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9 Riskiest Players to Draft (2020 Fantasy Baseball)

Mar 2, 2020

Fernando Tatis appears to be a very risky draft choice in the second round

March has arrived and the first regular-season game is less than a month away (3/26)! It’s now time for fantasy baseball owners everywhere to start gearing up for their drafts. One area to focus on in your preparation is knowing which players carry the most risk. Sure, ailing players like Giancarlo Stanton and Chris Sale appear to be gambles at the moment, but which athletes are statistical risks? That is what our featured pundits are here to break down for you today. Read on to see who you may want to think twice about drafting based on their underlying metrics. Please note that this article uses a bevy of sabermetric analysis, so if you’re having any trouble following this, then please refer to our sabermetrics glossary.

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Q1. Which hitter do you think carries the most risk heading into the 2020 season and why?

Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS – SD): ADP – 19th Overall
“All of the underlying metrics are screaming significant risk for drafting Tatis Jr. in the second round. Yes, he has plenty of speed, but the power was a bit of a mirage, as it was supported by an unsustainable HR/FB rate. Likewise, Baseball Savant tells us that his quality of contact and K-rate suggest a batting average an MLB-leading 0.58 lower than he actually produced. Overall, his all-encompassing wOBA turned out similar to players like Juan Soto and Nolan Arenado, but his xwOBA was closer to the Brandon Belt and Dansby Swanson range.”
– Bobby Sylvester (FantasyPros)

Fernando Tatis Jr. is being drafted as a top-20 player and he may very well develop into that in the coming years, but in 2019 his batting average was buoyed by an outrageous .410 BABIP, a mark more than 30 points higher than anything he’s ever posted in the minor leagues. He also posted his highest ISO ever (.272), which we can likely chalk up to the juiced balls last year. There is bound to be some regression this season, making him risky as one of your top-two picks in drafts.”
– Bill Dubiel (RotoBaller)

Adalberto Mondesi (SS – KC): ADP – 50th Overall
“I will limit this to the first few rounds because that is where the most risk lies. The easy choice for me here is Mondesi. Of the 241 hitters who had at least 350 plate appearances last season, Mondesi finished outside the top 200 in xBA (expected batting average), xSLG (expected slugging percentage), xwOBA (expected weighted on-base average), and wRC+ (weighted runs created). His hard-hit percentage (33.4 percent) was well below the league average and his average exit velocity (87.9 miles per hour) was only barely above the league average as well. Mondesi does have a lot of upside and should steal a ton of bases. However, shortstop is very deep this year and speed is available later in the draft. His metrics are a bit worrisome considering the draft capital it will take to acquire his services.”
– Mick Ciallela (Fantrax)

Gleyber Torres (2B/SS – NYY): ADP – 29th Overall
“I consider most risk to be in relation to a player’s ADP and for me, Torres at 29 carries enormous risk at that spot. He consistently makes mediocre contact, ranking near the MLB average in hard-hit rate (35.8%) and average exit velocity (89 miles per hour). Yet he has drastically outperformed both his expected batting average and slugging percentage in each of the past two seasons. Torres may just be one of those players who is somehow able to continually outperform his expected statistics, particularly with Yankee Stadium as his home park. However, when someone drafted in the third round has to do significantly better than his expected statistics to justify his ADP, fantasy owners need to understand the potential downside.”
– Dan Harris (FantasyPros)

D.J. LeMahieu (1B/2B/3B – NYY): ADP – 61st Overall
“LeMahieu is one that stands out to me. He was amazing last year and I have no doubt he will be good in 2020. However, do not buy into his 2019 stats. One thing that stands out to me is his 19.3% HR/FB rate. His previous high was 11.1%. Yes, you can credit Yankee Stadium and maybe the juiced ball for some of that, but remember that he hit in a very power-friendly park before in Colorado and never hit for that kind of power … not even close.”
– Joe Bond (Fantasy Six Pack)

Q2. Which starting pitcher do you think carries the most risk heading into the 2020 season and why?

Jose Berrios (SP – MIN): ADP – 84th Overall
“I believe that Berrios may be a bit overvalued based on some of his underlying metrics. 130 pitchers threw at least 100 innings in 2019. Of those, Berrios finished outside the top 40 in K-BB% (strikeout minus walk rate), HR/9 (home runs allowed per nine innings), and SIERA (skill interactive ERA). His SIERA was higher than 2019 teammates Jake Odorizzi, Michael Pineda, and Kyle Gibson. He also finished outside the top 50 in SwStr% (swinging-strike rate), K/9, and xFIP (expected fielding independent pitching). With the question marks and injury concerns surrounding many high-profile starting pitchers, fantasy owners are elevating Berrios into SP2 territory. However, I see him more as an SP3 who can provide stable, but not spectacular, results.”
– Mick Ciallela (Fantrax)

Jack Flaherty (SP – STL): ADP – 25th Overall
“In 2018, we saw Snell produce a triple crown of red flags, posting one of the lowest BABIPs and HR/FB rates, along with the single highest LOB% in baseball. It was a near-lock that he’d regress last season and while we don’t quite have a case like that, Flaherty is the closest to it. Yes, he is extraordinarily talented like Snell, but you can’t expect a .242 BABIP or 83.3% LOB rate to keep up, as both were top three in baseball. Baseball Savant, likewise, tells us that his xwOBA should have had him in the solid, but unspectacular Frankie Montas and Brandon Woodruff range rather than where he landed with Mike Clevinger and Stephen Strasburg.”
– Bobby Sylvester (FantasyPros)

Mike Soroka (SP – ATL): ADP – 92nd Overall
“I think Soroka has an excellent future ahead of him, but he carries enormous risk as the 26th starting pitcher off the board. In addition to his xFIP being more than a run higher than his 2.68 ERA last year, Soroka was the only qualified starter with a K/9 rate below 8.00 (his was 7.32/9) to have an ERA below 3.22. Although he induces ground balls at an elite rate, his BABIP allowed on grounders was just .206 last year, which was well below league average. Soroka profiles more as a mid-to-high 3.00 ERA pitcher and considering his sub-par strikeout rate, he’s simply too risky at his current ADP of 92nd overall.”
– Dan Harris (FantasyPros)

Hyun-Jin Ryu (SP – TOR): ADP – 117th Overall
“Ryu had a tremendous 2019 campaign, but luck undoubtedly played a role. An xFIP (3.32) that was literally a full run higher than his ERA (2.32) indicates that his ERA will likely rise, especially as he moves into the dreaded AL East. His 82.2% strand rate was fifth-best in baseball and while he’s proven he can keep that number up throughout his career, that’s still a difficult number to maintain. Add in the lowest BABIP of his career (.278) and there are enough reasons to avoid Ryu in 2020.”
– Bill Dubiel (RotoBaller)

Aaron Nola (SP – PHI): ADP – 46th Overall
“Nola is a pitcher I just can’t fully buy into yet, especially at the price tag. Does he have the stuff and has he pitched fantastic games? Yes. He also has flaws that show up in things like a 17.9% HR/FB rate or a 1.20 HR/9 rate. Nola walked 3.56 batters per nine last year, too. To go even deeper into the metrics, he was hit hard on 41.9% of hits last season. Not good, folks. I’ll take a chance on him if he falls a couple rounds past his Round 4 ADP, but I doubt he will.”
– Joe Bond (Fantasy Six Pack)

Thank you to the experts for providing their risky draft picks. Be sure to give them a follow on Twitter for more advice all season and check out our latest podcast below.

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