The 2019 regular season isn’t over yet, but here I am starting to formulate rankings for 2020. Several fantasy sites are already running mock drafts for 2020 and the #2EarlyMocks are in full swing. I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in the mocks for the second straight season. I ended up with the last pick in the draft, number 15 overall. It ended up working out because I grabbed Freddie Freeman and Trea Turner at the wheel. You’ll see below that I have both players a little bit higher, so I was happy to snag one of the most consistent hitters in the game along with a ton of stolen bases. Both players hit for a high average and I think speed and batting average are the most difficult categories to solidify especially going into 2020. OK, enough rambling, here is my list.
Early 2020 Rankings - Top 25 Players
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Unfortunately, we lost Christian Yelich to a broken kneecap just the other night. Yikes, that’s brutal for the Brewers and fantasy owners. Now, I have the asterisk next to Yelich because we don’t know how he will recover from the injury. If he is recovered and 100% before Spring Training, he’s my top dog. The difference between Yelich and Mike Trout is stolen bases. It’s becoming more obvious that Trout won’t be running as much with just 11 on the season. That’s the same number as Cody Bellinger and one fewer than Juan Soto. It’s now been two seasons where Yelich has provided elite level fantasy production. It’s real and he’s still 27 years old. When debating Yelich and Trout, I looked at batting average and counting stats. Those should be similar but I’ll take 15 additional stolen bases from Yelich rather than 5-10 homers from Trout. Ronald Acuna over Trout also comes down stolen bases and ceiling. If I’m feeling conservative, I’m taking Trout but I think Acuna could honesty hit 50 homers and steal 40 bases at some point in the near future. He does strikeout nearly 26% of the time, so his batting average could fall into the .270 range but he’s a lock for 35 homers and 25-30 steals.
There’s a gap between the top three and the next tier. I would love to have the third overall pick next year and grab whichever stud falls to me. Next on the list, I have Mookie Betts and here’s why. Betts was unlucky in the first half and here’s what he’s done in the second half .318/.385/.615 with 15 homers, 4 steals, and 52 runs in 55 games. Meanwhile, Cody Bellinger has fallen off in the second half. I trust Mookie more than I trust Bellinger. Mookie’s average season since the start of 2016 looks like this .304-120-29-93-24. He’s not running as much but he’ll be 27 next year and I believe he still has a couple more 20-25 stolen base seasons in him. Bellinger is awesome, no doubt. He’s going to hit 40 homers and steal 10 bases next year but he’s not quite a .300 hitter. I’d rather have Betts with his batting average floor (but also upside) and speed.
Francisco Lindor is also in the Betts/Bellinger tier. He’s already hit 31 homers and stolen 21 bases in just 127 games this year. Remember the calf issue that forced him to miss the first three weeks? Yeah, that happened. I’m locking him in for 35 homers and 25 steals but the Indians aren’t as deep as the Dodgers and Red Sox which is why he’s sixth. His counting stats probably won’t match Betts or Bellinger’s. My first pitcher is Gerritt Cole. He has a 39.3% K-BB% in the second half. That’s insane! If that was ONLY his strikeout rate, it would rank second behind teammate Justin Verlander. Back in June, I ranked Cole second among starting pitchers the rest of the way and I was actually too low. At the time of the rankings, he had a 6-5 record with a 3.67 ERA. His skills were so off the charts, I knew he’d dominate from that point forward. Since then, he has a 1.83 ERA with 141 strikeouts in 93.2 IP.
The next trio includes Trevor Story, Freddie Freeman, and Juan Soto. We have two seasons in a row where Story has hit at least .290 with over 30 homers and 20 steals. He’s only going to be 26 next year. If I’m drafting in the first-round, I want to combine power and speed with batting average. That’s what I’m here for and you won’t find it later in the draft. I predicted Freddie Freeman would win the MVP in 2018, well I was wrong. however, my projection of .350-40-130 isn’t that far off of where he’s going to end up this season. He won’t end up in the top 5 for the NL MVP. That’s how nuts this year is. Freeman hits .300 just about every year and should maintain 30+ homers with over 100 runs and RBI and chip in 5-8 steals. Who knew Juan Soto was going to run? He has 12 steals this year and while I won’t project him for that many next year, the fact that he can net 8-10 next year jumps him over the likes of Bregman and Arenado. This kid is the next Miguel Cabrera with a little more speed. Would I be surprised if he hits .320 with 40 homers next year? Nope, he’s a beast and will only be 21 next year!
Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander round out my top 12. Both are aging studs and have shown no signs of slowing down. I will be monitoring Scherzer due to his back issue in the second half but if he finishes the season strong, I won’t be concerned. Both pitchers have shown elite skills and there’s nothing wrong with their velocity. Per the Athletic, Verlander has been unlucky in terms of home run allowed, so I’d expect that to come down next year. His defense also helps him out as they are number one in terms of runs saves this year. The good news, he will have the same defense behind him next year. Scherzer’s team isn’t too bad either and he should have no problem piling up wins in 2020. The skills between Verlander and Scherzer are very similar but I’ll lean Scherzer because he’s two years younger.
Nolan Arenado isn’t in the top 12 because he doesn’t run. He’s a lock to hit .300+ with 35-40 homers and 110 RBI. That’s awesome, that’s great, that’s bankable, but I can’t spend a first round pick on him. Trea Turner is 14th for me because of his speed. He’s not a zero in power either. He’s a 15-18 homer hitter but can also hit .300 and steal 45+ bases. His ceiling is higher than that and his floor is safe even if he only plays 130 games. In 2019, he’s the 11th most valuable hitter on a per-game basis per the Razzball Player Rater.
Jacob deGrom might be downgraded because 2019 is his second straight season where his win total is low. Of course, that’s 100% no his fault. His luck has to change. The Mets should be better next year (we hope) and even with neutral luck deGrom should compile 15+ wins next year. OK, I hate talking about wins. deGrom is number one in MLB with a 2.16 ERA and it’s not close (Verlander is second a 2.52) and ranks fourth in strikeouts. If that’s not a top-four SP, I don’t know what is. Alex Bregman has the best approach and plate discipline in the league. Not Trout, not Votto, it’s Bregman. He’s somehow improved on his OBP, SLG, and O-Swing this year. He’s fantastic but the quality of contact isn’t there. His barrel rate decreased and he’s hitting more popups this year. Pulling the ball is how he can mash 35 homers, so his margins are razor-thin. He’s also not running anymore. He’s surrounded by the best lineup in baseball so, 100 runs and 100 RBI is bankable but where are you drafting a .290-30-5 player? Walker Buehler might be the best pitcher in baseball next year. I’m not letting that slip past 17 overall or the fifth pitcher off the board. He’s the next Justin Verlander, book it!
Floor and ceiling define these next five guys. This is a huge discount on Jose Ramirez if this is where he’s drafted. He’s not going to hit .300 but he’s capable of lofty batting average if he modifies his approach. He is a lock for 25 homers and 25-30 steals given 600+ plate appearances. That’s extremely valuable and I might be moving him up in my rankings as I finalize them this offseason. I love Anthony Rendon and we finally got to witness his ceiling this year. I am not expecting a repeat but is there much of a difference between Rendon and Bregman? Maybe three to four steals? J.D. Martinez is still a monster. He was unlucky with his power last year. He should have hit 40+ bombs. I’ll pencil him in for .300-35-110 with upside for .320-45-125. The reason he’s this low is the lack of speed. A few of the players ahead of him such as Bregman or even Rendon could steal 5-10 bags, not J.D. Here’s where we get sexy! Fernando Tatis Jr. On a per-game basis, he was one of the most valuable players this year. In fact, he was second to Christian Yelich among qualified hitters one spot ahead of Ronald Acuna Jr. Look, he won’t post a .400+ BABIP in 2020 but should provide a decent .270 average with 25+ homers and 35+ steals. Yes, please!
If we get a healthy Aaron Judge season, he’s going to hit 50 homers. His quality of contact is so great that he should provide a solid .275-.280 average. His elevated walk rates should keep him high in the batting order netting a ton of runs and RBI. I can’t drop him any lower than this despite the injuries. Javy Baez is lost for the season and many pundits were labeling him a bust coming into the season, yours truly included. In reality, he was anything but a bust. He’s not the batting average risk people peg him for, his BABIP the last three seasons are .345, .347, and .345. He didn’t run as much but should be bankable for .280-30-100 with 15 steals. Xander Bogaerts is a star friends. I ranked him inside the top 30 in the preseason and labeled him a massive bargain. I own him almost everywhere and he’s going to finish inside the top 15 overall. I got him as late as 50-55 overall in some drafts! Anyways, he stopped running which is a negative and that’s why he’s ranked in a similar spot. Still amazing and the 30 homers isn’t a fluke. Chris Sale is either going to win owners their leagues or once again crush their dreams. He was unlucky this year, flat out. His skills are up with the top tier but health and velocity are scaring people away. At 25 overall, there’s room for profit but also a little built-in risk.
So, I included several additional players on the list above. This is far from my “set in stone” rankings list for 2020, so a lot can change. Of this group, I would expect Mike Clevinger, Adalberto Mondesi, and Jose Altuve as the players most likely to make the jump into the top 25 in the coming months. You’re comments and questions are always welcome and I hope you enjoyed this kick-start for 2020.
Photo Credit: Milwaukee Brewers Facebook