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Underappreciated 2020 Fantasy Baseball Value Targets: Hitters

In my first ever article on Fantrax back in 2017 (about Austin Meadows), I mentioned how everyone always seems to be drawn to the shiny new toys at our disposal in the fantasy baseball world. I’m very much included in that. But if we want to be successful each season, we can’t 100% go down that path. Grabbing rising talent is absolutely a key in any draft, but at the same time, so is drafting a few underappreciated talents that get passed over due to not being an overly sexy option. Whether that be due to age, a lower ceiling, or what have you, these guys can help you win your fantasy league. After digging into 2020 Fantrax ADP, I’ve identified eight underappreciated hitters that rare big fantasy baseball value targets in 2020 drafts that you need to keep on your radar and scoop up when everyone has passed over them.

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Underappreciated Fantasy Baseball Value Targets

Mike Moustakas (2B/3B – CIN)

Fantrax ADP: 125.4

Mike Moustakas is a perfect example of the intro to this article. Year in and year out, Moustakas produces at a top-100 level but never gets drafted within the top-100. A big reason for that is the fact that his batting average usually settles into the .250-.260 range and has sat at .251 and .254 over the last two seasons. But at the same time, Moose has averaged 34 home runs and 89 RBI over the last three seasons and hit .272 back in 2017. Outside of the 101 runs Max Muncy scored in 2019, him and Moustakas haven’t been too far apart overall in value over the last two years. However, Moustakas is going nearly 50 picks higher on average in 2020 fantasy baseball drafts so far. While I’d take Muncy straight up, the 48-pick gap is way too large.

Moustakas also gets a slight bump in his new home park as Cincinnati was the 10th best ballpark for left-handed power compared to 15th for Milwaukee according to Baseball Prospectus. This Cincinnati lineup has the potential to be sneak-good, especially if Joey Votto and/or Jesse Winker bounce back from down 2019 seasons. Even if Votto is done as a force, his high OBP hitting in front of Moustakas could push Moose close to 100 RBI in 2020.

2020 Projection: .255/82/35/97/3

Cavan Biggio (2B – TOR)

Fantrax ADP: 147.7

While this ADP isn’t crazy low, Cavan Biggio certainly has the skills to outperform this by 50-plus picks in 2020. His lower average is the main culprit for his ADP being suppressed so far in 2020 drafts. But while Biggio hit only .234 with Toronto, the rest of his offensive profile elevates his overall value. In 100 games, Biggio was on a 107/26/78/23 pace with 115 walks thanks to a robust 16.5% walk rate. That walk rate was no fluke either as Biggio posted a 15.3% walk rate in the minors. If he had enough plate appearances to qualify, Biggio’s walk rate would’ve ranked 4th behind Mike Trout, Alex Bregman, and Yasmani Grandal. So despite only hitting .234, Biggio was still able to be an asset in OBP leagues with his .364 mark.

I’d even say there’s more batting average upside than what he showed in 2019. Biggio will never be an asset in this category, but his contact skills suggest he can stay in the .250 range which should push his OBP into the .380-.400 range annually. If you’re in an OBP league, he absolutely needs to be drafted in the top-100 for that strong OBP and his 20/20 upside. The runs scored and RBI totals should remain solid as well with Vladimir Guerrero Jr, Bo Bichette, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr hitting around him. Even in AVG leagues, this is a top-100 type of player that you can get close to pick 150.

2020 Projection: .245/.380/95/23/70/19

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (OF – TOR)

Fantrax ADP: 172.6

Speaking of Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Are you tired of me talking about him yet? Well get ready for more cause I’m still driving this hype train full speed ahead. Even with his ADP rising around 10 spots in the last few weeks, this ADP for Gurriel is still an absolute steal. Highway robbery, if you will. It’s like taking candy from a baby. Alright, you get my point. In 84 games with Toronto last season, Gurriel hit .277 with 20 home runs, 50 RBI, 52 runs scored, and six steals before a quad strain cost him five weeks of action. That’s a 94/36/90/11 pace over 150 games. His statcast metrics also compare very favorably to a fantasy darling going 135 picks ahead of him on average. In fact, his statcast has a lot more red.

Now before all the Gleyber supporters reading this get their undies in a bunch, I’m not saying I’d take Gurriel over Torres. But what I am saying, is that there is absolutely no reason for there to be a 135-pick gap between these two. It’s ludicrous. After seeing Gurriel live in Double-A several times, I can confirm that he’s a very strong dude and the power is legit. He should hit in the middle of the Toronto order with the other young trio I mentioned above and has the upside to contribute handsomely in three categories while not hurting you in any. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Lourdes Gurriel Jr will be a top-100 player in 2020 if he stays healthy. Book it Danno.

2020 Projection: .270/31/93/86/7

Adam Eaton (OF – WAS)

Fantrax ADP: 188.3

Hitting between Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon, and Juan Goato Soto is a beautiful thing for a player’s fantasy value. Even with Rendon three thousand miles west (and nearly a quarter-billion dollars richer), Eaton will still have Turner hitting directly in front of him and Soto hitting 3rd or 4th behind him. The Nationals have also been rumored as a possible landing spot for free agent third baseman, Josh Donaldson. While Donaldson is no Rendon, having another big bat like that behind Eaton would do wonders for his fantasy value.

