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Player Debates: Rafael Devers, Anthony Rendon, Starling Marte, Jack Flaherty, Stephen Strasburg

Apr 8, 2020

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Hello again and welcome back to our player debates series. We are doing our best to give you guys some interesting, useful fantasy baseball journalism during this brutal month of April. We will get to five more debates in this post, you can check out the rest of the series in the below links.

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
Player Debates: Juan Soto, Nolan Arenado, Max Scherzer, Jose Ramirez, Alex Bregman
Player Debates: Freddie Freeman, J.D. Martinez, Walker Buehler, Fernando Tatis Jr., Bryce Harper

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21) Rafael Devers (3B – BOS)

Case For
“This is why you don’t give up on a player — and why you should bet on track record. After Devers’ disappointing sophomore campaign, the price sunk on him in 2019 drafts. He responded to the tune of .311/.361/.555 with 32 home runs, 129 runs, 115 RBIs, and eight steals. That’ll do. That’ll do, indeed. Even at a deep position, Devers is worth the investment with a second-round pick. What’s funny is that if steals and elite arms weren’t pushed up this year, Devers would, justifiably, be a first-round pick in most fantasy seasons. Take advantage of the market and snatch him up.” – Michael Waterloo

Case Against
“The name of the metaphorical game involving Rafael Devers is “regression.” Do we want to buy into it or not? If so, then the case against Devers makes itself. He absolutely exploded in every statistical category and put together one of the best, well-rounded season a fantasy hitter could provide. It’s dangerous to assume he’ll hold onto these lofty numbers for a second consecutive season, especially since many of his peripherals remained unchanged in 2019 compared to ’17 and ’18.” – Mario Mergola

Draft Approach
“Do you believe in what Devers did in 2019, or do you not? If he repeats last year (129 R, 32 HR, 115 RBI, 8 SB, .311 AVG, .361 OBP), he is one of the best values in the draft. If he is more of his 2018 self, he is a really bad pick here. He is one of the riskiest hitters in the top 30, but he’s also just the type of guy you want if you’re shooting for a first place finish. The below the surface numbers suggest he will be closer to his 2019 self than 2018 (he made significant gains in strikeouts, whiffs, and line drive rate), but he is far from a sure-thing at this point.” – Jon Anderson

22) Anthony Rendon (3B – LAA)

Case For
“Why exactly is a guy coming off a career year with an already stellar career .286 batting average and .369 on-base percentage going at pick #22? This dude hit 34 homers last year with a .319 batting average, a .412 on-base percentage and only struck out 13% of the time. He is a top-10 hitter in the league in terms of skill. He gets a fat check and a ballpark downgrade and suddenly he’s a third round pick? Color me confused. Sure, third base is deeper than the Crater Lake, but how many guys outside of the first round can do what Rendon did last year? I’m not sure anybody else can. I’ll take the first round production at pick 22, and I won’t say thank you either.” – Jon Anderson

Case Against
“For years, Rendon was the poster boy for the most underrated player in fantasy. Coming off his career year, he’s underrated no more. Now the price that you have to pay for him leaves very little room for a net gain, and in order for him to return a positive ROI, you need him to replicate his 2019 numbers, which were, by the way, career highs across the board, aside from stolen bases. He’s also taking an L with the switch in ballparks in every major ballpark factor. The position is deep, and while Rendon is safe here, you’re banking on a lot in order to get a solid return from your second-round pick.” – Michael Waterloo

Draft Approach
“Drafting Anthony Rendon isn’t for the faint of heart. Indeed, he had a basically perfect fantasy season in 2019, but we can’t ignore how shaky the floor is. Prior to last year, he had never hit more than 25 home runs in a season, and had either scored or driven in at least 100 runs twice — and not in the same year. The fact that he cruised past all three of these milestones is a sign that his ever-present potential was finally reached, but we also need to look at his overall resume. With third base being as deep as ever in 2020, Rendon should be targeted for his value if he drops than the expectation of a repeat performance.” – Mario Mergola

23) Starling Marte (OF – ARI)

Case For
“25 stolen bases and a batting average of around .280 is the consensus expectation for Starling Marte, and, if he were guaranteed to reach these numbers, wouldn’t we be buying in heavily? Of course, nothing in fantasy sports is guaranteed, but the baseline for his speed is so consistent that he is worth a premium. To have a range of stolen bases that reached toward 40 is outstanding in today’s power-happy game. The move to a new team — and deeper lineup — will only help as the Diamondbacks clearly bought into Marte’s speed.” – Mario Mergola

