Back in early 2018, everyone was talking about a young, talented outfielder in the Washington farm system who was on the verge of becoming a superstar at the MLB level. He became a solid sleeper pick in many a fantasy draft and it seemed like only a matter of time before he would be paying huge dividends at the big league level. Unfortunately, Victor Robles ended up suffering a severe elbow injury at Triple-A and any realistic chance at 2018 fantasy value went by the wayside.
Meanwhile, 19-year-old Juan Soto spent his spring rising through several levels of minor league ball and up to Double-A, getting the call when the Nationals needed some assistance in the wake of multiple outfielders succumbing to wear and tear. Had any fantasy managers showed the foresight to select the youngster in the first few rounds of their 2018 drafts, they would likely have been met with resounding laughter. However, they also would have been rewarded with a .292 batting average, 22 HRs and 70 RBIs in 116 games during a season when few believed Soto would get even as high as Harrisburg. In 2019, he followed up his strong start with 150 games played, 34 HRs and 110 runs scored and RBIs.
Robles -- who did manage to make it back on the field for a nondescript September cup of coffee in 2018 -- was also a Washington lineup mainstay in 2019. However, his .255 batting average, 17 HRs and 65 RBIs simply didn't shine as brightly as Soto's season, even though Robles did add 28 steals to the mix (compared to just a dozen from Soto).
That's the thing about dynasty leagues. We all know that a large number of "can't-miss phenoms" ultimately can and do miss to varying levels of disappointment. While far from a bust, Robles is likely to be drafted only around pick 75 this season, while Soto is a clear first-rounder in startup dynasty campaigns.
That's the trick behind winning in dynasty leagues. You can't focus only on building for tomorrow, because doing so almost guarantees you're definitely not going to win today. However, if you can manage to select that rare player who has yet to make a huge name for himself but is on the verge of becoming a perennial top-10 fantasy factor -- and if you can select him before your fellow managers have even begun considering him as an option -- then you've pulled off an amazing coup.
There are plenty of hitters in their age-25 season or younger of note in 2020 fantasy drafts, including the likes of Cody Bellinger, Ozzie Albies, Keston Hiura, Fernando Tatis Jr., Rafael Devers, Ronald Acuna Jr. and our good friend Juan Soto. Every single one of these players is likely to be off the board by the time Round 5 is over in your 12-team league -- and with good reason.
For me, though, there are three players currently sporting an ADP closer to Rounds 8-12, who, if you're willing to face a little bit of potential ridicule, could well put you in the driver's seat for years to come if you decide to grab them toward the tail end of the first 60 selections off the board. Could one member of this trio become the next Juan Soto? Even if none of them does and they all simply end up being the next Victor Robles, you'll probably be just fine. Let them laugh!
Cavan Biggio, 2B, Toronto Blue Jays: An awful lot of attention landed in Canada last season as a trio of youngsters with major league pedigrees landed in the Toronto lineup over the course of the season. Much of the fantasy world was drooling at the arrival of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and, to a somewhat lesser degree, Bo Bichette. Yet, when all is said and done -- especially in a 2B field that seems a bit sparse right now -- Biggio might well have the greatest fantasy impact of the three.
In just 100 games, it was Biggio who displayed the most power (16 HRs, one more than Guerrero), as well as the most speed (14 SBs, 27.5% of the Blue Jays' team total) of the new arrivals. Sure, the batting average (.234) looks a bit scary, but that could merely be an artifact of an expected adjustment to the majors. After all, that .300/.424/.563 in 22 September games is definitely proof that there's a very high ceiling in place here.
Luis Robert, OF, Chicago White Sox: Service time issues are not going to be what holds Robert back in Chicago, as the team signed the 22-year-old to a $50 million, six-year contract extension in January. That guaranteed rate of pay should make sure that Robert will be an every-day fixture for the White Sox, starting with Opening Day, without any "keeping him in the minors" shenanigans entering the equation.
As for what the Cuban import has done in the minors? Last season, he started in the Carolina League and rose all the way to Triple-A, combining for a .328 BA, 32 HRs, 92 RBIs and 36 SBs across all those levels. The best news is that, even with lofty expectations, he'll be in a lineup that also has Jose Abreu, Yasmani Grandal, Edwin Encarnacion and Eloy Jimenez. He could hit 30 HRs and still be fifth on the White Sox. As such, there's not nearly as much pressure on Robert to carry his team, as is often the case with newcomers as highly touted as he is.
Mike Soroka, SP, Atlanta Braves: When you look to starting pitchers in fantasy, it's natural for your attention to turn to the dominant strikeout artists, especially since those punch-outs account for 25% of a SP's value in many rotisserie formats. So, I get why a lot of people might take one look at Soroka's 7.32 K/9 rate from last season and roll their eyes when I suggest he can be a top-10 starter in 2020.
That said, Soroka's 2.68 ERA was fueled by his ability to keep the ball on the ground (51.2% GB rate, sixth highest in baseball among qualified pitchers) and in the park on those occasions when sluggers sent those pitches skyward (11.1% HR/FB, tied for ninth lowest).
He's only 22 and plans to improve his fastball so that his sinker and changeup will become even more impactful. Even if that translates to only an extra strikeout per outing, how far off from Clayton Kershaw's final numbers (given his injury risk) will Soroka be? I'd argue it's not much.