2020 Draft Recap: Round 2 (Fantasy Baseball)
To make good decisions about the future, you have to first look to the past. That is what we are doing in this post series, going back to the typical 2020 draft and reviewing each round to see how it played out. The first round was covered in this post.
Today we are on to the next ten players that made up the average 2020 second round in a ten-team league.
2.1 Trea Turner (SS – WSH)
The Nationals shortstop solidified himself as one of the most valuable fantasy hitters in the game, racking up a .335 batting average with 12 home runs and 12 steals. There has never been any doubt about his elite stolen base production, but 2020 really boosted confidence in him also hitting a good amount of home runs with it. Everything under the hood backs up Turner’s strong production, as he dropped his strikeout rate down to an elite 14% while continuing to hit the ball really hard as evidenced by his very high .521 expected wOBA. A batting average north of .330 might be a lofty expectation, but Turner seems like a true five-category guy with massive upside in steals and batting average.
2.2 Juan Soto (OF – WSH)
After a late start to the season, Soto ripped off one of the best fantasy lines we have ever seen. He hit .351/.490/.695 with 13 home runs (a 45 homer pace) and even stole six bases (a 21 steal pace). He dropped his strikeout rate to 14% and walked a ridiculous 21% of the time. It is really rare to find someone making this much contact and hitting the ball as hard as Soto does. He was among the league leaders in average exit velocity (92 miles per hour) and posted an insane .451 expected wOBA. Soto may just be the best hitter in the league and was an absolute steal in the second round last year.
2.3 Alex Bregman (3B/SS – HOU)
The Astros offense was a huge disappointment in 2020, and Bregman was a big part of that. He hit just .242 with six homers and 22 RBI with no steals. The walk rate came down significantly, but still stayed strong in context at 13%. That led to a fine .350 on-base percentage, but nothing about Bregman’s performance backed him up as a top twenty pick. The good news was that his contact rate stayed incredibly high (86.5%) and his swinging-strike rate didn’t budge (4.9%), so there was probably some bad luck involved here. That may make Bregman a strong value bat depending on how far he falls after his depressing 2020 season, but you cannot draft him with the same amount of confidence as you could a year ago.
2.4 Max Scherzer (SP – WSH)
Scherzer was one player who benefitted from the short 2020 season, as he was able to take the hill 12 times (a full season by 2020 standards). While his numbers were good (31.2% strikeout rate, 7.8% walk rate, 3.74 ERA), they were a far cry from what we’ve seen from Scherzer for the five years. The swinging-strike rate fell along with the strikeout rate, and he just did seem to have the same command we’ve come to expect. It is hard to take too much insight from the small sample, but there are some real signs of decline from Scherzer. He did not earn his second-round draft status in 2020, and at the age of 36 it is probably time to drop him out of the first two rounds.
2.5 Justin Verlander (SP – HOU)
There is not much to say about Verlander, injuries limited him to just six innings, and his fall Tommy John surgery has made him irrelevant for fantasy in 2021. You are always in murky territory drafting starting pitchers in their upper-thirties, and Verlander hit the worst-case scenario in 2020.
2.6 Freddie Freeman (1B – ATL)
Life was good once again for the Braves first baseman in 2020, as he maintained a hot streak the entire season, slashing .341/.462/.640 on his way to an MVP award. His elevated production was backed up by his surprising improvements in contact rate (up to 82%) and swinging-strike rate (down to 8.7%). Those changes helped him take his batting average from “very good” to “simply elite”, and he lost no power production because of it. Freeman paid off massively to those drafting him in the second round.
2.7 Walker Buehler (SP – LAD)
The Dodgers flamethrower was limited to just 36.2 innings in 2020 but performed great in those innings with a 3.44 ERA, a 0.95 WHIP, a 28.6% strikeout rate, and a 7.5% walk rate. He remained reliant on his four-seamer, throwing it over half the time, and that contributed to a career-high 1.72 HR/9 that bloated the ERA a bit. We should not read too much into anything that happens over a 36 inning sample, so Buehler remains a top-ten starter for 2021 despite an overall disappointing 2020 season.
2.8 Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS – SDP).
Tatis may have been the fantasy MVP for 2020, producing at a nearly unmatched level in home runs (17) and steals (11). He did all of that without hurting your team in batting average (.277) and posting a strong on-base percentage (.366) bolstered by a huge improvement in plate discipline (23.7% K%, 10.5% BB%). Tatis found himself on lots of championship teams in 2020, being the unquestioned best pick of the draft. Ronald Acuna Jr. is the only one who rivals his power and speed upside, and Tatis will probably be drafted right alongside him in 2021.
2.9 Jose Ramirez (3B – CLE)
While Tatis was the face of the 2020 season, Ramirez actually outperformed him. The Cleveland third baseman hit 17 homers, stole 10 bases, and still produced a strong batting average (.292) and an elite on-base percentage (.386). His strikeout rate did increase (to 16.9%), but his walk rate did the same (12.2%), and Ramirez maintained in swinging-strike rate (5.9%) and contact rate (85.7%). He was simply outstanding and fell past the second round in a lot of drafts after a 2019 season where he really struggled in the first half. Ramirez was one of the draft’s best picks and will see his draft value bumped up to the first round in 2021.
2.10 Anthony Rendon (3B – LAA)
Rendon was more “good” than “great” in his first year of a huge contract in Los Angeles. He failed to produce the .300 batting average we expected (.286), and his home run fell precipitously (nine homers in 52 games, a 28 homer pace). He remained one of the best on-base percentage options in the game (.418), but really let managers down in counting stats. With all of the breakouts that round two saw, Rendon was firmly a miss by those who drafted him.
Round two was the reverse of round one in that the hitters over-performed and the pitchers under-performed. Four of the most valuable fantasy players were drafted in this round, and they will all find themselves in the first round for 2021. This round also proved that aging pitchers cannot be trusted, as Verlander and Scherzer’s owners were massively disappointed in what they got from their aces. One lesson to be learned is that there is real value in shooting for upside in the early rounds. Turner, Soto, Tatis, and Ramirez all had massive upside with their ability to hit for power and steal bases, and that upside was realized in a big way.
Check back later as we will cover round three next!
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