Skip to main content

2019 League Trends & Their Impact on 2020 Season (Fantasy Baseball)

by Alex Altmix | @Altmix_23 | Featured Writer
Jan 4, 2020

Eugenio Suarez had to have hit the “quietest” 49 home runs in MLB history in 2019.

As they say, the game is always changing. There might not have been a time where that was as true in Major League Baseball as 2019. Multiple categories hit the highest mark they’ve ever been last season. While the actual game is changing, so is fantasy baseball. And if you don’t change as well, you’ll be left in the dust.

Check out our early consensus rankings for 2020 fantasy baseball drafts >>

Statistical Category: Runs

2019 Trend: Runs were up, significantly.

2020 Impact: After watching last season, does anyone think that the average number of runs scored per game is going to drop in 2020? Not me, that’s for sure. In 2019, there was nearly another full run scored in each game more than in 2018. Whether it’s a juiced ball or some other reason, the runs aren’t going anywhere in the MLB in 2020. While that impact may seem minimal to fantasy owners, keep in mind that runs are aplenty. If you have a balanced attack offensively, there’s very little reason to target a player strictly for his run-scoring ability. 

Player to Target: N/A

Other Players to Target: N/A

Players to Avoid: Players at the top of lineups who offer no significant value other than runs scored. The A.J. Pollocks, Jason Heywards, Lorenzo Cains, and similar players of the fantasy baseball world don’t offer enough other statistical value to target in 2020 fantasy drafts.

Statistical Category: RBIs

2019 Trend: Highest per game since the 2000 season.

2020 Impact: Everything that was said about the number of runs scored per game could be simply repeated for RBIs in 2019 and 2020. RBIs per game were up nearly a full run per game in 2020 from 2019. And again, the RBIs aren’t going anywhere. What does this mean for 2020? You can look significantly deeper into lineups for RBI help. It’s not just the 3 and 4 hitters in a lineup who can knock in a significant number of RBIs. 

Player to Target: Mike Moustakas (2B – CIN)
If you don’t think Moustakas’s skillset is going to play well in Cincinnati, you’re crazy. Moustakas knocked in 87 RBIs last year for the Brewers, but now he’ll likely hit behind Eugenio Suarez and Aristides Aquino in a stacked Cincinnati lineup. Hitting the century mark in RBIs shouldn’t be difficult for Moustakas. 

Other Players to Target: Franmil Reyes, Yordan Alvarez, and Michael Brantley are all easy targets for RBIs.

Players to Avoid: Josh Bell, Juan Soto, and Rougned Odor are all regression candidates. 

Statistical Category: Home Runs

2019 Trend: Highest per game in MLB history.

2020 Impact: Whether 2019’s highest home run total record in MLB history will be topped in 2020 is yet to be determined, but there’s definitely a chance. Home runs just aren’t as meaningful as they used to be when there are so many. For fantasy baseball, that actually makes drafting much easier. You can snag a player like Nelson Cruz in the 7th or 8th round of a draft and expect him to hit 40+ home runs. You have to pay attention and not miss a few players later on in drafts, but there’s no need to reach for home runs early on.

Player to Target: Eugenio Suarez (3B – CIN)
If you get the chance, quiz your league mates on how many homers Suarez hit last year. I bet most of them have no clue. Suarez had to have hit the “quietest” 49 home runs in MLB history in 2019. Yes, Suarez may have been in a little above his head by hitting that many, but there’s no reason to fear crazy regression. Especially considering the fact of how great of a lineup he’ll be in, Suarez is a wonderful draft target for home runs in 2020.

Other Players to Target: Jorge Soler, Franmil Reyes, and Kole Calhoun all make great later round home run targets.

Players to Avoid: Charlie Blackmon, Kris Bryant, and Manny Machado all might disappoint in the home run category compared to how many home runs similar stars will hit. 

Statistical Category: Stolen Bases

2019 Trend: The number of stolen bases per game was the lowest since 1971.

2020 Impact: While every other major offensive category was up, the number of stolen bases per game in 2019 was incredibly low. The more value placed on the long ball, the less value placed on small ball. Players who accrue major stolen base numbers will single-handedly win the category weekly for managers, plain and simply put. If you weren’t planning on targeting at least one player who can rack up the steals, think again.

Player to Target: Mallex Smith (OF – SEA)
Smith actually led MLB in steals last year with 46 and he isn’t projected to go until late in drafts. While he did hurt managers in the other 4 categories, he did run into a lot of bad luck. If some of that luck changes around in 2020, Smith might push for 60 steals and help managers in other areas.

Other Players to Target: Jonathan Villar, Victor Robles, and Tommy Pham all make fairly cheap stolen base options.

Players to Avoid: Don’t be surprised if Elvis Andrus and Danny Santana’s stolen base totals fall in 2020.

