AJ MassESPN team editor
- Fantasy Football, Baseball and Varsity Basketball.
- Author of the book Yes, it’s hot in here.
Putting together a successful fantasy team, regardless of format, is often a matter of luck. Let’s face it: Even if you leave your squad room with a supposedly solid team, a nightmare scenario can arise a few weeks before the start of the season and you suddenly find yourself without players like Jordan Alvarez, Corey Kluber, Justin Verlander, Mike Soroka and Stephen Strasburg. These things can happen (and have happened).
And if Pandemic hadn’t delayed the start of the 2020 season by a few months, fantasy managers would likely be deprived of already injured players like Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks and James Paxton – and that’s just the players from the Bronx. In Flushing, you can add Noah Syndergaard and Yoenis Cespedes to the list of players whose lack of promotion only became official after many leagues had already had their draft.
Who says life is fair? Where is it written? Life isn’t always fair. Managers in fantasy leagues can’t blame themselves if a wave of terrible injuries affects their roster. But what if you blindly recruited a group of players much earlier than expected, and they ended up taking your team’s stats to the lowest level of desperation? While you’re at it, why not cut a nice piece of paper and pour some lemon juice over it?
Therefore, here is my list of 10 hitters to keep an eye on for the 2021 season in the point leagues. Prepare at your own risk.
Charlie Blackmon, Oph, Colorado Rockies: Last year was a roller coaster year for Blackmon, who embodies the danger of paying too much attention to small specimens. After the first 17 games of the season, Blackmon was batting .500 and 20 RBIs. For the rest (42 games), he hit just 0.216 with 22 RBI. Over a full 162-game season, these ups and downs probably wouldn’t have been as pronounced, but one still can’t get away from the fact that the outfielder had just 9.5% HR/FB overall (at 17.7%) and just 30.8% hitters (at 40.3% in 2019). Entering the countryside at the age of 34 worries us.
Luke Voight, 1B, New York Yankees: He hit more home runs (22) in 56 games in 2020 than he did the year before (118). And he did all of this while battling plantar fasciitis, which might lead some to believe there will be more years without injury in 2021. I don’t know if it’s important. First of all, it doesn’t appear that the number of bases stolen by Voit was affected by his foot problems, as his next flight will be the first of his career. His walk rate fell to 7.3 percent (from 13.9 percent) last season thanks to a significant increase in his walk rate outside the strike zone (from 26.6 percent to 33.3 percent). It’s unlikely that this loose trend will change – and it could become a problem, especially in the points leagues.
Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros: One could easily argue that Altuve 2020 was not as bad as the example of the .219/.286/.344 line suggests. In the end, the Astros went to the extended playoffs. In those 13 other games under high pressure, Altuve shined by hitting 0.375 with five home runs. So there could be a lot of self-correction on his numbers for the whole season if 2020 was a normal 162 game affair. I’m skeptical that this is enough to prevent a season in the West. Altuve has a career K (18.6%) and a BABIP of 0.250 – after a steady decline in his batting average and OBP since his MVP season in 2017. He remains a strong fantasy option, but will likely finish just outside the top 100 in the league in terms of points.
Gleyber Torres, SS, New York Yankees: After hitting 62 home runs in his first two seasons in the majors, Torres’ final year in the power department was disappointing. With a sprained left tendon, the centerfielder played only 42 games and collected only 11 extra basehits in 160 appearances. The HR/FB ratio was 7.1% (up from 21.5% previously) and was accompanied by a high unemployment rate that rose to 30.6% from 39.5% in 2019. We could blame it on a trauma. You can cite some home runs he hit in the playoffs and use that as an argument to justify the small sample size and claim that last year was just a fluke. You can also play it safe and use someone other than your SS1.
