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10 Offseason Risers to Target (2020 Fantasy Baseball)

Jan 30, 2020

Underlying stats make Max Fried a pitcher worth targeting in 2020

Oh baseball, how we’ve missed you. If you’re reading this now, congrats on being ahead of the game. In a matter of another month, fantasy leagues will begin heating up, the idea of drafting will feel that much closer, and hopefully, by then, you will have completed a few mock drafts (our free Mock Draft Simulator is the best place to do this, just saying). In the meantime, since you’re here, you’ll find below answers from fantasy experts who were asked two questions. Simply put, which starting pitcher, and hitter, saw their stock rise the most this offseason and just as important, where they would hope to be able to draft that player.

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Q1. Which starting pitcher’s value has risen the most for you during this offseason and what round would you hope to draft him?

Max Fried (ATL): Starting Pitcher Rank #42
“Although this offseason has seen no change in circumstance, Max Fried keeps rising up my rankings. Among starters who tossed at least 160 innings last season, the Atlanta southpaw joined Stephen Strasburg, Luis Castillo, and Sonny Gray as the only ones to post a ground-ball rate above 50% while also striking out over a batter per frame. Like just about everyone else, he was derailed by the long ball despite tallying the second-lowest fly-ball rate (22.8%) after Dakota Hudson. No longer permitting as many home runs as barrels (21) should lead to an ERA closer to his consensus 3.69 projection than last year’s 4.02. As my SP38 (and he may move up a bit more), Fried is an ideal target near the 12th round of 12-team mixed leagues.”
– Andrew Gould (FantasyPros)

Carlos Carrasco (CLE): Starting Pitcher Rank #34
“Carrasco has been steadily rising for me all offseason and really, it’s just because I think I (and the market generally) had kind of forgotten about him a bit. Before last year, when Carrasco’s season was derailed by leukemia, if you combined his worst numbers from his previous five seasons, you’d get a 3.63 ERA (with a 3.32 xFIP), a 1.15 WHIP, a 25% strikeout rate, and a 5.9% walk rate. With no negative health reports this offseason, I’m having a hard time seeing how he’ll finish outside of the top 25 starters, and yet his the 34th-ranked starting pitcher in ECR and 36th in consensus ADP. Even with his advanced age (he’ll quietly be 33 years old by Opening Day), I think he can pretty easily get close to his 2017-2018 seasons. He’s being drafted on average in the 10th round (in 12-team leagues), but I’d feel fine jumping on him in the eighth if necessary.”
– Dan Harris (FantasyPros)

Zac Gallen (ARI): Starting Pitcher Rank #41
“Gallen seems to be a starting pitcher that I have been targeting when performing mock drafts. He’s 24 years old and threw a total of 171 innings across Triple-A and the Majors in 2019, so an innings cap is not likely. He throws four pitches, three of which generated positive pitch values via FanGraphs. All three of his secondary offerings induced swinging strike rates (SwStr%) well above the league average. His walk rate was high, but given his minor league track record and his solid first-pitch-strike rate, I’d expect that to drop considerably in 2020. He could surprise owners and become an SP2 as soon as this season.”
– Max Freeze (Freeze Stats)

Jesus Luzardo (OAK): Starting Pitcher Rank #45
“It may sound weird because he hasn’t changed ballparks but Jesus Luzardo has been the biggest offseason riser if only because Oakland has made it clear that they intend to begin the season with him in the rotation. In fact, it was seeming likely that this would happen last year, and perhaps he’d even pitch on opening day for them, but injuries got in the way and his season was mostly wasted. This is an arm on the level, or perhaps even higher, than Chris Paddack, who could come right in and perform like a top 15 starter before his innings limit strikes. I’d love to add him in the 11th or 12th round.”
– Bobby Sylvester (FantasyPros)

Dylan Bundy (LAA): Starting Pitcher #95
“Bundy’s trade from the rebuilding Orioles to the talented Angels is a fantastic change-of-scenery move that bumps him from a watch-list player to one I’d draft a few rounds earlier than his current 301 ADP. He goes from a hitter-friendly home park to a pitcher-friendly home park, and he escapes the third-most homer-friendly (1.209 park factor for homers at Oriole Park at Camden Yards) digs for one that only slightly enhances taters (1.053 park factor for homers at Angel Stadium of Anaheim). He also gets a sizable defensive upgrade now that he’s no longer backed by an Orioles defense FanGraphs ranked in the basement by a wide margin. Further, a new coaching staff could be just what Bundy needs to coax the most out of a 12.9 SwStr% that ranked tied for the 14th-highest among starters who pitched at least 160 innings last year, per FanGraphs. I’m enamored with Bundy as a low-risk, high-reward lottery ticket some time after the top-250 players go off the board.”
– Josh Shepardson (FantasyPros)

Q2. Which hitter has seen his stock rise the most this offseason and around what round would you hope to draft him?

