Five straight years of 100+ RBI. Four straight with 100+ runs, and the 2015 season was only* 97. And the home run counts over the last five years are stellar: 42, 41, 37, 38, and 41. Haggle over the home/away splits if you like, but I’ll start fretting over that if/when Arenado isn’t in a Colorado uniform.
Bregman is among the most patient hitters in the league, only swinging 35.1% of the time last year (MLB average was 47.0%). He only chased out of the zone 18.8% of the time, his contact rates are very high, and his 4.6% swinging strike rate from last year was minuscule (and third-best in MLB). He pulls a lot of fly balls–especially against southpaws–and as long as he calls Minute Maid Park home that is a good thing.
He’s a premier speed option at a position that is long on power, but he’s also averaged 30 homers per year over the last three seasons despite only playing in 129 games last year. Over the past four years he’s averaged 25 homers and 24 steals per year. His increased launch angle over the past two years has coincided with a dip in batting average production, but he’s still among the best in the league at not chasing out of the zone, logging chase rates of 22.3% and 26.4% in the last two years. His barrel rates the last two years are also career-highs, and his xBA marks of .266 and .274 are good enough for me to bite on given the power/speed combo that Ramirez offers.
4. Anthony Rendon 3B (LAA)
He won’t give you speed, but he’s another four-category contributor, similar to one Nolan Arenado. Rendon won’t offer as much power, but there could be slightly more batting average help. Arenado is a career .290 hitter, but he’s been over .300 three years running. Over the last three years he’s averaged 26 homers, 94 runs, 101 RBI, and six stolen bases to go along with that batting average. He should move just fine to L.A. given his ability to also hit the ball far–last year he ranked seventh in the majors with an average hit distance of 208 feet. That makes he and Mike Trout the only teammates in the top 10 of that particular metric. Given the murderer’s row of Trout-Rendon-Ohtani in that Angels lineup, Rendon should see plenty of pitches to hit in 2020.
5. Rafael Devers 3B (BOS)
What he did well last year was play a ton (156 games), not strike out (only 17.0%), and hit a lot of balls hard. That’s simplifying it a bit, but Devers’ 531 batted ball events ranked sixth in the majors and his 92.1 MPH average exit velocity ranked 14th. He did well on AEV on fly balls and line drives, ranking 22nd at 96.3 MPH. And on grounders he was even better, as his 89.2 MPH mark was tied for 17th. Put differently, he was inside the top 10% of the league in hard hit rate and exit velocity, AND he had more batted ball events than all but five hitters. The .295 xBA was top 7% of the league, and I think you can trust the given the consistency in his batted ball profile and launch angle. His swing rate is trending upward (50.7%, 52.0%, 54.9%) but his contact rate mostly is, too (75.2%, 74.5%, 77.9%). He’s an aggressive swinger, but it’s tough to argue the results…and he’s only 23 years old.
Here’s another White Sox tablesetter with a high BABIP, .406 to be exact. But Moncada did knock the snot out of the ball last year, setting a career-high in average exit velocity at 92.8 MPH (top 3% of MLB). And like teammate Tim Anderson, it looks like Moncada made an effort to keep the ball lower in 2019. His launch angle fell from 15.1 degrees on average in 2018, to 12.0 degrees last year. That coincided with the highest line drive rate of his career, at 23.1%. I know it’s volatile to rely on batted ball luck, but last year’s .291 xBA ranked inside the top 10% of the league, and the 47.9% hard hit rate was in the top 8% of the league. He’s not a prototypical leadoff man with his high strikeout rate, but a career 9.4% walk rate helps, and swinging more than ever in 2019 was a good adjustment–his strikeout rate fell from 33.4% to 27.5%. Bumping to a 47.3% swing rate (right at average) also meant that his swing rate in the zone improved, as well as his contact rate in the zone. All of these good things happened, while his chase rate ballooned to 32.7%–but that’s right around the MLB average, so Moncada had the room to give there. Hopefully he keeps swinging in 2020 and makes use of his 72nd percentile sprint speed.
Vladito posted a pedestrian .272/.339/.433 slash line with 15 homers last year (123 games). But he’s scary for a couple of reasons. The plate discipline is already good. A 10.6% swinging strike rate for a slugger of his caliber, above-average contact rates, above-average swing rate in the zone, and right at average in chase rate (31.6%) is all good. The 49.6% ground ball rate was yucky, and it was supported by a below-average 6.7 degree launch angle. His average exit velocity was also disappointing, only in the 58th percentile. But we know he can hit the ball hard, as evidenced by hitting the hardest ball in the majors last year, at 118.9 MPH (among qualified hitters). Only Giancarlo Stanton (120.6 MPH) hit a ball harder in 2019. Given the pedigree, the low strikeout rate, healthy walk rate, and awesome team context, Vladito is a strong buy for 2020 and beyond.
