We’ve done a ton of drafts already, and we’re going to do a ton more from now until whenever Opening Day is. And, with the postponement of the season, we’re bound to see some pretty significant changes to Average Draft Position data over the coming weeks and months — Chris Sale just, for instance.
But, as things stand, there are obvious values to be had in drafts right now, and many of them will still be values in the weeks and months to come. I’ve gone through each round of ADP in a standard Rotisserie league based on FantasyPros.com’s consensus, one through 23, to find my favorite picks in each round. Obviously in the early rounds, a lot of this depends on where you pick in the draft order, but after that, you should make a point of targeting each of these players when the time comes.
They could help you win your league:
Favorite Pick(s): Trea Turner
In an era where steals are valued more highly than ever, Turner somehow falls to 11th overall? It’s not a knock against the players being drafted ahead of him, but Turner is one of the only players with 40-steal potential over a full season who isn’t likely to hurt you in multiple other categories. It might just be him, Acuña and Yelich. The dreams of a 60-steal season are likely gone, but Turner is a threat to lead the majors in steals while being at least a four-category contributor, and maybe all five if he ultimately ends batting third for the Nationals.
Favorite Pick(s): Freddie Freeman
Since his 2016 breakout, Freeman ranks 11th in batting average, 13th in home runs, 12th in runs, and 13th in RBI, and that’s including a disappointing power showing in 2018 and an injury-shortened 2017. He is averaging .303-107-34-104-9 per-162 games over the last four season; if you don’t include 2018, when he posted his lowest ISO since 2015, he is averaging .301-112-37-106-7. Nolan Arenado is averaging .303-106-39-123-2 in that span, and he’s going in the first round. Freeman is a rare slugger who will help you in batting average and won’t be a zero in steals.
Favorite Pick(s): Patrick Corbin
I’m going to steal my colleague Heath Cummings’ favorite twitter game: The intentionally misleading anonymous player survey!
Which player would you rather have for 2020?
- Player A (2018-19): 402 IP, 3.20 ERA, 1.117 WHIP, 29.6 K%, 7.2 BB%
- Player B (2018-19): 339 IP, 3.48 ERA, 1.100 WHIP, 29.4 K%, 6.8 BB%
The answer is pretty obvious: Player A, right? Better ERA, negligible difference in WHIP and more durable. Player A also threw more innings in 2017, to boot. Player A is, of course, Patrick Corbin. Player B is Corbin’s teammate, Stephen Strasburg, going off the board 15 picks earlier, on average. Strasburg was certainly better than Corbin last season, but we know enough not to fall prey to recency bias too much. If you like Strasburg, that’s fine. Me, I don’t see any reason to reach for him when his teammate is there a round later.
Favorite Pick(s): George Springer, Ketel Marte
The full list of hitters who were better than George Springer on a per-game basis in 2019 is a whopping eight names long, and six of them are going in the top-15 picks right now. The full list of hitters who were better than Marte period in 2019 has just 13 names. You can tell that quite a few more players than that are being selected above them right now, since they’re going in the fourth round. We don’t want to overreact to one year, of course, but in both cases, the underlying numbers largely back up what they did. It might have been a fluke, but if it wasn’t, you’re printing money here.
Favorite Pick(s): Charlie Morton
Remember that blind comparison between Corbin and Strasburg? Add Morton to it, and he’s thrown more innings than Strasburg with a higher strikeout rate and lower ERA; his WHIP and walk rate are slightly higher. Overall, he’s been more valuable than Strasburg over those two years, and wasn’t far behind him in 2019 alone; if both had 17 wins, the gap shrinks to basically nothing. Yes, Morton is ancient by pitching standards, but he’s shown no signs of slowing down since the Astros unlocked his full potential. He’s one of my favorite values at any price point, period.
Favorite Pick(s): Yoan Moncada
Moncada is one of my favorite players for 2020, despite the fact that he, 1) already broke out last season, and 2) had one of the highest BABIPs in baseball in 2019. He’s being dinged too hard for that BABIP, in my opinion, because he has consistently run very high BABIP in the past, and makes excellent contact when he does. The strikeout rate is a bit worrisome, especially since it was so much better in 2019 than the years before. But I’m actually not too worried about that; Moncada cut his strikeout rate by simply swinging more often. It was an intentional change in approach, and one he should be able to sustain in 2020 and beyond, and given how well he hits the ball when he makes contact, it’s a change that should continue to reap rewards. If you’re talking strictly upside — and we usually are when it comes to young players with his kind of pedigree — Moncada’s potential line looks a lot like what Trevor Story has done the past two seasons. Story, of course, is a first-round pick right now.
