2020 Fantasy Baseball Rankings Analysis 161-170: 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. 161 through 170 here, where you’ll probably want to grab a reliever or two. 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 | 151-160 | 161-170 | 171-180 | 181-190 | 191-200

The Case For/The Case Against

No. 161-170

The Case For: Though it didn’t get a lot of fanfare, the Athletics made Canha an everyday player in late June last year, and he responded by hitting .295 with 16 homers and a .936 OPS from that point forward. A conscious decision to lay off pitches away meant more swings in his wheelhouse and more walks overall, resulting in the sort on-base percentage (.396) that itself is enough to keep him in the lineup. Add the power, and that’s Kris Bryant-level production, basically. Canha’s numbers were actually better against righties than lefties, too, which would seem to put to end any platoon talk. 

The Case Against: It boils down to two issues for Canha: job security and believability. Yes, his performance last year was enough to compel the Athletics to keep playing him every day, but they do have outfield alternatives and may be more willing to experiment at the start of a new season. If he doesn’t make good on whatever playing time he gets out of the gate, a 30-something with a history as a platoon bat could become an afterthought on a team that isn’t shy about giving minor-league upstarts chances. -Scott White

The Case For: While he wasn’t quite as prolific on the base paths as in the minors, Merado proved to be a competent enough base-stealer during his time manning center field for the big club, and since he wasn’t a total dud with the bat, that’s all it took to endear himself to Fantasy players. He doesn’t strike out much, which would suggest there’s room for the batting average to improve, which means he has the makings for five-category production. He was on what would have been a 20-20 pace over 160 games. 

The Case Against: Mercado is like Victor Robles in one particular way: Even though he delivered a respectable home run total, his quality of contact was quite poor. The difference, of course, is that Robles comes with a top prospect pedigree and the presumption of upside. While Mercado’s actual slugging percentage was .443, his xSLG was only .403, and for all of the contact he made, his xBA was only .262. The bat is playable perhaps, but he’ll make his bones as a speedster. Any letup there will make for an especially disappointing return. -Scott White

The Case For: Even though he was considered the key piece in the Yu Darvish trade with the Dodgers a couple years ago, Calhoun was looking like his entire career might pass him by because of a poor defensive profile. But when the Rangers finally turned over everyday duty to him for the final two months of 2019, it was exactly the sort of production everyone hoped for. He’s sort of like the Mike Moustakas of outfielders, his low strikeout rate keeping his batting average respectable while his extreme fly-ball tendencies yield a big home run total.      

The Case Against: Calhoun’s offensive profile seems fairly safe, but is it impactful enough to excuse poor defensive play? While his future may be at DH, Shin-Soo Choo is currently occupying that spot and, for now at least, is healthy. Calhoun, meanwhile, fractured his jaw in spring training — an injury that required surgery — and while the delayed start to the season presumably gives him enough time to recover, there could be some bumps along the way. -Scott White

The Case For: Not everyone can be an immediate success, but Hampson showed enough growth late in the season to get excited about his prospects for 2020. He stumbled through most of the season, dealing with an inconsistent role, but broke out in September, hitting .318/.368/.534 with five homers and seven nine steals. I wouldn’t expect the power to continue into 2020 — though his breakout did coincide with a swing change that saw Hampson ditch the leg kick in his set up, so I don’t want to discount the possibility entirely. Still, if he can just be competent with the bat and earn an everyday job, Hampson is going to be a huge value in Roto leagues for the stolen bases alone.       

The Case Against: You want to take September stats with a gigantic grain of salt, given extended rosters and the presence of players who otherwise wouldn’t be in the majors. Did Hampson’s swing adjustment really help him break out, or was he feasting on inferior competition? In Hampson’s case, he also struggled mightily at Triple-A and struck out in 27.7% of his plate appearances between both levels, a terrifying sign for someone without a ton of pop. Coors Field can help cover up for a lot of flaws, but it’s an open question as to whether he’ll be able to hit enough to earn an everyday job in a somewhat crowded field in Colorado. –Chris Towers

The Case For: How important are stolen bases for Fantasy these days? Despite a disastrous season that saw him hit .228 and earn a trip back to the minors, Mallex Smith still finished as a top-150 player in Roto leagues in 2019. Leading the majors in the scarcest category in Fantasy will do that, it turns out. 2019 is probably his realistic floor, and he’d still be a value at his cost.       