Statistical Category: Average

2019 Trend: No significant change.

2020 Impact: No significant impact.

Player to Target: N/A

Other Players to Target: N/A

Players to Avoid: N/A

Statistical Category: Wins

2019 Trend: No discernible change. 

2020 Impact: While there wasn’t a measurable change in really anything related to wins last year, there still is something of note to discuss. Only 12 players in the entire league finished with more than 15 wins; that’s one player per team in a standard league. The scarcity of wins makes it a statistical category to target, period. A boatload of players finished with anywhere between 10 and 15 wins, but many of them offered very little value above replacement level. If you can grab even just 2 of the top 12 or so players in wins, that will offer your team a significant advantage over the rest of the league. 

Player to Target: Eduardo Rodriguez (SP – BOS)
Rodriguez somehow got to 19 wins in 2019, partially because he stayed healthy partially because he pitches deep into games. That combination, along with his strikeout prowess, makes him a cheaper guy to target for wins.

Other Players to Target: Jack Flaherty, Max Scherzer, Walker Buehler, and Sonny Gray should all produce many, many more wins this season if their ERAs remain the same or better than last year. 

Players to Avoid: Lance Lynn, Jake Odorizzi, and Mike Fiers all have no business winning 15+ games this season as they did in 2019.

Statistical Category: Saves

2019 Trend: The total number of saves across the league was down. 

2020 Impact: For only the second time since 2009, the total number of saves across the MLB was under 1,200. Because so many runs were scored, not as many games were close. If the number of runs scored doesn’t change, why would there be any more saves available for closers in 2020? While quality closers have always been valuable, they may never have been as valuable to fantasy managers than what they will be in 2020. In fact, there might only be 10 or fewer closers who fantasy managers will be elated to have as their number 1 option. 

Player to Target: Taylor Rogers (RP/SP – MIN)
Taylor Rogers was an underrated closing option for an underrated Minnesota Twins team last season. Rogers amassed 30 saves and helped owners in other areas. He did it without even being the closer for the entire season. Now that he should be the preferred option from Opening Day on, Rogers offers fantasy managers a lot of value.

Other Players to Target: Emilio Pagan, Brandon Workman, and Jordan Hicks all may fly under the radar heading into 2020.

Players to Avoid: Kirby Yates, Edwin Diaz, and Shane Green are all names to avoid: Yates for regression, Diaz for struggling so badly in 2019, and Greene for the fact that he most likely won’t close many games for Atlanta.

Statistical Category: Strikeouts

2019 Trend: Strikeouts hit an all-time high in 2019.

2020 Impact: Let’s keep this one nice and simple. Strikeouts were at an unbelievably, crazy high number in 2019, and players are going to continue striking out at that high of a clip in 2020. Strikeouts are not something managers need to target or even think about in drafts if they construct the rest of their pitching staff solidly.

Player to Target: Lance Lynn (SP – TEX)
If needed, Lynn struck out batters at an incredible rate and isn’t going until late in drafts.

Other Players to Target: Again, if needed, Matthew Boyd, Robbie Ray, and Mike Minor all offer significant strikeout totals at a discounted price.

Players to Avoid: N/A

Statistical Category: ERA

2019 Trend: ERA rose to the highest mark in MLB history.

2020 Impact: While almost all offensive numbers rose in 2019, ERA obviously rose as well. My advice on the 2020 impact? Don’t pay attention to ERA. Target wins and saves, and then let your ERA play itself out. If you have players who get a lot of wins and saves, you’ll end up with a good ERA most weeks regardless. With so many runs being scored, ERA is such an unpredictable factor from week to week. Treat it as such.

Player to Target: Hyun-Jin Ryu (SP – TOR)
I’ll still give you one name to target just in case you go against my advice or find yourself in a pinch. While Ryu did stumble down the stretch, he still finished with a phenomenal 2.32 ERA in 2019. He is an underrated player every single season, and he can be had again at a great price in 2020.

Other Players to Target: N/A

Players to Avoid: N/A

Statistical Category: WHIP

2019 Trend: No marginal change in 2019.

2020 Impact: While ERA skyrocketed in 2019, WHIP actually remained essentially the same as it has for the past 15 to 20 years. Almost all pitchers believe in their strikeout abilities, and no one wants to pitch to contact. Why would they when batters are striking out at all-time high rates? Runs are being scored via the home run, and WHIP will have very little change this year. Again, if you target pitchers for wins and saves, WHIP should work itself out.

Player to Target: Sean Manaea (SP – OAK)
Manaea was effective in 2018 and had a cool 1.08 WHIP. He worked his way back from injury and had an other-worldly 0.78 WHIP in an abbreviated 2019. Manaea is going to fly under the radar heading into 2020. He is so attractive, not just because of his great WHIP, but because of all the tools he will bring to the table in 2020.

Other Players to Target: Josh Hader, Emilio Pagan, and Tyler Glasnow all have the potential to finish with WHIPs solidly below one at a better price than some of the very top starters.

Players to Avoid: If WHIP is what you’re looking for, Brad Hand and Mike Minor are two guys to avoid for 2020.

Practice fast mock drafts with our fantasy baseball software >>

Alex Altmix is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Alex, check out his archive or follow him @Altmix_23.