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What You Missed During Football Season (Fantasy Baseball 2020)

What You Missed During Football Season (Fantasy Baseball 2020)

If baseball fandom had its own Statcast page then I would consider myself to be in the 100th percentile, which is the equivalent of possessing James Karinchak’s strikeout rate. Whether it’s perusing fantasy articles throughout the summer, continuously watching classic MLB games on YouTube, or studying minor league stats during the offseason, I can’t get enough.

If you’re like me, though, then you also love the NFL. It admittedly gets tougher to follow baseball on a day-to-day level come September. The energy of a new football season is like no other and it’s easy to fall out of touch with baseball once the shine has mostly faded. So if you want a refresher on some things you missed in September (or if you just like reading fantasy baseball content anyways), then this article is for you.

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Storyline No. 1 – Marcell Ozuna (OF – ATL) Nearly Wins The Triple Crown
Marcell Ozuna underperformed his expected stats in both 2018 and 2019. The question heading into 2020, then, was is this who Ozuna is, or should we finally expect the breakout his Statcast numbers were indicating? Clearly, it was the latter.

2018 .327 .363
2019 .336 .387
2020 .437 .417

As evidenced by the table above, not only did Ozuna experience some positive regression, but he took his batting skills to another level this year. He finished within the 96th percentile or higher in average exit velocity, hard-hit rate, xBA, xSLG, WOBA, and xWOBA. The 29-year-old closed the regular season on an eight-game hitting streak to finish with a .338 average, 18 homers, and 56 RBI. This performance was overshadowed since a lot of the production came towards the end of September, but Ozuna nearly had himself a triple crown campaign this summer.

The fantasy industry has certainly taken notice. According to Justin Mason’s nine “2 Early Mocks” Ozuna had an average draft position of 37.4, which makes him a cornerstone bat of any 2021 fantasy team. For comparison, he had an ADP of 99.1 in 203 NFBC drafts during the month of July.

Ozuna had to settle for a one-year, $18 million contract with the Braves this past offseason but it’s clear that a multi-year deal is coming his way soon and it’ll be interesting to see how aggressively Atlanta tries to bring him back. They’ve had some success with one-year rentals in recent years, both with Ozuna and Josh Donaldson the season prior. Remaining with the Braves and hitting behind Ronald Acuna and Freddie Freeman is probably best for Ozuna’s fantasy value. The Red Sox are another potential landing spot that would be a nice fit too.

Storyline No. 2 – Adalberto Mondesi (SS – KC) Finishes As The Hottest Hitter In Baseball
With so many fantasy players shifting towards rotisserie leagues for the truncated 2020 season I was pretty high on recommending Mondesi entering July drafts. If you missed out on Trea Turner in the first round there just weren’t any other reliable steals sources who wouldn’t completely tank the rest of your offensive production. Through September 3rd it was looking like a terrible call by me.

Plate Appearances Batting Average wRC+ Steals
July 24 – Sep 3 140 .179 15 8
Sep 4 – Sep 27 93 .376 202 16

Then, suddenly, it looked like a great call! Mondesi produced enough during the final three weeks of the year to pay off his preseason ADP, and he wound up leading baseball in stolen bases with 24. We won’t know what could’ve been had the season not suddenly ended, as perhaps Mondesi was going to remain on this heater for a while longer and become an even more valuable fantasy stud.

However, as I outlined in this recent article, Mondesi is a “sell” candidate in dynasty leagues right now. His underlying numbers just leave so much to be desired, highlighted by an xwOBA that ranks in the bottom 4th percentile of MLB. Plus, Mondesi hit .256 for the year despite posting an expected average of .208. Sure, he’s the type of speedster to outproduce a peripheral stat like xBA, but that still doesn’t make his overall hitting profile worth buying into.

Ultimately, Mondesi displayed his league-winning upside down the stretch this year, and it’s important to remember that he has this type of fantasy ceiling within his range out outcomes come 2021 draft season. It’s up to you if you’re willing to take on the risk-reward combo.

Storyline No. 3 – Luis Robert (OF – CWS) Falls Off A Cliff
No, Luis Robert didn’t actually fall off a cliff. No matter how plugged into the NFL you became I promise that you still would’ve heard of that. However, if you did stop following baseball at the end of August, then you’d be disappointed to hear how Robert finished. The tantalizing outfielder likely played his way out of the American League Rookie of the Year award, hitting a putrid .136/.237/.173 in the month of September.

What’s funny about Robert’s rookie season is that he turned out to be exactly as advertised- an electrifying combination of power, speed, and defensive instincts. The concerns over his game had everything to do with plate discipline. Let’s take a look at his Baseball Savant page, shall we?

This tells the whole story. Robert’s barrel rate shows that when he makes contact, he often crushes the ball. However, he swings and misses as much as any other player in baseball (bottom 2% whiff rate). Robert jumped out to a hot start because he was doing damage on pitches in the strike zone. As pitchers began adjusting by pitching around him and throwing sliders away, Robert kept swinging – and missing.

There’s so much upside in Robert’s profile that it would be foolish to count him out. If anything, the September collapse could make him an intriguing value in 2021 fantasy drafts. It’s clear that he needs to be more selective, however. It’ll be important to monitor any offseason news about a possible change in approach for the 23-year-old.

Storyline No. 4 – 2020 Draft Pick Garrett Crochet (P – CWS) Debuts With White Sox
The Chicago White Sox drafted LHP Garrett Crochet with the 11th overall pick on June 10th, 2020. By September 18th he had become the first player since 2010 (Mike Leake) to go straight from the MLB draft to the big leagues. Of course, this was primarily due to the coronavirus pandemic interfering with Minor League Baseball this summer, but it was an interesting feat nonetheless.

Boy, Crochet made Chicago look smart for this aggressive promotion, tossing six scoreless innings and striking out eight of the 22 batters he faced in the regular season. With an eye on making a deep run in their first postseason appearance since 2008, the White Sox correctly identified the Tennessee alum as one of their best weapons out of the bullpen come postseason play.

Unfortunately, Crochet wound up exiting Game 3 of the team’s Wild Card Series against the A’s with what was originally called “forearm tightness.” We got good news this past week, however, as the 21-year-old was diagnosed with a flexor strain in his left forearm. This means that the UCL in his left elbow is intact.

So assuming full health, how should fantasy players view this overnight sensation heading into 2021?

“What is the best path to getting him to fulfilling that ceiling as a starter? We’ll have to talk that through,” White Sox GM Rick Hahn said in mid-October. “We view him as an impactful starter, but we certainly can’t ignore what he looked like when he was coming out of the bullpen, either.”

Basically, we’ll have to track how Chicago plans to utilize the talented young southpaw throughout the winter. We’ll know a lot more come March, but in the meantime make sure to stay glued to the MLB News Desk for the latest updates.

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Brendan Tuma is a correspondent at FantasyPros. To read more from Brendan, check out his archive and follow him @toomuchtuma.

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