Before the shutdown, it was looking unlikely that Nate Pearson was going to make the major league club and was looking at a late-season call-up. The shortened season has given most teams a realistic shot at making the playoffs including the up and coming Blue Jays. What this means for Pearson is that he is likely to spend a week off of the major league roster to save a year of service time and then is likely to join the Blue Jays rotation. Pearson is armed with three above-average pitches in his upper 90's fastball, hard breaking slider, and a changeup that fades away from lefties. This gives him the repertoire needed to be successful against both sides of the plate and the premium velocity and slider give him the ability to strike batters out. He has seen his ADP rise since the announcement of the restart. He is averaging pick #260 in NFBC drafts with a high pick of 210. Pearson is going in a group of interesting veterans and talented youngsters that include Alex Wood, Dustin May, Dylan Cease, Spencer Howard, and Aaron Civale. Pearson's ceiling is higher than anyone on this list. It just comes down to your stomach for risk given the current situation and what it means for pitchers. Add in that he is a rookie with no big-league experience and has to pitch in the tough East division and Pearson loses some of his shininess.
Bo Bichette has been the industry's wide awake sleeper for a while now. This is coming off a year in which he hit .292 with 19 HR and 19 SB in 102 combined games between Triple-A and the majors. At the major league level, he hit .311 with 11 HR, 32 R, 21 RBI, and 4 SB. The sky's the limit for Bichette given his ability to make contact and hit for power. He is unlikely to steal 30+ bases like he did at Double-A in 2018 but he should be good for 10+ at the major league level which is going to make him a premium five-category performer. His Statcast data also backs up Bichette's potential breakout with above average hard contact, exit velocities, and barrel%. The only downside to Bichette, is that you are not going to get him at a discount and will have to be ready to take him early, like top 50 overall early.
Blue Jays DH Situation
The Blue Jays announced on Friday that 3B Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is going to focus on 1B/DH in 2020 and that Travis Shaw is going to play third base. The Blue Jays are going to give Shaw an opportunity to bounce back from his dreadful 2019 campaign. They should know quickly if he can be a regular at the position. The move to first for Guerrero Jr. should open up more playing time for Rowdy Tellez in more of a split at 1B defensively. The majority of DH at-bats were thought to be coming from the Jays outfield but that doesn't look to be the case anymore. Derek Fisher seems to lose the most value because he is now the fourth outfielder who doesn't have the DH position to fall back on. He offered an intriguing blend of power and speed if playing time was going to be there. In the minors, Fisher has shown the ability to be a double-digit HR/SB guy along with good plate discipline. His biggest flaw has been the inability to make contact (37% K) at the major league level. To get regular playing time and be fantasy relevant he is going to have to cut down on the swing and miss.
Reds Pitching Philosophy
The Reds are going to be creative with the way that they use their pitchers in the shortened season. This was expected and was confirmed both by manager David Bell and pitching coach Derek Johnson. The information that has gotten the most buzz has been about Trevor Bauer's desire to throw as often as possible this year. The most current news is proposing the idea that Bauer throws every fourth day instead of the standard fifth day. Since this will not be confirmed until games are underway it is hard to bump Bauer up or down in terms of fantasy value. On one hand, the extra innings would be extremely valuable in the shortened season but if it was anything like last year (4.48 ERA and 1.25 WHIP) then it wouldn't move the needle much. You would have to bet on Bauer improving on last year and his career statistics (4.04 ERA and 1.30 WHIP) suggest that might not be realistic. The other piece of useful information to come out about the Reds plan for pitching is that Tyler Mahle is being viewed as a piggyback option. Identifying who the piggyback options are before the season starts could lead to value given the likely lack of win potential for starting pitchers to start the season. Mahle has shown good control (6% BB) and the ability to miss bats (23% K). The increase in strikeouts last year was a result of a change in his pitch mix. He started to feature more off-speed pitches (CB and SF). Mahle may be worth a late-round gamble thinking that he will be the piggyback option with good ratios and chances at picking up a win. Manager David Bell announced his rotation will go Sonny Gray, Luis Castillo, Trevor Bauer, Wade Miley, and Anthony DeSclafani. This is all subject to change between now and the start of the season.
The Health of the Lineup
Eugenio Suarez (shoulder) said that his shoulder is healthy and he's excited to start the year. Suarez is coming off a monster 2019 season (.271 AVG, 49 HR, 87 R, 103 RBI, and 3 SB). The batting average is likely going to come down given his propensity to swing and miss (29% K) but the power (47% Hard, 42% FB) is real. Nick Senzel's shoulder is 100% according to manager David Bell. The addition of the DH has been a huge win for the Reds and their crowded outfield situation. There are now regular at-bats for Nick Castellanos, Shogo Akiyama, Jesse Winker, and Nick Senzel. The biggest winners of this group are Jesse Winker and Nick Senzel who were on the outside looking in before. Winker has shown that he can get on base (.379 OBP) and hit for power (.845 OPS) but that comes with major splits against left-handed pitching (37 wRC+) compared to a 137 wRC+ against right-handers. Nick Senzel is someone that has been undervalued this year in drafts because of his health and perceived struggles last year. He is someone that could go 20 HR/20 SB in a full season with a batting average that isn't going to kill you. He is healthy and has a path to playing time so now is the time to buy.
Shogo Akiyama is going to have to make the transition to a new country and league very quickly. He was signed by the Reds to be an everyday outfielder who hits for average and gets on base. There is a good chance that he is the Reds lead-off hitter to begin the year. This would be an extremely valuable fantasy spot because of the increased at-bats as well as run production given the strength of the Reds lineup. Akiyama is not going to be great in any one category but he should provide value across the board similar to that of OF Adam Eaton.
