Regan's Rumblings: 10 Sleepers For 2020

Regan's Rumblings: 10 Sleepers For 2020

This article is part of our Regan's Rumblings series.

I guess it's better than nothing. I'd rather have 162 games, but I'd rather have 60 than zero.  As I write this, the deal isn't done, but this all sounds positive. As fantasy owners, how do we view a shortened season? I honestly thought my last Regan's Rumblings was my final one until 2021, but here we go.

Let's talk sleepers this week. Don't forget about these guys. In a shortened season in particular, I anticipate ending up with a few of these guys.

Late edit: The negotiations continue, with the players now wanting 70 games and the owners proposing 60. This shouldn't be tough to figure out (meet at 65), so I do still remain optimistic.

Garrett Richards, SP, SD

If you want to remain skeptical about a guy who has made a total of 31 starts over he past four seasons, I certainly get it. It even seems likely that he was hurting for some of those starts as well, but with a 3.36 ERA and 9.7 K/9 in that time pitching in the AL, Richards has been excellent for the most part when healthy. He now gets to pitch in the AL, though with the DH and possible pitching site in Arizona, that's not much of a league advantage this year. Regardless, Richards looked good this spring, hitting the mid-90s with his fastball and showing a plus slider. There seems to be a good chance we see his 265 ADP rise as we get closer to Opening Day.

Brendan McKay, SP, TB

As things stand, McKay is on the outside looking in as you consider the Rays' rotation. The former No. 4 overall draft pick (2017) had an uneven MLB debut in 2019, posting a 5.14 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in 49 innings, but with a solid 56:16 K:BB. This was after posting video game level numbers in AA/AAA, including a 1.10 ERA and 102:18 K:BB in 73.2 innings. McKay has more upside than arguably any pitcher in the system and should get his shot this year at some point. The Rays have a strong 1-2-3 at the top of their rotation, but can guys like Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow stay healthy? Can Ryan Yarbrough and Yonny Chirinos do enough to hold off McKay? We'll see, but I'm guessing not.

Andrew McCutchen, OF, PHI

A torn ACL limited McCutchen to just 59 games last year, but all signs point to his being ready for Opening Day 2020. He's not the MVP-caliber player he was in Pittsburgh, hitting .256/.378/.457 for the Phillies last year with just two stolen bases. That said, he's still not old by any means at 33, and in 2019, McCutchen's 16.4 BB percentage was a career-high for the 11-year veteran. A .201 ISO is indicative of the fact his power is still intact, and a hitter-friendly park also doesn't hurt. McCutchen will lead off for a team that should score plenty of runs, so whatever the prorated equivalent of 100-plus runs scored looks like, that appears doable here. Hopefully we'll get to see him in some game action next month as baseball opens back up.

A.J. Pollock, OF, LAD

Pollock should be one of the main beneficiaries of the universal DH, as he was probably set to split LF duties with Joc Pederson, who would presumably have played against RHP, leaving scraps for Pollock. Now Pollock should be in there most days, with the DH time perhaps helping mitigate the injury potential. It's safe to say the 32-year-old peaked in 2015 (.315/.367/.498, 20 homers, 39 steals and a Gold Glove), but if he can stay healthy, something like .270/.330/.480 should be plenty doable. The Dodgers would seem to have the best offense in baseball on paper, so Pollock should see plenty of opportunities to contribute.

Francisco Mejia, C, SD

That the Padres have a guy (Austin Hedges) at the top of the depth chart despite a career .201/.257/.360 slash really tells you what they think about Mejia's defense. Reportedly, Mejia was working on a new catching stance. If it works well and he can even be slightly below average defensively, Mejia could take over the starting role in short order. Even if that doesn't happen, Mejia should still see plenty of time behind the plate and perhaps a few looks at DH. Mejia hit .265/.316/.438 with eight home runs in 244 plate appearances for the Padres last year. Not Johnny Bench numbers by any means, but he is just 24, so there should be improvement coming his way as he settles in.

