Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman was one of the biggest fantasy busts of 2020. Over 42 games last year, he slashed .242/.350/.451 with only six home runs, 22 RBI, and 19 runs. He was a consensus top-10 pick going into 2020, and now he’s fallen outside of the top 30 in many preseason rankings. He went in the fourth round of a recent Yahoo mock draft.
Bregman saw his hard-hit rate drop from 38% in 2019 to 33.6% last year, while his barrel rate took a dip from 4.8% in 2019 to 3.9% last year. But he maintained his solid plate discipline in 2020 with a 14.4% strikeout rate and a 13.3% walk rate. While that’s inferior plate discipline numbers to 2019 when he had a 12% strikeout rate and a 17.2% walk rate, it’s not bad.
Bregman has shown some streaky play throughout his career and if we had a full 162-game season in 2020, we likely would have seen the best version of Bregman emerge through an extended stretch at some point. He showed his downside risk in 2020, but don’t forget the upside potential he possesses. He’s just a year removed from an MVP-caliber 2019 campaign.
I had Bregman on one of my fantasy teams in 2019, and I didn’t regret grabbing him in the second round. He slashed .296/.423/.592 with 41 home runs, 112 RBI and 122 runs. Bregman is a great target in the third round or later. While he may be streaky and fail to reach his gaudy 2019 numbers, the upside potential is a player who can return a mid-first round value.
It’s still early to know everything we need to know about players, since they haven’t even reported to camp yet. But recent Yahoo drafts have demonstrated to me that there are clearly some players that are overvalued and many others that are undervalued. Here are some of my thoughts on position players on my radar several weeks before the 2021 regular season starts.
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 in my book. It’s surprising that in early fantasy drafts he’s going in the fourth or fifth round. He went 38th and 55th in the two mock drafts.
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, although he also ran less in 2020. He went first in both mock drafts I have reports on.
Pete Alonso – As expected, he regressed in 2020, with his average dropping 30 points. But his home run production still makes him attractive. With the Mets getting better players in the lineup in 2021, he’s worth grabbing if he falls far enough. He went 50th and 84th in two mock drafts.
Jose Altuve – He posted career lows in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. He also recorded a career-high 18.6 percent strikeout rate and a career-high swinging strike rate. I’m interested if he slips to the seventh round. He went 31st and 89th in mock drafts.
Yordan Alvarez – I had a very bad taste in my mouth last year when I took him with the 38th pick in the draft and he played two games. Having knee injuries at his age is not good, but he still might be a value if he falls far enough. He can hit. He went 69th and 100th in two mock drafts.
Nolan Arenado – The new Cardinal third baseman slumped a little bit in 2020, with his averageand OPS dipping to the lowest points since his rookie year. A four-category player, he has a lifetime OPS of .890 and batting average of .293. He went 22nd and 37th in the mock drafts.
Josh Bell – Bell’s trade from the Pirates to the Nationals is a plus. If the Nationals get the 2019 version, he’s a big addition, as he hit a career-high 37 homers while slashing .277/.367/.569. His numbers cratered across the board in 2020’s short campaign, but he’s worth a 16th-round pick.
Cody Bellinger – The 25-year-old Dodgers first baseman took a big step back last year after a breakout year in 2019. But he can contribute in five categories if healthy. His injury last year, sustained in the NLCS celebration, was concerning. He went 18th and 20th in the mock drafts.
Mookie Betts – The Dodgers are building their team around him, and he’s the darling of most analysts. I think he may be slightly overrated, however. His walk rate did drop a bit in 2020, and he struck out at a career-worst 15.4 percent. He went No. 2 and No. 3 overall in two mock drafts.
Bo Bichette – The 22-year-old Blue Jays shortstop has flashed potential, playing parts of the last two seasons. He’s slashing .307/.347/.549 with 16 home runs, 44 RBI, 50 runs and eight stolen bases. But the small sample size concerns me. He went 16th and 40th in recent mock drafts.
Xander Bogaerts – The 28-year-old Red Sox shortstop has a career batting average of .289 and .805 OPS. Unlike many players, 2020 was not a down year for this four-category contributor. I’ve benefitted from owning him the past two years. He went 32nd and 41st in recent mock drafts.
Michael Brantley – The 33-year-old slashed .300/.364/.476 with five home runs, 22 RBI, 24 runs scored and two stolen bases over 187 plate appearances for the Astros in 2020. He’s a career .297 hitter and can hit 20 homers and steal 10 bases. Brantley went 150th in a recent mock draft.
Alex Bregman – He was one of the biggest fantasy busts of 2020, slashing .242/.350/.451 with only six home runs, 22 RBI, and 19 runs. But he has a lifetime OPS of .877 and batting average of .272. He is also eligible at two positions. If he’s available in the third or fourth round, I’m in.
Nelson Cruz – Like a fine wine, Cruz just seems to get better with his age. He was one of MLB’s preeminent power threats for the entire the 2020 season, with the eighth-highest OPS at .992. Unfortunately, he’s going as early as the 6th round, which is too rich for my blood.
Rafael Devers – The Red Sox third baseman is only 24. Is a year of normalcy the glide path to superstardom? He hit .263 with 32 runs, 11 home run, 43 RBI but no stolen base last year with natural regression from Devers’ breakout 2019 season. He went 35th and 48th in mock drafts.
