As we all know the 2020 MLB season wasn’t exactly normal. Teams only played 60 games, which means we didn’t have as large of sample sizes as we’re used to for first half/second half splits. Still, things changed as the year played out. The below players are ones who had a big September in 2020, or in other words, a big second half.
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Joey Votto (1B – CIN)
On the surface, Votto’s 2020 season looks like a disaster. The 37-year-old future Hall-of-Famer hit just .226 with an even .800 OPS, continuing a downward trend in production ever since his MVP-caliber 2017 campaign. However, a closer looks at the numbers shows that he made an adjustment halfway through:
|Joey Votto 2020||Home Runs||OPS|
|First 25 games||3 HR||.647 OPS|
|Final 29 games||8 HR||.941 OPS|
Fantasy managers should take note of this because it wasn’t just a hot streak. After being benched for a few games in late-August, Votto changed his stance in the batter’s box, becoming more upright. He became less obsessed with controlling the strike zone and more willing to sell out for power, and obviously the results speak for themselves. He’s older and his best days are behind him, but don’t discount his usefulness in fantasy this year.
John Means (SP – BAL)
The 27-year-old southpaw is a popular breakout candidate this season, thanks to a strong finish to the 2020 campaign. Means’ fastball velocity increased two mph last summer, and this led to some fantastic results down the stretch. Over his final four starts Means posted a 30:3 K:BB ratio in 23 2/3 inning pitched. The swinging strike rate jumped, which combined with a 95th percentile walk rate, could lead to a big year in 2021.
Adalberto Mondesi (SS – KC)
Mondesi’s wild finish has already been well documented by yours truly. When it all comes together for a speedster like this, the fantasy ceiling can’t be matched. Mondesi ended 2020 as the hottest hitter in baseball, batting .376 with 16 stolen bases over the final three weeks. He finished with 24 total thefts, which was eight more than the second-place finisher Jonathan Villar. Mondesi’s second-half resurgence doesn’t necessarily mean he has put it all together moving forward, but it should serve as a reminder to his unmatched upside.
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Drew Smyly (SP – ATL)
Smyly has been a breakout candidate for so long that most fantasy managers have seemingly moved on. However, did you know that he led all starting pitchers in K/9 last year? (minimum five starts). Similar to Means, Smyly’s fastball velocity was up last year, and he parlayed that newfound life into an astonishing 14.4 K/9. The late-season breakout is reminiscent of Rich Hill half a decade ago, and he should be on your late-round radar heading into draft season.
Jared Walsh (1B – LAA)
The 27-year-old Walsh was a legitimate league winner down the stretch, smacking nine home runs over his final 20 games. A former 39th-round pick, Walsh has always had power, but he finally started making contact in his abbreviated cup of coffee last year. He cut hit strikeout rate from 40.2% in 2019 to a Jeff McNeil-esque 13.9% in 2020. Walsh doesn’t walk much so he needs to hit for power to matter in fantasy baseball. He appears to be the Halos’ Opening Day first baseman entering spring training.
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Brendan Tuma is a correspondent at FantasyPros. To read more from Brendan, check out his archive and follow him @toomuchtuma.