2020 Fantasy Baseball Rankings Analysis 71-80: The case for, 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 aren’t 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. 71-80, featuring some of the biggest names in Fantasy over the last five years trying to get back to their former glory. 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. 71-80

The Case For: Basically since he left the Rangers in 2014, Cruz has been one of the most reliable superstud bats, delivering no fewer than 37 home runs or 93 RBI across six seasons. His batting average during that time is .285, and he has even averaged 85 runs. He was the No. 26 hitter in traditional 5×5 leagues last year, and that was while playing through a damaged wrist that put him on the IL twice. Best of all, you’ll be able to draft him at nowhere near that level, possibly even outside of the top 80 overall.

The Case Against: He’s 39 now, which isn’t just old — it’s ancient. He’s beating the odds just by holding down a big-league job, much less putting up MVP-caliber numbers, and we’ve all gotten so comfortable with him beating the odds that someone is in for a shock when he finally doesn’t. The going rate justifies the gamble, of course, but you may want to think twice about reaching any sooner for him, especially since his DH-only status can make him a tricky fit in a Fantasy lineup. –Scott White

The Case For: Olson is exactly what a premier slugger looks like in terms of exit velocity, barrel rate and launch angle, and it actually showed in his numbers this time around. He hit his 36 home runs in only 127 games because of a broken hamate bone early in the year, but his production wasn’t at all impeded upon his return. And for all that went right, he actually underperformed expected stats like xBA, xSLG and xwOBA.

The Case Against: Olson will still play his home games at Oakland Coliseum, where he hit .236 with a .777 OPS last year, and he’ll still face lefties approximately one-third of the time after hitting .223 with a .767 against them. Those splits have never been in his favor, and both make too much sense to dismiss. It gives him a thin margin for error both on the road and against righties and may help explain why his numbers were suspiciously lacking in 2018. –Scott White

The Case For: Well, we know what the upside is: He won an MVP and nearly hit 60 homers in 2017. Stanton still hits the ball as hard as anyone, and even in a season where he regressed in 2018, he still finished as a top-25 hitter. The key for Stanton, as it always has been, will be to stay healthy, and more work at DH could help.

The Case Against: Generally speaking, Stanton doesn’t stay healthy. He played just 18 games in 2019, and 2017 and 2018 have been the outliers in his career — he has played 125 or fewer games in five of his nine full MLB seasons. At 30, Stanton probably isn’t going to get healthier moving forward — he was already contending with a calf strain in spring training — and the skill set might be declining, too. –Chris Towers

The Case For: If all Robles does is repeat 2019 while batting leadoff, you’re probably looking at 20 homers, 100 runs, and 35 steals. That alone would make him worth the price you’re going to pay on Draft Day, and that’s without considering the possibility that the Nationals might let him run even more from the top of the lineup, as has been the case for Trea Turner in his career. And, of course, if Robles improves — he was a career .300/.392/.547 hitter in the minors and is still just 22 until May — we could be talking about him the same way we talk about the likes of Turner and Starling Marte among early-round steal sources.

The Case Against: He has a lot of improvement left to do. Robles ranked right at the bottom of the league in average exit velocity, and in the fourth percentile in hard-hit rate, which makes the 17 homers he did manage to hit look like something of a minor miracle. There’s plenty of talent here, for sure, but the underlying numbers indicate some pretty significant bust potential in his profile. The steals could help keep him afloat, but there’s some Byron Buxton potential. –Chris Towers

The Case For: In a season when you couldn’t rely on practically any closers, Yates was a steady hand. Actually, that undersells him quite a bit: Yates was absurdly dominant. He led the majors in saves, while nearly cutting his already minuscule ERA in half, and doing so in a way that is largely backed up by his peripherals. A reliever you can rely on for elite ratios, with no competition for saves and the potential for 100-plus strikeouts? These days, those don’t just grow on trees.

