Darron Cummings/Associated Press
One of the biggest questions about Major League Baseball in 2020 is how the delayed start to the season will affect player performance.
Per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, there is optimism that MLB will have a season of sorts this year, with one idea being to start play in 10-12 states or in as many as 20 ballparks around the league.
Athletes in all sports are used to a strict routines that allow them to be at their peak during the season and sustain that performance over a long period of time. Any disruption to those regimens could affect how they play.
This will be important to remember in MLB as the league continues to figure out a potential return plan. Fantasy baseball will also be very different this year, with the top stars likely having more value than ever because a shorter season would make it more difficult for big statistical seasons.
That doesn’t mean there won’t be any breakout stars in 2020; it just might be harder to pinpoint where the surprises are going to come from. That’s not impossible if you know where to look.
Here are our best bets for breakout fantasy stars to keep an eye on as you prepare for your draft.
2020 Fantasy Mock Draft
1. Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels
2. Ronald Acuna Jr., OF, Atlanta Braves
3. Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
4. Mookie Betts, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
5. Christian Yelich, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
6. Alex Bregman, 3B, Houston Astros
7. Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies
8. Gerrit Cole, SP, New York Yankees
9. Jacob deGrom, SP, New York Mets
10. Juan Soto, OF, Washington Nationals
11. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians
12. Trea Turner, SS, Washington Nationals
2020 Fantasy Breakout Stars
Willie Calhoun, OF, Texas Rangers
After brief cups of coffee with the Texas Rangers during the 2017 and 2018 seasons, Willie Calhoun finally seemed to catch on last season. The 25-year-old hit .269/.323/.524 with 21 homers and 48 RBI in 83 games.
Calhoun had an interesting journey to the big leagues. He showed good power in his first three minor league seasons, recording 69 homers in 333 games from 2015-17. When the Rangers sent him to Triple-A at the start of 2018, his hitting remained strong with a .294 average and .351 on-base percentage. However, his power fell off with nine homers and a .431 slugging percentage in 108 games.
Per CBS Sports, Calhoun might have even more offensive potential to tap into because some of the metrics he posted last season weren’t in line with what he did in the minors:
“Calhoun’s 6.8 percent walk rate in Texas was well below his 9.0 percent career average in the minors, while his .262 BABIP was also a far cry from his career minor league BABIP of around .300. We should eventually see a more patient approach from Calhoun, better batted-ball luck, and prodigious power, which should play well in hitter-friendly Globe Life Park.“
According to Fantasy Pros, Calhoun is the 49th outfielder being selected and has an average draft position of 179.4. The outfielder directly ahead of him is Byron Buxton, who has only played more than 100 games in a season once since 2015.
The value Calhoun presents with his ability to hit for average and 25-30 homers in a full season makes him much more valuable than the 15th-round draft pick that he is right now.
Bo Bichette, SS, Toronto Blue Jays
All of the hype for a Toronto Blue Jays prospect last season was reserved for Vladimir Guerrero Jr., but it was the son of another former MLB star who was a better player in 2019.
Bo Bichette hit .311/.358/.571 with 11 homers in 46 games as a 21-year-old last season. Guerrero hit .272/.339/.433 with 15 homers in 123 games as a 20-year-old.
Guerrero’s natural ability to hit gives him the higher ceiling, but Bichette shouldn’t go overlooked among the next wave of Toronto stars. He put up a .321/.380/.515 slash line with 37 homers in 323 minor-league games.
Another thing that gives Bichette as much value as, if not more than Guerrero in 2020 is position. The Florida native is a shortstop, where the offensive bar is lower than at third base or designated hitter.
There will likely be some regression in Bichette’s batting average because his .368 BABIP seems unlikely to repeat. Per ZiPS projection models, he is expected to hit .276/.335/.472 with 19 homers, 79 RBI, 73 runs and 28 stolen bases. His 3.3 projected wins above replacement would match Corey Seager’s total from last season.
Bichette’s average draft position is 67.8, making him the 13th shortstop coming off the board. His ability to hit for average and power, combined with the speed to rack up stolen bases, makes him a potential top-five player at the position in 2020.
German Marquez, SP, Colorado Rockies
Betting on any Colorado Rockies pitcher to have success is a tall task, but there is a lot to like about German Marquez in 2020.
The 2019 campaign was a disappointment for Marquez coming off a 2018 in which he had a 3.77 ERA and 230 strikeouts in 196 innings. Last season saw the Venezuelan right-hander post a 4.76 ERA, allow a career-high 1.5 home runs per nine innings and lead the National League with 14 wild pitches.
There are reasons to believe Marquez was the victim of bad luck in 2019. His home run rate spiked despite having the second-best ground-ball and fly-ball rates of his career. The 25-year-old posted the best strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.00) in his four big league seasons.
“His fastball velocity increased for a third consecutive season, now up to 95.7 mph, his swinging strike rate improved slightly (up to 12.7 percent from 12.5 percent), he had a sterling 4.9 percent walk rate and he maintained his 1.20 WHIP from the prior season,” per Sports Illustrated‘s Jaime Eisner. “He also had a 3.54 xFIP.”
Marquez is a deep sleeper who is currently the 51st pitcher coming off the board with an average draft position of 178.6. Right behind Marquez is Houston Astros right-hander Lance McCullers Jr., who hasn’t pitched since Oct. 17, 2018, following Tommy John surgery.
Marquez’s ceiling is lowered because of the way Colorado’s thin air hurts pitchers, but he’s got the raw stuff to be at least a No. 2 starter in 2020 based on his peripheral stats.