There are some songs that remain infamous for their lyrics, their rhythm, and their music videos. They remain important in the very fabric of popular culture for things within the songs that are said, done, and instrumentally performed. However, coinciding with that, there are also certain songs that are used within movies that, throughout time, remain synonymous with that film whenever they are heard. For me, personally, when I hear “Don’t You Forget About Me” by Simple Minds, I immediately think of one of the greatest movies of my generation, The Breakfast Club. It’s a movie about five high school students that come together and not only define the stereotypes within society, but also challenge them to show that there is more than meets the eye when it comes to people as a whole.
Without getting too much into detail about this classic tale, I wanted to relate to you The Breakfast Club of Fantasy Baseball heading into 2021, as there are players that are screaming of value in the sense that they seem to be forgotten in drafts. Whether or not they opted out due to the Coronavirus, were suspended, or were injured for most, if not all, of 2020 due to injury, these are players that need to be remembered come draft day because they can help you build a fantasy baseball lineup next season. Essentially, these players are screaming out to you right now: Don’t You Forget About Me!
Note: ADP numbers used are from December 1, 2020 until time of writing, in the beginning of January 2021.
David Price, SP Los Angeles Dodgers – aka John Bender
In the movie, John Bender is someone who is under-appreciated by the people around him, despite the fact that he has a certain set of skills and characteristics that make him unique and important. Throughout the movie provides a more than valuable return in our viewing investment as a vital part. This is David Price.
Finishing up in 2019, the then 34-year-old veteran finished the season with the following stats: 7-5, 3.62 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 27.9% K-rate and a 7.0% BB-rate. Considering he played his games at Fenway Park, in the AL East, and during the year of the “juiced baseball”, it was a successful campaign that also saw him record six or more strikeouts ten times. Despite sustaining a minor injury late in the season, he still returned to pitch two shut out innings in September, which was promising for any concerns of his health. Later that off-season, he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers as a part of the Mookie Betts deal, and was ultimately dealt as a part of a salary dump by his former team. It was, however, a ballpark upgrade for him, as Dodger Stadium is a slightly better pitchers ballpark and the competition within the division would be more favorable.
All that aside, from a fantasy perspective, David Price comes with some upside that needs to be acknowledged. Don’t let the Percentile Rankings on his Statcast page fool you, since 2019 was a unique season as everyone was hitting the ball hard and far all year. David Price has long secured himself as a pitcher with good command and control, with below league average walk rates and above league average strikeout rates.
While we can ignore the first half of the above graphs, what important to note is that, outside of 2017, he’s shown an innate ability to keep the ball in the strike zone, limit the amount of free passes, and strike batters out. Added to that, some interesting numbers here as well:
Since his struggles in his 2017 season with the Red Sox, his velocity has decreased steadily over the past three years, which is natural with age. However, what he lacks in speed, he’s more than made up in movement, as he’s figured out a way to still maintain his relevance. He finished 2019 with a K/9 of 10.7, which, for pitchers with a minimum of 100 innings pitched, would have ranked him just behind Luis Castillo and ahead of Lance Lynn. He also finished 2019 with a 2.7 BB/9, which under the same qualifications, puts him just ahead of Yu Darvish and just behind Charlie Morton. Again, those are 2019 comparisons, but they were pitchers that had successful seasons.
There is some risk to David Price heading into 2020. While Dodger Stadium is a slight upgrade in terms of an overall pitcher’s park standard, it doesn’t play as well to home runs, and thus, Price’s 1.3 HR/9 could actually increase. As such, his ERA and WHIP could go up a bit. However, he should receive plenty of run support as he plays for your 2020 World Series Champions who look to be getting better for next season. He also has the advantage of not playing against American League East teams as often (if at all), and whose only real ballpark X-Factor would be Coors Field. Currently he is being taken as the 177th pick in ADP, or the 65th pitcher off the board, right in between Trevor Rosenthal and Aaron Civale. At that price, pun intended, he’s someone destined to return value, as, after a year of rest, he should be able to improve on wins and continue to use movement to help compensate for his aging arm and lack of velocity. With a proven track record of success, he’s at worst an SP4 on your team, with the potential for much more. The risk involved here is that there is no certainty to him returning at all in 2021, as reports have indicated that he hasn’t yet made a decision. Keep an eye on that and watch his draft price rise if he chooses to play this season.
Mike Soroka, SP Atlanta Braves – aka Brian Johnson
In the movie, Brian Johnson is the boy who felt the pressures of having to bear the load of his surroundings. He’s someone who had to overcome the adversity of having to be more than he is. This was Mike Soroka in 2019 and 2020.
