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2019 Fantasy Baseball Season Review - RotoBaller Staff Picks


Playoff fever is in full effect but sadly, the fantasy baseball season has come to an end. We're not ready to let go just yet, so the RotoBaller staff decided to look back at the 2019 season from a fantasy perspective in order to dole out awards for top sleeper, bust, and of course, MVP.

We also look forward to next season by projecting who could be the next big thing and whose value could rise or fall dramatically within a year's time. After all, what good does it do to look back if it doesn't help us learn for the future?

We never stop updating our rankings either. Check here for our latest 2020 player values, which will be continually refreshed throughout the offseason.

Editor's Note: Get any full-season MLB Premium Pass for 50% off, with exclusive access to our season-long articles, 15 in-season lineup tools and over 200 days of expert DFS research/tools. Sign Up Now!

 

Who is the 2019 Fantasy MVP?

Ronald Acuna. 41 home runs, 37 stolen bases, .280/.365/.518 slash line, 127 runs, 101 RBI. Obviously Christian Yelich, Cody Bellinger and Mike Trout all had amazing seasons, but it's hard to ignore this level of production from Acuna, especially since he likely wasn't taken in the top-five overall. -Andy Patton

Although Ronald Acuna was the best player in fantasy this year, he was typically taken in the first or second round of drafts. I have to give the award to the Polar Bear because Pete Alonso helped many a team win the HR category in 5x5 leagues and was taken outside the top 200 overall. He also finished fourth in the majors with 120 RBI and 24th in runs with 103. This is exactly the kind of draft pick that you hope to nail each season. -Pierre Camus

Christian Yelich is the only answer here. He's gonna be the 2020 version of "guy fantasy owners take instead of Trout first overall and wish they hadn't." Catchy title, that one! But dude has been a monster for two years running now, so maybe this time it works out. -Kyle Bishop

Cody Bellinger. The combination of his huge home run total along with the 15 stolen bases and .305 average while qualifying at multiple positions puts him ahead of the rest of the pack. -Billy Stonick

Justin Verlander. In a year where starting pitcher was as volatile as ever, Verlander was a rock week in and week out for fantasy owners. Verlander led the league in innings pitched, wins, and WHIP. He finished fourth in ERA and was one of only two pitchers to put up 300 strikeouts. He was at his best when it matted most in fantasy, with a 2.08 ERA with 57 strikeouts in 39 September innings. -Mike Schwarzenbach

Ketel Marte was the lowest preseason ranked player inside the End of Season Top 20. Basically a free 97/32/92/10/.329 with MIF/OF eligibility. -JB Branson

 

Which sleeper were you spot on about this season?

In 2018, Shane Bieber's 3.23 FIP was significantly better than his 4.55 ERA making him an obvious choice to improve. He threw 194 1/3 innings in 2018 making him a prime candidate to hit the 200-inning threshold for an organization that has produced several quality pitchers over the past few years. -Mike Schwarzenbach

I went with Marcus Semien early for his multiple seasons of power/speed production, and it paid off in a way bigger way than I had even anticipated. Ketel Marte also broke out in a ridiculous way that few could have expected even with his breakout campaign last season. -Brady Grove

I've been a fan of Jorge Polanco for a long time and this year, he finally went supernova...at least in the first two months. That sizzling start may not be representative of his true talent, but Polanco proved he's a quality player in fantasy with a top 80 season. -Kyle Bishop

I was positive Jonathan Villar would return massive value on his March ADP, and I wasn't disappointed. Forty steals, 20 HR, and a positive batting average play even if you're on a team as bad as the 2019 Orioles. Unfortunately, he might be a bust next year if the ball is normalized. -Rick Lucks

Does Rafael Devers count? Between my Boston bias and the debate whether he was truly a sleeper after his prospect hype, I'll go with it. I knew the kid had big boy power somewhere in there, and some of his postseason ABs last year showed me he was an elite hitter. -JB Branson

 

Who was your biggest draft-day bust?

Giancarlo Stanton. He missed nearly the entire year, but the Yankees never really announced that he would do so. As a result, a lot of owners burned a high draft pick and a roster spot on a guy who really contributed nothing. That said, Stanton's contact quality is still special and I'm eager to buy him at a discounted price relative to 2019. -Rick Lucks

Manny Machado. His strikeout rate spiked, his launch angle dropped to the lowest it had been in five years, his barrel % dropped to the lowest it had been in five years, and his XBA was barely above league average. I didn't expect him to be a top-five player, but I certainly didn't expect that precipitous a fall. -Billy Stonick

Drafting Andrew Benintendi at the end of the second round was not smart. I drafted him, blinded by the hope of progress towards a steady 20/20 guy. I should have looked at the facts, his lack of exit velocity at the very least. If you’re looking for guys that hit fewer homers in the Pinky ball era, Benny is on the list (13 HR in 2019 compared to 16 the year prior). -Ellis Canady

Taking Jean Segura as my starting shortstop hurt in a couple of leagues. Not that .280/12/60 is terrible for a shortstop but he was expected to be a .300 hitter who scored more runs in this Phillies offense. Instead, he saw a decline in every major category, most notably steals (10). A fifth-round price tag seemed reasonable at the time. -Pierre Camus

Byron Buxton had a chance to be a catalyst for a top-tier offense but injuries sapped him of all value Jose Ramirez - disappointed mightily in first half, rebounded, got hurt again. -Kyle Ringstad

Even with injury issues, I thought Justin Upton would be a great across-the-board statistical contributor but he came up flat in a crushing manner. -Brady Grove

 

Who is next year's top comeback player?

