With Opening Day of the 2020 MLB season just a few weeks away, we have a new batch of updated fantasy baseball rankings for you here at RotoBaller. The unpredictable effects of COVID-19 and the implementation of the 60-game season will make the upcoming fantasy campaign the most unique we have ever seen. Not only because of the schedule structure, but because of the inevitable impact of the pandemic.
Drafting healthy players will be like walking through a minefield this year since we've already seen a wide range of players test positive for the virus. Even though these players should recover in time for the beginning of the campaign, the long-term impact could compromise their strength and endurance. The in-season struggle of maintaining the players' well-being will be a balancing act, so we can only hope all players and staff do their part to keep everyone healthy. With two-thirds of games now played within the division and the remaining third versus interleague counterparts, this setup gives some hitters in certain divisions advantages over others. Considering the effect of Park Factors and the pitching staffs they'll face within their division, factoring in these elements is essential in such a short season.
Don't forget to bookmark our main fantasy baseball rankings page which is loaded up with rankings, tiers, auction dollar values, player stats, projections, news and more for Mixed Leagues, H2H Points Leagues, Dynasty Leagues, 2020 Redraft Prospects, Dynasty Prospects and more! With that said, let's analyze the landscape of the shortstop position.Editor's Note: Love the strategy of season-long fantasy sports? Live for the short term gratification of DFS? Try Weekly Fantasy Sports on OwnersBox - a new weekly DFS platform. Sign up today for a FREE $50 Deposit Match. Offer expires Thursday night! Sign Up Now!
Updated First Base Rankings - 5x5 Mixed Leagues
|Rank||Tier||Player||Position||Nick M.||Nick G||Pierre||David||Riley|
He may technically share the tier but Cody Bellinger is in a fantasy class by himself, finishing as the #3 overall player in 2019 according to the Fangraphs auction calculator. Bellinger was third in earnings but he was also within the tossup range of Acuna and Yelich; those three players made up a tier that had a distinct separation from the rest of the top-10:
|1||Ronald Acuna Jr.||OF||$41.3|
Bellinger is a superstar in any format but has a profile that is particularly appealing to me in this 60-game season. For one, his fantasy game has no categorical holes and is elite everywhere, even in stolen bases when just comparing him to his peers. He hits for power and average and is hitting behind Mookie Betts in the middle of what should be one of baseball's best offenses.
What I really love is the upside in batting average. As I've mentioned before, I believe the ratio stats are going to carry more fantasy value in 2020 than they do in typical seasons. With that in mind, I'm giving more weight to players who are likely to shine in average and who've previously shown themselves capable of spiking big numbers over short periods. Like when Bellinger was hitting .370 after 60 games in 2019.
In many ways, Freddie Freeman is Bellinger-lite, posting a .295 AVG over 692 PA, with 38 HR, 121 RBI, 113 R, and 5 SB. Freeman is also due to hit in the middle of a top offense, with Marcel Ozuna being swapped in Josh Donaldson to hit behind him. However, we can't ignore the COVID-shaped elephant in the room.
Along with three teammates, Freeman tested positive upon intake into summer camp and is reportedly symptomatic, and not lightly. Manager Brian Snitker gave no timeline for his return but said Freeman is "not feeling great" and will be out a while. It's hard to speculate on what Freeman's status will be by Opening Day or how healthy he will be after he returns. But he's sick right now and is recovering from a disease whose long-term effects we don't yet understand. Especially how it might affect the performance of elite athletes. It's hard to spend a second-round pick on that much uncertainty.
The second tier consists of some players with similar molds. Big and beefy sluggers with serious pops. One has seen his third-round price stay mostly static through the extended offseason, while the other has seen a steady rise, going from a 63 ADP in January to a 43 ADP in the most recent drafts.
Do you believe in a repeat performance from Pete Alonso, or not? Nick M. and Pierre don't believe in the second-year slugger as much as me and the rest of the rankings team, putting him at #41 and #44 respectively. I have Alonso at #36, coveting the light-tower power that he brings to the table. He doesn't have the high average I'm coveting in this short season but he's not a total sink, hitting .260 last season and supported by a .257 xBA.
I still think his price is a little high considering how many first basemen there are down the line that I really like but Alonso should give you piles of counting stats and can set your team up with a solid base of HR, RBI, and R. He doesn't have many splits issues - with a .385 wOBA versus right-handers and a .381 wOBA versus lefties - and showed himself capable of a hot start in his rookie season. After 60 games in 2019, Alonso had hit 20 HR, with 45 RBI and 36 runs scored.
