It’s kind of hard for me to wrap my head around it, given that I haven’t been hard at work recapping Grapefruit League games lately, but we’re just a week away from the start of this year’s abbreviated MLB season. With that in mind, presented today is my big list of undervalued players in advance of this weekend’s drafts.
It should be obvious, but I have low expectations for being right about much of anything in the projection department this year. Even in the best of times, a 60-game sample is woefully inadequate, and given the limited information we’re dealing with after the 3 ½-month shutdown and three-week gear-up, judging the readiness of most players is going to be nearly impossible. Luck will play a huge role in this season’s fantasy leagues, but it’s also going to be more important than ever to closely follow the news and be aggressive in player moves. There’s no sense holding on to that struggling upside pick when there’s only two months of games, and given the procedures in place, anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 during the season becomes immediately droppable.
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In spite of all of that, here are my favorite picks. The list is a bit different from what you would have seen in March had the virus not intervened. Included along with each player is my ranking from the Rotoworld Draft Guide and the player’s ADP in recently drafted NFBC leagues and in Yahoo leagues.
Jorge Alfaro - 136th in Top 300 - 220th in NFBC - 228th Yahoo
Willson Contreras - 76th in Top 300 - 116th in NFBC - 116th in Yahoo
Will Smith - 122nd in Top 300 - 166th in NFBC - 159th in Yahoo
Alfaro’s ridiculous strikeout rate limits his upside, but when he makes contact, good things happen; he has a .385 BABIP since arriving in the majors and he managed 18 homers in 465 plate appearances last year. I don’t think he’s going to bust out, but that the Marlins have improved their lineup and moved in their fences makes him my preferred option at catcher. I had him down for 20 homers and five steals in a 162-game season. He hasn’t really made it into a weapon yet, but he is the fastest catcher in the league.
Danny Santana - 91st in Top 300 - 139th in NFBC - 149th in Yahoo
Luke Voit - 141st in Top 300 - 187th in NFBC - 198th in NFBC
C.J. Cron - 151st in Top 300 - 203rd in NFBC - 256th in Yahoo
Josh Bell - 82nd in Top 300 - 96th in NFBC - 96th in NFBC
I prefer to wait at first base, and if I miss out on Santana, it usually becomes the last spot to get filled in my lineup, typically with either Voit or Cron. I’ve been nervous about recommending Santana, but my worries about a poor OBP getting him booted from the Rangers lineup aren’t so significant in this 60-game season. Santana’s Statcast numbers suggest that last year’s power spike is no fluke, and he’s a quality basestealer.
Ketel Marte - 24th in Top 300 - 39th in NFBC - 48th in Yahoo
Tommy Edman - 96th in Top 300 - 128th in NFBC - 142nd in Yahoo
Ryan McMahon - 128th in Top 300 - 168th in NFBC - 200th in Yahoo
Marte was my guy last year and I had him in every league I drafted, but I didn’t see that coming. I also don’t see him doing it again, but he still seems undervalued to me. Marte’s Statcast numbers didn’t quite back up his awesome .329/.389/.592 line, but they were quite strong, and his situation is better this year with Starling Marte joining him atop the lineup and addition of the DH getting him more RBI opportunities.
I was crazy high on Edman after initially doing my projections over the winter. I had to temper that because of playing time concerns in St. Louis, but while those are still present, the DH spot should help some there. Also, it’s much like with Santana; given Edman’s versatility, the likelihood of injuries and the possibility of COVID-19 hitting the team, it seems much more likely than not that the Cardinals will need to play him pretty regularly. Edman was 15-for-16 stealing bases in his 92 major league games as a rookie. He was 39-for-44 in 175 minor league games since the beginning of 2018. He was the Cardinals’ best player when he was in the lineup last season, and while that was something of a fluke, there’s plenty of reason to think he can keep hitting .280 or so and play good defense, making him awfully useful.
McMahon isn’t someone I’m particularly excited about as a player, but the Coors assist will make him fairly valuable if he plays, and he seems to be in really good shape there now that the Rockies can have Daniel Murphy DH.
