2020 Fantasy Baseball Rankings Analysis 51-60: 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. 51-60, where the first catchers are coming off the board.

The Case For/The Case Against

No. 51-60

The Case For: Fresh off his second Cy Young and back to being a perennial contender for the award, Verlander shows no signs of letup entering his age-37 season. At a time when few pitchers are making it through six innings consistently, he routinely goes seven or more, having led the majors with 229 last year, and it’s that workload advantage combined with his dominant-as-ever stuff that puts him in rare company at starting pitcher. There’s also the possibility your leaguemates will overreact to the lat strain he suffered early in spring training, allowing you to snag him at a discount.

The Case Against: Did I mention he’s entering his age-37 season? That’s ancient by any player’s standards, but particularly one who lives on 97-mph fastballs and has more than 3,000 innings (playoffs included) to his name. At some point, it’s all going to come crashing down for Verlander, and the spring injury may be start. We still don’t know exactly how much time he’ll miss, though the delayed start to the season will give him some time to recover. Plus, with the regime change in Houston, who knows if he’ll be getting the same oversight that allowed him to recapture his once dominant form? -Scott White

The Case For: If Judge stays healthy, he’s got as good a chance as anyone to lead the majors in home runs. He hasn’t been able to replicate his incredible 2017 in the two seasons since, but his per-162 game pace over those two seasons is still pretty incredible: a .276 average, 116 runs, 41 homers, 93 RBI and seven steals. If that’s all you get from him, he’s going to represent a nice return on your investment, but we also know there is even more upside beyond that. Just stay healthy.

The Case Against: Um … what was that about staying healthy? He’s already contending with a stress fracture in his rib cage that wasn’t addressed in the offseason, and he won’t be swinging a bat until he’s pain-free. With the Coronavirus outbreak extending the offseason, maybe he still makes it back for opening day, but it’s a murky timeline for sure. Then, of course, there’s the fact he lost significant portions of 2018 and 2019 to injury. That could all be bad luck, but Judge is the biggest dude in the majors, and it’s fair to wonder if his size might be an impediment to staying healthy. -Chris Towers and Scott White

The Case For: A model of consistency, Rizzo actually delivered the highest batting average (.293) and second-highest OPS (.924) of his career last year, not that either was some great departure. His profile is remarkably stable, his expected stats matching up with his actual ones virtually every year, and at least in points leagues, his lack of strikeouts serves as its own differentiator. His on-base skills make him as capable a run-scorer as he is a run-producer, a trait he shares with other elite first basemen.

The Case Against: The number of traits Rizzo shares with other elite first basemen is becoming scarcer. At a time when home run totals are on the rise across the league, Rizzo’s have been on the decline. A high-dollar corner infielder has to be able to deliver 30 in this environment, and in back-to-back years now, Rizzo hasn’t. Steady as he is, he may not be enough of a standout at anything else to make up for it, at least in 5×5 Rotisserie leagues. The gap between his value in that format and in Head-to-Head points has never been greater. -Scott White

The Case For: Syndergaard struggled in 2019, but it wasn’t exactly a lost season. The fact that he made it through a full season without any health issues is the biggest positive to come from the season, and he probably wasn’t quite as bad as his 4.28 ERA might make you think. There was some bad luck involved, and given how much his career has been sidetracked by injuries in recent years, it’s fair to wonder if he just needed a get-right year. If he is right — and the renewed velocity on his fastball this spring would seem to suggest so — we know how good Syndergaard can be. With the health issues mostly behind him, he can just focus on pitching.

The Case Against: It’s hard to blame Syndergaard’s 2019 struggles too much on bad luck, given that he has gone from an elite strikeout pitcher to a fairly pedestrian one. He’s still above average, but he should be a lot better than that given his stuff (though again, the renewed slider velocity this spring is a step in the right direction). -Chris Towers

The Case For: Glasnow’s metamorphosis with the Rays, who rescued him from a prison of outdated thinking with the Pirates, is now complete, and the end result might be the best pitcher, pitch for pitch, in the game. The numbers are staggering: a 1.78 ERA, a 2.26 FIP, a 2.94 xFIP. Those first two would have led the league — and without much competition, really — if he had managed to make more than 12 starts. And since his ADP has him going outside the top 20 starting pitchers, the injury risk is already factored into the price.

