Everybody’s waiting for the next big thing

October 18, 2020

With the fantasy baseball season coming to a close, it’s time to start thinking about who the next big stars will be in each organization in the National League.
This article will take a look at who is important in each team’s pipeline, guys who have just recently cracked into the big leagues and some players I focused on before the start of the season.   
This will be my final fantasy baseball column of the year. I want to thank everyone for reading. 
I hope to give more advice next year when I figure out who Randy Arozarena and Mike Brosseau are? 

Diamondbacks

Who has value now: Daulton Varsho C

Impact: He finished the season on the Diamondbacks roster, and he’s got a ton of skills. He struggled out of the gate, but he’s playing all over, so he’s going to slot at a lot of different positions next year which can be valuable depending on how your league lets you slot guys. The fact that he’s a catcher with speed is a value you can’t find in almost any other player at the position. Plus, he has already shown some pop with three home runs in 100 at-bats. His upside is huge and there is no reason he should be attainable for a cheap price next year or in free agency in keeper leagues. 

Braves

Who’s on the radar: Drew Waters OF and Cristian Pache OF

Impact: A lot is going to depend on the moves the Braves make in the offseason. Adam Duvall was one of the biggest surprises of the season. This is a guy that couldn’t get out of AAA last season and he’s been a Top 100 player in this shortened season. Duvall is under contract until 2023, so the Braves can take their time with Drew Waters and Cristian Pache.  However, Marcell Ozuna and Nick Markakis are both free agents this offseason. I think the Braves will make a pitch for Ozuna to return. Pache is on the offseason roster because they trust his defense and speed to help them already. Even if Pache starts the season on the roster in 2021, they will probably mix him with Ender Inciarte as a fourth outfielder type mostly in the lineup for defense. The real fantasy stud to me is Waters. He has a special power-speed combo that can make him a major part of the Braves plans for the better part of a decade. With a lot of names in the mix for the two spots outside of Ronald Acuña Jr., Waters will have to wait until the midseason or an injury to get his time to get his first taste of the big leagues. 

Who has value now — Ian Anderson SP

Impact: He looks like a star in the making. He uses four pitches and he can put batters away with all four (with a put-away rate of four-seamer 21 percent, changeup 31 percent, curve 21 percent and sinker 33 percent. He’s put up a 1.95 ERA with 41 strikeouts in six games. Draft him early in redraft leagues, and do anything to get him in keeper leagues. He will be the ace or No. 2 of this staff for the foreseeable future along with Max Fried. While Mike Soroka might be the most talented pitcher of the group, he doesn’t strike out enough batters to be an elite fantasy option. Soroka’s injury history also concerns me too. He missed the 2020 season with a torn right Achilles, but I think he will return from the injury with zero long term concerns. The biggest red flag with Soroka is the shoulder discomfort/tendinitis he dealt with during 2018 and to start 2019. Shoulder injuries for pitchers are things they can overcome, but they never fully go away. All of this is to say, Anderson is primed to be one of Atlanta’s most important pitchers over the next half-decade.

Cubs

Who has value now: Nico Hoerner 2B, SS

Impact: I think they might have pushed Nico Hoerner a little too fast through the system. Hoerner has been below league average in weighted runs created plus the last two seasons. WRC+ league average is 100, Horner finished with a WRC+ of 83 in 2019 in 20 games, and a dismal 63 WRC+ in 2020. He was in the bottom four percent of the league in barrel rate and bottom five percent in expected slugging. He finished 2020 with a batting average of .222 which means he not only wasn’t getting many hits, but he was also hitting for any power. With Jason Kipnis heading back to free agency this offseason, Horner doesn’t have anyone to compete with him for the second base position. If the Cubs try to fill the position in free agency this offseason, we will have a better understanding of how much they believe in Horner. 

Reds

Who’s on the radar: Hunter Greene SP

Impact: Prospect fans have been waiting on Greene for a while now. He made the cover of Sports Illustrated in 2017 before he was drafted No. 2 overall in the draft. Since he initially caught everyone’s attention, his stock has done nothing but plummet. His ability to reach triple digits on his fastball made him special, but even in the minors, nobody has had trouble with his velocity. His first full year in the minors, he put up an ERA of 4.48 in single-A. He did tally 89 strikeouts in 18 starts, but players were hitting him hard with six home runs in A-ball. His future value rating dropped and now rests somewhere between 50-55 on an 80 scale. He missed all of 2019 with Tommy John surgery, and with no minor league play in 2020, his future is unpredictable. At this point, he’s just a name to keep an eye on for the 2022 season at the earliest. 

Rockies

Who has value now: Brendan Rodgers 2B/SS

Impact: It’s almost not correct to define him as a player who has value now. A strained shoulder ended his season early this year, but I think this is a guy where we need to just ditch him in fantasy and hope he has a late-career rebirth maybe in a different city. In just 21 at-bats this year, he’s hitting .095. Over the last two years, he has a batting average of 1.95 in 102 at-bats. Everything was set up for him to take over at second base this year, and he just couldn’t do it. Colorado has run into a lot of options at second and Rodgers has gone from a guy who was in the top 10 on prospect lists to just another guy.   