Yoan Moncada - 37th in Top 300 - 68th in NFBC - 66th in Yahoo
Scott Kingery - 121st in Top 300 - 171st in NFBC - 196th in Yahoo
Manny Machado - 43rd in Top 300 - 63rd in NFBC - 59th in Yahoo
Brian Anderson - 142nd in Top 300 - 225th in NFBC - 257th in Yahoo
Moncada and Kingery were both diagnosed with COVID-19, but Moncada was asymptomatic and could be ready for Opening Day and Kingery has recovered and rejoined the Phillies. Kingery is someone I’ve landed in pretty much all of my drafts. He had 19 homers and 15 steals last year, and he’s still clearly on the upswing of his career. He seemed like a good bet for a 20-20 campaign in a full season.
I was surprised to find myself so much higher on Machado than the consensus. He was overdrafted last year in a bad ballpark and a bad lineup, but he’ll probably be more comfortable in his second season in San Diego. He’s a sure thing (well, as much as anyone can be in 2020) to be useful, and at age 27, he’s still a good bet to have that monster year at some point.
Adalberto Mondesi - 14th in Top 300 - 31st in NFBC - 49th in Yahoo
Carlos Correa - 42nd in Top 300 - 104th in NFBC - 99th in Yahoo
Corey Seager - 50th in Top 300 - 138th in NFBC - 124th in Yahoo
Trevor Story - 4th in Top 300 - 12th in NFBC - 10th in Yahoo
Dansby Swanson - 165th in Top 300 - 241st in NFBC - 242nd in Yahoo
Getting Mondesi as a third-round pick in mixed leagues seems like an absolute steal to me. His original ADP this year was held down by concerns about his surgically repaired shoulder, but the extra few months off should have done him a lot of good there. Mondesi is probably the best bet for steals in baseball, and he’s hit a fine .268 with 23 homers in 734 plate appearances at ages 22 and 23 the last two years. ... Also, by all means, feel free to fill that MI spot in the seventh or eighth round of drafts. Correa has gotten hurt three straight years, but he was a star when healthy last season and he’s a perfectly reasonable bet to make it through 60 games without incident. Seager wasn’t the same fantasy force last year that he was before getting hurt, but that should have been expected in his first year back from Tommy John. He still led the NL with 44 doubles, so the power is coming back.
Andrew Benintendi - 59th in Top 300 - 119th in NFBC - 108th in Yahoo
Marcell Ozuna - 56th in Top 300 - 97th in NFBC - 104th in Yahoo
David Dahl - 69th in Top 300 - 142nd in NFBC - 139th in Yahoo
Giancarlo Stanton - 36th in Top 300 - 67th in NFBC - 62nd in Yahoo
Eddie Rosario - 59th in Top 300 - 99th in NFBC - 83rd in Yahoo
Charlie Blackmon - 29th in Top 300 - 63rd in NFBC - 37th in Yahoo
Franmil Reyes - 67th in Top 300 - 105th in NFBC - 130th in Yahoo
Alex Verdugo - 126th in Top 300 - 201st in NFBC - 223rd in Yahoo
Ian Happ - 138th in Top 300 - 256th in NFBC - 237th in Yahoo
Nick Senzel - 127th in Top 300 - 199th in NFBC - 231st in Yahoo
Max Kepler - 105th in Top 300 - 146th in NFBC - 143rd in Yahoo
Yasiel Puig - 116th in Top 300 - 196th in NFBC - 180th in Yahoo
Austin Hays - 164th in Top 300 - 276th in NFBC - 97% undrafted in Yahoo
Gregory Polanco - 169th in Top 300 - 281st in NFBC - 80% undrafted in Yahoo
Randal Grichuk - 181st in Top 300 - 270th in NFBC - 80% undrafted in Yahoo
Benintendi’s actual upside is in question after he failed to turn those 41 doubles from 2018 into more homers last year, but as the leadoff man for an excellent offensive team in a terrific ballpark for hitters, he offers a great deal of fantasy potential. I remain a believer. ... Ozuna is a guy whose modest line last year just didn’t compare to his Statcast numbers, pretty much all of which were the best of his career. From a fantasy standpoint, batting cleanup for Atlanta is his best situation to date. ... Dahl was one of my favorite players this year and was considerably higher than 69th this spring, but he’s a high-risk player after having his spleen removed. While he’s set to play anyway, no one would blame him for changing his mind.
