2020 Fantasy Baseball Super Sophomores: Slump or the Real Deal?

by Dennis Sosic
2020 Fantasy Baseball Super Sophomores

Welcome friends and foes to the next installment of the 2020 Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit. I'm going to be diving into the 2020 Fantasy Baseball Super Sophomores.

The 2019 MLB season provided a plethora of new young talent from Yordan Alvarez to Pete Alonso to Mike Soroka and a whole array of fantastic talent in between. Fantasy managers are incredibly cautious of the sophomore slump in which players see a dramatic decrease in their production after spectacular rookie seasons.

Find out which players made my top 15 players with a minimum of 80 games played or 100 IP. Who will suffer the dreaded Sophomore Slump and who are the Real Deal as Fantasy managers continue their draft prep for the 2020 season?

2020 Fantasy Baseball Super Sophomores

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Yordan Alvarez, OF/DH, Houston Astros

Yordan Alvarez is only 22 and was not called up until June 9 and appeared in only 87 games last season. He slashed .312/.412/.655 with an OPS of 1.067. Alvarez's season is the best ever by a rookie in either league. He tallied 27 homers, 58 runs, and 78 RBI while owning 178 wRC+ and 14.1 percent walk rate.

Alvarez was also clutch in pressure situations, hitting .344 with six homers and 50 RBI with runners in scoring position. The left-handed-hitting Alvarez, who led all American League rookies with 53 extra-base hits, made only nine starts in the outfield in 2019 compared to 74 starts at DH.

The Houston Astros will be under the microscope and a lot of pressure to prove that they can win without stealing signs. Alvarez will shine in the limelight of all the scrutiny and will be a Fantasy stud in his first full season in 2020. THE REAL DEAL

Brandon Lowe, 2B, Tampa Bay Rays

Brandon Lowe started the 2019 season with a bang. Through 63 games, he slashed .293 / .350 /.560 and was on pace to hit over 30 homers and drive in 100 RBI before suffering a quad injury that sidelined him for more than two months. Lowe returned for the final week of the season and finished the season slashing .270/.336/.514 with 17 homers in 327 plate appearances.

Lowe, who finished third in AL Rookie of the Year voting, posted a splendid .850 OPS. What stood out was his 46.2 percent hard-hit rate and 16.3 percent barrel rate, which provides insight that his 2019 success should even be improved upon in 2020.

Despite missing a big chunk of the season, Lowe was named to the American League All-Star team. Lowe exhibited versatility in playing positions other than second base, including 22 in the outfield, and five at first base. His batting average will take a downturn, but his power will prove valuable at the MI slot. THE REAL DEAL

Eloy Jimenez, OF, Chicago White Sox

Eloy Jimenez had a rocky start to his rookie season. He went down for three weeks early in the season with an injured ankle after trying to climb the outfield fence and even admitted that he felt the pressure of being the centerpiece of the White Sox rebuild. Once he settled down, Jimenez returned to mash the baseball and ended his rookie season with 31 home runs, 79 RBI with a slash of .267/.315/.513 in only 122 games played.

Jimenez finished the season on fire, launching nine homers while hitting .340 with a blistering 1.090 OPS. His potential is enormous, and Jimenez will look to take more steps forward in 2020. The White Sox lineup will be vastly improved. The additions of catcher Yasmani Grandal, veteran slugger Edwin Encarnacion, and outfield Nomar Mazara will greatly benefit Jimenez and how pitchers approach the slugging outfielder. Also, it would be foolish not to mention rookie sensation Luis Robert, who Jimenez has designated to be the next Mike Trout.

The biggest obstacle in his way is his propensity for strikeouts. He will need to cut down on his 26.6 percent strikeout rate to move up to the elite tier but who is complaining if Jimenez is smashing 30+ homers every season. THE REAL DEAL

Cavan Biggio, 2B, Toronto Blue Jays

The second-generation prospect is a vital member of the youth movement with the Toronto Blue Jays. In his rookie season, Biggio hit .234/.364/..429  with 16 homers and 48 RBI over 354 at-bats. He posted an impressive .364 on-base percentage and was also perfect 14-14 on stolen bases. Biggio received more Rookie of the Year votes than his more hyped teammate, Vlad Guerrero Jr.

Fantasy managers would have to believe that Biggio would be engraved as the starter at second base. However, rumors suggest that Biggio will transition into the outfield at some point in 2020 due to his defensive inefficiencies. His ability to get on base (71 walks) and create havoc on the basepaths make him an attraction atop of the Blue Jays lineup.

Biggio is the least talented of the Blue Jays' next generation of stars. But he can produce 20 HR/20 SB and 100 runs season and will be available deep in your drafts. THE REAL DEAL

Vladimir Guerrero, Jr, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays

Vlad Jr. didn't dominate baseball as he was hyped to do before the start of last season. Those lofty expectations aside, Guerrero Jr. had a relatively successful rookie season. He finished his rookie season with a .272/.339/.433 slash line, 15 homers, 69 RBI and a .772 OPS in 123 games.

