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Four More Sleeper Prospects for 2020 Redraft Leagues


MLB Spring Training is here. The sights and sounds of baseball are everywhere. That also means fantasy baseball season is just around the corner. And with that comes hundreds of minor league players with dreams of breaking into the major leagues during the coming season. Many will. But others will not. Last week, we took a look at four prospects that could have a bigger-than-expected impact on the 2020 fantasy baseball season. This week, we’re back with another four names that you need to know.

The job of projecting these players is not an easy task. An organization’s depth plays a huge part in these recommendations — as does the potential for injury or an incumbent’s sudden regression. It’s made even trickier by the fact we don’t know what MLB baseball is going to show up at the end of March (although we’re going on the assumption that it will still be the one with more juice than the Kool-Aid Man). But if a player is really deserving of a promotion, teams will more often than not find a way to fit them into the lineup — except for the odd situation like Kyle Tucker of the Houston Astros in 2019.

On the hitting side, we’ve attempted to uncover some players that could have value in specific areas. In this day and age, pretty much everyone provides power. But players that can contribute speed and/or excellent walk totals for those in on-base leagues (such as the excellent Ottoneu) have a lot of value. On the pitching side, we’re looking for players that can miss bats and avoid the long ball.

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Tony Gonsolin, SP/RP, Dodgers

The Los Angeles Dodgers are stacked with MLB-ready starting pitchers but there is a popular adage in baseball “that you can never have enough pitching” which is proven to be true every year. Tony Gonsolin may be sitting at seventh or eighth on the Dodgers’ depth chart right now but he’ll likely get another shot at starting some point this season after appearing in 11 games (six starts) in 2019. The right-handed hurler threw 40 innings in 2019 and was extremely difficult to hit. He allowed just 26 hits (.177 batting average) despite having just average control (9% walk rate). And the numbers suggest that wasn't a fluke.

Splits-wise, Gonsolin comes out favorably as he was almost equally effective as both a starter (.260 wOBA) and a reliever (.232). He also performed well against both right-handed (.255) and left-handed batters (.250). He threw four different pitches at least 10% of the time with his 93-95 mph fastball and splitter as his go-to offerings over his curveball and slider. He had positive Pitch Values on all four offerings. His strikeout rate was respectable at almost 23% but he was regularly at 26-30% in the minors. His 12.2% swinging-strike rate supports the suggestion that there could be more whiffs to come as teammate Walker Buehler sat at 12.1% in 2019 and struck out 215 batters in 182.1 innings.

If we look to Statcast, Gonsolin was difficult to square up with a barrel rate of 2.7% (MLB average was 6.3%) likely due to his ability to throw any of his four offerings for strikes. When hitters made contact, they generate average exit velocity (87.7 mph). His xBA showed well at .225 (MLB average was .251). Although Gonsolin threw his fastball a lot, it was by far his least effective pitch in terms of generating outs. It generated an xBA of .282 and a whiff rate of 12.7%. His other pitches came in at: splitter (.224 and 39%), slider (.224 and 44%) and curve (.085 and 31%).

Those are some effective secondary offerings. Once he gets an opportunity to start, Gonsolin should shine for the Dodgers.

 

Daulton Varsho, C/OF, Diamondbacks

The biggest issue with Daulton Varsho is that he doesn’t have a clear path to the Majors. The emergence of Carson Kelly behind the plate in Arizona threw up one roadblock. The presence of a veteran outfield — including off-season investments in Starling Marte and Kole Calhoun — is another roadblock for this athletic catcher who was given playing time in center field last year to improve his versatility. He’ll very likely open the year in Triple-A, barring an injury to Marte or Kelly.

Drafted 68th overall in 2017, Varsho made quick work of the low minors. In three pro seasons, he sports a .301 career batting average. And it’s no fluke. He controls the strike zone very well and posted a BB-K rate of 42-63 in 396 at-bats in 2019. He’s shown the potential for power, as well, but has yet to morph into a true power hitter. He hit a career-high 18 home runs in 108 Double-A games last year and his fly-ball-heavy swing (47% fly-ball rate) is already geared for the launch-angle revolution. His wRC+ was an impressive 159, which is excellent for any hitter but even more so given that he played most of the year behind the plate.

