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Player Debates: Shane Bieber, Justin Verlander, Javier Baez, Xander Bogaerts, Yordan Alvarez

Apr 11, 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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26) Shane Bieber (SP – CLE)

Case For
“The Cleveland Indians had their starting pitching depth tested in 2019, and it was Shane Bieber who best answered the call. Bieber exploded as one of the premier young arms in the league, but the obvious response to such an outstanding season is his potential for regression. That is, until we explore his peripherals. From 2018 to 2019, Bieber’s walk and strikeout rates did improve, but only slightly, and his home run rate was actually worse. Overall, Bieber’s final numbers aligned his upside, and we are more likely looking at a pitcher growing with his breakout than falling from it.” – Mario Mergola

Case Against
“It’s true that Bieber was very, very good in 2019. He got a lot of strikeouts and walked very few hitters. However, when hitters were making contact, it was not pretty for the Indians righty. Bieber gave up a .405 xwOBA on contact, 34 points above the league average. That translated into a 8.7% barrel rate (the league average was at 6.3%). His stuff is not other-worldly, which could lead to some serious regression if he loses a bit of that pinpoint command. When you look at the splits, Bieber is pretty close to being a two-pitch guy, as he sticks heavily to fastball + slider against righties, and he goes fastball + curve to lefties. There is not a ton of cause or concern on Bieber, but I do think his price may be a bit high given what we just talked about.” – Jon Anderson

Draft Approach
“Bieber may not be the most polarizing player in drafts this year, but it’s hard to argue that he isn’t the most polarizing pitcher. For every positive (peripherals were in line with his surface stats), that are concerns (he gets hit HARD). If you’re a Bieber truther (Belieber, I guess), it’s good value for him here as the ace of your staff. But if you have any pause about him at all, you should fade him and go with a safer option.”– Michael Waterloo

27) Justin Verlander (SP – HOU)

Case For
“Before the injury, Verlander was locked and loaded as a first- or early second-round pick in fantasy drafts. He ended up getting groin surgery, which not only led to everyone making the same Kate Upton joke, but it also pushed back his timeline to be ready for the season. Even with 75 percent of the workload that he may have during a typical season, he can still put up dominant numbers. True, he’s old, but he’s only really been injured once before. Max Scherzer missed the same projected time last year that Verlander will this year, more or less, and he was still an ace. Getting Verlander here in the third round is a heist. Don’t overthink it.”– Michael Waterloo

Case Against
“There’s a reason why we worry about players as they reach their mid-to-late thirties. It’s not only the fear that they will suddenly decline, but it’s also their increased risk of injury. More importantly, when a player gets hurt at age 35, it might be a longer road to recovery than the same player would have had at 25. Is it a perfect science? Of course not. But Justin Verlander is entering his sixteenth Major League season at 37 years old, and, after four consecutive years of at least 33 starts, he was slated to miss at least a few to begin the year. The delay helps him recovery, but this preseason scare is a reminder that we have to be careful with aging veterans.” – Mario Mergola

Draft Approach
“The Verlander pick is mainly about your own personal confidence. If the age and the groin surgery don’t bother you, you could be finding a legitimate ace pitcher for a pretty cheap price. However, the safe play would probably be to let someone else roll those dice. The range is pretty wide on Verlander in terms of where he will go in drafts given all of the recent news, which could make him quite a steal in a draft. This pick is not without obvious risk, but the potential reward is certainly there to warrant it.” – Jon Anderson

28) Javier Baez (SS – CHC)

Case For
There really has not been much talk about Javier Baez this year, which suggests to me that he is no longer the polarizing player he once was. He has now gone two full seasons with strong batting averages, quieting some of the concerns about his high strikeout rate. It is pretty clear to me that he hits the ball hard enough and has the foot speed to make up for the higher strikeout rate, and he continues to post a strong batting average on top of the big time power/speed combination. I don’t think he will flirt with a 30-steal pace in 2020, but he is a really great bet for 30 homers, 15 steals, and a .280 batting average line (adjusted for how long the new season will be, of course). There will not be many more hitters on this list with that kind of upside in all three of those categories, so I believe Baez is too cheap.”” – Jon Anderson

