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2020 Fantasy Baseball Drafts: Overrated, underrated and safest picks in Rounds 1-3

·10 min read
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Using a mix of Yahoo’s average draft position (ADP) and the staff rankings that create a composite score among three Yahoo analysts, we will present a road map through the first 100 picks to come off the board in a typical Fantasy Baseball draft.

By breaking things down into segments of 10 picks at a time (as part of a larger three-part series) to highlight the safest bet, plus an underrated and overrated player, you are sure to come away with a more streamlined and less overwhelming way to plot out a course for a successful draft. While unexpected twists and turns develop in any draft and league sizes vary, walking in prepared is the best way to come out with a competitive squad.

And in 2020, when nothing is assured and the season is unlike any other, preparation is the ultimate key to fantasy success!

[Still time to join or create a fantasy baseball league for the short season]

All staff composite rankings are to date, and subject to change.

[Positional Rankings: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | SP | RP]

Picks 1-30 (below) | Picks 31-60 | Picks 61-100

Picks 1-10

Safest Bet: Jacob deGrom, SP, New York Mets (ADP: 8 / Staff Composite Ranking: 9)

Jacob deGrom is being drafted as the second starting pitcher in the first round, behind only New York Yankees’ ace, Gerrit Cole.

Here’s why I think deGrom should not only be the No. 1 pitcher drafted in the first, but he should also be a top-five pick in this altered 2020 season:

  • Absolutely nothing has changed about his situation (unlike Cole, who is moving to a different team, division, and state) other than, well, the pandemic, and having to face a DH full-time (I doubt deGrom is suddenly going to become a different person because he’s forced to dominate a hitter in the nine-hole instead of a pitcher). deGrom doesn’t need to get acclimated to his surroundings in a shorter period than normal. He’s at home in Queens, where he’s dominated since 2014.

  • Of the top-five fantasy pitchers (according to ADP), deGrom finds himself the ace of the worst team, and that’s EXACTLY why he deserves more recognition. He doesn’t have offensive firepower or defensive prowess backing him up at the same level as a Verlander, Cole, or Scherzer enjoy. Does this put a damper on deGrom’s win potential? Sure, but it also further highlights just how good deGrom is; even with the deck stacked against him, he’s been able to compile a career 2.67 ERA, a 66-49 record, and 1,255 strikeouts (with just 266 walks) in 1,101.2 innings pitched. He’s been bending over backward for years with barely a margin for error. That’s the kind of pitcher you want leading your rotation in this unprecedented season.

  • He’s not coming off an injury (like Yelich), he’s not potentially volatile (like Acuna), and he’s not on a new team (like Betts). deGrom is the Mike Trout of fantasy pitching.

Underrated: Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians (ADP: 7 / Staff Composite Ranking: 5)

I 100% expected Francisco Lindor to have a career year in 2020. But now, he’ll have just 60 games to deliver.

I think he will.

Lindor was heading towards a third straight season of seeing a year-over-year increase in home runs, RBI, and walks, but unfortunately, he missed nearly the entire first month of the 2019 season. We all know what he did after he came back, however (he hit well over .290 from May to July.) You might say that this draft slot is just fine for Lindor, that he’s not underrated at all, but consider that he’s one of the youngest proven stars in MLB who can contribute across all categories, and who still hasn’t reached his peak — you need guys like that in a season with so many unknowns.

With a career BABIP of .300 that hasn’t been touched since 2015 (he’s actually been unlucky!) and as the clear top offensive option in Cleveland, the best is yet to come for the still-just-26-year-old Lindor.

Overrated: Trevor Story, SS, Colorado Rockies (ADP: 9 / Staff Composite Ranking: 6)

If this was a normal 162-game season un-shrouded by a pandemic, I would NEVER call Trevor Story overrated.

Please read that again before you sound the alarm.

But since it’s definitely not a normal 162-game season, I’m a bit worried at the possibility of Coors Field being removed from the equation as a factor somewhere down the line. Unfortunately, we don’t know where this pandemic will take us or the MLB season. Sure, there’s a lot of “ifs” involved with this pick, but if Coors Field is deemed unplayable, or if home games are rescheduled/shifted elsewhere for one reason or another, Rockies hitters will take a (no pun intended) hit. We all know the true factor Coors plays in offensive production.

Nolan Arenado, another elite Rockies hitter, is being drafted directly after Story, but Story’s home/road splits (HOME: .301/.368/.630, AWAY: .250/.313/.443) make him a more dangerous investment than Arenado.

Picks 11-20

Safest bet: Juan Soto, OF, Washington Nationals (ADP: 12 / Staff Composite Ranking: 10)

Did you see what Juan Soto did during the World Series?

Let’s take a look back: He hit .333/.438/.741 (with a freaking 1.178 OPS) while striking out just EIGHT TIMES in 32 plate appearances against the likes of Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, and Zack Greinke.

