2020 Fantasy Baseball Rankings Analysis 171-180: 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. 171 through 180 here, with some interesting question marks on the list. 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. 171-180

The Case For: Blocked seemingly forevermore by Yadier Molina in St. Louis, Kelly got a second life with the Diamondbacks and made good on it after some early-season jockeying for at-bats. If you take his numbers just from his starts, which is how the Diamondbacks will utilize him from the get-go this year, he would have had the seventh-most Head-to-Head points per game at the position last year, behind the obvious six (Mitch Garver, Will Smith, Gary Sanchez, J.T. Realmuto, Willson Contreras and Yasmani Grandal). He should be one of safest bets for 20-plus homers at a thin position, with his high walk rate helping to distinguish him further.      

The Case Against: Kelly hit just .207 with a .746 OPS in the second half, when he was getting his most extensive playing time. The BABIP was low, but he was hitting more fly balls and going to the opposite field less, possibly becoming too home run-conscious. Or maybe he’s just that bad against right-handed pitchers, against whom he hit only .203 with a .708 OPS for all of 2019. With the left-handed-hitting Stephen Vogt on the roster, maybe Kelly’s playing time isn’t so safe after all. -Scott White

The Case For: Splitting the year between the Mariners and Yankees, Encarnacion continued to perform much like in his previous two stops, delivering an eighth straight season with at least 30 home runs. And now he’s headed to the White Sox,where he’ll play in another hitter-friendly venue while filling a full-time DH role. The amount he’s being downgraded in Fantasy doesn’t quite match up with his rate of decline, particularly in formats like Head-to-Head points that reward his ability to take a walk.      

The Case Against: While he has continued to hit home runs at a respectable rate, Encarnacion’s supporting numbers have been slipping. He strikes out more these days and has almost entirely stopped collecting extra-base hits that aren’t home runs. In fact, his fly-ball tendencies became so extreme last year that he wound up with only a .239 BABIP. It’s not a problem if he continues to homer at the same pace, but now at age 37, nothing is a given for him — not even the good health he has enjoyed for much of his career. -Scott White

The Case For: Progress is rarely as linear as we would like it to be, and Mancini is a good example. He enjoyed a solid rookie season in 2017, and then bounced back from a disastrous 2018 with a breakout season in 2019. The industry as a whole doesn’t seem quite sold on Mancini, but he’s been good in two of his three years, with underlying batted-ball data to back his 2019 breakout up — and a great home park to boot.       

The Case Against: The biggest issue for Mancini is the health scare that befell him this spring and the uncertain timetable surrounding it. He had surgery to remove a malignant tumor from his colon, and there’s no word yet when he’s expected to return to the diamond. –Chris Towers

The Case For: One of the few bright spots on a 69-win Pirates team, Reynolds proved to be a quality hitter as a rookie last year. The profile is like something from another time, emphasizing line drives to all fields rather than elevating the ball over the fence, but the quality of contact is high enough that he wasn’t a zero for power last year. His batting average will be what carries him, though, and to that end, his .296 xBA was the 17th-highest in baseball, suggesting that the bloated BABIP he delivered last year may not have been the fluke we’d normally presume it to be.     

The Case Against: But it was a little bit of a fluke, right? Reynolds’ .314 batting average was still a long way from that .296 xBA, and as such, his .290 batting average in the second half (when his BABIP was a still-high .354, mind you) may be the more realistic expectation going forward. Even that sort of batting average isn’t so easily dismissed, of course — especially in the range where Reynolds tends to be drafted — but since he’s of no help in steals, he’ll need to pick up the power production to avoid becoming sort of a rich man’s Nick Markakis. -Scott White

The Case For: Maybe it’s because he arrived to so much hype or because the Dodgers never seemed fully invested in him, but Puig has gotten kind of a bad rap in Fantasy. He fell just shy of a 20-20 season last year, delivering adequate numbers in all five categories, and has had no fewer than 23 homers or 15 steals in any of the past three seasons. It may seem like modest steals production, but to get it in the middle rounds from a guy who won’t kill you in anything is rare.      

The Case Against: But first, Puig has to, you know, have a team, and the fact he still hasn’t found one is itself incriminating. He was traded twice in 2019 and has gotten no traction in what’s now a fully realized free agent market. His presence in the clubhouse hasn’t always gotten positive reviews, and it’s possible a number of teams have decided the juice isn’t worth the squeeze. By the time he finally does find a team, will there still be a path to everyday at-bats available? Stay tuned. -Scott White

The Case For: Garcia seems like the perfect sort of candidate to seize upon the star-making ability of Miller Park — an especially hitter-friendly venue that has had a transformative effect on players like Jesus Aguilar, Domingo Santana, Travis Shaw and, yes, Christian Yelich in recent years. Garcia makes quality contact, and while he still puts the ball on the ground more often than ideal, he has done a better job of elevating the past couple years. If you overlay his 2019 spray chart on the dimensions of Miller Park, it suggests a career high in home runs may be in store for a player who already profiles for a good batting average.

