Written by: Adam Ehrenreich (@mel_reich)
Follow us on Twitter! @Prospects365
My favorite pre-draft exercise each winter is predicting who will take the leap into the first round the following fantasy baseball season. I look closely at players with ADPs within the top-100 and try to determine who I believe is going to take the proverbial ‘next step’ in the upcoming season. Successfully predicting these players—even if it’s just one or two—could be the key that helps you win it all in your fantasy league any given season.
To state the obvious, we won’t see the same redraft top-12 in 2021 as we currently see today. There will be movement, both in and out, of the top-tier of fantasy draft boards. Today, I will give you my take on six players who could make that quantum leap into the first round next season. To reiterate, using their current ADP to get outstanding value could separate you from your league mates, regardless of the stakes of your league.
Looking at early ADP data, a couple of names stick out as strong examples of players who made a major leap in the rankings from last season to this season. A simple look at the NFBC top-12 for 2020 features Cody Bellinger (4), Gerrit Cole (6), Trevor Story (10) and Juan Soto (11), each a star that made tremendous jumps in the ranks since Opening Day 2019. While I was wrong about Christian Yelich, I accurately predicted that Max Scherzer Chris Sale, Aaron Judge and Jose Ramirez would drop out of the first round last season. This year, I can see Mookie Betts, Gerrit Cole, Jacob deGrom, Trea Turner and Alex Bregman slipping out of the first round to make room for these up and coming stars.
Let’s get started.
Vlad Guerrero Jr. – Toronto Blue Jays (NFC ADP #56) – So it begins. The soon to be 21-year-old Vlad Jr. is ready to impose his will on Major League Baseball, and there is nothing any of us can do about it. A plethora of injuries—both before and after he was promoted to Toronto—derailed what was supposed to be a hype-filled rookie season. This may cause some to forget what the man can do. In 464 MLB at-bats in 2019, Vlad batted .272 with 15 homers and 69 RBIs, but he looked mortal at times and was only five percent above league average offensively (105 wRC+). We did see glimpses of greatness though. The Home Run Derby was a site to be seen, as Vlad has proven time and time again to be a batting practice king. The early spring reports have been tremendous, and it’s obvious the third baseman spent time this offseason dedicating himself to being in better shape this season and beyond. We are looking at a player who batted .381 across four levels in 2018, and could be a future batting champion at the Major League level—all while also possessing elite, otherworldly power. This season could be the start of something special. I am predicting .292/100/33/105/3 from Guerrero Jr. in 2020, lining him up for first round hype in 2021.
Eloy Jimenez – Chicago White Sox (55) – There aren’t many players in the Majors right now with as much variance in their projections as Jimenez. The 23-year-old could either see a massive sophomore slump (which would be somewhat of a continuation of the player we saw for long stretches of his rookie season), or hit 35+ home runs with relative ease. I think we’ll see the latter. The White Sox are much improved, up and down the lineup card. They could challenge for an AL Central crown as soon as this season, and Jimenez will be batting in the middle of an underrated lineup. The protection surrounding him should allow him to pick his pitches, which is usually a recipe for success. The batting average in 2020 should see positive regression, as Eloy batted .337 across two levels in 2018 and .312 across three levels in 2017. In 2019, Jimenez batted .267 with 31 homers and 79 RBI in 468 at-bats. With a better start to his 2020 campaign, we could see a line of .285/90/37/95, which will put him in line for even greater projections for 2021.
Anthony Rendon – LA Angels (20) – Anthony Rendon is going to win the AL MVP in 2020. I’ll just leave that here, let it sink in a little bit. Rendon is coming off a monster 2019, batting .319 with 34 homers and 126 RBI, finishing third in the NL MVP voting in his final season with the Nationals. The 29-year-old now moves across the bay to a star-studded lineup that should afford him even more opportunities to produce runs. Since his breakout campaign in 2016, we have only seen his numbers increase annually, and batting behind Mike Trout should only make things better. The bat speaks for itself, Rendon’s reputation speaks for itself, and he could be a steal this year in the back half of the second round, as he proves to be a consistent and reliable asset in the fantasy realm. A line of .310/115/37/135/5 could easily cement Rendon in the first round of 2021 fantasy drafts.
Fernando Tatis Jr.- San Diego Padres (16) – If you prorate Tatis rookie 2019 campaign over 550 at-bats (I wouldn’t recommend doing this outside of simply being curious), you get a line of .317/100/36/87/26. That is easily first round value. That’s better than Francisco Lindor’s production in 2019 in 541 at-bats, and Lindor is a clear first rounder in 2020. It’s true that the 21-year-old’s on base skills will certainly be tested this season assuming he won’t have a repeat performance (.410 in 2019), but the counting stats here may the shortstop an appetizing option even if the batting average drops 20-30 points in his sophomore campaign. Tatis has the ability, and the swagger, to be a fan favorite in fantasy circles, and I would not be surprised if he is the steal of the second round in 2020, aside from Anthony Rendon of course.
Yoan Moncada– Chicago White Sox (64) – As you can see, I really like the White Sox bats in 2020. Common baseball fans tend to forget that Moncada was the centerpiece of the trade that sent Chris Sale to Boston a few years back. Finally, in 2019, Moncada had the big league season the White Sox had anticipated when they traded their ace, in large part, for the infielder. The third baseman batted a shocking (and BABIP fueled) .315 with 25 home runs, 79 RBIs and 10 stolen bases, officially cementing himself as a top-100 fantasy player moving forward. Moncada is slated to bat second in this strong lineup in 2020, surrounded by Tim Anderson, Jose Abreu, Eloy Jimenez (discussed above) and Edwin Encarnacion. That should lead to 100 runs scored for the 24-year-old, along with the liberty to run more often and being able to select his pitch with the big bats coming behind him. This should lead to more steals and homers in 2020. BABIP regression means Moncada will struggle to hit over .300 again this season, but even a noticeable drop would still see a line of .285/100/30/100/20, which would put him directly in the conversation for the first round of 2021.
Gleyber Torres – New York Yankees (29) – One of the quietest 38 home run seasons I can remember, Torres broke out in a big way in 2019 and is severely under-appreciated in fantasy this preseason. There are very few players with 2B/SS eligibility on draft boards, and definitely none with the upside of Torres. If he takes the next step in 2020 as expected, we could be looking at a line of .275/100/42/100/5, which are numbers you won’t find anywhere else amongst second basemen this season. You could give yourself a massive advantage at a shallow position by reaching for Torres in the third round. The team is seeing the injury bug once again in the spring of 2020, but if health comes their way, the lineup strength will only help Torres’ case for a monster 2020 season.
Make sure you’ve read Adam Ehrenreich’s Post-Hype Pandemonium series for the 2020 season. Part one focus on sleeper and breakout candidate hitters. Part two details the pitchers who could become fantasy cogs this season.
Follow P365 staff writer Adam Ehrenreich on Twitter! @mel_reich
Follow us on Twitter! @Prospects365
Featured image courtesy of photographer Ali Thanawalia and NBC Bay Area