 The Case Against: Of course, Yates mostly stands out because the supposed elite class of closers nearly all fell flat on their faces last season. He should be commended for avoiding that fate, but it also highlights the tenuous nature of relying too much on any relievers. We’re dealing with tiny sample sizes for every reliever, and their roles tend to create a ton of volatility, so the steps Yates took in 2019 may not stick in 2020. He’s the best reliever coming into the season, but it shouldn’t surprise anyone if Yates loses his job at some point in 2020. That’s why we don’t pay up for closers. –Chris Towers

The Case For: Suarez nearly hit 50 homers last year and you can draft him in the seventh round in many leagues. It’s just disrespectful, is what it is. We’re talking about a guy who has driven in 100-plus runs in consecutive seasons and has a pretty high floor even if he never comes close to 50 homers again. Although, it is worth repeating: He hit almost 50 homers last season! Let’s not overthink this.

The Case Against: Well, let’s think about it for a second. Suarez doesn’t run and has never hit for a good average, so you really need the power production to come through. He was also one of the bigger overperformers in baseball by expected wOBA and actually led the majors in strikeouts in 2019. That tradeoff is worth it when he’s hitting nearly 50 homers, but if he goes back to being a mid-30s homer guy, does that come with a .250 average? The fact that he’s recovering from shoulder surgery after taking a tumble late in the offseason only makes him riskier. –Chris Towers

The Case For: There aren’t many players who make more contact than McNeil, whose strikeout rate was the 14th-lowest among qualified players, but he’s not just some punch-and-judy hitter — only Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel had a higher ISO among players who struck at as rarely. That makes him one of the safest bets for average, but it also proves he won’t just be a one-trick pony.

The Case Against: It’s fair to wonder how much of McNeil’s power was for real. In the minors, McNeil was rarely even an average power threat, so it’s possible those numbers could regress if the baseball isn’t quite as lively in 2020. If the power wanes, McNeil could look more like Nick Markakis. –Chris Towers

The Case For: Ever since he mostly put his vision issues behind him in 2017, Pham has been an extremely valuable Fantasy option. He’s given you 20 homers and 20 steals in two of the last three years, and went for 25 and 15 in the other season. In an era when speed is at a premium, Pham’s ability to steal a couple dozen bases without hurting you anywhere else makes him a valuable commodity.

The Case Against: Pham’s circuitous path to the majors and an everyday role mean he’ll already be 32 by the time the season starts. He puts the ball on the ground more than you’d expect for a 20-homer guy, with the rate going up a little more each year, and now he’ll be playing his home games at Petco Park. We haven’t seen a decline in his skill set yet, but that could come any day now, given his age. That’s the biggest concern with Pham, or any player in their early 30s. –Chris Towers

The Case For: Woodruff made good on his long-awaited opportunity for a full-time rotation spot, emerging as the ace the Brewers had long been lacking. He excelled at pretty much all the things a pitcher can control, too, pounding the strike zone with a high-90s fastball that proved to be one of the most effective in the sport and helped him make quick work of lineups. Once the Brewers took off the training wheels in late May, he had no issue pitching deep into games, throwing seven-plus innings in five of his final 11 starts before getting hurt. When hitters made contact, they generally put the ball on the ground, resulting in a low home run total. As good as he was, his 3.01 FIP and 3.36 xFIP say he should have been even better.

The Case Against: Notice the “before he got hurt” that I casually slipped in there? Yeah, a strained oblique cost Woodruff nearly two months late in the season, so while a proclivity for low pitch counts certainly helps his case for an ace workload, we still have no evidence that he’s durable. As good as his fastball is, his offspeed pitches mostly just exist to set it up, so if his velocity slips at all, it’s a problem. Seeing as he’s already 27, the Brewers basically sat on him for two years even though they had obvious pitching needs, which perhaps reveals their own skepticism. –Scott White

The Case For: We all know what Machado is capable of. Even in a “down year,” he hit 32 homers, and now he’ll have a better lineup surrounding him in 2020. At his best, Machado is one of the rare five-category contributors in Fantasy, and you don’t have to go far back to see him at his best: He hit .297 with 37 homers, 107 RBI, 84 runs and 14 steals in 2018. If he just gets back to that level, you’ve got one of the biggest steals of the draft.

 The Case Against: Machado might not actually be that guy anymore. Since leaving the Orioles and the comfy dimensions of Camden Yards, he has hit .261 with a 150-game pace of 79 runs, 30 homers, 86 RBI and seven steals. That’s not so different from his road numbers during his Orioles career and makes him something like Mike Moustakas in terms of expected production. If Machado isn’t going to run anymore, the bat needs to be that much better to make up for it, and I’m not sure it will be. –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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