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10 Early-Round Picks to Avoid (2020 Fantasy Baseball)

Mar 5, 2020

The adage goes that fantasy drafts can’t be won in the first round, but they can certainly be lost. For this reason, most advise taking a conservative approach early in order to bank production from reliable players.

In order to help you avoid draft day landmines that will tank your season before it starts, we’ve asked our writers to identify players inside the top 40 of our expert consensus rankings that they are avoiding.

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Q: Which player in the top 40 of our Expert Consensus Rankings are you avoiding the most?

Xander Bogaerts (SS – BOS): Overall 25 – SS6
Bogaerts had an outstanding 2019 season, obliterating his career-high in home runs and RBI and getting his batting average back over .300. But the thing is, his underlying metrics don’t look all that different from his solid but unspectacular 2018 season. His strikeout rate, hard-hit percentage, average exit velocity, and launch angle all remained nearly identical, while his steals (only four) continued to trend down to a now-useless level from a fantasy perspective. Bogaerts is still a fine option, but at a strong position and now that he’s batting in a weaker lineup, be careful not to waste too high a pick on him.
– Dan Harris (@danharris80)

Absolutely no one expects Xander Bogaerts to replicate the 110 R and 117 RBI he racked up last season without Mookie Betts in the lineup. He still might be a justifiable top-30 pick if he were to hit 33 HR again, but all projection systems have him falling short of even 30 homers. What would we be left with? A 25 HR, .290 AVG player who stole fewer bases in 2019 than Yadier Molina. Instead of burning a top pick, the idea of waiting much later and snagging a SS like Tim Anderson, Paul DeJong, Didi Gregorius, or Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is vastly more appealing.
– Alex Altmix (@Altmix_23)

The loss of Betts hurts the entire Red Sox lineup, but Bogaerts stands out to me. He is inconsistent and could be headed for a good season, but not one worthy of his high draft status. In my opinion, the Red Sox will have more trouble scoring runs this season, and that will have a negative impact on Bogaerts.
– Bernie Pleskoff (@BerniePleskoff)

Gerrit Cole (SP – NYY): Overall 8 – SP1
Cole finished the 2019 season on a blazing pace, but he still ended up behind Justin Verlander for the season. Now, he moves from a pitcher’s park in Houston to one of the worst home pitching parks with the Yankees. We saw James Paxton take a big step back with the ballpark change, and it could be enough to drop Cole from the second-best fantasy starter to outside the top five.
– Bobby Sylvester (@bobbyfantasypro)

Aaron Judge (OF – NYY): Overall 33 – OF11
While Judge has the talent to make me eat my shorts in a major way on this one, there is just too much working against him in the context of 2020. There is absolutely no shortage of outfielders and home run hitters in drafts right now, and Judge is both of these things. His .273 career batting average is higher than you’ll usually find from a guy with 50-bomb power, but it’s not a major positive that you can’t afford to miss out on. My offensive draft strategy is to attack steals and batting average early on and then find my outfielders and power sources later. All of that and we didn’t even have to talk about the obvious injury risk that he already showed in Spring Training, so I’m not going to have any Judge this year.
– Jon Anderson (@JonPGH)

Jose Ramirez (3B – CLE): Overall 17 – 3B3
While I wouldn’t mind grabbing some shares of Jose Ramirez in a vacuum, I’m avoiding him at his current price (17th in FantasyPros Expert Consensus Ranking, 21st in ADP). While it’s usually foolish to simply avoid a player simply because he burned you last season in fantasy, I’m just not going to draft a player in the second round who batted .218 during the first half last year and has at least some damning advanced metrics to back up those struggles. If Ramirez starts to fall in drafts, I’d become interested. Otherwise, I’m avoiding him inside the first two rounds.
– Mike Maher (@mikemaher)

