I have to start with the elephant of the room, and then we’ll talk baseball.
It’s the strangest year of our lives and the weirdest baseball season of our lives. I hope we have a season, a full, safe season. I hope we can scratch back to normalcy in 2020. Let’s be good to each other, use common sense, listen to science, and try to get on top of this thing. We all pretty much want the same things.
I probably am not as dug in on guys this year as in previous years. I haven’t drafted as much. It takes a little bit of the energy out of the experience when you can’t be sure if it’s going to actually count or be completed. But the player-evaluation exercise is always interesting.
These are some of My Guys, for whatever the 2020 baseball season brings us. It’s filled with value picks and value plays; you don’t need another writer telling you Christian Yelich is fantastic, Cody Bellinger is ridiculous.
Give us something to root for, and something to love.
Cesar Hernandez, 2B, Cleveland
Boring value is forever my jam, and Hernandez checks so many boxes. He’s good in several areas but not outstanding anywhere, and that’s how we find underrated players. Hernandez has found some pop the last two years (29 total homers), and while he dropped to nine steals last year, he had between 15-19 swipes the four prior seasons. He’s a career .277 hitter, though he’s never topped .294. A career .352 OBP is very good, if not outstanding.
Add it all up and Hernandez is a B or a B+ in so many areas, all of it wrapped in an unsexy package. The only thing to blow his cover — Cleveland recently announced Hernandez as its leadoff batter, and given how little news we have to actually sift through, everyone noticed that. Nonetheless, when you get around to filling that MI position, Hernandez is available in the second half of virtually any draft.
Ken Giles, RP, Toronto
He has a reputation as an erratic closer, perhaps because we all remember that strange day he started whacking himself in the face. But Giles has done the push-button closer thing just fine, converting 49-of-50 save chances over the last two years. The ratios were occasionally rocky in Houston — bang the trash cans slowly — but he found himself in Toronto last year (1.87 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, absurd strikeout rate). Giles looked like a possible midseason trade chip a few months back, but the truncated season could keep Toronto in contention, and keep Giles in that ninth-inning chair.
Tim Anderson, SS, Chicago
This guy will swing at anything, but maybe that’s more feature than bug. It hasn’t held him back much — Anderson won the freaking batting title last year — and we get more opportunities to produce otherwise. Even if Anderson loses a chunk of last year’s surprising average, he’s unlucky to hurt you in that category. The category juice is developed now. The White Sox lineup looks like a fun hang, too.
Matthew Boyd, SP, Detroit
The best pitchers are often the smartest pitchers, and Boyd studies his craft as much as anyone. His slider improvement led a spike in strikeouts last year, but a homer problem kept the ERA over four. Given that his homer rate was notably lower the previous three years, I think Boyd can still climb a level. The market will make you pay for a low-4s ERA with strikeouts, but a step forward is still within his reasonable range of outcomes.
Mike Moustakas, 2B, Cincinnati
Moose took his sweet time developing — he didn’t make it past 91 in OPS plus (100 is average) until his fifth season. But his 162-game average since then is delicious: 35 homers, 96 RBI, 81 runs, a playable .264 average. I was worried the shift to second base would mess with his head last year but it was never a problem.
Max Kepler, OF, Minnesota
The Twins are probably the most anonymous and boring of baseball’s good teams. No one seems to think of them as a major championship contender, although they’re a strong bet in the AL Central. The lineup has a lot of take-and-rake hitters, guys with power and patience. The one glittering pedigree guy in the lineup is the player who can’t get out of his own way, Byron Buxton.
Kepler probably slots leadoff, and for the power-sellout he accepted last year, he still batted .252. Accept three strong categories, and consider the average a mild drag or perhaps neutral. Not bad at Yahoo ADP 143.
Dansby Swanson, SS, Atlanta
Shortstop is the deepest position this year; you can do well at any draft price point. That established, I still like targeting Swanson. Check the line he had at the All-Star break last year before injuries took over: .270 average, 58 runs, 17 homers, 57 RBI, seven steals. I blame the second-half swoon on the foot injury. Swanson still has time (into his age-26 season) and pedigree (former Top 5 prospect) on his side.
Niko Goodrum, Utility, Detroit
The batting average could be dicey but he’s a potential power-speed source, and the Tigers probably need to play him. He qualifies at three infield spots and the outfield.
Khris Davis, DH, Oakland
The crash last year is largely explained by a laundry list of injuries. He’s creeping onto the back nine of his career but still just 32. You have to accept the utility-only tag, but Yahoo is so liberal with position eligibility, DH-lockup is rarely a problem. Priced for profit.
C.J. Cron, 1B, Detroit
His fourth team in four years, and the first stop where he won’t be jerked in and out of the lineup. Cron is off a pair of .253 years, with 55 homers in 265 games. Had he played a full year in Detroit, this was the cheapest 30 home runs on the board.
Howie Kendrick, Utility, Washington
There are a handful of NL veterans who are obviously helped by the DH addition. Kendrick is our obligatory blog mention, but you could also pivot to Justin Smoak, or Ryan Braun, or a handful of Dodgers (I should also mention, I want to draft as many LAD pitchers as I can). Kendrick is a professional hitter who no longer is blocked by the lineup card. May we all age so gracefully and learn to use our acquired wisdom as he has.
I could write this list all day, but at some point, you need to click “send.” At some point, if you like too many guys, the usefulness starts to leak from the exercise. Share your favorite personal picks with me on Twitter: @scott_pianowski. Let’s appreciate the journey.