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Player Debates: Blake Snell, Luis Castillo, Anthony Rizzo, Mike Clevinger, Keston Hiura

Apr 20, 2020

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Five more player debates coming at you, we hope you are enjoying this post series. We will talk about a couple more starters, a pair of shortstops, and the top-ranked DH in fantasy for 2020 in this post.

Bookmark this page to follow along for our complete player debate series.

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41) Blake Snell (SP – TB)

Case For
“Have we forgotten just how dominant Blake Snell was in 2018? En route to a Cy Young Award, he finished the year with a ridiculous 1.89 ERA and 21 wins. Obviously, a sharp decline back toward the mean in 2019 will serve as a harsh reminder that Snell is not a perfect pitcher, but one part of his game actually improved from ’18 to ’19: his strikeout rate. While it was already high, it increased from 11.01 K/9 to 12.36 K/9. That, coupled with the underlying FIP — more than respectable at 3.32 last year — is exactly why we should buy into another stellar season from Snell.” – Mario Mergola

Case Against
“Can you really feel good about Blake Snell staying healthy even in an abbreviated season? I sure can’t. Can you really feel good about him being an elite pitcher when healthy? I’m not quite there yet either. The Rays are a bit hesitant to let their starters go deep into games, making quality starts and wins a bit harder to get for Snell. The risk outweighs the upside for me here, and I’d rather have someone a bit safer for 2020. I’ll check back next year.” – Jon Anderson

Draft Approach
“You need to pull the trigger on a starter eventually. With Snell, there’s no debating the ace-type ceiling that he has — look at his 2018 season if you need further proof — but so far, that’s been the big outlier for him. He’s dealt with a rash of injuries, which has forced the Rays to limit his workload. In Spring Training, he was dealing with elbow soreness. He’s a high-risk, high-reward pick this year. You’ve been warned.”– Michael Waterloo

42) Luis Castillo (SP – CIN)

Case For
Luis Castillo in 2020 is similar to Jose Berrios in 2019. He’s ranked as if he took that next step into ace territory. The thought was off for Berrios, but it’s spot-on for Castillo. While it’s better to look at a full season’s worth of stats compared to splitting it up to get a full view of the performance, it’s the stretches of dominance that Castillo showed in his first 20 starts that has people so excited about him in 2020. With elite strikeout numbers and an improved GB rate, Castillo could give you a second top-10 pitcher on your staff if you take him here.”– Michael Waterloo

Case Against
“An extremely high walk rate. If we’re looking for areas of concern for Luis Castillo, then the first place to start is the number of walks he issues. His average of 3.73 BB/9 was the fifth-worst among qualified starters. He made up for it by delivering elsewhere, but a high walk rate also puts depth into games in jeopardy. 34 pitchers started at least 32 games in 2019. Of those 34 pitchers, ten had a walk rate of greater than 3.00 BB/9, and, of those ten, only two — Trevor Bauer and Eduardo Rodriguez — threw more than 200 innings. We’re currently paying a premium for Luis Castillo, but he has a relatively shaky floor.” – Mario Mergola

Draft Approach
“Taking Luis Castillo will be all about your draft strategy. If you want to load up on hitting early in the draft, you will probably miss the boat on Castillo. If you are focused on solidifying your staff with a few aces, Castillo could be available at the perfect time for you. This does seem like a pretty low price for a guy as skilled as Castillo, especially if you consider that the Reds could be avoiding Great American Ballpark for most or all of the season.” – Jon Anderson

43) Anthony Rizzo (1B – CHC)

Case For
“If I miss on Bellinger and Freeman at first base, Rizzo is my go-to guy at the position. He has that “boring player” discount working for him, and he has been nothing but a strong fantasy contributor for his entire career. If you are in an OBP league, this is one of the best values in the draft, as Rizzo has posted OBP’s above .380 in five of his last six seasons, including a ridiculous .405 mark last year. He may not have prodigious power or any speed value, but Rizzo is as safe as they come at a weak position with a built-in discount. I’m all over him this year.” – Jon Anderson