His speed and stolen base acumen make him really attractive. Varsho has stolen 40 bases over the past two seasons, including 21 last season. And he did that in just 26 attempts. This gives us a possible 20-20 player… who could be eligible at the catcher position and quite possibly in the outfield. The top running catcher in 2019 was J.T. Realmuto with nine steals. Only eight catchers hit 20 or more home runs. Only seven catchers hit .275 or better.

Varsho is not going to hit for the same power that Dodgers’ rookie Will Smith provided in his freshman debut in 2019 but the overall offensive output could be similar so fantasy managers could receive a huge boost in the second half of the year. J.T. Realmuto (who is clearly enticing fantasy managers with his 2019 homer total of 25) posted a modest 108 wRC+ in 2019 but has an ADP of 56, which is a significant overdraft. Invest in other key positions that early in the draft. Then pick up Tom Murphy around his ADP of 268 (or Francisco Mejia around 261 or Robinson Chirinos around 284 or Roberto Perez around 289) to hold the fort, and jump on Varsho when he gets the call. In other words, focus on a modest option at catcher now, invest your resources (wisely) elsewhere and jump at the high-upside when the time comes.

 

Mauricio Dubon, 2B/SS, Giants

Dubon was admittedly a little more intriguing a month ago before the Giants caved to their natural instincts to eschew young players with upside and gravitate towards veterans with modest upside (Wilmer Flores, Yolmer Sanchez). The young second baseman is still an interesting player. He missed much of the 2018 season with a knee injury. After stealing 30 bases or more for three straight seasons from 2015-2017, the injury apparently slowed him down a bit in 2019 when he stole just 13 bases (and was caught nine times). His speed might bounce back a little more in 2020 as he distances himself from the surgery but he may be more of a 15-20 steal guy rather than 30-plus.

That news would be more of a negative than it really is… if not for a new development: Dubon came back from his injury stronger. With a career-high of eight home runs for a full season prior to 2019, power was definitely not a big part of his game. But during his time off rehabbing the knee, he may have worked on his upper-body conditioning. And the numbers also tell us that he tweaked his swing to become less of a ground-ball hitter and more of a fly-ball hitter in Triple-A. In his first three pro seasons, Dubon’s ground-ball percentage hovered around 55%. In the next two years, it was more in the 45-48% range. Then came the 2019 season where it dropped to 38% in Triple-A. And he stung the ball more with a line-drive rate of 22%.

Even with these adjustments, the 25-year-old middle infielder continued to hit for average, which is something he’s done his entire career (He has a .300 batting average over seven pro seasons). Dubon is still a little too aggressive and won’t walk a ton but we’re looking at a player that should be good for a .270-.290 batting average, 15-20 home runs, and 15-20 steals. There’s value in a hitter with that line — especially if he becomes dual-eligible at both second base and shortstop, as expected, and comes at a very low investment. We just have to hope the Giants see it that way, too.

For quick comparison’s sake, if he does win the starting gig this spring, we can probably expect something along the lines of Kolten Wong’s 2019 season, if not better. The Cardinals infielder’s ADP is around 210 which is probably a little high. Dubon is being snagged closer to 240. If you don’t nail one of the top-tier second basemen then his potential should be enticing in the later rounds.

*Dubon also appeared in 30 MLB games last year with modest Statcast numbers. But I don’t put a whole lot of faith in those because it was the first time in his career he played six months of baseball (the minor league season ends after five months) and he was likely even more tired after playing just 27 games in 2018.

 

Shane McClanahan, SP, Rays

More people need to be talking about Shane McClanahan, another hurler looking to come off the Tampa Bay Rays’ continuous conveyor belt of talented starting pitchers. The hard-throwing lefty has pedigree after a strong college career at South Florida. In his junior year, McClanahan struck out 120 batters in 76.1 innings but was available to the Rays with the 31st selection because he also walked 41 batters. He then issued 31 walks in 53 Low-A ball innings to open the 2019 season in affiliated ball. But he consistently improved his control and earned a promotion to High-A ball where he walked just eight batters in 49.1 innings — shaving almost four walks per nine innings off his total. His control wavered a little bit with a late-season promotion to Double-A but it was still respectable with six free passes in 18.1 innings. In total in 2019, McClanahan played at three levels with a K-BB of 154-45 in 120.1 innings.

