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The 2020 season is basically over, but the debate over what any of it means is only beginning.

The pandemic wiped nearly two-thirds of it, after all, and in a sport like baseball where truths only come to light over enormous samples, there are a lot of lies to be found in this year's numbers. Shoot, even full-season numbers are subject to intense scrutiny if there isn't enough history to back them up.

But how to go about identifying those lies? Advanced stats and new data sources like Statcast have helped with that in recent years, but even they're subject to sample size, more often symptomatic than causal. No, process (with a capital P)  will only take us so far this offseason. We're left, then, to look to our forefathers of Fantasy Baseball analysis and base much of our analysis on little more than hunches.

Expect opinions to be far-ranging across the Fantasy Baseball community this offseason, with rankings showing less consensus than in years past. I'm firing one of the first shots with this look at the first two rounds for 2021, and if you take the time to read my defense of each pick, you'll see the hunches already hard at work. 

One statement I'm looking to make here is to lean even harder into starting pitching. Generally speaking, the more I did this in my 2020 drafts, the more success I had. The disparity at that position continues to widen.

These rankings are tailored for traditional 5x5 scoring (such as Rotisserie leagues), but I note the distinctions for points leagues where applicable.

Predicting the first two rounds in 2021
1
Ronald Acuna Atlanta Braves RF
A couple injury interruptions kept Ronald Acuna from getting into a groove with the batting average, but the power/speed comb was as advertised. I have zero doubts about his ability to sustain stud production moving forward.
2
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Mike Trout Los Angeles Angels CF
He's probably still the No. 1 pick in a points league, but for 5x5 categories leagues, it's now back-to-back years that Mike Trout has fallen short of his stolen base expectations. That he ranks this high in spite of it is a testament to his bat.
3
Mookie Betts Los Angeles Dodgers RF
As with Trout, you can slot Mookie Betts ahead of Acuna in points leagues because of his superior plate discipline, and if he's going to run as consistently as he did in his first year the Dodgers , third might be too low in 5x5 leagues as well.
4
Fernando Tatis San Diego Padres SS
Fernando Tatis was making his case to be No. 1, at least in 5x5 leagues, before stumbling to the finish line, but his greatly reduced strikeout rate still says a lot about the player he's becoming, especially now that his power/speed contributions are proven twice over.
5
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Shane Bieber Cleveland Indians SP
The debate over whether Shane Bieber or Jacob deGrom should be No. 1 at starting pitcher figures to be a spirited one, but on average, Bieber tends to go a little deeper into his starts. Plus, the Mets keep figuring out ways to cost deGrom wins, and though I probably shouldn't factor it in, it's hard not to.
6
Jacob deGrom New York Mets SP
Both Bieber and deGrom will be top-five picks in points leagues -- perhaps even third and fourth, leaving out Acuna and Tatis. This latest version of deGrom was actually the best we've ever seen, adding more than a mile per hour to his fastball and delivering other-worldly swinging-strike rates.
7
Juan Soto Washington Nationals LF
You keep wondering how much better the 21-year-old can get, and then he blows away your expectations all over again. The so-so steals potential knocks Juan Soto down a couple spots in 5x5 leagues, but he's a top-three hitter in points leagues now, particularly with the reduction in strikeouts.
8
Trevor Story Colorado Rockies SS
Turns out Trevor Story wasn't going to slow his steals pace but instead become one of the most prolific contributors in the category. Oh, and the strikeouts continued to drop, too, making him an easy first-round choice now.
9
Christian Yelich Milwaukee Brewers LF
Obviously, 2020 didn't go as planned for Christian Yelich , but the quality of contact was actually just as good as the previous two seasons, making bad BABIP luck and an inflated strikeout rate more likely to blame. I suspect both would have sorted themselves out over a full-length season.
10
Gerrit Cole New York Yankees SP
Gerrit Cole became a little more vulnerable to the long ball in a venue that's particularly bad for it, but all the ways he fell short of his 2019 production are so slight that they're practically meaningless in a two-month season. His numbers through two months in 2019 were worse, in fact.
11
Trea Turner Washington Nationals SS
The steals eventually came around for Trea Turner , and he also took a big step forward as a hitter, cutting down on his strikeouts while improving his power profile. Are we sure those weren't products of a small sample size? We can't be, but they're also not fully priced in here.
12
Cody Bellinger Los Angeles Dodgers CF
As with Yelich, there isn't enough in the underlying stats to suggest Cody Bellinger is a fundamentally worse player than the one who won NL MVP in 2019. In fact, the improved strikeout rate carried over. He didn't hit the ball as hard or as well, but that's more of a symptom than a cause and likely would have corrected over a full-length season.
13
Jose Ramirez Cleveland Indians 3B
The good version of Jose Ramirez was the only one to show up during the shortened season, confirming that his first-half struggles in 2019 really were the aberration. He doesn't have quite the batting average potential of a Mookie Betts, but the power/speed production is similar.
14
Freddie Freeman Atlanta Braves 1B