Moving over to the west coast, Matt Olson brings a lot of the same skills as Alonso does, albeit a bit lighter on the power. What Olson does bring more than Alonso is a longer track record; he hit 24 HR in just 216 PA in 2017, 29 HR in 660 PA in 2018, and a career-high 34 HR last season. But Olson hit those 34 bombs in just 547 PA, missing two months with a broken hamate bone.
The problem, as it often is, is the price. Olson was a solid value at his early-season draft prices but a 43 ADP is a stiff price to pay when his batting average is going to top out around .260. Like Alonso, he can give you a solid base of counting stats and comes at a discount compared to his counterpoint in New York. However, first base is pretty deep in my view and I'd rather look elsewhere.
Tier 3 is jam-packed with varying profiles and prices. It's also home to what I see as some of the bigger value at the position, as well as the top-100 overall.
After translating the recent ATC 60-game projections to dollar values using z-scores and comparing rankings to recent ADP, boring, old Anthony Rizzo looks like one of the best values on the board. Nothing about his line jumps off the page; Rizzo is projected for a .284 AVG in 239 PA, with 10 HR, 34 RBI, 33 R, and 2 SB. While not flashy, those are solid contributions in every category with an average that's a big jump up from most of the sluggers at the position.
Comparing him to Olson, both will give you similar totals in R+RBI when looking at projections. So, would you rather have the four more home runs that Olson is being projected for or the 30-more points of batting average that Rizzo is projected to give you? Give me the average all day long. Especially since Rizzo has had a 71 ADP since July 1, nearly 30 spots after Olson is being taken.
Everything I just said about Anthony Rizzo can basically run back verbatim for Paul Goldschmidt. In fact, the only significant difference between what ATC is projecting for the two is one more home run for Goldschmidt and seven less points of batting average. Like Rizzo, Goldy doesn't have flashy power but he'll get you double-digits in home runs while giving you a much bigger chunk of average. Even better is a price that continues to drop; Goldschmidt now has a 77 ADP and is being drafted as the 53rd hitter overall. Bring me some more of your boring and steady. I welcome them to my shores.
And now for the hat trick! As Goldschmidt is to Rizzo, so is Bell to Goldschmidt. Bell gives you a little more power than the previous two, with ATC projecting him for 12 home runs, and a little less average, as Bell clocks in with a projected .271 AVG. And staying on-trend, Bell also has an even cheaper price, being drafted around pick 93 in drafts since July 1. I know that Pittsburgh is going to be a dumpster fire of a team but Bell has a premium eye, across the board skills, and a price that keeps going down.
Confession time; I need to move D.J. LeMahiue up...Is something I would've said before it was announced that he had tested positive for COVID on July 8. It wasn't just his skills I coveted but also the multi-eligibility that has taken on increased importance in this COVID-reality. However, now LeMahiue has been struck down for the time being and a timeline for his return is yet unknown.
Putting his illness aside, I believe in the career-year that LeMahiue just put up, setting new highs in home runs, RBI, and runs scored, with his highest batting average since 2016. His fantasy stats were off the charts but so was his statcast performance; LeMahiue had a career-high 91.7 mph EV that was in the top-8% of baseball and a 47.2 hard-hit rate that was in the top-10% of the league and was his highest since 2016.
When healthy, LeMahieu will bat at the top of a Yankee lineup that's overpowered when it's all there. He's set to be followed by Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gary Sanchez; runs should not be an issue. LeMahieu also has the batting-average ability I'm looking for, giving you a solid floor but with skills that are capable of putting up a big number in only 60 games. He put up a .327 AVG in 2019 that was second only to Tim Anderson's .335 AVG and backed that average up with a .322 xPA that was in the top 1% of baseball.
I have Rhys Hoskins the lowest among our rankers, clocking in for me at #120, with the rest of the group placing him between #97-108. While I like him for a bounceback, I hate him for anything resembling a decent average. Hoskins posted just a .226 AVG in 2019, with a .221 xBA that was in the bottom-4% of baseball. Perhaps more troubling was a 9.7% Brl% and 38.7% hard-hit rate; both rates have now decreased two years in a row.