Vlad Jr. will enter the 2020 season, having just turned 21 on March 16, and is coming off a strong performance after the All-Star break. Guerrero Jr hit .293/.349/.452 with seven homers and 44 RBI along with a .801 OPS. His improvement should provide optimism for him to take a step forward in 2020.

He is coming into the season as the unquestioned starting third baseman for the Blue Jays. However, his defense is very subpar at best, and he tied for second place for the most errors for third baseman in the MLB with 17. A move to first base seems inevitable, and so are the expectations for Vlad Jr. to hit 30-plus home runs and 90-plus RBI. THE REAL DEAL

Pete Alonso, 1B, New York Mets

Pete Alonso had what has to be considered the best breakout season of all-time. Alonso set the rookie home run record at 53 and won the National League Rookie of the Year award. Just take a look at this stat line: .260/.358/.583 with those 53 homers, 30 doubles, 120 RBI and a .941 OPS.

Alonso was the King of the Big Apple and will be the cornerstone for the New York Mets for years to come.

His metrics point to the Polar Bear continuing his stature as one of the most feared sluggers in the game. His barrel percentage was a mad 15.8 percent! A drop-off will happen because how can someone replicate that type of performance? What Fantasy manager would not take a decline of 40+ homers and over 100 RBI while maintaining his spot as a top-five first baseman? THE REAL DEAL

Will Smith, C, Los Angeles Dodgers

Despite only playing 54 games, Will Smith showcased why he is the Dodgers catcher of the future. In just 170 at-bats, he hit .253/.337/.571 with 15 home runs and 42 RBI along with a .907 OPS.

A robust power batted ball profile which includes a hard contact rate near 45 percent, a 56 X/H percent (38 is league average), and a 20 percent HR/FB rate should produce top-five catcher Fantasy production in a stacked Dodgers lineup. THE REAL DEAL

Fernando Tatis, Jr., SS, San Diego Padres

The 21-year-old Fernando Tatis Jr. is developing into a top-ten Fantasy player coming off his rookie season. A rookie season that saw him hit .317/.379/.590 with 22 home runs over 372 plate appearances. The Padres were cautious with Tatis after two injuries, including a season-ending back issue in mid-August.

Tatis started off smoking hot, hitting .327 with 14 homers, 33 RBI and 13 stolen bases over 208 at-bats before the All-Star break. However, he cooled off drastically after the break, and he had 50 strikeouts over the next 167 plate appearances.

While Tatis Jr. had an impressive rookie season, there are some blemishes on his Fantasy star. For one, he needs to stay healthy after multiple stints on the injured list in his rookie season.

Also the regression will present itself in this Fantasy outlook for this upcoming season. His 89.6 mph exit velocity is average at best. And that was with a juiced ball (allegedly), and a significant negative is his massive 29.6 percent strikeout rate.

A red flag that should concern Fantasy owners paying for last season's half-season. The downside risk should diminish his Fantasy value enough to avoid spending a high-round pick on the second-generation talent. SLUMP

Keston Hiura, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers

Keston Hiura debuted May 14 last season and went on to hit a stout .303/.368/.570 line with 19 homers and 49 RBI in just 84 games. Hiura has plenty of upside and owned a stunning 50 percent hard-hit rate last season.

Hiura will be the everyday second baseman and is projected to hit cleanup in the Brewers lineup. The Brewers and Fantasy managers should be a bit concerned with his 30.7 percent strikeout rate and just a 65.8 percent contact rate.

Hiura has a high ceiling with his power numbers, especially at the middle infield spot. If his plate discipline improves, Hiura will challenge for the top spot in the second baseman rankings. SLUMP

Victor Robles, OF, Washington Nationals

Victor Robles was a top ten prospect for a few years before earning the full-time job in center field for the Nationals last season. Robles is an excellent defender in center, but his offense is raw and needs to exhibit more plate discipline.

Robles hit .255/.326/.419 while totaling 17 homers and 65 RBI along with 28 stolen bases. He does possess a sneaky combo of speed and power. However, he struck out in 22.7 percent of his plate appearances. His 1/4 BB/K ratio displays his need to improve his strike zone judgment.

Robles typically hits near the bottom of the order, which limits his opportunities to drive in runs. However, this does allow him the chance to be more aggressive on the basepaths when the big bats on top of the Nationals lineup are at the plate. The Nationals are hoping that maturity and experience will upgrade his plate discipline and allow him to move up toward the top of the lineup. SLUMP


Nick Anderson, RP, Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays have plenty of capable relievers loaded in their bullpen,  finishing first in all of baseball in relief ERA with a 3.66 ERA.  After Anderson arrived from Miami Marlins at the trade deadline last season. He struck out 17 batters in his first seven innings while allowing zero earned runs. Anderson then proceeded to finish with a 2.11 ERA and a .066 WHIP with the Rays, while walking only two batters in 21.1 innings. More impressively, he posted a 17.3 K/9 down the stretch for the Rays.

