With baseball set to begin activities later this month, the 2020 season will be unique as the shortened season will certainly have an affect on players from a fantasy perspective.
With fewer games to dig themselves out of slumps, the players that will flourish this year will be ones in good situations provide plenty of opportunity for production. Also, players that have the tendency to show levels of consistency will be important to fantasy baseball managers this season. The following are some players coming off of poor 2019 campaigns and that are being undervalued because of it from a fantasy perspective.
Khris Davis—Oak OF/DH
Davis' first three seasons with the A's were fantastic displays of power and about as consistent as you could want from any fantasy player. From 2016-2018, Davis managed to slightly improve upon his fantasy production maintaining an average of 44.3 home runs, 112 runs batted in, and an OPS (on base plus slugging percentage) of .857. 2019 was a down year in every offensive category (except base on balls) since joining Oakland, highlighted by his paltry .681 OPS which was .170 points lower than his career average before last season. Davis has never been a player that hits for a high average so the .221 he put up last year wasn't as concerning as the drop in OPS which is an indicator that a player is hitting for power and producing runs.
The good news for fantasy owners is that Khris Davis is one of the most likely bounce back candidates in the fantasy baseball landscape heading into the shortened 2020 season and he will be coming at a deep discount. Considering Davis' appeal is largely centered around his home run ability, and that 2019 was the first season in his career that that number didn't increase, it's very likely that we will see his counting stats improve as he rediscovers his power swing this season.
Justin Upton—LAA OF
Upton enters this season coming off an injury riddled 2019 campaign where a toe sprain kept him out to start the year and patellar tendinitis ended it early. Once he was back Upton struggled to return to form as he was tasked with being the sole protection for Mike Trout in the lineup as Shohei Ohtani and Tommy La Stella dealt with their own injuries throughout the year. Upton has never been exceptional but he has always been consistent. With a career .266 batting average and 30 home run potential, Upton will benefit from a healthy Ohtani and La Stella in the lineup. One of the biggest offseason transactions was the Angels' addition of third baseman Anthony Rendon from the Washington Nationals who finished 3rd in NL MVP voting last year. With Trout, Rendon, and Ohtani expected to bat ahead of Upton in the lineup, there is a lot of potential for RBI production especially if he can hit for power. You would have to think that the lower body injuries last year affected Upton's swing, so if he can enter 2020 healthy keep him on your draft radar as he could be a steal as your third outfielder.
Matt Carpenter—STL 3B/DH*
Matt Carpenter is a bit of a fantasy enigma in the sense that he has consistently been a positive contributor for fantasy owners while never excelling in any one category outside of the outlier of 36 home runs in 2018. But he manages to continue to make an impact in multiple categories by being a patient hitter that can draw walks and knock a few out of the park. Carpenter even set a career high in stolen bases last season at age 33, swiping 6 bases in 7 attempts.
There are certainly question marks entering 2020 as we saw his batting average drop 43 points below his career average and 21 less home runs in 2019. Add to that Carpenter is 34 and it almost sounds like I'm trying to talk you out of drafting him. But a wrinkle to the shortened season is that the MLB is instituting a universal DH rule this season to allow National League teams to utilize a DH for the first time in league history. Carpenter projects to be the primary DH for the Cardinals and by limiting him to only offensive duties, it may be enough to keep him healthy and focused on bringing his average back up which would help his overall fantasy production. If you can stash Carpenter as a bench player, he could get hot in a short season and help get you to your fantasy postseason.
Starlin Castro—WSH 2B
It feels like Castro shouldn't be on a list like this as he had one of his best fantasy seasons of his career in 2019. But playing for Miami provides little exposure on a national stage and his solid .270/22/86 slash line flew under the radar while being quite impressive fantasy production in that Marlins' lineup. Fast forward to 2020 and he is going to be batting in the heart of the reigning World Series Champion Washington Nationals' lineup. Projected to be hitting third and protected by Juan Soto hitting clean up, Castro can easily improve his counting stats across the board. Castro's ADP is surprisingly 247 according to Fantasydata.com which is way too late for a second baseman with the upside Castro enters 2020 with. Feel free to draft Starlin Castro above his current ADP, I would feel comfortable with him as my everyday starting second baseman. A lot of the guys in front of him in ADP are younger players that haven't shown they can consistently perform at the MLB level (Keston Hiura, Cavan Biggio) and in a short season those guys could struggle more than a veteran like Castro.
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