This is what he did against Cole (be sure to check out Alex Fast’s full thread):

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Soto turned 21 during the series, by the way.

Are you KIDDING me?!

21-year-olds aren’t supposed to do that; they’re not supposed to show the patience and poise of seasoned veterans at the highest stage against the toughest opposition. 21-year-olds who, after just two seasons in the big leagues, have shown they can hit for power and average while maintaining an above-average on-base percentage.

You think he has what it takes to perform in a shortened, unprecedented season?

I’ve seen enough — sign me up.

Underrated: Justin Verlander, SP, Houston Astros (ADP: 16 / Staff Composite Ranking: 28)

Yeah, yeah, I know — everyone hates the Astros, but let’s keep this short. Few players have seen their fantasy stock helped more than Verlander, who was slated to miss time with injuries before the MLB season start was put on hold.

Now, expected to be fully healthy by the time the season begins (as of yet unconfirmed, but still expected), a fantasy drafter can get one of the greatest pitchers of all time, the ace of a World Series-contending team, — who is somehow still at the height of his powers — at the top of the second round. Sure, Verlander let his fair share of home runs fly in 2019, and he is 37 years old, but he also won another Cy Young and pitched his highest inning total (223) in six seasons. He’s a first-round talent available in the second in a season when veteran prowess will count for a lot — and he’ll be healthy. No need to overthink this.

Justin Verlander #35 of the Houston Astros
Justin Verlander should be ready to roll by season's start. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Overrated: Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, San Diego Padres (ADP: 14 / Staff Composite Ranking: 14)

This feels obvious, but in such an odd season, “obvious” is probably a good thing.

We all know how electric of a talent Tatis Jr. is — that’s non-debatable. Eventually, I expect him to be a perennial first-round pick, especially when you consider how difficult it is to find hitters who not only hit but who also show an eagerness to run. Tatis Jr. is a prospect of the highest order and there will be much success in his future, but I can’t trust him this season.

For starters, Tatis Jr. somehow had a .410 BABIP while also possessing a strikeout percentage of 29.6 in 2019; plate discipline isn’t exactly his calling card. With so little at-bats available in a shortened season, I would rather place my high draft investment on a hitter with a bit more patience; a bit more floor. At this point in the draft, give me an Alex Bregman or Freddie Freeman instead for 2020.

Picks 21-30

Safest bet: Rafael Devers, 3B, Boston Red Sox (ADP: 27 / Staff Composite Ranking: 21)

Rafael Devers is still just 22 years old, but I fully believe what we saw last season was the birth of a star.

And I think that breakout continues into this shortened season. Devers showed in 2019 that he’s a player who can hit to all levels, who can tear the cover off a ball but can also hit strategically.

Long story short, the kid can HIT — Devers finished second in total hits last year behind Whit Merrifield (who is nine years Devers’ senior).

With Mookie Betts out of town, Devers will no doubt move into a more prominent offensive role with Boston, and he showed the chops last year to produce at an All-Star level: .311/.361/.555 with 32 HRs and 115 RBI.

Devers’ floor is probably somewhere in the range of .287/.345/.480 (an excellent hitter floor for the third round), but his ceiling hasn’t even been touched yet. Don’t be surprised if Devers is leading in multiple hitting categories by the time the short season is wrapped.

Underrated: Stephen Strasburg, SP, Washington Nationals (ADP: 26 / Staff Composite Ranking: 23)

We were graced last season with a fully healthy Stephen Strasburg, one who delivered All-Star production en route to an 18-6 record, 3.32 ERA and 1.06 WHIP.

Oh, and 251 strikeouts in 209 innings.

Those strikeout numbers are key. With such a short season ahead, you want your starting pitchers to deliver as much production as they can in a limited amount of starts, and if you can get an ace with high strikeout potential in the third round, you should pounce.

Even in injury marred seasons, Strasburg’s K/9 has only dipped under 10% twice in his career, and he’s coming off one of the best seasons of that career. He’s a rock-solid SP option at a point in the draft where hitters with some question marks are being selected.

Overrated: Pete Alonso, 1B, New York Mets (ADP: 25 / Staff Composite Ranking: 26)

Pete Alonso is an impressive young player who looks like the next great power hitter — but let’s be honest. We draft a player like Alonso because we’re hoping he gets us 40-50+ home runs. That’s not happening in a 60-game season.

And it’s not as simple as just splitting his projected home run total in half and hoping he gets to that level this year.

While Alonso’s strikeout rate is easier to swallow than some other home run specialists (and is somewhat softened by his willingness to take a walk), his fantasy value is hampered by the shortened season. Taking Pete Alonso in the third round of your drafts depends squarely on how many home runs you think he’s going to hit — and that’s up in the air right now.

Too much hoping for one hitter, in a season where hope is already being stretched thin.

Picks 31-60 | Picks 61-100

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