2020 Fantasy Baseball Rankings Analysis 61-70: Case for/against draft targets like Trevor Bauer, Javier Baez – CBS Sports


Circumstances have changed since our first round of draft prep. We’re working with a much shorter schedule now, which of course changes the way certain players are valued. It was always the year of the pitcher, with the most skilled at that position enjoying a bump in value at a time when offense dominates the game. But now, even those with workload limitations are able to join in.

Consider this your reintroduction to the 2020 draft pool, accounting for all the changes that have taken place since and because of the coronavirus lockdown. Over the span of 20 articles, Scott White and Chris Towers look at the top 200 in Scott’s Rotisserie rankings, highlighting the reasons for and against drafting each. It makes for a well-rounded education on every player, revealing critical details that more argument-based evaluations might conveniently leave out. 

So if you want a crash course on this year’s player pool, particularly in light of more recent events, you’ve come to the right place. We’re going through Nos. 61-70. 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. 61-70

The Case For: Typically with catchers, you’re just looking for someone who won’t hurt you. That’s the upside for all but the handful of best options at the position. At his best, Sanchez can give you a whole lot more. He has averaged 28 home runs over the last three seasons, despite playing just 106 games per season. There is legit 40-homer potential here if Sanchez stays healthy, and while the average has been particularly low the past two seasons, he hit .284 between his first two partial seasons, giving him upside in that regard, too. In fact, Sanchez carries more upside than anyone else at the position.

The Case Against: We’ve been chasing that upside for two years now, with mostly just disappointment to show for it. If Sanchez is going to keep hitting .230 or worse, it’s hard to justify the investment. Add in the persistent injuries over three seasons, and you’re inviting a lot of risk just to get an edge at one position. –Chris Towers

The Case For: Hader’s strikeouts haven’t just been the best among full-time relievers the past two years. They’ve been a total outlier. He followed up his 143 in 2018 with 138 last year. Only one other reliever each of those years had even 120. It’s a total that can compete with some of the low-end starting pitchers, which means you’re not sacrificing as much to get his incredible ERA and WHIP in your lineup. He was a Fantasy standout even before he was his team’s first option for saves, which is unheard of for a reliever in traditional 5×5 play, but of course he became a full-time closer last year, notching 37 saves.

The Case Against: Nobody wants to be the first one to take a closer off the board, which itself is reason not to draft Hader. But the bigger concern is that the Brewers’ first choice would be to have Hader in a more flexible role, employing him for specific matchups and multi-inning appearances. And with former closer Corey Knebel expected back from Tommy John surgery for the start of the season, manager Craig Counsell again has an alternative. –Scott White

The Case For: Though his power potential was certainly never in question, Gallo finally achieved more balance at the plate in 2019 by doing a very un-2019-like thing: He stopped hitting so many fly balls. Someone who impacts the ball like he does (it’s basically him, Miguel Sano and Aaron Judge at the top of that list) doesn’t need to sell out so much for power, and trading those fly balls for more line drives gave him the sort of BABIP potential needed to overcome his embarrassing strikeout tendencies. A .253 batting average is a major victory for someone like him and will make him a bona-fide MVP candidate if it continues.

The Case Against: Will it, though? Leaving out for a minute that changes in line-drive rate aren’t always the stickiest from one year to the next, Gallo’s .229 xBA wasn’t any different from the previous two years and was obviously much less than the actual .253 mark. Part of the problem was that the strikeout rate got even worse, as impossible as that may have seemed. No one can say for sure which of these trends would have held if he hadn’t fractured his wrist in July, but it’s certainly conceivable he goes back to being someone who struggles to hit .200. –Chris Towers

The Case For: Semien placed third in AL MVP voting last year, and not just for his defense. A new approach unlocked his long-dormant potential, introducing wholesale changes to his offensive profile. By the All-Star break, he had nearly equaled his home run total from the previous season, and only then did he really take off, batting .304 with 19 homers and a 1.018 OPS the rest of the way. The plate discipline was greatly improved from the start, and then when he began elevating the ball better after a bunch of ground balls early, the transformation was complete.

The Case Against: The mid-career breakout is always a tough sell on seasoned Fantasy players, and so even though the narrative and data back up Semien’s breakthrough, there’s a feeling we should know better than to buy into everything the 29-year-old did. Of course, the discount is pretty steep considering, but if you draft him thinking you’re set at shortstop and then he regresses to his old numbers, you’ll be at a huge disadvantage at a star-studded position. –Scott White

The Case For: Even while taking on a bigger role for the Dodgers, Muncy completely validated his stunning 2018 breakthrough, continuing to punish the pitches inside the strike zone while ignoring the ones outside of it. The Dodgers seem to have caught on to the idea he’s not a platoon candidate (he has delivered comparable numbers against both lefties and righties the past two years) and are willing to play him wherever it takes to keep his bat in the lineup, most notably second base. He especially excels in leagues that reward walks or OPS.

