Top 26-50 Player Analysis
Updated: Jul 15, 2020
**Latest updates in green
26. Shane Bieber SP Shane Bieber’s minor league ERA hovered around 1.50 his last couple of years in triple A and double A, so when he came up to the big leagues in 2018, and posted a 4.55 ERA, the results were somewhat surprising. A closer look at his peripherals however, painted a different picture, and sure enough in 2019, he didn't disappoint. A first half performance that garnered Cy Young discussion, Bieber finished the season with a 6.5 k to walk ratio, a 1.05 WHIP and a 5.6 WAR (wins above replacement). His pin point control of the fastball to go along with his identical looking slider release, allowed him to stay consistent and fill in as ace of the staff when so many other Cleveland pitchers went down with injury. He does give up the long ball a bit, especially when he hangs one of his two other offerings, but I look for a similar performance and this time it won’t be as surprising.
27. Yordan Alvarez OF Alvarez couldn’t hit against the Yankees in the playoffs, he also battled some knee injuries in the Spring, so many owners are a bit wary drafting him so high in 2020. But let me be clear, I am over paying for this guy, and I believe he’s an immediate MVP candidate. He may have been exposed for a minute against the Yankees in the ALCS, but when he made the adjustment going into the World Series, the Nationals and all their Cy Young candidates were not able to get him out. Anyone can have a bad series. Think of it as just a blip on the radar over his ridiculous ROY campaign. He hits everything and does not need trash cans or buzzers to do so. If the knees aren’t a continual problem, I would feel comfortable taking him at the beginning of the third round. There's no speed here, but he’s that good and will demolish the other 4 categories. Think of him as Albert Pujols 2.0.
**Update: Alvarez is not in Astros camp, likely due to the Coronavirus. Nothing has been confirmed however, but the speculation alone is enough to move him down a few slots. Luckily it's early enough that he should be able to return in time for the beginning of the regular season, but nothing is for sure. 28. Stephen Strasburg SP
There’s not much to say about Stephen Strasburg that hasn’t been said already. He’s got some of the best stuff in the major leagues, but occasionally does have the unexplainable stinker. Injuries have plagued him most of his career so there is risk, but what pitcher these days doesn’t come with some risk. He was outstanding in the playoffs, especially in the World Series where he looked downright unhittable. As far as his stats go, there’s no doubting the k’s, but will he be able to repeat 200+ innings, something he has done only one other time in his 10 year career. It’ll be especially difficult after throwing an extra 36 1/3 innings in the playoffs, for a total of almost 250 innings. As dominant as he was winning the WS MVP award, Strasburg has pitched to a sub 3.00 ERA only once since his rookie season (not counting the 5 game season he had in 2011). He also gives up his fair share of home runs. For these reasons I’m taking Bieber and Flaherty before him, but he could very easily out perform both. He got his big contract and if he holds up, he could be in the discussion for the Cy Young this season. Draft him with conference in the third round.
29. Javy Baez SS
Javy Baez is a beast. He continues to defy his metrics and even though his 2019 season was shortened by injury, he still produced well in all 5 categories. Baez may be one of the few exceptions where it doesn't matter what his metrics show. If he continues to "get lucky," so be it. Against what most expert will tell you, I'm buying that the flashy shortstop will continue to improve, if he can stay healthy and will provide great value, even in round 3.
30. Xander Bogaerts SS
Xander Bogaerts continues to improve every year. He’s been in the league so long, we forget he’s only 27 years old,(typically, a prime year for hitters). After an injury scare early in spring, he’s labeled as 100% good to go whenever the season starts. The lineup lost Mookie Betts, but he’ll still have Rafael Devers and JD Martinez likely batting in front of him. The durable Bogaerts should go for another .300, 30 home run, 100 RBI season and could end the year as a top-five shortstop. Draft him in the third round. 31. Gleyber Torres 2B/SS While many of his teammates fell to injury, Torres was the mainstay (along with DJ LeMahieu) that kept the Yankees lineup going. The 23 year old Venezuelan had an incredible sophomore season where he crushed 38 home runs, knocked in 90 RBI and scored 96 times, producing a 4.2 oWAR (offensive wins above replacement). Even more noteworthy was that he accomplished all this while hitting a .296 BABIP (batting average on balls in play), which is slightly below league average. Returning to the mean with a few more balls dropping in for hits, it's not that far fetched to believe he could improve his overall numbers and his BA could increase up near the .290 range, although, that may prove difficult if the leagues do form larger divisions this year (because of the shortened season). Larger divisions mean less games against Baltimore and while it's no knock against Torres, if you take away the games he played vs. the Orioles, he assembled 74 R's, 25 HR's, 70 RBI and a .262 BA over 480 AB's. It's not like the Orioles are going away any time soon, but less games against his favorite opponent could slightly reduce his numbers. It won't make much of a difference, but it did lead to a few cold spells in between series with the O's. The (as of now) healthy lineup around Torres this season could offset any reduced production he may experience anyway. Expect the two time all star to continue to progress and turn in another All-Star caliber season, one worth selecting in the third round of the draft.
