TDG Roundtable: Players we got right in 2020
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 roundtable topic is players drafted early coming into the season who we likely won’t roster next season.
Corey Seager, SS, LAD
Corey Seager went toe to toe with Mookie Betts for the best player on the best team in baseball. Going into the season, I was shocked how far Seager had fallen in ADP but was happy to pick him up as a MI option in all of my re-draft leagues. Seager season last year started off poorly but he really came on in the second half. He kept the train going this year and really smashed the ball. He has a 12.1 Barrel/PA%, second to Fernando Tatis Jr by .04 percentage points. Not only did he barrel up the ball but he also had a 38.4 SweetSpot% which was one the highest among qualified batters. Add that to a .307/.358/.585 slash line hitting behind Mookie and it is no surprise he knocked in 41 batters this year. Yes, Seager will very rarely give you a stolen base but the dude just knows how to hit and will continue to do so when he is healthy. I loved that I was right but am going to miss drafting him as my MI next season.
Zach Plesac, SP, CLE
I talked about Plesac as someone of interest on the end of the year Dynasty’s Child last year, and when he wasn’t being an idiot during a pandemic he more than delivered. I’ll admit he even surpassed my expectations because I didn’t see the strikeouts coming. All throughout the minors, Plesac’s control was superb and he kept that going once he made his major league debut in 2019. He had never been much of a strikeout guy but I still bought it because I saw him as a potential Kyle Hendricks type that would just location you to death and put up a quality start after quality start, which is exactly what he did (6 QS in 8 appearances). The fun part was, not only did he take a step forward with his control (lowering his BB/9 to 0.98), but he also took a step forward with his strikeouts, posting his best K/9 of any of his pro seasons. Adding whiffs to his fantastic control gives Plesac the opportunity to be a fantasy monster, and I’m glad I bought in when I did.
Kevin Gasuman, SP, Giants and Dinelson Lamet, SP, Padres
In an incredible advertisement for primarily two-pitch pitchers, Kevin Gausman and Dinelson Lamet each succeeded magnificently this year: Both struck out about 12 per 9, walked less than 3 per 9, and posted elite, sub 3.5 SIERAs.
This was easy to see in the off-season, as Gausman was incredible after being traded to Cincy last year, and Lamet was quite strong in his 73 IP return from Tommy John surgery. It was in fact a bullpen performance for Gausman, but he had a long track record as a starter, and he was dominant enough in the pen that success as a starter was reasonably expected even allowing for some regression. Both were even better than I imagined, for what it’s worth–even though I literally had Gausman in 8 out of 8 leagues this year, I did regrettably and too hastily trade Lamet after his incredible 2020 start. Is there a lesson to be learned from these two? Yes: the next time you see a million off-season sleeper posts about a pitcher ignoring ERA and citing excellent peripherals, SIERA, K, BB, GB, etc., pay attention (a ton of smart folks were hyping these two this off-season, Heaney is another example)! Also: don’t throw out a guy who is succeeding simply because he has two pitches. You can discount if you like, but this sort of extreme reaction is not justified by reality.
Teoscar Hernandez, OF, TOR
Teoscar Hernandez is going to get some MVP votes and will have earned them. Coming into the season, the soon to be 28-year-old Hernandez was on my radar, and I said this about him during a slow draft piece from back in June, “Teoscar Hernandez is still out there [in round 26] and I cannot understand why he will get to 25+ home runs and add counting stats hitting in a good Jays lineup. So while I have six outfielders as of now, adding a seventh is going to happen.”
Teoscar was my pick to click and keep up his hot start back in early August and by golly he did, until an oblique injury sidelined him for 12 days on September 5th. He returned quickly (maybe too quickly) and stumbled through the rest of the season. No matter, as his overall line of .289/.340/.579 with 16 taters, 33 runs, 34 RBI and 6 bags helped a great many dynasty teams this season. It will be a lot of fun to watch Hernandez next year hitting in the middle of the young Blue Jays lineup that has another year of experience under their belt.
Hernandez also hit half of his home runs on the road with a better average, so do not let the talk of the bandbox in Buffalo being the reason for his super season. While that batting average is due to come down and his K% at 30% is not good, it is still an improvement over his prior big-league seasons. As Hernandez was a late-round pick and fourth, at best, outfielder for most teams coming into the 2020 season and thus may be seen as having a career year at age 27, it cannot hurt to inquire after him this offseason in Dynasty leagues, as I expect more of the same in 2021.
Trent Grisham, OF, SD
Victory Formation!! Oh, wait…wrong sport…I still declare victory! I definitely wasn’t the only one beating the Trent Grisham drum in March, but I’m very satisfied that I rostered him in three out of four fantasy teams this season. Why yes, that is all of my money in my mouth.
