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Every day brings us closer to the return of fantasy baseball.
Even if we don’t know when (or even if) the 2020 MLB season will start, we at least know we’re always moving nearer to the opening pitch.
Consider this, then, an extended time of draft preparation. While some years you might feel too crunched for time to do adequate research, that excuse is out the window. You can examine as much information as you care to handle, starting with our mock first round and sleeper hitters below.
12-Team Mock First Round for Roto Leagues
1. Ronald Acuna Jr., OF, Atlanta Braves
2. Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels
3. Christian Yelich, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
4. Mookie Betts, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
5. Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
6. Gerritt Cole, SP, New York Yankees
7. Jacob deGrom, SP, New York Mets
8. Trea Turner, SS, Washington Nationals
9. Trevor Story, SS, Colorado Rockies
10. Max Scherzer, SP, Washington Nationals
11. Alex Bregman, 3B, Houston Astros
12. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians
Sleeper Hitters To Target
Marcell Ozuna, OF, Atlanta Braves
Fantasy owners have apparently decided Marcell Ozuna is another run-of-the-mill power hitter. He isn’t exactly being ignored, but with an average draft position of 97 (per Fantasy Pros), he isn’t being treated as a special talent, either.
The numbers say fantasy owners should reconsider.
If last season serves as a baseline for production, then you can pencil him in for around 30 homers (he hit 29) and roughly 170 combined runs and RBI (169). Judging by his career marks, though, his .241 batting average was an outlier. He’s a .272 hitter for his career, and in the previous two campaigns, he hit .280 and .312.
A batting average bump alone should nudge him higher in the top 100, and his 2017 season shows how much farther he can climb. That year, he was both an All-Star and a Silver Slugger with personal bests in homers (37), RBI (124) and runs (93).
His offseason move from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Braves took him from the 19th-best offense in total runs (764) to the seventh-best (855). Even with the same power output, he should improve his runs and RBI totals, and if he decides to run again (he swiped 12 bags last season), he could be one of fantasy’s best values.
Khris Davis, DH, Oakland A’s
There are models of consistency, and then there’s pre-2019 Khris Davis.
He was automatic to a comical degree. Between 2016 and 2018, he belted between 42 and 48 home runs while tallying between 102 and 123 RBI. More incredibly, he hit exactly .247 in four consecutive seasons and had a .244 average the year prior.
All of those stats suggest you should hide your eyes and divert your attention away from his injury-riddled 2019 season. Before being sidetracked by a hip injury suffered while running into an outfield wall, he looked like his normal self. Through 43 games, he had 12 homers and 29 RBI. Oh, and guess what he was hitting—.247, as per usual.
But he never got back on track from there. Over his final 90 games, he only had 11 home runs and batted a very un-Davis-like .207.
Was the now-32-year-old showing signs of a swift decline? Or was this the collateral damage from that collision with the fence? We’re willing to bet on the latter, especially at his more-than-reasonable price tag of a 174 ADP.
Paul DeJong, SS, St. Louis Cardinals
After previously flashing intriguing pop, Paul DeJong finally received a full-season workload in 2019. He promptly pounced on the opportunity with 30 homers, 97 runs, 78 RBI and even nine stolen bases.
One year later, the fantasy community is somehow shrugging its shoulders at the breakout. His ADP sits at a head-scratching 187.
What’s the issue? Well, DeJong only hit .233, but two years prior, he was a .285 hitter, so the upward mobility is both obvious and significant. He also front-loaded some of his production—.258 batting average before the All-Star break, .202 after—but even then, he had more homers (17 to 13) and more RBI (42 to 36) in fewer games (72 to 87) in the first half than the second.
Perhaps he’s being penalized for the impressive depth at the position, but how many other shortstops are delivering 30 homers, nine steals and 175 combined runs and RBI? The answer: Not nearly enough to let him last as long on the draft board as he has been.