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Fantasy Baseball 20/20 Players: Who Can Repeat in 2018?

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Heath checks in on last year’s 20/20 players and looks ahead to 2018.

MLB: AL Wildcard-Minnesota Twins at New York Yankees
Fitting, that the first image I find is of Buxton banging into the outfield wall.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Here are last year’s 20/20 guys, presented with the number of at-bats each player required to achieve this arbitrary (but impressive) milestone:

20/20 in 2017

NAME HR SB AB
NAME HR SB AB
Jose Altuve 24 32 590
Mookie Betts 24 26 628
Tommy Pham 23 25 444
Elvis Andrus 20 25 643
Brett Gardner 21 23 594
Mike Trout 33 22 402
Keon Broxton 20 21 414
Wil Myers 30 20 567
Andrew Benintendi 20 20 573

The sheer amount of opportunity enjoyed by Betts and Andrus was awesome. Betts won’t go overlooked in your 2018 fake drafts, especially since he’s only 25 years old. Andrus probably will, though, as many will be quick to ignore his 2017 as an anomaly. His .325 BABIP wasn’t intolerable, though, and he made more hard contact (30.5%) than ever before. Andrus made a conscious effort to be more aggressive in 2017, and it paid off for him. This sounds like a guy who has come into his own. He won’t ever be a 30-homer threat, but a number in the teens would not be a surprise. When you marry that to his speed profile, Andrus looks like a guy to profit on in 2018.

Brett Gardner was the only member of the 20/20 club that was over 30 years of age, and he turned 34 last August. That is epic, since I am 34 and I know how old I feel sometimes. Gardner seems almost assured to not make this list in 2018, especially now that the Yankees have signed Giancarlo Stanton. There is now an embarrassment of riches among the outfield ranks in New York, and new manager Aaron Boone will have no need to push Gardner when he can easily rest him with some combination of Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks, Clint Frazier, or Jacoby Ellsbury. Please note that Aaron Judge will NOT be moving from his perch in right field.

Tommy Pham will turn 30 years old next March, and I imagine he will be a polarizing player among fantasy pundits in 2018. After all, it is rare that we see a guy bloom this late (and this beautifully). Me, I’ll be buying if the price is tolerable. Pham made some gains in his contact rate last year and was a plus defensively—which means he is more likely stay on the field during a slump. What, you want more Randal Grichuk? Get outta here. If my room is skittish, I will take the plunge.

Altuve, Trout, Myers, and Benintendi...all of these guys will be fixtures on fake teams in 2018 and their value is inarguable. That leaves Keon Broxton to discuss, who was the least valuable asset among this group in 2017. He was 20/21, sure, but the .220 batting average was a sinkhole. Broxton makes a lot of hard contact and obviously has wheels, but his ordinary 8.6% walk rate and .323 BABIP were not enough to offset his gargantuan 37.8% strikeout rate. That’s now two years in a row with a K% over 36 percent, which is just plain terrible. Broxton just doesn’t make enough contact, and if the Brewers spell him regularly due to his strikeout-prone ways he may not have enough opportunity to crack the 20/20 club in 2018. There’s a chance Broxton is on the move to San Francisco, though, which might mean more at-bats open up for him. But could you live with that batting average? That is the question you will need to ask yourself ahead of draft time.

Here are the guys who were either close to 20/20 in a full season or notable given missed opportunity due to lack of playing time/injury/suspension.

Close in 2017

NAME HR SB AB
NAME HR SB AB
Whit Merrifield 19 34 587
Byron Buxton 16 29 462
A.J. Pollock 14 20 425
Paul Goldschmidt 36 18 558
Michael Taylor 19 17 399
Kevin Kiermaier 15 16 380
Christian Yelich 18 16 602
Starling Marte 7 21 309

I refrained from including Jose Reyes and Lorenzo Cain. Neither is a major threat for a 20-homer season, hence the omission. Both are over 30 years old, too—which is significant when looking at last year’s sampling.

It surprised me that Michael Taylor is already 26 and will turn 27 in March. With blue-chipper Victor Robles set to take over center field for Washington as early as 2018, Taylor had best start out hot in 2018. Like Pham, his stellar defense will help him remain on the field—at least until the Super-Two cutoff arrives (and with it, perhaps Robles).

Pollock is an age thing (30 already) and is oft-injured, while Goldschmidt doesn’t really need to run. Merrifield and Yelich each had ample opportunity last season and couldn’t reach the 20-homer plateau. Starling Marte missed 80 games due to PEDs in 2017, but at only 29 years of age I think he should be expected to return to some semblance of form. All things considered, Byron Buxton is the most interesting name on this list.

First off, Buxton is another strong defensive player, the best in the game, actually. Apparently having speed can aid in defense, eh? Anyway, the fear with Buxton is injury. He plays with a recklessness that can result in cracked ribs or back injuries from crashing into the outfield wall and whatnot. If he stays healthy, though...

With the bat, 2017 was a tale of two halves. Buxton had and anemic .216/.288/.306 slash in the first half, but mustered a .300/.347/.546 line in the second half. He also trimmed his large strikeout rate by about three percent (from 30.7% to 27.6%) and made far more hard contact (25.3% in the first half and 30.2% in the second). His second half BABIP of .378 is unsustainable, but the basic numbers show that he just plain started hitting the ball harder. And guys that have speed will often have inflated BABIPs, so that part isn’t a major concern for me. He’ll come down from .378, but having a number well over .300 won’t surprise me.

I don’t think it is outside the realm of possibility that Buxton makes a big splash in 2018. He is still only 23 years old and finished as the 94th overall player in the fake game last year. He only scored 69 runs, a by-product of logging almost a third of his at-bats from the #9 position in the batting order. As the season went on though, he methodically moved his way up in the lineup. If Buxton had batted .250 over the course of an entire season last year, I think people would be falling over themselves to acquire his services in 2018. As is, we all have a bit of a smokescreen. Count me among those who will be paying up to find out if Buxton can continue to grow in 2018. I am a sucker for the toolsy guys. Give me all the Buxton.