Dodgers

Who has value now: Gavin Lux 2B

Impact: This was a very disappointing season for a guy everyone thought was a potential NL Rookie of the year candidate. He posted a batting average of .175, and his chase rate increased from last year. Chris Taylor was also very good this season and Taylor isn’t a free agent until 2022. So Lux may be out of luck next season too, and Lux might need more time in the minors before he starts to sparkle.     

Marlins

Who has value now: Sixto Sanchez SP

Impact: He has the velocity and command to be special, but the strikeout numbers need to be higher. He finished his first season with seven starts 3.46 ERA and a WHIP of 1.21. However, he only struck out 33 in seven starts. He is pounding the zone 4.6 K/BB in the minors and during his first season in the pros 3.0 K/BB. This is a guy who has drawn comps to Jose Fernandez and is nicknamed little Pedro (Martinez). He might come at a cheap price now because he hasn’t put up the strikeout numbers yet. He’s close to putting it all together and he ranks in the 97th percentile in velocity. If he learns to put some spin on the ball, he will be one of the best pitchers in baseball.  

Who’s on the radar: Jazz Chisholm 2B/SS

Impact: I love this dude. He has great power and speed and a beautiful left-handed swing. He does have an issue with strikeouts and he doesn’t walk often. In 2019, he did show the most discipline in his career a the plate. His prospect grade has never been as high as it should be, but his ceiling is so high. He could become a 30-30 player. The fact that they brought him up for their postseason run shows their faith in him on defense. Miguel Rojas is under contract until 2023 at next to nothing for a shortstop. If Chisholm proves he’s ready, he can be the starting shortstop as soon as next season.  

Phillies

Who to watch now: Alec Bohm 3B/1B

Impact: He was everything I told you he could be in my preseason article. He showed power with four home runs, and he hit for average with a .338 batting average. His hard-hit rate is in the 84th percentile. This is a guy who was well regarded for his power in the minors. He’s locked up the third base job for the next decade for the Phillies. Once he starts hitting for power, he will be a perennial all-star.     

Pirates

Who has value now: Mitch Keller SP

Impact: The ERA looks good at 2.91 in five starts. He got hit hard this year landing in the 20th percentile with 42 percent of his pitches getting hit hard. The peripheral numbers show he had an expected ERA of 6.07. So he was either was very talented at pitching to contact, or he’s been very lucky. Either way, there’s nothing that he does exceptionally well. I’m done holding out hope that he’s a special talent. 

Who’s on the radar: Ke’Bryan Hayes 3B

Impact: He’s already showed why he should be one of the highest priority players in all of fantasy in 2021. He played in 24 games and he already put together a 1.8 WAR by Baseball reference’s estimation which is incredible. His elite defense adds to that total. He’s one of the best defensive prospects in the minors. All he did in his 24 games with the Pirates was hit .376 with 14 extra-base hits including five home runs and an  OPS of 1.124. It seems like he’s ready for a full-time gig, but if the DH doesn’t stick in the National League I don’t know where they play the trio of Colin Moran, Josh Bell and Hayes who are all corner only players. Moran doesn’t come with a big price tag, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them hold down Hayes to start the year to play the arbitration game. Hayes is a superstar who will explode on the scene soon. It’s just a matter of when at this point.      

Padres

Who’s on the radar: MacKenzie Gore SP

Impact: He grades somewhere between a 65-70 overall prospect grade which makes him special for a pitcher. The scary part about investing in him is that the ceiling is high, but it’s all projected on him unlocking another level of talent (age 21). He has the arm talent and movement to be elite, and he is very well rounded with a strong four-pitch combo (fastball, curveball, slider and changeup). However, the problem is that he didn’t find consistent success throwing any of his secondary pitches and developing an out pitch. Several publications are projecting him to make his debut next year. I think that’s a little quick considering he didn’t get any work this year and he has to find himself as a dominant pitcher before he can become a true No. 1 starter. 

Giants

Who has value now: Joey Bart C

Impact: I got it right, and he made it up to the show this year. However, the raw power he possesses didn’t show up with him. In 111 plate appearances, he had only seven extra-base hits and none were home runs. He’s been advertised as a player with enough strength and swing speed to hit to all fields. However, I do think he’s shown enough signs to be concerned about his power. He hit .233 in his first full-time stint with a (WRC+ 70), and he only had three barrels. This could be a great buy-low opportunity if people don’t believe in his power. There’s no other catcher on the roster to unseat him, and his leadership and pitch calling ability has been praised by everyone. 

Cardinals

Who has value now: Dylan Carlson OF

Impact: The power is there to justify some excitement. He hit .200 in his first 119 plate appearances, but he had 11 extra-base hits with three home runs. He’s not a great fielder in the 19 percentile for his ability to get a jump on the ball, but he has a clear path to playing a full season in right or left field next season. His value will be inflated coming off a great postseason (.571 OBP). I think he’s a great keeper because of his potential, but I think he will go too early in redraft leagues. I would wait for him to be more proven before investing in him long term. 

Nationals

Who has value now: Carter Kieboom SS/3B

Impact: If 2019 was a warning sign for Carter Kieboom, 2020 was a tornado siren. After inheriting the job from Anthony Rendon, Kieboom struggled mightly hitting .128 with only one extra-base hit and a WRC+ of 66. He finished the season on the injured list with a wrist bruise, but I think the organization will tell us in the offseason what they think of Kieboom. If he gets another shot, give him a chance, but if they bring in a replacement in the offseason ditch him as well.