32. Pete Alonso 1B The few owners who had the foresight to draft Alonso last year (including yours truly, but then I flipped him for two above average closers. Doh!) likely found themselves in the winners circle at season's end. He’s the prototypical, late round prospect/sleeper that has enormous upside. Every year there are at least a couple of these guys who supply incredible dividends, and 2019 proved to be no different. As far as the sophomore follow up season goes, there’s usually some regression as pitchers know what they’re up against. The 42% hard hit rate and his .323 ISO (Isolated power) were on par with his AAA numbers, so he may not regress that much. His BABIP was .280 and he K’s about a quarter of the time, so don’t look for much increase in average of any. He’s practically a lock for 40 home runs though, with 100+ RBI and around 100 runs scored. He’s basically Giancarlo Stanton at first base, IF Stanton could stay healthy for the whole year. Even with slight regression, Alonso is worth a third round draft pick, going somewhere around 30th to 35th overall.
33. Ketel Marte 2B/SS/OF Marte, left undrafted in most leagues, ended last season as the top second baseman in fantasy points leagues. Seemingly coming out of nowhere, anyone shrewd enough to grab him off the wire in the early few weeks of the season, ended up with a 7.2 WAR position player who finished 4th in the MVP balloting. There were signs he would progress, but nothing to the extent that he did. So how did he do it? First off, it has to be mentioned that the Dbacks moved him all around the diamond (leading to nice position eligibility) and put him in 6 different lineup spots, which seemed to not effect him at all. While his defense may not have been stellar, his bat kept on producing no matter where or when he played, and mashed whatever opposing pitchers threw at him. (Positive marks against all types of pitches.) Looking closely at Marte's 2018 and 2019 seasons reveal some similarities, but the abundance of improvements is astounding. While his walk and K rates didn't change much, his loft angle expanded, his timing got vastly better, and his bat speed sped up rather significantly. The quicker bat led to an extensive number of fastballs being crushed (went from a .461 SLG in 2018, to a .633 SLG in 2019) and an overall hard hit rate increase of over 6%. The switch hitting Marte has always made good contact as well, especially on swings in the zone illustrated by his better than 90% contact rate. The .342 BABIP isn't a total surprise and can easily be explained by his ability to hit well to all parts of the field, and by his above average speed, which allows him to leg out a few infield hits. His line drives go from gap to gap and when he does hit the ball in the air, he tends to pull it where it goes a long way. He had more power on the road, hit even better when the defense put the shift on, and hit a robust .315 BA in high leverage situations. So basically, nothing bothered this guy! Pitchers just couldn’t figure out a way to stop him. Even after a full year of near MVP type numbers and teams having a full scrounging report on him, he still hit for a .390 BA in Sept/Oct! His xOBA (expected on base average) for the season was a ridiculous .405 and his wRC+ (weighted runs created) was 150 (50% above average). The Dbacks added Starling Marte (no relation) to likely bat in front of Ketel and if the Marte’s can stay healthy they may have one of the best 1-2 combos in the league. He’ll be 26 this season and I see little reason to doubt the major strides Ketel Marte has taken to improve his game. Even if his BABIP goes down and if his hard hit rate isn’t off the charts, he should still produce a .300+ AVG., close to 30 home runs, 100/100 RBI/R’s, and around 10 steals. Ignore they nay-sayers and draft him in the third round, as high as 30th. 34. Charlie Blackmon OF Year after year Blackmon continues to be an elite hitter and although stolen bases are no longer a part of his game, he still contributes heavily in the other 4 categories. Long gone are the days Blackmon couldn't hit left handed pitching, as his OPS was an identical .940 against both righties and lefties, but his home/road splits like many of is teammates, are still extreme. His .731 OPS on the road is near league average, while the 1.174 OPS at home are basically MVP type numbers. He did slow down a bit during the second half of last season, which could be cause for alarm considering his age (he's almost 34), but it could very well be due to the back injury he dealt with. Rumored to bat third this year in the stacked Rockies lineup, a healthy Blackmon, who could be given days off to DH this season (if that rule does come into play), should reproduce another fine .300+, close to 30 HR, 100/100 season. As long as he still gets to play half his games at Coors, he's worth drafting in the late third round.