Favorite Pick(s): Giancarlo Stanton, Nelson Cruz, Josh Bell
Stanton’s value will likely creep back up due to the postponement of the season, though I’d be surprised if he ends up back in the Round 3-4 range as he was prior to the calf injury. He was being discounted even before the injury, and his floor is probably still a top-30 hitter if healthy.
Cruz might be an even bigger value, just like he has been for probably five years running. He’s reached the David Ortiz stage for me, where I feel dumber betting against him than I would feel if he did finally bust. The production has been too consistent for too long to bet against him at this point.
And Bell is probably being dinged for his lack of track record as well as his disappointing second half in 2019, during which he hit just .233/.351/.429. That was a disappointment, to be sure, but Bell dealt with a .241 BABIP after the break, and he actually struck out less often than before the break. The power was down, but he still had 13 homers between July and August and played just 11 games in September, so don’t take too much from that. The underlying stats mostly backed up Bell’s breakout, and you don’t have to pay anywhere near face value for it right now.
Favorite Pick(s): Corey Kluber, Sonny Gray
I’ve written quite a bit about why I like Kluber for 2020, and it comes down to this: I don’t believe last April was proof positive that he has just lost the ability to pitch at a high level. He has had bad Aprils before, only to bounce back and finish with ace production. As long as his price stays this low, I’m willing to bet he’s still got something left in the tank.
And Gray is just better than this price. He learned from his tough experience with the Yankees, and his; so did his knowledge of how to use his pitches. I’m pretty much buying his excellent 2019, especially since it costs so much less than it should.
Favorite Pick(s): Nick Castellanos, Marcell Ozuna, Carlos Correa
When Correa is healthy, he’s an elite hitter. There’s no guarantee he will be healthy for all of 2020, but I’m willing to bet on it at this price. Heck, I’d be willing to bet on it two rounds earlier. Don’t forget, he’s had an OPS north of .900 in two of his past three seasons, and is averaging .278-102-34-115-4 per-162 games over the last three seasons total, including an outlier poor 2018. That’s not different than what you got from second-round pick Gleyber Torres in 2019.
Castellanos has long under performed his batted-ball metrics, and if you ask him, the deep dimensions of Comerica Park — especially in the power alleys and to center field — were a big part of why. We got a test case of the theory when he hit .321/.356/.646 in 51 games with the Cubs following a trade in 2019. I’m not expecting that for a full season, but a .300 average and 35-plus homers playing in the Great American Ball Park is not at all out of the question.
Ozuna is another player whose underlying numbers have looked better for two years in a row than his actual numbers. We saw what the upside is in 2017, when he was a top-12 outfielder, and the skill set doesn’t look that much different. He’s in an excellent Braves lineup that should give him lots of plate appearances and run-producing opportunities, so a repeat of 2017 isn’t out of the question.
Favorite Pick(s): Frankie Montas, Zac Gallen, Edwin Diaz
Montas and Gallen are both potentially top-15 pitchers, and two of my absolute favorite breakouts for 2020. Gallen has command of a four-pitch repertoire, and was one of the the best pitchers in professional baseball in 2020 when you take into account his dominance of the Pacific Coast League. His walk rate was unusually high in the majors, but if he fixes that, there’s no stopping him. As for Montas, I’m a big believer in the step forward he took in 2019, fueled by the addition of an excellent splitter to his repertoire. I don’t have much concern about the lingering effects of a PED suspension that disrupted his season, so the only concern is whether he can stand up to a full innings load.
And Diaz is one of my favorites to draft coming off a miserable 2019. His price has plummeted, but I don’t believe he just lost the ability to pitch last season. He had issues, to be sure, especially with the long ball and with his slider, but he still racked up plenty of swinging strikes, and there was at least some bad luck involved in his final numbers. He was the consensus No. 1 closer last season, and I was avoiding him; now that many are avoiding him, I’ll buy in.
Favorite Pick(s): Cavan Biggio, Jesus Luzardo
Two of the more intriguing young players in the game, Biggio and Luzardo both carry significant questions marks along with considerable upside. In. Biggio’s case, it’s about the strikeout rate; can he cut it enough to not be a drag on your batting average, and to allow his considerable other gifts to shine? Personally, I’d like to see him be a bit more aggressive at the plate, sort of like what fueled Moncada’s breakout last season.
As for Luzardo, the question is a pretty simple one: Can he stay healthy and handle a starter’s workload? He dealt with a shoulder injury last season, and has thrown six innings in exactly one major-league start. I have confidence he’ll be very good when he pitches, but it may not be often enough to make as big of an impact as you might want. Still, this price is reasonable enough that it’s worth taking the plunge. But. Biggio and Luzardo are among my No. 1 contenders for second base and starting pitcher.