McClanahan works in the mid-90s with his heater and backs it up with a potentially-plus slider and a changeup that has shown promise. In shorter stints, the lefty has shown the ability to hit triple-digits. his command wavered in Double-A but at the two A-ball levels, he was exceptionally tough to hit and allowed just 71 base knocks in 102.1 innings. When he was at his best in High-A ball, he held batters to a .183 average to go with the eight walks in 49.1 innings. McClanahan also paired his ability to miss bats with a tendency to generate more ground-ball outs than fly-ball outs. If he can find that consistency again in Double-A and above, he could be downright dominant. Shane Baz (owned in 7% of Ottoneu leagues) gets more ink as the Rays’ next best pitching prospect behind Brendan McKay but he won’t help redraft owners in 2020. McClanahan (painfully-under-owned at 3%) just might help out this year and has the talent to match Baz. He’s also a more durable pitcher than the injury-prone Brent Honeywell (owned needlessly at 52%).

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Six weeks of NFL football are behind us, aside from a pair of Monday games, including a late afternoon game between the Bills and the Chiefs. In terms of wide receiver production this week, we didn't have the huge breakouts like we had in Week 5. Chase Claypool didn't score four touchdowns. In fact, only... Read More


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Dissecting Contact Quality In Search Of Fantasy Bargains

Of the 1,015 hitters sampled(1) between 2015 and 2019, there were only 14 instances of hitters making more productive contact against pitches outside of the strike zone than against pitches inside of the strike zone based on xwOBAcon. Based on the same sample, the average hitter was a whopping .116 points better against pitches inside... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 23rd, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 23rd, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Lineup Order Risers and Fallers: AL West 2020 Review

It’s the offseason and there are about to be a bunch of moving parts. This allows for speculation in terms of players gaining or losing playing time, moving up or down a batting order and much more. The idea here is to highlight some lineup situations for each team and some potential winners or losers... Read More


2021 1st & 2nd Year Players with James Anderson - Benched with Bubba (Episode 317)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by James Anderson (@RealJRAnderson) on episode 317. The guys will go over 30+ first and second-year players. They will discuss their current ADP's in the 2 Early Mocks, what to expect of the players in 2021, and much more. They also go over some listener questions, compare Juan Soto to Mike... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 21st, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 21st, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 20th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 20th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Bubba and Bat Flip 54: 2 Early Mocks APD Player Debates - Benched with Bubba (Episode 316)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by Bat Flip Crazy (@BatFlipCrazy) to take a deeper look at the 2 Early Mocks ADP. They go over some of the positions and look at players with similar ADPs and debate. Going around the diamond discussing some players people are high on and some they are down on with a... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 18th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 18th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 17th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 17th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


2021 Early Mock ADP Values & Reaches: WPC+ Videocast

Pierre Camus and Nicklaus Gaut prepare for the 2021 fantasy baseball season with a look at early mock draft results from the RotoBaller Expert mock. Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well! Be sure to also tune into RotoBaller... Read More


Statcast Season Review: 2020 Barrel Leaders (Hitters)

The 2020 MLB season will always be one for the record books, even if everything that took place will have multiple asterisks attached to it. Evaluating Statcast numbers is a nice way to find hot and cold hitters, as well as underachievers and overachievers. Now that the regular season is over, let's reflect on the... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 16th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 16th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 15th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 15th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 14th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 14th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Bubba and Bat Flip 53: 2 Early Mocks APD Trends & More - Benched with Bubba (Episode 315)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by Bat Flip Crazy (@BatFlipCrazy) to take a deeper look at the 2 Early Mocks ADP. They dig into trends, some interesting risers/fallers, and much more. They also go over some listener questions at the end to keep the Fantasy Baseball information coming even in the offseason. Be sure to subscribe... Read More