* Update: It has been reported that Charlie Blackmon has tested positive for the Coronavirus. No word on whether he will be able to start the season on time or when he'll be able to return. If drafting soon, it's better to err on the side of caution and move Blackmon down at least a few spots, possibly more until more is known. ** Newest update: Rockies manager Bud Black reports Blackmon will have plenty of time to prepare for his job as Colorado’s starting right fielder before the season starts on July 23 or 24. Nothing's for certain, but you may not have to move him down after all. There's of course the risk of the after effects, but I'd still take him in the 4th round, probably behind Meadows and Springer.
** Update: Blackmon has returned to camp with 10 remaining before the regular season starts. He may be a bit sluggish to begin, but after experiencing only mild symptoms for only a day and a half as he claims, I expect his normal output in no time. 35. Austin Meadows OF
Meadows was one of the few players to have above average marks on every type of pitch thrown to him in 2019. He hits lefty’s very well (even though he bats left handed) and shows plenty of pop to all parts of the field. Still only 24 years old and continuing to develop, now fully healthy the toolsy outfielder should improve upon last year's totals that were limited by injury. Meadows produced a 83 R, 33 HR, 89 RBI, 12 SB, .291 BA stat line with a 143 OPS+, .380 xOBA and 142 wRC over a total of 138 games. (All very impressive numbers.) He also doesn’t chase pitches out of the zone often, will continue to bat near the top of an improved Rays lineup, and should continue to steal 10 to 15 bags. He has shown a tendency to get hurt during his short career and the Rays do tend to platoon a lot, but Meadows is their best hitter, so look for him to be starting at least 145-150 games as long as he stays healthy. Draft him in the early 4th round.
**Update: Meadows has been absent from camp for almost a week after being present for the early portion of it. With the season only 10 days away, it's time to start moving him down a bit in the rankings. (I've swapped him with Springer at the moment and will move him down further if he continues to miss.) His teammate Tyler Glasnow recently returned after suffering only mild symptoms, lets hope for a similar outcome for Meadows. 36. George Springer OF George Springer produced the 6th highest WAR among position players in the AL last year, despite playing only 3/4's of the season. Besides supplying great defense, and well above speed on the base paths, Springer hit a ton of home runs, averaging one every 14.25 plate appearances. To put that into context, if Springer had played all 162 games (he totaled 122 because of injury), he would have ended up with 51 HR's to go along with 127 RBI and 127 runs scored. That is of course if he kept up that pace, which he most likely wouldn't have with the laws of baseball eventually evening things out. He did however, hit fairly consistently throughout the months he was able to play, and actually finished with a season high 10 home runs in September. His home/road splits were nearly identical and his vs righty/lefty production wasn't that far apart either. He will continue to strike out a lot limiting his batting average, and you have to expect at least one trip to the IL over the full season, but if he can continue to hit well on the road (something that gave him trouble in the past), and the Astros did indeed not cheat last year, Springer could blow by his adp and perform like a top 10 hitter.
