In a baseball season where we were forced to talk about small sample sizes ad nauseam, I thought it made sense to look at an even smaller sample size: the postseason. It seems ridiculous to put much stock into 25 plate appearances or 20 innings, but there is something to be said about the level of competition this time of year. These are the best hitters and pitchers that are left on the planet so if you're performing well against them, maybe it should mean a little more. I tried to find an example of strong postseason performance leading to a rise in ADP the following the season, and I think I found one in Nathan Eovaldi.
Eovaldi had a solid 2018 regular season, posting a 3.81 ERA across 111 innings with the Rays and Red Sox. It was what he did in the playoffs that I think opened everybody's eyes. Across six appearances (two starts), Eovaldi pitched to a 1.61 ERA with a 0.81 WHIP and a .185 batting average against. He was a pivotal piece in the Red Sox winning the World Series, actually. His ADP in 2019 was 177, a mid-late round pick. If the Red Sox hadn't made the playoffs, we're likely looking at an ADP outside the top-200. That's just a hunch but something I believe.
The reason I'm writing is this is basically the performance of Randy Arozarena, among others, throughout these playoffs. Arozarena, in particular, has caused quite the buzz in the Fantasy industry. As a result, I thought it made sense to take a closer look at some risers based on postseason production to this point.
Arozarena entered Friday's game 12-for-24 with six extra-base hits, three of which are home runs (with one coming off Gerrit Cole). If you've watched any of the games he's played in, you've no doubt heard manager Kevin Cash compare Arozarena to Mookie Betts. Others have compared him to Marcell Ozuna with speed. Teammate Kevin Kiermaier went as far to say "he's the best player on the planet," referring to Arozarena. The talent is there.
I believe that. In 92 minor-league games in 2019, he hit .344 with 15 home runs and 17 steals. The problem is now everybody knows about him and he won't come cheap in 2021 drafts. In two early mock drafts, I've seen Arozarena go 96th and 126th overall, respectively. If you're a drafter who likes to swing for upside in the middle rounds, he's your guy. Just know that this postseason has ruined any hope of drafting Arozarena as a "sleeper" next season.
Projecting young pitchers who made their debuts in 2020 will be a headache for 2021, but my early methodology is to just draft the best talent and figure it out later. If you believe that, too, then you likely will target Ian Anderson in 2021 drafts. The kid has been lights out through two postseason starts, throwing 11.2 scoreless innings while striking out 17. If you combine that with his six regular season starts, you're looking at a 1.43 ERA with 58 strikeouts across 44 innings.
I really like Anderson's arsenal that features a wipeout fastball-changeup combination and a solid curveball that induces groundballs at a 75% clip and swinging strikes 14.3% of the time. This isn't a Chris Paddack situation, either, as Anderson threw his curve nearly 21% in the regular season. I actually selected Anderson myself in one of these early mocks at pick 121 as my SP4 and I have absolutely no issue with that.
Let's stick with pitching and climb a little higher into the elite stratosphere. Walker Buehler has made two starts thus far in the postseason and has pretty much reminded us of how good he can be. While those two starts have resulted in just eight innings, they've also resulted in 16 strikeouts. Buehler's reaching back for a little extra as he averaged 97.8 MPH on his four-seam fastball in his most recent start against the Padres, up one whole tick from his career 96.8 MPH.
Before this postseason I would have bet on Buehler going in the third round in 2021 drafts. Now I'm thinking he's worked his way back into the second and I'm not sure I would agree with that move. Yes, I just said you should draft talented pitchers and figure the rest out later. I also think you have to be a little more cautious when that pitcher is your SP1 in the second round of drafts. Buehler will likely end this postseason with around 60 innings and has never pitched more than 182.1 in a season in his career. He also dealt with multiple blister issues over the past month, and the Dodgers regularly treat him with extreme caution. I love the talent but am more weary of Buehler if second round is the cost in 2021.
I was critical of Giancarlo Stanton entering the 2020 season for two reasons: he hasn't been able to stay healthy and for most of his career he's struggled with breaking pitches. Stanton did only appear in 23 regular season games due to hamstring issue but he's reminding everybody of his talent when it matters most. Stanton is the hottest hitter in the playoffs right now, slugging six home runs in a five-game span, three of which came off Tyler Glasnow and Carlos Carrasco.
I downplayed what his upside could be from a Fantasy perspective and that was wrong. He just needs to stay healthy. As for the breaking pitches, his .281 xBA against those offerings in this shortened season was his best in the Statcast era. He also chased pitches outside the strike zone just 23.4% of the time in the regular season, by far a career-best. In the two early mocks I've seen, Stanton went in the sixth and eighth rounds, respectively. I'd expect him to settle in closer to that sixth-round range.
Let me start this off by saying that – like many people – I lost a lot of respect for the Houston Astros and Carlos Correa as a result of their cheating scandal. However, you have to respect what Correa is doing this postseason. Hate him or love him, the kid is putting his money where his mouth is. After a disappointing regular season where Correa hit just five home runs with a .709 OPS, he's hit four homers in just 20 postseason at-bats.
If the Astros hadn't made the playoffs, we'd be left wondering just how good their hitters really are after uncharacteristic down seasons from not only Correa, but also Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve. The playoffs has somewhat rectified that. Say what you will about Correa and the Astros but his recent play has reinforced my confidence in him heading into 2021. He went in the 10th and 11th rounds, respectively, in these early mocks and that looks like a pretty good buying opportunity.