Case Against
“Marte doesn’t do anything that well. Yeah, he hit .295 last year and has stolen 20 or more bases seven years in a row. That’s about the end of the super positive things there is to say about him. He’s 31, his 25 homer projection is near the bottom of the list when you are talking about top 50 fantasy hitters, and the dude doesn’t take walks. It is so easy for Marte to hit like .270 this year with less than 20 homers, and I’m just not sure why you want to take that risk with a top-25 draft pick. Get your steals elsewhere and fade Marte hard.” – Jon Anderson

Draft Approach
“Rinse. Wash. Repeat. Every draft season, we as a collective fantasy community get excited about drafting Starling Marte on our teams. When the season is over, we end up feeling pretty meh about it. Rinse. Wash. Repeat. He’s in a new ballpark with a better team, sure, but let’s not forget that he’s 31 years old, and with speed as his main value driver, we can expect that to start to decline rapidly, potentially this season. What’s more, Marte has only had two seasons with more than 600 plate appearances in his career despite being a regular presence toward the top of the Pittsburgh lineup. While the speed/power combo is enticing with Marte, you should look elsewhere with your late second-round pick, especially assuming that you got Ronald Acuna, Mike Trout, or Christian Yelich in the early first round.” – Michael Waterloo

24) Jack Flaherty (SP – STL)

Case For
“When Jacob deGrom posted his historic 2018 numbers en route to his Cy Young, we knew that there would be regression coming in 2019. Carrying over a 1.70 ERA, 1.94 average against, and a 0.91 WHIP wasn’t sustainable, and we knew that. For his encore in 2019, he posted a 2.43 ERA, .205 average against, and a 0.97 WHIP. So when people mention that Flaherty’s second half is the driving force around his price tag, they aren’t wrong. His second half was historic — especially compared to his first half of 2019, where he struggled mightly. But even with regression to his second-half numbers — 0.91 ERA, .142 average against, and 0.71 WHIP – Flaherty has the pedigree, sample size, and stuff to be the ace for your team. Don’t overthink it.” – Michael Waterloo

Case Against
“Draft position and acquisition price are the leading metrics before a fantasy baseball season starts, and Jack Flaherty is the perfect example. Is he a good pitcher? Absolutely. But is he worth his high price tag? It’s debatable. Flaherty continues to creep up the draft board because of need more than want — teams that miss the first four or five pitchers feel as if they are behind — and it’s overshadowing his true value. Forcing Flaherty onto your team likely means passing on other options with higher upside.” – Mario Mergola

Draft Approach
“If you want a pitcher in the first three rounds, but you don’t want to pass on the super-elite hitters, Flaherty is an option for you to start your pitching staff off with. He was pretty disappointing in the first half of 2019, but he was arguably the best pitcher in baseball over the second half. He inherently comes with more risk than some of the other guys you are picking around here because of his lack of experience, but he also could bring some more upside to the table. If you want a young pitcher with upside early, but not super early, Flaherty is a guy to take a good look at.” – Jon Anderson

25) Stephen Strasburg (SP – WAS)

Case For
“The only thing that was holding Strasburg back from being a legitimate fantasy ace was health. He finally put together a full season in 2019, posting a 3.32 ERA with a 1.04 WHIP with a stellar 10.8 K/9 and a 2.4 BB/9. Strasburg has always been one of the most talented pitchers in the league, so there is very little risk with him outside of the health situation. While Strasburg is throwing for you, he is going to be very good. He is a much safer bet than the Flahertys and Biebers of the world, which makes him a really strong pick even at this higher draft price in 2020.” – Jon Anderson

Case Against
“With pitchers getting injured in Spring Training or getting pushed down on draft boards due to injury concerns, it’s strange that Stephen Strasburg’s price hasn’t moved at all. Strasburg is coming off of a year where he threw 209 regular season innings on top of 36 innings in the playoffs, so he has the workload carryover concern for 2020. In 2014, Strasburg threw 215 innings, and he followed it up with 127 in the next season. Three out of the five projection models have Strasburg hitting 200 innings again, but it seems like a risky gamble for a 31-year-old who is coming off of the highest workload of his career. Add to the workload and injury concerns that his 2019 velocity and movement most resembled that of Pablo Lopez, Jake Arrieta, Jorge Lopez, and Tyler Mahle. Strasburg is a top-12 pitcher still, yes, but you should look to pair another higher-end SP with him as insurance.” – Michael Waterloo

Draft Approach
“It’s clear that people are hesitant to draft Stephen Strasburg too early, and it’s causing him to sit right in the middle of bargain and risk. If we could be assured that he will remain healthy for another season, then we can live with any regression he has after an outstanding 2019 regular season and playoff campaign. But, knowing that we’re rolling the dice on a pitcher who had four consecutive seasons of fewer than 30 starts before last year’s full workload, we have to be able to stomach risk. If you land on Strasburg, be prepared to grab starting pitching depth wherever possible throughout the draft.” – Mario Mergola

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