37. Jose Altuve 2B Jose Altuve is another Astro I’ve moved down in the rankings. There’s just no way of knowing how greatly the sign stealing scandal really helped these guys, and how much they will regress without it. On one hand, they won’t have the added advantage anymore, so they should obviously decline. While on the other hand, these players are extremely gifted and are no doubt going to be working twice as hard this season, just to prove to everyone that it was skill and not an unfair advantage that led to the increased production. The home/road splits in the playoffs were off the charts, but during the regular season, the Astros performed just as well on the road as they did at home. Altuve, while he did perform better at home last year, during the previous season it was actually the opposite. Overall, it’s gonna be a tough season for Houston everywhere they go regardless. Media, fans and opposing pitchers aren’t going be too kind no matter what the league concluded. That said, I still believe they’ll put up great numbers and be a team to be reckoned with, I just expect the stats to take a slight dip. In Altuve's case, he’s always shown the ability to hit everything, even when he’s fooled. It's just been over the last couple of years, especially the ones in question, that the 6 time All Star really started to develop his power. Was that a product of sign stealing or just a great hitter increasing his launch angle and barreling the ball? The metrics did improve, but again, that could just be because of the unfair advantage. I did read a report a while back stating that Altuve had one of the fewest number of at bats on the team with recorded trash can bangs. Do what you will with that information, but in my mind, if they won a World Series doing something illegal and didn't get caught, why would they suddenly stop the following year? With an entire offseason to come up with something much more discreet than a bang on a trash can, I'm not convinced the Astros didn't utilize some other form of communication to alert their hitters what pitch was coming (at least on occasion). (I'm also of the school of thought that many other teams were doing this, but the Astros and Red Sox (and now the Yankees) were the only ones to get caught, but that's something to be discussed at another time.) The most suspect of events came in the ALCS when Altuve hit the highly debated walk-off home run off of Aroldis Chapman and then yelled at his teammates not to rip his jersey off. Altuve's batting average should still be high, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it capped near or just above .300. He’s been hurt multiple times the last couple of seasons, so he may not run as much either. With the tough season ahead, the injury risk, and the few question marks surrounding his game, I see Altuve as a late 3rd, early 4th round pick. He's still capable of being great, there's just some added risk here that hasn't been present in the past. 38. Ozzie Albies 2B Ozzie Albies led the National League in hits last year at only 22 years old. Already entering his fourth major league season, Albies has a chance to further improve upon his impressive production. He hit a reasonable .325 BABIP last year, to go along with a 42% hard hit rate (an 8% improvement from 2018), and a 16% K rate. With these numbers alone, Albies could have easily reached a .300 BA (he hit .295). If he were merely to repeat his production, a .300 BA, 25 HR, and 15 SB, along with his fantastic run production, would certainly warrant a 4th round selection. And at such a young age, you have to think those numbers could easily improve. Sandwiched between two of MLB‘s best hitters in Acuna and Freeman, Albies is in a prime spot to produce like a top 30 player. His hitting against right handed pitching vastly improved last season and there's no reason to think he'll regress. I look for more of the same in 2020 from the home grown, Atlanta second baseman. 39. Mike Clevenger SP
Mike Clevinger has quietly become one of the best pitchers in baseball. His biggest flaw is simply staying on the field. Over the last 3 years Clevenger (if he qualified), ranks 8th in ERA+ and 9th in K/9 and his FIP (fielding independent pitching) last year was 2.49, even lower than his ERA. He also doesn't give up home runs and induces weak contact an impressive 20% of the time. Armed with a high 90's Fastball and a wicked slider, his lanky frame and arm angle allow him to the hide the ball consistently, making batters look foolish. He’s gotten better every year and when he’s back on the field this season, hopefully only missing about a month, if he can finally stay healthy, he’ll put up ace type numbers. *Update: With the delay to the season, he's now fully healthy.
I actually like Clevenger better than Flaherty and Beiber, but those guys don't have the durability problems Clevenger has. With the delay however and the shortened season, that may not matter. I've moved the fully recovered Clevenger up to 40th overall where he should still be available, above Kershaw, Corbin, Snell, and Morton. His stuff is lights out, the division is weak, and if he can stay healthy, he should perform like a top 10 SP in fantasy leagues.