The Case Against: Just because it’s factored into the price doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem. Long-limbed and committed to lighting up the radar gun at 101, Glasnow isn’t a sure thing to hold up over a starter’s workload, and in fact, he has yet to deliver 160 innings in a season (majors and minors combined), not to mention 180 or 200. Volume is an essential ingredient for ace, and among those regarded as such, he’s a particularly risky bet. -Scott White

The Case For: LeMahieu’s all-fields approach to hitting will play anywhere, but it was especially well suited to his new home park in Yankee Stadium thanks to the short porch in right field, where 16 of his career-high 26 homers went. That approach also helped him avoid a significant decline in BABIP and, combined with his contact skills, kept LeMahieu’s average in a healthy place. This is still arguably the best lineup in baseball, and LeMahieu’s underlying numbers mostly back up what he did in 2019. Believe it.

The Case Against: Anytime you’re dealing with a player coming off a career year, there’s value in baking in some regression. LeMahieu probably won’t be as good in 2020 as he was in 2019, so the question is how much will he regress? If the power was legit, there’s a very high floor here, but if he goes back to being more like a 10-15 homer guy, then you have to worry about BABIP fluctuations having an even more significant impact on his value, as we saw in his disappointing 2018. Ultimately, there should be a pretty high floor with LeMahieu, but we may have seen the tippy top of his ceiling in 2019. -Chris Towers

The Case For: Realmuto didn’t take the big step forward we were hoping to see in his first season outside of Miami, but the second half showed us more of his capabilities. Freed from the cavernous dimensions of Marlins Park, Realmuto went out and hit 15 homers in the second half of the season, upping his line to .278/.327/.565 after the All-Star break. Maybe it just took a while for Realmuto to figure it out?

The Case Against: Generally speaking, you’re better off using full-season statistics to project for the future than trying to figure out which slice of the season represents a player’s “real” skill level. In Realmuto’s case, his 2019 wasn’t all that different from his 2020, which should tell you that it’s probably pretty close to who he really is. The good news is, he’s established a really high floor over the past three seasons, but there just may not be as much beyond that as we hoped. -Chris Towers

The Case For: Rarely does a pitcher come along who transitions to the majors as easily as Paddack did. The efficiency with which he could put away hitters jumped out in spring training and continued to stand out across 140 innings. It isn’t just about missing bats with him, though he does his share of that. Only twice in 26 starts did he issue more than two walks, and only five times did he issue more than three earned runs. And now, as he enters his second year, he won’t have as many restrictions on his workload.

The Case Against: Did the Padres restrict his workload enough? Paddock never had more than 90 innings in a minor-league season and was only just recovering from Tommy John surgery in 2018, so 140 innings is kind of a lot considering. While his fastball and changeup play well off each other, allowing him to pound the strike zone, they’re basically the only two pitches he has, and hitters might catch on more in Year 2. His tendency to put the ball in the air makes him vulnerable to home runs, and his 3.95 FIP, 4.05 xFIP and 3.83 SIERA all suggest he might have been lucky considering. -Scott White

The Case For: Once things clicked for him — July 12, or possibly a few days earlier — there was no more dependable pitcher in baseball. Darvish was dominant in the second half, posting a 2.76 ERA and 0.808 WHIP over his final 13 starts, with just seven walks total. He’s dealt with so many injuries over the years that he might have just needed a few months to figure things out, but once he did, Darvish looked every bit like an ace.

The Case Against: We can’t just ignore the first three months of the season, obviously. It wasn’t just that Darvish was giving up a lot of runs; he also often looked like he couldn’t throw strikes. He walked at least four batters in six of his first eight starts and had an ugly 12.5% walk rate through the end of June, a stretch actually longer than the one where he dominated. Maybe he figured it out around the All-Star break and will carry that with him through 2020, but the more likely outcome is Darvish will be something like what he’s always been: A gifted strikeout artist who isn’t quite as good at everything else as he should be. -Chris Towers

The Case For: A former top prospect made good, Bell finally started using that mammoth frame to hit for power in 2019. He’s always had great plate discipline but struggled to elevate the ball much before last season, and therein lies the key to his breakout. His 23.9% HR/FB rate is high, but not so much higher than his career rate that you can’t believe it is sustainable, especially when backed up by elite hard-hit numbers. Bell hits the ball hard, he makes consistent contact, and now he hits the ball in the air. That’s a good combination.

The Case Against: Bell feasted early in the season, and while I don’t believe in the Home Run Derby curse, he just wasn’t the same guy after the All-Star break. His ISO fell to .196 and his HR/FB fell to 16.7%, both much more in line with his career rates, and his production fell off as a result. Some of that could have been luck-related — a .241 BABIP is hard to overcome — but opposing teams seemed to make more of an effort to force Bell to hit from the left side of the plate, his weaker side, in the second half. Opposing pitchers also threw him fewer first pitch fastballs in the second half, and Bell absolutely feasted on first pitches, so it could be that the scouting report just got out on him. If that’s the case, it’s now on Bell to adjust. There’s no guarantee he will effectively. -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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