Nate Lowe, 1B, TB

Lowe was 5-for-22 this spring and ultimately was optioned to Triple-A in late March. He really has nothing left to prove in the minors after batting .289/.421/.508 for Triple-A Durham in 2019 and holding up fairly well (.263/.325/.454 with seven home runs) in 169 MLB plate appearances. Over the past two years in the minors, Lowe's plate discipline numbers are borderline elite – 14.6 BB percentage/17.9 K percentage. Lowe probably opens 2020 with the Rays with an expanded roster likely, but there is no clear path to playing time. We'd probably need to see an injury or extended slump from one or two of this group – Jose Martinez, Yoshi Tsutsugo and Ji-Man Choi. Maybe Lowe forces the issue with a huge spring training part 2, but either way, hopefully he gets a real chance, and soon.

Corbin Burnes, P, MIL

I just can't seem to give up on this guy. The 25-year-old Burnes landed on my radar a couple years ago after he tossed 2.61 ERA ball in 38 innings of relief. Burnes, however, followed that up last year with an ugly 8.81 ERA in 49 innings. Other numbers were similarly ugly, including 70 hits allowed, a .393 BAA vs. LH hitters and a whopping 17 home runs. On the plus side, he did strike out 70 for a nice 29.8 K percentage (12.9 K/9) while averaging 95.2 mph with his fastball. Burnes' swinging strike rate of 17.5 percent was also elite. Burnes was looking good this spring, allowing just one run in 10 innings with a 13:3 K:BB. We will see if that continues, as with Burnes, his main problem has been locating his fastball consistently and developing an effective third pitch. Burnes was pushing the likes of Eric Lauer and Freddy Peralta for a rotation spot when things shut down.

Jesus Luzardo, SP, OAK

With start shortstop Marcus Semien set to hit free agency this winter, this is looking like a one-year window for the A's. With that, the A's are going to field their best players regardless of any service time considerations. If you watched Luzardo at all late last year and in spring training, he's obviously one of their better arms, if not their best. Coming off rotator cuff and lat strains, Luzardo was limited to 55 total innings last year, so he probably would have had some sort of innings cap this year. Now though, that looks to be out the window. In terms of a 2020 projection, if we assume 60 games, that projects to around 12 starts for Luzardo, so perhaps this?: 70 innings, 80 strikeouts, 3.30 ERA, six wins.

Austin Riley, 3B/OF, ATL

Assuming a universal DH is included for 2020, this solves the Riley/Johan Camargo third base dilemma. Riley likely would be the primary DH while filling in at third on occasion. After a hot start in mid-May, things quickly went south for Riley, who ultimately ended up batting .226/.279/.471 with an ugly 36.4 K percentage and sub-optimal 5.4 BB percentage. Riley, though, was just 22 last year. At the Triple-A level over parts of two years, things went much better: .286/.353/.525 with better ratios (8.9 BB percentage, 25.9 K percentage). That's still a fairly elevated minor league K percentage, but Riley has always been one of his league's younger players, so he may still need time to grow and develop at the big-league level. Whether that is this year, 2021 or beyond remains to be seen, but his .245 big league ISO was still quite impressive. It's just an issue of whether he can hit .250 anytime soon.

Chris Davis, 1B, BAL

Armed with the worst contract in baseball (he's owed $69 million through 2022), Davis has hit a combined .172/.256/.308 with a 37.9 K percentage the past two seasons. He was never really a high-average guy in the first place, but Davis did hit .286 in 2013 and .262 in 2015 before things went south quickly. In an attempt to salvage his career, Davis put on 25 pounds over the winter to add strength and at least regain some power. He's 34, so we can't expect a massive turnaround, but, encouragingly, Davis was hitting .467/.615/1.067 with an excellent 3:9 K:BB this spring before the shutdown. We've all heard these "best shape of his life" stories before, and you're right to be skeptical, but in deep and auction leagues, take a flier on a $1 Davis and hope he gets off to a hot start and hits .230.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David Regan
David Regan is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner, including the 2015 Baseball Article of the Year and the 2010 Baseball Writer of the Year.
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