For most fantasy owners, monitoring all of the offseason trades and free-agent signings is done in order to find players who are joining a new team that will provide them with a bigger or better opportunity (i.e. more playing time, better ballpark, etc.) to contribute to your fantasy team, in order to justify a bump up in your rankings.
However, for those who play in AL- or NL-only leagues, the offseason can give your league a completely new set of players to evaluate and ultimately determine draft value for, at least in redraft formats. For example, a fantasy owner who has been in an AL-only league for the past decade has never had the pleasure of rostering Jameson Taillon — until now. The same goes for Raisel Iglesias and Andres Gimenez in the AL, and guys like Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco, who are joining the NL for the first time.
If you play in one of those formats, all the changes can be a bit overwhelming. That’s where I come in to help! As a veteran AL-only player, I will attempt to put a draft value on the players who came over to the AL this offseason to help you prepare for your upcoming drafts.
I’ll be honest, in my multiple years of writing this up I don’t think I’ve ever seen a less impactful group of players joining the American League. There are a handful of guys who will have relevance, but the majority of guys coming to the AL are only valuable in deeper formats – and most won’t dramatically move the needle in AL dynasty leagues who host yearly free agent drafts.
Also, I named my tiers after song titles from the band Young the Giant. Enjoy!
Tier 1: Glory
There are four players who joined the AL this offseason who I would consider taking among the first 100 or so players off the board, although no one who is truly a game changer.
When the top option moving from the NL to the AL is a veteran closer, you know that it was not exactly a hopping offseason. The Angels made a smart investment in their bullpen when they snagged longtime Cincinnati closer Raisel Iglesias, simply sending Noe Ramirez and cash back to the Reds.
Iglesias totaled 92 saves from 2017-2019, among the highest totals in baseball during that time frame, and he was arguably at his best in the truncated 2020 campaign – posting a 2.74 ERA with a 1.84 FIP, 0.91 WHIP, an excellent 34.1% strikeout rate and a career-low 5.5% walk rate.
Iglesias will step right into LA’s closer role, and there’s little reason to believe he won’t be a top 10 closer in all of baseball in 2021 – in part because he doesn’t appear to be in danger of falling into a timeshare, and because his elite ratios will make him relevant even if he is not racking up 30+ saves.
Depending how you feel about closers in your format will determine how he is valued, but he’s among the very few newcomers to the AL that I would consider taking among the top-75 picks, and you could make an argument for him in the top 50 as well in leagues that put a large emphasis on saves, or that track K/9.
Andres Gimenez, SS, Cleveland Baseball Team
The prized return in the hefty Francisco Lindor/Carlos Carrasco trade, Gimenez is expected to take over Lindor’s starting gig at shortstop, with his trade partner Amed Rosario likely falling into a super-utility role (more on him later).
Gimenez has been a fringe top 100 prospect for a while now, and he just crossed the threshold rookie eligibility in 2020 after appearing in 49 games for the Mets and slashing .263/.333/.398 with three home runs, 22 runs scored and eight steals. His excellent defense up the middle should allow him to start nearly every day for Cleveland, and the stolen base potential alone makes him an intriguing flyer in AL-only formats.
While he has virtually no power to speak of and his low walk rate hurts him quite a bit in OBP leagues, he is still worth a look around pick 80-90 – maybe even higher if you are in a batting average league and really need steals.
The Blue Jays shored up an area of need by inking veteran right-hander Kirby Yates to a one-year, $5.5 million deal to be the team’s closer. This doesn’t look like a committee type situation, unless you really believe in Rafael Dolis or Jordan Romano, and considering how flat out dominant Yates was from 2018-2019, when he racked up 53 saves with an ERA below 2.00 and a strikeout rate pushing 40%, I’m inclined to believe he could easily return value as a top-5, maybe even top-3, closer in the American League in 2021. That’s worth a look inside the top 100, probably around pick 80 or so.
