Updated: Jul 16, 2020
Greetings. Did I expect to be publishing a final list of the top 450 fantasy baseball players during the second week of July? Ha. I recall listening to fantasy baseball podcasts in February when it was cold outside and starting my list then.
Now, it's 105 degrees - seriously, it is - in Austin, Texas today, the list has been altered something like 10 times the last 24 hours because of COVID-19 news, and navigating roster news and projecting relievers for a 60-game shortened season has been unlike what I imagine a normal ranking process is like. Because of course I picked months before a global pandemic to execute the challenge and build this website. Great timing, dumbass.
Anyway, I've finished my list of players 1-450. As best as I reasonably could, I tried to note COVID-19 news beside players. Given the uncertainty of their respective timetables for return to camp, I felt most often it was best to simply label the player a risk than remove him completely. For all we know, these guys could show up tomorrow and play in a sim game.
I've broken the list down into increments of 30, and will add some commentary to each section. Let's get to it:
As much as it pains me to write this, Mike Trout is probably a fade right now even for one of the world's biggest Trout homers. On April 2nd, my first child was born, and I recall very anxiously taking my temperature daily while trying to shake the fear from my body. The idea of not being around my son when he was born or being unable to accompany my wife in the hospital was terrifying.
So, I understand, at least on some level, what Trout is weighing in his mind. I wouldn't fault him for taking a couple weeks off from the season, but we'll see. Under normal circumstances, he was by No. 1 overall player.
Referencing NFBC ADP for recent drafts, I continue to be much higher on J.D. Martinez and Anthony Rendon. For the fifth straight season, Rendon's xBA, xSLG, barrel%, and xwOBA all improved, and he finished as the No. 7 rated player last season.
In January, when I first published my initial 21-40 rankings, Bichette's ADP was 74. Now, it's 42. Bichette presents the good possibility of two very vital things to acquire early in drafts: batting average and stolen bases. Throw in some pop and lineup placement, and there's potential for a top 20 overall season.
I tweaked Keston Hiura (up) and Jonathan Villar (down). Hiura's talent is too loud to ignore, and I'm confident his K% issues won't go in the wrong direction.
Anthony Rizzo is again dealing with back issues, and is a fade for me. Positional flexibility is more important than normal this season, and that's one of the reasons why I'm about 35 spots higher than the recent consensus on Muncy. The drop-off at second base later in drafts is gross.
I like Luis Castillo a lot, but not as much as the consensus. Until his four-seam fastball, which he threw 29.7% of the time last year with a xSLG of .504, stops getting tattooed at a concerning rate, I'm not going to draft or rank him like a borderline ace.
After initially ranking Nicholas Castellanos outside the top 100, a stupid move, I tried to get aggressive by shooting him way up the list and dropping Tommy Pham, who just joined Padres camp after dealing with COVID-19. Frankly, I will try to draft Castellanos in every league this season, and think he's poised for a top 50 finish.
Drafting Twins hitters this season is an excellent idea, and Rosario is an example of pushing those players up the list noticeably higher than ADP.
The projection systems love Stanton so much it's almost like they think he'll hit in 2020 with the help of someone near a trashcan. ADP likes him more than I. This season, probably more so than any other, is about risk assessment and staying away from tanking your roster early in drafts. Power is probably the easiest thing to find later.
Lourdes Gurriel, Jr.'s numbers in 606 career plate appearances: 82/31/85/7/.279. Racking up as many plate appearances as possible is valuable in a shortened season, and he's locked into playing time.
Berrios: FIP the last three seasons: 3.84, 3.90, 3.85.
SIERA: 4.29, 3.80, 4.30.
His Statcast data those three seasons is similar, and he’s coming off a career-best ERA as the No. 106 overall player. There is value in consistency and being a known commodity, but Berrios is currently being drafted as an upside play, which isn’t supported by performance.
In addition to worse contact%, Goldschmidt posted worse numbers in the following areas: xBA, xSLG, wOBA, xwOBA, xwOBAcon, hard hit%, BB%, barrel%, average exit velocity. And his lineup won’t be as good during his age-32 season. Replicating last season is probably a best-case scenario.