Injuries to his leading shoulder (left shoulder) sapped his power production in 2018. However, Bryant bounced back in 2019, slashing .282/.382/.521 with 31 homers and 108 runs scored. His 18.0% HR/FB rate more closely matched his career production (career 16.4%) than 2018’s low-water mark of 11.2%. His average exit velocity also rebounded a bit, though it still wasn’t very high. Bryant still battled some injuries in 2019, as well–mostly of the knee and ankle variety. Currently he’s expected to be healthy and running, and atop the Cubs lineup, too. He’ll put his savvy baserunning skills and 78th percentile sprint speed to good use. Don’t expect a ton of RBI given his team context and that batting order slot, and I think you’ll be happy with the production.
Can you say underrated? He’ll turn 28 years old in July, and he’s been a model of consistency with regard to power. The home runs totals since 2015 are: 35, 37, 33, 37, and 32. He won’t run much anymore (39th percentile sprint speed) but the power that comes without torpedoing your batting average is awesome. Machado is a career .279 hitter, but last year’s .256 mark wasn’t aided by the .274 BABIP and was below his .266 xBA. I’d bet on a rebound in that department, which makes Machado a four-category contributor.
The positional flexibility Max Muncy provides is incredibly valuable. That, and the 35 home runs in back-to-back seasons. Muncy could benefit by playing a few more games in that stellar Dodgers lineup with a universal DH. Lastly, an elite walk rate of 15.3% last year (15.1% career) gives him a boost points leagues.
If you’re going to leave Coors Field, what better place to go than Yankee Stadium? LeMahieu had a big power breakout his first year in pinstripes, slugging a career-high 26 home runs. The underlying skills support it, as LeMahieu posted a 92nd percentile average exit velocity (91.7 MPH) and a 47.2% hard hit rate. His versatility, home park, and surrounding lineup make LeMahieu one of the most intriguing players in fantasy baseball.
Donaldson put the doubts to bed last year, proving healthy enough for Atlanta as he crushed 37 bombs and was a huge plus in runs (96) and RBI (94). He hit the ball hard, ranking inside the top 10% of the league in exit velocity, hard hit rate, xwOBA, and barrel rate. He was also 88th percentile in xSLG, so the top 12% of the league. All that and his xBA of .269 was in the 62nd percentile. Basically, his entire Statcast page is littered with red, except for the 2018 year. Still only 34 years old, the new environs in Minnesota should treat him extremely well.
Perhaps the shoulder injury is pushing his ADP down a bit, but this ranking also speaks to the sneaky depth of this position. Suarez’s pull tendency (52.0% pull rate last year) and ability to hit barrels (14.0% last year, 19th in MLB) are an excellent combination in the small park. That’s a top 7% rate of barrels, for reference. Suarez was 100% healthy as of early June, per Reds GM Dick Williams. Enjoy the draft day discount if there is one.
14. Matt Chapman 3B (OAK)
Chapman speaks to the depth of this position, too. He was inside the top 5% of the league in exit velocity and hard hit rate last year, and well above average in xwOBA, xSLG, barrel rate, and sprint speed. That’s now two years running that Chapman has been elite in exit velocity and hard hit rate. His .255 xBA and career .257 batting average are the only blemish, but you can live with it when everything else is superb. He’s scored 100 and 102 runs in the last two seasons, and last year his RBI count jumped from 68 (2018) to 91 (2019). His 10.9% walk rate was a career best, as was his 21.9% strikeout rate. He’s a stud pick around his NFBC ADP of 85-90.
15. Jeff McNeil 2B,3B,LF,RF (NYM)
McNeil’s contact rates are solidly above average, as his 81.4% contact rate last year ranked 35th in the majors. But his 11.1% swinging strike rate was exactly average. Contact isn’t his best attribute. What he really excels at is his recognition of pitches in the zone. Last year’s 85.0% zone swing rate was tops in the big leagues. And in 2018, his 84.2% mark would have ranked second if he qualified. No wonder he swings so much! Last year’s 59.9% swing rate also topped the majors, FYI. Pair all those batted ball events with a .290 xBA (88th percentile) and 13.2% strikeout rate (top 9% of MLB) and you’ve got a recipe for plenty of batting average help. Batting second for the Mets behind on-base machine Brandon Nimmo (who should be healthy) and ahead of the slugger Pete Alonso sounds like a great place to rack up some counting stats, too.
16. Mike Moustakas 2B,3B (CIN)
Three straight years with an xBA in the .260s, a career .252 hitter, and three straight years of useful home run counts (38, 28, 35). He’s gone from the hitter’s haven of Milwaukee, but certainly landed on his feet in the Great American small park. You should know exactly what you’re getting from “Moose” by now. Put him down for a .250 average and a 30-homer pace.
17. Miguel Sano 1B,3B (MIN)
Miguel Sano has never accumulated over 500 plate appearances in a season, nor has he ever had a strikeout rate under 35%. What Sano does have going for him is his ability to hit the ball harder than just about anyone. He led all of baseball in barrels per batted ball event last year, with a 21.2% rate. As volatile as Sano is, there’s a wide range of outcomes in a shortened season…one of those outcomes being elite production, especially from a power standpoint.