Blackmon’s draft position will rise again now that he’s reported following his COVID-19 diagnoses, but even during drafts this spring, he was going lower than I had expected. ... Puig won’t be lasting until the 17th-20th rounds of mixed-league drafts now that he’s signed with the Braves, but he’ll still likely offer decent value in the middle rounds. ... Polanco has been absent from Pirates workouts the last couple of days, so that’s something to watch before taking a flier on him at the end of drafts.
Chris Paddack - 41st in Top 300 - 53rd in NFBC - 52nd in Yahoo
Matthew Boyd - 81st in Top 300 - 151st in NFBC - 148th in Yahoo
Mike Soroka - 71st in Top 300 - 119th in NFBC - 91st in Yahoo
Frankie Montas - 75th in Top 300 - 95th in NFBC - 123rd in Yahoo
Julio Urias - 94th in Top 300 - 126th in NFBC - 152nd in Yahoo
Carlos Carrasco - 97th in Top 300 - 132nd in NFBC - 125th in Yahoo
Lance McCullers Jr. - 104th in Top 300 - 167th in NFBC - 179th in Yahoo
Pablo Lopez - 170th in Top 300 - 540th in NFBC - 97% undrafted in Yahoo
Ross Stripling - 163rd in Top 300 - 229th in NFBC - 243rd in Yahoo
Marcus Stroman - 145th in Top 300 - 211th in NFBC - 198th in Yahoo
Yonny Chirinos - 177th in Top 300 - 285th in NFBC - 223rd in Yahoo
Joe Musgrove - 181st in Top 300 - 210th in NFBC - 221st in Yahoo
Jose Urquidy - 184th in Top 300 - 223rd in NFBC - 214th in Yahoo
Josh James - 201st in Top 300 - 242nd in NFBC - 242nd in Yahoo
A.J. Puk - 175th in Top 300 - 218th in NFBC - 217th in Yahoo
Getting an ace early is preferable, of course, and I’m rather fond of drafting Max Scherzer in round two. Still, there aren’t what I would call bargains up in that territory. My ideal would be to land Scherzer, Paddack and Soroka, Montas, Boyd or Urias as a No. 3.
Pablo Lopez is a pitcher I own in every league I drafted. He showed a nice three-pitch mix in a 10-start audition in 2018 and then added velocity last season, leading to a rather impressive first half before he got hurt and struggled upon returning. I don’t know that he’s ready to put it all together right away this year, but I’m quite fond of him for the long haul. ... If Stripling were assured David Price’s rotation spot, he’d be 40 spots higher. Still, even if he’s in middle relief initially, he could be a really good bet for wins pitching behind Dustin May and Walker Buehler. May would also be a nice late-round option if he gets the spot.
Two of my very favorite picks here -- Chirinos and Urquidy -- are both sidelined indefinitely and have been dropped in the rankings some as a result. I didn’t want to write either off yet, though.
Roberto Osuna - 60th in Top 300 - 71st in NFBC - 74th in Yahoo
Brad Hand - 89th in Top 300 - 98th in NFBC - 97th in Yahoo
Sean Doolittle - 136th in Top 300 - 180th in NFBC - 159th in Yahoo
Ryan Pressly - 225th in Top 300 - 337th in NFBC - 81% undrafted in Yahoo
Chad Green - 253rd in Top 300 - 628th in NFBC - 91% undrafted in Yahoo
Seth Lugo - 235th in Top 300 - 273rd in NFBC - 32% undrafted in Yahoo
My thought process is a little different here than most years; instead of chasing saves at the end of mixed-league drafts, chase wins instead. There are going to be a bunch of starters throwing fewer than five innings there first couple of times out, so go draft a couple of guys from the group of Pressly, Green, Lugo, Stripling/May, Yusmeiro Petit and Daniel Ponce de Leon. Worry about the saves afterwards. Teams will be very quick to make closer switches in this shortened season, so I think it’s going to be pretty easy to pick up saves as the year goes along.
That said, it will make sense to own Zack Britton initially with Aroldis Chapman out. If the Cardinals name a closer from the group of Carlos Martinez, Giovanny Gallegos and Ryan Helsley, that pitcher should zoom up draft boards. Keep an eye on Austin Adams in Seattle, as he appears to be back healthy now; he showed excellent stuff before blowing out his knee last summer.