40. Adelberto Mondesi SS
Mondesi could be one of the best players in fantasy baseball, but with his hard nosed style of play, he's had a tough time staying on the field. Mondesi has never played more than 113 games in a season, dating back to 2014 when he was 18 years old, playing in single A. Flying around the field, as exciting as it is, has led to multiple injuries including labrum surgery this offseason. He didn't play at all in the spring and even though reports say he'll be ready to go for Spring Training 2.0, there's no telling just how close he'll be to 100% until he returns to the field. If he has indeed fully recovered, in a shortened 60 game season, Mondesi could be an absolute steal. 55-60 games shouldn't be too much to ask for from the young switch hitter, and if he's able to comply, Mondesi could very well lead the league in stolen bases. Especially in a season where wins are so much more valuable (each win will be equivalent to almost 3 in seasons past), teams will most likely be running more, trying to squeeze out wins anyway they can. It may take him a while to get his timing and strength back, but as they say, speed doesn't slump and 2 or 3 steals a week are a real possibility. Even though Mike Matheny is the new manager in KC, (considerably more conservative than Ned Yost), I'd be extremely surprised to see him put the red light on Mondesi's running, especially in the shortened season. If you're lucky enough to land the dynamic shortstop, you really don't have to worry much about stolen bases the rest of the draft. Pair him with a couple of 20/20 guys (7/7 for the shortened season) and you've earned yourself top marks in the SB category. His BA won't help much, but the upside is enormous and the speed is second to none. If he wasn't coming off that grizzly injury, I’d consider taking him over Albies and Altuve for the 2020, shortened season. 41. Clayton Kershaw SP Kershaw has battled back injuries the last couple of years and has become more and more of a question mark every season. Not so much his performance, but how long he'll last before hitting the IL. (Has only pitched 30 games once in the last 7 years). When he’s on the mound however, he's still very good, especially during the regular season and with this season only lasting 60 games, Clayton has a good chance of hopefully not missing any games. The K's are down a bit, as is his velocity, but he still mixes his pitches very well and is unhittable when at his best. The offense is going to score a ton of runs and ideally the bullpen won’t blow as many wins for him this year. The Dodgers future Hall of Famer is still a dominant force to be reckoned with, feel good about selecting him in the 4th round, just hope he did his back stretches in the offseason. 42. Patrick Corbin SP Corbin before Kershaw? It's close, but I'm not ready to make the change. He’s definitely shown resilience to injury the last 4 years. Also his K-rate is much higher, thanks to one of the best sliders (slurve?) in the game. The offense lost Rendon, but they should still put up a decent amount of runs. The bullpen thankfully got better, (no pen blew more wins in the first half last season than the Nationals), which has to be a welcome sight for all the Washington starters. Kershaw is an annual injury risk so I wouldn’t fault you taking the younger Corbin before the perennial Dodgers ace, but in the shortened season, I'm taking Kershaw. Corbin is still a very good number two, even border line number one SP in fantasy leagues though. Draft him in the 4th round. 43. Keston Hiura 2B Keston Hiura could end up the steal of the draft in 2020. In a little more than half a season last year he produced a .388 wOBA and a 139 wRC+, translating to a near 1.000 OPS. The #9 overall pick in the 2017 draft, Huira hits for power, average, and even steals some bags. If you combine his AAA stats last season with his major league ones, Hiura ended up with 38 home runs, 16 stolen bases and a well over .300 batting average. His numbers were on par with his minor-league career, including this year's Arizona Fall League, and he even hit three home runs and batted .360 in early Spring Training. So even with last seasons .402 BABIP, I see a player who constantly produces at that level and has proven he can continue at that pace or close to it. (Similar to Javy Baez.) Obviously, he's only done it for half a season, but all throughout his baseball career he's done the same. Everyone's other favorite knock on him, besides the "lucky" BABIP, are the strikeouts, which I agree were high, but he also hit lefties at a .240 clip, with a surprisingly low .360 slugging. Even if he continues to strike out 30% of the time, I expect his performance against lefties to vastly improve since he’s a right handed hitter, who's always hit lefties well. A righty who in his rookie season had a .322 BA against right handed pitching, with a whopping 1.021 OPS!? I’ll take that any day. He is the ideal size to hit for power and speed and I expect him to continue to improve. The only slight worry besides the strikeouts is his lack of defense last year. This may put more of a focus on preparing his defensive abilities for the season, which could result in a reduction in his hitting preparedness, but I highly highly doubt it. He has a beautiful swing, has mashed at every level, and will almost assuredly continue to do so. Hiura's going around 48th in drafts this season, I'm taking him a little earlier around 43rd. He’s one of the guys I'm targeting this year, especially at his draft value, grab the 5 tool second baseman and don't look back. 44. Charlie Morton SP Charlie Morton put together his finest season last year in Tampa Bay at the age of 35. Just one look at his Statcast sheet and it's no wonder he finished 2019 as a top 10 pitcher. His barrels hit, K rate, and xwOBA (expected on base) were near the 90th percentile in the league. His expected ERA and opponents SLG were both above the 90th percentile. His absolutely devastating curveball had a spin rate in the 93rd percentile, leading to a ridiculous 38% whiff rate, a .151 BA and a .163 xBA (expected batting average)! He kept up the impressive pace all season long, continuing his trend of improved production for the 5th consecutive year. He comes with a slight bit of injury risk due to his age and past, but if he stays healthy, there's little reason to think he's going to slow down. Armed with one of the nastiest curveballs in the game and a fastball that he loves to pitch up in the zone, that can reach the upper to mid 90's, look for Morton to put up similar numbers in what he says will be his final season (which could change now). With the Rays strongly in the hunt for the playoffs, expect Morton to give one final All-Star type year, posting ace type stats, worthy of a 4th round draft pick. One final note: I went back and forth between Snell and Morton, but in the end, I went with the reliability over the upside. Also, the shortened season, I believe favors Morton. 