The Yankees took a calculated gamble on former Pirates ace Jameson Taillon, a 29-year-old right-hander who oozes potential, but who has now had Tommy John surgery twice and has thrown just 37.1 big league innings since 2019. He’s currently penciled into their rotation, and while I wouldn’t expect more than 150 or so innings, the results could be well worth the current price.
Taillon’s velocity appears to be a non-issue, and he’s working really hard to locate his four-seam fastballs up in the zone – a change that should allow him to miss more bats.
Jameson Taillon threw 28 four-seamers today.
– 94 mph average velocity
– 22% SwStr
– 32% CSW
And look at that location. pic.twitter.com/gVQNyoSarJ
— Nick Pollack (@PitcherList) March 12, 2021
Taillon is No. 40 on Nick’s most recent iteration of the list, and I’d be thrilled to get him right around pick 100 in an AL-only redraft league. He’s got some baggage, sure, and the AL East isn’t exactly a pitcher’s dream destination, but this could be a really good match for Taillon – and I’ll be watching how he does away from Pittsburgh very closely.
Tier 2: Something to Believe In
These players may not be team-changers, but in the middle rounds of AL-only drafts they are certainly worth a look.
In a lot of ways this offseason didn’t end up as disastrous for free agents as some might have expected, although a handful of young-ish outfielders did get squeezed on the open market. One of them was former Colorado slugger David Dahl, who was cut in his first year of arbitration and ended up landing a cheap one year deal with the Rangers, where he is expected to be the team’s starting left fielder.
The move from Colorado to Texas’ new cavernous park is certainly not ideal, but Dahl is just 26-years-old, hit .302 with 15 home runs in 100 games in 2019, and has a regular role in 2021 – so he is absolutely worth taking a shot on in the 150-160 pick range of AL-only drafts.
Amed Rosario, 2B/SS, Cleveland Baseball Team
The second piece acquired by Cleveland in the Lindor/Carrasco deal, Amed Rosario will compete with veteran Cesar Hernandez to start alongside his former teammate Andres Gimenez up the middle in 2021. While Roster Resource currently projects Rosario to come off the bench – they also have him penciled in for 434 plate appearances and double digit home runs and steals.
The 25-year-old did pop 15 home runs with 19 steals while hitting .287 in 2019, but his numbers were a lot worse in a 46-game sample in 2020. Which Rosario shows up early in the year will be a big factor in how much playing time he earns this year – but he is well worth a gamble in the middle rounds of most AL-only formats, and could provide excellent value if he wins an every day role.
The Tigers have blown through a variety of veteran catchers after letting James McCann walk a few years ago, and the latest is Wilson Ramos – a soon-to-be 34-year-old who posted seven consecutive seasons with double-digit home runs, while slashing .277/.320/.437 over that time frame.
Ramos crashed in 2020, hitting just .239 with career-worsts in both walk rate (6.5%) and strikeout rate (20%). It’s possible his production levels from the past few years are in the rearview mirror, but catching is so scarce in AL-only formats that I’d be willing to pick up Ramos in the 140-150 pick range if I needed catching help – especially because he is the rare backstop who might not hurt you in the batting average department.
Another player who had a down 2020 after multiple consecutive productive seasons, the White Sox brought back left-handed outfielder Adam Eaton this offseason, and he is currently penciled in as the team’s starting right fielder and No. 2 hitter. If Eaton is truly hitting second all year long, he will be a sneaky source of runs and RBI along with his ability to post double-digit home runs and steals, if he can stay healthy. You should feel good snagging him in the 160-170 pick range.
Enrique Hernandez, 2B/OF, Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox inked longtime Dodgers super-utility player Enrique Hernandez to a two-year deal this offseason, and while his positional flexibility makes him best suited to be in a utility role – it looks like he may win the team’s primary second base job.
