American League Fantasy Baseball Preview: Rays to shock world en route to 2020 World Series?

Dalton Del Don

For my National League preview, go here.

AL East

1. Tampa Bay Rays

2. New York Yankees (Wild Card)

3. Boston Red Sox

4. Toronto Blue Jays

5. Baltimore Orioles

Comments/Fantasy Predictions:

Rays: Blake Snell, Charlie Morton, and Tyler Glasnow are all legitimate threats to win the Cy Young, the Rays pen is loaded, and Tampa Bay has a bunch of breakout candidates on offense (with the game’s best prospect in the minors), so I’m picking the Rays to win the World Series and love them at 20/1Brandon Lowe finishes as a top-10 fantasy second baseman with Yandy Diaz a top-15 first baseman, while Willy Adames goes down as one of the best bargains at shortstop … Hunter Renfroe ends near the top of the HR leaderboard, while few catchers hit more homers than Mike Zunino.  

Yankees: The Yankees enter as favorites to win the division and are well-stocked on paper, but I worry Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton simply can’t stay healthy (after already losing Luis Severino to TJ surgery). The battle for this division should come down to the end … Luke Voit, Aaron Hicks, and Jordan Montgomery are nice sleepers, while Gerrit Cole has a strong argument to be the #1 pick in fantasy drafts. Given Mike Trout’s uncertainty and under such unique circumstances, I love Cole at 50/1 to win MVPMasahiro Tanaka had insane splits facing the Rays last year (1.59 ERA, 0.67 WHIP vs. TB compared to 4.98 ERA, 1.35 WHIP vs. everyone else), and I’m treating James Paxton as a borderline top-20 fantasy SP.

[Still time to join or create a fantasy baseball league for the short season]

Red Sox: Andrew Benintendi is a better fantasy target than J.D. Martinez this year, while Alex Verdugo enters 2021 as one of baseball’s most hyped fantasy players … Rafael Devers is a consensus top-25 fantasy pick after not homering through April (109 ABs) last year, while Boston provides nice sleepers in Jose Peraza, Jackie Bradley, and Nathan Eovaldi (it’s odd seeing the Red Sox’s Opening Day starter qualifying as such).

Blue Jays: It’s unclear where the Blue Jays will call home this season, making all of their fantasy players even more wild cards in this season of uncertainty ... The Blue Jays have an incredibly interesting young offensive corps (with Austin Martin right up there), as their future is bright ... Cavan Biggio disappoints fantasy managers, while Teoscar Hernandez pleases his.

Orioles: Anthony Santander and Renato Nunez are interesting deep sleepers, but Orioles hitters could be a fantasy goldmine with Camden Yards increasing homers a wide margin more than any other AL park over the last three seasons ... Mychal Givens finishes as a top-15 closer.

AL Central

1. Minnesota Twins

2. Chicago White Sox (Wild Card)

3. Cleveland Indians

4. Detroit Tigers

5. Kansas City Royals

Comments/Fantasy Predictions:

Twins: If Miguel Sano stays healthy, there’s massive upside — more like Miguel SaYES, am I right? … Nelson Cruz had 41 homers with 108 RBI in just 120 games last year, posting a 163 wRC+ that ranked fourth in baseball. He’s 40 and only plays DH, but an ADP approaching 80 is way too low … Byron Buxton is officially the biggest boom-or-bust player in fantasy baseball right now.

White Sox: The White Sox have a lot of potential on offense (Yoan Moncada will go in the first three rounds of drafts in 2021) and an ace in Lucas Giolito, and it helps to have two bottom-feeding teams in their division to pad wins … Luis Robert wins Rookie of the Year, while Aaron Bummer overtakes Alex Colome as Chicago’s closer, and the White Sox sneak into the playoffs.

Indians: Franmil Reyes finished in the top 2% of the league in exit velocity and Hard Hit% last season and no longer calls Petco Park home, so he’s a monster in the making. It’s nice when power comes along with a .265 BA that doesn’t kill you … Brad Hand and James Karinchak form one of MLB’s best late-game relief duos, while Oscar Mercado finishes as a top-20 fantasy outfielder. 

