2020 Fantasy Baseball Rankings Analysis 111-120: The case for and against Draft Day targets

The 2020 Fantasy baseball draft prep season is here, and this year’s player pool might take some getting used to. Starting pitchers are going earlier than ever in early drafts, and stolen bases are more valuable than ever, which means if you haven’t been paying attention, you could be surprised by how drafts are unfolding right now.

We’re here to help you get acclimated. We’ve got our position previews and tiers elsewhere, but if you really want to start your Fantasy baseball prep right, this is the place to begin: With our breakdown of the top-200 players for 2020, based on CBS Fantasy baseball expert Scott White’s rankings. Scott White and Chris Towers have broken down every player in the list, giving you the case for drafting them and the case against, so you can make up your own mind on whether you want them on your team.

We’re going through No. 111 through 120 here, beginning with a classic closer on top. And you can find the rest right here: 1-10 | 11-20 | 21-30 | 31-40 | 41-50 | 51-60 | 61-70 | 71-80 | 81-90 | 91-100 | 101-110 | 111-120 | 121-130 | 131-140 | 141-150

The Case For/The Case Against

No. 111-120

The Case For: You don’t love the batting average, but Hoskins had been plenty productive in his career before 2019. Even if you take his whole career including 2019, his 162-game average has seen him hit 36 homers, score 95 runs and drive in 102. He’s still mostly just been a three-category contributor, but if he tightens up his launch angle, it’s possible Hoskins could be more like a .260 hitter.

The Case Against: There’s not much evidence to suggest better days are coming for Hoskins, unfortunately, apart from some work done to change his stance in the offseason. Based on Statcast batted-ball metrics, he might have been lucky to have as good a season as he did in 2019 — his expected batting average was .221 while his expected slugging percentage was .426, both below his already disappointing actual numbers. Hoskins’ swing was a mess last season, and there’s no telling if this offseason’s mechanical adjustments will be enough to turn it around. -Chris Towers

The Case For: Let’s take a moment here to fully appreciate what Escobar accomplished last year. His 35 home runs were tied for 23rd in the majors, up there with Bryce Harper and Trevor Story. His 118 RBI were tied with Nolan Arenado for fifth. He was the No. 4 player at second base – with only curious cases like Jonathan Villar, Ketel Marte and DJ LeMahieu ahead of him — and No.7 at the deepest position of all, third base. So why is he the one being sold at a discount, going right around 100th overall?      

The Case Against: What he did, all of it, was pretty fishy. The most obvious is that the sort of RBI total he delivered is normally reserved for some of the best all-around hitters in the game, but beyond that, dude makes some weak contact. He had a hard-hit rate like Daniel Descalso. He had an xwOBA like Marwin Gonzalez. He has proven twice over now that he’s more than just the utility infielder those two are, but his production in 2018, when he hit 23 homers with 84 RBI, is more in tune with reality. Besides, if you want proven 35-homer guy who won’t kill you in batting average and plays second base, you can take Mike Moustakas a few picks earlier. -Scott White

The Case For: After another season with a full-time closing gig, Hand now has an established track record in the role. He wasn’t able to deliver a third straight season with 100 strikeouts because of a bout with arm fatigue in the second half, but his 13.3 K/9 was in line with the previous two seasons and obviously speaks to his effectiveness. At a tumultuous time for an ever-tumultuous role, Hand would appear to be one of the more bankable options.

The Case Against: A glance at his final numbers the past three years would indeed suggest Hand is bankable, but he was anything but while pitching through those arm issues in the second half, putting together a 6.08 ERA in 14 appearances over the final two months. It’s led some to question his hold on the closer role. Even if Hand bounces back as hoped, the Indians’ willingness to deal off expiring contracts even while in contention (see Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber) could mean he’s traded out of the closer role at some point. -Scott White

The Case For: Paxton’s first year in Yankee Stadium didn’t go as planned, but there’s still a lot to like about him, especially now that his price has gone down. He’s an elite strikeout pitcher with the stuff to back it up, but his control regressed, and he was hurt by the longball in 2019. However, if the walk rate goes back down to pre-2019 levels, there’s still the potential for a low 3.00s ERA with tons of strikeouts. Paxton could give you Patrick Corbin production at a significant discount.

The Case Against: There is, of course, a reason Paxton is available for a discount. Well, two. For one, he just hasn’t been that good the last two seasons, and while you could have written it off as bad luck in 2018, his peripherals indicate he deserved every bit of his high-3.00s ERA last season. More worryingly for Fantasy players, however, is the significant injury history, including the surgery to remove a cyst in his back that Paxton underwent the week before pitchers and catchers reported. Paxton hasn’t thrown more than 171.2 innings in any season as a professional and hasn’t topped 160.1 since 201. Maybe the delayed start to the season will ensure he’s available opening day, but he should still come at a discount just because of the risk. -Chris Towers

The Case For: Conforto gets on base a bunch and hits for power, and he does it all in a pretty good lineup. He’s not a superstar, but he’s a reliable source of 30 homers, and there might still be potential for a random year when he hits .290 and is an MVP candidate.