The Case Against: Smith earned every bit of his awful 2019 batting line; this wasn’t just bad luck. He had a .219 expected batting average, and while he should be expected outperform his xBA thanks to his speed, that’s still a pretty putrid floor. If Smith doesn’t bounce back to being at least a .270 hitter, he may not do enough to justify an everyday job, even on a mediocre Mariners team. It could end up being a wasted pick. –Chris Towers

The Case For: Given the demand for stolen bases in traditional 5×5 leagues, Scott Kingery is almost a dream come true at his going rate. A surefire 20-steal guy who also hits home runs and is eligible at third base and the outfield? Gimme, gimme. Second base is coming, too, in all likelihood. But what makes me so sure he’ll reach that 20-steal threshold if he fell short last year? Well, he also got only 500 plate appearances, but with Maikel Franco and Cesar Hernandez both now out of the picture, a starting job (again, most likely at second) is his for the taking.

The Case Against: We may be just a little too sanguine about Kingery’s actual skill level. Yes, he did put together a 20-20 season in his final year in the minors, earning him a long-term contract and some amount of prospect hype, so it’s not like his 2019 came out of nowhere. But he doesn’t hit the ball especially hard and struck out at a nearly 30 percent clip. His .258 batting average is unimpressive to begin with, and yet the data suggests it should have been even lower. He outperformed all of his expected stats, as a matter of fact. If not for the inflated value of stolen bases, Kingery would be small potatoes in Fantasy, and points-league owners are justified in treating him as such. –Scott White

The Case For: There aren’t many players in baseball who hit the ball harder than Reyes, even in an era where seemingly everyone can hit 425-foot homers. He ranked in the 99th percentile in average exit velocity and the 98th percentile in hard-hit rate, per Statcast data, and was in the 78th percentile in expected wOBA on contact. The 28.5% strikeout rate is a little alarming, but he more than makes up for that when he does make contact, to the point where he was probably a bit unlucky to hit under .250. With a bit better luck — not having to switch leagues mid-season should help, too — Reyes could have yet another breakout season under his belt.     

The Case Against: While it’s not a Joey Gallo-esque strikeout rate, it does put a ceiling on how helpful Reyes can be in average. And, since he doesn’t run, you’re basically looking at a power-only profile, potentially. That puts a lot of pressure on the bat to play up, in an era where power is easier to find than ever. –Chris Towers

The Case For: Senzel didn’t light the world on fire in his rookie season, but you don’t have to squint too hard to see how his profile could be Fantasy viable — pro-rated to 600 plate appearances, he was on pace for 17 homers and 20 steals, something only 11 players did in 2019. He’ll need to hit for more contact to make that profile play up, but it’s a pretty great starting point.      

The Case Against: Senzel missed most of September with a torn labrum, and it still isn’t clear if he’ll be ready for opening day after undergoing surgery. That’s a tough injury to come back from even if you’re an established major-leaguer, but it makes someone like Senzel a huge risk. The Reds brought in two outfielders in Nick Castellanos and Shogo Akiyama this offseason, so it’s not even clear if Senzel would have an everyday job even if he were healthy come opening day. –Chris Towers

The Case For: In what amounted to a little more than half a season, Gurriel put up numbers befitting a premier slugger, hitting a bunch of fly balls with above-average exit velocity for a big home run total. It was enough to ensure him a regular spot in the Blue Jays lineup (where he should be right at home alongside upstarts like Vladimir Guerrero, Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio) even though his final two months were basically wrecked by injuries.      

The Case Against: Gurriel got insanely hot for about a five-week stretch when he returned from the minors in late May, batting .352 (44 for 125) with 15 homers and a 1.156 OPS. His numbers in his other 189 at-bats were pedestrian, and while the injuries might explain some of it, they don’t explain all of it. He’s an undisciplined hitter with some vulnerability to strikeouts, and because he sells out so hard for power, with so few of his elevated balls manifesting as line drives, he projects for a low BABIP. Batting average could be a problem for him, and he doesn’t have the on-base skills to make up for it. Will the power he provides be enough to justify the downside in a power-saturated environment? -Scott White

The Case For: With Carlos Martinez moving back to the rotation, Gallegos seems like he could be the Cardinals’ closer in 2020, and that’s exciting stuff. He doesn’t throw incredibly hard, but Gallegos gets the most out of his arsenal with an elite spin rate on the fastball and an unhittable slider. He doesn’t have a long track record, but Gallegos sure looked the part of a dominant closer in 2019.

The Case Against: The Cardinals have some other options for the ninth, most notably Andrew Miller, who is known to vulture saves from time to time. Jordan Hicks should also be back sometime in the summer, so if Gallegos stumbles, there may not be a ton of job security. –Chris Towers

So which sleepers should you snatch in your draft? And which undervalued first baseman can help you win a championship? Visit SportsLine now to get rankings for every single position, all from the model that called Kenta Maeda’s huge breakout last season, and find out.

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