Favorite Pick(s): Franmil Reyes, Corey Seager
Reyes didn’t quite fully break out in 2019, but when a player hits 37 homers and could still realistically be described as a work in progress, you know the upside is pretty high. In Reyes’ case, 40-plus homers in a full season seems like a pretty safe bet — only 10 hitters homered more frequently than Reyes, who hit one in 6.8% of his plate appearances. He should be locked into an everyday role from Day 1 for the Indians, and if the strikeout rate comes down just a little bit, there may not be much difference between Reyes and someone like Matt Olson or even Pete Alonso in 2020.
As for Seager, he mostly performed at a level much higher than his current price in 2019. He got off to an absolutely abysmal start, hitting .223/.317/.339 through the first 35 games before hitting .288/.341/.530 from that point on. That’s a sort of arbitrary marker, but in Seager’s case, it makes sense to excuse a slow start, given that he was coming back from hip and elbow surgery. He’s a good bet to be a big help in batting average, runs, and RBI, and there’s still 35-homer upside if he starts to hit the ball in the air a bit more. The comp I’ve always gone back to with Seager is Freddie Freeman, who didn’t truly break out as a power hitter until his age-26 season; guess how old Seager turns in April.
Favorite Pick(s): David Price, Julio Urias
Last season, I advocated for drafting the entire Dodgers starting pitching staff, and if you did it, you would’ve locked in 923.2 innings of a 3.07 ERA, a 1.06 WHIP, 66 wins, and 9.6 K/9. Some of the names have changed, but t’s a viable strategy yet again in 2020. Here’s how: You use your second-round pick on Walker Buehler, a third on Clayton Kershaw, and then you can wait until the 12th and 13th and snag Price and Urias; add Dustin May, Alex Wood, and Ross Stripling in the 20s, and you’ve probably locked in most of a dominant starting pitching staff yet again. Urias rightly has plenty of hype this season, but Price should be a priority as well. Through his first 17 starts, he had. A 3.16 ERA and was on pace for over 200 strikeouts before a wrist ailment derailed and ultimately ended his season.
Favorite Pick(s): Matthew Boyd, Mallex Smith
Boyd and Smith lived on the extreme edges of the baseball world in 2019. Boyd was 10th in the majors in strikeouts and second in home runs allowed; Smith led the majors in stolen bases, while having the eighth-lowest batting average among qualifiers. Both will obviously need to improve on their flaws to have a chance to be valuable Fantasy options, but it’s not out of the question. Boyd showed real promise with a new changeup and curveball in spring that could help keep him less predictable after moving to a largely two-pitch mix in 2019. As for Smith, he’ll need to get his strikeout rate back to 2019 levels, and have a bit better luck on balls in play. Given how rare stolen bases are, I’ll take a chance on the major-league leader going this late.
Favorite Pick(s): Yasiel Puig, Willie Calhoun
Two players whose value will almost certainly be helped by the delay of opening day, Calhoun has time to get back to full health after a scary hit-by-pitch during the last days of spring training. Calhoun will have plenty of time now, and remains a rare source of power and contact — he hit 29 homers and struck out just 77 times in 124 games between Triple-A and the majors in 2019. He could be an excellent source of cheap power and run production.
As for Puig, the delay just gives him time to find a new home. The market has been shockingly quiet around him, but it’s hard to see how he won’t find work at some point, and he has 20-20 skills with room to grow in batting average. Especially if he lands in a hitter’s park, and maybe those rumors about Colorado being interested will come true? He might be a top-60 pick if that happens.
Favorite Pick(s): Giovanny Gallegos
I’m usually passing on the one-year wonder relievers like Liam Hendriks, because the sample size is just too small to invest big in them. But in Gallegos’ case, the investment is small enough that I’m willing to buy into what looks an elite reliever profile. There’s still the rather significant question of whether Gallegos will be the closer for the Cardinals on opening day, but assuming he is, he has top-five potential.
Favorite Pick(s): Garrett Hampson, Andrew Heaney
For Hampson, it’s simple — if he can be even an average bat, Coors Field and his speed will make him a borderline elite Fantasy hitter. There’s 40-steal potential here, and he was a consistent .300 hitter in the minors, so those two skills alone would make him a top-five option at second base if he plays every day. I’ll bet on those hard-to-find skills.
Heaney is a pitcher I remain fascinated by despite up-and-down results. He primarily uses a sinker, but he racks up strong swing-and-miss numbers with it because it is a high-spin pitch that he throws up in the strike zone. That leaves him susceptible to homers, but the leap he made in strikeout rate last season makes me optimistic.
