The 2020 MLB season remains on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fantasy baseball leagues yet to draft can wait until receiving more clarity on a potential new start date and season length. Others conducting an online draft may prefer to stick to the schedule.
For those still preparing for upcoming drafts, here's a look at my updated rankings (tailored to five-by-five rotisserie leagues). Let's then highlight some sleepers to targets and busts to avoid at their current average draft position (ADP).
2020 Top 50 Rankings
1 Mike Trout, OF, LAA
2 Ronald Acuna Jr., OF, ATL
3 Christian Yelich, OF, MIL
4. Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF, LAD
5. Mookie Betts, OF, LAD
6. Francisco Lindor, SS, CLE
7. Trevor Story, SS, COL
8. Gerrit Cole. SP, NYY
9. Jacob deGrom, SP, NYM
10. Trea Turner, SS, WAS
11. Nolan Arenado, 3B, COL
12. Juan Soto, OF, WAS
13. Alex Bregman, 3B/SS, HOU
14. Freddie Freeman, 1B, ATL
15. J.D. Martinez, OF, BOS
16. Jose Ramirez, 3B, CLE
17. Anthony Rendon, 3B, LAA
18. Max Scherzer, SP, WAS
19. Rafael Devers, 3B, BOD
20. Walker Buehler, SP, LAD
21. Bryce Harper, OF, PHI
22. Starling Marte, OF, ARI
23. Xander Bogaerts, SS, BOS
24. Jose Altuve, 2B, HOU
25. Shane Bieber, SP, CLE
26. Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, SD
27. Charlie Blackmon, OF, COL
28. Stephen Strasburg, SP, WAS
29. Ozzie Albies, 2B, ATL
30. Jack Flaherty, SP, STL
31. Javier Baez, SS, CHC
32. Yordan Alvarez, OF, HOU
33. George Springer, OF, HOU
34. Gleyber Torres, 2B/SS, NYY
35. Adalberto Mondesi, 2B/SS, KC
36. Pete Alonso, 1B, NYM
37. Austin Meadows, OF, TB
38. Ketel Marte, 2B/SS/OF, ARI
39. Justin Verlander, SP, HOU
40. Blake Snell, SP, TB
41. Jonathan Villar, 2B/SS, MIA
42. Patrick Corbin, SP, WAS
43. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, CHC
44. Clayton Kershaw, SP, LAD
45. Mike Clevinger, SP, CLE
46. Nelson Cruz, DH, MIN
47. Luis Castillo, SP, CIN
48. Manny Machado, 3B/SS, SD
49. Kris Bryant, 3B/OF, CHC
50. Charlie Morton, SP, TB
J.D. Davis, 3B/OF, New York Mets
C.J. Cron, 1B, Detroit Tigers
Austin Hays, OF, Baltimore Orioles
Domingo Santana, OF, Cleveland Indians
Ian Happ, 2B/OF, Chicago Cubs
Mitch Keller, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Dylan Bundy, SP, Los Angeles Angels
Michael Kopech, SP, Chicago White Sox
Josh James, SP/RP, Houston Astros
Matt Barnes, RP, Boston Red Sox
Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, San Diego Padres
Trevor Bauer, SP, Cincinnati Reds
Joey Gallo, OF, Texas Rangers
Gary Sanchez, C, New York Yankees
Liam Hendriks, RP, Oakland Athletics
Hyun-Jin Ryu, SP, Toronto Blue Jays
Yuli Gurriel, 1B, Houston Astros
Danny Santana, 1B/OF, Texas Rangers
Gavin Lux, 2B/SS, Los Angeles Dodgers
Sean Doolittle, RP, Washington Nationals
Sleeper: Dansby Swanson, SS, Atlanta Braves
Former No. 1 pick Dansby Swanson finally arrived. In his age-25 season, the shortstop made a feasible All-Star case by batting .270/.330/.493 with 17 home runs and seven steals before the break.
Of course, that's not the full story. Shortly after the unofficial midway mark, the Atlanta Braves placed him on the injured list due to a partially torn ligament in his left hand. Clearly not fully right, he returned to bat .194 (19-for-98) with no homers in 27 games.
This cold conclusion turned a celebratory breakout into a mild output. Those looking at Swanson's .251/.325/.422 slash line won't think much of his 263 consensus ADP, per FantasyPros.
And yet, while the hot start alone is enough to bite at such a stunted cost, the batted-ball metrics should compel drafters to reach higher.
