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7 Players to Target and Avoid (2020 Fantasy Baseball)

Feb 6, 2020

It may not be wise to expect Yuli Gurriel to sustain his 2019 production

Succeeding at fantasy sports is, at its core, all about finding which players have the best chance at surpassing expectations. Likewise, avoiding those who are primed to fall short of expectations is necessary to stay in the playoff mix throughout the season.

With the vast wealth of information there is on every athlete, it can be difficult to find which guys you should aim for or stay away from, much less decipher which stats you should pay attention to more than others. That’s where we step in. We’ve reached out to our featured analysts to share which players drafters should target and avoid this spring. Read on to see what they have to say. Also, keep in mind that these experts will be referring to a plethora of sabermetrics in this article, so if you’re having any trouble following any of the terminology, please refer to our sabermetrics glossary.

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Q1. What player had major underlying warning signs in 2019 that you expect to regress heavily in 2020 and what do you project for him?

Yuli Gurriel (1B/3B – HOU): Rank – 140th Overall
“Scandals aside, we should not count on Gurriel to repeat last year’s performance or to be a top-15 option at first base despite the relative lack of depth at the position. His 31 home runs are a clear outlier on his MLB resume considering his previous high was 18 home runs. His .298 batting average was in line with his career marks, but even that should decline, as he outperformed his .284 xBA by 14 points and overshot his xwOBA by 42 points. At age 35, this isn’t a player on the upswing of his career, so it’s far more likely that he regresses in the wrong direction by a significant amount. He’s still quite valuable in points leagues, but you can do better in roto as he will be lucky to reach 20 home runs or 160 combined runs and RBIs again.”
– Pierre Camus (RotoBaller)

“The 35-year-old Yuli Gurriel is off my draft board in 2020. Last year’s 31 homers don’t seem repeatable, not based on the paltry 3.8% barrel rate and 37.5% hard-hit rate (41st percentile). He seems like an obvious player who benefited from the bouncy ball of 2019. I still think he’ll be a useful piece, but he will give you something in the .290 BA and 20-homer range (not close to last year’s power outburst). Batting average is tough to fill, but I can’t pay the expected draft-day price here if I don’t believe in the power. Sure, the home park is suited to his skill set, but I’m not drafting a 35-year-old aggressively right after his breakout season. Official projection: .290 BA, 21 home runs, 75 runs, 90 RBIs, three stolen bases.”
– Heath Capps (Fake Teams)

Fernando Tatis (SS – SD): Rank – 21st Overall
“Anyone who listens to the FantasyPros Baseball Podcast knows I’ve got to go with Tatis here. Yes, he is extraordinarily talented and I won’t take that away whatsoever, but his underlying metrics were one red flag after another. He had a 30% K-rate, .410 BABIP, and 32% HR/FB rate. None of those are even close to sustainable, as evidenced by his .259 xBA and .490 xSLG. More than likely, we are looking at a .260 hitter with 25 homers, 25 steals, 90 runs, and 70 RBIs. While that’s a nice player (see Tommy Pham), it’s awful in the middle of the second round.”
– Bobby Sylvester (FantasyPros)

Mike Minor (SP – TEX): Rank – 142nd Overall
“Everyone knows about Fernando Tatis and his crazy gaps between his “expected” stats and his actual stats, so I’ll go in a different direction. While Minor improved his K rate, his walk and HR/FB rates slipped a bit. If not for his lucky 80% strand rate, Minor would be looking at a 4+ ERA. He particularly fell off in the second half, posting a 4.93 ERA and .332 wOBA. In short, we can’t count on Minor as a top-40 pitcher, let alone as an ace, in 2020. My projection is 12 wins with a 4.02 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and 180 Ks in 185 innings.”
– Carmen Maiorano (FantasyPros)

Q2. What player are you targeting that had strong underlying numbers in 2019 that you expect to pay off in 2020 and what do you project for him?

Jesus Aguilar (1B – MIA): Rank – 352nd Overall
“It’s easy to dismiss Aguilar as a one-year wonder, but there is still hope. He is primed to earn an everyday spot at the heart of the Marlins’ lineup, which will be markedly better with Jonathan Villar and Corey Dickerson hitting ahead of him. Aguilar’s slugging percentage dropped a whopping 150 points from 2018, but his .443 xSLG indicates he should have done much better than his actual .389 SLG last year. The biggest difference from his breakout year to the years immediately preceding and following it were related to playing time more so than performance. Aguilar is the 33rd-ranked first baseman in FantasyPros’ ECR, which makes him a late-round flier and a low-risk pick with 30-home run upside. I believe he will outperform ATC projections of .248/19/66 and should provide an average around .260 with 25 home runs and 78 RBIs.”
– Pierre Camus (RotoBaller)

Matt Olson (1B – OAK): Rank – 63rd Overall
“I’m buying Olson in 2020. After over a month-long delay last year due to a broken hamate bone, he returned to crush 36 homers in only 127 games. The home park isn’t one that we love, but Olson’s obscene hard-hit rate (98th percentile) and exit velocity (94th percentile) are bankable no matter the environs. If you wanted to cite concerns about the ball changing and what that might do to sluggers in general, you’d have to ding a guy like Pete Alonso well before you’d ding Matt Olson — as Olson hits the ball far harder than Alonso. I personally dig the steady increase in line drive rate too and think Olson can be an asset in batting average in 2020. Official projection: .270 BA, 42 home runs, 93 runs, 110 RBIs, one stolen base.”
– Heath Capps (Fake Teams)

J.D. Davis (3B/OF – NYM): Rank – 231st Overall
“Davis was downright amazing toward the end of the season for the Mets with a .307/.369/.527/.895 line and 22 homers in 410 at-bats, but the underlying metrics are screaming that there is room for more. He was among the most unlucky hitters in baseball last year when you consider that his average exit velocity was higher than J.D. Martinez, Juan Soto, and Bryce Harper and that his 48% hard-hit rate topped Ronald Acuna, Cody Bellinger, and Mookie Betts. The kid could very easily hit .330 with 30 homers, 90 runs, 85 RBIs, and steal five bases and I wouldn’t bat an eye.”
– Bobby Sylvester (FantasyPros)

Marcell Ozuna (OF – ATL): Rank – 84th Overall
“Ozuna has consistently posted a higher xBA and xSLG than his actual batting average and slugging percentage over the past two years and he moves to a better hitters’ park. With an above-average barrel rate and elite average exit velocity, I’m expecting Ozuna to approach his breakout 2017 numbers. My projection? 32 homers, 88 runs, 103 RBIs, and five stolen bases to go with a .290 average. That sounds like a top 30-40 hitter to me.”
– Carmen Maiorano (FantasyPros)

Thank you to the experts for giving their players to target and avoid. For more great fantasy advice, please be sure to follow them on Twitter.

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