Max Muncy, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers: It will always be difficult to truly evaluate the final numbers for 2020, compare them to previous seasons and certainly use them for predictive purposes. Still, there’s no reason to believe Muncy could have a third consecutive 35-HR season in 162 games, given that her baseball success rate has risen to 44.1% and her online success rate has fallen to 13.8%. Muncy’s swing change is one of the main reasons his shot hit an incredible .389 last season. Granted, 14 RBIs in the postseason show that there are still plenty of reasons to stay with Muncy in fantasy – but we’re not sure he’ll get closer to the top 10 first baseman in scoring leagues.
Austin Meadows, OR, Tampa Bay Rays: First, we are dealing with a player who has a K rate of 32.9% and 0.34 BB/K in 2020. If this free agency can be offset by a PSO of 0.922 (as in 2019), then your league’s scoring performance will be less affected. But what if you see a .667 OPS? No, I’m fine. Meadows, even with two solo shots in the postseason, struck out 18 more times (with just two passes) for a 0.137 batting average in the playoffs. For the season, the HR/FB percentage increased from 19.3% to 8.9%, while the FB percentage increased from 42.9% to 53.6%. It’s a death blow to a player’s fantasy value like that.
Aaron Judge, OF, New York Yankees: Unbelievable. We all know how good he can be when he’s on the field and in good health – so yes, I completely understand the philosophy of projecting him for the games he will play (injuries are not predictable), and I hope he will play 150 games again this year. This meant he couldn’t even play in the shortened 2020 regular season, and when he saw the field, his BB/K dropped to 0.31 (down from 0.45 in 2019) and his BABIP went from 0.360 to 0.283. His beat percentage dropped to 40.6% after a two-year decline, further prompting Judge to be an all-or-nothing artist in every beat. And if his health is not 100%, he will always be closer to giving up nothing.
Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs: He’s definitely available from the Cubs as part of a deal, which is kind of surprising and not that shocking. First of all, he’s only 29! On the other hand, his BB/K percentage dropped to 0.30 last season and his success rate to 0.351. In addition, his fly ball percentage dropped to 45.1%, while his career HR/FB percentage dropped to 9.8%. Of course, there’s also the argument that 2020 Bryant is an outlier, compounded by the idiosyncrasies of the beginning and end of the season – and that the Cubs are getting commercial offers as a result. Still, I’d leave the risk to someone else.
Josh Donaldson, 3B, Minnesota Twins: Donaldson himself will tell you that his 2020 was a bad year, and the statistics prove him right. Mr. Donaldson’s BABIP dropped to 0.231 and his victimization rate dropped to 34.5% from 47.2% in 2019. I believe him when he says that one of the reasons for the decline is that there were no fans in the stadiums to give him the adrenaline he needs when he gets to home plate. Unfortunately, we have no idea when these positions will be filled again and, frankly, we’re talking about a player entering his 35th season. These stabbing pains are increasingly difficult to overcome. In fact, my fingers are crossed for Donaldson. That won’t happen as long as he’s in my fantasy box.
Adam Eaton of the Chicago White Sox: Eaton’s return to the Windy City comes after a fourth consecutive year of declining BB rates (down to 6.8%). At the same time, his K-percentage rose to 18.2% and success rate fell to 30.5%, the lowest since 2015, when Eaton’s first run with the White Sox. In this case, it seems that the long chain of diminishing returns can no longer be straightened out. It is possible that a return to familiar old grounds for delay will lead to a first push. I’m not going to take any risks here, but if you do, feel free to sell high if Eaton April seems too good to be true.
frequently asked questions
What is the best draft position in fantasy baseball?
1) Shortstop Early shortstop is the key to winning the draft. After a small window of five players, the talent level drops. Only two players at this position are expected to exceed 700 points in 2012, six of them 600.
What is the best rating system for fantasy baseball?
The average score per week is around 280-340, depending on the quality of your team. A good score for the week is 20+, and a good pitching score is about 20 for a dismantling if they win.
Do pitchers or baseball players have more value in fantasy baseball?
In general, hitters are more valuable than pitchers. The Hitters play almost every day. The field is very deep. It’s easier to find a good pitch than a good hitter at a loss.
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