Baseball fans and Fantasy Baseball Managers love pleasant surprises. Those players who weren’t on the radar and then turned out to be a very productive asset to your team.
They could fall into a number of categories. There are prospects that exceeded their ranking in the organization. Then there are those acquired in some insignificant trade who emerge with their new team. Or a post-hype player who disappointed in his first season or two and then figured it out. Every season, these players make a difference in the success of MLB teams and, despite the short schedule, 2020 is no exception. We’re not talking about established guys like Freddie Freeman or Trea Turner who took their game to another level or top prospects such as Fernando Tatis Jr. or Juan Soto.
To indentify the best of these, we’ll once again rely on “Wins Above Replacement” (WAR) which is a statistic designed to answer the following question…if this player got injured and their team had to replace them with an available minor leaguer or a AAAA player from their bench, how much value would the team be losing? The value is expressed in a wins format, so we can compare each player’s actual value.
According to the rankings provided by Fan Graphs, there were about 38 players who provided at least 2 Wins to their team with Jose Ramirez leading the way at 3.4. In that top 38, we’ve identified a few who would certainly qualify as a pleasant surprise. Let’s take a look at the list with their overall ranking and WAR contribution…
> #9 Mike Yastrzemski, Giants (2.7 WAR) – Proved 2018 wasn’t a fluke with 10 HR’s, 35 RBI’s and a .297 BA.
> #18 Dinelson Lamet, Padres (2.4 WAR) – In his 2nd season back from TJ surgery, he was solid for the resurgent Friars. Posted a 2.09 ERA with 93 K’s in 69 IP.
> #19 Corbin Burnes, Brewers (2.4 WAR) – Always had good stuff but never put it all together until this season at age 25. In 2019, his ERA was 8.82…in 2020, it was 2.11.
> #23 Brandon Lowe, Rays (2.3 WAR) – Players like this is what makes the Tampa Bay franchise unique. Had a good partial season as a rookie in ’19 and put it all together in ’20 with 14 HR’s, 37 RBI’s and .916 OPS.
> #24 German Marquez (2.3) WAR – Pitching in Denver is always a challenge, but he lowered his ERA from 4.76 to 3.75 while leading the NL in Starts and IP.
> #25 Trent Grisham, Padres (2.3 WAR) – Acquired from the Brewers last November, he contributed 10 HR’s, 10 SB’s and a .808 OPS…at age 23
> #32 Framber Valdez, Astros (2.0 WAR) – His ERA last season was 5.86. In 2020, he was 5-3 in 10 starts with a 3.57 ERA.
Just below the threshold at 1.9 WAR were Cesar Hernandez of the Indians and Ian Happ of the Cubs followed closely by New Yorkers Dominic Smith & Luke Voit.
If you had these 11 players on your Fantasy squad, apply for a GM opening.