We're still waiting to find out if and when the MLB season will start, but it seems negotiations between the players and the league are imminent, which means an announcement could come soon if they can iron out the details. That's no guarantee, but it's the most momentum we've seen toward getting the 2020 season started, and some of the leaked details are very interesting for Fantasy players to think about, from ato .
One key detail that keeps coming up is the idea of the universal designated hitter, and that might have a greater impact for Fantasy than anything else. MLB is considering a schedule that would feature much less travel and much more interleague play, and that would also see the application of the DH across the game, at least for the 2020 season.
The ripple effects of that would be considerable, obviously — drop those NL pitchers down in your rankings! — but the biggest one would be the most obvious and practical: NL teams would have an additional lineup spot to play with. All of a sudden, some of those position battles look a lot less important, and those playing time concerns start to melt away.
Here are 11 hitters who could see a boost in Fantasy value if there is a universal DH for 2020:
STL St. Louis • #3 • Age: 24
Carlson still has to earn a job on the MLB roster whenever spring play resumes, but he's a prospect Fantasy players should definitely be excited about if he gets the chance. The Cardinals would still have one player too many for their outfield/DH rotation if Carlson does make the Opening Day roster, but the flexibility a DH spot would provide could be just what they need to justify having their top prospect on the active roster. He presents the potential for a highly valuable power-speed combo for Fantasy players and would be a must-draft player if he is on the roster.
MIA Miami • #1 • Age: 28
If Hampson was guaranteed an every day role, he might sneak into the top-125 discussion in ADP, so any avenue that gets him into the lineup more is enticing. He still has to prove last September wasn't a fluke, but if the bat plays, he'll have serious Fantasy appeal thanks to his speed. Hampson has 40-steal potential, and there might be enough bat that he isn't just a one-category, Mallex Smith type. Think Jonathan Villar without the batting average risk as an upside play.
Austin Riley 3B
ATL Atlanta • #27 • Age: 25
Riley already had a pretty good chance of breaking camp with the Braves under any circumstance, but this would pretty much confirm. Maybe he wouldn't DH everyday — they have one outfielder too many, too — but between DH and third base, I would expect Riley to play close to every day. Riley was already a good value — his low ADP reflected the uncertainty around his role and skill set but didn't include enough consideration of his considerable upside — but if the Braves have an extra lineup spot to play with, he becomes one of my top late-round targets. There is 40-homer upside here, and unlike most young players, we saw it in action for about a month last season before his contact issues caught up with him.
Wil Myers RF
CIN Cincinnati • #4 • Age: 32
It's been hard to know what to make of Myers all offseason, as he was reportedly being dangled in salary-dump trade offers even as the Padres made a few moves to start to clear out the glut in their outfield. The DH role wouldn't likely go exclusively to Myers — non-roster invitee Brian Dozier could see some time there as well — but it would certainly increase his chances of playing something like a full-time role, and there's a lot for Fantasy players in category leagues to like about Myers even at this point in his career. He'll likely be a drag on your average, but you can probably still count on him for 20-plus homers and 20-plus steals in an everyday role. There aren't many players who you can say that about at any point in the draft.
WAS Washington • #47 • Age: 39
On a per plate appearance basis, Kendrick was one of the best hitters in baseball in 2019, and it might not have been a fluke — he was in the 95th percentile or better in expected batting average, slugging percentage and wOBA, per BaseballSavant.com. He hit the ball incredibly well, but also hasn't seen more than 400 plate appearances in a season since 2016. Kendrick probably still wouldn't play every day even with the DH spot, but if he could get in the lineup even five times every week, he'd be a viable option for Fantasy, especially for daily leagues.
Justin Smoak 1B
MIL Milwaukee • #12 • Age: 36
Smoak was one of the unluckiest hitters in baseball last season, sporting elite plate discipline and batted-ball metrics, and now he's moving to one of the best parks in baseball for power hitters. With a full-time DH spot, he figures to be in the lineup nearly every day, likely as the everyday first baseman for what should still be a very good lineup. Smoak could be a 35-homer hitter at a steep discount.
CIN Cincinnati • #44 • Age: 28
Like the Cardinals, the Reds would probably still have one player too many even with a DH, but the problem with their outfield rotation isn't just that it's too crowded — it's that the options they do have are pretty unproven. They'll mix and match no matter what the alignment might be, and the addition of a DH would just give them one more spot to play with. I think that might be enough for Aquino to get another shot, and he showed last summer he can be an impact bat.
WAS Washington • #22 • Age: 27
The emergence of Pete Alonso and J.D. Davis in 2019 overshadowed Smith's own breakout, as the former top prospect started to tap into some of his raw power and put up an .881 OPS in a part-time role. It's fair to wonder if the same production could be sustained playing more regularly, but I'd like to see him get the chance. That won't happen without the DH, but I'd expect him to see the majority of the time there if the Mets gain that flexibility.
A.J. Pollock LF
SEA Seattle • #8 • Age: 35
Pollock looked slated for a platoon role, and given his history of injuries, it's hard to expect him to play the field regularly and stay in the lineup. But at DH? Well, now that might work. He reworked his swing prior to the 2018 season, and has emerged as a viable power threat in the second half of his career, hitting 30 homers while still stealing 15 bases on a per-162 game base over the last two seasons. If playing DH keeps Pollock fresh and in the lineup, it's not unreasonable to think he could be a starting outfielder in Rotisserie leagues, so don't forget about him in the last few rounds on Draft Day.
Steven Souza RF
SEA Seattle • #21 • Age: 33
Injuries have really taken their toll, but Souza was a viable Fantasy option back in 2017, hitting 30 homers and stealing 16 bases. If he is healthy, he figures to play pretty regularly in a DH role for the Cubs if they have that option, and he could give you something similar to what Myers might, though he is probably just an NL-only option in a most-likely scenario. He'll have to prove himself to the Cubs and to the Fantasy community.
Jay Bruce 1B
NYY N.Y. Yankees • #30 • Age: 35
In another era, Bruce would probably still be viewed as something close to an everyday player, even coming off a season with a .261 OBP and his disastrous defense. His bat probably still has enough life to justify keeping in the lineup — he had a 115 OPS+ with the Mariners before a trade to the Phillies last season, and the DH should give him an opportunity to play more. There isn't much here beyond power, but if he's healthy, he could be a decent source of that for essentially free.
So which sleepers should you snatch in your draft? And which undervalued first baseman can help you win a championship? Visit SportsLine now to get rankings for every single position, all from the model that called Kenta Maeda's huge breakout last season, and find out.