2020 Fantasy Baseball Rankings Analysis 31-40: 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. 31 through 40 here, beginning with some potential high-upside aces and breakout sluggers to choose from. 

The Case For/The Case Against

No. 31-40

The Case For: At least as a hitter, Blackmon is as Blackmon always has been, delivering four straight seasons with at least 29 home runs and 111 runs scored. His .314 batting average last year brought the four-year mark to .315, so no red flags there. In fact, his entire batted-ball profile is mostly unchanged — if anything, he’s hitting the ball harder and striking out less — and of course, the thin-air environment of Coors Field offers a nice safety net if his skills were to begin to erode. Altogether, it’s hard to explain why a perennial late first-, early second-round type is going in Round 4 on average, so maybe you should just enjoy the discount.

The Case Against: Well, he is turning 34 this year, which puts him more at risk of decline, especially when you consider he hasn’t rated as well defensively the past couple years. And while he hasn’t been a big base-stealer for any of this four-year stretch, the decline from 12 in 2018 to two last year is noteworthy, given the premium placed on stolen bases. It’s a thin case, but it exists. -Scott White

The Case For: Springer finally had the season we’ve been waiting for in 2019, as he established a new career-high in homers despite missing 40 games. He did it by maximizing his efficiency as a hitter, increasing his launch angle and hard-hit rate to new career-best rates. He swung at pitches outside of the strike zone less often than ever and grew more aggressive on the first pitch, which together led to better results overall. Springer has always teased this kind of potential, but for the first time he put it all together — and the underlying data pretty much backs it all up. He really was that good.

The Case Against: We can start with health, as Springer hasn’t played more than 140 games in any of the last three seasons, and has only done it once overall. We also can’t neglect to mention the Astros sign-stealing scheme, for which they were punished this offseason by MLB. We can’t know what kind of impact that punishment and the increased scrutiny surrounding the team may have, but Fantasy players are going to be wary of any Astros player on Draft Day this year. Fair or not, we’ll find out soon enough, but you’ll have to decide for yourself if you want to trust them. -Chris Towers

The Case For: Marte found a new home after a trade to Arizona in late January, and it only helps his Fantasy appeal. The Diamondbacks give him a better lineup and home park than he had in Pittsburgh, though it’s not like he needed much help to be a high-end Fantasy option. Marte is a rare five-category contributor, being one of just five players to hit at least 23 homers and steal 25 bases in 2019. The days of Marte running up elite stolen base numbers are probably gone, but as long as he can be around 25 steals, he should finish as a top-10 outfielder in Roto in 2020.

The Case Against: Players who rely primarily on their speed tend to not age quite as well as others. Now, Marte is no Dee Gordon or anything, but if he falls to the 15-steal range, all of a sudden the whole package looks a lot less appealing. There’s no sign of Marte slowing down — his average sprint speed, per StatCast, was actually higher in 2019 than any year since 2015 — but that’s the risk with stolen-base targets. -Chris Towers

The Case For: Giolito finally looked like the prospect we were promised in 2019, racking up huge strikeout numbers behind an improved changeup and a 2-mph uptick in velocity. And he might have been even better than the raw numbers indicate, as he carried a 5.30 ERA through the first month before the light flipped on. That happened during a late-April start against the Royals that saw him go on the IL with a hamstring injury. Upon returning, Giolito ran off a 25-start stretch with a 3.19 ERA and 205 strikeouts in 158 innings. The stuff looked as good as the results, and at just 25, Giolito looks like he’s finally here to stay.

The Case Against: It’s not like Giolito took a small step forward in 2019; he became an entirely different pitcher. He was going undrafted in nearly all leagues, and most analysts had given up all hope he would ever figure it out. That’s a reminder that progress for young pitchers is rarely linear, but also a reminder of how tenuous Giolito’s grasp on Fantasy relevance could be. If the fastball velocity ticks back down, we’ve seen how bad he can be. It’s a lot of risk to take on at this cost. -Chris Towers

The Case For: When Castillo is on, he looks like one of the best pitchers in baseball, and he was on a lot more often in 2019 than ever before. The surface numbers are impressive enough, but Castillo started his 2019 with a 20-start stretch where he posted a 2.36 ERA and 1.11 WHIP and 10.5 K/9. It’s stretches like those that will push someone to grab Castillo on Draft Day with the hopes that he puts it all together for a full season.