45. Blake Snell SP The Cy Young award winner from two years ago, astonished the American League with absurd pitching numbers in 2018 that were sure to regress, but it was primarily bad luck and the injury to his elbow that caused his 2019 decline. He was still able to put up decent numbers and actually increased his K rate to an impressive 12.4/9, but his BABIP went from .241 to .343 and his strand rate increased from a stellar 88% in 2018, to a league average 71.5% in 2019. Despite giving up a nearly identical hard hit rate, walk rate, and throwing at nearly the same velocity, his ERA increased a whopping 2.40 runs and his WHIP shot up .30 points. Even more surprising, he actually increased his swinging strike rate 2.6% and slightly increased his weak contact rate. While his FIP further confirms that Snell's bad ERA and WHIP (by his standards) were due in part to bad luck, he did give up more fly balls, which resulted in more home runs. So basically he was the same pitcher in 2019 as he was in 2018, except he wasn't as good in the clutch, he gave up more homers (like everyone else), and got a little unlucky. He was wild in his first couple of games back in Spring Training, but that is to be expected returning from the injury. With all the time to rehab and build his arm strength back, look for things to go a little more Snell's way this season, ending the year with numbers somewhere in between the two contrasting seasons. The Rays are really good and are going to win a lot of games, many of them on the back of their young ace lefty. Draft Snell in the fourth round with upside that could easily place him in the top 10 SP's before the season is over. 46. Luis Castillo SP In the first half of 2019, Castillo dominated. He did walk a batter every 2 innings, but limited hitters to an extremely low .169 BA with a .276 SLG! In the second half the effectively wild act wore off and he was forced to come in the zone more often. He lowered his free passes to less than 3 per 9, but opposing batters honed in and increased their batting average by 70 points, and even more glaringly, increased their SLG by a whopping 143 points. He served up 13 home runs and 17 doubles in 84 and 2/3 innings, leading to a 4.78 second half ERA. When combined with the sparkling 2.29 ERA he started the season with, Castillo's final line showed an admirable 3.30 ERA and a 3.70 FIP over 190 and 2/3 innings pitched. Which pitcher will show up in the 2020 season? The smart money is something closer to the first half. When Castillo stuck with his sinker/change up combo in the first half and did not give into the hitter, even if that meant giving up a walk, he was almost unhittable. The second half he leaned more on his 4-seamer, trying to reduce the walks and it backfired. Logic would say that if a humble fantasy blogger could do a bit of research and figure this out, the organization and their extensive film study would give him the tools to go back to what worked. Castillo's at his strongest when he's making hitters chase down in the zone, where when they do make contact, the drop on his pitches results in weak ground balls. With one of the best change ups in the game, the 6’2” righty will continue to put up gaudy strike out numbers. While great American Ball Park is known for being a bit of a band box, it shouldn’t be a problem, if he continues to lean on the 96 mph sinker. That should induce a ton of ground balls, limiting all those extra base hits he gave up in the second half. Pair that with a decent slider and the devastating change, and you've got yourself a great #2 SP, who if you went hitter heavy early, could end up a decent ace for your staff. Just make sure you back him up with some quality #2's and #3’s. His walks are a bit concerning, but his run support should improve drastically allowing for more wins. Overall he’s worth a late fourth, early 5th round selection and hope for a return to last year's first half. 47. Anthony Rizzo 1B Who is going to bat leadoff for the Cubs this season? Ian Happ? Kris Bryant? Ben Zobrist isn't coming back any time soon (not that they'd want him). Or is Rizzo gonna waste his talents batting first again? He does produce a fantastic OBP, but the team would be better served batting him somewhere in the middle of the lineup where he can bat with runners on. The Cubs are still lacking that prototypical leadoff hitter, and even though the game has transitioned away from the stolen base, teams without that nice leadoff guy like the Cubs, are forced to waste one of their best batters there. Early reports are Bryant will take over the #1 spot in the lineup, but all bets are off after the first few weeks of the season. Especially in the National League with the pitcher batting at the bottom of the lineup, the RBI chances diminish greatly out of the lead off hole. There’s no telling who David Ross will put up there. It could change on a nightly basis. If Rizzo does return to the three hole or even the two, I expect his numbers to be very good. Even in the leadoff spot, which he does tend to excel in, I still like him somewhere in the 5th round. Just don’t look for a lot of RBI (if he leads off) or much speed. One other point to keep in mind is Rizzo also always runs the risk of getting injured because of all the hit by pitches he takes, but it hasn’t affected the Cubs iron man much in the past. He’s definitely a highly serviceable player who will put up good numbers, just not great. Every year one owner reaches early for Rizzo and Kris Bryant and it wouldn't be a surprise to see it happen again this season. Just don't let it be you. If they don't fall, go ahead and grab Jose Abreu or Eloy Jimenez who very easily could outperform both of them and should be available a round or two later. *Update: With the DH coming to the NL, the leadoff spot won't be lacking in RBI chances as much, slightly increasing Rizzo's value.