Josh Donaldson – He’s on my radar after slipping all the way to the17th round in recent Yahoo drafts. After 28 games of hitting .222 in 2020, Donaldson has 191 ADP. This seems like an overreaction to a short season, with his track record and a 37-home run season just a year earlier.
Tommy Edman – He’ll be hitting at the top of a Cardinals lineup that just became lethal with the addition of Nolan Arenado. But his 2020 season was dismal after a promising 2019 season. His multi-position eligibility is attractive, but an 11th round pick seems like a substantial risk.
David Fletcher – Fletcher has been a steady presence at the top of the lineup for the Angels and is a fantasy contributor in runs and batting average with multi-positional eligibility. He has a career .292 batting average. In spite of that, he went undrafted in a recent Yahoo mock draft.
Freddie Freeman – The 31-year-old seems to be getting better with age. He bounced back from COVID to play all 60 games and batted .341 with a 1.102 OPS. Freeman has been one of the league’s best hitters since his first full season in 2011. He went 11th and 12th in mock drafts.
Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. – Another player who has gotten better in each of three seasons is Gurriel.
While many others floundered in 2020, Gurriel continued his ascendance in fantasy circles. In 2020. the hard-hit percentage was in the 91st percentile. He went 105th in a recent mock draft.
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. His batting average has dipped the last three years, but he has a lifetime .900 OPS. He went 20th and 25th in mock drafts.
Teoscar Hernandez – He was one of the standout batters of the 2020 season, with his 16 home runs tied for seventh in the majors, he batted a career-high .289 and even chipped in six steals over 50 games. A Statcast darling, he does strike out a lot. He went 71st and 81st in mock drafts.
Eloy Jimenez – After a good start in his rookie year, he built on that in 2020, with a 14 home runs, a .296 batting average and .891 OPS in 55 games. A lot of power, but he hits the ball on the ground too much, doesn’t walk enough, and won’t steal. He went 34th and 36th in mock drafts.
Aaron Judge – When he’s healthy, he’s a beast, but many key stats are trending down. He does have a lifetime .948 OPS and .272 batting average. There are enough flags not to overpay, but he’s worth drafting if he slips to the seventh round. He went 66th and 74th in two mock drafts.
D.J. LeMahieu – A career .305 hitter, he hit .364 with a 1.011 OPS last year. His hitting metrics, including hard-hit rate, overall exit velocity, contact rate and strikeout rate, all point to a repeat in 2021, but he doesn’t steal bases or hit with power. He went 32nd and 47rd in recent drafts.
Kyle Lewis – The Mariner outfielder and reigning AL rookie of the year was a waiver wire addition for me last year. With a small sample size, I’m cautious He could be a five-category player, but advanced metrics don’t support it, so don’t pay up. He went 138th in a mock draft.
Francisco Lindor – Like many, the Indians shortstop had a down year in 2020, but I expect him to bounce back and be a five-category player in 2021. His ADP indicates I won’t be able to get him late in the second round where he should be drafted. He went 13th and 14th in mock drafts.
Brandon Lowe – I won’t go overboard with Lowe since he still hasn’t played a full season in the MLB. He started 2020 season well but ran out of gas at the end. But he’s emerging as a real power hitter with improving overall skills. He went 64th and 64th in two recent mock drafts.
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 is a five-star contributor since he hits for power and steals a lot of bases. It seems like 2019 was an outlier. He went 7th and 12th in two mock drafts.
Anthony Rendon – Still in Los Angeles, and batting behind Mike Trout will provide the Angels third baseman another opportunity to lead MLB in runs batted in. As expected, Rendon regressed in 2020, but he had a .286 average and .915 OPS. And he may be available in the fourth round.
Miguel Sano – He had 34 home runs in 105 games in 2019, but 2020 saw his OPS dipped from .923 to .757 in 2020. He’s an injury risk, and his 43.8 percent strikeout rate is brutal. But he’s probably worth a 15th or 16th round pick, with his dual position eligibility (1B/3B) another plus.
Juan Soto – After posting a .287/.403/.535 triple-slash line over his first two seasons (a total of 266 games), he took his game to a new level, slashing .351/.490/.695 in 47 games in 2020, and improving an already elite strikeout-to-walk ratio. He went No. 5 and No. 8 in mock drafts.
Fernando Tatis Jr. – He may be overrated with a small track record. The Padres are building a powerhouse of a team, and Tatis will be in the center of it. Tatis hit .277/.386/.571 with 17 homers, 11 steals and 45 RBI over 59 games in 2020. He’s going fourth in many mock drafts.
Kyle Tucker – The 23-year-old was the Astros best hitter in 2020, slashing .268/.325/.512 with nine home runs, eight steals, 42 RBI, and 33 runs scored in 58 games. But with only one, short season of success, I’m reluctant to pay up. He’s going in the third or fourth round in mock drafts.
Mike Trout – The only bad news is that he’s stop running in recent years, which still makes him a four-category player. Although injuries are more of a concern now, he’s still worth an early first-round draft pick with his track record. He went No. 3 and No. 5 in two mock drafts.
Trea Turner – Up until last year, I regarded him as an overrated player, but 2020 showed he could be a five-category contributor, with his speed being his best asset. Since making his MLB debut in 2015, Turner has stolen 171 bases in 541 games. He went 6th and 9th in mock drafts.
Alex Verdugo – A high batting average and run-scoring potential are expected, hitting ahead of Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, and J.D. Martinez. But he doesn’t steal very many bases, and the lack of power makes him a two-category player. Is he really worth a 10th round pick?