Five Short Season Risers

Now that we know the season is going to be 60 games long, player values change all over the league. In this type of season, we can’t draft fantasy teams the same as we normally would. The cliche, “this is more of a sprint, not a marathon,” does carry some merit given that it’s about one-third of a normal season. Consistent, low ceiling, high floor players may be less valuable, as the opposite goes for high risk, high variant players that could carry you over a short time. Players that find themselves on the disabled list every season could see a full year injury-free with all the time off and a season that involves 100 fewer games. Having said all of that, here are five players I believe benefit the most from the shortened baseball season.

Carlos Correa, Houston Astros

This may be the most obvious of the five selections considering Correa, in the past, has acted as if the season was only three months long anyway. This shortened season is made for the Houston shortstop. 

Correa is coming off a career year at the dish, albeit in a small 75-game sample size. He saw career highs in multiple offensive categories, making his future prospects that much higher. All while maintaining his usual high average and solid plate skills. 

Coming off a career season

In 2019, Correa played at an MVP level for the first 50 games of the season. He slashed .295/.360/.547 with 11 home runs and 35 RBI, and played Gold Glove-caliber defense. 

Looking at the underlying numbers, you will get an even better idea of how good Correa was last season. All of the metrics tell the story of a talented young shortstop that is capable of jumping to another level, finding a way to stardom. 

We saw career highs from Correa in: 

  • Barrel rate (13.5%) 
  • Fly ball rate (26.0%) 
  • Pulling the ball (35.6%)  
  • Ground ball rate (Low, 38.9%) 
  • Isolated power (.289) 

These improvements are all the more impressive when you realize Correa already has four 20+ home run seasons, has eclipsed 500 plate appearances just one time, and is 25 years old. We are looking at a middle-of-the-order, dominant bat that is just entering his peak years.

Given he is in Minute Maid Park–with that short porch in left field–the fact he was able to pull the ball in the air more often bodes well for his future production. Starting at 315 feet to dead pull, from left field, all the way to left-center, Minute Maid plays exceptionally well for right-handed pull hitters–and only right handed pull hitters, unfortunately. 

The increase in fly ball and pull percentage would be the cause of his career-high barrel rate. Up until recently, Correa has been a batter that hit way too many ground balls. With a league average sitting around 47%, Correa was a 47-51% ground ball hitter up until 2018. 

While you don’t want to just hit high fly balls all the time, hitting the ball on the ground with Correa’s talent certainly hinders his production. Optimizing his launch angle could unlock another level of Correa’s power. With 10 batted ball events resulting in over 115 MPH, he has shown what he’s capable of when connecting. 

Fly Ball% and Barrel% correlating with Isolated Power: 

**Barrels per at-bat

YearFly Ball%Barrel%Isolated Power
201722.27.3.235
201821.55.2.167
20192610.0.289

Being able to pair hitting the ball in the air more often while pulling the ball in the air more often means Correa has seemingly taken another step in terms of hitting for power. This is important because of how unique Correa is as a high average, high home run threat at the shortstop position. Something you’d be hard-pressed to find outside of Trevor Story, Xander Bogaerts, and Alex Bregman. 

Value in a shortened season 

A shorter season means less time to get an injury, but it also doesn’t allow for time to come back after a multi-week injury early. There are pros and cons to Correa playing a shorter season. Though, you would think given the long layoff (9 months without playing baseball every day) his back should be 100% heading into a season in which he only has to play for two months. 

Correa’s ADP may be a bit higher once drafts get going again, but for now he is a great value in all types of drafts. 

ADP by season: 

**ESPN ADP

2020: 92

2019: 34

2018: 47

2017: 16

Correa is 25 years old, entering his peak years, as mentioned above. Yet, he is going far and away the latest he has ever been drafted. Sure, there are a lot of sour owners out there that had him in ‘18 and ‘19 while he missed a ton of games, burning them on the third to fourth round investment. 

However, you aren’t spending a third or fourth round pick on Correa anymore. You aren’t even taking him in the sixth or seventh round. He is going a whole six rounds cheaper in 10-team leagues, being drafted anywhere from the ninth to the tenth round. Any way you slice it, that is a steal. A shortstop coming off of a 279/.358/.568 season with 21 home runs in just 75 games, playing for the best lineup in baseball does not grow on trees.

Stephen Strasburg

Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals

Injury concerns, no longer

For the first time since 2014, Strasburg was able to make at least 30 starts in a season. Usually, Strasburg finds himself on the disabled list sometime between June and July, nearly every season. Here’s the thing; the earliest Strasburg has gotten injured in a season is May 30th, dating back to 2015, which would have been the 48th game of the season. Outside of that one injury, Strasburg has gotten injured after the 60-game mark every other time. 

Whether it’s nerve damage, shoulder inflammation, elbow soreness, or back pain, Strasburg seems to find himself on the disabled list every year. Though his body is certainly built to withstand being a starting pitcher in the big leagues (6’5 230 pounds) he may just suffer wear and tear from the longevity of an entire season. Simply asking for 60 games–12 or so starts–should be an easy task, especially given the eight month layoff. And Strasburg may have needed the rest given he tossed 246 innings last year when you include the postseason.

