs up the performance and it wasn’t an obvious case of good luck, I’m inclined to believe it because I think it pays to do so.

Player analysis has become so sophisticated, with new data sources giving us a clearer idea than ever what a player should be, that it generally doesn’t pay to depart from groupthink. But for players like these, who come out of nowhere to put up big numbers, everyone just kind of ignores that data and retreats to their own biases, assigning some manner of discount to whatever unexpected thing just happened.

Bottom line is I think the discount goes too far, creating a market inefficiency where few can be found anymore. Granted, I’ll be wrong about some of them, but that’s true for those who play it safe, too. I have yet to see a team that goes exactly according to plan. My way offers the hope, though, that the combined discounts will make up for the misfires.

Catcher

Mitch Garver was a distant first in per-game production among catchers last year and figures to play more games this year with Jason Castro out of the picture. I rank him fifth at the position like most everyone else, but the potential to for him to be No. 1 makes him an easy call in the Round 10-11 range, right after the last of the high-end starting pitchers has typically gone off the board.

First base

Josh Bell’s out-of-nowhere breakthrough (which it’s worth pointing out was less out-of-nowhere than others’ given his recent top-prospect standing) is compounded by him also having a sluggish second half, but the first-half version would have been like a second- or third-round pick in Fantasy. His ADP can take on some regression, in other words, and he was already beginning to reverse the trend with an .892 OPS over the final two months.

Second base

 DJ LeMahieu is another example of a second round-caliber player last year going much, much later this year, and yeah, the home run output was unprecedented for the 31-year-old. The data says it was legitimate, but even if it wasn’t and he regresses to more like the 15 homers he hit in 2018, we know he’s going to hit for a high average and score a ton of runs batting atop the Yankees lineup. It’s a high enough floor to justify the investment.

Third base

In terms of quality of contact, Miguel Sano is an outlier on the level of Aaron Judge and Joey Gallo, and he was healthy enough for long enough last year to remind everyone what it means: big, big power production — the kind no amount of strikeouts can subvert. Project out his numbers from a year ago, and he’s a 50-homer bat with a price tag that’s perfect for someone who passed up early-round homers for pitching.

Shortstop

Marcus Semien had a strong MVP case last year, which surely isn’t lost on anyone, but for him, the usual skepticism is being amplified by the increasing number of stud shortstops pushing him down even further. The longer you can wait for comparable production at a position, the more advantages you can stockpile elsewhere, and Semien’s breakthrough is among the most believable of all.

Outfield

The season-long numbers make a convincing case for Jorge Soler on their own, but when you factor in his strikeout rate improving to 23.0 percent in the second half, allowing him to hit .299, his profile begins to look a lot like the one that won Giancarlo Stanton NL MVP in 2017. That’s a best-case scenario, of course, but you’re obviously not paying for that best-case scenario.

For as good as J.D. Davis’ actual production was last year, his expected production, according to Statcast, was even better. And he was just as good whether he was splitting time or playing every day (see last August) and whether facing lefties or righties. Your attempts to undermine him fall on deaf ears here, and if the playing time is more consistent this year as hoped, watch out.

Mark Canha learned to lay off the outside pitch last year, transforming him into one of the elite on-base men in the game and allowing him to tap into his power more regularly. He was basically Kris Bryant  — better, even — from the time he became an everyday player June 26, batting .295 with 16 homers and a .936 OPS, yet he’s being drafted like no one else noticed this.

Utility

I could understand the lack of interest in Gio Urshela when there was concern Miguel Andujar might unseat him — concern I didn’t share, but it was fair. Given the way the Yankees used Andujar this spring, though, that concern isn’t so much in play before. Urshela, then, is being drafted for a doomsday regression scenario that just isn’t supported by the data. Gimme!

Starting pitcher

 Yes, Shane Bieber requires an early-round investment — potentially Round 2, even — but he’s the early-round pick most Fantasy analysts are hoping someone else will take because he gives up hard contact or something. Whatever, he’s not giving up much contact and is giving up no walks in between. He’s so efficient that he’s a standout among aces in how deep he pitches into games.

Patrick Corbin is like the one player on this team who’s proven twice over, but I guess he’s … boringly dominant? I don’t know, but he’s a different level of trustworthy than Lucas Giolito, Luis Castillo and most all the high-end starting pitchers who go after him. He makes for a nice security blanket at the position where I can least afford to go wrong.

Jack Flaherty’s and Yu Darvish’s strong finishes get all the attention, but Sonny Gray himself had a 1.94 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 11.0 K/9 over his final 15 starts. He has tantalized us with his potential in the past and has talked about how the Reds unlocked the full potential of his slider. Yeah, maybe some skepticism is justified given his up-and-down career, but the same is true for Trevor Bauer 20 picks earlier.

Zac Gallen’ ace potential is mostly theoretical at this stage, having yet to be demonstrated over a full season, but … I just don’t have any doubts about him. He transitioned so easily to the majors last season — even with some uncharacteristic control issues — and authored the most impressive pitching line of anyone last year, delivering a 1.77 ERA across 14 starts in the PCL, a league with an average ERA of 5.48.

I’ve talked at great length about the 35 pitchers who you can reasonably expect to perform like aces and how I have to get four of them. Well, Lance Lynn is approaching the end of that group, which makes him a critical pickup for me much of the time. He placed seventh in both innings and strikeouts last year and had a 3.14 ERA over his final 25 starts, so while it came out of nowhere, the upside is worth whatever downside he presents at his going rate. 

Relief pitcher

 I hate paying for saves, and Giovanny Gallegos’ uncertain closer status means you don’t have to pay for him. It’s obvious by now Carlos Martinez is moving back to the starting rotation, and it’s obvious no one else in that bullpen — not John Gant, Ryan Helsley or John Brebbia — is as capable as this guy. Even if it doesn’t happen from the start, it’s only a matter of time.

Josh James’ relief pitcher eligibility only applies for points leagues, really, but nonetheless, his move to the Astros starting rotation presents too much upside for me to pass up late in drafts, especially if the mechanical adjustment meant to improve his command actually takes. He had 14.7 K/9 as a reliever last year, and as a starting pitcher in the minors in 2018, he had a 3.23 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 13.5 K/9.





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