Favorite Pick(s): Joe Musgrove, Carson Kelly
Musgrove saw a significant uptick in his fastball velocity at the end of 2019, and he was sustaining it in spring training, so that’s the start of my optimism. He has a deep repertoire of pitches he can command and throw in any count, and the Pirates have finally modernized their approach to pitch development, which should help him get the most out of his stuff. Musgrove has always flashed strong potential, and 2020 is the year he’ll live up to it.
As for Kelly, well you might not have realized this, but he was already one of the best hitting catchers in baseball in 2019. Among the 21 catchers who had at least 350 plate appearances, Kelly ranked fifth in OPS, just behind Gary Sanchez. There is legitimate 25-homer potential here, and I’ll bet on improvement from his .245 average (.271 BABIP) from last season. I’m fine with Kelly as my No. 1 catcher in either a one- or two-catcher league.
Favorite Pick(s): Eric Hosmer, Nick Senzel
I’ve never been much of a Hosmer fan, but even I can’t deny the skills he possesses. The problem is, he’s always had a bad approach at the plate, hitting too many balls on the ground, limiting his power potential and leaving him prone to shifting. For the first time, Hosmer spoke this spring about trying to put the ball in the air, acknowledging that while he hits the ball “really hard,” he told The Athletic, “It just goes on the ground.” This one is a bit speculative, but I truly believe Hosmer can be a borderline elite bat if he optimizes his approach. I’ll take a flier on the chance he finally does.
As for Senzel, even in a disappointing rookie season, Senzel showed the skills that make him such an enticing Fantasy prospect. In 104 games, he hit 12 homers and stole 14 bases, showcasing at least 20-20 potential, with possible room to grow. The problem was, he didn’t make as much contact as expected, though it’s not like he was up there flailing; his contact rate was actually above average. The hit tool was expected to be Senzel’s best trait, so I’ll bet on that improving, and the power-speed combo proving valuable.
Favorite Pick(s): Alex Verdugo, A.J. Puk
By the time the season rolls around, Puk and Verdugo could be going much higher because they will hopefully be healthy by then. In Puk’s case, it seems like the shoulder injury that pushed him back in spring was a relatively minor one, so I would be shocked if he was in the rotation whenever opening day comes around. Puk has huge potential as he showed in a cup of coffee out of the bullpen last season, striking out 13 batters in 11.1 innings after coming back from Tommy John surgery. His peak could see him emerge as one of the best strikeout pitchers in the league, and I’ll gladly grab that kind of potential this late.
As for Verdugo, he might be a top-100 player for me by the time the season starts, if he can get over his lingering back issues. Verdugo’s skill set should mesh perfectly with Fenway park, and he could be a batting title contender there. He doesn’t figure to be a big source of power, but he won’t be a zero. The upside here is like a late-era Michael Brantley season.
Favorite Pick(s): Josh James, Mitch Keller
James was one of my favorite deep sleepers earlier in the offseason, but his ADP has risen quite a bit once it started to look like he had the inside track for the fifth starter job. It’s still unclear whether he will have that job once the season starts, but if he does end up there, the upside is huge. James struck out 100 batters in 61.1 innings last season, and spent the offseason working on his delivery to have more control. The stuff is electric, and something like the good Chris Archer seasons isn’t out of the question.
Keller has a very similar profile, though his struggles in 2019 certainly make him seem like a long shot. Not in my eyes. Keller was a victim of bad luck and bad coaching, with an approach that saw him rely way too much on his fastball as a rookie. The Pirates new coaching staff has already said they want him to use his excellent slider and curveball more often, and I’m excited about the possibilities. Like Tyler Glasnow, Keller could be just a few tweaks away from figuring things out, and the Pirates finally seem equipped to help him get there.
Favorite Pick(s): Michael Kopech
We only saw one inning from Kopech in spring training, but it should have been enough to send his ADP sky rocketing. Making his first appearance in his return from Tommy John surgery, Kopech was firing in triple digits and painting the corners with ease. It’s just one inning, but the velocity was all the way back, and that’s Kopech’s signature. We’ll see if the delay to the season might mean he can be in the rotation on Opening Day, but expectations will be very high for Kopech whenever he is in the rotation.
Favorite Pick(s): Brendan McKay
McKay didn’t exactly wow us in his first taste of the majors, but I’m not at all ready to write him off yet. He’s got above-average velocity from the left side, and should eventually have four pitches to rely on. The command wasn’t where it needed to be as a rookie, but that’s hardly unexpected — as dominant as he was in the minors, McKay hadn’t really been tested before this. I have faith in the pedigree, and I have a lot of faith in the Rays ability to get the most out of him.