Regardless, Hernandez should see plenty of at-bats in Beantown, and while he’s never been one to help out in the batting average (or OBP) department, he has enough power to contribute in AL-only formats as a middle infielder, particularly now that his pull-heavy approach will be playing toward the Green Monster. If you are looking for a bench bat or middle infield option, Hernandez is a good bet to pop 10+ home runs in Boston, while adding plenty of runs and maybe even swiping a base or two.
Another player heading from the NL West to Boston, right-hander Garrett Richards will look to build on what was a solid 2020 campaign with the Padres, where he made 14 appearances (10 starts) and posted a 4.03 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and a 21.6% strikeout rate.
Of course, performance has rarely been the issue for Richards, it’s been his health. The 32-year-old has not topped 77 innings since the 2015(!) season, and it’s hard to imagine he’s in for much more than 120 or so in 2021, and even that is probably ambitious.
His slider remains a great pitch, and a pair of early outings against Baltimore could make him a really nice early season pickup, but he is not someone that should be relied upon for a full season, even in a deeper AL-only format. Still, if you can snag him around pick No. 175, he’s well worth the spot – even if it’s just for those two early starts.
Kurt Suzuki signed with the Angels this offseason, and the 37-year-old is expected to split time with Max Stassi behind the dish. Despite his age, Suzuki has hit .264 or higher in each of the past four seasons, and excluding 2020 he has been in the double-digits for home runs. His fantasy value will be tied to his playing time in LA, but if he’s playing fairly consistently he will be worth a look for those in need of help at catcher – ideally right around pick 200.
Jose Quintana, LHP, Los Angeles Angels
The Angels just needed someone (or multiple someones) to just throw innings in their rotation. Injuries have been such a massive part of the equation for the Halos over the past few years that adding a guy like Quintana, who appeared in exactly 32 games for seven straight seasons, is just what the overworked doctor ordered.
Now, for those of you who are longstanding AL-only players, you may remember Quintana as the budding ace of the White Sox who was sent across town to the Cubs for a massive haul of prospects back in 2017, but I would caution that player is no longer who Quintana is. He’s posted an ERA above 4.50 in each of the past two seasons and while his FIP suggests he’s been a bit unlucky, there’s likely not much here outside of a handful of quality starts.
He walks too many to be a good WHIP guy, his strikeout numbers are average at best and since pitchers don’t get credit for simply pitching every fifth (or sixth) day, he’s probably one to ignore until you get into the 200 pick range – and even then he’s less valuable in leagues that count wins unless you believe this is (finally) the year for the Halos – which I do not.
Tier 3: It’s About Time
In deeper AL-only formats, or in some cases dynasty leagues, these guys could be worth taking a chance on later in the draft.
Luis Patino, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
Patino is probably the player on this list whose value changes the most depending on if you are in a redraft or dynasty format. In redraft leagues, it’s unclear what role Patino will have with his new team in Tampa this year – although a swingman or even multi-inning relief ace seems entirely likely, and that is assuming he doesn’t begin the year in AAA.
In dynasty, the top-tier pitching prospect is absolutely worth snatching up right away in free agent drafts, as he has the tools to develop into a true frontline starter over time with the Rays.
For now, I’m cautious about adding him in those redraft leagues until we get a more clear picture of what is role will be in 2021, and with Tampa’s often unusual methods of handling pitchers it’s hard to imagine we will have a lot of clarity on that anytime soon.
I think even the best case doesn’t bode well for Patino in quality start leagues, as Tampa has a rich history of pulling starters early, as the player he could be replacing in the rotation, Blake Snell, can attest, but Patino is still worth a look in the later rounds while the team surveys what exactly they want to do with him in 2021 and beyond.
Francisco Mejia, C, Tampa Bay Rays
Young former top prospect Francisco Mejia was also among the players headed to Tampa Bay in the Blake Snell deal, and the 25-year-old backstop will compete for playing time with veteran Mike Zunino. If he manages to win the lion’s share of starts, he could hit .250 or so with 15-20 home runs. Of course, the potential we have all been waiting on has yet to show up at the big league level – as he currently boasts a .225/.282/.386 slash line with 12 home runs in 128 big league games.
