Like I pointed out last week with the MLB teams, and a decent few slip the cracks. The question is why?, there are a lot of players to cover in Fantasy baseball. Technically, there are 1,200 active players across 30
Why do we overlook some players in Fantasy baseball? Based on the list below, I think there are a few reasons. The first one is the unknown. It's easier to just not consider drafting a player when you don't know their situation. Consider this the "I'm washing my hands of this player" approach. Is that the correct way to handle these players? Well, only time will tell. They're still worth talking about, however.
Another reason is fatigue. We've heard about Kolten Wong and Dylan Bundy, and Teoscar Hernandez for years now, but they have not been consistent contributors. At a certain point in a player's career, they just are who they are. Maybe a change of scenery for Bundy or a tweak in the approach for Hernandez can help elevate their games to the next level.
Let's take a look at 10 more players we haven't talked enough about throughout this extended offseason:
It's hard to hold 2019 against Carlos Carrasco, given his circumstances. It's been nearly a year since Carrasco was diagnosed with leukemia last July. Across his first 12 starts, Carrasco posted a 4.98 ERA although the underlying numbers were much more promising. Accompanying that ERA was a 3.48 xFIP to go along with 10.9 K/9, 1.5 BB/9 and a 13.7% swinging strike rate. That's more of the Carrasco we were used to over the previous five seasons as he had a 3.27 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP from 2014-2018. Carrasco returned to the Indians in September and pitched in relief, seeing his fastball velocity increase half a tick.
There's obvious risk, however, when drafting Carrasco in Fantasy. First off, is he going to play in 2020? According to the CDC, cancer survivors are at higher risk of contracting the coronavirus, which puts Carrasco in a dangerous situation. Also, he's 33 years old and was dealing with inflammation in his pitching elbow throughout spring. Like his former teammate, Corey Kluber, Carrasco is risk-reward play, although you can get him about 30 picks later on average. I'd be willing to roll the dice on Carrasco as my SP4 or a SPARP in H2H leagues.
Man, Kolten Wong is one tough cookie to crack. He's been wildly inconsistent over his past six seasons. During that span, his batting average and stolen bases have fluctuated tremendously. From 2014-2019, here's what you had to deal with from Wong in those categories: .249-20 SB (2014), .262-15 SB (2015), .240-7 SB (2016), .285-8 SB (2017), .249- 6 SB (2018), .285-24 SB (2019).
Wong had a massive second half, where he hit .342 with an .896 OPS. He can thank a 24.4% line-drive rate for that. If he can maintain those gains in line-drive rate then Wong can be a plus contributor in batting average. The steals are the key to Wong's value, though. He stole a career-high 24 bases in 2019, thanks to the Cardinals aggressiveness on the base paths. In Mike Schildt's first full season as manager, the Cardinals were tied for third in baseball with 116 steals. Wong is a Roto-only middle-infield target at this point that you hope is a poor man's Tim Anderson. He's still too inconsistent for my liking.
Believe it or not, Dylan Bundy has my attention and the attention of many others as well. The first and I believe main reason for this attention is he's leaving the hitter-friendly confines of Camden Yards for the more spacious Angel Stadium in Anaheim. Bundy has struggled allowing home runs in his career, evidenced by his 1.67 HR/9. Just last season Camden Yards ranked third in home run park factors while Angel Stadium ranked 12th.
Another reason leaving the Orioles may be beneficial for Bundy is that they are flat-out bad at developing starting pitchers. Anybody remember Jake Arrieta? Now I don't think Bundy will reach Arrieta levels of success, but Bundy has intrigue. He's averaged a very respectable 8.8 K/9 in his career and just last season his 12.9% swinging strike rate ranked 17th among starting pitchers with at least 160 innings pitched. That swinging strike rate ranked higher than both Walker Buehler and Trevor Bauer. The biggest issue for Bundy has been his declining fastball velocity that has dropped from 93.8 MPH back in 2016 to just 91.2 MPH in 2019. I believe the move away from Camden plus leaning more on his slider and changeup should be a recipe for Bundy to easily pay off his current ADP of 228.
Like Bundy, there are many reasons to be excited over Yandy Diaz. He does many positive things you look for in a hitter. Let's start with his batted ball data. Diaz is one of, if not the strongest players in all of baseball… and it shows. One glance at his Baseball Savant Statcast page and all you see is red (which is good). Last season his 91.7 MPH average exit velocity ranked in the 92nd percentile. The rest of his Statcast percentile ranks can be seen below.
Diaz also has great plate discipline. He owns a 17.8% career strikeout rate and a 10.4% walk rate. That allowed Diaz to average 3.1 Fantasy points per game last season, which ranked better than Paul Goldschmidt, Rhys Hoskins and Luke Voit. You're probably wondering why Diaz is drafted around pick 263 then. Like many others, he needs to raise his launch angle. He made strides last season, raising his fly ball rate to 32%, up 9% from 2018. He needs to continue to build on that. Also, Diaz needs to show us he can stay healthy. He played in just 79 games last season as he was limited with hand, hamstring and foot injuries. If he stays healthy hitting in the middle of the Rays lineup, with his plate discipline, we have a breakout candidate on our hands regardless for format.
Part of the reason the Reds outfield is so crowded is because they signed Shogo Akiyama out of Japan back in January. There's a lot to like in Akiyama's game in both Roto and H2H. On the Roto side of things, he doesn't really have a flaw in his game. His career triple slash in Japan was .301/.376/.454. He's also hit at least 20 home runs in three straight seasons and at least 12 steals in five straight. He does a little bit of everything.
