Hello, again. We’re officially into the second half of the 2020 fantasy baseball season. Where teams like the Tigers, Mariners, and Marlins are churning out league-winning type value guys and the Red Sox, Cubs, Yankees, and Mets disappoint for various reasons, be it performance or health or whatever. With double-headers stacking up like a good plate of pancakes, we’re seeing prospects squeeze into lineups and rotations and bullpens. Managers have to get creative, and that can wreak havoc in the fantasy realm. Or maybe it’s just managers tinkering more than they need to. All I want is my guy Garrett Hampson to hit leadoff every single day and steal a lot bases, Bud Black! That’s all I want, and it’s all you should want, too! All I want is Dominic Smith to head higher in the order, Luis Rojas!
Whatever. Anyway, let’s delve into the hotties I like (and actually a couple I don’t as much) heading into Week 6.
Note: Stats accurate as of 8/29/2020, before games began. Remember, only players available in the 30th percentiles (39% or below) of either Yahoo or ESPN leagues are looked at. Thought being that most of who you read about below will be there for you to add, hopefully.
Brandon Belt – 1B/OF, SF (Yahoo: 21%, ESPN: 15%)
I guess it wouldn’t be a proper fantasy baseball season if Brandon Belt didn’t end up on a waiver target list at some point. Seems like every year he gets hot and people are like, “Okayyyy BB I see you, finally stringing together some good stuff.” Then he just…stops. He’s sizzling right now, though, and that just might be the secret ingredient to your strong home-stretch finish for 2020.
- Was batting just .128 two weeks ago. Now he’s slashing .316/.395/.605. Wowza.
- Four homers, nine XBH, 10 RBI, 6:5 K:BB, and nine runs scored in his last 12.
- Do metrics support it? Yarp. Despite his piss poor start to the season, he’s 97th percentile in HH%, 94th in xwOBA, 95th in xSLG, and 99th (!) in barrel%.
- Crushing everything except breaking balls, so hopefully pitchers don’t pick up on that throughout the rest of the season.
- Plate discipline metrics are about the same as they’ve always been, but he’s squaring up way more, leading to an increase in line drives and a decrease in grounders.
Color me pretty F-ing surprised. I would take a shot on this kind of production in a full season, but with just a handful of weeks remaining, this kind of production could catapult your offense into the fantasy playoffs.
Jon Berti – 2B/3B/SS/OF, MIA (Yahoo: 36%, ESPN: 28%)
Delayed victory lap time. I wrote about this guy back when I did my Universal DH series in the offseason. Really, really like me some Jon Berti for fantasy. He’s a damn treasure trove of position eligibility, has strong OBP skills, and nabs plenty of those ever-elusive stolen bases.
- Despite a middling .275 BA, he’s rocking a very strong .365 OBP. Gotta get on base to steal, and this dude does.
- Hitting .389 with six runs and three stolen bases in the past seven days, hitting leadoff.
- Hasn’t been a regular lineup fixture all year but is still second to teammate Jonathan Villar in stolen bases across all of baseball.
- Only two players have more steals over the last two weeks than Berti:, Jose Ramirez and Roman Quinn.
Those of you lacking in the speed department – and who isn’t these days – need to take a look at Jon Bon Berti. If OBP is a thing in your league, then take an even closer look.
Sam Haggerty – 2B/OF, SEA (Yahoo: 4%, ESPN: 12%)
Another week, another Mariners player standing out for fantasy. This week it’s Sam Haggerty, who has burst onto the scene as another rookie making an impact right out of the gate. Haggerty has been locked in to the two-hole and producing like a mother-you-know-whater.
- On the same list as Berti with the most steals in the past two weeks aside from Ramirez and Quinn.
- Slashing .297/.316/.459 in his first nine games in the majors (I’m not counting his four at-bats last year with Mets, come on).
- Hasn’t shown it yet, but has a good eye at the plate: averaged a 12.4% walk rate in all levels of the minors. If he can get back to that neighborhood in the bigs, that OBP will climb and the steals will as well. And run-scoring opportunities, too, of course.
Truth be told, I’m getting a real Berti vibe from this guy. Just less position eligibility. No power, solid-ish average, good OBP, and superb speed.
Erik Gonzalez – 3B/SS, PIT (Yahoo: 2%, ESPN: 2%)
The Pirates are awful. More like the Sucs, amirite? As bad as they are, there’s some fantasy relevancy lurking in there. Erik Gonzalez has been hitting mostly leadoff and putting up some very, very impressive metrics for a guy only owned in 2% of leagues. You other 98% need to start paying attention.
- Lotta red percentiles in the Statcast areas that matter for fantasy: exit velocity, 91st; hard hit percent, 95th; xBA, 91st; xSLG, 89th; xwOBA, 77th; barrel percent, 69th (NICE); and sprint speed, 57th.