Coming into the year, it was plain to see that he could hit for power and take a walk, even though I was still a little nervous about him putting it all together. But man, did he come through in a big way. He blew my top-30 outfielder prediction out of the water and coasted to top-40 overall status after posting a .251/.352/.456 slash with 10 homers, 10 steals, and 42 runs. He even increased his walk rate and decreased his strikeout rate. My goodness!
At this point, Grisham appears to be locked in at the top of one of the hottest offenses in MLB. If he’s on your dynasty roster, cheers! If not, well, the trade season starts up soon. Just be ready to give up the farm in return – the window to acquire him reasonably is long gone.
Kris Bryant, 3B, Cubs
In a shortened year where not a lot went well for me, fantasy-wise, one move I’m really happy I made was dealing Kris Bryant in my dynasty league last offseason. I also stayed away from him in my dynasty start-up and another league where he was heavily rumored in trade talks.
Bryant had somewhat rebounded from a poor 2018, hitting 31 home runs in ’19 and a BABIP-aided batting average of .282, but something just wasn’t right about him. His hard-hit rate was still down in ’19 (33.8%) and average exit velocity, which has never been elite in his career, was 87.6%. He continued to his three-year downward trend, putting more balls on the ground each year, and less line drives. All this, and despite having above average sprint speed, he doesn’t steal a notable number of bases.
Basically, we were looking at a power hitter, with a BABIP-aided BA. He scores runs but hadn’t put up 80 RBI in the previous 3 seasons. Say what you want about the RBI, and it being a team stat… but nearly every fantasy league I see uses them, so it’s important to consider. We are now looking at a 3-category performer, and one category (BA) could fall apart, which in fact happened (.206 BA, .202 xBA)
It’s very easy to look at Bryant’s 2020 season and assume he hurt his shoulder again, but how many times are we going to assume that gets better or rely on him and find out it’s gotten worse. Kris Bryant could go to salary arbitration for the final time this offseason. A year of team control that the team famously worked the system to get, back in 2015. Now, likely due a raise from his 18.6M salary in 2020, it will be interesting to see if the Cubs even offer him a contract, and the former MVP could actually be designated for assignment.
Dansby Swanson, SS, Atlanta Braves
Last off-season there looked to be a pretty good reason to be high on Swanson. The baseline stats weren’t all that impressive as he finished the year .251/.325/.422. That line was consistent with his career performance up to that point, so no surprise. However, there were a few changes that suggested there might be a more promising slash line coming. Most importantly for me were his increase in launch angle, exit velocity, and significant increases in his barrel percentage and hard-hit rate. My thoughts were that if he could maintain that approach we’d see something closer to .270/.335/.480 with 20 homers and 10 steals. We didn’t get a full season, but he finished the abbreviated season at .274/.345/.464 with 10 homers and 5 steals. Not bad, seems like he would have likely outperformed my estimates.
Swanson’s power surge this year did come with some more swing and miss, as he saw his strikeout rate increase by 4%, His BABIP was a rather high .350 as well, which means he likely over-performed in average this year. Still, the important gains I listed above stuck, which means that Swanson is rather unlikely to revert to his ol’ pumpkin self of 2019. No, I think what we saw in 2020 is much closer to the performance we’ll continue to see.
Eduardo Escobar, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks
In 2019 fantasy managers, including myself, found gold by either spending a late-round pick on Eduardo Escobar or picking him up off the waiver wire. Last season he slashed .269/.511/.832 with 35 home runs and 118 RBI, good for fifth in the majors. His multi-position eligibility was an added benefit allowing lineup flexibility to go along with his top-level production. Despite all of this a week didn’t go by where I didn’t try to sell high on Escobar, and I didn’t even consider him as a keeper for the next year despite his double-digit round value. He was the textbook example of underlying stats not supporting the on-field production and for-telling a steep drop off in performance. His exit velocity and hard-hit rate were both in the bottom 25th percentile of the league. His xBA and xWOBA reflected this batted profile data as both sat in the bottom half of the league. His pre- and post-All-Star game splits reflected this predictable downturn as his slash line decreased from .296/.543/.896 to .236/.472/.752 between halves of the season. Luckily for owners who held on all season his power numbers and other counting stats were still respectable down the stretch, but the overall decline accompanied by poor underlying numbers made me want nothing to do with him going forward into 2020. I actually smirked and laughed to myself as I watched his name get called in the fifth round in the same league I threw him back into the pool. Naturally, as with anyone you pass on in a keeper league, you keep tabs on how they do the next year. And well, his .212/.335/.605 slash line in 2020 has more than confirmed my decision.
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