Earlier this week on Fantasy Baseball Today, we reviewed our first H2H Points mock draft of the offseason (you can find the results here) and it got my H2H juices flowing. For those who have never played Fantasy Baseball, this is the format for you, especially if you've played Fantasy Football. In this format, you earn Fantasy points based on what your players do on the field. One of your players hits a home run, that's six points. One of your pitchers gives up a hit or a walk, you lose a point. There's more involved, obviously, but that's the gist of it.
Where H2H points and Rotisserie formats differ in Fantasy Baseball is the flash. In Roto, you want those stud five-category producers who can hit 30 home runs with 30 steals. Don't get me wrong, you want them in points leagues as well, but they're not nearly as imperative. Same goes for pitchers. In Roto, the boring starters that go six innings, give up two runs, and strike out three batters are useful, but not nearly as much as in a points league.
Based on the CBS scoring format, you want hitters with strong plate discipline and pitchers who go deep into starts. Most Roto Fantasy leagues play with batting average, which means a walk is useless in that format unless that hitter scores a run once he gets on base. On the pitching side, most Roto leagues do not play with an innings category. In points leagues, you earn three Fantasy points per inning pitched (one point per out) so they're incredibly valuable. Alas, I've listed eight players below – four hitters and four pitchers – who might be viewed as boring, but are quite useful in this format.
2020 Fantasy points per game: 3.5
Mike Yastrzemski is a late-bloomer but I'm buying him in 2021, especially in this format. Plate discipline is incredibly important in points leagues that penalize hitters for strikeouts. Yastrzemski was one of 25 qualified hitters to post at least a 13% walk rate with his 13.3% mark in 2020. You don't have to worry about playing time, either. Yastrzemski's splits are fantastic. Through his first 161 big-league games, he's slashing .309/.383/.584 against lefties, which is just absurd. The only thing we might need to worry about is offense remaining up in Oracle Park. They closed the archways in the outfield with no fans this season, which stopped wind from flowing in off the water. You can read more about that here.
2020 Fantasy points per game: 3.4
While the batting average remained low for Kole Calhoun in 2020, he posted a career-high .300 isolated power. His 16 home runs were tied for seventh in baseball. Along with improving his slugging, Calhoun got back on track with his plate discipline. His 12.3% walk rate was a career-high while his 21.9% strikeout rate was his lowest since 2017. Calhoun is typically adequate against lefties in his career but raised his OPS to .817 against them in 2020, his highest mark since 2016. Like Yastrzemski, you have a solid power bat here with strong plate discipline and no playing time concerns. Calhoun's a name you can draft with one of your last picks in points league and plug in as your OF3 or utility.
2020 Fantasy points per game: 3.0
Brandon Belt has always been better in points leagues given his great plate discipline, which remained the case in 2020. Belt's 16.8% walk rate was a career-high and would have ranked eighth in baseball had he qualified. It's what Belt did when he put the ball in play that was even more interesting. His Statcast page (pictured below) is covered in red. He posted career-highs across the board in this department but most notable were his 16.8% barrel rate and his .598 xSLG, which both ranked in the 96th percentile. Like Yastrzemski, we have to pay attention to what happens with the archways in Oracle Park, but this is quite the development for Belt. He's worth targeting as a bench bat in points leagues with the upside to be a low-end starter at first base or as your utility bat.
2020 Fantasy points per game: 2.9
You already know. Andrew McCutchen has long prided himself in his plate discipline, evidenced by his 12% walk rate and 18.3% strikeout rate for his career. McCutchen is viewed as "boring" at 34 years old but still did a little bit of everything in 2020. And as good as he was, Statcast says McCutchen could have been even better. He finished with a .253 batting average with a .433 slugging percentage. Based on his quality of contact, Statcast expected a .277 batting average with a .485 slugging percentage. Steamer projections over on FanGraphs have McCutchen for a .246/.347/.443 slash line in 2021 with 26 home runs, 87 runs scored and nine steals. I like McCutchen more than Calhoun for 2021 and wouldn't mind him as my OF3 in this format.
2020 Fantasy points per game: 18.5
Did you know that since the start of 2019, Marco Gonzales is tied for second among all pitchers with 23 wins, trailing only Gerrit Cole's 27. That may come as a shock, but we know that going deep into starts is something that correlates very well with wins. In 45 starts over the past two seasons, Gonzales has gone at least six innings in 27 of those. In 2020, specifically, he accomplished this in seven of 11 starts. Part of the reason he's able to pitch so efficiently is his control. Gonzales walked just seven batters this past season, which was the lowest among all qualified starting pitchers. While the strikeouts will remain pedestrian, don't let that affect your view of Gonzales in points leagues. I wouldn't mind him as my SP5 in that format.
2020 Fantasy points per game: 16.0
Zach Davies won't maintain a 2.73 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP, but he did some interesting things in 2020. Let's start with the strikeouts as he posted a career-high 8.2 K/9 thanks to a career-high 10% swinging strike rate. His 8.2 K/9 jumped by nearly three strikeouts compared to 2019. How, you ask? Well, Davies joined a new team in the San Diego Padres and he changed his pitch mix. Davies got away from his sinker, lowering his usage from 52% in 2019 to 40% in 2020. As a result, he threw his changeup 41% and his cutter 17% of the time, both career-highs for him. Davies is a soft-tosser but as we know thanks to Kyle Hendricks, pitch usage and deception can help overcome a lack of velocity. Davies isn't exciting but will eat innings in points leagues. He's more of a streamer.
2020 Fantasy points per game: 15.9
I didn't know what to expect from Dallas Keuchel entering 2020 with the White Sox. He was signed midseason the year before with the Atlanta Braves and was decent, albeit with uninspiring control. Keuchel got back on track in Chicago, pitching to an absurd 1.99 ERA with a 1.09 WHIP. No, we shouldn't expect anything close to this again, but like Davies, Keuchel changed things up in 2020. For a long time, Keuchel has relied on his sinker, which made opposing batters beat the ball into the ground. He still threw the sinker 33% of the time this past season but that was a career-low. Instead, he opted for his cutter and changeup. This change limited batters to just a 25.3% hard contact rate, Keuchel's best since 2017 when he pitched to a 2.90 ERA with the Astros. Health has been a bit of an issue but when Keuchel is on the mound in 2021, I would expect him to be serviceable in all formats, but especially in points leagues.
2020 Fantasy points per game: 15.9
Brad Keller was a mix of the pitchers I mentioned above this season. He made changes to his pitch mix and he went deep into his starts regularly. Of course it's a small sample size, but Keller went at least six innings in six of his nine starts. While his command isn't nearly as good as the others, he's able to wiggle out of trouble with a 53% ground ball rate. Keller's change in pitch mix came with his slider, which he used a career-high 38% of the time in 2020. That was up 7% from the year before and 12% from two years prior. With the increased slider, he lowered his four-seam and sinker usage just a tad each. Keller doesn't have the most diverse pitching arsenal and he won't be fun to watch, but he goes deep into starts and plays in a strong division in terms of matchups. He's more in the Davies range as a streamer and somebody to target in two-start weeks.