Tigers: The Tigers aren’t a fantasy hotbed, but both Matthew Boyd and Joe Jimenez produce really nice seasons, while Michael Fulmer and Cameron Maybin are deep sleepers … C.J. Cron is getting criminally underrated at draft tables and ends the season as a top-10 fantasy 1B, while his successor, Spencer Torkelson, is already one of the most valuable dynasty commodities.

Royals: If Byron Buxton isn’t fantasy baseball’s biggest boom-or-bust pick right now, then it’s Adalberto Mondesi, especially in overall contests … Jorge Soler is the real deal, Hunter Dozier is a moderate sleeper, and Maikel Franco is a deep one.

AL West

1. Houston Astros

2. Oakland A’s

3. Los Angeles Angels

4. Texas Rangers

5. Seattle Mariners

Comments/Fantasy Predictions:

Astros: It will be interesting to see how opponents treat the Astros, who enter as villains but also loaded yet again (despite the loss of Gerrit Cole) … A healthy Yordan Alvarez would’ve been my favorite longshot MVP pick, while Jose Altuve finishes as the top fantasy second baseman … Given the highly favorable setup (the Astros provide great run support with a strong defense/bullpen and now get to face the NL West a whole bunch), I have Zack Greinke as a top-15 fantasy SP and am aggressively drafting Lance McCullers and Josh James. Framber Valdez is a deep sleeper.

A’s: The A’s have of an intriguing young staff and a left side of the infield that featured both players inside the top-12 in WAR last season, but the loss of A.J. Puk to another shoulder injury is devastating … One of the true shames of 2019 was Khris Davis not batting .247 for the fifth straight year, and I like Stephen Piscotty’s ADP far better than Ramon Laureano’s … Chris Bassitt is a sleeper.

Angels: Shohei Ohtani has the potential to be an ace on the mound and a monster on offense (especially since he also runs and Anaheim has played as MLB’s best park for left-handed power since moving its fences), but he’s tricky for 2020 since he only pitches Sundays (with days off before and after). But Swolehei will enter 2021 as one of the favorites to win MVP both in real life and fantasy.

PEORIA, ARIZONA - MARCH 10: Shohei Ohtani #17 of the Los Angeles Angels gets ready in the batters box during a spring training game against the Seattle Mariners at Peoria Stadium on March 10, 2020 in Peoria, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
PEORIA, ARIZONA - MARCH 10: Shohei Ohtani #17 of the Los Angeles Angels gets ready in the batters box during a spring training game against the Seattle Mariners at Peoria Stadium on March 10, 2020 in Peoria, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

Anthony Rendon saw a big downgrade in parks after getting paid coming off a career season, so this isn’t the year to buy him, although now is the time to draft Andrew Heaney … OK fine, maybe Mike Trout is this year’s biggest boom-or-bust pick given him slipping to Round Two of many drafts … Ty Buttrey overtakes Hansel Robles as the Angels’ closer, while Dylan Bundy has the breakout many are predicting thanks to a much more favorable setting.

[Positional Rankings: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | SP | RP]

Rangers: With the Rangers moving indoors (and away from the Jet stream) after Texas has routinely been second only to Coors Field as baseball’s best hitter’s park (increasing run-scoring by 20% more than the AL’s second-best hitter’s park over the last three seasons), the team’s pitching is a better investment than hitting, although Rougned Odor is a nice sleeper at second base.

Mariners: Austin Adams leads the Mariners in saves, as Seattle competes for the title as least helpful fantasy team in recent memory ... Justus Sheffield showed major improvement with his control down the stretch last season and is a serious breakout candidate, while Kendall Graveman is suddenly throwing 97 mph and is a deep sleeper.

• AL MVP: Gerrit Cole

• NL MVP: Christian Yelich  

• AL Cy Young: Gerrit Cole  

• NL Cy Young: Max Scherzer

• AL Rookie of the Year: Luis Robert

• NL Rookie of the Year: Carter Kieboom

• ALCS: Rays over Yankees

• NLCS: Dodgers over Reds

• World Series: Dodgers over Rays

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