It may still seem like fantasy baseball drafts are ages away, especially with some of the league’s top free agents still unsigned. But it’s just two months until draft season, and it’s never too early to look at sleepers in any fantasy sport. Here’s a look at some of the top prospects, sleepers, and underdogs entering the 2020 baseball season.
Dylan Carlson – St. Louis Cardinals – The switch-hitting Carlson is too good not to take over a starting role this year. The 21-year-old possesses credible power and a mature approach that gives him a surprisingly high floor. I think Manager Mike Shildt gives him the opportunity to shine.
Jason Heyward – Chicago Cubs – I know I’ll get some pushback on this one, but let’s be reasonable about expectations here. Heyward will not regain the confidence that once made him a rising superstar with 35 HR potential, but last year he contributed 21 home runs and a useful .343 OBP. A .251 average is at least somewhat a product of a low .281 BABIP, too. He seems a forgotten man in some ways, but remember, that will be to his advantage. Pick him up for cheap and see what lineup configurations are in order from new manager David Ross…
Keston Hiura – Milwaukee Brewers – Here’s a top MI hitting behind Christian Yelich. Not a sleeper per se, but a player I think ought to be drafted as a stud. Miller Park will provide a high floor for Hiura’s power output. As with Lux, don’t let his relative youth fool you; here is a polished hitter who is ready to rake!
Gavin Lux – Los Angeles Dodgers – Don’t be afraid. If I’m the Dodgers, I’d have this guy grip it and rip it leading off out of Spring Training. Be bullish in drafting Lux, and if need be, sitting patiently for a month or two until the breakout happens come summertime.
David Peralta – Arizona Diamondbacks – We’ve always known he can hit, but with the twin power emergence of Ketel Marte and Eduardo Escobar (yes, that happened) around him, I’m banking on a healthy Peralta to hit .290+ and quietly amass solid counting numbers for an OF3 or OF4…
Tommy Pham – San Diego Padres – He plays with a perpetual chip on his shoulder, but Pham provides a surprising amount of steadiness for the fantasy line. I think he has a huge 2020 sandwiched between Tatis and Machado in San Diego… Remember, this is no longer a destination that deflates numbers as it once did, and Pham has hit exceptionally in every ballpark he’s played in.
Jo Adell – Los Angeles Angels – No surprise here, as the top prospect should be ready to roll in 2020 for the Angels. The competition (Brian Goodwin) shouldn’t hold him off for long, and in a potent lineup, I like the upside, as well as the dynasty potential, here.
Bo Bichette – Blue Jays – One of the very best players in minor league ball in 2017, Bichette is already well-regarded beside fellow second-generation players in Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Cavan Biggio. I love his bat speed, athleticism, and pure strength. He may whiff a bit, but I can’t wait to see him leading off for Toronto in 2020.
Willie Calhoun – Texas Rangers – A lefty with bonkers power in Arlington tells me that Calhoun’s projections are too conservative. He’s one of several prospects who got small doses of MLB action and is ready for a full season. We soon forget the potential here, but with Mazara gone, I like Calhoun to stick in the 5-hole and come second only to the prodigious Joey Gallo in home runs.
Eloy Jimenez – Chicago White Sox – Does this count? The imminent arrival of Luis Robert paired with solid offseason acquisitions in Yasmani Grandal and Edwin Encarnacion means Eloy could be a 40-HR man. We could see him hitting out of the 5th or 6th hole depending on where Robert lands, and I have a sneaky suspicion that he will capitalize on some slightly diminished attention out of that spot. I think the ascension of fellow prospects in Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Fernando Tatis Jr. tempers what shouldn’t really be tempered here…
Tommy La Stella – Los Angeles Angels – You don’t need him to hit 35 bombs. But if he can carry a .300 average and score mondo-runs hitting in front of Trout and Rendon, you are looking at a very efficient 2B slot!
Jose Martinez – Tampa Bay Rays – Here’s a gamer. I love the fit here in Tampa Bay, where I think Jose is poised to enjoy a very successful campaign. Yes, his home run numbers might settle in around 25, but Martinez has uncanny contact ability and is a doubles machine. I think he quickly ascends in the order behind Meadows and drives in 95-100 while carrying a high BA.
Marcus Semien – Oakland Athletics – It’s time to give him some love. Assuming your format doesn’t care about defense and doesn’t sink you for strikeouts, Semien is another terrific source of middle-infield power in an eternally-overlooked A’s lineup that is well-stocked with power behind him.
Kyle Tucker – Houston Astros – No, Josh Reddick isn’t a bad player. But when given the at-bats, Tucker is the odds-on favorite to eventually win the job in right field. He’s wiry, and while the Astros’ fall from grace (from GOAT to goats) is sure to affect them on the diamond, one would be wise to consider the potential trade implications in order to reload a beleaguered farm future. If the ‘Stros think they can swing it without Tucker, he’s still got solid value for teams in search of a potential breakout hitter.
*Will the scandal affect the Astros’ hitters? Of course. How much? No one knows. Personally, I’m not selling a proven bat like Brantley, but I’d knock the rest of them down a peg or two…
Aaron Civale – Cleveland Indians – A former third-round pick, Civale came up briefly last year and pitched effectively. He won’t blow anyone away with strikeout stuff, but he could be a serviceable and cheap option in the back-end of your rotation. Dollar bin pickup!
Jesus Luzardo – Oakland Athletics – ROY Candidate who will face an innings cap, but don’t sleep on this guy. A lefty with a plus changeup, Luzardo ought to excel this year. While he may not boast the same strikeout upside of some other young flame-throwers, his overall makeup creates greater confidence in this buyer.
Lance McCullers Jr. – Houston Astros – There is a lot to love about McCullers. His pedigree, his bulldog approach, his composure, his curveball. I’m not predicting a full bounce back here (his reliance upon the curve jeopardizes his elbow) but McCullers is reported to be back to full strength. When he locates his two-seamer, he’s a good pitcher. But folks forget that his changeup can be likewise devastating. With or without his elite curve, McCullers has the talent to put up a K/9 north of 9.5.
Drew Smyly – San Francisco Giants – How soon we forget a lefty with four quality pitches and plenty of upside! Now that he’s healthy, I love how Smyly fits in San Francisco. Naysayers will point to last year’s struggles, but you could do worse than stashing a guy with Smyly’s potential.
Matt Strahm – San Diego Padres – A popular sleeper and strikeout option, if Strahm can get ahead in a few more counts and continue to finish off hitters with his slider and increased usage of his big curveball, look for a considerable step forward for this late-bloomer.
That’s it for now. You can check back here at SportsPub for more updates ahead of the Fantasy season. On the other hand, you could just lose. The choice is yours.