Career Year

While it didn’t quite show in the ERA and strikeout rate column, Stephen Strasburg had one of the most successful seasons of his career. Strasburg was able to stay healthy and pitch a complete season for the first time since 2014, going 209 innings and striking out 251 batters with a 3.32 ERA and 3.25 FIP. He showed career-highs in: swinging strike rate, whiff rate, chase rate, ground ball rate, and percentage of pitches in the zone (low). 

One major adjustment Strasburg made last season was throwing his best pitch, the curveball, much more–while throwing what was his worst pitch, the fastball, much less. 

PitchYearUsage Whiff RateLaunch Angle
Curveball201819.5%35.6%1
Four Seamer201845.4%19.4%17
Curveball201930.7%39.2%4
Four Seamer201928.6%24.2%16

In a season where everyone hit home runs, Strasburg was able to induce lots of ground balls. A 51.9% ground ball rate was over four percent better than his best rate in the five seasons prior. This is a direct result of throwing more curveballs and changeups while throwing way less fastballs. 

Strasburg was able to work effectively below the zone and induce lots of soft contact and ground balls. While doing this, he lost nothing, and in fact gained in the swing-and-miss department. It appears that Strasburg has found his optimal pitch mix and could get even better moving forward as his strikeout numbers figure to go even higher this season, given the increase in swing-and-miss numbers.

Tyler Glasnow
Photo Credit: Bob Levey/Getty Images

Tyler Glasnow, Tampa Bay Rays

Quite possibly the most controversial pitcher in the fantasy baseball community, Tyler Glasnow certainly gains a lot from a shortened season. If the season ended after June in 2019, Glasnow would be regarded as a top 10 pitcher moving forward while being drafted as one. Instead, he suffered an injury following his May 10th start, forcing him to miss over 100 games and ruin what could have been a tremendous breakout season. 

Partial Breakout 

Glasnow dominated right out of the gate, tallying 55 strikeouts and just nine walks in his first 48.1 innings of work. That went along with a ridiculous .202/.240/.277 slash line against, a 1.86 ERA, and just three home runs allowed. Needless to say, he was beyond dominant. 

One thing Glasnow has struggled with in the past was his control. In all three partial seasons he has been in the big leagues he has had no seasons with less than a 11% walk rate. Just to show how bad that is, from 2016-2018 (minimum 190 innings pitched) he would have ranked 2nd worst among starting pitchers in walk rate, tied with Brandon Finnegan and only better than Tyler Chatwood. 

What Glasnow massively improved upon in 2019 was his control of the bottom of the zone. He always had the stuff to be a competitive big league arm, as he was a top prospect for years, though the main issue was repeating his mechanics. Due to his long, lanky, 6’8 frame, he struggled to throw the ball in the zone consistently. 

 

As you can see here, Glasnow dramatically improved the amount of swings he got in the bottom of the zone, while significantly decreasing the amount of walks in that same part of the zone. 

The big thing to come away with here is that he made a major adjustment with no tradeoff. There was no major uptick in home runs allowed, he didn’t get hit harder, and he didn’t lose his strikeout stuff. As the Rays typically do, they get the best out of players with their incredible development system. 

Value in a shortened season 

Now, there is a bit of a misconception that Glasnow is injury-prone, per se. Though he hasn’t thrown above 155 innings in a season, from 2016-2018 he was on the bump quite a bit. 140 innings in 2016, his career high 155 innings in 2017, followed by 111 innings in 2018 which was due to being in relief for a majority of the season–there was no injury there. In that three-year span he suffered shoulder discomfort late in 2016, and that’s it. No injuries in 2017 or 2018. Are you going to get 200+ innings from Tyler Glasnow every year in his career? Probably not. But, those types of arms are few and far between in today’s game, anyway.

Glasnow benefits from a shortened season because he isn’t that type of arm that will carry you for an entire 162-game stretch. This type of “sprint” is perfect for him because he can go all out for 10-12 starts and be dominant for five innings a night. This will return a great investment, giving you dominant ratios and a boatload of strikeouts with wins sprinkled in.  

Before everyone stopped drafts, Glasnow was going around 71st overall on average. Drafted behind the likes of Jose Berrios, Aaron Nola, Zack Greinke, Patrick Corbin, and Lucas Giolito. Those arms were going ahead of him for longevity or reliability purposes, not because of talent or 2019 results. 

Let’s compare some of the pitchers listed above to Glasnow from the 2019 season: 

PlayerK-BB%GB%HR/9
Glasnow26.9%50.0%0.59
Nola17.5%50.9%1.20
Giolito24.2%36.3%1.22
Corbin20.1%50.8%1.07

Glasnow isn’t going to sustain a 0.59 HR/9 for any type of stretch moving forward, but look at how favorably his numbers compare to pitchers going ahead of him consistently in drafts. You can make an argument that after the elites, Glasnow could be the next pitcher off the board.