- Okay fine, he was hitting almost .350 a couple weeks ago and now is down to just .253, but his xBA is at .290, for what it’s worth. Maybe not much to you, and that’s fine. I forgive you.
- As disappointing as Kevin Newman, Josh Bell, and Bryan Reynolds have been, I still don’t hate them and I think those are some pretty good bats to have hitting behind you.
- Had hit a LOT of gounders in his career before this season, but has dropped that 10 percentage points this year (though it’s still pretty ding dang high) and has risen his LD% from 19.3 to 31.8.
- Solid contact was at 0.9% in 2019 – it’s at 10.6% now. That’s the kind of progression you want to see. That’s the kind of sugar daddy likes.
Gonzalez’s stats don’t look all that good right now, but the metrics do. I’m willing to bet he does some things before the year is over, but I really wanted to mention him more for keeping him on your 2021 radar.
Sixto Sanchez – SP, MIA (Yahoo: 39%, ESPN: 38%)
It’s only been two starts for Marlins rookie Sixto Sanchez, but my gravy was the last one good. He made the Rays look like the Tampa Bay Dazed And Confused. Okay that pun sucked. His last outing was so good I’m sold enough to add him pronto. Pronto Sanchez. Was that one any better?
- Dude has been spitting up to 100 MPH fastballs and sinkers this season. In addition to that 70-grade heater, Sanchez mixes in a superb 60-grade change, a slider, and a curve as well. All five have a whiff% over 20%. Change, slider, and curve are over 30%, with the latter being at 40%.
- Throws that sexy change the most often: .106 xBA and .087 xwOBA against. Damn.
- Gave up zero barrels and zero fly balls in his last outing (7 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 K).
- 19.6 SwStr% in last outing, 15.8% overall. For reference, league leaders in that category are in the upper teens to low twenties.
- 33% CSW (Called Strikes + Whiffs) last time. If you’re in the 30s on that, you’re doing something right.
- Overall, getting out-of-zone swings 40% of the time. Ninth-best in baseball for anyone with at least 10 IP.
- 60-grade control evidenced by just one walk so far. He’s got hella heat, hella movement (especially horizontal), and can control it all.
The kid is good. Real good. MLB.com’s 24th overall prospect is looking like a future megastar if his current production is any indication. More like Sixto the Manchez, amirite?
Ian Anderson – SP, ATL (Yahoo: 42%, ESPN: 41%)
Breaking my own rule. Don’t care, it’s 2020. I want to spend more time than a quick blurb at the bottom on Ian Anderson, and he’s barely outside of my ownership threshold so I’m just gonna roll with it. Unlike Sixto, we’re just basing things off one start for Anderson, but it was a six-inning, one-run dandy of a big league debut against the Yankees. It wasn’t all good, though.
- As good as the final line was, over 50% of batted balls were hit hard. Tad concerning.
- 32% CSW. Nice. Extra nice since it was a debut against Gerrit Cole. That’s gotta be in the back of your mind the whole time.
- 24.4 O-Swing%. Below league average, but meh. Just one start.
- Had a very strong K/9 throughout the minors at all levels.
- On the flip side, his BB/9 has been pretty ding dang bad so far in his career.
- In 22 batters faced there were 13 batted-ball events, and seven of ’em were hit hard. That’s…not very good. Over 50%.
So why am I bringing Anderson up here? Just to caution you. I know it’s one single start, and it was his MLB debut, but the final line isn’t quite as bright and shiny as it looks. Almost half of fantasy baseball GMs jumped all over it, though, adding him to their rosters. I want to see more, which is a little hypocritical given my excitement over Sanchez after just two starts. Don’t judge me!
Kwang Hyun Kim – SP/RP, STL (Yahoo: 46%, ESPN: 31%)
Here’s another one I want to point out as a red flag. He sure looks good in the box score, but Kwang Hyun Kim has been very mediocre and even bad in some respects. Kim has been Yahoo’s #53 overall player the past 14 days, earning a 0.57 ERA and 0.83 WHIP in that span. The underlying numbers suggest rougher days are ahead.
- 1st percentile in K%. That’s…as bad as you can be.
- Okay so he doesn’t get Ks. What does he get me, you ask? Not a lot of walks, I suppose. Or hits against, so his WHIP is good. Great, actually: 0.90.
- So what’s not to like? That .280 xBA, which is 22nd percentile.
- 1.08 ERA looks ahhhmazing. But xERA is over 4.
- In order, here are the xFIPs for his three starts: 6.66 (bad omen), 4.11, and 5.26. Actual FIPs: 8.61, 2.15, 2.65. The latter two scare me – that’s a stark difference. And the first one is just bad either way.
- Let’s look at another ERA predictor: SIERA. He’s at 5.55. That’s not good at all. His xERA, xFIP, and SIERA all say something very different than the raw numbers we’re seeing.
- Last one: BABIP. Currently at .189. That’s gonna regress back to the norm, i.e. .300 or so.