Soroka finished his 2019 campaign with an incredible amount of praise, as he ended up with a 13-4 record, while posting a 2.65 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP over 172 innings pitched. On the surface, those were fantastic numbers for the rookie as he was an All-Star, while finishing 6th in Cy Young voting and 2nd in Rookie of the Year voting. He came into 2020 with a ton of promise, but wound up tearing his achilles tendon early in the season, thus ending his 2020 campaign. While the pain and anguish he suffered on a physical level was excruciating, fantasy-wise he returned little to nothing in return on any investment made as well, which made it a tough pill to swallow.
Heading into the 2020 season, I picked Soroka as someone who would be a potential bust, given the cost. While the numbers he posted were incredible, he still lacked the strikeout production for where he was being drafted, which was within the top 25 pitchers off the board. In fact, all throughout his minor league career, he excelled at limiting his walks, but he was never a strikeout pitcher.
For where he was going, as an SP2 on many teams, he was bound to fail in some capacity and not bring back appropriate value. I didn’t think he wouldn’t have had enough strikeouts to help sustain his cost, and would have needed to adjust to the adjustments being made on him to remain at his 2019 form. As a result, he would have had to have been something more than he was meant to be in order to return value on his cost in drafts.
Heading into 2021, however, he can easily be more than he is expected to be, if we are judging him based on where he is going in drafts. Right now, with a 170 ADP, he is listed as the 62nd pitcher off the board, right in between Tyler Mahle and German Marquez. Do you trust him to be back and fully healthy in 2021? Let’s have a look.
As a somewhat similar comparison, three years ago, right after the 2017 season, Zach Britton had surgery for his Achilles tendon injury and returned in June the following year. Two years prior to that in 2015, Adam Wainwright tore his Achilles tendon, and was back to pitching in the majors in only five months. While this was ahead of schedule, he did say that it took him about ten months to pitch pain-free.
Adam Wainwright also tore his left Achilles in 2015. His injury was in late-April, and Wainwright was actually back pitching at the end of September that same season – five months later. But it was the next spring, almost 10 months after his injury, when Wainwright was pitching pain free. Soroka will have an extensive rehab program after his surgery. Most medical predictions will have a 9-12 month recovery period, so it would take Soroka seven months to be ready to start by March 1.
Mike Soroka, if he were to be ready for a normal Opening Day, would have had six months until about the time Pitchers and Catchers would begin, and about eight months until the 2021 season started. With a potential delay to the 2021 season, this could give Soroka additional time to heal. The injury occurred on his landing foot, not his planting foot, which should hopefully make it a bit easier for a full and speedy recovery. Another promising fact is that this is not an arm/shoulder/elbow injury, but rather a lower-body injury, maintaining his upper body stability. On top of that positivity, even more promising news came out just recently:
For where he is being drafted, he could essentially be your third or fourth drafted starter with the potential to return the value of at worst your third starter. Given his situation and talent, he’s a safe bet to give you stability in wins, WHIP and probably ERA. There is a chance that he could be a bit rusty, so monitoring this in Spring Training is crucial. He could be a little off in his release in the sense that he’d be cautious about landing on his leg. There is also the possibility that he will be pitching under some pain, minor or more. That said, there is the potential for a lot of value right here and right now. Chances are he comes back as the pitcher many thought he would be in 2020, yet his ADP indicates to me that his price means that he is on sale right now. Perfect timing as we are still a few months away from when most people start to draft, as you can get him at about 40% off. Act now, because it’s a limited time offer.
Lorenzo Cain – OF Milwaukee Brewers, aka Allison Reynolds
In the movie, Allison is ignored by her parents and everyone around her, despite having to be characteristically unique with a ton of charisma. This is Lorenzo Cain.
Lorenzo Cain was seemingly forgotten this year among the players who decided to opt-out. It’s hard to blame him, or anyone for opting out, but his timing came alongside when the St. Louis Cardinals were having their breakout problems, and little was known about how the season would progress. He wound up only recording 18 at-bats and connecting for six hits while driving in three runs. Nothing special, but it was a good start. That won’t come into play here as we look towards 2021.
Lorenzo Cain comes into the 2021 season a long track record of good speed and light power melded together nicely. In fact, one has to look back to his sophomore season to see where he wasn’t an important part of the steals category.
And while his 2019 is a concern, he still managed to steal 18 bases, which put him in the Top 25 in all of baseball. Add to that, he comes in with a long track record of showing good plate discipline.
Ignoring the extremely small sample that is 2020, he puts a lot of contact on the ball, in and out of the zone. His ground ball rate of 50.9% in 2019 is a bit concerning, because, as he turns 35 by the time the season starts, he won’t be able to leg out as many infield singles or extend plays into extra-base hits as in the past. Will this lead to a decline in his overall production in steals? It may. However, he is being drafted currently as the 241st player off the board in NFC drafts. There are many question marks around him on this board:
Assuming your drafts go somewhat accordingly to this ADP, who around here do you trust? There are injury concerns, playing time concerns, regression concerns and more. One of the hardest things to find in drafts is speed. Most of the late-in-draft players available with speed don’t have the batting average track record to support their value, thus making them a lame duck for your team. I see Lorenzo Cain as someone who can maintain himself a .275 batting average and potentially get you 15 steals this upcoming season while playing in a good hitter’s ballpark and playing for a competitive team. Don’t forget about him as you’re finalizing your roster, especially if you need some late-round steals.