Trailing only Juan Soto in Head-to-Head points per game, Freddie Freeman seems to be getting better with age and plays a position that's suddenly lacking in high-end performers. I suspect his batting average would have come down to earth a little had the season gone the full length.
15
Aaron Nola Philadelphia Phillies SP
Aaron Nola got back on the ace path after last year's detour, shoring up the control that had always been a given for him while refining his changeup to make it as dominant as his curveball. The result was a pitcher who was like Shane Bieber on his best days, albeit with a few more blips along the way.
16
Lucas Giolito Chicago White Sox SP
All in all, Lucas Giolito validated his 2019 breakout, though it took some eye-popping stand-alone performances, like a no-hitter in which he struck out 13. Still, his swinging-strike rate ranked right in between deGrom and Bieber, and at 26, he's one of the few stud arms still on the upswing.
17
Yu Darvish Chicago Cubs SP
Yu Darvish has brought enough frustrations over the years that it feels wrong to rank the 34-year-old this high, but his actual performance dating back to the second half last year suggests he should go even higher. Of course, his wide assortment of pitches gives him more opportunities to stray from what's working.
18
Trevor Bauer Cincinnati Reds SP
Tinkering is Trevor Bauer's inclination as well, and sure enough, it was a different pitch mix driving his success this year. Of course, a selection that promotes even more fly balls should spell trouble in these modern times, but it's hard to argue with the results. Thing is we've also seen how bad it can get for Bauer, and there's no telling if he'll stick to the same approach.
19
Max Scherzer Washington Nationals SP
Max Scherzer has been so bankable in Fantasy for so long that it seems unfair to downgrade him for a pint-sized season in which he was still good, but not great -- especially since the stuff rated about the same as usual. But there have been more injuries popping up, and at 36, it's possible more subtle signs of decline are manifesting.
20
Francisco Lindor Cleveland Indians SS
Compared to some of the outsized stat lines made possible by the shortened season, Francisco Lindor's doesn't stand out, which makes it tempting to bury him. But the underlying data suggests he's basically the same player he's been for the past four seasons and that even this sort of drop might be an overreaction.
21
Manny Machado San Diego Padres 3B
Manny Machado was darn near the best player in Fantasy this year, performing better than ever as a hitter (and with numbers right in line with his expected stats) while also getting back to stealing bases. His track record suggests you can't count on the steals, though, and the out-of-character batted-ball profile is also deserving of scrutiny.
22
Bryce Harper Philadelphia Phillies RF
Bryce Harper's expected stats, according to Statcast, are even better than during his MVP-winning 2015 season, and the marked reduction in strikeout rate gives him hope of hitting for batting average again. It also looks like his recent fondness for the stolen base only continues to grow.
23
Alex Bregman Houston Astros 3B
I considered Alex Bregman a top-five hitter coming into this season, and his underachieving in around 150 at-bats shouldn't really change that. But there's the added complication of the Astros ' sign-stealing scandal and the simple fact that some hitters have to fall to make room for more pitchers. This is as late as I can justify him going.
24
Clayton Kershaw Los Angeles Dodgers SP
Clayton Kershaw appears to have halted his decline and even regained some lost velocity this year. But the durability issues remain, even if they were limited to just a minimum IL stay during the shortened season, which puts him a half step behind other pitchers of his ilk.
Notable omissions
Jose Abreu Chicago White Sox 1B
Maybe Jose Abreu takes a Nelson Cruz-like turn to end his career, but two months isn't enough to convince me he's more than the guy who hit .275 with an .818 OPS the previous two years. He hadn't had numbers like this year's since his 2014 rookie season
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Corey Seager Los Angeles Dodgers SS
Clearly, Corey Seager is healthy and a significant Fantasy asset again, but we had never seen him be so much of a power hitter before. The barrel and hard-hit rates are such outliers for his career that I suspect he may not have had enough time to come down from a hot streak.
Anthony Rendon Los Angeles Angels 3B
Case in point about those outlier barrel and hard-hit rates: Anthony Rendon couldn't keep his up from 2019, leading to numbers more in line with the rest of his career. He's still a great hitter and might still go in the second round of a points league for the plate discipline, but there are others like him in 5x5 play.
Walker Buehler Los Angeles Dodgers SP
The Dodgers' continued refusal to build him up like a normal pitcher made Walker Buehler slow out of the gate again, and they might shy away from giving him a full workload next year given how big the innings increase would be. He's probably next up among starting pitchers, but Jack Flaherty , Luis Castillo and Corbin Burnes are also in the running.
Tim Anderson Chicago White Sox SS
The strides Tim Anderson made as a hitter in 2019 clearly carried over, and a significant rise in draft stock is to be expected. But I still don't have a great grasp of what this current version's ceiling looks like. The batting average has to regress some, and I'm not super confident he's more than a 25-15 guy.
Nolan Arenado Colorado Rockies 3B
I was all prepared to dismiss Nolan Arenado's disappointing 2020 as a fluke until word of his bum shoulder broke, helping explain how much weaker his contact was. Surgery or not, it'll be a source of consternation heading into next year, and if the Rockies finally do trade him, he falls even more.