I’m not holding my breath here, but if you wait on catcher and need to take a stab at someone with some upside late in your draft – he’s not a bad player to pick. He also, like Patino, has much more value in dynasty formats – although I wouldn’t overpay too much, as he looks more like a bust than a post-hype sleeper.
The Rays brought in a bevy of new options to plug into their rotation, but the fans will be most familiar with old friend Chris Archer, who is back after an ugly stint in Pittsburgh which will haunt Pirates fans for years to come now that the three trade pieces; Tyler Glasnow, Austin Meadows and Shane Baz, are thriving.
Archer himself is recovering from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, a scary injury for pitchers that doesn’t offer a guarantee he’ll hold up over a full season. However, Archer is committed to going back to his four-seam approach and if his velocity is back into the mid-90’s, and his slider remains dope, this could be something here. I doubt he’s worth much in quality start leagues, most Rays arms aren’t, but in other AL formats he could be worth a gamble just outside the top-200.
The Baltimore Orioles replaced veteran glove-first, light hitting shortstop Jose Iglesias with a player of the same ilk, Freddy Galvis, who signed a one-year MLB deal this offseason. The 31-year-old is penciled in as the team’s starting shortstop and the competition for his job boils down to Richie Martin, Ramon Urias, and Pat Valaika, so unless Galvis gets hurt or massively struggles with the stick he should hold onto the job.
He’s a deadline trade candidate, but considering he hit 23 home runs as recently as 2019, and posted a career-high 8.2% walk rate in 2020, there’s reason to believe this could be a good gamble in deeper AL-only leagues, maybe in the 220-230 pick range.
The Rays added a new No. 5 starter to their rotation, signing veteran Michael Wacha to a one-year deal worth $3 million dollars after seven mostly productive years in St. Louis. Wacha posted a 23.7% strikeout rate and a 4.5% walk rate in 34 innings in 2020 – the lowest walk rate of his career and his best strikeout rate since 2013.
Of course, the sample size was miniscule, and he also saw hitters post a .313 batting average, leading to a 6.62 ERA and a 1.56 WHIP. Wacha will need to induce more ground balls (career worst 35.5% in 2020) if he wants to survive the AL East, and Tampa won’t hesitate to give him a very short leash if he struggles.
He can borderline be ruled out in quality start leagues, and even in other formats he’s a lower-tier SP option – potentially worth tossing a dart at in the 240-250 pick range.
Mitch Moreland, 1B, Oakland A’s
The A’s brought in veteran Mitch Moreland to fill their gap at designated hitter after they dealt away Khris Davis. Moreland is coming off an outstanding 2020 campaign, where he hit .265/.342/.551 with 10 home runs and 29 RBI in 136 at-bats, split between the Red Sox and Padres. Now he’ll get a similar assignment as a strong-side platoon bat, although playing in O.Co could sap some of that power.
He is a solid option in leagues that allow daily roster moves, particularly OBP formats, and should be taken in the 250 pick range.
Mike Foltynewicz’s career in Atlanta ended very abruptly. After five seasons of solid, league-average production (with one elite season mixed in) Folty looked unwell during his one disastrous start in 2020 – which resulted in him getting sent down to the team’s alternate site and ultimately released. He caught on with Texas after looking better in bullpens this offseason, and for now he is penciled in as the team’s No. 5 starter.
The 2.85 ERA Folty from 2018 likely isn’t coming back, but he could be a useful back end of the rotation starter type, and in deeper AL-only leagues that is definitely worth a look in the 280 pick range. In shallower leagues he probably won’t hold down a roster spot all season long – but he is a name to look for as a streamer against weaker offenses.
As it currently stands, the Blue Jays are expected to slot longtime Mets left-hander Steven Matz into the No. 4 spot in their rotation. Of course, Nate Pearson should take a spot when he is healthy, and there will be plenty of competition from guys like Trent Thornton, Anthony Kay and Tyler Chatwood (more on him later).
