The abbreviated 2020 MLB season saw some surprise performances. In fantasy terms, it's essential to pinpoint which ones are for real and who played above their heads in what amounts to an extremely small sample size. Today, we're looking at five players who are being selected earlier than they should be based on their 2020 numbers.
Average draft positions are from FantasyPros as of March 3
On the surface, Lynn is in a better position to win more games as he moves from the Rangers to a legitimate World Series threat in Chicago. However, Lynn posted a 5.35 ERA over his final six starts last season. A 4.19 FIP and .242 BABIP in 2020 suggests his finish may be closer to the real Lynn than the unbelievable start. For a pitcher being selected within the first five rounds of most drafts, he doesn't strike enough batters out to risk it.
* Valdez was diagnosed with a fractured finger after this article was published. His recovery timeline is unknown, but his ADP will take a hit as a result.
Valdez, who almost certainly went undrafted last year outside extremely deep leagues, was one of 2020's top waiver-wire pickups. His 2.85 FIP suggests he should've had an even better year in standard leagues. There are a couple of areas of concern, though, with him becoming a near-consensus top-100 selection. The southpaw's 2.04 BB/9 was an incredible leap forward, as he'd previously walked nearly six batters per nine in his admittedly brief career. Additionally, his HR/FB rate nearly fell by half from 2019 to 2020 despite a higher fly-ball percentage.
Smith's .368 BABIP raises a slight concern that his batting average won't live up to his breakout campaign. But the real issue here is playing time. The NL's adoption of the designated hitter in 2020 allowed the Mets to use Pete Alonso as a DH regularly enough to get Smith reps at first in addition to his time in left field. Although Smith is projected to be the Mets' starting left fielder again, New York signed both Kevin Pillar and Albert Almora Jr. this offseason. Smith could lose late-game at-bats due to defense substitutions or if he struggles against lefty pitching. If Smith gets traded to an AL team - or the NL brings back the DH - his value will skyrocket because he showed he can hit when given a consistent opportunity. His 164 wRC+ was tied for sixth-best in the majors last season.
Catcher is dodgy in fantasy at the best of times. After a remarkable stretch in his first season with the Braves, d'Arnaud is now mentioned among the top options at the position. But d'Arnaud had never sniffed a .300 batting average before last year, and we can chalk at least a bit of that up to a .411 BABIP. The uptick in power can be attributed to a career-high 25.7 HR/FB%. Beyond that, d'Arnaud was largely healthy for the first time in ages. His career high in games played is 112, and until the 32-year-old can prove he can stay on the field, it's difficult to attach too much faith in his sustained production.
Colome was excellent with the White Sox over each of the last two seasons. The fact that he didn't allow a single home run in 2020 makes him intriguing. However, the problems are twofold. First, he's historically not a strong strikeout threat. Second, there's no guarantee he'll consistently be in line to get saves. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli seems committed to entering the season using a closer-by-committee approach, which could include Colome, Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, and Hansel Robles. As a contact pitcher whose ERA can yo-yo from year to year, losing out on save opportunities makes Colome far riskier than he appears to be.