Case Against
“It’s like the fantasy community finally caught on to Rizzo. For years, he’s gone in the first few rounds of drafts, but there was really no justification for it. Even now, going 43rd overall is early for Rizzo, who fails to stand out in any real way. He’s a poor man’s Freddie Freeman, but, like, really poor. The power production has dipped, too, and that’s in an age where you need your first baseman to hit home runs. If you want to grab him as a safe play at a shallow position, go for it, but you’re passing up on better talent to do so.”– Michael Waterloo

Draft Approach
“This first approach to Anthony Rizzo is driven solely by format. If you’re playing in a league that includes on-base percentage in any capacity — either instead of batting average or as an additional category — then Rizzo must be moved up your draft board. Among qualified hitters, he ranked 16th or better in on-base percentage in each of the last five seasons — twice finishing in the top-seven. If we’re removing the on-base percentage boost from the equation, then the second approach with Rizzo is how to value him against other first basemen. The position is not as deep as it has been in the past, and Rizzo is arguably one of the more consistent — albeit not flashy — options.” – Mario Mergola

44) Mike Clevinger (SP – CLE)

Case For
“We obviously can’t blindly expect Mike Clevinger’s ERA to continue to drop for a fourth-consecutive season, but there is no reason why it would balloon. In fact, his FIP was actually better than his ERA in 2019 — 2.49 versus 2.71, respectively — further suggesting that a massive regression is not likely. Really, the biggest concern with Clevinger remains health, as he has pitched more than 125 innings only once in his career and had a knee procedure during the offseason. This does, however, mean that Clevinger is one of the pitchers most likely to benefit from a delayed season.” – Mario Mergola

Case Against
“I can’t actually say anything bad about Clevinger here at pick #44, I’m sorry. However, I don’t think this is where he will go in your drafts. If he falls to you in the fourth or fifth round, please draft him. The only real downside on Clev is his injury history and recent knee surgery. We have not heard any updates on his status, so, for now, you have to tread lightly. The best bet is that he’s fine for the beginning of the season and that he pitches very well, but this year it may be best to play it safe with your starting pitchers, and there are probably safer options available when Clevinger is near the top of the queue.” – Jon Anderson

Draft Approach
“As Frank Stampfl pointed out on Twitter, in 16 starts from July 2 to September 24, Clevinger put up the following numbers: a 1.76 ERA, 2.98 xFIP, 1.02 WHIP, 11.82 K/9, 2.21 BB/9, 15.4% SwStr, 66.9% F-strike, and 32.2% O-swing. That’s an ace, and that’s what Clevinger was being drafted as … until he got hurt … again. It’s up to you as a fantasy manager to decide if the high ceiling is worth the low floor (hurt) or not. If he’s going 44th in drafts, take him. But once he’s cleared with a timetable, that price is going to skyrocket.”– Michael Waterloo

45) Keston Hiura (2B – MIL)

Case For
Keston Hiura was my favorite player to go after in 2018 first-year player drafts who wasn’t named Shohei Ohtani. Yes, more than Luis Robert. I compared him at the time to prime Dustin Pedroia but with more power. Hiura’s early returns were better than I had imagined. He’s in the perfect ballpark, and he’s at the shallowest position outside of catcher to justify this ranking – even with the high strikeout marks. Hiura is going to be a top-three second baseman in fantasy for the next decade.”– Michael Waterloo

Case Against
“I am one of the biggest supporters of Keston Hiura in the industry, but, if I’m crafting a case against him, it’s not particularly difficult. There are holes, both in production and price. Starting with the latter, Hiura is becoming one of the most hyped hitters for this upcoming season, and it’s built on the premise that he can extrapolate his half-season from 2019 over what-would-have-been a full season in 2020. Hype carries a premium. If we’re looking at his actual game, then the first glaring issue is the strikeout rate from last year. It would have been the second-highest in the league if he qualified with enough plate appearances.” – Mario Mergola

Draft Approach
“This pick is all about your beliefs about BABIP. If you think Hiura most likely ends up with a BABIP close to .300 this year, you are probably not super interested in him this early, since his 31% strikeout rate last year suggests he will not be helping anybody in that category. If you believe that his propensity for hard contact and his speed will help him post a strong batting average even if he doesn’t improve in strikeouts, then he is actually a steal at this point in the draft. He should hit homers and steal some bases, and if he can repeat a .290+ batting average, he is one of the best fantasy hitters in the league – and he plays second base!” – Jon Anderson

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