The Case Against: The home run boost is of course purely theoretical for a player who has long failed to measure up in that area, his modest total last year representing a career high. And since his on-base skills also leave something to be desired, it wouldn’t take much for him to slip out of Fantasy relevance altogether. Add a questionable playing time situation in which Garcia’s at-bats are mostly tied to how comfortable Ryan Braun is at first base and the 28-year-old has several possible pitfalls in a season when we’re already asking him to do more than ever. -Scott White

The Case For: Staying healthy for a full year after contending with some serious leg issues, Eaton basically picked up where he left off as a hitter, which was a pleasant surprise given how injuries robbed him of his prime. He showed good plate discipline still, making him an excellent source of runs batting first or second for the Nationals, and he didn’t show any reluctance on the base paths, putting together his first 15-15 season. You won’t find too many players making those kinds of steals and runs contributions so late in the draft.      

The Case Against: What’s a 15-15 season worth in today’s landscape, really? Brett Gardner had 28 homers and 10 steals last season, and nobody wants anything to do with him. Sure, Eaton is five years younger and maybe has a firmer hold on a starting job, but it feels like he’s older given that he lost 2017 to a torn ACL and most of 2018 to a severe bone bruise on his ankle. A healthy season relieves some of those concerns, sure, but given that he’s a middling option even at his best, nobody will be terribly excited to draft him, even late. -Scott White

The Case For: Catchers who can hit are a rare breed, but Ramos has a pretty lengthy track record of doing just that. His batted-ball profile doesn’t allow for a big home run total, which places him firmly behind the elites at the position, but it’s also low-risk. He impacts the ball well and doesn’t strike out much. You can wait until late to grab him in a one-catcher league and likely won’t be greatly disadvantaged in doing so.      

The Case Against: It may be a stretch to call a 32-year-old catcher with an ACL repair in his history “low-risk,” and there are concerns for Ramos even beyond durability. Though he was never one to elevate the ball, his ground-ball tendencies took a turn for the extreme last year. Not only did his 62.4 percent rate lead the league, but No. 2 was only 56.0 percent. He did try to make some swing changes this offseason to account for the problem, but it remains to be seen how they’ll translate to game action. So many grounders for someone not so fleet of foot could spell trouble moving forward, especially if it further erodes his already modest home run potential. -Scott White

The Case For: Rebounding from an injury-plagued 2018, Stroman showed that his pitch-to-contact approach can still be effective at a time when contact is more dangerous than ever, pulling his ERA back into the low threes. And calling it pitch-to-contact approach might be disingenuous anyway. He introduced some variety to his arsenal in 2019, trading off some sinkers for more cutters, and it made him a little more of a bat-misser while also inducing more weak contact. Now, he’ll get a full season outside of the AL East, where he should find the opposing lineups more palatable.      

The Case Against: Even if his strikeout potential has improved slightly, that’s still not Stroman’s game. His game is putting the ball on the ground, and as part of the tradeoff for more strikeouts, his ground-ball rate went from being spectacular to merely very good. So now he’s more exposed to home runs while still being as susceptible as ever to hits. Since you know the WHIP will be high and you know the strikeouts will be low, Stroman really needs to crush it everywhere else, and that’s a difficult standard to meet. -Scott White

The Case For: It’s been a while since we’ve seen McCullers pitch in the majors, seeing as he spent all of 2019 recovering from Tommy John surgery, but in the years leading up to the injury, he proved to be an elite strikeout and ground-ball artist — hence the career 3.24 FIP, an ace number. If he’s right coming back from Tommy John surgery, we’re probably talking about McCullers as a top-70 pick this time next year. Snag him at this discount and prosper.       

The Case Against: After losing a whole year to injury, we just don’t know what kind of workload McCullers could be looking at. He’s expected to be ready to go at the start of the season, but even though we’ve become conditioned to expect players back mostly the same from Tommy John, setbacks happen. Will he be limited to 120 innings? 150?  Unless we know the answer to that question, it’s hard to say just how high the upside is for McCullers, especially since he could just be rusty in his return, too. There’s a lot of ways this could go wrong, and only a few where it ends up right. –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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