Fantasy baseball 2020 wrap-up: Top players at every position

Toronto Blue Jays' Cavan Biggio celebrates his solo home run with third base coach Luis Rivera during a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox on Aug. 7, 2020. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

The rollercoaster ride of the pandemic-shortened MLB regular season has come to a close, and despite many missteps along the way we somehow managed to crawl across the finish line. For fantasy baseball it was the most unpredictable year ever.

To wrap up the 2020 fantasy scene, I’ve outlined the top five performers at each position group, and added a separate list for the top Toronto Blue Jays performers.

CATCHER

1. J.T. Realmuto, Phillies (Rank: 69)
2. Willson Contreras, Cubs (Rank: 116)
3. Travis d’Arnaud, Braves (Rank: 168)
4. Salvador Perez, Royals (Rank: 180)
5. Yasmani Grandal, White Sox (Rank: 256)

Was there a greater disappointment at catcher this season than Gary Sanchez? The Yankees backstop didn’t come anywhere close to the lofty expectations of his pre-season projection of 94th overall. A depressing 23 total hits and a .147-batting average plummeted him to a ranking of 628th.

1st BASE

1. Freddie Freeman, Braves (Rank: 2)
2. Jose Abreu, White Sox (Rank: 12)
3. Luke Voit, Yankees (Rank: 17)
4. Brandon Lowe, Rays (Rank: 33)
5. DJ LeMahieu, Yankees (Rank: 42)

The Mets’ Dominic Smith really jumped out to me as a waiver-wire star in this 60-game campaign and is one to watch for next year. Funnily enough, Smith delivered career highs in hits, RBIs and AVG/OBP/SLG percentages during this pandemic-shortened run.

The 2013 first-round draft pick improved an impressive 320 spots from his projected fantasy ranking to finish 84th overall.

2nd BASE

1. Brandon Lowe, Rays (Rank: 33)
2. DJ LeMahieu, Yankees (Rank: 42)
3. Cavan Biggio, Blue Jays (Rank: 43)
4. Whit Merrifield, Royals (Rank: 63)
5. Max Muncy, Dodgers (Rank: 91)

Two second basemen–eligible players that drew my attention will actually be squaring off in the AL Wild Card Series. Lowe of Tampa Bay and Biggio of Toronto.

Lowe’s triple position eligibility (1B, 2B, OF) is a definite plus for someone to climb up the fantasy ladder from a predicted 229th ranking to 33rd, the best fantasy second baseman, and fourth place among first basemen.

Biggio proved to be the real deal for the Blue Jays and fantasy managers in 2020. Finishing 43rd overall, he was third among second basemen and fifth among those with eligibility at the hot corner.

SHORTSTOP

1. Fernando Tatis Jr., Padres (Rank: 3)
2. Trea Turner, Nationals (Rank: 8)
3. Manny Machado, Padres (Rank: 11)
4. Trevor Story, Rockies (Rank: 24)
5. Dansby Swanson, Braves (Rank: 29)

If people needed another reason to dislike the Houston Astros, the stinker campaign Alex Bregman produced for fantasy owners who drafted him highly certainly does that. A gross ranking of 441 over 41 games greeted those expecting top-15 production. It will be interesting to see how the fantasy world views him entering 2021.

3rd BASE

1. Jose Ramirez, Indians (Rank: 4)
2. Manny Machado, Padres (Rank: 11)
3. Kyle Seager, Mariners (Rank: 30)
4. DJ LeMahieu, Yankees (Rank: 42)
5. Cavan Biggio, Blue Jays (Rank: 43)

Living up to the hype isn’t something you see all the time in fantasy baseball. Ramirez and Machado were both expected to be stars, but seeing them finish 1-2 at third base and top 11 overall was still a pleasant surprise for anyone who invested in them.

Ramirez led Cleveland in home runs, RBI, batting average and OBP, while Machado was No. 1 for the Padres in hits, RBI, batting average and OBP.

OUTFIELD

1. Marcell Ozuna, Braves (Rank: 6)
2. Mookie Betts, Dodgers (Rank: 9)
3. Juan Soto, Nationals (Rank: 10)
4. Bryce Harper, Phillies (Rank: 11)
5. Ronald Acuna Jr., Braves (Rank: 12)

Out of the 10 highest-rated fantasy outfielders coming into this 60-game sprint, nine of them put together good to great seasons. The one exception was Boston’s J.D. Martinez.

The Red Sox slugger laid an egg on his pre-season ranking of 19th to freefall all the way to 504th. Martinez’s .213 batting average was his worst since 2012. Can this dip be written off to a COVID-19 oddity or could it be the start of a downward trend for the 33-year-old?

STARTING PITCHER

1. Shane Bieber, Indians (Rank: 1)
2. Trevor Bauer, Reds (Rank: 5)
3. Yu Darvish, Cubs (Rank: 7)
4. Kenta Maeda, Twins (Rank: 15)
5. Gerrit Cole, Yankees (Rank: 19)

Bieber’s stock was rising heading into 2020, but even the most optimistic observers couldn’t have predicted this type of dominance. Cleveland’s ace averaged 10.2 strikeouts per start over 12 appearances, up from 7.6 the previous year, and hurled a minuscule 1.83 ERA on his way to an 8-1 record.

Undoubtedly, Bieber will be one of the first two pitchers selected in fantasy drafts next season.

RELIEF PITCHER

1. Liam Hendriks, Athletics (Rank: 18)
2. Devin Williams, Brewers (Rank: 23)
3. Brad Hand, Indians (Rank: 25)
4. Alex Colome, White Sox (Rank: 40)
5. Nick Anderson, Rays (Rank: 48)

For this category, I factored in only the top hurlers who are true bullpen arms, instead of starters that also had RP designations.

TOP BLUE JAYS

1. Cavan Biggio (Rank: 43)
2. Teoscar Hernandez (Rank: 44)
3. Hyun Jin Ryu (Rank: 65)
4. Randal Grichuk (Rank: 106)
5. Taijuan Walker (Rank: 127)

The ultimate surprise on this list is no doubt Hernandez. Projected to finish 264th, he flew up the fantasy charts to 44th and solidified himself as a must start in the Toronto lineup. Hernandez put up a .289 average, and collected 16 homers, 34 RBI, 55 hits and six stolen bases over 50 games.

Undrafted in most fantasy baseball pools this year, he’ll be a hot commodity in 2021.

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