His walk rate has dropped over two levels since he posted a 10.5% walk rate at Triple-A back in 2018–but it’s tough to argue with the results. Despite rates of 6.9% (2019 Triple-A) and 4.6% (2019 MLB), Edman has posted quality OBPs of .356 and .350 over the last two levels. A well above-average 8.3% swinging strike rate, .287 xBA, and eye-popping 97th percentile sprint speed all factor in. He’s a candidate to displace an aging Matt Carpenter in one of the top two spots in the Cardinals lineup, and/or displace Kolten Wong when the Cards draw a southpaw. Question the power if you like, but Edman is a 30-steal threat with his on-base skills and speed. Add that to double-digit pop and multi-positional eligibility…Edman is a fine play in all formats in 2020.
Dozier was a bright spot for the Royals last season, breaking out with a .279 batting average and 26 home runs in 586 plate appearances. A rising trend in his contact rate in the zone and a drop in his chase rate aided Dozier in a big way last year. He also trimmed his strikeout rate and set a career-high with a 91.1 MPH average exit velocity (top 15% of MLB). If he carries those gains over to 2020, he will be a great value.
After appearing in only 103 games in 2018, Turner managed 135 last year and bashed 27 homers. His .290 average was strong despite being on the lower side of BABIP, at only .304. His 16.0% strikeout rate and 9.3% walk rate were as healthy as ever. He pasted southpaws, as his 56.4% hard hit rate (per Fangraphs) was the third-highest in the majors after only Nelson Cruz and Hunter Dozier. He’s now 35 years old and the Dodgers are stacked. Maybe there’s some concern he takes some off days here and there, but this is a player you’re likely to turn a profit on in 2020.
He broke out last year, hitting 22 homers for the Mets and slashing .307/.369/.527. He showed good plate discipline, only chasing 27.7% of the time and swinging at an above average rate inside the zone. He also hit the ball hard, ranking inside the top 10% of the MLB in exit velocity, hard hit rate, xwOBA, xBA, and xSLG. His “worst” mark was his 11.4% barrel rate, which was in the 80th percentile. In short, he’s a Statcast darling. He was already slated to start in left field for the Mets, and the addition of the universal DH only removes whatever mild playing time concerns there might have been. He’s a strong buy in 2020.
22. Scott Kingery 2B,3B,SS,LF,CF (PHI)
We’ll find out if he’s an everyday player or a plus utility man soon enough. He slashed a ghastly .226/.267/.338 as a rookie in 2018, but still gave us eight homers and 10 steals. He rebounded solidly in Year 2, slashing a tolerable .258/.314/.474 with 19 homers and 15 steals in 126 games (500 PA). Call me crazy, but I sniff the coveted 20/20 plateau if Kingery ever gets a full season’s worth of at-bats. Anyway, last year he earned every bit of his 29.4% strikeout rate given his 15.1% swinging strike rate. However, while his swing rate remained static, he chased far less out of the zone and swung far more at pitches inside the strike zone. There wasn’t a jump in contact rate, but it’s nice to see some growth in plate discipline. Add in the 93rd percentile sprint speed, a stacked Phillies lineup, and a hitter’s home park…that’s a good recipe to hang your proverbial hat on. Just ding him a bit in OBP leagues given his below average walk rate (career 5.9%).
He quietly hit 35 homers last season. I’m not sure where it came from, given that his batted ball profile and launch angle were fairly static. His barrel rate actually dropped from 8.3% in 2018 to 7.0% last year. His hard hit rate ticked up slightly to 31.5%, but that uninspiring mark still ranked below the 20th percentile. He also had a career-worst 12.0% swinging strike rate. On fly balls and line drives, Escobar’s 91.1 average exit velocity ranked 202nd of 250 qualified hitters. In general, this doesn’t read like a 30-homer bat, but more like a 20-homer guy. You can hold onto the 162 balls that Escobar hit over 95 MPH, ranking 67th in the MLB. That, and his average distance was 212 feet, ranking fourth in the big leagues. That’s a strange stat to end on, but I thought it worth noting. Just enjoy the 20 homers and five steals, okay?
Yuli Gurriel went on an absolute tear last summer, hitting .376 with 19 home runs between July and August. It would be a lot to ask a 35-year-old that has never profiled as a power hitter to repeat that level of production. Nonetheless, Gurriel is a safe bet to hit for a good average and provide counting stats in a stacked Astros lineup.
Ryan McMahon goes into the season with assurance from manager Bud Black that he will be a full-time player. Like many Colorado hitters, McMahon has big home and road splits, hitting .270 at home and .226 on the road last year. While he does hit the ball hard with a 95.8 MPH exit velocity on line drives and fly balls, he can help himself tremendously by reducing his 50.8% ground ball rate.