From a H2H points perspective, Akiyama has above-average plate discipline. Over 5,350 plate appearances in Japan, Akiyama posted a 10% walk rate to go along with a 15% strikeout rate. He's also expected to lead off against right-handed pitching for a stacked Reds lineup. This should create more plate appearances and a ton of run-scoring opportunities. The one downside for Akiyama is his age at 32 years old. While I don't think he has tremendous upside, I can see an Adam Eaton-esque season, and Akiyama is being drafted 70 picks later. He's a player to target as a fifth outfielder in Roto or bench bat in H2H points.
Maybe I'm just a sucker for small sample sizes, but I'm a fan of Austin Hays. Maybe it was also because I picked him up in September last season and he helped me win a championship. In his 21 games with the Orioles, Hays slashed .309/.373/.574 with four homers, 12 runs, 13 RBI and two steals. In terms of plate discipline, he added a 9.3% walk rate and struck out just 17.3% of the time. His Statcast data was also promising, evidenced by his 89.8 MPH average exit velocity and 303 expected batting average. Everything is perfect for Hays!
… And then it wasn't. Hays had a massive 2017 in the minors where he hit .329 with 32 home runs. Since then, however, he's hit just .242 with 29 home runs in the minors. His production across all levels has been inconsistent. What Hays has working in his favor, though, is opportunity. The Orioles are void of talent, which means Hays should see regular playing time in a great hitter's park. He might even lead off, which would help with plate appearances and runs scored. He's a player I'm grabbing on my bench in both Roto and H2H points leagues.
Mike Yastrzemski, grandson of the great Carl Yastrzemski, was another one of those random mid-career breakouts from 2019. Was it real or was he helped by the juiced ball? Well, the reason I ask is before last season, he owned a career .263 batting average to go along with a .782 OPS in the minors. That all changed in the PCL and the majors last season. In the PCL alone, Yastrzemski hit .316 with a 1.090 OPS across 40 games.
He didn't stop there. Yastrzemski would go on to hit 21 home runs with 64 runs scored while batting .272 for the San Francisco Giants. He did some very impressive things along the way as well. As a left-handed batter, he was actually better against lefties. Yastrzemski hit .329 with a .943 OPS against them. In the second half, he would cut his strikeout rate down to 24.9% while making harder contact and hitting more fly balls. He made all the strides you want to see a hitter make in their first full season. How much do you trust it, though? I'll admit he's interesting and has the family pedigree, but I am skeptical considering he's never done anything close what he did in 2019. He also hits in a terrible home ballpark in San Francisco. Yastrzemski and Hays basically go back-to-back in ADP, and I'd rather have Hays.
How much is left in the tank for 34-year old Johnny Cueto? Let's try to find out. Cueto returned from Tommy John surgery last season, making four starts and throwing only 16 innings. In those starts, he had a 5.06 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP, averaging just 7.3 K/9. The good news, however, was that his fastball velocity was 91.3 MPH, the same point it was at back in 2016 and 2017.
What Cueto has working for him is the fact that he pitches in San Francisco. Any Giants pitcher can at least become a streamer at times because of the pitcher-friendly environment. Cueto has a 3.54 career ERA across 38 starts in San Francisco. What Cueto doesn't have working for him is everything else. I have serious doubts. Will his command return? How durable is he at 34 years old? He hasn't pitched more than 147.1 innings in a season since 2016. Plus, he has to consistently face the likes of the Dodgers, Rockies, Diamondbacks, and Padres. Cueto will likely become a streamable pitcher at times in 2020, but I don't think there is much upside left.
Just based on raw talent and athleticism, I think Teoscar Hernandez is intriguing. There's no doubting his power and speed. Just last year, his exit velocity ranked in the 85th percentile and his sprint speed ranked in the 94th percentile. He has all the tools. Hernandez's biggest issue is that he needs to focus on making more contact. In his career that spans 1,194 plate appearances, he owns a 31.8% strikeout rate. The only way you can overcome strikeouts like that is if you put up extraordinary power numbers like Joey Gallo or Aaron Judge.
Maybe Hernandez can do something similar if he can stay on the field. Just last year, he hit 26 home runs in just 125 games. That's a 33-homer pace over the course of a full season. He also chipped in six steals. If Hernandez can exceed 30 home runs with double-digit steals over a normal season, that's a Fantasy viable player. A large portion of his numbers in 2019 came in the second half, when he hit .259 with a .939 OPS. Again, the problem is he did that with a 36% strikeout rate. Everything else checks out. He makes hard contact. He hits fly balls. He seemingly has an everyday role with the Blue Jays. If he improves on the strikeouts, we could see something special, though I remain skeptical. Currently, he's a deeper mixed league Roto target.
The people really want to hear about Cameron Maybin, huh? Ask and ye shall receive. It seems that, at the ripe age of 33, Maybin was on the verge of a breakout campaign with the Yankees last season. In 82 games, he managed to hit .285 with 11 homers and nine steals. Over the course a full season, Maybin was on pace for 21 home runs with 17 stolen bases. He did so with a career-high 39.4% fly ball rate and a career-high 10.2% barrel rate. Did Maybin really buy into raising his launch angle and it worked?
Does seem to be the case. And if you play in an AL-only league or a 15-team Roto league with five outfielders then yes, Maybin should be on your radar. He takes a pretty significant downgrade in park factor playing with the
Detroit Tigers, but he should play every day (until he's traded, at least). I don't think Maybin will find himself into relevance in standard leagues, however. There are just so many talented outfielders, and you're banking on a 33-year old repeating something he's never done before. It can happen, but I'd consider that a lower probability.