Tampa Bay cleared the ninth inning for Anderson when they recently traded presumptive closer, Emilio Pagan. Fantasy managers can never be entirely confident in what approach the Rays will instill with their bullpen. The trade of Pagan should signal the confidence that they have in Anderson.

Anderson is coming off an impressive rookie season with two teams, where he produced a 41 percent strikeout rate and a 2.35 FIP. Savvy Fantasy managers who employ the wait on saves draft strategy, as discussed in my Relief Pitcher preview, should target Nick Anderson, who is a great option to select late in your drafts. THE REAL DEAL

Dakota Hudson, SP, St. Louis Cardinals

The 25-year-old right-hander broke into the rotation and stayed there. He finished the year at 3.35 ERA, which was third-lowest among rookie starters.  His ERA dropped in the final two months, along with the batting average of opponents hitting just .180 in the last two months.

Hudson, whose 16 wins led all rookie starters, relies on an elite stinker and is one of the best ground-ball pitchers in the league. However, his 7.0 strikeout rate is nothing to get excited about. Two more alarming stats have to cause Fantasy managers some trepidation. His 86 walks were the most in baseball, and his 4.92 FIP was the highest in the National League.

His command and advanced stats suggest that his success last season will not be duplicated for the 2020 season. SLUMP

John Means, SP, Baltimore Orioles

John Means wasn't considered to be an option for the Orioles starting rotation as the team entered the 2019 season. Means was coming off a 2018 season, which saw him split time between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk. The southpaw went 7-9 with a 3.72 ERA, 130 strikeouts in 157 innings. He came out of nowhere to record a 1.13 WHIP on his way to a 12-11 record with a 3.60 ERA, a 3.0 fWAR, and an All-Star selection last season.

Means finished second in American League Rookie of the Year voting. If he had thrown seven more innings to qualify for league leaders, his 3.60 ERA would have been the seventh-best in the American League. He recorded a 4.6 WAR in his first full season in the majors. He was also the only Rookie with at least 100 innings pitched to record an HR/FB rate lower than 10 percent.

His shocking 2019 production screams that Means overachieved last season. The lefty did show promise starting the previous season. He posted a 7-4 record with a 2.50 ERA with 69 strikeouts in 82.2 innings while surrendering nine long balls. After the Mid-Summer Classic, however, Means went 5-7 with a 4.85 ERA in 72.1 innings while giving up 14 homers. Regression and one-hit-wonder seem the most likely. SLUMP

Chris Paddack, SP, San Diego Padres

The San Diego Padres managed Chris Paddack's workload in his second season back from Tommy John surgery. None of his 26 starts came on fewer than five days rest last season. The Padres imposed an innings limit on the right-hander starter. Paddack finished with a 9-7 record and a 3.33 ERA in 140.2 innings of work across 26 starts last year as a rookie.

Paddack is now 3.5 years removed from Tommy John surgery, and we will get to see the real Chris Paddack. He will be able to pitch with no limits, and he spent the majority of his rookie season trying to master his third pitch. Paddack already boasts a dominant fastball-changeup mix that resulted in his sub-1 WHIP and striking out 9.8 hitters per nine innings last season.

Paddack was listed as dark horse candidates by MLB.com to win the NL Cy Young award in 2020. With his freedom to pitch, including adding a third pitch in his arsenal, Fantasy managers should not wait too long to pull the trigger on The Sheriff. THE REAL DEAL

Mike Soroka, SP, Atlanta Braves

Mike Soroka's breakout rookie season resulted in being the runner up to Pete Alonso for the NL Rookie of the Year. The All-Star has long been a top prospect in the Braves organization. He made his MLB debut in 2018 but only managed five starts before being shut down due to shoulder inflammation.

Soroka finished with a 13-4 record and led the National League in HR/9 , which was very impressive considering that the 2019 season saw more home runs hit than any other season.  The young right-hander also finished with seventh-best FIP and fifth-best WAR with 5.7. However, his meager 20.3 strikeout rate was 43rd among all starters, which have led some projections for Soroka to regress in his sophomore season.

Soroka is expected to go deeper into games in 2020 after reaching 100 pitches only twice last season. The Canadian-born Soroka looks to duplicate his success of getting better as he goes through lineups. Batters hit a measly .220 average the third time they faced Soroka in a game. This combo should result in Mike Soroka cementing his status as an ace in the Braves rotation and, more importantly, your Fantasy lineups. THE REAL DEAL

Check the rest of our 2020 Fantasy Baseball content from our great team of writers.

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