Giancarlo Stanton, New York Yankees

What makes Giancarlo Stanton so good?

For starters, Giancarlo Stanton hits the ball as hard as anyone in the sport. Since Statcast started tracking data in 2015, Stanton has the hardest hit ball each and every season. 

2019: 120.6 (1st) 

2018: 121.7 (1st) 

2017: 122.2 (1st) 

2016: 120.1 (1st) 

2015: 120.3 (1st) 

What’s more impressive is that in 2019, Stanton only played 19 games and still managed to hit a ball over 120 MPH given only just 72 plate appearances. In his big league career Stanton has accumulated 34 batted balls over 120 MPH since 2015. Just to show how many that is, Joey Gallo and Miguel Sano have combined for zero and Aaron Judge only has 10 batted balls over 120 MPH. 

If Stanton hits the ball harder than anyone, and it’s not even particularly close, why doesn’t he hit more home runs? Well, the problem is, he hits the ball on the ground too often. 

This is a chart of the batters who hit the ball the hardest and how often they hit the ball in the air. 

**since Statcast started in 2015

BatterFly Ball%Barrel% Max Exit Velocity
Giancarlo Stanton22.9%17.5%122.2
Aaron Judge30.1%20.7%121.1
Miguel Sano30.8%16.7%114.6
Joey Gallo36.5%22.7%117.5

It’s scary to envision a world where Giancarlo Stanton becomes a better hitter. The crazy thing is that it’s conceivable he continues to grow as a hitter in the Yankees excellent development system, and if not he’s still one of the top power bats in the league in a loaded lineup. 

Value in a shortened season

Stanton’s first year in New York was not too kind to him, with over 200 strikeouts and a career-high in ground ball rate. Though, it shows just how good you are when you hit 38 home runs and drive in 100 runs with a .860 OPS and that’s considered a down season. 

In a shortened season he could potentially carry your squad, seeing as there are few players that get on hotter, stat-stuffing streaks than Stanton. 

Starting with 2017, Stanton had one of the best runs of success we’ve seen this decade. In the final 78 games of the season, Stanton went on to hit 38 home runs, drive in 82 runs and slash .299/.405/.746. In 2018, even though he struggled for most of the season, Stanton still put up a great run from June to mid-August. In a 69-game span Stanton went on to hit .319/.379/.611 with 21 home runs and 50 RBI. 

While we can’t expect anything close to ‘17 second half production, it just shows how dominant Stanton can be in stretches. 

Going as the 20th outfielder off the board in drafts, he has the potential to finish much higher in this 60-game sprint. Acquiring a player that has the capability to carry your offense for a large stretch as a sixth or seventh round pick is a steal anyway you slice it. Stanton will continue to be a great draft value up until Opening Day.

Miguel Sanó
Photo Credit: Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA

Miguel Sanó, Minnesota Twins

A breakout of sorts 

Miguel Sanó seemed to have finally broken out, crushing 34 home runs in just 105 games in 2019, the year of the home run. Sanó had been an up-and-coming power bat for four years and was just never able to stay on the field enough to return enough value in fantasy leagues. 

Even though he landed on the disabled list two separate times in ‘19, Sano was able to produce at an elite level when on the field. 

Statcast rankings: 

Exit Velocity on Fly Balls/Line Drives: 99.6 MPH (1st) 

Hard Hit%: 57.2% (1st) 

Barrels/PA: 10.7 (5th) 

Sanó is special when it comes to hitting the ball with authority, possessing some of the best hard-hit numbers in the league. 

Not only does he hit the ball hard, he also gets on-base enough to be effective in other ways. His 12.5% walk-rate boosted his mediocre .247 batting average to a serviceable .346 on-base percentage. That’s something you wouldn’t expect out of a batter that was striking out over 36% of the time. 

Value in a shortened season 

Sanó has dealt with an awful lot in his big league career, including a crazy off-field allegations and testing positive for COVID-19 before the season even starts. Understandably, some people may want to just avoid the Twins slugger all together. But, there is still some value here. 

He has not eclipsed 500 plate appearances one time in his big league career. Fortunately for Sanó, he won’t need to do that this season. Given the 60-game stretch coming up, he won’t be required to stay healthy for a long period of time. 

Here are Sanó’s stats per-162 games: 

.245/.338/.498 slash, 39 home runs, 105 RBI, 95 runs scored 

In the second half of 2019, Sanó crushed 21 home runs in just 65 games. There is a wide range of outcomes for high strikeout hitters in short periods of time, and while it could be bad, he is a player to take a chance on because of his sky-high ceiling. 

Given his 120 or so ADP, he is going behind the likes of Carlos Santana, Rhys Hoskins, and Yasmani Grandal, players he will outperform on a per-game basis. Then you factor in his multi-eligibility and there really is nothing not to like about Sanó, other than the fact he isn’t on the field yet. Take advantage of the draft value and don’t look back. 

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