Byron Buxton (OF – MIN): Overall Hitter Rank #112
“Injuries have plagued Buxton’s career, and the 2019 season was no exception with the biggest blow being a shoulder injury that required season-ending surgery to repair the labrum. When he was on the field, he was working on a breakout with 10 homers and 14 stolen bases in 295 plate appearances and 87 games as well as a career-high .262 batting average and career-low 23.1 K%. Buxton still swings and misses a lot, but he’s cut down on his punchouts by being hyper-aggressive on pitches in the strike zone. His stock rises in my eyes primarily because he’s moving along nicely in his rehab, has been cleared to hit off a tee, per Phil Miller of the Star Tribune, and could be ready for live pitching by the time the Twins have their first full-squad workout on February 17. Buxton, the likely No. 9 hitter for the Twins, also gets a boost from the addition of Josh Donaldson to the heart of the lineup when it wraps back around behind. Further, adding another high-quality hitter lengthens the lineup creating the potential for more RBI opportunities than the typical No. 9 hitter sees. Buxton has an ADP of approximately 172.3 presently, but I’d be willing to roll the dice on the speedy outfielder around round 12-13 in 12-team mixed leagues.”
– Josh Shepardson (FantasyPros)

Josh Donaldson (3B/DH – MIN): Overall Hitter Rank #60
“Even when he was a free agent, Josh Donaldson should have never fallen beyond the top-100 picks. That’s precisely what happened in NFBC drafts before he signed with the Twins. The former MVP bounced back from an injury-marred 2018 to smack 38 home runs and a .377 wOBA. Only six hitters boasted more barrels than his 62, and a .387 xwOBA even bakes in room for improvement, particularly to his .259 batting average. Now entrenched into a loaded Twins lineup, the third baseman is a strong bet for another 35-homer campaign with roughly 100 runs and RBIs apiece. He should no longer be available at his current 103 ADP, but don’t be afraid to target Donaldson in Round 7 or 8.”
– Andrew Gould (FantasyPros)

Yoan Moncada (2B – CWS): Overall Hitter Rank #46
“Moncada continues to rise up my second base rankings for 2020. He’s also a popular regression candidate for some because he posted an extremely high .406 BABIP. While that’s certainly not likely to repeat, his batted ball profile lends itself to a very high BABIP. He hits the ball extremely hard (top-three percent in exit velocity), regularly posts high line drive rates, hits the ball to the opposite field, and his home-to-first time is inside the top-20%. Additionally, he cut his strikeout rate by six percent. I am expecting another step forward for Moncada in 2020. In a 12-team league, I’d hope to land him in the fifth round but could probably wait until the sixth to get him.”
– Max Freeze (Freeze Stats)

Nick Castellanos (OF – CIN): Overall Hitter Rank #66
“Castellanos landed in the perfect spot in Cincinnati and has seen his stock skyrocket. It’s not rocket science with Castellanos – it was always clear that Comerica Park (which he publicly stated how much he disliked) and the weakness of the Detroit lineup were hurting his fantasy stock. Once with the Cubs, he slashed .321/.356/.646 (after slashing .273/.328/.462 with the Tigers), and hit 16 home runs in just 51 games (as compared to 11 home runs in 100 games with the Tigers). Great American Ballpark is one of the most hitter-friendly venues in baseball, and batting between Shogo Akiyama, Joey Votto, and Mike Moustakas should lead to plenty of counting stats. He’s being drafted in the 10th round on average now, and I’d be happy to jump on him two rounds earlier.”
– Dan Harris (FantasyPros)

Marcell Ozuna (OF – ATL): Overall Hitter Rank #65
“I can’t imagine this will be a popular answer, but Marcell Ozuna has quietly received a sizeable ballpark upgrade. Not many realize this, but St. Louis is quite the pitcher’s park while Sun Trust is exactly the opposite. Now granted, we aren’t talking about Coors and Petco by any means, but this is still enough to expect a 7 or 8% jump in overall statistics. Not only that, but the Braves lineup is superior to the Cardinals lineup so you can expect an increase in both RBIs and runs as well. Perhaps most importantly, his shoulder is apparently much better than it was when he played through injury all of last year.”
– Bobby Sylvester (FantasyPros)

Thank you to the experts for naming their biggest risers this offseason. Be sure to give them a follow on Twitter and subscribe to our podcast below for more advice all season long.

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