8 Safe Veteran Players (2020 Fantasy Baseball)
High-floor veteran players are the foundation of a successful fantasy baseball team, making them some of the most valuable selections on draft day. While a rookie sensation may carry a fantasy lineup for parts of the year before potentially slumping once opposing pitchers/hitters make adjustments, safe veteran players are the reliable plug-and-play cogs that keep teams competitive during the doldrums of baseball’s long season.
Proven veterans also limit many of the stressful daily lineup decisions fantasy managers will face throughout the season, and can function as valuable trade bait, given the large sample sizes available to assess their present and future values.
For the purpose of this primer, we’ve listed eight safe veteran players, eschewing obvious fantasy stars in favor of players ranked outside the top 30 in FantasyPros’ Expert Consensus Rankings.
Charlie Blackmon (OF – COL): ECR 32
Playing for the Rockies certainly helps his case, as Blackmon’s career home/road splits considerably favor his performance at Coors Field. Caveats aside, Blackmon is one of only three players in baseball to bat .300 over the past five years while maintaining season averages of at least 20 home runs, 15 stolen bases and 100 runs. The other two are Mike Trout and Mookie Betts.
– FOX Sports North (@fsnorth) August 7, 2019
Nelson Cruz (DH – MIN): ECR 46
Since 2014, Cruz has batted .285 and registered a 148 OPS+ while averaging 41 home runs, 105 RBIs and 86 runs per season. He has recorded four of the top 10 seasons by average exit velocity during that span, leading baseball with a 93.7 MPH average in 2019. He also led MLB in barrel% last season and ranked fourth in xwOBA. With the addition of Josh Donaldson, the Twins lineup profiles as one of the best in baseball in 2020, which is great news for potential Cruz managers.
Jose Abreu (1B – CHW): ECR 65
Abreu is a pure hitter who has batted .293 while averaging 30 home runs and 102 RBIs per season through his six years in the MLB. Since he entered the league, his 611 RBIs rank fourth in baseball, and his 179 home runs place him in a three-way tie with Paul Goldschmidt and Anthony Rizzo for second-most among first basemen. Abreu had a career-high 40.7 hard-hit % in 2019, and he should continue seeing ample run-producing opportunity in a lineup bolstered by offseason additions Edwin Encarnacion, Nomar Mazara and Yasmani Grandal.
Justin Turner (3B – LAD): ECR 136
Turner is one of the most consistent hitters in baseball, although his injuries over the past few years are somewhat concerning, as he’s averaged just 123 games per season since 2017. When healthy, he’s a safe bet to average about .300 and hit 20 or more home runs, and his five-season wRC+ of 139 entering 2020 ranks tied for third at his position, ahead of fantasy stars Anthony Rendon and Nolan Arenado. His career 14.6 K% is one of the best in baseball, and his ability to put balls in play should create many run-producing opportunities for a prolific offense that added Mookie Betts this offseason.
Patrick Corbin (SP – WSH): ECR 48
Corbin pitched well for the world-champion Nationals in 2019, ranking among MLB’s top-15 starting pitchers in ERA and innings pitched while striking out 10.6 batters per nine innings. His slider was again one of the best pitches in baseball last season, and there’s no reason to think he will revert to his pre-2018 form anytime soon. With 200+ innings pitched each of the past two seasons, Corbin appears to be a good bet health-wise and should produce solid No. 2 starter numbers for the third-consecutive campaign in 2020.
Charlie Morton (SP – TB): ECR 49
Morton threw a career-high 194 innings in 2019, and he has seen his four-seam fastball velocity rise considerably over the course of his career, averaging 95 MPH in his age-35 2019 campaign with the Rays. Unsurprisingly, Morton’s velocity increase has led to better strikeout numbers, as his three-year 10.7 K/9 average since joining the Astros in 2017 is markedly better than his 7.9 career mark. Coming off a season with 240 strikeouts and a 2.81 FIP, both of which ranked among the top 10 in baseball, Morton is a strong rotation anchor who will look to build on his recent success with a talented Tampa Bay team in 2020.
Zack Greinke (SP – HOU): ECR 64
Greinke owns a career 3.35 ERA, and over the past five seasons has shown few signs of slowing down, averaging 200 innings per year while averaging better than his career marks in K/W ratio, WHIP, ERA+ and soft-contact rate. He’s shown a remarkable ability to stay healthy, and since 2012, he trails only Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer in innings pitched. Never much of a power pitcher, Greinke has seen his curveball and changeup continue to grade as some of the best pitches in the sport, indicating a velocity-related decline in performance doesn’t appear imminent. The 36-year-old should get a wins boost behind an Astros lineup projected by PECOTA to win 98 games in 2020.
Lance Lynn (SP – TEX): ECR 111
Lynn has quietly put together one of the most underrated pitching performances of the past decade, having averaged 32 starts per season with a matching 3.60 ERA and FIP since he began starting games for the Cardinals in 2012. He owns a respectable 8.8 K/9 during that span and had his best season a professional with the Rangers in 2019, which earned him a fifth-place finish in AL Cy Young Award voting. Lynn profiles as one of the most dependable starting pitchers in baseball in 2019, making him one of my favorite sleepers come draft day.