Today concludes the fantasy baseball sleepers‘ portion of our program. *nudges homeless woman sleeping on my couch that I tried to get Cougs to agree to a threesome with* No more sleepers, Francine. Meh, I’ll let her rest. Like the outfielders to target, this post is necessary. You need to target the right names at the end of the draft for starters. Last year’s starters to target post included Kenta Maeda, Chris Paddack and Brandon Woodruff. They’ve moved way up ranks this year with one making the jump to my top 20 starters, and, well, can you believe ESPN ranked Paddack 263rd overall last year? Yeah, well, Woodruff was unranked by Yahoo and ESPN. As with other target posts, these guys are being drafted after the top 200 overall. A quick aside portion of the program, as for the coronavirus aka Covid-19 aka “The Disease That Apparently Hates Baseball,” I’m not pretending it’s not going on, but some people still have drafts, and if I liked these guys before the virus started karaoke’ing to Public Enemy’s Shut ‘Em Down, I still like them. There are upcoming RCL drafts, and I plan on doing another NFBC league for s’s and g’s to pass time until the National Pastime returns. Is there more interest from you in another NFBC draft vs. me vs. youse? Let me know in the comments. (Side note within side note: If NFBC is still doing new leagues, I’m hearing conflicting reports.) Also, all Steamer hitter projections have been updated to 100 games, and all 2020 fantasy baseball rankings have been updated. Anyway, here’s some starters to target for 2020 fantasy baseball:
Frankie Montas (ESPN 200) If NFBC or Yahoo or ESPN aren’t listed in the parenthesis, the player is being drafted before 200. I mention this specifically now because ESPN’s just got a bunch of WUTs and I don’t want people to think Montas is really going to be drafted this late in all leagues. You should pay attention to ADP, because if you want a guy, it’s fine to wait, but don’t wait so long you miss them. Also, here’s my Frankie Montas sleeper.
Kenta Maeda (ESPN 206) As I said in my Kenta Maeda sleeper, I’m overjoyed to be putting him on my fantasy teams, and that was, wait for it, here it comes, where the hell did I put it, what on earth, it was right here…*empties George Constanza-like wallet*…oh, here it is…That was before his trade where his value went even higher. Give me all those Maeda shares!
Joe Musgrove (NFBC 212, ESPN unranked, Yahoo 214) Say what you want about me and my gorgeous head of hair, but I write my sleeper posts in November of previous year, and then you see people saying things like, “Joe Musgrove sleeper,” in February and March and I’m like, “Um, yeah, dude, I invented that nonsense. Take a seat.” Honestly, it goes for nearly all my sleepers. I say that shizz so early, then people come along and wanna rock wit’ me. But, please, pretend like I’m not inventing this shizz and everyone isn’t following along.
Marcus Stroman (NFBC 216, ESPN unranked, Yahoo 208) Okay, unlike Montas, Maeda, and Musgrove, Marcus (say that fast 117 times!) is not a raging pants tents for fantasy baseballers. People must not believe me when I say his Ks went up after the trade to the Mets (they did), and I’m picturing that picture of a pitcher (seriously, Dr. Seuss is writing this shiz now) to continue into 2020. If, by chance, Stroman doesn’t have a 9+ K/9, though I think it will be close, he still has a 3.76 ERA in 850 career IP and has an insane ground ball rate. I have no idea why others aren’t into Stroman, but I am. Also, a Marcus Stroman sleeper.
Jose Urquidy (NFBC 229, ESPN unranked) It’s a huge range of ADPs here since Yahoo has Urquidy within the top 200 and ESPN hasn’t even ranked him, but ESPN is out to lunch, and lunch is the brain custard of their co-workers so they’re zombies ghost riding their rankings. With 145 IP thrown last year, Urquidy *could* (asterisks for emphasis not as some kind of low-rent Astros symbol) throw 120 IP and be a 9 K/9 and 1.5 BB/9 guy. That’s a neutral luck guy with a 3.50 ERA and a top 20 starter year. Verlander, Greinke and the whole Astros organization can go into the nearest trash can, but Uriquidy looks primed for a breakout. Josh James? Yeah, him too, but I like Urquidy more, even though consensus is James.
Mitch Keller (NFBC 232, ESPN unranked, Yahoo 220) Price is good for Keller from what I’ve seen *insert sunglasses emoji* but I do have a little nagging feeling that the Pirates will never have anything nice. Of course, that’s unfair. A guy on the Pirates can be great, as soon as they get off the Pirates. I kid (sorta).
Julio Urias (ESPN 243) These starters who are going after 200 in ESPN (Maeda, Montas, Urias, Heaney, Odorizzi) are, honestly, goofy. I wrote a sleeper post for some of them, so you could draft them at like 140th overall instead of 160, but someone of these? I mean, Urias at 243? That’s laughably misguided. That’s why I say shizz like if an ESPN ‘pert were in your draft, he would even reveal to you that his rankings for Urias are likely around 150th overall. They don’t use their own rankings! Any hoo! Urias is a full, shortened season of innings away from a top 20 starter year. Stop navel gazing, and get in on that Urias!
