Only in magic will you find disappearing acts cheered and applauded. In Fantasy Baseball, not so much. It's inevitable. For most, when you hit a certain age or have dealt with an abundance of injuries in your career, it's going to affect your production. Others completely fall off at a younger age without much indication it's going to happen.
Over the past 20 years, take a look at guys like Marcus Giles and Tim Lincecum. Those are two examples of very productive players falling off before their age-30 season with not much to fall back on. It can happen to anybody.
Below, I took a look at three players who fell off in 2019 and three more who could do the same in 2020. What are the chances that the disappearing acts from last season return to greatness this year? What are some of the reasons I'm worried about the latter three in 2020?
Blake Snell SP
TB Tampa Bay • #4 • Age: 27
Blake Snell found himself in a tumultuous 2019 filled with awesome production, a broken toe, arm issues and under-performance. During his first 11 starts, Snell had a 3.06 ERA and looked like he was well on his way to backing up his 2018 Cy Young Award. In fact, in those 11 starts his 19% swinging strike rate and 27.7 K-BB% far exceeded his 2018 numbers. Then, his next nine starts over June and July resulted in a 6.18 ERA and 1.58 WHIP. He was shut down for the rest of July and all of August with issues to his elbow and shoulder. Fast forward to spring training 2020 and Snell had a cortisone shot in his pitching elbow on Feb. 29. All of the warning signs are there. Snell is an elite per-inning pitcher when he is the mound, but I do have serious concerns over his health. I hope he proves me wrong because I hate seeing players get hurt, but I would bet on another disappearing act in 2020.
Edwin Diaz RP
NYM N.Y. Mets • #39 • Age: 26
Relievers are extremely volatile year-over-year, but nobody could have predicted Edwin Diaz's fall from grace in 2019. He followed up 57 saves and a 1.96 ERA in 2018 with 26 saves and a 5.59 ERA in 2019. Ladies and gentleman, that is what you call a floor and a ceiling in Fantasy Baseball. While his 2019 surface numbers were not pretty, both his 17.8% swinging strike rate and 39% K% ranked fifth among qualified relievers. Diaz is on record saying he couldn't grip his slider last season because of the newer baseballs. Hopefully they either use different baseballs or Diaz learns to throw his slider with these new ones. Whatever the case, I think Diaz's skills will prevail in 2020. His ADP is currently 120.6 as the 12th reliever off the board, which creates a buying opportunity. Expect Diaz to bounce back and shed his disappearing act from 2019.
NYY N.Y. Yankees • #19 • Age: 31
Masahiro Tanaka has been very up and down throughout his career. Oddly enough, his 2019 was a microcosm of said career. Over his first 11 starts, Tanaka pitched to a 2.94 ERA and a 1.12, albeit with a 3.97 xFIP. Alright, some regression was expected. Over his next 10 starts, he would pitch to a 6.91 ERA, allowing 13 home runs during that span. Yikes. All the while, Tanaka apparently did not have a feel for the splitter, his best pitch. Over his final 10 starts, he changed his splitter grip and bounced back to a 3.79 ERA. Like Diaz, Tanaka blamed the newer baseballs in 2019 for his inability to throw his splitter. I'd imagine if you take any pitcher's best pitch away, they're going to struggle. So where does Tanaka lie in 2020? His ADP is currently 177.4, as SP51 off the board. I see another buying opportunity. Tanaka doesn't have upside like earlier in his career, but I think he can bounce back to a high 3's ERA with a very respectable WHIP.
STL St. Louis • #46 • Age: 32
Paul Goldschmidt has been a popular fade in 2020, and there's a lot of supporting evidence. He's started slow now two seasons in a row, and in 2019, his batting average never bounced back to the level we were expecting. Goldschmidt's .260 last year was his lowest average since he was a rookie back in 2011. His plate discipline is also starting to slip a bit as well. His strikeout rate is up over 24% two years in a row while his 11% walk rate in 2019 was his lowest since 2012. The Statcast date also supports the surface numbers as his barrel rate dropped 2% and his .262 xBA was right in line with his actual .260 batting average. Something we noticed a lot when creating the All-Disappearing Act Team on yesterday's podcast was the sudden drop in OPS and OPS+. Well Goldschmidt went from a .922 OPS and a 142 OPS+ in 2018 to .821 and 113, respectively. The 113 OPS+ was the lowest mark of his career. Unfortunately, it looks like Goldy is a strong candidate to disappear at age 32.
Rhys Hoskins 1B
PHI Philadelphia • #17 • Age: 27
Somebody Scott mentioned who can disappear in 2020 was Rhys Hoskins. I give Scott credit for going out on a limb and predicting a 27-year old to fall off the face of the Earth, but I actually like Hoskins at his value. No doubt, Hoskins has some red flags. He hit just .180 in the second half with a .679 OPS. The guy fell in love with the home run as his fly ball rate and launch angle just got out of control. With that being said, his first half was still very good and I don't want to downplay that. During that first half, Hoskins slashed .263/.401/.530 with 20 home runs and 59 RBI. Plus, he has a great eye at the plate. That doesn't necessarily help you in Roto leagues but it does in H2H points or OBP formats. Over the past three seasons, Hoskins' 15.2% walk rate is sixth best in baseball. Hoskins' ADP sits at 111 as the 1B-12 off the board, one year after he was being drafted as a consensus top-50 player. BUY! BUY! BUY! His 2019 second half was an aberration. Hoskins will get back to his slugging ways in one of the best lineups in the National League.
Elvis Andrus SS
TEX Texas • #1 • Age: 31
Elvis Andrus is a player I struggle with, but let's give it a whirl. Over the first month last season, Andrus was batting .361 with five homers, six steals and a 1.008 OPS. What? Why? How? Well, I can tell you his 25% HR/FB ratio definitely wasn't going to last. Narrator: "it didn't." From May 1 on, Andrus batted .256 with seven home runs and 25 steals. His OPS over the final 120 games was .640! The only thing that gives me pause when it comes to doubting Andrus is his baserunning ability. Despite consistently ranking low in Statcast's sprint speed, Andrus continues to get it done in the steals department. Andrus is worth his current ADP of 153.2 if he steals 25-30 bases once again. At nearly 32 years old, I'm willing to bet against it. I'll tentatively call Andrus a disappearing act who picked up where he left off over the final five months of 2019.