2020 Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: 32 boom-or-bust players, from potential breakouts to injury risks
Some players look to be of a more hit-or-miss variety in 2020. Scott White singles out some of those high-risk/high-reward types.
Every player has a range of outcomes. They all have a best-case scenario, a worst-case scenario and a bunch of more likely scenarios in between.
But for these players, that middle range is harder to see. Whether because of extreme tendencies within their profile or external factors beyond their control, their 2020 seems more likely to go either very right or very wrong.
They're high-risk and high-reward, in other words, which isn't such a great thing for the ones being drafted early but becomes a real selling point for the ones being drafted late.
Which isn't to say any of them are off limits, but ... proceed with caution.
Either there's enough bat to get to the speed ... or there isn't
Adalberto Mondesi's 43 steals in just 102 games during an injury-shortened 2019 makes him the odds-on favorite to lead the majors in that ever-important category, but will he hit enough for it to matter? Some concerning developments in his batted-ball profile — ones that might only be exacerbated by his return from a torn labrum — make it less than a foregone conclusion.
Similar worries, but milder case: Jonathan Villar
Either he'll be healthy ... or he won't (hitter edition)
Aaron Judge's bat has never given us reason for doubt, but his ability to stay on the field has. At last check, he's still recovering from a stress fracture in his rib — an injury that dates back to last year and seems especially susceptible to setbacks — and even if it's not that, it's likely to be something else.
Similar worries, but milder case: Josh Donaldson
Either he'll be healthy ... or he won't (pitcher edition)
Blake Snell's elbow wasn't right for most of 2019, and he needed a cortisone injection in it as he was ramping up for 2020. His ability to miss bats is second to none among starting pitchers, but even as he was winning the AL Cy Young with a 1.89 ERA in 2018, the Rays had to play it extra cautiously with him, limiting him to 180 2/3 innings.
Similar worries, but milder case: Tyler Glasnow
Either the good version shows up ... or it doesn't
Sonny Gray has faked Fantasy players out so many times already in his career — most dramatically by following up a third-place Cy Young finish in 2015 with a 5.69 ERA the following year — that it's almost like we should know better. He appeared to make real progress with his slider last year, though, accounting for a career-best 10.5 K/9 rate.
Similar worries, but milder case: Trevor Bauer
Either the health and strikeouts will ruin him ... or they won't
Miguel Sano finally stayed healthy for long enough in 2019 to demonstrate how good he could be, performing at a 50-homer pace. But his league-worst strikeout rate makes for a low margin for error, as does his previously stated inability to stay on the field.
Similar worries, but milder case: Fernando Tatis
Either he'll be the same after a lost season ... or he won't
Corey Kluber's 34 years of age makes for an especially difficult projection coming off a lost season, even though the injury (a fractured forearm) isn't normally the kind that wrecks careers. It's true he didn't seem himself for the little bit he pitched in 2019, but is it enough to turn the tide on four top-three Cy Young finishes in the previous five years?
Similar worries, but milder case: Carlos Carrasco
Either he figured things out last year ... or he didn't
Seemingly well established as a back-end starter at age 32, Lance Lynn made some changes to his pitch selection in 2019 that carried him to new heights, earning him a top-five Cy Young finish with the seventh-most innings and seventh-most strikeouts in baseball. Can something so small be that transformative?
Similar worries, but milder case: Matthew Boyd
Either this is the year he finally falls off ... or it isn't
Edwin Encarnacion was the fourth-best first baseman in Head-to-Head points per game last season, but he isn't going nearly that high because of his 37 years of age and concerns that underlying plate discipline changes may signal an impending collapse. No one can continue performing at a high level forever, right?
Similar worries, but milder case: Nelson Cruz
Either he'll be good enough to retain the closer role ... or he won't
Edwin Diaz lives by the slider and dies by the slider. When it's on, as was the case in 2018, he's the best closer in baseball, but when it's inconsistent, as we saw last year, he's not good enough to stick in the role. The Mets have too much invested in him not to give him every chance to secure the role, so if he's not the one getting every save chance, it means things have again gone horribly wrong.
Similar worries, but milder case: Craig Kimbrel
Either he's ready for a full-time role ... or he isn't
Despite his top-prospect standing and dismantling of the minors last season, Gavin Lux's transition to the majors late in the year wasn't exactly seamless, and the Dodgers surplus of alternatives and tendency to play matchups makes him less than a sure bet to play every day. Naturally, it would impede his chances of emerging as an impact Fantasy bat.
Similar worries, but milder case: Kyle Tucker
Either he broke through last year ... or he didn't
Danny Santana was nobody to anybody before finding his way into semi-regular and then regular at-bats with the Rangers last year. The batted-ball profile doesn't entirely discount the breakthrough, which is to say he makes plenty of hard contact, but seeing as he's already 29 and has truly horrid plate discipline, there's just as much cause for skepticism.
Similar worries, but milder case: Gio Urshela
Either the home runs will be enough ... or they won't
Think of it as another Mike Zunino scenario. It's obvious Will Smith has some of the best power potential of any catcher, and you'll take any smidgen of offensive potential at that position. But he sells out so hard for it, elevating the ball with such regularity, that he's unlikely to get many hits in play. And combined with a suspect strikeout rate, it could pull down his batting average beyond the salvageable range.
Similar worries, but milder case: Tom Murphy
Either bad health contributed to his decline ... or it didn't
Already coming off three straight 40-homer seasons, Khris Davis seemed well on his way to another early last year, homering 10 times in his first 17 games. But then he bruised his hip colliding with a fence a couple weeks later — an injury that didn't rob him of much time but may have robbed him of some effectiveness given that he hit just 13 home runs the rest of the way. Or was it just the natural aging process for a 32-year-old with poor bat skills and a one-note profile?
Similar worries, but milder case: Justin Upton
Either it all comes together for him this year ... or it doesn't
Though already regarded as a top prospect, Mitch Keller turned the dial to 11 with the introduction of a swing-and-miss slider to his arsenal last year, and it was enough to propel him to the big leagues ... where he had a 7.13 ERA across 11 starts. A lack of whiffs wasn't his problem, though, and a 3.19 FIP during that same span speaks pretty highly of his potential as well.
Similar worries, but milder case: Dylan Cease
Either he'll force an everyday role ... or he won't
Sam Hilliard had 42 homers and 24 steals between the majors and minors last year and made a strong enough impression last September to earn a starting job, but the Rockies have so much tied up in declining players that they can't be trusted to make the right decision. And for someone like Hilliard, a late bloomer at 26, a return trip to the minors would come with no guarantees.
Similar worries, but milder case: Garrett Hampson
Either he hits the ground running in the majors ... or he doesn't
Carter Kieboom has nothing left to prove in the minors and the full support of management, who declared him the favorite for the third base opening even before spring training began. But it wouldn't make sense to call him can't-miss when we all saw him miss terribly just last April. It'll either be a bumpy transition or he'll live up to his first-division upside right away.
Similar worries, but milder case: Luis Robert
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