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Player Debates: Juan Soto, Nolan Arenado, Max Scherzer, Jose Ramirez, Alex Bregman

Apr 3, 2020

At just 21 years old, Juan Soto is continuing to develop in front of our eyes.

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We are moving on to players #11-#15 on our player debates series based on our Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR). Be sure to check out the first couple posts as well, if you have not already:

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

Player Debates: Ronald Acuna, Mike Trout, Christian Yelich, Cody Bellinger, Mookie Betts
Player Debates: Trevor Story, Francisco Lindor, Gerrit Cole, Trea Turner, Jacob deGrom

Four more elite hitters and the third pitcher on the board are on tap today. Let’s get into it!

11) Juan Soto (OF – WAS)

Case For
“At just 21 years old, Juan Soto is continuing to develop in front of our eyes. After an explosive rookie season, Soto maintained his well-rounded hitting profile in 2019 via 34 home runs and a .282 batting average, while also driving and scoring more than 100 runs. It’s unrealistic to ask his growth to continue on its linear path, but would anyone complain if he provides the exact same numbers in 2020 as he did in 2019? Probably not. His advanced approach at a young age makes for the perfect high-floor, high-ceiling fantasy option sitting just outside the top-ten in most drafts.”– Mario Mergola

Case Against
“It was much easier to make the anti-Soto case a year ago. Back then he was coming off an incredible rookie season, but still had some question marks considering he had not yet seen 500 big league plate appearances and had a scary high ground ball rate at 53.7%. Then he went and repeated or improved at everything in his sophomore season, posting a ridiculous 110 R, 34 HR, 110 RBI, 12 SB, .282 AVG, .401 OBP line. The ground balls came down to 41.6% and he continued to hit the ball all over the field. He is one of the most polished hitters in the league, and there’s no real way to dispute that. The one thing I can dispute is this crazy draft price. With the loss of Anthony Rendon, there could be less reason to attack Soto, which could result in more walks and less counting stats. If you are not in a league that counts walks, he could very well fall short of this second round price tag. There is almost no chance Soto has a bad year offensively, but there is a very real chance that he falls short of being a top 25 hitter given his lack of being super, super elite in any category outside of on-base percentage.” – Jon Anderson

Draft Approach
“He’s 21. Let that sink in for a little while longer. He’s the clear No. 2 overall pick in dynasty leagues behind Ronald Acuna, as there’s still growth to come. He won’t steal bases, but there’s untapped power in his profile still, and his beyond-his-years approach at the plate gives him the floor that you want. If you want to pass on the elite-level shortstops and aces in the latter part of the first round, Soto should be your pick.”– Michael Waterloo

 

12) Nolan Arenado (3B – COL)

Case For
“Boring can be good, and with Nolan Arenado, boring can be damn good. You’re going to get a .300 batting average with at least 37 home runs and 100 runs and RBIs each year. Is it driven by Coors Field? Not quite. If he ends up getting dealt, he’ll retain his value. If you want to pass on Arenado to take a power-speed guy here, it makes sense, but Arenado is the safest player in the first 12 picks not named Mike Trout. Don’t mess up your early-round picks.”– Michael Waterloo

Case Against
“Say what you will about position scarcity, but it is undeniable that third base carries extreme position abundance in 2020. Therein lies the problem with Nolan Arenado. He’ll give his usual 35+ home runs, drive in 100, and hit near .300, but are we sure that we can’t find this in another third baseman elsewhere in the draft? No. And the dropoff to other players eligible at third base is no longer cavernous enough to justify filling the position early.”– Mario Mergola

Draft Approach
“Are you the type of fantasy player that just wants to not mess up in the first few rounds? Do you have no doubts that Arenado will be in a Rockies uniform all season long? If this is you, Arenado is a great way to spend a late first or early second round pick. He is one of the safest hitters in the league and is still firmly in his prime years at the age of 28. If you do end up with Arenado after the draft and before the adjusted MLB schedule is released, it might be worth a look to see how many Coors Field games the Rockies gained or lost relative to their road games. Those home/road splits are heavy enough to look into trading him away if the Rockies have to play 5-10 extra road games in this odd 2020 season.” – Jon Anderson

13) Max Scherzer (SP – WAS)

Case For
Max Scherzer was the hands down #1 pitcher in fantasy heading into the 2019 season. He dealt with some back issues, threw about 40 innings less than everybody expected, and now all of the sudden he’s a second round pick? Nobody cared about the age last year, does one year really make a difference? It isn’t like he didn’t return from the injury either, he pitched fully healthy and was his normal awesome self during the Nationals World Series run. I understand that you would rather have the younger guys like Cole and deGrom, but absolutely nobody would be surprised if Scherzer wins another Cy Young this year, and you can get him at a discount for the first time in years. Sign me up for second round Scherzer, please.” – Jon Anderson

