TDG Round Table: 2020 Fantasy Sleepers
Every week on Fridays, our writers here at The Dynasty Guru will be bringing you some quick hit musings about a particular topic so you, the reader, can get a blast of info from a bunch of different writers with some passionate opinions. This week’s round table topic is 2020 fantasy sleepers.
Brandon Nimmo, OF, New York Mets (Fantrax ADP 324)
The biggest issue with Nimmo, like most Mets players, is his health. When healthy, however, Nimmo produces. He has consistently posted exit velocities that are above the Major League average and double-digit launch angles to produce plenty of power. Nimmo had a bit of a breakout year in 2018 already where he almost went 20/10 with a .404 OBP in 140 games, but his current value suggests most fantasy players aren’t buying into it. Maybe I’m being too optimistic about his health but this ADP just doesn’t fit the value you can get out of him. Snatch him up!
Nick Burdi, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates (NFBC ADP: 688)
Burdi is a name you might be familiar with if you’ve been keen on following the Pirates injury reports for the last several seasons. After Tommy John surgery in 2017 and surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome in 2019, Burdi is finally fully healthy, and everyone is taking notice. The 6’3’’ flamethrower routinely hits triple digits and features a low-90’s wipeout slider that he showcased in spring training and again during summer camp. While Keone Kela is the incumbent Pirates closer, he has been absent from camp for several weeks (currently on the 10-day injured list) and the Pirates have been hesitant to provide additional details or name a new closer in his absence. Many speculate Kyle Crick will slide into this role, but the door is wide open for Burdi, who has all the stuff to be a high-end closer, and just needs an opportunity and to stay healthy.
Evan White, 1B, Seattle Mariners, (NFBC ADP: 420 (nice))
First base prospects without much power typically flame out but not if you are Evan White. After being drafted in the first round from the University of Kentucky, the Mariners slightly tweaked his swing mechanics (basically they worked on his footwork) and have unlocked some power. Last year, White hit 13 doubles and a career-high 18 home runs in Double-A Arkansas, which might be one of the most notorious pitchers parks in the Minor Leagues. It is also not surprising to see that White’s max exit velocity of 110 MPH is the highest in the Mariners organization (J-Rod’s is 109 MPH but…hey…110 MPH is higher). He signed a six-year extension this off-season so he should have the job as the Mariners’ everyday first baseman. He has looked really good in both Spring Training and Summer Camp but for some reason (between 7/1/20-7/21/20) he has an ADP of 420 in all NFBC drafts. I mean, Mike Yaztremski, Eric Thames, and Miguel Cabrera are going before him. Why? I have no idea but there will be no way he will go that late going into the 2021 season.
Jaylin Davis, OF, San Francisco Giants (NFBC ADP: 666)
Jaylin Davis is an easy flier to take in most leagues- across three leagues and two different levels (Double- and Triple-A) he posted a .306/.397/.590 slash line with 35 homers and 10 stolen bases. Oh, and Fangraphs had his exit velocity at 93 MPH and max at 111 MPH! Yet, somehow he’s on almost no one’s radar. I mean, it’s been a while since Davis has had any prospect clout, and the dude has some pretty legit swing-and-miss issues. There are also a variety of much more enticing prospects within the Giant’s system, so I get it. However Davis could make an impact THIS year, and the rebuild has given him a clear path to playing time. Certainly, his minor league performance did not carry over in his brief MLB cup of coffee last year, but we need more at-bats to see if the breakout is legit. We’ll get a better look this year, but make sure you’re keeping an eye on him! In deep leagues, he is a must-add, and in shallower ones, he deserves a place on your Watch List.
