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Josh Donaldson to Twins - Fantasy Impact


The Minnesota Twins recently signed third baseman Josh Donaldson to a four-year contract worth $92 million. The contract also has a fifth-year option that can take the total value to $100 million.

The Twins finished 101-61 in 2019 en route to their first AL Central Division title since 2010. The addition of Donaldson will add power to a lineup that already led Major League Baseball in home runs with 307. Donaldson will take over at third base, which will push Miguel Sano over to first base. He should also bat fourth in the lineup on most nights.

The move signifies Minnesota's strong desire to remain atop the AL Central for yet another season. Standing pat while watching the division rival White Sox load up for a 2020 run was not an option for the Twins. They have also added pitchers Homer Bailey and Rich Hill to the mix and look to have a strong 2020 campaign.

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Bringing Rain to the Twin Cities

Josh Donaldson has had some ups and downs throughout his nine-year career. The downs mostly consist of a nagging calf injury he suffered through in 2017 and 2018, which limited him to 602 at-bats throughout those two seasons. The ups consist of basically everything else. He won the AL MVP in 2015 and has finished in the top-10 of MVP voting three other times in his career (2013-2014, 2016). He has put together four seasons of 30-plus home runs and has had five seasons of 90-plus RBI. He is also a master at drawing walks as his career walk-rate sits at 14.0%, which is nearly six points higher than the league average of 8.3%.

In 2019, Donaldson put together a solid bounce-back season after an injury-plagued 2018 in which he hit .259/.379/.521 with 37 HR, 94 RBI, 96 R, and 100 BB. While the season was not vintage Donaldson as far as batting average and strikeout rate were concerned, it was a very respectable output for the 34-year old. The question for fantasy owners and the Minnesota Twins becomes: Is he able to repeat this performance in 2020? A deeper look into his advanced metrics may give us a better glimpse into what the future holds.

We tend to draft Josh Donaldson based on his power production, so that seems like the best place to start. In 2019, Donaldson had a barrel rate of 15.7%, an exit velocity of 92.9 mph, and a hard-hit rate of 50%. Each of these were career-highs. The fact that he was able to reach career-highs in these power metrics at the age of 34 is a good sign that the power shouldn't drop off much (if at all) in 2020. These power metrics also translated into 37 home runs, which is tied for the second-most in his career and is another sign that he may have put the calf injury behind him and is capable of a similar performance in the upcoming season.

Donaldson also had a solid xwOBA of .387, which ranked him in the top six percent of the league. A big aspect of this lies in Donaldson's continued ability to draw walks. The 100 he put up in 2019 were the second-most in his career and placed him seventh in all of baseball. His ability to get on base at such a high clip should result in an increased total of runs scored seeing as he will be dropped in the middle of a lineup that scored the second-most runs in baseball in 2019.

 

Effect on the Other Twins

Josh Donaldson being placed in the middle of a lineup that hit 307 home runs and scored 939 runs in 2019 should have ripple effects throughout it. The first and most obvious effect Donaldson will have is on Miguel Sano. Sano will be moving over to first base to make room for Donaldson. We should hope the move will not affect his mindset at the plate, but we will have to wait and see on this aspect. The counting stats for the rest of the lineup should increase in several ways, however.

As mentioned above, Donaldson walked 100 times in 2019 and had a walk rate in the top four percent of the league. This means guys hitting behind him such as Eddie Rosario, Mitch Garver, and Miguel Sano will have plenty of opportunities to boost their RBI totals. These players' stock should rise in drafts with the addition of Donaldson as well.

Given Donaldson's robust power numbers, we should expect to see the players hitting ahead of him such as Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco, and Nelson Cruz score more runs. This is especially interesting since these three players hit 36, 22, and 41 home runs in 2019, respectively. We could see some gaudy numbers out of this lineup in 2020 and we should expect to see each of their respective draft stocks rise in the coming weeks.

 

Conclusion

Overall, Josh Donaldson should provide a lot of value to fantasy owners in 2020 as long as he stays healthy. He should also provide added value to the Twins' lineup and fantasy owners of several of the hitters that surround Donaldson in the lineup.

His power and ability to get on base via the walk are his two greatest assets and where he should provide the greatest value to fantasy owners. The added value in the fact that he joins a lineup that is as potent as Minnesota's cannot be overstated. This suddenly becomes a lineup that has the potential to score 1,000 runs and break the record for home runs (307) they set just one year ago. He will easily be a top-10 third base option for fantasy owners and should be available right around pick 100 in mixed leagues.

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