 The Case Against: Unfortunately, Castillo ran out of gas after that stretch, putting up a 5.08 ERA over his final 12 starts, and that has been the issue for him in his career. Castillo will go through stretches where he looks like one of the half-dozen best pitchers in baseball, and then he’ll follow it up with stretches where he isn’t nearly as good. He is primarily a two-pitch pitcher and has struggled against lefties and with runners on base in his career. Those things are solvable, and the upside is clearly sky high, but the inconsistency can be maddening. Let someone else convince themselves this is the year he puts it all together. -Chris Towers

The Case For: Though he has underwhelmed on multiple occasions in his career, never has the enthusiasm for drafting Harper been lower than it is right now, and that’s kind of surprising considering how strong he finished, batting .270 with 19 homers, 10 steals and a .941 OPS in the second half. The strikeouts, which had gotten out of control over the first two months, more or less corrected, and he never stopped crushing the ball, his xBA and xwOBA both suggesting even better times are in store. The way he ran in the second half, going a perfect 10 for 10 on steal attempts, should go a long way to restoring interest at a time when steals are scarce.

The Case Against: Harper has had some trouble staying on the field over the years and has also experienced some decline as a hitter. While he did bring the strikeouts back under control after an embarrassing start, the fact is they’ve been a part of his profile the past two years, limiting his batting average ceiling. As such, it’ll take a fairly significant steals contribution for him to be a truly elite player again. -Scott White

The Case For: Arguably the best power hitter in the minors came up to the majors and did exactly what he was supposed to do: Hit a ton of homers. He doesn’t have Aaron Judge’s raw power, but Alonso does about as good a job as anyone of maximizing his power, ranking in the 89th percentile in expected slugging despite a lower ranking in exit velocity. He elevates the ball and doesn’t strike out at an especially alarming rate, which helped Alonso hit a rookie record 53 homers. And he’s just getting started.

 The Case Against: Of course, just ask Judge how hard it is to repeat that kind of rookie season. Judge has struggled to stay healthy, but he also hasn’t been able to come close to his rookie season homer pace. It’s more likely Alonso had a season where pretty much everything came together in a perfect way than it is that he’s hitting 50 homers again. He probably overperformed his baseline skill set, and while the homers were consistent all season, the strikeout rate jumped in the second half and his overall production fell — he hit .235 after the All-Star break compared to .280 before. The risk here is that the average bottoms out and he’s a one-trick pony, and those power guys aren’t hard to find these days. -Chris Towers

The Case For: The list of players with more homers than Torres’ as a 22-year-old includes just seven names, in case you’re wondering how unlikely what he did last season was. Write it off as a product of the juiced ball or his home park if you want, but as far as we know, neither of those things is going to change for 2020. Torres has a swing geared for hitting fly balls and a home park that makes it likely more of those will go over the fence than just about any other in the game. Oh, and he’s second base eligible for 2020, the weakest non-catcher position in the game these days. It’s a good spot to be in.

The Case Against: What Torres did last year probably wasn’t sustainable, even with his home park and the juiced ball. He hit 13 homers in 18 games against the Orioles alone, making him one of just 11 players in the last 50 seasons to hit 11 homers against the same team in one season; on average, those other 11 players hit just 76.8% as many homers the following season. Torres isn’t a strong contributor outside his homers yet, so if he’s more like a 30-32 homer guy like history suggests he might be, he might not stand out much even at second base. -Chris Towers

The Case For: Albies did a better job of staying within himself in his second full big-league season, putting together a stat line that’s especially impressive when you consider his 22 years of age. He’s a whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-his-parts type, making worthwhile contributions across the board without dominating in any one category, though his best may be batting average, which is bolstered by his low strikeout rate and line-drive approach.

The Case Against: Particularly in Rotisserie leagues, big totals are what move the needle, and that’s just not Albies’ game. Given his early-round price tag, Albies is a decidedly unsexy pick, and his stock heavily relies on him delivering another 15 steals. When the threshold is that low, the margin for error is equally low, so even a mildly disappointing contribution in that category could have a significant impact on his value. -Scott White

The Case For: You need steals, right? Merrifield has led the AL in them two of the past three years, and getting that sort of contribution from the relatively weak second base spot sets you up nicely to load up on big bats at the positions that offer more of them. It’s worth noting that Merrifield himself is no slouch at the plate, having hit .300 with double-digit home runs in back-to-back years. And because he has emerged as one of the game’s preeminent line-drive hitters, ranking up there with Freddie Freeman, those contributions appear to be pretty safe.

The Case Against: What may not be safe are the stolen bases themselves. I mentioned Merrifield led the AL two of the past three years? Last year was the year he didn’t, finishing with only 20, and worse yet, he was caught on one-third of his attempts. He’s 31 now, so he may have reached the stage in his career when he’s asked (or chooses) to run less. And since stolen bases are his main appeal, that would be a problem. -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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