No bueno, people. No bueno. The stuff just isn’t very good, it lacks movement, he doesn’t throw hard, he doesn’t locate particularly well, but for whatever reason he’s gotten away with it so far. Kwain’t Gyunna Keep it up much longer.
Tony Gonsolin – SP/RP, LAD (Yahoo: 42%, ESPN: 27%)
Let’s get back to guys I actually like, shall we? Tony Gonsolin is back up with Walker Buehler hitting the IL recently. If Gonsolin continues to impress, the Dodgers might be happy to continue to start him and let Buehler rest up. Maybe let Clayton Kershaw rest up. Maybe kick Ross Stripling off the rotation entirely. Who knows! It’s 2020! They’re in near-perfect shape standings-wise and can afford to let Gonsolin get reps moving forward.
- Gonsolin has yet to allow an earned run across 14.2 IP. Pairs that perfect ERA with a 0.55 WHIP.
- 6.00 K:BB ratio. Last year it was less than half that, so the control is a very encouraging sign.
- Whole lot more red on the Statcast profile than the previous two guys. His xBA against is 49th percentile and his Whiff% is 42nd, but other than that he’s looking pretty solid.
- Relying heavily on his four-seamer and splitter, but mixes in a slider and curve. Doesn’t throw the slider or curve too often, but each has a whiff rate of 50% or better.
- Be aware his BABIP is an unsustainable .167 and his LOB% is an astronomically unsustainable 100%. There will be earned runs against someday! But chances are pretty good there won’t be too many, and he’s got the winningest team in baseball providing run support.
We’re not talking about an ace, even though he kind looks like one at first glance. Then again, so does Kim. But I like Gonsolin a whole lot more. Could give you some quality innings down the stretch.
Devin Williams – RP, MIL (Yahoo: 14%, ESPN: 13%)
- Identical ERA and WHIP: 0.77.
- The nastiest strikeout pitcher in all of baseball. 25 K in just 11.2 IP.
- Pretty much throws a four-seamer or a changeup exclusively. Has a sinker and cutter but has only thrown those 10 times, combined.
- 38.5 Whiff% on the heater. Ready for this one? It’s 61.2% on the change. Sixty. One. Percent. And he’s throwing it to you half the time you’re at the plate. I can’t even wrap my head around that one.
- The only blemish for Williams right now is a double-digit BB% (10.6). I’ll take that for 0.77 ERA/WHIP and video-game level K% (53.2), kthxbye.
Obvious caveat, but Williams isn’t gonna get you saves. They already have Hader, remember? But now they have another Hader doing the setting up. Williams is a good holds guy and the Brew Crew have a pretty favorable schedule to finish out the year. Almost want to say just add the dude for ratios and Ks anyway. I’m in a league that counts K:BB, so he’s just unfair for that.
Other Quick Notes
This is where I like to add in extra little tidbits but don’t dive in nearly as deep as what’s above. Just some trends I noticed throughout the past week or so, good or bad.
Austin Nola is still around in a fair amount of Yahoo leagues, but 91% of ESPN owners have finally wised up. Slashing .313/.374/.542 with five homers and 19 RBI. You need that on your roster, I promise. Especially at C.
Fellow Mariner J.P. Crawford is swinging a good stick again. Widely available, has hits in six of his last seven, and seven runs scored in that time. Even a homer and a swipe.
Nico Hoerner was a deep sleeper for me and is actually on my RazzSlam squad. He stole a couple bases in a game recently but isn’t playing every day. Good DFS grab when he’s playing against lefties though.
Tommy La Stella was featured in last week’s piece, and I think the Oakland A’s read it, because they promptly traded for him. He moves from one good lineup to another, and one that is winning more. Mashes RHP, so you DFSers need to play him on those days fo sho.
Evan White (whoa another Mariner) has been banged up but shouldn’t be out too much longer. He Ks a ton and his BA sucks because of it, but he has real power and has been better lately. Only striking out about once per game now instead of twice, and the power has picked up. Dynasty stash fo sho. Maybe worth a look to finish this year out, too.
Nick Margevicius (what, another Mariner?!) has two quality starts in his last three. He’s okay. Not blown away. But hey. You could do worse, probablay.
If by some miracle Jesse Winker is still around for you, what on earth are you waiting for? He’s still decently available, somehow. People are dumb.
JKJ is just an Arkansas guy who loves to play, watch, and sometimes write about sports. Loves his Hogs, St. Louis teams, US National teams, and Liverpool FC (since way before it was cool). He also teaches high school English. He greatly enjoys bourbon, bourbon cocktails, craft beer, and coffee at all times of the day. Married to a foxy nurse. Is a #girldad. Plays too many video games. Doesn’t care about sentence fragments despite his profession.
Follow him on Twitter (@jkj0787), where his DMs are always open for average to above-average advice. Complaints are welcome, too.