According to Statcast data, courtesy of Baseball Savant, Swanson set personal bests in average exit velocity (89.8 mph), barrels (37) and hard-hit rate (41.6%). This strong quality of contact led him to post a higher expected weighted on-base average (.347 xwOBA) than Fernando Tatis Jr. (.346) and Gleyber Torres (.341).
Those newfound skills support his ability to maintain last year's early power gains while improving his batting average. Throw in a handful of steals from someone who poached 10 bases in back-to-back years, and Swanson is a worthwhile middle infielder to target late.
Bust: Eduardo Escobar, 2B/3B, Arizona Diamondbacks
Few hitters benefited from 2019's power boom more than Eduardo Escobar, who shattered 2018's modest career benchmark of 23 home runs with 35. This came despite just a 22-point uptick in slugging percentage and a weighted runs created plus (wRC+) that depreciated from 118 to 109.
Escobar didn't necessarily get better; the balls just traveled further. He also padded his numbers in 699 plate appearances, the 10th-most among all hitters.
If MLB cuts back to a smaller schedule, durable compilers become less valuable than those with standout skills. Suddenly, you're looking at a 31-year-old with one elite campaign who has yet to bat above .275 in a single season.
On the bright side, a 107 ADP does not demand anyone to truly believe in last season's breakout. It's not an egregious price to pay, preferably in deeper leagues where a stable floor rises in value. Yet drafters are still better off waiting 40 picks to snag Justin Turner, a .297/.378/.508 hitter since the start of 2015.
Sleeper: Jordan Montgomery, SP, New York Yankees
The New York Yankees needed someone to rise to the occasion and claim a spot in their ransacked rotation. Jordan Montgomery answered the call.
Although he relinquished four home runs in four spring outings, the 27-year-old also opened eyes by recording 16 strikeouts to just one walk in 11.1 innings.
In early March, per George A. King III of the New York Post, Yankees manager Aaron Boone spoke strongly of Montgomery's chances to make the starting staff.
"This is a guy that's already had a really strong big league season under his belt," Boone said. "So I'm excited about where he is and feel like he's very much solidifying himself."
Prior to undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2018, Montgomery submitted a 3.84 ERA and 167 strikeouts in 182.2 innings. A killer curveball and potent slider steered him to a career 11.9 percent swinging-strike rate, a mark topped by just 21 qualified starters last season.
Even if James Paxton is now able to return by Opening Day, Montgomery should join the fellow southpaw in the rotation alongside Gerrit Cole, Masahiro Tanaka and J.A. Happ. The buzz could build during an extended waiting period, but a 299 ADP still prices him as an end-of-draft dart throw in smaller mixed leagues.
Bust: Aaron Nola, SP, Philadelphia Phillies
Blind player comparisons using last year's results are often a misleading exercise that fails to take certain variables into account. So let's do one of those:
Player A: 3.51 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 27.1% K, 8.1% BB, 3.36 FIP
Player B: 3.87 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 26.9% K, 9.4% BB, 4.03 FIP
Player C: 4.14 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 26.2% K, 8.4% BB, 3.99 FIP
Player A is Jake Odorizzi, who is understandably not expected to repeat a career 2019 after tailing off in the second half. His ADP resides at 178.
Player C is Kenta Maeda, who now has a permanent spot as Odorizzi's replacement in the Minnesota Twins' rotation. While home runs remain a concern, the righty no longer needs to worry about the Los Angeles Dodgers limiting his innings. His ADP is three spots above Odorizzi.
Care to take a wild guess at Player B's identity? Hint: Look at the subheader and accompanying image.
This game does not account for Aaron Nola's youth and superior track record. The 26-year-old sports a career 3.49 ERA and 3.45 FIP despite the down 2019. He also, however, never issued a walk rate above 7.1 percent prior to last year's atypical control pains.
Having exceeded 200 innings in consecutive years, Nola has durability on his side. Assuming MLB runs out of time to make up lost games, drafters won't benefit from that skill this season. That especially makes his No. 47 ADP hard to digest when Manny Machado, Anthony Rizzo and Nelson Cruz are still on the board.
Nola should actually improve on last year's ERA and WHIP, so this is a matter of price. On a per-start basis, he's not significantly better than Maeda, David Price, Jesus Luzardo or Julio Urias. All of them carry an ADP outside the top 125.