Players to Target or Avoid Based on Their Historical Starts to the Season (2020 Fantasy Baseball)
Every MLB team has him – that one guy who, for the life of him, can’t seem to get a hit in April. When May or June roll around, he’s money. But for the first few weeks, you might as well call him an automatic out. The reverse seems to be true in a lot of cases as well. Across baseball, a handful of players exist who consistently come screaming out of the gate only to tail off as the season progresses.
Normally, none of that is a big deal. Throughout the six-month season, everyone and everything typically balances out. In a 60-game season, however, that couldn’t be any further from the case. Expect the unexpected in 2020. Starting fast is going to be huge, and finding players who do so might be the difference between winning and losing a fantasy league.
Let’s examine players to target or avoid based on how they have fared in the beginning of past seasons.
Players to Target
Bryce Harper (OF – PHI): ECR #22
Harper, one of the seemingly more inconsistent stars in the MLB, consistently performs throughout March/April. With a career average of .298 and an average of 8 HR/season over the past 4 years during March/April, Harper is poised to have a great 60-game slate. Oddly enough, his K% has been significantly lower during March/April as compared to the rest of his season three of the last four seasons too. Combine all of that together, and Harper seems like he could make a run at the NL MVP in 2020.
Michael Brantley (OF – HOU): ECR #90
Brantley has come absolutely scorching out of the gate four of the last five seasons. In fact, Brantley has been a runs and RBI machine two of the last three seasons during March/April. Had he kept up his 30 game pace for 162 games last season, Brantley would have smacked 27 HR, had 91 R, 97 RBI, 16 SB, and hit for a .331 AVG. If he can maintain that pace for 60 games in 2020, Brantley could be a dark-horse candidate for the AL MVP.
Mike Clevinger (SP – CLE): ECR #29
The Cleveland Indian hurler has been a stud when he’s been on the field regardless. His starts in March/April have been Cy Young worthy though. In March/April, Clevinger has thrown 43.2 innings to the tune of a 1.85 ERA. The start to his 2019 was put on hold due to an injury, but what he did throw was scoreless. Bump Clevinger up a few spots this year.
Carlos Martinez (SP/RP – STL): ECR #197
3 of the last 4 seasons, Carlos Martinez has blossomed to begin the year, pitching to an ERA under 2.00 in March/April. Whether Martinez ultimately ends up being a starter or again assuming the closing role is yet to be seen, but either way he should produce plenty of value in 2020. Martinez seems like a player who could return top-100 value at a great late-round pick.
Players to Avoid
Mallex Smith (OF – SEA): ECR #175
This call is based more on Smith’s 2019 start than his career numbers, but he has really struggled out of the gate in 2 of the 3 seasons he’s received significant playing time. To be blunt, Smith belonged nowhere near the majors in the first-half of 2019 – he finally was sent down later in the season. In March/April, Smith hit a painful .165 from the dish. His first-half line wasn’t much better as he hit .238 during that stretch. Smith offers nothing as far as home runs or anything other than steals. Unless you’re desperate for steals, Smith is a major 2020 fade.
Matt Carpenter (3B – STL): ECR #286
Ah, what’s not enticing about a 34-year old who hasn’t hit above .243 in March/April for 5 years? You mean, you’re not chomping at the bit to draft Matt Carpenter? To be blunt, Carpenter should not be selected in any drafts regardless of format. Especially coming off of 2019 that saw Carpenter hit .226 and only pop 15 home runs, Carpenter should be squarely off of all draft boards.
Corey Kluber (SP – TEX): ECR #96
Maybe the Indians rid themselves of Corey Kluber because they knew COVID was going to be hit and the season would be shortened to 60 games. Ha. On a serious note, Kluber has been horrendous to begin the season nearly every year he’s pitched. Aside from 2013 and 2018, every single other year Kluber has registered an ERA above 4.00 during March/April. Yikes. After that, Kluber does seem to settle down, as shown by his career 3.35 first-half ERA. If you’re willing to risk a potential meltdown every time out for his first handful of starts, be my guest. Otherwise, steer clear of Kluber this season.
Zack Wheeler (SP – PHI): ECR #136
Already a bit of a gamble because of a baby due next month, Zack Wheeler is our final entry to the avoid list. Wheeler’s lowest ERA throughout March/April in his entire career is 3.99. Even more concerning? Wheeler’s first-half ERA’s the last 3 seasons are 4.86, 4.44, and 4.69 respectively. He’s going mind-blowingly high in drafts considering how poorly he has fared at the beginning of seasons throughout his career. Somehow, Wheeler is being selected 26 picks sooner than his ECR at 110th overall. At best, Wheeler should be selected 26 picks later than his ECR. Don’t be shocked to see Wheeler’s name on the waiver wire by the time September rolls around.
If you want to dive deeper into fantasy baseball, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Baseball Tools as you navigate your season. From our Lineup Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup, based on accurate consensus projections – to our Waiver Wire Assistant – that allows you to quickly see which available players will improve your team, and by how much – we’ve got you covered this fantasy baseball season.