The Case Against: Conforto doesn’t really stand out anywhere. He might have an outlier year where the average is higher, but your expectation should be that he hits in the mid-.200s, with the potential for a season where he also hits .230 or .240. A .260 hitter with 30-ish homers just isn’t that hard to find, and you’re passing on players with more potential at this spot in the draft. He also suffered an oblique strain this spring that, while mild, could impact his readiness for opening day (whenever, of course, that is). –Chris Towers

The Case For: As long as you keep expectations in check, Wheeler is a solid mid-rotation Fantasy arm. He’ll probably give you a mid-to-high 3.00s ERA and a strikeout per inning, and hopefully the Phillies will provide a bit better defense than he got with the Mets. Since coming back from Tommy John surgery, he has thrown at least 182 innings and 29 starts in consecutive seasons, so hopefully you can just plug him into your lineup and forget about it.      

The Case Against: Someone in your league probably sees more upside in Wheeler than that, which means you’ll have to reach for him if you want him. For the second year in row, Wheeler significantly lowered his ERA in 2019, and that could lead some to believe there’s another level yet to reach. But it’s worth noting his strikeout rate actually went down significantly despite that apparent improvement, while his WHIP barely budged — which doesn’t suggest much of a skill change involved. I just don’t see the upside here. –Chris Towers

The Case For: Putting together his first healthy season in five years, Ryu led the majors with a 2.32 ERA, and if you add his 15 starts from 2018, he has a 2.21 ERA over his past 44 starts. Granted, what he did in the second half, putting together a 3.18 ERA and 1.15 WHIP, is more in line with his FIP and xFIP and perhaps a more realistic expectation for a full season, but … it’s still pretty good. He may not measure up to the aces in terms of strikeout ability, but he dominates in other ways, ranking second among qualifiers in walk rate and ninth in ground-ball rate.      

The Case Against: Did I mention 2019 was his first healthy season in five years? Yeah, he’ll be 33 this year, so maybe we shouldn’t be penciling him in for 30 or even 25 starts. He’ll also be pitching for the Blue Jays now, which should make the wins much harder to come by, and wins remain the most valuable stat for a starting pitcher even though they’re difficult to predict. Though his impact could be significant for a pitcher drafted in his range, Ryu just isn’t someone you can rely on. -Scott White

The Case For: Bumgarner showed signs of slowing his decline in 2019, which should bode well for his chances of aging well. After two injury-plagued seasons, he was back to being a workhorse and saw his strikeout rate improve to its best mark since 2016. He actually posted the second-best swinging-strike rate of his career and saw his average fastball velocity return to pre-injury levels. Bumgarner is no longer an ace, but he’s not washed up, and a better supporting cast in Arizona could lead to much better things.      

The Case Against: It’s not surprise that Bumgarner has pitched better in his career at home than on the road, but the splits are especially alarming in recent years — a 5.29 ERA in 2019 on the road, and a 4.97 mark in 2018. Chase Field is no longer the hitter’s paradise it was before the installation of the humidor, but it’s no Oracle Park, still arguably the best place to pitch in baseball. That could have been papering over his true level of regression, and it might mean Bumgarner isn’t even worth starting in 2020. –Chris Towers

The Case For: If you like catchers who can hit — and who doesn’t? — Smith immediately established himself as such upon taking over as the Dodgers’ backstop in late July, homering nine times in 19 games. Even though he slumped over the final six weeks, he still trailed only Mitch Garver in slugging and ISO, not to mention Head-to-Head points per game. It didn’t come out of nowhere either. Smith had a huge breakthrough at Triple-A, homering 20 times in 224 at-bats while vastly improving his walk and strikeout rates.     

The Case Against: Once he reached the majors, though, Smith’s walk and strikeout rates were back to normal, so there may not have been a substantive change there. Neither rate is so bad as it is, but Smith’s launch angle is so extreme, with him selling out so hard for home runs, that he’s already destined for a low BABIP. Maintaining a respectable batting average, then, may be a problem, as it was with his typical strikeout rate in the minors. So while his season-ending slump doesn’t negate what he accomplished as a power hitter, there may have been more correction still to come. -Scott White

The Case For: What he did in 15 major-league starts wasn’t enough for you, even with the numbers being split almost evenly between the Marlins and Diamondbacks? Well, what if I told you Gallen also had a 1.77 ERA, 0.71 WHIP and 11.0 K/9 in 14 starts for Triple-A New Orleans of the PCL, a league where the average ERA was 5.48? What he did in the majors he did with 4.1 BB/9 compared to 1.7 during that stint at New Orleans. Control was supposed to be his greatest asset, so it should come with more experience. Imagine then how good Gallen will be.

The Case Against: Well, what if it doesn’t come? Luis Castillo threw a ton of strikes in the minors but still hasn’t quite landed that plane in the majors. Is Gallen still going to be a standout without it? And did he have good home run luck in 2019? His 4.15 xFIP doesn’t exactly jibe with his 2.81 ERA. Are we getting ahead of ourselves by drafting him ahead of more established options like Kyle Hendricks and David Price? It’s dangerous, after all, to assume pitcher development in today’s innings-counting, home run-ambushing environment. -Scott White

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