**Update: Rizzo is currently suffering lower back spasms, that have seemed to plague him all of camp. That is a definite red flag in such a shortened season as these things tend to linger a while. I have moved him down 6 slots so far to 53rd overall and will continue to do so if he cannot prove healthy within the next few days. 48. Yoan Moncada 3B
Moncada is projected to bat second in the revamped Chicago White Sox lineup, where he should continue to thrive. An ideal spot for the 5 tool youngster, Moncada should absolutely fill up the stat sheet again. By cutting down on his walks and being more aggressive early in the count, his batting average, along with the rest of his numbers soared. He’s still only 24 years old, which should lead to even more growth and maturity. His .400 average on balls in play was extremely high, which almost certainly will take a hit, but the hard hitting Moncana should be able to reproduce or come close to a .300 batting average again. The former #1 overall prospect has a great ceiling and I love him in this lineup, don’t let him go past the 5th round.
**Update: Moncada is still absent from camp and likely tested positive for the Coronavirus. It's reported that he is symptom free and should be joining the club soon. If he's ready for the start of the season however, remains to be seen. I've moved him down a few slots to 54th. 49. Jonathan Villar 2B/SS After hitting a career high 24 long balls and stealing 40 bags last season in Baltimore, Villar finds himself once again on a new team undergoing a rebuild. The Marlins, while likely to finish last in the NL, have actually added some quality pieces to the lineup. Villar is one of the few players who possesses a power/speed combo where the stolen bases could reach as high as 40. Moving from the homer friendly Camden Yards, to the spacious confines of Marlins Park (even with the fences moved in), Villar's home runs will likely dip back into the teens, more closely resembling his career norms. Figured to bat near the top of the lineup, he should score plenty of runs and continue to be a productive 5 tool player among what should be a somewhat productive Marlins lineup. With the stolen base being such a lost art in the major leagues, Villar finds himself going in the 5th round of fantasy drafts. 50. Kris Bryant 3B/OF
For Bryant, like Rizzo, a lot depends on where in the lineup he hits. Reports are coming out that he will leadoff this season which will affect his numbers quite a bit. How long he stays there is anyone’s guess, but going with the thought he'll be there for a while, it's reasonable to project an uptick in runs, with a sizable downturn in RBI. Overvalued most years, Bryant has another opportunity to show he belongs in the elite class of hitters. He’s been somewhat of a disappointment over the last three years for fantasy owners, considering how high he was drafted. Every year someone tends to reach for Bryant, grabbing him even sooner than projected, but maybe this is the year he finally breaks out and shows the kind of promise he did in his sophomore season. A fastball hitter, he strikes out a lot on the soft stuff limiting his BA and doesn’t really steal any bags. He does get on base however, which in large part is why the Cubs management wants him leading off. He’ll hit around 30 homers, score plenty of runs and drive in a decent amount of RBI, mostly depending on where he hits in the lineup. His average won’t really help or hurt you, but he should still be a great player with a relatively high floor, he’s just not worth anything more than a late 5th round pick.
*Update: With the DH coming to the NL, batting leadoff won't be as detrimental to his RBI total, thus increasing his value a bit.