Across the League
Starling Marte has not reported to camp yet which is slightly concerning with less than two weeks until the start of the season. It would be more concerning if he were a pitcher but he is going to need to be at camp relatively soon so that he can get some live at-bats before the season starts. Marte is one of the few players that offers elite speed without killing the rest of the categories. He hit .295 with 23 HR, 97 R, 82 RBI, and 25 SB in 132 GP a year ago. Marte is a career .287 hitter who has never stolen less than 25 bases a full season. He makes a ton of contact (16% K) and has a better than league average Statcast hard-hit percentage (39%).
Corey Knebel is supposed to start the year healthy (TJS) and on the major league roster. He is unlikely to take the closer job from Josh Hader to start the year but there is a chance that the Brewers go back to using Hader for multiple innings especially with the shortened season. This would leave the closer's job wide open. Knebel was excellent in 2017 (1.78 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 41% K) and 2018 (3.58 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 40% K). It is going to be hard to roster closers in waiting but Knebel is one of the better options out there if he shows that he is healthy.
Anthony Rizzo is dealing with a back issue that isn't considered serious. Rizzo has dealt with on and off again back issues over the past couple of seasons. The good news is that the season doesn't start for another 12 days so the hope is that he is recovered by then. Rizzo is one of the most consistent players year to year and his underlying skills (12% BB, 14% K) are still well above average and combined with his above-average Statcast numbers (89 mph EV, 7% Barrels) there is little to be concerned about the 30-year-old first baseman.
Astros manager Dusty Baker has come out and said that the right-field job is Reddick's to lose. This is coming off a year in which Reddick hit .275 with 14 HR, 57 R, 56 RBI, and 5 SB in 141 games. He doesn't offer much for fantasy which makes this all the more disappointing with Kyle Tucker waiting in the wings. This crushes Tucker's value given that Reddick is going to have to force the Astros to go with Tucker which could take weeks even in the shortened season. Tucker's long term value is still very high given his power/speed combo but the outlook for 2020 is trending down. This is an ever-changing environment so anything could change.
Buster Posey had been out of Giants camp for personal reasons and officially opted out on Friday. Posey is coming off a year in which .257 with 7 HR, 43 R, 38 RBI, and 0 SB. He was reportedly finally healthy coming into the 2020 season which would have made him a nice late-round option at catcher. The natural thought would be to think about the Giants top prospect Joey Bart but it is unlikely that we see Bart this year due to financials and the fact he played in just 22 games at Double-A.
Clark Schmidt had been impressing in Spring Training and continues to do so during summer camp. Schmidt doesn't have the pedigree of a top prospect but he is coming off a year in which he pitched well across three different levels last season. He has shown good command with the ability to throw two above-average off-speed pitches in his curve and slider along with a serviceable changeup. The Yankees don't currently have an opening in their rotation but Schmidt and Jonathan Loaisiga are two names to keep an eye on if an opportunity arises or they are used as piggyback options.
A.J. Puk was a popular pitching prospect heading into the 2018 season but missed the entire year after having Tommy John surgery. Puk has lost some of his luster due to limited innings last year and the emergence of teammate Jesus Luzardo but there is major potential in the left-hander's arm. Puk is going to benefit from the shortened season because there were questions about his innings coming into the year and the absence of Luzardo has made him a near-lock for the rotation. He is going to miss bats with premium velocity from the left side and a devastating slider. Don't sleep on the left-hander in Oakland. He struck out 28% of batters with a 14% SwStr in limited time at the big league level last year.
Kyle Wright doesn't get the same love as other top pitching prospects but he is fantasy viable heading into the 2020 season with a perceived spot in the rotation. He's got a four-pitch mix that includes a 95 mph fastball, curve, slider, and changeup. Wright has the pure stuff to succeed at the major league level but has struggled in his limited action (7.71 ERA and 1.83 WHIP). The main problem has been the lack of success of his fastball despite good velocity. Look for a change in his pitch mix that features more of his secondary offerings as a route to success for the right-hander. Wright is worth a flier in the late rounds of mixed-league drafts given that the Braves figure to be a contender and his stuff gives him nice upside given his draft price.
The DH moving the National League has done wonders for the fantasy value of Dylan Carlson. He now has a path to playing time that isn't blocked by the likes of Tyler O'Neill, Harrison Bader, and Dexter Fowler. Carlson is arguably the Cardinals top outfielder but is likely to spend at least the first week not on the roster due to service time rules. His bat is major league ready after hitting .292 with 26 HR, 95 R, 68 RBI, and 20 SB in 126 games between Double-A and Triple-A. He showed good plate skills with sub 25% K and greater than 8% BB. Carlson has the potential to be a fantasy superstar with five category potential and should be drafted accordingly.
Michael Kopech-White Sox-SP
Michael Kopech has opted out of the 2020 season. He was healthy coming into the year and was expected to join a talented White Sox rotation that included Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease, and Reynaldo Lopez along with veteran Dallas Keuchel. When Kopech takes the mound in 2021 for the White Sox, it will have been over two years since he was on a major league mound. The good news is that Kopech is going to be able to throw while away from the team and should be a full go next year. This means that Gio Gonzalez is a near-lock to make the rotation with Kopech out of the way. The other name to keep an eye on is Carlos Rodon. He said that he is close to 100% and is working towards getting stretched out as a starter. Reports on his stuff after coming back from Tommy John surgery are going to be key before considering picking him up but he has shown that he can miss bats at the major league level.