2020 Fantasy Baseball Rankings Analysis 21-30: The case for and against on Draft Day

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. 21 through 30 here, beginning with a potential first-round bat. And you can find the rest of our top-100 list right here: 1-10 | 11-20 | 31-40 | 41-50 | 51-60 | 61-70 | 71-80 | 81-90 | 91-100

The Case For/The Case Against

No. 21-30

The Case For: Let’s just start with a 150-game pace for Tatis in his age-20 season: .317 average, 109 runs, 39 homers, 95 RBI, and 29 steals. Again, that was Tatis’ age-20 season. This is an elite young talent, the kind who could be drafted in the first round of Fantasy drafts for the next decade or so. You can get him in the second round this year, and that’s probably the last time we’ll be able to say that until 2030 or so.

The Case Against: There’s a lot of swing and miss in Tatis’ game, as his 150-game pace for strikeouts would have put him on the cusp of 200. The power-speed combination is robust enough that he should be a viable option even if contact becomes an issue, but if you’re drafting Tatis expecting a .300 average, you’re bound to be disappointed. He’s probably more like a .275 hitter, with a floor closer to .250. With a half-season of film and scouting reports on him available now, expect pitchers to take advantage of the holes in Tatis’ swing more often in 2020, and how he adjusts to that will be key. He could be a top-five pick this time next year, but it’s also not entirely out of the question Tatis scuffles enough that a demotion becomes a topic of conversation. -Chris Towers

The Case For: Flaherty cemented himself in the ace tier with a second half for the ages. Over 16 starts, he compiled a 0.93 ERA, 0.70 WHIP and 11.0 K/9, the whiffs rising and home runs falling as he upped the frequency of what looks to be an uncommonly good two-seam fastball. It left him with full-season ratios that were basically in line with Walker Buehler, another second-year pitcher who tends to go a full round earlier.

The Case Against: Prior to that historic push to the finish line, Flaherty looked like a sunk cost, compiling a 4.90 ERA, 1.29 WHIP through 17 starts. While few would suggest that the bad stretch was closer to his true form, fixating on the good stretch isn’t in anyone’s best interest either. His control has betrayed him at times, and it’s possible he isn’t quite the finished product many are presuming him to be. -Scott White

The Case For: We’ve said for years if Strasburg stayed healthy, he’d be one of the best pitchers in Fantasy, and we were right. He made some key tweaks to his approach in 2019 that led to more swinging strikes and ground balls, allowing him to weather the storm caused by the juiced ball in MLB better than most. Strasburg typically has higher ERAs than you’d prefer to see from a high-end starting pitcher, but he gets tons of strikeouts, plays on a good team, and can go deep into games as long as he’s on the mound.

The Case Against: You’re paying full price for a guy who has never been able to stay healthy coming off just his second 200-inning season. Can you really bet on Strasburg staying healthy two years in a row, especially coming off a deep playoff run? That’s what you’re doing by buying at this price. -Chris Towers

The Case For: Corbin largely backed up his 2018 breakout with another very strong 2019. He wasn’t quite as dominant this time round, but most of the gains from 2018 were still there. He still relies heavily on that slider, and it remains one of the best pitches in baseball. Corbin is pretty close to a one-trick pony, but with consecutive 200-inning seasons with an ERA in the low-3.00s, it’s hard to deny it’s a pretty good trick.

The Case Against: At 30, Corbin is probably a bit older than you might think, and you don’t have to go too far in the past to find a time when he was a fringy Fantasy option. His walk and home runs rates regressed in 2019, and there was probably a bigger gap between how well he pitched in 2018 and 2019 than the ERA might indicate. His 3.88 SIERA indicates there could be some room for significant regression, and there’s always the possibility that his lack of a third pitch could come back to haunt him. -Chris Towers

The Case For: Whatever skepticism surrounded Clevinger the past two years is clearly defunct now. Dude turned the dial to overdrive last year, figuring out a way to add 1.5 mph on his fastball, and the impact reverberated throughout his entire arsenal. He became a no-questions-asked ace, one bettered only by Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole in Head-to-Head points per start. He would have ranked sixth among qualifiers in swinging-strike rate and third in xFIP, behind only Cole and Max Scherzer.

