Fantasy baseball is supposed to be a bit of a thrill ride. After all, managers don’t join their leagues hoping to have a yawn-inducing experience from Opening Day (whenever that comes) to the end of the season. And few things are more exciting during a draft than grabbing one of the biggest boom-or-bust players.
Each man listed below has the potential to either lead your team to victory or leave you scratching your head.
Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS), San Diego Padres
Tatis took the fantasy world by storm when he hit .317 with 22 homers and 16 steals in just 84 games last season, which has pushed him into the top-20 picks of many 2020 drafts. But his high batting average was heavily added by a .410 BABIP, and his homer total came with a bloated 31.9 percent HR/FB rate. Additionally, he has some durability concerns after spending time on the IL with hamstring and back injuries during his rookie year. Managers can reasonably expect anything from an elite power-speed combo to an injury-marred campaign that includes a .250 batting mark.
Mike Clevinger (SP), Cleveland Indians
Clevinger was dealing with a knee injury before spring training was suspended. While the later start to the season gives him more time to heal, it’s still concerning for a starter who was limited by back and ankle ailments to just 126 innings a year ago. But fantasy managers can’t completely turn their back on someone who was so good last season (2.71 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 12.1 K/9 rate) and could finish 2020 as a top-10 starter. The best plan for Clevinger is to target him as a low-end ace and immediately follow up his selection by grabbing a high-end No. 2 starter.
Max Scherzer (SP), Washington Nationals
Scherzer was absolutely dominant in the first half of 2019 (9 wins, 2.30 ERA, 181 K’s) before offering minimal fantasy value (2 wins, 4.81 ERA, 62 K’s) while dealing with neck and back injuries after the All-Star break. Still valued as a top-20 pick, the veteran righty isn’t coming at much of a discount for those who are willing to look past his recent injuries. The 35-year-old could be anything from the No. 1 overall player to someone who misses large chunks of the season.
Stephen Strasburg (SP), Washington Nationals
Strasburg is the opposite of his aforementioned teammate, who followed up several durable years with one injury-impacted season. The reigning World Series MVP is coming off the healthiest and most memorable year of his career, but his magical 2019 season came on the heels of four straight injury-impacted campaigns with fewer than 30 starts. With Strasburg now sitting among the top-30 picks in many leagues, managers are baking a second straight IL-free campaign into his draft price.
Adalberto Mondesi (SS), Kansas City Royals
If everything breaks right, Mondesi will be a top-10 roto hitter this season. Don’t believe me? Well, his stolen base totals in each of the past two seasons extrapolate to more than 65 steals across a full campaign, and he has enough power to smack 20 homers with enough plate appearances. The problem is that Mondesi isn’t a good hitter. His lifetime .282 OBP and .696 OPS are subpar marks for any Major Leaguer, let alone someone who will play every day and hit out of a premium lineup spot. And Mondesi is still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. The most likely player to lead the Majors in steals is worth a top-50 pick in roto leagues, even though he has the potential to be sitting on waivers by the summer.
Giancarlo Stanton (OF), New York Yankees
Lately, I get the sense that the fantasy community has grown tired of Stanton. It’s hard to blame them with the slugger having played in 18 games last season and dealing with a 2020 calf injury. The surplus of power hitters combined with Stanton’s lack of durability have made him relatively cheap in recent drafts, which presents an interesting buying opportunity. After all, the 30-year-old is still someone with elite power skills who plays his home games in a bandbox and hits in the heart of one of baseball’s best lineups. Once drafts get into the range of pick 100, Stanton becomes very interesting.
Luis Robert (OF), Chicago White Sox
Robert could be this season’s biggest boom-or-bust option. The 22-year-old oozes potential after hitting .328 with 32 homers and 36 steals across three Minor League levels last year. But Robert could be held back by swing-and-miss woes during his rookie year, and the White Sox may not allow him to regularly flash his fleet feet. Managers who sign up for this thrill ride should be ready for weeks with multiple homers and steals, and other scoring periods with a lowly average and zeros across the board.
Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer (SP, TEX/CLE/CIN)
I grouped these three hurlers, as they were all massive 2019 disappointments after starting the season as top-40 picks from Cleveland’s vaunted rotation. Carrasco and Kluber present similar cases, both having had several excellent seasons before dealing with unusual setbacks (Carrasco suffered from leukemia and Kluber was struck with a batted ball) that derailed seasons. However, it is worth noting that both hurlers were off to rough starts before landing on the IL. Once a touted prospect, Bauer has had a puzzling career that is full of mediocrity outside of one outstanding season in 2018. Of the three, I am most optimistic about Bauer.