Early look at baseball

It’s January 5th, and it’s way too early to predict what players will be worth drafting in 2021. Assuming, there is a return to normalcy with a COVID vaccine, I expect a corresponding return to normalcy with a number of players who underperformed in 2020. Here’s a look at some position players who are on my radar as I look ahead to the 2021 fantasy baseball season.

José Abreu – The reigning AL MVP has a career OPS of .870 and a career batting average of .294, which makes him a four-category player. If he’s not overvalued, he’s worth picking up for first base.

Ronald Acuña Jr. – Although his batting average in 2020 was only .250, he’s a five-category player and still deserves to be one of the top draft picks. He has a rare combination of speed and power.

Nolan Arenado – He slumped a bit in 2020, with his average and OPS dipping to the lowest points since his rookie year. But I expect him to return to form as a solid four-category player this year.  

Javier Báez – He hit only .203 last year, with a .599 OPS. He steals bases but is not elite in speed, or power. After being drafted in the third round in 2020, I wonder how far he’ll slip in this year’s draft?

Mookie Betts – The Dodgers are building their team around him, and you couldn’t be faulted for doing the same thing. He is a five-category player and worthy of an early first-round pick. 

Alex Bregman – I’m willing to overlook his only down year in 2020 because it was 2020. He has a lifetime OPS of .877 and a 272 average.  If he’s still on the board in the second round, I’m a buyer.

Rafael Devers – The Red Sox third baseman is only 24, and a year of normalcy could be the glide path to superstardom. He hit .263 with 32 runs, 11 home run, 43 RBI but no stolen base last year.

Josh Donaldson – He alternates healthy seasons with injury-plagued ones. Perhaps, it’s time for a healthy season like 2019, but he’s 35. He has a lifetime OPS of .877 and batting average of .272.

Joey Gallo – The Rangers outfielder hits for tremendous power, but with little surrounding him in the lineup, he may be only a one-category player instead of three. And he’s a lifetime .208 hitter.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr.  – The Blue Jays infielder (1B/3B) hasn’t broken out the way analysts thought he might right out of the gate, but the talent is obviously there. It could happen this year for him.

Bryce Harper – He was the Phillies’ best player last year and has more than earned his contract so far. He’s had 30+ home runs and 100+ RBI his last two full seasons, and he has a lifetime .900 OPS.

Aaron Judge – When he’s healthy, he’s a beast, but he’s never healthy. Perhaps, he is due for a season without injuries. He has a lifetime .948 OPS and .272 average. However, I won’t overpay for him.

Kyle Lewis – The Mariner outfielder and reigning AL rookie of the year was a waiver wire addition for me last year, but he’ll come with a premium this year. Still, he could be a five-category player.

Francisco Lindor – Like so many superstars, the Indians shortstop had a down year in 2020, but I expect him to bounce back and be a five-category player in 2021 as he plays for a lucrative contract.  

Brandon Lowe – He had a terrific 2020 season before running out of gas at the end of the season. But there’s life left in the bat, and he fits in well with the always competitive Rays team. He’s a value.

Starling Marte – The Miami outfielder doesn’t excite me, but he can contribute in three categories (batting average, runs and stolen bases). I would consider him only if he slips to the fourth round.

Brandon Nimmo – The Mets outfielder hit .280 with 33 runs, 8 home run, 18 RBI and one stolen base last year. He could be worth a late draft pick with a team that should be a contender in 2021.

Salvador Perez – The catcher was a monster down the stretch last year. A full season could bring him back to All-Star level. He hits .333, with 22 runs, 11 home runs, 32 RBI and 1 stolen base in 2021.

José Ramírez – The Indians third baseman almost won the AL MVP Award, finishing second in voting in 2020, and third in ’17 and ’18. He can steal a lot of bases. It seems like 2019 was an outlier.

Bryan Reynolds – The Pirates thought they had a lineup piece for the future before he took a step back in 2020. With a weak lineup surrounding him, he’s only worth a late-round selection.

Juan Soto – The Nationals outfielder is just a notch below Acuna. He hits with as much power, but he doesn’t steal as many bases which keeps him from being a first-round pick from my perspective.

Eugenio Suárez – He was supposed to be the Reds centerpiece star in 2020, but he took a step back with only a .202 batting average and .781 OPS. In spite of that, he still hit 15 home runs in 57 games.

Fernando Tatis Jr. – What is there not to like with “El Niño?” The Padres are building a powerhouse of a team out west, and Tatis will be in the center of it. He’s easily worth a second-round draft pick.  

Gleyber Torres – His first two seasons with the Yankees were very good, but last year was not good. However, it was 2020. Eligible at both 2B and SS, he’s still be worth a fourth- or fifth-round pick. 

Mike Trout – The bad news is that he’s stop running, which still makes him a four-category player. Although injuries are more of a concern in recent years, he’s still worth a first-round draft pick.

Justin Turner – It depends somewhat on who he’ll be playing for in 2021, but he hit .307 with 26 runs, 4 home run, 23 RBI last year. He’s a career .292 hitter but he is 36 and injury prone.     

Christian Yelich – He didn’t play like the top-tier star he is in 2020, but he would be a bargain if he is available late in first round or second round in the draft. He’s a potential five-category contributor.

Mike Yastrzemski – I added him from waivers last summer, and I was glad I did. The 30-year-old Giants outfielder had a breakout year, and he may have even more help surrounding him in 2021.

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