The Case Against: If we’re strictly talking about 5×5 Rotisserie leagues, though, Muncy loses a big part of what makes him so good. The on-base skills make him a better run-scorer than the average bopper, but they don’t make up for a middling batting average. Power hitters are in no short supply, so the ones who don’t stand out in batting average or stolen bases tend to clump in the middle. While Muncy is sure to be a starter for someone in your league, he’s unlikely to be a top priority for anyone. –Scott White

The Case For: Last season was great for rookies, and Bichette played his part. He came up and did exactly what you want to see from a top prospect, hitting for average and power while showing the potential to be a difference maker on the bases for Fantasy. He probably can’t sustain a batting average north of .300, but his StatCast data pegged Bichette as a .273 hitter with solid power. That’s not bad for his first taste of the majors. We’ll see how pitchers adjust, and then how Bichette adjusts, but coming into the season, he looks like one of the most dynamic young talents in the game and a potential second-rounder if everything goes right.

The Case Against: Everything rarely goes right, and you’re going to have to pay a pretty hefty price for Bichette coming off just 212 plate appearances. Bichette’s prospect standing never suffered for it, but Bichette didn’t always light the world on fire in the minors, most notably when he hit .286 with just 11 homers in 131 games at Double-A in 2018. His combination of power and speed should keep Bichette’s floor petty high, but it might be asking too much for him to be a superstar immediately. –Chris Towers

The Case For: Before the season, Gray talked about how the Yankees’ approach didn’t mesh with his skill set, and that turned out to be prescient. Free to pitch in a manner more suiting his talents, Gray had arguably the best year of his career, sustaining his elite groundball rate and turning in by far the best strikeout rate of his career. He’s not just a pitch-to-contact guy anymore.

The Case Against: We’ve been fooled by Gray before — he followed up his breakout 2015 with an injury-marred 5.69 ERA campaign and followed up his bounce-back 2017 with a disastrous 2018. Consistency has been an issue, it’s fair to say, and when the margin for error is seemingly as slim as it is for Gray, it doesn’t take much for things to go in the wrong direction. –Chris Towers

The Case For: Bauer may not have lived up to the Cy Young standard he set for himself in 2018, but he was still top five in both innings and strikeouts. So he remains a workhorse, and the stuff that contributed to his breakout two years ago is still intact. Some changes to his pitch selection may have had negative consequences, increasing his walks and his vulnerability to the long ball, but he’s known to be the analytical sort who will observe and correct these things on his own.

The Case Against: Bauer’s inquisitive mind might have put him in this mess in the first place. Like, who thought it was a good idea to cut back on the curveball, the pitch responsible for so many of the ground balls that went missing last year? Dude likes to tinker, for better or worse, and while this year’s tinkering could be for the better, it’s a calculated risk at this point. If he doesn’t recapture his former ground-ball rate, things could ugly at that bandbox the Reds call home. –Scott White

The Case For: Baez’s power gains from his near MVP-winning 2018 more or less held in his follow-up, and if he hadn’t missed time late in the year with a fractured thumb, he likely would have been verging on 35 homers again. He has become as good a source of power as you’ll find at the position, and with high on-base types like Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo batting directly ahead of him, he’s poised for a big RBI total as well.

The Case Against: Baez’s success relies on a fragile skill set that might not hold up if his luck turns. Compared to the league as a whole, his BABIP and home run-to-fly ball rates are both outliers, and though it makes sense when you look at his full batted-ball profile, it leaves a thin margin for error. The drop in stolen bases from 21 to 11 was also a crushing blow to his Rotisserie value, and his poor success rate doesn’t offer much hope of it going back. He doesn’t play into any of the game’s scarcities right now, excelling in the most commonplace way at one of the most abundant positions, and in leagues where walks matter, forget it. He has a combined .321 on-base percentage the past two years. –Scott White

The Case For: Those 48 homers aren’t enough for you? Well, what if I told you no one else in Royals history had hit more than 38? Once a top-shelf prospect in the Cubs organization (there was some disagreement whether he or Kris Bryant would be better), Soler finally made good on all of his potential with some elite hard-hit and barrel rates. For all he did right, he actually underperformed his xBA, xSLG and xwOBA, but the real eye-opener was how drastically he improved his plate discipline in the second half, when he hit .299 with 25 homers and a 1.076 OPS.

The Case Against: Entering his age-28 season, Soler already has a lot of mediocrity to his name and is no stranger to the IL either. He’s a poor defender and has one of the weakest supporting casts of any slugger. If his skill increases from the second half were a total mirage and he’s actually more like the guy who hit .240 with 23 homers and an .805 OPS in the first half, you might wish you had gone another direction with a top-85 pick. –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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