Case Against
“Pitchers have risk built into them. We know this. It’s a gamble when you take any pitcher in the first round, but when you take a pitcher with nearly 2,300 innings on his arm at the professional level, who was forced to miss a start in the World Series with a neck injury and suffered discomfort in his side in Spring Training, you’re asking for trouble. If Scherzer is fine for a full season, you may win your league by getting him at the turn, but you better draft accordingly and take another high-level pitcher as a safety net. “– Michael Waterloo

Draft Approach
“Fantasy drafts in 2020 have trended toward a grouping of the upper echelon of pitchers that undoubtedly includes Max Scherzer. He is almost always one of the first four pitchers off the board — even more after the injury to Justin Verlander — and he is likely pick right after Gerrit Cole and Jacob deGrom are drafted. Scherzer has been a first or second round talent for years, and only an injury to his back has caused us to question his production. Scherzer provides elite potential — if he simply performs to his career averages — but carries a little more risk than usual in 2020.”– Mario Mergola

 

14) Jose Ramirez (3B – CLE)

Case For
“It was easier to make an argument for regression by Jose Ramirez prior to last year’s season, but it is no longer valid. Ramirez did regress, and he dropped to low points in most of his hitting categories over the last few years. That was, until he rebounded with a monstrous second half, hitting .327 with 18 doubles, 16 home runs, and six stolen bases. It was a stark reminder that he is far closer to his high point than the forgettable first half of the season he just produced. Ramirez did show a decline in steals over the course of the season, but it’s likely due to the high number of extra-base hits than a lack of intent. Even if we skew on the low side of Ramirez’s stolen base totals, he remains a steady source of fantasy value throughout the rest of his game.”– Mario Mergola

Case Against
Jose Ramirez has been a really odd player in his career. He was pretty uninteresting fantasy player until 2016 when he really put it all together and played a brilliant full season, hitting .312 with a .363 on-base percentage and stealing 22 bases. That put him on the fantasy radar. Since then, he has had three very different seasons. In 2017 he hit for a high batting average (.318) and power (29 homers), but put steals on the back burner (12). He lost some batting average (.270) in 2018, but added on to the homers (39) and steals (34). Then last season he his batting average really went away (.255), and he regressed in homers as well (23), but stole enough bases (24) to matter. 

The scary thing about Ramirez is that you just don’t know what happened from late 2018 to mid 2019. He was a legitimately awful hitter for nearly a full calendar year; the only thing he was offering was steals. He slowed the steals pace but hit for a really strong average and he swatted a bunch of home runs late in 2019. It seems to me that at least one of these categories has to take a backseat to the others, and it’s pretty tough to call Ramirez anything but a risk at this point. I’ll let someone else roll those dice.” – Jon Anderson

Draft Approach
“At the All-Star break last year, there were mock drafts for 2020 taking place. Ramirez fell to the seventh or eighth round in them, and could you really blame anyone? After all, Ramirez had just a terrible first half of his 2019 season after struggling down the stretch in 2018. But then he turned it around in the second half, reminding everyone just how good he is. He’s a first-round talent that you can get in the second round who offers across-the-board production. He’s worth investing in, even after seeing how low the floor could be at rock bottom.”– Michael Waterloo

 

15) Alex Bregman (SS/3B – HOU)

Case For
Alex Bregman didn’t put on a show during the Home Run Derby. Did anyone really expect him to? See, his home ballpark helps him out exponentially for his launch angle and average home run distance. You know what? That’s OK. Like Coors Field helps the Rockies hitters at home, Minute Maid Park assists Bregman with the Crawford Boxes in left field. Should you expect 40 home runs again? No, but 30-35 seems achievable, and if Bregman can even get the steals up to 10 again, he’s a first-round-type of player, especially in OBP leagues. “– Michael Waterloo

Case Against
“If we’re making a case against Alex Bregman, it would be irresponsible to ignore the elephant in the room. Bregman is a focal point of the cheating scandal surrounding the Houston Astros, and there’s a chance that it impacts his on-field production. Is it definite? Of course not. But, it’s possible, and we’re in the game of projecting outcomes based on imprecise variables. This is one. If we’re looking for some “more precise” variables about Bregman’s game and fantasy value, then we can point to the low stolen base totals and deep positions for which he is eligible. Despite dual eligibility by Bregman, neither position requires a high investment of resources, and his lack of speed prevents him from sitting in a tier above other third base and shortstop options.”– Mario Mergola

Draft Approach
“One of the biggest gainers in an on-base percentage league is Bregman, who has some of the most ridiculous plate discipline skills in the Majors. He posted a 17% walk rate last year with a 12% strikeout rate – those numbers are unparalleled. Everything else is awesome for Bregman as well, as he swatted 41 bombs while driving in 112 and hitting .296 while crossing home plate 121 times. He is a stud hitter. Since he is at such a loaded position and doesn’t steal many bases, he can find himself sliding into the middle or late second round, which is a sheer mistake in an on-base percentage league. Let other people follow the whole Astros-can’t-cheat-now narrative and take advantage of the savings on Bregman.” – Jon Anderson

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