Drafting a fantasy team in 2020 is growing more difficult with each passing day. If we aren’t reading about a player opting out of the upcoming season, then we are likely hearing about another positive Coronavirus test. The ripple effect is that we are scared to proceed with confidence.
What’s to say that Mike Trout doesn’t decide to miss the season? What if a different first-round talent — committed as anyone else to playing in 2020 — needs to be sidelined because of the virus? Fantasy baseball is about taking calculated risk, but we undoubtedly have some risks ahead of us that are truly unpredictable.
There are some positives. The beauty about fantasy baseball — especially hitters — is that the player pool will always be deep. With some exceptions, there are usually players that can be drafted later that, at least, approximate a player we chose to skip earlier. We already went over said sleepers in a different article, but we can now focus on those we want to avoid.
Simply put, the bar is set too low in 2020 for us to take chances. If a player has almost any risk attached, we want to look elsewhere.
Freddie Freeman (1B – ATL)
We’ll start with the obvious case because it covers all angles so well. Freeman has already tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, we have our first example of a player whose season will be delayed. The risk, of course, is in trying to project the length of said delay. Would we buy into Freeman if we were guaranteed he’d only miss one game? Of course. No such guarantee exists, however, and it means that we have to look elsewhere to fill our first base needs. The other consideration is how Freeman will physically respond to a full recovery from the virus. We have absolutely no data that shows what a Major League Baseball player can do following a positive test and subsequent recovery. What if, in addition to a hypothetical five games missed by Freeman, he needs another ten to get back to productivity? We simply can’t give away a quarter of the regular season with so many unknowns.
Manny Machado (SS/3B – SD)
Generally speaking, I love Machado. I found that he had consistently fallen too far during March drafts that I was willing to buy at the decreased price. The reason behind my investment was as simple as his steady production. Over the last four seasons, he has played no fewer than 156 games, hitting at least 32 home runs, each time. The consistency is beautiful. The problem with Machado is that his “consistency” is also at the expense of explosive numbers. He has never reached 40 home runs in his career, and he has only driven in 100 runs one time. It’s not enough in this shortened season. We need players who are going to outperform season averages, not play to them. At both shortstop and third base, there are enough high-upside players to warrant passing on Machado. The only caveat here would be loading up on high risk-reward options elsewhere.
Aaron Judge (OF – NYY)
I can’t believe I’m writing this, but I am actually out on Judge for the 2020 season. The New York Yankees’ slugging outfielder could single-handedly carry a fantasy roster for a one-month span — which would be more than enough in 2020 — but he is equally as likely to land on the injured list. Over a full 162-game season, we could deal with the IL stints accordingly. Not this year. It’s hard to match what he will do if he plays 60 games by targeting power later in a draft, but the proverbial “if” is too much in an abbreviated campaign.
Charlie Blackmon (OF – COL)
Moving back to the topic of Coronavirus — specifically, of those who have already tested positive — Blackmon follows the same mold as Freddie Freeman. He is already on the road to recovery, but the time-frame is legitimately unknown. There is another reason for us to shy away from Blackmon, however, and it is unrelated to the virus. Blackmon has seen his stolen base totals decline in each of the last four seasons, and he has not stolen more than 17 bases since 2015. Indeed, he hits in Colorado, so his numbers shouldn’t be terrible, but it’s possible that we are watching the decline unfold in front of our eyes. If we add the virus back into the mix, then there are too many hurdles for Blackmon to clear easily.
Max Muncy (1B/2B/3B – LAD)
Of all the reasons to worry about a player heading into 2020, changes to a team’s home stadium should not be in the list. Not only is it a concern, but it might be the most intriguing one of all. Muncy was hit by a pitch in an intrasquad game and, by his own admission, had trouble seeing the ball because of changes to the Los Angeles Dodgers’ stadium. Believe-it-or-not, this is a big deal. It would certainly be a consideration during a full year, but it’s amplified in the short season. Adjusting to a new “batter’s eye” — the part of the field behind the center field wall — takes time, and time is the one luxury no hitter has this year. In addition, Muncy’s injury is to his hand. Lingering effects will limit what he could do when the season begins.
Luis Robert (OF – CWS)
I am as aggressive as anyone when it comes to buying into prospects, but I have forced myself to pump the metaphorical brakes with Luis Robert in 2020. He’s actually one of the few who I have avoided because of both name value and the unpredictable nature of this season. Robert is easily one of the most coveted prospects for 2020, but his hype is now outpacing what we can realistically expect. At least, immediately. Robert projects to have excellent power, but there are question marks surrounding his plate discipline. With time, he can absolutely justify his high ADP. Again, we don’t have “time” in 2020.
Corey Seager (SS – LAD)
I’m projecting here, a bit, but I mentioned how intrigued I was by Max Muncy’s comments about the Los Angeles Dodgers’ “batter’s eye.” If the left-handed Muncy had trouble seeing the ball, then why wouldn’t left-handed Seager have the same struggles? In fairness, that isn’t enough to move me away from Seager, but it combines with the relatively low ceiling — he still hasn’t converted a high doubles rate into big home run totals — and depth at the shortstop position to give me pause. I’d rather not wait for a potential slow start from Seager before I second-guess his value in 2020. I’ll first-guess now and avoid him altogether.
Khris Davis (OF – OAK)
For years, the fantasy baseball community made the same argument for Davis. That is, everyone accepted a batting average in the .240’s as long as he hit 40 home runs. This trade-off wasn’t solely from the high home run totals; it was from the home run totals relative to the league’s average. In 2020, how would this look? If ten home runs is the level of acceptability, will we be pleased with 13 or 14 from Davis? Probably not. Because, again, he will kill us in batting average.
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