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Fantasy Baseball News Roundup: James McCann, David Dahl, Carlos Santana, Jake Diekman

by Brendan Tuma | @toomuchtuma | Featured Writer
Dec 15, 2020

Slowly but surely the MLB offseason is picking up. We’ve had a number of noteworthy transactions since the big Lance Lynn trade from last week, so without further ado let’s get to them.

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James McCann (C – NYM) Lands In Queens

This isn’t the catcher we anticipated would land on the Mets this winter. Most people thought Steve Cohen’s arrival in Queens would net the organization JT Realmuto, potentially in addition to George Springer. While Springer now seems like their big offseason target, we know that Realmuto won’t be joining him.

That’s because over the weekend New York and 30-year-old James McCann agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract. He isn’t JTR, but that doesn’t make him an offensive afterthought. From 2015-18 McCann posted an 87.9 mph average exit velocity to go along with a .304 xwOBA. Over the past two seasons, he has registered a 90.2 mph average exit velocity and a .328 xwOBA. We’re living in the golden era of player development, which gives us more reasons to buy into mid-career breakouts.

The only issue with buying into McCann for 2021 fantasy purposes would be that we’re still dealing with a small sample size. 149 games to be exact. The .896 OPS performance in 2020 was limited to just 31 games. Through 50 NFBC drafts as of this writing, McCann is being taken as the 213th player overall. He is being selected behind fellow backstops such as Christian Vazquez, Austin Nola, and Daulton Varsho. The surprising four-year contract New York gave him makes it clear that he’ll be their everyday starter, though. Combine his projected playing time with last year’s big season, and you have a late-round catcher worth drafting.

David Dahl (OF – TEX) Finds A New Home

One of the most surprising non-tenders this offseason was 26-year-old David Dahl of the Rockies. Yes, it’s true that baseball pundits can’t mention Dahl’s name without also mentioning his lengthy injury history, and his reputation is backed up by facts. I’d personally be less concerned about Dahl’s “injury-prone” label if it was just one health issue that he was perennially dealing with. That isn’t the case as the former first-round pick has been marred by spleen, rib-cage, foot, ankle, and shoulder problems since his big league debut. Add it all up and his career-high in games played is an even 100. Oof.

Yet many fantasy analysts can’t seem to quit him. Dahl is just one season removed from an All-Star campaign in 2019 where he hit .302/.353/.524 with 15 homers and four steals in the aforementioned 100 games. Nobody can blame Colorado for their frustration with Dahl’s inability to stay on the field. The surprising aspect of his non-tender was that Dahl was projected to make around $3 million in arbitration this offseason, which isn’t a lot.

Nevertheless, Colorado’s loss has become the Texas Rangers’ gain as Dahl signed on to recoup that $3 million on a one-year contract. He isn’t as interesting for fantasy purposes away from Coors Field, but his perceived value has never been lower. As a very-late flier in early ’21 drafts, one could do worse than rolling the dice on Dahl’s talent with a change of scenery.

Carlos Santana (1B – KC) To Remain A Starter

Surprisingly, the Kansas City Royals have been one of the more active teams to begin the offseason. They signed SP Mike Minor and OF Michael A. Taylor early on, and now they supplement those additions by agreeing to a two-year deal with Carlos Santana that’ll pay him $17.5 million.

The first takeaway is that Santana will remain a starting first baseman, both in MLB and in fantasy leagues. That might seem obvious now, but he’ll be 35 in April and is coming off a sub-.700 OPS campaign. With how grim free agency has been for 1B/DH types in recent years, it wouldn’t have been surprising to see Santana have to settle for a part-time role.

That won’t be the case, however, as Santana will instantly slide into the “heart” of the Royals’ batting order. While 2020 was arguably the worst season of his career, Santana still showed some encouraging skills. This includes a truly elite 18.4% walk rate, which ranked in the 98th percentile of baseball. He posted a .311 wOBA but his xwOBA was right in line with his career norms at .360. When you walk as much as he does it raises your overall floor as a hitter. With some better luck on contact in 2021, Santana could once again post an OPS in the mid-.800s. As always, he’ll be more valuable in OBP/points leagues for fantasy.

Jake Diekman (RP – OAK) A Name To Know

The Oakland Athletics are never one to spend money on their closers. Liam Hendriks is fully expected to depart as a free agent, which led to GM David Frost recently declaring LHP Jake Diekman as the top internal candidate to take over the role next year.

The fit makes sense as the 33-year-old had a breakout 2020, allowing just one earned run in 21 1/3 innings (0.42 ERA). Fantasy managers who play in leagues that count holds might already know the name, as Diekman registered 13 of them this summer. He has the bat-missing skills to handle the ninth inning, as evidenced by his 31 strikeouts. This was backed up by a 98th percentile whiff rate. Diekman was tough to hit last year too, giving up just eight hits (one homer). The concern is that he struggled with control and allowed 12 free passes.

Ultimately, Diekman’s pitching profile is something we can work with, particularly as a late-round flier in fantasy leagues. His ADP will surely rise if the A’s continue to talk him up come draft season, but for now, he’s a name to know. I view him similarly to Reds RHP Lucas Sims, who is also on the late-round radar following the Raisel Iglesias trade. Diekman and Sims are end-of-draft relievers who could earn saves next season.

Other News:

*The White Sox signed Adam Eaton to a one-year, $7 million deal. His presence could mean that two of Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, and Luis Robert don’t hit atop the lineup.

*The Red Sox signed Hunter Renfroe to a one-year, $3.1 million deal. He has a fantastic track record against lefties and is a surprisingly adept corner outfielder. My early guess? He could wind up platooning with Andrew Benintendi.

*The Royals re-signed Greg Holland to a one-year, $2.75 million contract. Scott Barlow and Josh Staumont could eventually challenge him for ninth-inning duties, but Holland should enter spring training as the favorite for saves.

*The Phillies hired Dave Dombrowski to be their new president of baseball operations. As a Red Sox fan, I have a love/hate relationship with Dombrowski. We wouldn’t have the 2018 World Series title without him. He made the necessary, aggressive moves to get us over the hump. That being said, every decision he made following the last out of ’18 backfired, and his lack of foresight is what most directly led to the Mookie Betts trade. Dombrowski is certainly an “old school” baseball mind. He is at his best when he has prospects to deal and payroll to work with. It’s unclear if the Phillies have that right now.

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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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