2020 Draft Recap: Round 3 (Fantasy Baseball)
We are on to round three in our look back to the 2020 draft. So far, we have covered 20 players, reviewing how they performed for fantasy players in 2020. Check out the first two rounds at the below links.
3.1 Stephen Strasburg (SP – WAS)
It was sadly another lost season for Strasburg, as he threw just five innings before hitting the injured list for the remainder of the season with a hand injury. The Nationals are confident he will be ready for spring training in 2021, but he will certainly slide even further down draft boards given his inability to stay on the field.
3.2 J.D. Martinez (OF – BOS)
Another example of “guaranteed production” not actually being guaranteed. Martinez really struggled in 54 games, hitting just .213/.291/.389 with seven homers and 27 runs batted in. All the underlying metrics followed those numbers in their descent, as Martinez struck out in 24.9% of his plate appearances while seeing his hard-hit rate drop substantially to 35.7%. It was a very frustrating year for the then 32-year-old, but I don’t think it’s reason enough to abandon hopes for his 2021 season. While the batting average might not return to .300 again, he could be a nice 2021 value pick given his bad performance in the tiny sample.
3.3 Jack Flaherty (SP – STL)
Every player had a non-standard 2020 season, but Flaherty may have had the goofiest. After starting on Opening Day for the Cardinals, he went nearly a month without making another start due to injury and a COVID outbreak on the team. That led to just 40.1 innings for Flaherty. He gave up 41% of his earned runs in one start, bloating his ERA to 4.91. His strikeout rate stayed high (28.8%), and the ground-ball rate came up (42.6%), so there is no fair reason for pessimism in the 2021 season despite his admittedly disappointing 2020. He may fall too far in your draft because of these oddities, and you should be ready to take advantage if that happens.
3.4 Rafael Devers (3B – BOS)
Add Devers to the list of Red Sox players who disappointed in 2020. He produced an underwhelming .263/.310/.483 slash line, but maintained a nice pace in the counting stats (32 runs, 11 homers, 43 RBIs in 57 games). The campaign contained some concerning trends, as his strikeout rate ballooned up (from 17% to 27%) while his contact rate plummeted (from 78% to 70.5%). He has never taken many walks, so that high strikeout rating sticking around could be awful news for his fantasy stock in 2021. Devers has been one of the tougher players to project to this point in his career, which certainly isn’t changing in this new year.
3.5 Bryce Harper (OF – WAS)
It was a shame to see Harper’s 2020 campaign end because he was doing some exciting things. He pounded 13 homers in 58 games while posting a sky-high .420 on-base percentage. The most exciting part might have been his increased steal rate. Harper swiped eight bases in the short season, a much higher rate than we had seen from him in recent years. The Phillies outfielder reminded everybody that he is still one of the best hitters in the game, and his fantasy ceiling would make him a steal if he falls to the third round again in 2021.
3.6 Pete Alonso (1B – NYM)
Most sharp fantasy players anticipated a significant decline for Alonso after his 53-homer rookie campaign, but I don’t think many envisioned a .231 batting average and .326 on-base percentage. He did still get his share of homers (16 in 57 games), but it appears that he will be mainly a homer and RBI option at first base moving forward with his high strikeout rate (26%). The bad taste he left in the mouths of fantasy managers may result in him falling too far down, so he could be a nice guy to grab in the middle rounds at a shallow position. Expectations for Alonso should remain tempered.
3.7 Shane Bieber (SP – WAS)
Bieber was undoubtedly the fantasy MVP on the pitching side, posting an SP1 performance as a third-round pick (at best) last year. He will certainly find himself in the first round of a lot of 2021 drafts after his awe-inspiring 1.63 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, and 41% strikeout rate. While he will likely never achieve those results again (the randomness of a 77-inning sample certainly helped), he has firmly established himself as a top-five starter moving forward.
3.8 Gleyber Torres (2B/SS – NYY)
The Yankees’ middle infielder missed a good chunk of the season, playing just 42 games. He struggled to produce much of anything in the games he did play in, hitting just three homers with a career-worst .243/.356/.368 triple-slash line. It is much more logical to attribute the down year to the short sample and the injury issues. Torres can be relied on to produce lots of power numbers and counting stats in the middle of that Yankees lineup in 2021.
3.9 Starling Marte (OF – ARI)
A mid-season trade put him in a Marlins uniform for half the year, but things were pretty normal otherwise for Marte. He continued to be a plus in batting average (.281) and steals (10 in 61 games) without providing a ton of power (six homers). Marte has been a consistent fantasy player over his career, so at the age of 33, you probably know what you’ll get in 2021.
3.10 José Altuve (2B – HOU)
It was by far the worst season of Altuve’s career, as he hit just .219 with five homers and two steals in his 48 games. He was not worth rostering in 2020, which gives us real concerns for his 2021 campaign. There is likely someone in your league that will buy into the name-value too much, and you can feel very confident that he will never steal bases at a high rate again. While the batting average and power numbers could return, there is not much reason to be excited about Altuve anymore.
Overall this was a really disappointing round, which puts two of the first three rounds into that category. Bieber and Harper returned loads of value, and Marte gave you what you expected. Everybody else, however, caused all kinds of problems. The one common thread is that they might be great buys in 2021, given how far they will fall.
There is no reason to believe Flaherty and Strasburg won’t be great pitchers when on the hill, and they are sure to be drafted later this year than last. Alonso and Torres should also provide big boosts in power numbers, and you may not even have to use a top-50 pick to get them. This was an overall disappointing round for 2020, but it’s full of players I am interested in for 2021.
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