Edwin Encarnacion gets no respect from the ageist crowd, with the 37-year-old currently carrying near a 160 ADP a year after hitting 34 HR in just 486 PA. However, his Statcast profile doesn't seem to think he's trending down, as old Edwin seems to be much the same as he's ever been:
He might not give you a batting average in the .260-.270 range anymore but the power hasn't slowed down; Encarnacion has averaged 37 HR over the last eight seasons, never hitting fewer than 32 over that period. Besides the actual home runs, his HR/PA rate has also stayed steady:
Besides the consistency, I love the lineup that he's in, being preceded in the White Sox Order by Yasmani Grandal, Jose Abreu, and Yoan Moncada. And if the hard-hitting Moncada isn't ready for Opening Day after his positive COVID announcement, then it'll likely be the electric Luis Robert who will bat second for the White Sox. That's a lot of possible ducks on the pond for Encarnacion to drive in. And don't forget that he'll be facing a bunch of suspects pitchers, with a great many of the White Sox games coming against the Royals, Tigers, and Pirates.
Ranking him significantly higher than the rest of our team - save my fellow Nick - it looks like I'm the king of Danny Santana Hill. But wait; aren't I the guy that preaches to not pay for a player's best year and to listen to the guidance of proven projection systems? Well, Santana certainly had his best season in 2019 and the major projection systems don't seem to be buying a repeat in 2020, at least not in terms of his per/PA production rates and batting average:
And this isn't a case of a line being more valuable than meets the eye; running Santana's ATC projections through the Fangraphs auction calculator results in the 143rd-highest earnings. Not exactly horrible, given his draft price has been running around a 140 ADP, but certainly not enough to justify my ranking of 89th-overall.
Projections, though, are looking at the career of Santana while I'm only looking at 2019. I don't think I'm betting on a flukey season that's unrepeatable; I just think the 2019 version of Santana is new, improved, and not going to change back to what we've seen before. Rare though they be, baseball players can have a late-career breakout, and now we have the data to sort the wheat from the chaff.
After an impressive rookie year in 2014, Santana floundered from 2015-18, being traded by the Twins and released by the Braves before signing a minor-league contract with the Rangers in January of 2019. Here's the thing, though; Santana had started ending his malaise in 2018 with Atlanta. He easily handled Triple-A (Gwinnett) that season, hitting 16 home runs and stealing 12 bases in 342 PA, posting a .264 AVG. And while he only hit .179 in his 32 PA for the big club, the way he was hitting the ball was totally different than he had done previously:
In his short appearance with Atlanta, Santana had dramatic increases in his average exit-velocity, barrel-rate, hard-hit rate, and launch angle, as well as his wOBA, xWOBA, and xwOBAcon. That teeny-tiny sample doesn't mean much in a vacuum, however, they took on more meaning after Santana posted near-identical marks in 130 games for the Rangers. When it comes to looking for a sustainable breakout, Santana checks the boxes you're generally looking for.
Santana will strike out a ton and basically refuses to take a walk but has the siren's song of speed and power combined, at a position where generally only the latter is available. You already know about the speed potential but I'm taking his power seriously. Looking at per/PA rates among first baseman, Santana's 0.055 HR/PA was tied with Freddie Freeman for 6th-highest, finishing only behind Bellinger, Alonso, Olson, Bell, and Muncy.
Stop. Cron-time. Detroit's new first baseman will finally get his chance to shine after somewhat breaking out for two seasons as a not-quite full-timer for the Rays and Twins. Cron hit 25 home runs in 499 PA for Minnesota last season, a year after hitting 30 home runs in 560 PA down in Tampa, and now moves into his new role as the Tigers starter at first.
The batting average isn't impressive, with Cron doing his best Khris Davis imitation by hitting .253 in back-to-back seasons, but the underlying metrics are. His .277 xBA was solid but his .548 xSLG was in the top-9% of baseball and his 15.0% Brl% was the top-5%. And this was a year after posting a 12.2% Brl% (top-10%) in 2018. Dropping barrels like that is certainly sexy but Cron also had a 44.6% hard-hit rate that was an eight-point increase from the year prior.