Turner, even with his usual time missed, finished as the No. 122 player last season. His current ADP is 164. Sure, he's an injury risk, but it's also possible the shortened season allows him to play an actual full one, and his lineup received an upgrade in the form of a former MVP.
This group includes a handful of personal favorites that are undervalued. Healthy after his knee recovery, McCutchen is going to hit leadoff and the DH should help keep his bat in the lineup everyday. He's not the MVP he once was, but in 59 games last year he scored 45 runs with 10 homers. His swing profile and batted-ball data look similar to the last four years except for a more patient approach likely the result of being a leadoff hitter.
Calhoun hit 21 homers in 337 PA in 2019 and finished with a .256 ISO and 15.7 K%. Only players with a better ISO and better K%: Alex Bregman, Anthony Rendon, Nolan Arenado, Ketel Marte. The broken jaw and Calhoun's recent public comments about needing to see more lefties to feel comfortable again do scare me a little, but he's a future fantasy star sooner than later.
A likely source of excellent batting average, Verdugo hit the ball harder on average and more frequently last season. It seems people are forgetting, perhaps because of his injury issues, how bright his 2019 season was. Now, he has no one to compete with for playing time.
Only one hitter ranked ahead of the man himself, Mike Trout, in SwSp% (sweet spot) last season - Cavan Biggio. Biggio was one of nine hitters with a SwSp% of 40% or better and top 100 barrel%. Yeah, you’re going to take a batting average hit, but the chances are solid for average or better contribution in every other category; he was a perfect 14-of-14 in stolen base attempts last season.
It's kind of weird how similar Lowe and Acuna, Jr.'s batted-ball profiles are:
Ronald Acuna, Jr.'s SwSp%, hard hit%, barrel% and barrels per PA%: 40.5, 46.9, 15.0 and 9.2.
Brandon Lowe's SwSp%, hard hit%, barrel% and barrels per PA%: 40.2, 46.2, 16.3, and 9.2.
When Lowe puts the ball in play, great things happen because of his 16.3 barrel%, 40.2 sweet spot%, .507 xSLG, .501 xwOBAcon, and 46.2 hard hit%. Those numbers, among 150 batted ball events, all rank in the top 50, and only two players had a better duo of sweet spot% and barrel% - Jason Castro and Mike Trout. Of course, the gigantic K% and whiff issues are difficult to ignore, but that isn't stopping anyone from drafting Hiura 100 spots earlier.
As I'm about to hit publish, a report just surfaced Buxton was injured in a sim game and had to be carted off the field. Can this guy get some good luck for a change? Adjust accordingly.
I'm way, WAY higher than everyone on Hays. He was horrendous in his initial debut, but made some noticeable changes and fared much, much better the second time around two years later. Maybe he simply wasn't ready in 2017? It was a very small sample, but Hays flashed five-category contribution last season and is in the mix to hit leadoff for the O''s.
You'll have to deal with the low batting average and strikeout issues, but Chavis should provide at least two-position flexibility and huge power with an everyday spot in a good lineup.
Madison Bumgarner is being faded so much he's an intriguing buy opportunity at present. Arizona is one of the emerging forces in development and scouting. It didn't sign Bumgarner just to sign him. With already good spin rates, I bet Bumgarner's stuff could tick up even more with increased curve usage.
Solak will be a consensus top 100 pick next season, and the Texas sun won't suck energy and production out of Choo, who faded down the stretch last season after a great start.
Speaking of great development organizations, Tampa Bay stated to get Diaz, who hits the ball very hard often, to hit the ball in the air. He's projected to hit third everyday for a team that knows what it's doing about as well as anyone.
We start to dip into the prospect ranks here, and no one likely sticks out more than Pearson, who I am being very aggressive with. Before publishing this list, Toronto said starter Chase Anderson won't be ready to begin the season. Even if the Blue Jays keep the flame-throwing righty down seven days, he'll return at least this value if he grabs a rotation spot the next week.