Ryan Yarbrough (NFBC 260, ESPN 251, Yahoo 244) Trying to think back to last year and remember if my pitching sleepers were so obvious to me, but were being so slept on and not drafted high by anyone as much as this year, and I can’t remember, so that was a waste of my time. Me screaming at my brain, “Stop wasting time trying to remember shizz!” Well, whatever the case was in previous years, I’m seeing so many sweet, sexy — sweexy? — picks, that I’m most excited about my chances for getting a great pitching staff again this year without drafting a top starter. Ya know how they say if you don’t know who the sucker is at a poker table, you’re the sucker? The people drafting Scherzer, Sale, etc. are the suckers. More: Ryan Yarbrough sleeper.
Adrian Houser (NFBC 261, ESPN unranked, Yahoo 275) I understand that he had a 1.47 ERA as a reliever last year in 30 2/3 IP and a 4.57 ERA in 80 2/3 IP as a starter. You’re not telling me anything I don’t know. Why are we now relying on ERA for Houser when we’ve never relied on it for anything else? His other stats as a starter: 9/4 K/9; 2.9 BB/9; 3.71 FIP; 52% ground ball rate with a 4.4 launch angle, and a 86 MPH exit velocity. Most of those numbers should be obvious, but, for those that don’t know, an 86 MPH is top 10 in the majors for weak exit velocity and that ground ball rate is great (would’ve been top 5 in the league). So, to wrap this up with words vs. numbers. Houser produces weak contact on the ground when he’s not striking guys out.
Andrew Heaney (ESPN 283) When drafting this holiday season (holiday season for fantasy baseballers is in March), just draft from this target list by going, “Eeny, Heaney, miney, Yarbrough.” Okay, and pulling one of my favorites from my Andrew Heaney sleeper post, “Andrew Heaney is getting people to swing and miss and has the 11th best ability to avoid contact in the strike zone.” And that’s me quoting me! If you only draft based on Swinging Strike rate, you can’t go that wrong. Heaney was 13th best in the majors.
Jake Odorizzi (ESPN 286) I nearly wrote an Odorizzi sleeper post, but I didn’t think he’d be drafted late enough in most leagues, then ESPN did a number two on their rankings and Odorizzi is a steal in at least those leagues. I’m going to keep this super simple for you. On our Player Rater last year, Odorizzi was the 22nd best starter. To rank him as your 73rd best starter, as ESPN did, should disqualify them from ranking anything ever. Wanna know their top five rappers? Sorry, they lost the privilege. Wanna know mine? Rakim, Eminem, Tupac, Biggie, Kendrick Lamar. GTFO out of here with Jay Z.
Yonny Chirinos (NFBC 290, ESPN unranked, Yahoo 226) Yarbrough and Yonny are back-to-back in my top 80 starters, and that’s why I basically flipped a coin on which one to write a sleeper post. I did it for Yarbrough, but could’ve done it for Yonny. To show personal growth, I’m actually excited for Yonny to come into games in the 2nd inning and pitch four innings. Bring on four great innings and a win. I’ll take it, thank you. I’m thanking him, not you.
Johnny Cueto (NFBC 320, ESPN unranked, Yahoo 295) Just throw out his last year and ignore it. Was a lost year. So, instead look at his career numbers, 1856 1/3 IP and a 3.35 ERA. Sure, ERA’s dumb, but around 300th overall in drafts? Okay, that seems like a dumb-easy draft pick.
Chris Bassitt (NFBC 342, ESPN unranked, Yahoo 291) We’re admittedly so deep here you don’t even need great reasons to draft a guy, but Bassitt’s fastball velocity went up a tick, and became around the 7th best fastball in the majors for wins above value. He also dropped his slider usage dramatically, which is great because the pitch was a dud, while doubling his change usage, another positive pitch for him. Sometimes a different mix is all someone needs. A different mix for Bassitt should have you mutt-ering greatness. Worse pun ever? Perhaps.
Pablo Lopez (NFBC 370, ESPN 273, Yahoo unranked) Very similar to Bassitt. Lopez has solid stuff, but needs to find the right mix. He’s scrapping the bleh K/9 of 8, but if he can get up to 9 like he was in the minors, people are gonna be shocked by Lopez’s season. Well, people other than us.
Kevin Gausman (NFBC 374, ESPN unranked, Yahoo 374) Honestly, I think I could’ve listed another ten starters. There’s so many guys from my top 100 starters who I love that are being drafted way late. You might not need to draft a starter in the top 100 overall and still put together a solid team. Though, don’t take that literal. You need to have some starters who are safer than these guys. At least three of the pitchers I listed here will break out, but they do have risk. (And one will break out and ESPN will still rank them after 200th overall again next year, i.e. Hello, Maeda; hello, faddah.)