Woof. I'm not just the low-man on Luke Voit; I'm the get-low, get-looow man:
|Rank||Player||Nick M.||Nick G.||Pierre||David||Riley|
I'm low on Voit relative to my fellow rankers, as well as compared to his current 187 ADP in NFBC leagues. I suppose it's because I just don't see what you're really getting from Voit that will be better than his peers; for example, Cron from above. Looking at ATC, Cron is projected to hit one more home run, score 2 more runs, and have five more RBI, while posting the same batting average. Voit is hitting in a better lineup but will bat in the lower-third while Cron is going to hit cleanup. Plate-appearances will take on a bigger import in a 60-game season and Voit won't have as many opportunities barring injuries that allow him to slide up the order.
But it's not just liking someone else at a better price that's making me shy away from thinking Voit will put up value. It's also the greatly diminished average exit-velocity from 2019. Voit had a 91.3 mph EV in a limited 2017 and a blistering 93.0 mph EV in 2018 but dropped to just 89.7 mph in 2019. His hard-hit rate consequentially dropped almost 14-points from the year prior, finishing with a 40.4% Hard%. In terms of his exit velocity, that's like going from Christian Yelich to Jackie Bradley Jr.
Tier Six and Below
The long wait is over; let's talk about Howie Kendrick. More specifically, my ranking of #131. That's right; #131. Boom! Eat it, nerds. I kid, I kid. But seriously, about that Kendrick ranking. It's surely aggressive but keep in mind that this isn't a draft guide. I'm not drafting Kendrick there (though I'm not waiting that long ; ) but I do think that's in the range where his value could end up landing. It could also go horribly wrong because his value for me is directly tied to how much I think he'll play and the batting average I think he'll put up. If one of those tanks then so will this rank. But I think there are reasons to believe.
First, there's the sea of red on his baseball savant page, with Kendrick posting career-highs in average exit-velocity, hard-hit rate, and Barrel%, as well as finishing in the top-1% of xBA and top-2% of xSLG. That was coupled with career-high 32.9% FB% and a 34.1% Pull% that was his highest since 2009. All in all, he hit the ball harder, in the air more, and with more barrels than he ever has before.
He also put up a career-low 13.2% K-rate that was in the top-9% of baseball and supported it with a career-low 7.4% SwStr%. Besides the decrease in whiffs, Kendrick was far more selective at the plate. His 33.1% O-Sw% was a seven-point drop from the year prior while his 71.9% O-Contact was over a four-point increase. In short, he swung less at balls outside the zone but made more contact when he did swing at them.
All of the above makes Kendrick one of the best candidates to spike a big average in 60 games. But will he play enough to matter? Well, Kendrick hitting .344 in only 370 PA was still good enough to be the 107th-highest hitting according to the Fangraphs auction calculator in 2019. And that was playing in 3/4 of the Nationals games, a percentage I believe he'll top in 2020.
Along with Kendrick, the Nationals have four other players (Asdrubal Cabrera, Carter Kieboom, Eric Thames, and Starlin Castro) to fill four spots (1B, 2B, 3B, DH). Unlike his competition, Kendrick can play at all of the positions needed and doesn't have any splits issues. Castro for his career has batted 20-points less versus right-handers and was at 80-points less in 2019. Thames has a lifetime .197 AVG versus lefthanders and Carter Kieboom is no guarantee after falling flat on his face in his 2019 debut. Cabrera doesn't have any splits issues but he also saw his exit-velocity, barrel-rate, and hard-hit rate all fall in 2019. Maybe I'm crazy but I don't think that Kendrick will often be the odd man out in the Nationals infield rotation.
What lives on the west coast and is being projected just like Luke Voit but going 60 picks later? Mark Canha. Canya dig it? A waiver-wire darling in 2019, Cahha hit 26 HR in 497 PA, with 80 runs and a.273 AVG. He's now slated to bat 5th in the middle of a dangerous lineup, being followed by Khris Davis and preceded by Olson, Chapman, Laueranco, and Semien. That's a lot of power and OBP he's being surrounded by and I like Canha to give a really high floor at a pittance of a draft price.
I didn't mean to be the lowest on Christian Walker - ranking him at #205 overall - but here we are. I see Walker as a slightly lesser version of Cron but with less fantasy upside. And with his current ADP hovering around pick 192, I think the price is about right. However, some bad news did just hit on the injury front, with Walker suffering a groin strain on July 12. Even minor injuries at this point of summer camp could greatly impact overall playing time and groin injuries have a reputation for lingering. That makes Walker a trickier proposition for me, particularly with so many other appealing options hanging around his part of the draft.