The Case Against: The reason I have to use the conditional perfect tense (“would have ranked”) is because Clevinger of course didn’t qualify for any leaderboards. He missed two months early on with a lat strain, which may well have been a response to him throwing harder. So even though he has already proven he can hold up for 200 innings, doing so in 2018, he hasn’t with this higher-effort approach. And now he’s also making his way back from a torn meniscus, suffered early in spring training. Workload is one of the most common areas where prospective aces fall short, and it’s hard to assume Clevinger will just hold up. -Scott White

The Case For: Hard to say which Alvarez crushed harder in 2019: baseballs or the souls of the pitchers who threw them. He hit .325 with 50 homers, 42 doubles and a 1.115 OPS between the majors and the minors, and I’m comfortable combining the two because there was no letup from one level to the next. Apart from the complete lack of stolen bases, his major-league production compared favorably to Mike Trout, Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger, but unlike those three, Alvarez is typically available in Round 4.

The Case Against: He’ll begin the year as only a DH in CBS Sports leagues, which presents some limitations, and with the knee troubles he’s had in spring training, the chances of him picking up outfield eligibility seem fairly low. It also raises the question of why he’s having such knee troubles at such a young age. There’s an air of suspicion surrounding all Astros hitters, of course, and while Alvarez’s batted-profile certainly lends itself to elite production, the actual numbers might have been a little on the high side. -Scott White

The Case For: Even as a 22-year-old, Devers pushed his way into the elite at an especially deep position, a testament to his pedigree and drive. He greatly improved both his average exit velocity and strikeout rate, which goes most of the way to explaining his .311 batting average, and hitting in the heart of the Red Sox lineup led to huge RBI and run totals.

The Case Against: Hitting in the heart of the Red Sox lineup won’t mean as much with Mookie Betts traded, so those RBI and run totals could come back down to Earth. Pretty much across the board, Devers was just a little too good to be true, outperforming both his xBA and xwOBA just enough to give you pause. He’s among the least proven of the hitters likely to go in the first two rounds and won’t be of much help in stolen bases, contributing just one over the final four months. He goes where he goes more because somebody has to than because it should obviously be him. -Scott White

The Case For: Bogaerts’ supposed breakout in 2018 was just a foretaste of what came in 2019, when he upped his previous high in home runs by 10 and managed to hang with first-rounders like Alex Bregman, Francisco Lindor and Trevor Story in both points and Rotisserie scoring. You can get him a round or two later than that trio. And even if you don’t trust the ceiling, his low strikeout rate and star-studded supporting cast give him a high floor.

The Case Against: Why wouldn’t you trust Bogaerts’ ceiling? Well, because peripherally, Bogaerts wasn’t any better in 2019 than 2018. He didn’t hit the ball considerably harder, and the average launch angle was only slightly improved. Is that enough to explain an increase from 23 homers to 33? Let’s just say that his xwOBA was actually higher in 2018. He may seem like a value compared to the Lindor and Story class of shortstops, but since the position is hardly lacking in star power, you need to be completely sure he’s better than what comes after. -Scott White

The Case For: At what was clearly the weakest of the four infield positions last year, Marte was the undisputed top performer, and with Jose Altuve no longer looking like a reliable base-stealer and DJ LeMahieu making for a difficult bet to repeat, it’s possible Marte is a distant first choice now. His breakthrough has been more gradual than it might seem, beginning with an .877 OPS over the final four months of 2018 and continuing with a .919 OPS in the first half of 2019 before culminating with a 1.081 OPS in the second half. An improved launch angle added to his already impressive contact skills may be to credit.

The Case Against: At no point in his development between the Mariners and Diamondbacks organizations was Marte ever expected to be the sort of player who hits 32 home runs in a season, so there’s an element of “well, we should just know better.” But again, the development was gradual, and he’s still only 26. Maybe if MLB does something about the seams on its baseballs, increasing drag, Marte has an issue. There’s also the matter of him overperforming his xBA and xwOBA by like 30 points. -Scott White

The Case For: Dude can still hit and in fact set a career high for homers in 2019, topping the previous mark by seven. He ended the year on a particularly high note, batting .325 with 21 homers and a .995 OPS after the All-Star break. With his high batting average, he remains one of the most reliable sources for one of the most difficult categories to fill — and at a weak position, no less.

The Case Against: Altuve is no longer a reliable source for the absolute most difficult category to fill, swiping just six bases last year and 17 the year before after averaging 37.3 steals the previous six years. It all changed with a fractured kneecap a couple years ago and seems unlikely to go back. So now his worth is tied entirely to his bat, and while he has an impressive track record in that regard, last year’s power surge was probably a one-time event. The possible impact of the sign-stealing scandal has to enter the back of your mind when drafting him, too. -Scott White

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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