Stephen Strasburg (SP – WAS): Overall 26 – SP6 
Look, I love Strasburg’s skills. Last year’s 30% K-rate was mostly earned, and he does a great job of limiting hard contact, ranking in the top 10% of expected slugging. However, we are absolutely paying for a career year and his peak. Given that Strasburg will likely pitch 30-40 innings fewer than last year based on his track record, I have him ranked behind Jack Flaherty, Shane Bieber, and Clayton Kershaw, with Bieber and Kershaw going outside the top 30. There is simply too much safe hitting to grab in the second or third round to reach for Strasburg inside the top 30.
– Carmen Maiorano (@carmsclubhouse)

Rafael Devers (3B – BOS): Overall 20 – 3B4
Rafael Devers had basically the perfect fantasy season in 2019, eclipsing 30/100/100/.300 as a four-category contributor with eight steals. Again, “basically perfect.” Therein lies the problem. Even if Devers holds on in a few categories, he will regress in the rest. That slight decrease anywhere likely means that we paid too much for him. The loss of Mookie Betts in Devers’ lineup also plays a role, but we could trade Betts’ influence for an increased role for Devers, so this isn’t crippling in its own right. The reality is simply that, at a position as deep as third base, there is no justification to pay any premium, especially when the return will be diminished compared to last season’s value.
– Mario Mergola (@MarioMergola)

Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS – SD): Overall 22 – SS5
I place a premium on safety in the opening rounds, so Tatis just doesn’t fit in my plans. The 21-year-old costs a second-round pick despite a back injury abbreviating his breakout 2019. In his 84 games last year, he benefitted from the highest BABIP (.410) of any batter with at least 300 plate appearances in the last three years. Dansby Swanson had a higher expected wOBA. Maybe Tatis is a legitimate star who makes up for an inevitable average dip with a 30/30 campaign, but give me the more bankable elite production from Bryce Harper, Starling Marte, or Xander Bogaerts instead.
– Andrew Gould (@AndrewGould4)

Austin Meadows (OF – TB): Overall 37 – OF12
Although we haven’t seen it for an extended stretch, what Meadows did last year makes him well worth considering if he lasts into the fifth round of your drafts. He hitting 33 homers with a .291 average and 12 steals! The trouble is that he’s currently going inside the first 40 picks. Despite his upside, there’s definitely risk in banking on a repeat performance from 2019.
– Bobby Sylvester (@bobbyfantasypro)

Alex Bregman (3B/SS – HOU): Overall 14 – 3B2
Alex Bregman is an awesome player, but he is not going to be on any of my fantasy teams this season. When Bregman was rising through the prospect ranks, his calling card was a power/speed combo with an elite hit tool. Bregman has over-delivered on the power and hit traits, but what happened to his speed? His steal numbers have dropped precipitously since 2017: 17 steals -> 10 steals -> 5 steals. Bregman only attempted six steals all last season! Understand that you’re paying for Bregman’s power at an ECR of 14 — he whacked a career-high 41 HRs and 112 RBIs last season. However, Bregman’s Statcast metrics do not support him as a 40 HR hitter — he ranks 109th in average exit velocity, 103rd in hard-hit rate, and a paltry 187th in barrels per batted ball event. Bregman’s average home run traveled just 382 feet, ranking 240th out of 250 qualifying hitters (just ahead of noted boppers like Dee Gordon and Mallex Smith). Bregman was very lucky to hit 41 HRs last year, and I don’t see him cracking the 40 HR mark in 2020. Given all the controversy surrounding the Astros, let someone else take on that risk.
– Jarad Evans (@Jarad_Evans)

Starling Marte (OF – ARI): Overall 24 – OF9
Taking Starling Marte within the top 30 picks feels like putting way too much of an emphasis on steals. Yes, stolen bases are tough to find this year, but that doesn’t mean you want to reach. In a roto league, I would be more comfortable with taking Trea Turner in the first rather than Marte in the third. Part of the reason is that Marte has averaged just 28.5 steals over the past two years. What makes him valuable is that he also doesn’t kill you in other categories the way Billy Hamilton and Dee Gordon used to. However, he is 31 years old and doesn’t particularly stand out in any other categories. If his speed declines even a little, you could be in trouble with your third-round pick. Even with a juiced ball last year, Marte ranked in the 23rd percentile in exit velocity and in the 47th percentile in hard-hit rate.
– Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma)

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