Civale threw 124 sliders last season, and only gave up two hits. If he qualified, his wSL/C would have ranked 3rd among SPs last season. And according to xwOBA it was his 3rd best pitch.
A great example of boring and predictable being okay: Castro and his position as an everyday hitter in the Nationals lineup.
After a deep dive into the data, Alcantara had some interesting spin rate changes the final few months of the season, which helped spark elite numbers. I'm in.
Tucker was one of my most difficult players to rank because he likely is the DH if Alvarez remains out or misses the start of the season. But Josh Reddick remains ahead of him in the outfield pecking order and the Astros have never committed to giving him a full chance.
Polanco and Richards are good bounceback bets in this range after injuries. Both have spent far too often on the DL, but both have also proven capable of providing value much higher than this.
This May ranking could be silly, but you just never know with the Dodgers and young starting pitcher usage.
Because teams are relying less often on one true closer and so many saves are up for grabs across baseball, really good relievers who don't necessarily rack up saves will still have value. The Rays, known for their creativity with pitcher usage, have plenty of them.
Gonzalez is one of my favorite buys way earlier than ADP. He's going to hit in arguably the game's best lineup, has positional flexibility, and his decline in numbers can be attributed to an injury he's recovered from.
A change in pitch usage sparked excellent results for Samardzija, a plus athlete who pitches in one of the best home ballparks for pitchers.
Kiner-Falefa reportedly has a real shot to be the starting third baseman for the Rangers, which would make him a steal given the catcher eligibility.
Finally healthy, Lewis has mashed homers during Mariners Summer Training. While his whiff and strikeout rates are very concerning, the former first-round pick posted xwOBACON of .560 and .575 xSLG even with a very ground ball heavy profile.
While we're on the subject of former first-round picks and top prospects, Smith is poised for a breakout... if he gets the opportunity. I'm betting on his talent making it impossible to keep him out of the lineup.
Since Kela's status is up in the air with the Pirates, I'm projecting Burdi and his ungodly K/9 rate in an injury-shortened 2019 to grab the role.
Lyles would be much higher on this list if not for a sluggish start to Summer Training and questions about his availability for his first start.
Hilliard is an intriguing talent, but likely to be overdrafted until the Rockies prove they'll actually stop platooning and ruining all their young players.
Ranking relievers is a pain in the ass, and Britton and Treinen were specifically included here because they're next in line behind Chapman and Jansen.
I'm down on the catching position as a whole because missing games this season is going to sting more than usual, and it's unlikely these guys play every game during a week.
The Cubs aren't really going to trot Jason Kipnis out there with Hoerner on the bench, right?
Sheffield had one of the best slider whiff rates in baseball, and showed signs of why he was the headliner in the James Paxton deal. Now, if the fastball can just be average...
With King Felix opting out, I'm betting on Newcomb to grab a rotation spot. Featuring one of the better hooks in the bigs, Newcomb also misses barrels at a good rate.
Holy shit there's Heredia... the Pirates lineup is so depressing, but he's going to hit near the middle of it in a projected everyday role.
Seattle's projected outfield is begging for Kelenic to grab a spot sooner than later. And if he does, he'll return better value than this.
Hyun Kim's stuff impressed me in Spring Training. Although his command was spotty at best, missing bats at a good rate this late in the draft is a nice return.
We're starting to get into more platoon guys in this range. I want to steer clear of as many of those as possible, but Choi is one of the better platoon options available.
A lot of boring guys who are projected to play everyday, which makes them valuable this late in drafts. I pushed Madrigal and Harrison into this range because they're likely going to get a chance, and I bet they'll prove good enough to stick around.
These are the types of players who will be attractive 12-team streamers, and mixed in is some real talent capable of performing well as an everyday player.
Platoons, former good pitchers coming off major injuries, relievers, prospects, and speedy guys who might get a chance wrap up the list.
If you wish to have this list in word.doc form, e-mail MikeTroutsWar@gmail.com.