Domingo German – SP New York Yankees aka Andrew Clark
In the movie, Andrew Clark was in detention for his physical actions and was punished. This is Domingo German.
Let me start by saying this. I do not condone Domingo German’s actions, nor am I making light of it here whatsoever. His off-the-field domestic violence was disgusting and despicable and there is no turning back from it. The movie The Breakfast Club is nowhere near the seriousness of what happened here in real-life, and the parallels that I am making reference to here are merely the use of one’s hands on another person and being punished. That is all. The truth of the matter is that German has served his punishment (whether we feel he has served enough is another story) and now he is able to return to playing baseball. I will only be discussing his future outlook on the field, nothing more. I do hope that the real-life people involved in this ugly situation are okay moving forward and that any and all justice can be had.
Before his suspension, Domingo German made some great steps forward for the Yankees in 2019, which was the year of the “juiced ball”. His 18-4 record was tied for 4th in all of baseball, despite a solid 9.6 K/9, which translates to a 25.8% strikeout rate. It was encouraging that he didn’t lose much velocity at all through his first season over 124 innings pitched, and actually gained significant velocity in 2019’s final month of the season. He had an up and down season too, as he started off very strong, but hitters made adjustments to him and started to wait a bit before swinging at anything.
His batting average against all year isn’t something that exudes confidence going forward, but we have to remember that this was the year of the juiced ball and everyone was hitting. What’s more is that, his rough June numbers were predicated by the fact that hitters were seeing his pitches more clearly and weren’t chasing at anything outside of the strike zone. What good pitchers do is make adjustments, and that’s what German did, as he added more spin to his pitches. As a result, more and more pitches were being chased.
And when it was all said and done, it was his Curveball, which was thrown 36.1% of the time, that dominated hitters all season long, especially when he added more spin rate late in the season. In fact, in September, he had a xBA of .178 when using the Curveball and had his highest average velocity of the pitch that month.
As of right now, he possesses an ADP of 310, but that comes with a bit of uncertainty. Will he pitch for the Yankees next year? Will he pitch for another team? Will he pitch at all? If I were a betting man, I’d say that he pitches for the Yankees again in 2021. They gave Aroldis Chapman a second chance, and I would venture that they do the same for him too. Management has said that he’s a changed man, and technically speaking, there have been no official charges laid against German. It’s hard to tell if something will come of it, but if he does wear a Yankees uniform next season and pitches, remember him come draft time.
Emmanuel Clase – RP Cleveland Indians aka Claire Standish
In the movie, Claire comes across as the one who is on top of the world because she feels on top of the world, but deep down inside, feels the pressure of maintaining that status, and ultimately crumbles. This is Emmanual Clase.
After being traded to the Cleveland Indians, Clase was being touted as the future closer of the team, but then was found to have tested positive for PED’s and was given an 80 game suspension for the 2020 season. It was revised later on by Major League Baseball to cover just the shortened 60 game season, thus making him eligible to return in 2021.
Despite missing all of 2020, Emmanuel Clase still has the stuff to become the closer for the Indians in the future. Despite it being a very short sample, he did record almost a strikeout per inning and found himself with a productive 23.1 innings for the Texas Rangers.
The scouting report on Clase is that he has a cannon for an arm, as his fastball can reach triple digits. He gets good movement on it too, which makes it very tough to hit. He demolished minor league pitching in 2019, as he had a 40% K% – BB% in A+ before being promoted to Double-A. When he got the call to the Rangers, he still maintained an impressive 22.3% K% in his limited time with the big league club.
Clase’s fastball has climbed from the upper 80s when he signed at age 16 to the mid-90s when he joined the Rangers to regularly topping triple digits last season. It now ranges from 97-102 mph, but what makes it unique is crazy cutting and riding action that makes it almost impossible for hitters to barrel. He can overpower hitters with an upper-80s slider with depth at times, though it sometimes flattens out into a slurve.
What this means for him in 2021 is this: James Karinchak as undoubtedly secured himself the closer’s job in Cleveland. He had an incredible 2020 season and looks poised to become their go-to-guy in the ninth inning. However, if you play in a holds league, an AL Only league or in a deep enough league where you can back up any closer that you invest in, Clase is the guy for you. I believe he’ll be in high-leverage situations going forward as they’ll be grooming him for the closer’s job in the future, or in case Karinchak doesn’t keep the job due to performance or injury. He’s talented enough to help you rack up strikeouts and should be good enough to keep your ratios down. He’s being drafted with a 458 ADP right now but has the potential in some leagues to be a bonafide stud. In dynasty leagues, he needs to be owned and stashed, due to his massive potential in a volatile position of need.