Frankie Montas (SP-OAK) is one of my favorite value arms to target for 2020. He completed just 96 innings of work in 2019 thanks to an 80-game PED suspension, but he did some stellar work when on the field, recording a 2.63 ERA, 9.7 K/9, and 2.2 BB/9. And in his return to the mound on September 25th, Montas showed little rust as he held the Angels to just 1 run on 4 hits and a pair of walks while fanning 6 in 6 innings of work. Sure, his 3.47 xFIP indicates that some good fortune helped him out (his HR/9 was only 0.75), but the addition of a splitter to his repertoire helped him boost the strikeouts as well as log a 49% groundball rate. The fact that he missed about half the season will likely make many fantasy owners overlook or devalue him as they question the legitimacy of his half-season sample size. But the metrics suggest that he made real strides and should be a solid mid-rotation guy for fantasy in 2020 with a chance to be even better than that.
Tyler Glasnow (SP-TB) has been dynamite since returning from a right (throwing) forearm strain and will be an interesting player to watch as the 2020 draft season approaches. After tossing 4.1 scoreless innings on Friday in which he allowed no hits, walked 2, and fanned 4 Blue Jays batters, the 26 year-old now owns a 1.78 ERA, 12.3 K/9, and 2.1 BB/9 in 60.2 innings of work this season. That includes 12.1 dynamite innings in September, in which he's logged a 1.46 ERA, 15.3 K/9, and 3.7 BB/9. Glasnow's 2.95 xFIP on the season suggests that his 1.78 ERA has been held down by an artificially low 8.5% HR/FB and .265 BABIP, as well as an inflated 85% strand rate. So while I do like him as a potential value buy in 2020, those who draft him should expect some correction to the mean as he accrues more innings. Moreover, I would bear in mind that, after tossing only 63 innings this season, he will likely have his workload managed in one way or another next season; after all, he's surpassed 130 innings pitched in a season only once in his career.
Blake Snell (SP-TB) followed up his Cy Young 2018 campaign with a dud in 2019, in large part due to injuries that included a freak toe injury and a more concerning left (throwing) elbow issue, both of which are apparently now in the rearview mirror. In 104.2 innings of work this season, he's put up a meh 4.21 ERA to go along with a 12.3 K/9 that is more than a K per inning better than last year's clip and a 3.3 BB/9 that is only slightly worse than last season's 3.2 clip. A glance at his xFIP - 3.28 - indicates that some bad luck worked against him in 2019. In particular, he enjoyed a crazy 88% strand rate in 2018 only to have it plummet to 72% this season while his lucky .241 BABIP in his Cy Young campaign jumped to an unlucky .339 this year. Based on his peripherals, fantasy owners should expect an ERA in the 3.25-3.50 range with a 12 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 2020 - not quite the stud he was in 2018 but also not quite the dud he was this year.
Mookie Betts (OF-BOS) followed up an MVP season in 2018 that catapulted him into the overall top 5 for fantasy with a somewhat disappointing 2019 campaign. Entering the final weekend of the season, Betts was batting .294 with 29 homers, 80 RBI, and 16 stolen bases in over 80 more at-bats than he logged in 2018, when he hit .346-32-80-30. Betts' wRC+ is down from a staggering 185 to "just" 135 while his war is down from a whopping 10.4 to "only" 6.5. So, what went "wrong?" His nearly identical walk and strikeout rates (right about 14% each) are both slightly better than last year's figures, so we'll have to look beyond plate discipline. The batted ball profile shows that despite the switch to bouncy balls in MLB, Betts' hard-hit rate is down slightly to 42.8% (from 44.5%). Beyond that, there was a lot of regression to the mean, as his BABIP (.307) and HR/FB (13%) sat far closer to his career averages than the numbers that he recorded during last year's run to the MVP. The conclusion? Betts produced about what should be reasonably expected of him this season and his 2019 production should be the baseline for expectations in 2020.
Domingo Santana (OF-SEA) received a fresh start this season after a trade took him from an uncertain role in Milwaukee to an everyday job in Seattle. The season started off well enough for the then-26-year-old, who batted a solid .286 with 18 homers, 63 RBI, and 6 stolen bases in 399 plate appearances headed into the All-Star break. But the wheels fell off after that point, and he made just 105 second-half plate appearances entering the final weekend of the regular season, logging just a .130 average, 3 dingers, 6 RBI, and 3 steals. Right (throwing) elbow inflammation landed him on the DL in August and he's logged only 8 PAs since returning from the IL about 10 days ago. What can we expect from Santana in 2020 provided he's healthy? It's clear that the elbow issue derailed his second half, so let's focus on the first. That stellar line above came with a solid 9% walk rate and a 29% strikeout rate that sits 3% below his career clip and matches his strikeout rate from his stellar 2017 campaign (.278-30-85-15). Sanana made plenty of loud contact, as his 44% hard-hit rate before the All-Star break was very good (40% career), and that included a 56% hard-hit rate on flyballs, which made up 32% of his batted balls. His wRC+ of 127 during the first half highlights how good he was. Santana might have let fantasy owners down after July in 2019, but that means he should come at a deep discount in 2020 drafts.
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