Players to Target in AL-Only Leagues (2020 Fantasy Baseball)
Specific fantasy baseball formats obviously require a different approach in draft prep. Late-round targets can become mid-rounders, and players that may very well be entirely overlooked in mixed leagues suddenly become appealing for various reasons. The following players — five hitters and three pitchers — can prove to be valuable difference-makers for AL-only rosters in 2020.
Mark Canha (1B/OF – OAK)
Canha had shown the ability to be a fairly solid contributor with the bat prior to 2019, but he put it all together in his age-30 season. Across 497 plate appearances last year, Canha smacked a career-high 26 home runs alongside a strong .913 OPS and .244 ISO. In addition, a marked improvement in plate discipline saw him hit .273 with a stellar .396 OBP. Canha could turn out to be quite a get outside the top 100 in AL-only formats. He sits at 106.0 in AL-only ADP across the industry at the time of writing.
Cesar Hernandez (2B – CLE)
If you like a consistently solid track record of production, Hernandez might be your man. Granted, he has never really been exceptional in any one particular area, but he has rather quietly been a fantasy success story over the last few years while suiting up in Philly. Now, Hernandez has moved on to Cleveland to replace longtime Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis.
Over the past three years with the Phillies, Hernandez has seen his power numbers improve over his earlier days, as he has averaged 14 homers to go along with 16 steals and a .274 average per 162 games. The stolen bases were down a bit in 2019, but he still swiped nine in 11 attempts. Hernandez could also score plenty of runs if he finds his way to the top half of Cleveland’s batting order.
Randal Grichuk (OF – TOR)
What does Grichuk do? Well, he strikes out a lot. He plays solid outfield defense. And, for fantasy purposes, he hits plenty of homers. In fact, he ripped 31 of them last season while driving in 80 runs and scoring 75. Put the .244 career average aside and take Grichuk outside the 10th round in 12-teamers with confidence. He is right in his prime and set to see plenty of at-bats somewhere in the middle of a Blue Jays lineup that features plenty of pop.
Renato Nunez (1B/3B – BAL)
Nunez is similar to Grichuk, but with some versatility at different positions. He casually blasted 31 bombs with 90 RBIs in Baltimore last year. Despite Baltimore winning only a third of its games, that was quite a breakout. Yes, he is not likely to help at all in batting average, but Nunez plays his home games in a very hitter-friendly park, and there is no threat to his playing time on a rebuilding club.
Niko Goodrum (1B/2B/SS/OF – DET)
A jack-of-all-trades super-utility man, Goodrum could actually be found on many standard mixed-league rosters the last couple years due to his versatility and usable power-speed combination. Over the last two seasons, he has averaged 14 homers and 12 steals across 482 plate appearances while appearing at every single position for the Tigers except for pitcher and catcher. Granted, his .247/.318/.427 slash line is not inspiring, but you’re drafting Goodrum for his potential as a bench option.
Jordan Montgomery (SP – NYY)
With the well-documented health issues in the Yankees’ rotation, Montgomery, much as he was back in 2017, is an important piece for the pinstripes this year. In that 2017 campaign, the lefty went 9-7 with a respectable 3.88 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, and 8.3 K/9 across 155.1 innings. He has logged only 31.1 big-league innings (35.0 total) since then due to Tommy John surgery in 2018.
Before the coronavirus pandemic caused the MLB to shut down indefinitely, Montgomery was impressively reasserting himself in spring training. The lefty posted a 4.09 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, and 16-to-1 K/BB ratio while reportedly sitting around 93 mph with his heater over 11.0 innings. At 27 years of age, Montgomery could finally be ready to build off the promise he displayed a few years ago.
Chris Bassitt (SP – OAK)
Much like his aforementioned Oakland teammate (Canha), Bassitt, after many small samples of his ability at the top level in previous years, turned in a solidifying campaign in 2019 at age 30. The big right-hander recorded 10 victories while posting a 3.81 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and 8.8 K/9 across 144.0 innings.
Bassitt has an outstanding defensive squad behind him, and his home stadium is one of the most pitcher-friendly in the biz. He may be making appearances both as a starter and reliever in 2020, but due to the youth in the A’s rotation and Bassitt’s proven ability, it’s almost a certainty that he sees plenty of starting opportunities yet again.
Jordan Lyles (SP – TEX)
Although still just 29 years old, Lyles has been quite the journeyman in his career, donning five different MLB uniforms from 2011-2019. Perhaps the most impressive run of pitching to date came after a deadline deal sent him to Milwaukee last season.
In 11 starts for the Brewers down the stretch, Lyles went 7-1 with a 2.45 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and 8.6 K/9 in 58.2 innings. That terrific work is largely what landed him a two-year, $16 million contract with the Rangers last December. With an ADP outside the top 20 even in AL-only leagues, there’s virtually no risk and only potential reward with Lyles.