Sleeper: SP Nate Pearson
A couple of injuries (back and broken right forearm via a batted ball) have delayed the development of Pearson. Toronto selected him with the 28th pick in the first round of the June MLB Amateur Draft in 2017.
His arm played well over eight short inning starts in 2017 at Low A and Rookie Ball (0.90 ERA and 26 Ks over innings). After dominating at High A and AA (2.15 ERA and 104 Ks over 83.2 innings) last year, Toronto pushed him to AAA. His arm held value (3.00 ERA) over three starts and 18 innings, but his strikeouts (15) did have less impact.
His fastball now has plus, plus velocity (can reach triple digits) with a trailing slider and changeup. Fantasy owners see enough in his arm to add him inside the 30th round in 12-team leagues (ADP – 194) with a low of 197 and high 356. Let’s go out on a limb here and say he outperforms Hyun-Jin Ryu in 2020.
Bust: SP Hyun-Jin Ryu
I get that Ryu has been elite over his last 44 starts (21-8 with 2.21 ERA and 252 Ks over 265 innings), but he hasn’t been $80 million good.
Toronto desperately needed to rebuild their pitching staff to make a push on the AL East standing. They placed their bet on Ryu, which makes me think of a line a friend my uses about professional players: “If you weren’t at the wedding, it doesn’t make sense to be at his funeral.” In other words, don’t chase a player stats after a career year, especially when factoring in his age (33 at the start of the year).
His walk rate (1.2) was a league-best in 2019, with some fade in his strikeout rate (8.0 – 9.7 in 2018).
His arm has the most value against lefties (.199 with six HRs over 171 at-bats). Ryu had an ERA under 3.00 every month except August (18 runs, 32 baserunners, and five home runs over 21.2 innings). His AFB (91.0) isn’t great, but batters hit .228 vs. his four-seamer. He has a plus changeup (.191 BAA) and curveball (.190 BAA) with questions about his sinker (.333 BAA) and cutter (.285 BAA).
He’ll induce a high number of ground balls (50.4 percent) with a low fly-ball rate (25.4). Ryu does allow a high HR/FB rate (13.0). Based on 2019 stats, Ryu will have a wide range of opinions in drafts (ADP – 145). I fear the AL East and their smaller ballparks. I expect regression for sure, but a lower number starts may remove some of his disaster downside. Closer to a 4.00 ERA and a sub 3.00 ERA.
Breakout: SS Bo Bichette
Bichette played well at AAA in 2019 while flashing a 20/40 skillset if he repeated his stats over a full season. Unfortunately, three weeks into the year, he suffered a broken left hand after being hit by a pitch. His bat responded well after a six week trip to the injured list.
His major league career started with an 11-game hitting streak (20-for-49 with four HRs, seven RBI, and one SB). In 46 games with Toronto, Bichette offered strength in both his average hit rate (1.836) and contact batting average (.418).
His minor league resume (.321 with 37 HRs, 217, 73 SBs over 1,302 at-bats) suggests more speed (four steals over 196 at-bats with the Blue Jays). Even with success with the Blue Jays, he did strike out too much (23.6 percent) with a below-par walk rate (6.6).
His swing had the best value against left-handed pitching (.368 with four HRs and six RBI over 57 at-bats).
Between AAA and the majors, his HR/FB rate came in at almost 20.0 percent with a low fly ball rate (about 30.0 percent). Bichette should get on base a minimum of 200 times in 2020 (if a full season was played), leading a .300-plus batting average with 100-plus runs, 20-plus home runs, 75-plus RBI, and a minimum of 25 steals.
His ADP (53) started to move up in mid-March as the 11th shortstop off the board. Buy the batting average and speed with the hopes of hitting on a five-category stud. His season ended with nine games to go due to a concussion. In 2021, Bichette potentially will be drafted in the first round.
Breakout: 3B Vlad Guerrero
With baseball turning into a home run contest in 2019, Guerrero failed to showcase impact power or hit for a high average when making contact. His approach graded well (strikeout rate – 17.7 and walk rate 9.0), but he was unable to match his minor league levels of 2018 in average hit rate (1.669 – 1.595 in 2019) or contact batting average (.426 – .338).
Guerrero has a tough time with left-handed pitching (.215 with four HRs and 15 RBI over 130 at-bats). His season started in AAA (.367 with three HRs and eight RBI over 30 at-bats) due to an early-season oblique issue.
The Blue Jays gave him over 100 plate appearances in each of the next four months, which led to an improvement in batting average each month (.253, .255, .284, and .314). Guerrero had a very productive July (16 runs, three HRs, and 20 RBI over 88 at-bats).
Late in the year, he battled a left knee injury that led to a poor September (.232 with 5/0/10 over 82 at-bats), and no home runs over his final 118 trips to the plate. Over the last ten days of the seasons, he also had rib and right knee issues.
His hard-hit rate (38.4) ranked 199th in the majors with a high ground ball rate (49.6) and no edge in his HR/FB rate (12.1).
With an ADP of 59 as the 7th third basemen off the board, I expected to be neutral on him in drafts as I wanted him to show me more power before placing a top-five draft pick on him. There were enough signs in March to expect him to come quickly this year.
Guerrero will make much better contact with the hands to hit for a plus average. His power should be explosive when it comes. He’s a big-bodied player who can get nicked up. Bet on the come here as high-average power is always an excellent starting place to build a winning fantasy team—a future first-round fantasy player with a fifth-round price point in the 2020 draft season.
Value: 2B Cavan Biggio, TOR
After a relatively quiet first two seasons in the minors (.250 with 11 HRs, 86 RBI, and 22 SBs over 691 at-bats), Biggio flashed a 20/20 type skillset in 2018 at AA (.252 with 26 HRs, 99 RBI, and 20 SBs over 449 at-bats).
The next season at AAA, his approach (strikeout rate – 16.1 and walk rate – 19.5) improved, helping Biggio to an uptick in batting average (.312) with six home runs, 27 RBI, and five steals over 138 at-bats.
The Blue Jays called him up on May 24th. He looked overmatched at the plate over his first 23 games (.203 with a 27.6 percent strikeout rate over 69 at-bats), but he hit five home runs while taking 17 walks (19.5 percent walk rate).
After a ten-game hitting streak (14-for-40 with one HR and 11 RBI), Biggio struggled again over his next 20 games (.141 with four HRs and 16 RBI over 71 at-bats).
His swing looked improved over his final 47 games (.259 with eight HRs, 22 RBI, and seven SBs over 174 at-bats) while taking 34 walks (16.1 percent walk rate), but he did strike out at a much higher rate (28.4).
In the end, his walk rate (16.5) had top-of-the-order value while needing some significant steps to clean up his strikeout rate (28.6). His average hit rate (1.831) points to 30-plus home runs, which is helped by his fly ball swing (47.0 percent). Biggio didn’t have an impactful HR/FB rate (14.7) in the majors.
His resume suggests he’s a hard worker who will make adjustments to improve. Biggio will have batting average risk again in 2020, but he could score 100-plus runs with 25-plus home runs and 20-plus steals (if a full baseball season was played).
With an ADP of 125, I expect him to be a valuable piece to the puzzle (only nine players in baseball had a 20/20 season in 2019 with each player ranking the top 50 in SIscore for hitters). Biggio currently the 79th hitter off the board, which is an improvement of ten spots since early January.
Source: Sports Illustrated