Late-Season Streaks & Swoons (2020 Fantasy Baseball)
I get it – fantasy football is front and center by September. You may have missed some drastic changes in trends in the last month of the season and it’s my job to point out the main ones. I have highlighted six hitters and five pitchers here, but feel free to reach out at @cmaiorano3 to find out about more players that sizzled or fizzled to end 2019.
Streaks (September stats listed)
Eugenio Suarez (3B – CIN): .337 BA/.455 OBP/.747 SLG, 10 HRs, 11 Rs, 18 RBIs, 199 wRC+
I predicted he could reach another level and he exceeded all of my expectations. The most impressive part of his run is that only half of his homers came at the Great American Launchpad. PitcherList writer Dan Richards identified that the Reds’ home park was the best park to hit “barreled” batted balls for home runs and he didn’t even take full advantage.
2020 Verdict: None of his peripherals can be considered elite, but we should expect a barrage of home runs due to his home park and durability.
Jorge Soler (OF – KC): .283/.416/.663, 10 HRs, 21 Rs, 20 RBIs, 186 wRC+
Appropriately nicknamed “Soler Power,” he finally set the league ablaze in his first healthy season. He ranked in the top-four percentile in both average exit velocity and hard-hit rate for the entire season, so this breakout was legit.
2020 Verdict: I won’t be drafting him at his ADP (97.3 in the Too Early Mocks conducted by Justin Mason), given his health concerns. I also identified that Soler hits fastballs much better than other pitches, particularly changeups. Unless the Royals have their own garbage can, I don’t see Soler beginning to hit offspeed pitches better next year.
Eloy Jimenez (OF – CWS): .340/.383/.710, 9 HRs, 19 Rs, 25 RBIs, 184 wRC+
Jimenez’s less pull-happy approach and plate discipline led to a higher hard-hit rate and quiet breakout in September. He’s got some amazing peripherals too. His lowest average exit velocity on a type of pitch was 93.4 MPH. That was on breaking balls.
2020 Verdict: Sign me up. The fact that he went after Rhys Hoskins in the mock drafts is just plain silly!
Aristides Aquino (OF – CIN): .196/.336/.382, 5 HRs, 9 Rs, 14 RBIs, 52 wRC+
You probably remember Aquino’s rapid rise to stardom, hitting 14 homers in August and people talking about him as a top-100 pick going into 2020. His fall from grace was earned, given that his expected slugging percentage on breaking balls and offspeed pitches was .299 and .127, respectively, and he sported a 31% strikeout rate.
2020 Verdict: Let someone else ignore the September downturn and regrettably take him in the top-115 picks.
Carlos Santana (1B – CLE): .219/.303/.344, 3 HRs, 14 Rs, 11 RBIs, 64 wRC+
Santana defied everyone’s expectations in 2019, finishing with 34 homers and a combined 203 runs and RBIs. However, his poor September was earned, given the eight percentage point increase in strikeout rate, 17 percent infield flyball rate, and nine percentage point dip in hard-hit rate.
2020 Verdict: Drafted just after Aquino on average, he is a lesser version of Nelson Cruz. I’m not expecting Santana’s September to be representative of his 2020.
Rhys Hoskins (1B – PHI): .170/.274/.350, 4 HRs, 13 Rs, 10 RBIs, 60 wRC+
I was dead wrong about Hoskins. A nine percentage point increase in strikeouts, a seven percent increase in grounders, and a sky-high 17.2 percent infield flyball rate led to his demise. Looking at the full season, his 40-percent whiff rate on breaking balls is particularly concerning. If there’s one stat to pin some hope in, it’s his 55 percent hard-hit rate in September.
2020 Verdict: After taking him in the fifth round in The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational, Hoskins’ new nickname should be “The Grinch,” because I won’t be going near him with a 10-foot pole.
Jack Flaherty (SP – STL): .118/.170/.174, 0.82 ERA, 0.57 WHIP, 29.4% K-BB rate over 44 innings
Flaherty had a blistering second half and put an exclamation point on his season in September. He walked fewer batters, induced more grounders, and saw a 10 percentage point drop in hard-hit rate in September compared to August. His nasty curve yielded a 64.3 percent K rate in September. Both his fastball and slider saw at least a two-mile per hour uptick from the beginning of the season. In short, he was filthy.
2020 Verdict: All systems go, even if a full-season sample is more predictive than a half-season. I’ll be drafting him as a top-10 starter.
Eduardo Rodriguez (SP – BOS): .230/.301/.324, 3.11 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 25.6% K-BB rate over 37 and 2/3 innings
Rodriguez ended up carrying the Sox staff, picking up 19 wins and tossing over 200 innings. His September was fantastic and was supported by a nine percentage point increase in K rate from any other month. His 25 percent hard-hit rate in September bested even Flaherty.
2020 Verdict: Rodriguez has had trouble staying healthy and I do not want to pay a top-125 pick for a career year.
Yu Darvish (SP – CHC): .194/.224/.323, 2.39 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 42.9% K-BB rate over 26 and 1/3 innings
Despite what Christian Yelich has to say about Darvish, a lot of people would have liked help when facing him in September. Darvish seemed to find his confidence in the second half, resulting in throwing all of his pitches with conviction.
2020 Verdict: Darvish missed a start in September and the Cubs shut him down early. I’m not a fan of targeting consistently injured starters. I’d rather be surprised when half of my pitching staff goes down with injury. Yes, I’m a thrill-seeker.
Aaron Nola (SP – PHI): .279/.377/.500, 6.51 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, 15.2% K-BB rate over 27 and 2/3 innings
This is the second consecutive year in which Nola faltered down the stretch. His walk rate (12.8 percent) filled the bases up and the pull tendencies of hitters (53 percent pull rate) combined with simply mashing against him (59 percent hard-hit rate) got those runners in.
2020 Verdict: Despite the fall-off, he is still going inside the top-40 picks. In an ideal draft, I grab him after pick 50 and sell him just before the All-Star break.
Ryan Yarbrough (SP – TB): .321/.373/.532, 7.52 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 11% K-BB rate over 26 and 1/3 innings
Yarbrough was having a wonderful second half (28% K/BB rate in August) until the final month of the season, where he simply imploded. His 60 percent strand rate shows bad luck, but a nearly two mile per hour drop on all of his secondary pitches is concerning.
2020 Verdict: He may have been hiding an injury, given the drop in velocity and sudden changes in horizontal and vertical movement on his slider. Even still, his lead up to September was so good that I’ll consider him after pick 175.
*All stats provided by FanGraphs, Baseball Savant, and Brooks Baseball