I didn't have a single share of Blake Snell in 2019, which proved to be a blessing in disguise. I boldly predicted that his ERA would more than double, which it did. Injuries certainly didn't help, but that Snell would experience at least some measure of pullback seemed obvious. The degree was surprising, though, and I expect to snag him in several leagues next year given the likely overcorrection of his draft price. -Kyle Bishop

Noah Syndergaard was snake-bit in 2019. His xFIP is nearly a half a run below his ERA, he stranded almost 10% fewer runners than in 2018, his HR/9 more than doubled, and yet he still struck out and walked batters at almost an identical clip to 2018. I would expect his price tag to be a little deflated on draft day, but I think he'll be a top-15 pitcher again next year. -Billy Stonick

When you start the conversation with $300 million, 32 long balls can be considered a disappointment. More was expected of Manny Machado, even in Petco Park. In his five full seasons prior to 2019, 66 was the lowest total of extra-base hits Machado had accrued. This year, he only compiled 55 extra-base hits. A full season hitting behind Fernando Tatis Jr. in 2020 can only be beneficial. Maybe he'll get feisty and steal a couple more bases. -Ellis Canady

It was hardly a Joey Votto-like season for Joey Votto, but he still maintained a 12.5% walk rate, with 41.5% hard contact, and 10.1% soft contact on batted balls. The majority of his skill set declines less than that of natural power or speed with age, so there's a great chance he gets back among the league's OBP leaders next year while hopefully getting in on more of the Reds young offense. -Brady Grove

Lorenzo Cain was only good in fantasy leagues that count defensive metrics last season, but a lot of his peripheral stats were comparable to his career averages. He hasn't lost the athleticism that made him such a spark for the Brewers in 2018 (assuming he gets healthy), so he could come back and contribute steals for owners starved for them. -Rick Lucks

Andrew Benintendi is far too athletic and too good of an overall hitter to not be giving us 20/20, top-50 fantasy seasons. -JB Branson

Corbin Burnes was terrible this year, but his fastball velocity and spin rate are among the top in the league. I think if Milwaukee gives him a rotation spot he could be a top-75 arm next year. -Andy Patton

 

Who will be drafted too high next year?

Hyun-Jin Ryu, and I honestly hope I'm wrong about this. But Ryu has battled health issues for the better part of half a decade, and he's only getting older. He's always been good when healthy, but the price for his services is likely to be too high, given the risk involved. -Kyle Bishop

Tim Anderson batted .335 and won the batting title in 2019. He had never hit higher than .283 in the Majors before this year and needed a .399 BABIP to put up the numbers he did this season. While the average went up, there were minimal gains in his batted ball data with only marginal improvement in hard-hit rate and line-drive rate. Anderson can be a usable fantasy asset, but 2019 was an extreme outlier. -Mike Schwarzenbach

While Yuli Gurriel is a decent source of batting average, his hard-hit rate and exit velocity don't match up at all with his 31 home runs from this past season. I think a .290 average with 20 or so home runs, like he did in 2018, is more the expectation, and this past year will be an aberration. -Andy Patton

Rafael Devers had a stellar 2019, but his plate discipline got marginally worse and he still didn't lift the ball the way a power hitter should. Owners banking on a repeat are likely to be disappointed when he returns to the borderline CI play he was before 2019. -Rick Lucks

Danny Santana blew up but I won’t be paying up just because he’s in the 20/20 club. His 41.9%Chase & 15.7%SwingStrike rates are crazy. A 71.6% Contact rate isn’t even league average. Plus, a regression in BABIP (.353) is sure to deflate a .283AVG. Unknown: How will the new Arlington stadium/park/field play? -Ellis Canady

Domingo German got very lucky with BABIP and had an inflated win total. -Kyle Ringstad

 

Who are your top sleepers for 2020 (hitter and pitcher)?

J.D. Davis deserves not only more respect but more playing time as he was platooned most of the season. Davis didn’t get regular PT until the latter part of the season and he didn’t disappoint (13HR, .335AVG in the second half). The real treat, and reason we should be coming back again in 2020, is the 91.4 MPH avg exit velocity. If new management keeps him in the lineup, good things will happen.

Masked in a 4.07 ERA, Dinelson Lamet had a 3.60 ERA (3.79 FIP) with a 25.7% K-BB in 10 starts during August and September. A full offseason removed from Tommy John and hopefully some time to continue to develop his curveball will go a long way towards sustaining production similar to the last two months of 2019. -Ellis Canady

As far as established Major League hitters ready to break out, I believe Jordan Luplow could perform similarly to the way former teammate Austin Meadows did this year. Luplow flexed good power, bopping 15 homers in 225 at-bats along with an 89.3 MPH exit velocity. A hamstring strain took away a month of action and wiped away his second-half value. I'm also eyeing Travis Demeritte as a power option in the infield now that he has a chance to establish himself with the rebuilding Tigers.

As far as pitchers, I'll double up again by saying that Daniel Ponce de Leon showed enough to trust as a mid-rotation arm if he retains that role in St. Louis. My deep sleeper is Lucas Sims, who has a spin rate in the 99th percentile for both his fastball and curve. -Pierre Camus

Garrett Hampson has a nice power/speed combo in Coors. Tyler Glasnow will be overlooked despite an outstanding 2019. -Kyle Ringstad

Tommy Edman - I think this speed/pop combo is legit. Last month he went 22/6/14/6/.350. At pitcher, the Sean Manaea comeback is on! He is fully recovered from his torn labrum and looked untouchable in September. -JB Branson

I have to go with Sean Manaea for my pitcher. I didn't really believe he'd return much value to owners who took a flyer on him down the stretch. He killed it, and since I'm currently recovering from a torn labrum (the same injury that he returned from), I find myself rooting for him. As for a bat, I'm all in on Oscar Mercado. .280, 20/20, 100 runs, gonna probably go in the middle rounds. Pure profit. -Kyle Bishop

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