But that’s not something we can bank on. What we can bank on with Eaton is a batting average near .300, a ton of runs scored, and a touch of power and speed. In his three full seasons (2015, 2016, 2019), Eaton has averaged 14.3 HR, 15.7 SB, and 97.3 runs while hitting between .279 and .287. As long as he can stay healthy, there’s no reason why Eaton can’t remain around those numbers in 2020. His contact metrics back him up too, as Eaton ranked 19th in contact (84.2%), tied for 17th in Z-Contact (91.4%), 25th in Z-Contact (72.3%), and had the 13th lowest SwStr rate at 6.8%. He also ranked well above-average in sprint speed.

A .280/95/15/15 line might not get the juices flowing, but it certainly is valuable close to pick 200. You just don’t find 100 runs often this late in a fantasy baseball draft. And if the Nationals do sign Donaldson, add another 10-15 runs scored to the below.

2020 Projection: .280/92/14/50/16

Edwin Encarnacion (1B – CHW)

Fantrax ADP: 189.7

Listen, I get it, he’s old. But we can’t forget that Edwin Encarnacion has been one of the most consistent power sources in the game for nearly the last decade. Only four hitters have 30-plus home runs in each of the last four seasons: Nelson Cruz, Nolan Arenado, Manny Machado, and Encarnacion. Bet you thought Trout was one of them, didn’t you? Nope, he only had 29 in 2016. To take it further, only two (Cruz and Encarnacion) take this streak back six seasons and Encarnacion takes home the crown with eight-straight seasons of 30-plus dingers. Plenty of guys have the potential to hit 30-plus home runs, but Encarnacion is the only one to have this type of power longevity.

In this eight-year stretch, Encarnacion has averaged 37.1 HR, 106.3 RBI, and 87.8 R while hitting between .244 and .280. Sure, the batting average has been slowly trending down and hasn’t been above .250 since 2017, but the three-category upside here is strong and should remain strong in 2020 hitting in the middle of a loaded Chicago White Sox lineup. By mid-season, EE is going to have some combination of Luis Robert, Jose Abreu, Yasmani Grandal, Eloy Jimenez, Yoan Moncada, and Tim Anderson hitting directly around him. That should keep his runs and RBI totals high to add to another likely 30-plus home runs.

Despite this type of production, Encarnacion is still being taken around pick 190 on average in 2020 Fantrax drafts. In the three fantasy baseball magazine mock drafts I participated in, Encarnacion was taken 182nd, 160th, and 155th overall. With his consistency and potential for 90/35/110 in 2020, going that late is a big potential value pick. He’s a great selection after the elite first basemen are off the board.

2020 Projection: .245/88/35/110/0

Kevin Newman (2B/SS – PIT)

Fantrax ADP: 214.9

Out of all qualified hitters in 2019, Kevin Newman found himself high on many contact leaderboards.

  • Contact: 87.0% – 4th
  • Z-Contact: 94.3% – 3rd (Tied)
  • O-Contact: 77.2% – 8th
  • SwStr: 6.6% – 9th Lowest (Tied)

Looking at all that, it’s no wonder he hit .308 in 2019 with Pittsburgh and .287 in his minor league career. With Newman’s contact skills and approach, he should continue to hit near or above .300 annually with an OBP around .350. While Newman has proven to be a reliable batting average source, the fact that he doesn’t possess plus power or plus speed causes many to overlook Newman. Don’t do that. I’m not saying Newman is going to turn into some power/speed stud, but 10-15 home runs and 15-20 (or more) steals with a .300 average makes for a safe all-around profile after pick 200.

2020 Projection: .300/80/13/60/20

Didi Gregorius (SS – PHI)

Fantrax ADP: 220.0

Between injuries and a drop in production, the 2019 season was a rough one for Didi Gregorius. But let’s not forget that he was a top-10 fantasy shortstop in 2018. During that season, Didi hit .268 with 27 home runs, 86 RBI, 89 runs, and 10 steals for the Bronx Bombers. This after a .287/25/87/73/3 campaign in 2017. Sometimes one down season is all it takes to erase multiple productive seasons from our memory. That’s caused Gregorius’ ADP to remain low, below pick 200 and outside of the top-20 shortstops in 2020.

Fine by me. I’ll happily snag Gregorius after pick 200 and reap the rewards if he returns to his 2017-2018 production. One might think his move out of Yankee Stadium might hurt Gregorius power this season. Wrong. Citizens Bank Park has been one of the best parks for left-handed power over the last few seasons, ranking close to the top-5. With a hitter-friendly home park and a good lineup around him, Gregorius is in a good spot to get back to his previous form and maybe even push for top-10 shortstop status once again at season’s end. He’s also on a one-year contract with a lot to prove in 2020.

2020 Projection: .265/27/91/88/5

Brett Gardner (OF – NYY)

Fantrax ADP: 304.2

I’ve never seen a New York Yankee this underappreciated, especially in the fantasy world. Over the last seven seasons, Brett Gardner has averaged 15.6 HR, 18.6 SB, and 88.4 runs, never scoring less than 80 runs in a season. While his days as a 40-plus steal threat are long behind him, the 36-year-old Gardner still has some juice left in those legs and enough power to remain in the teens, especially with the short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium. Just don’t expect 28 homers again. Even with a juiced ball, it’s a major stretch that he hits that many again. But as long as can remain around the 15/15 mark with another 80-plus runs after his return to the Yankees, that’s more than enough production to provide solid value from his ADP.

2020 Projection: .250/85/16/55/17

Media Credit: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire, Alex Fast

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