Trevor Richards, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays (NFBC ADP – 546)
This will be the second time I express my love for Trevor Richards, his sweet change-up and command of the strike zone. Last time I wrote about him, he was a guy no one expected to matter. In some ways, many still don’t. Just look at his cellar-dwelling ADP. That’s a mistake. Pitchers who strikeout batters like Richards ALWAYS matter. Also, not only is he in a much better situation heading into 2020–he was traded from the lowly Marlins to the mighty Rays at the end of last season–he is also poised to throw a lot of meaningful innings. His first taste of life in a Rays uni was extremely enticing and gives me hope that his unique talents will be maximized by one of the greatest player-development organizations baseball has ever seen. I’ll acknowledge that recent developments have helped folks catch on to the upside, as he looks poised to replace Yonny Chirinos in the Rays rotation for at least the near future. Even if Chirinos returns and reclaims the starting rotation spot, I still love Richards to flourish in a role similar to Ryan Yarbrough’s. His strikeouts will play, and by the end of the year, I think we’ll look at Trevor Richards as the free-agent gem everyone will wish they’d have uncovered.
Shed Long, Jr., 2B, Seattle Mariners (Fantrax ADP: 445)
In most leagues, I punt second base as it is usually a good place to find steals and runs late in a draft. The starting second baseman for the Mariners, Long even brings some home runs to boot. He made it to Triple-A in 2019 and then joined the big league team in mid-May. By September he was hitting leadoff and ended 2019 hitting five home runs, stealing three bases, along with 12 doubles and a .787 OPS in 152 at-bats. Not a bad cup of coffee! In a full season, Long could easily have hit 15 homers and stole 15 bags. His walk rate in the minors hovered around 10% (It was 9.5% in 2019) with a K rate of around 22% (It was 23.8% in 2019). Long is starting ahead of Dee Gordon at the keystone with the possibility to hit leadoff as well. If you are like me and punted second base (or waited too long to draft one) look Long’s way.
Sam Hilliard, OF, Colorado Rockies (Fantrax ADP: 295)
Sam Hilliard broke into the major leagues last season with a .273/.356/.649 slash line with seven home runs, thirteen runs batted in, four doubles, and two triples in eighty-seven plate appearances. Before the call-up, Hilliard batted .262 with thirty-five home runs, over one hundred runs batted in & runs scored, and twenty-two stolen bases at Triple-A Albuquerque. Hilliard has proven in his small sample size in the majors, and in his five seasons in the minor leagues, that he has the ability to hit for power and steal bags that fantasy owners desperately chase. Did I forget to mention that he plays half his games at Coors Field and has a relatively clear path to playing time (barring Colorado doing Colorado things)? In two months we may be looking at a player that grossly overperformed his pre-season ADP.
Kevin Cron, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks (NFBC ADP: 493)
This likely wouldn’t have been my pick a month ago, but the universal DH has quickly changed things. With 22+ home runs in five consecutive seasons in the minor leagues, Cron was built to hit designatedly. I don’t care if he’s playing in Tibet, 45 home runs in 381 at-bats are notable. That’s what Cron did in 2019 between the minor and major leagues. In the 44 balls he put in play in the big leagues, half of them were hit 95 MPH or harder. The 6’5″, 255 lb Cron is going to mash baseballs for the next 70 days. Battling Christian Walker at first base and Jake Lamb as a platoon option at Designated Hitter, as well as his third base experience, I think Cron will find a way to play two-thirds of the time and hit double-digit home runs on a Diamondbacks team that should land in one of the two NL West playoff spots in 2020.
Maikel Franco, 3B, Kansas City Royals (TGFBI ADP: 408, 578 NFBC ADP in July)
Maikel Franco’s playing time outlook was already looking very promising on a weak Royals squad. With Hunter Dozier having tested positive for COVID-19 this Wednesday, everyday at-bats for Franco are all but assured. His plate discipline was awesome last year, with a 14.3 K% and 8.3 BB%. He also hits fly balls at an above-average pace and offers league average exit velocity, at 89 MPH in 2019. There is no reason to expect his isolated power to remain below average in 2020. Given his slowness and high fly ball rate, BABIP will always be a problem for him, so he’ll need to make power gains to take his game to the next level. As he is now, I’m comfortable relying on him as a safe, everyday option; his Steamer projection of .270/.330/.480, 8 BB%, 14 K%, and .209 isolated power feels reasonable to me and would provide an excellent return on his late ADP. Further, given his strong contact skills, solid underlying power metrics, and relative youth, there is some age-27 breakout potential here.
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