Matz had a career high 25.4% strikeout rate with a palatable 7% walk rate in 30.2 innings in 2020, but he also posted a staggering 4.11 HR/9 en route to a 9.68 ERA. Home runs have long been an issue for the left-hander, and a move to the AL East and the Rogers Centre is certainly not ideal, but there are worse gambles in the middle rounds. At the very least, he’s worth tossing out there as a streamer against the Orioles.
Chris Flexen was a bad big league pitcher for the Mets in parts of three seasons before he packed up and headed to the KBO, where he dominated with a 3.01 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and a 28% strikeout rate. That was enough for the Mariners to ink him to a two-year deal, and he is expected to hold down one of their six rotation spots in 2021.
Flexen’s success in the KBO can partially be attributed to competition level, specifically the fact that his average fastball velocity – which remained unchanged from his time in New York – was the second fastest in the league, and his swinging strike rate nearly doubled despite no other noticeable differences. However, he also threw his curveball about three times as often, which likely led to some of his success.
Flexen’s success will likely depend on him using that curveball more often, but even then there is a lot of risk in a guy whose profile doesn’t look too different from his previous big league tenure, which went, shall we say, less than swimmingly. He’s not the worst late round pitching gamble, however, and is worth watching closely to see how he looks this spring.
Longtime veteran outfielder Dexter Fowler has only spent 116 of his 1,453 big league games in the American League, back in 2014 with the Astros, but he’ll be an Angel in the Outfield for at least the 2021 season after inking a deal with the team this offseason.
Fowler is currently projected to be the team’s starting right fielder alongside Justin Upton and Mike Trout, although that job may not be his for long if either Jo Adell or Brandon Marsh have anything to say about it.
The 35-year-old hasn’t hit above .240 since 2017, and it looks like his days of contributing double-digit steals are probably behind him. Still, if he really is playing almost every day he’ll be a decent source of runs and RBI, and he can still get into a handful of round-trippers every year, so he’s not the worst dart-throw in the 300 pick range if you still need a bat.
Tier 4: Home of the Strange
Even in AL-only formats, these players are not absolute locks to return any value. However, there is at least enough upside to keep them on the radar in 10-12 team AL formats.
Back in January, the Blue Jays inked a one-year, $3M deal with veteran right-hander Tyler Chatwood. While Chatwood has started 143 games in his career, the Blue Jays intend to turn him into a high-leverage, multi-inning reliever – a move that makes some sense considering his recent strikeout bump and cutter success, as well as an overall lack of command that has limited him throughout his career.
Maybe he gets a look if/when injuries hit the rotation. Maybe he turns into a stud reliever in holds or K/9 leagues. Maybe he’s waiver wire fodder and nothing else. But at this point (300+ pick range) in deeper AL-only formats, he’s worth a look.
Jose Urena, RHP, Detroit Tigers
It looks for now like Jose Urena is going to earn a rotation spot for the Tigers to kick off the 2021 season. He posted back to back full seasons with sub-4.00 ERA’s in 2017-2018, but he’s been bad ever since and, even in his peak, he wasn’t striking anybody out.
Billy Hamilton, OF, Cleveland Baseball Team
Billy Hamilton is now with the Cleveland Baseball Team. He hit .125 last year, and is behind at least seven, probably more like 8-9, outfielders for regular playing time. This isn’t worth the headache, even if he’s still capable of stealing bases at the big league level. As they say, you can’t steal first – and in this case you can’t do anything at all if you’re in Triple-A.
Brock Holt is back in the American League after a year away in 2020, and he is reportedly in contention for Texas’ starting third base job – although there is probably a greater chance he doesn’t make the team than there is that he is a regular starter at the hot corner.
However, even in a super-utility role, Holt could have some value in very, very deep leagues thanks to his high batting averages and occasional speed – although he’s not worth investing in on draft day unless a miracle happens and he becomes an every day player.
Photo by Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Jacob Roy (@Jmrgraphics3 on IG)