Playoff Tax Candidates: National League

The fantasy community gets a little bit of a breather during the playoffs. Unless you’re one of those playing a postseason contest, this is the first baseball you can just sit back and watch in quite a while. Of course, we’re always analyzing and assessing players. Every October there is a player or a few players who do so well in the playoffs that they push their draft price up for the following spring.

Walker Buehler was the standout Playoff Tax player last year and it wasn’t even all success driven. His response to a second inning blowup in Game 3 of the LDS was really impressive. He followed it up with three perfect innings, highlighting the kind of talent and mettle in the 23-year old righty. He then put up a 2.41 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 22 Ks and 1 BB in his remaining three playoff starts (18.7 IP). He was already going to be sought after in drafts, but by the end of the 2018 postseason, he ascended into the top 12-15 of starters after closing the regular season around 20th. He wasn’t the only one to go off in the playoffs and increase his draft cost, but he was the most notable.

Here is a candidate from each NL playoff team (AL tomorrow) who could greatly improve their draft cost with a big October.

Milwaukee Brewers: Brandon Woodruff

His regular season has already increased his cost from 2019 as he posted a 3.62 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 121.7 IP, but he was cut short by injury and missed essentially the final two months save a pair of 2-inning opens. He actually went off in last year’s postseason (1.46 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 20 Ks in 12.3 IP) so this would be back-to-back big Octobers if he succeeds again. A wildcard and subsequent strong performance in the LDS (and beyond?) will bring Woodruff’s price where it belongs based on his regular season. He went as the 35th SP in the Too Early Mocks, but he could push into the top 30 with 3-4 starts of excellence.

Washington Nationals: Victor Robles

Robles only had a 91 wRC+ on the season, but he’s a prime example of where fantasy and real life can diverge because he had an excellent fantasy season thanks to 17 HR and 28 SB. He already went as the 68th player in the Too Early Mocks so it might not feel like he can much higher and yet if the Nats go for a while and he hits .290 with 3 HR and 5 SB, he’ll be a top 50 pick by March with ease.

Atlanta Braves: Max Fried

The 25-year old lefty is coming off a strong 17-win season (and I mention that because it still plays in fantasy and drove his value up as the ratios lagged a bit at 4.03 ERA and 1.33 WHIP) but might not start in the playoffs. He could be their go-to multi-inning lefty out of the bullpen and maybe mix in a start or two depending how far they go. If he dominates, he could be this year’s Nathan Eovaldi.

Eovaldi posted a 1.61 ERA and 0.81 WHIP in 22.3 IP split between the rotation and bullpen for the Red Sox in their World Series run and eventually re-signed with the club later that winter. He has more injury baggage than Fried so his ascent up the draft board only landed him around pick 170 while Fried is already trending around 140. However, a strikeout-laden big performance in October could see Fried leapfrog 30-40 spots and land him right near another guy I considered for this spot, Mike Soroka (30th SP, 110th pick).

St. Louis Cardinals: Tommy Edman

I’m cheating a little here as I already believe Edman’s 389 TEM price will soar over the winter as everyone dives in and realizes what he did down the stretch, but success on the biggest stage could accelerate that jump. The 24-year old super utilityman hit .304/.350/.500 with 11 HR and 15 SB in just 349 PA for the Cards.

He’ll qualify at 2B and 3B in all leagues and add OF in leagues that require just 10 games for eligibility. If he’s regularly on base wreaking havoc with his speed (15th in Sprint Speed, min. 100 chances) and scoring tons of runs for two rounds of playoffs, his price could jump 150+ picks in the winter. Cavan Biggio went 229th on average in the TEMs, there’s no reason for Edman to go 160 picks later.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Will Smith

Smith lit the league up for the first month-plus of his career, toting a .292/.364/.708 line with 13 HR, 34 RBI, and 22 R in 129 PA through August 31st. There was some chatter that he should be behind only J.T. Realmuto and Gary Sánchez among catchers for 2020, but then he absolutely fell apart in September and tanked his value. He hit .175/.284/.298 with 2 HR and 17 K in his final 67 PA (17 games) and cooled the excitement for him in 2020.

He still wound up as the 6th catcher off the board in the one-catcher TEMs, going around pick 218. Smith probably can’t do enough in October to jump into the top four (Realmuto, Sanchez, Willson Contreras, and Yasmani Grandal), but only 31 picks separated him and Mitch Garver in the mocks. He could definitely close that gap and possibly usurp Garver if the performance is shiny enough. Of course Garver himself is in the playoffs and could stave Smith off with his own performance.

We hoped you liked reading Playoff Tax Candidates: National League by Paul Sporer!

Please support FanGraphs by becoming a member. We publish thousands of articles a year, host multiple podcasts, and have an ever growing database of baseball stats.

FanGraphs does not have a paywall. With your membership, we can continue to offer the content you've come to rely on and add to our unique baseball coverage.

Support FanGraphs

Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

newest oldest most voted

What about Brent Suter from Milwaukee?


Good pitcher, but unless he ends up a closer or a starter it’s hard to imagine he’ll be worth much in most fantasy leagues no matter how well he performs. But sure, if he pulls off a 12k/9 for the playoffs he’s got a chance to enter the “elite non-closing relievers” tier