Case Against
“You’re drafting Baez for one thing right now, and that’s power. The speed? Major drop-off from 2018 to 2019. The walks? Ha, that’s cute. The success that Baez has had the past two years has resulted in everything going exactly right for him, but with the skill set that he has, the margin for error is razor-thin. There are many players that offer the same skills that Baez had who can be had for a much better draft cost — especially considering the position that he plays.”– Michael Waterloo

Draft Approach
“Those who exercised caution before buying into Javier Baez after his outstanding 2018 season were rewarded, as they avoided paying a premium for a player whose numbers were ready to regress. Now that they have returned to normalcy, we can view Baez through the proper lens. He’ll contribute stolen bases, but likely not more than a dozen, and his power should hover around the league’s new normal. He almost never walks, however, but his high batting average is enough to warrant the price tag in categories leagues. If on-base percentage replaces batting average, we’re probably better off looking elsewhere.” – Mario Mergola

29) Xander Bogaerts (SS – BOS)

Case For
“It’s perfectly understandable that people would hesitate before buying into Xander Bogaerts after 2019, but that’s only because we have been duped by him in the past. In 2016, Bogaerts had a similar breakout to what we just saw, and he followed it up with a relative dud in ’17. Why, then, will this time be different? Most likely because 2017 was the outlier through all of Bogaerts’ seasons. It was the only time in which he hit worse than .288 and, over the last four years, hit fewer than 21 home runs. The loss of Mookie Betts might hurt the production of the overall offense, but Bogaerts, as a whole, should continue to thrive in the middle of the lineup.” – Mario Mergola

Case Against
“I am always skeptical of guys coming off career years, and that’s certainly the case with Bogaerts in 2020. He posted by far his best career line in 2019, hitting 33 homers with 117 RBI, 110 runs, and a .309 batting average. He has always had a high contact rate in his career, so the batting average should not be too big of a worry (although he did benefit from a .338 BABIP last year), but I am not sure the 30+ homer power and 227 R+RBI is at all legitimate. The Red Sox will have a worse lineup this year without Mookie Betts, and that will hurt Bogaerts. His draft reflects his 2019 production, and I do not think he will be able to replicate that success in 2020.” – Jon Anderson

Draft Approach
“If you look at the early shortstops taken — Trevor Story, Francisco Lindor, Trea Turner, Alex Bregman — Bogaerts was able to add his name as far as fantasy value to that core four last year, but he’s cheaper this year. Why? Well, despite having the breakout season in 2019, there wasn’t a lot below the surface that was really different. Bogaerts is a good player, but is he that much better than the other options at the position that can be had rounds later? If he repeats the breakout, sure. If not, you’re breaking even with the pick at best.”– Michael Waterloo

30) Yordan Alvarez (DH – HOU)

Case For
“Ignore the eligibility concerns. Ignore the cheating scandal. Don’t totally ignore the knees, but do pay attention to the results. Alvarez put on a historic performance last year across the majors and minors, and there’s really nothing to his profile that suggests it wasn’t all legit. Before last season, he was really good in the minors, but not quite this good. Fortunately, we can chalk that up to another year of development. Alvarez won’t give you steals, but the rest of the numbers are up there with the elite options in fantasy. Yeah, we’re talking about a top-five pick if he does it again. He has the pedigree, and he’s had the success early in his career. If his knees are good to go, don’t hesitate in having him be an anchor for your team.”– Michael Waterloo

Case Against
“To put it simply, if we take what Yordan Alvarez did over 87 games in 2019 and project it over a full season in 2020, it would be laughable. Not just great, but borderline fake. Alvarez would have to be one of the rare exceptions that not only hits for power — tremendous power — but keeps a high batting average. To his credit, he was able to do this in the Minor Leagues, but his strikeout rate also moved drastically in the wrong direction upon his arrival to the Houston Astros. That’s a more telling sign that, while the power should hold, the inflated batting average should not.” – Mario Mergola

Draft Approach
“Everything about Alvarez’s ridiculous rookie year looks legitimate. He walks a ton, strikes out at a league-average rate, and hits the ball incredibly hard when he does make contact. The fact that he only has a half-season of MLB results to study causes some pause, but there is really no reason to expect Alvarez to be anything but a top 20 hitter in the league this year. The issue comes down to position, as there is a very good chance he is confined to the DH spot in your league all season long. If that is largely prohibitive with your league settings, you should downgrade him. If that is not a big deal for your personal league, he could be a big-time steal at this draft price.” – Jon Anderson

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