10 Players on the Rise (2020 Fantasy Baseball)
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There currently is no clear indication when — or if — there will be a 2020 MLB season. However, recent reports indicate that there is hopefulness at the top of the organization that there will be games played. There are also rumored to be discussions ongoing of a shortened season that would allow for at least some live baseball action in 2020.
As such, we’ve asked our writers to each provide one player that has moved up their draft boards the most as a result of the delayed start to the 2020 MLB season.
Q: Which player has moved up your draft boards the most as a result of the delayed start to the 2020 fantasy baseball season?
Giancarlo Stanton (OF – NYY)
Stanton moved way down my board after he suffered a calf injury at the start of spring training, and he is now right back to where he was before — a borderline third-rounder. Stanton probably tried to do a bit too much in his first year with the Yankees, putting up walk and strikeout rates that were at or near his career worsts. But when healthy, particularly if the Yankees play in Yankee Stadium which is one of the options on the table, he has as much upside as anyone. Even in his “down” 2018, a .266-38-102-100-5 season was extremely valuable, and as usual, he ranked in the upper echelon of the league in terms of average exit velocity, hard-hit rate, and barrel percentage. Even in today’s game, he’s one of the few legitimate 60-homer threats if everything breaks right. Of course, injury concerns remain, but now that he will come into the season fully healthy, he’s rocketed up my draft board from where he was in late-March.
– Dan Harris (@danharris80)
Carlos Carrasco (SP – CLE)
Both Mike Clevinger and Carrasco will benefit greatly by the late start. However, Clevinger was already going pretty high. This extra time to rest and get healthy is a blessing for Carrasco and for the Indians’ rotation. He can return to being a terrific starter with an arsenal that really works for him. I still see him going too low, and I think he’ll be a steal.
– Bernie Pleskoff (@BerniePleskoff)
Jordan Hicks (RP – STL)
Hicks is thought to be back around July, setting up nicely to regain the closer reins in St. Louis. Cardinals camp has been quiet on the closer front, as they haven’t handed over the job to Giovanny Gallegos or Carlos Martinez. Don’t forget that Hicks increased his strikeout rate from 20% in 2018 to 28% in 2019 while also dropping his walk rate three percentage points. Yes, he did serve up the long ball too much in 2019, but home run rates stabilize at a much slower pace than strikeouts or walks; I’m willing to chalk that up to a small sample. You’ll likely be able to grab Hicks in the third tier of closers (yes, around Tony Watson, Brandon Kintzler, and Yoshihisa Hirano), making him a low-risk, high-upside draft play.
– Carmen Maiorano (@carmsclubhouse)
German Marquez (SP – COL)
There are so many names here that I love from injury-limit guys like Julio Urias and Lance McCullers to post-injury players like James Paxton and Rich Hill. But give me the ace, German Marquez, likely leaving Coors Field for a neutral ballpark, please. Marquez has legitimate Cy Young stuff if he is pitching on an even playing field with every other ace in baseball. You can get him in the mid-rounds of your draft, but I’ll be reaching for him into the 14th or 15th just to make sure no one else beats me to the punch.
– Bobby Sylvester (@bobbyfantasypro)
Andrew McCutchen (OF – PHI)
I know, he’s old and no longer the five-category threat he was five years ago. However, McCutchen is recovering from an ACL tear that occurred in June of last year. The surgery typically requires a 10-12 month recovery, so a delayed start would put any questions about him beginning the season healthy behind him. Hitting atop the Phillies’ lineup, Cutch was an OBP and runs machine. The power remains as well, as he was pacing for 27 homers across 162 games in 2019. I expect Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins to have better years, meaning McCutchen could lead the NL in runs in this shortened 2020. His ADP falls between 200 and 225, so he’s a borderline OF2 at an OF4 price.
– Max Freeze (@FreezeStats)
Jesus Luzardo (SP – OAK)
Luzardo has Cy Young caliber stuff, and the only reasonable thing keeping his draft stock down was the innings limit. Now with a probable 80-120 game season, there is no reason Luzardo can’t end up right near the top of the leaderboard in games started. I don’t imagine the Athletics will let him go out and sling 120 pitches, but he will be given enough opportunity to post a top-10 SP season, which makes him my biggest riser.
– Jon Anderson (@JonPGH)
Justin Verlander (SP – HOU)
Without any other information, no one in their right minds would have been excited to draft a 37-year-old pitcher who just had groin surgery with their second-round pick. However, most people would have probably looked at Justin Verlander’s name and situation and not been afraid to select him that high. I wouldn’t have touched him with a 10-foot pole. Even if he was available in the third or fourth round, I would have avoided him. Sooner or later, all pitchers wear down. I would have much rather erred on the side of caution. Knowing Verlander was already heading into the year with a major injury was enough to convince me. The delayed start to the season, however, may not help anyone as much as it does Verlander. He’ll be fully recovered by Opening Day and may even benefit from a shortened season at his age. Verlander’s 3.27 FIP and 3.18 FIP show a little regression may be in store for him in 2020, but I now feel fully confident selecting him in the second round.
– Alex Altmix (@Altmix_23)
Lance McCullers (SP – HOU)
I was originally going to say Mike Clevinger. He appears fully recovered from his knee injury and is going as high as the third round in the latest mock drafts. Lance McCullers is my selection and is currently being selected in rounds 16-17 (ADP 179) in recent mocks. The 26-year-old hasn’t pitched in the majors since October 2018 as he continues to recover from Tommy John surgery. The extra delay to the season will only help McCullers as he works his way back to full strength. He owns a sick 10.1 career K/9 and hit 95 mph in his last spring training outing before MLB was suspended. His career 1.27 WHIP leaves a bit to be desired, but he throws hard, plays for a contender, and has the upside to be a SP5 in most fantasy rotations in standard league formats. McCullers is worth taking a chance on in the 14th or 15th round.
– Brad Camara (@beerad30)
James Paxton (SP – NYY)
It was really tempting to go with a prospect here. There are reasons to believe that young hurlers like Jesus Luzardo and Julio Urias will have less strict innings limits due to a shortened season. However, until we get more details about what a season could realistically look like, there are too many unknowns to bank of such an outcome. Instead, I’ll focus on James Paxton, who was going to miss the first couple of months of 2020 until the coronavirus pandemic interfered. The 31-year-old southpaw was certainly serviceable in 2019, posting a 3.82 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, and 186 strikeouts over 150.2 innings. He also won 15 games. However, he got hurt yet again this spring and started plummeting down draft boards. Paxton is now three months removed from a microscopic lumbar discectomy and is throwing bullpens. Of course, it’ll be a challenge for him to face live hitters due to social distancing guidelines, but it is safe to assume he’ll be ready if the 2020 season gets underway this summer. Yet his injury history will likely prevent his ADP from rising too much. That’ll make him a draft-day value.
– Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma)
Eugenio Suarez (3B – CIN)
Most of my peers have focused on pitching benefactors, so let’s give some love to an often underappreciated slugger. Following the quietest 49-homer campaign imaginable, offseason surgery was set to sideline Suarez to start 2020. His current ECR and consensus ADP (No. 74) assume missed time, so both will require a correction course if baseball returns this summer. Since he’d likely be ready for a delayed Opening Day, Suarez should jump back into a borderline top-50 selection. Cincinnati’s lineup as a whole is one to watch, as the possibility of a universal DH with reconstructed divisions would help alleviate their logjam.
– Andrew Gould (@AndrewGould4)