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Player Debates: Whit Merrifield, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Jonathan Villar, Zack Greinke, Bo Bichette

Apr 28, 2020

Those who invested heavily in Whit Merrifield in 2019 were disappointed

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We have a solid mix of veterans and youngsters in this five-some of players we are debating today. Get caught up on the rest of the series at the links below if you’re behind!

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56) Whit Merrifield (2B/OF – KC)

Case For
“The case for Whit Merrifield entering 2019 centered wholly around his stolen base potential. After swiping 34 bags in ’17, he upped his total to a whopping 45 in ’18. Suffice it to say, Merrifield stealing ‘only’ 20 bases in 2019 was a major disappointment. Perhaps not. His 20 stolen bases actually ranked 15th in the league among qualified hitters, further displaying how scarce this statistic is. The better news for him is that he isn’t based solely on speed — even though that’s how he’s often viewed. He has now finished each of his four of his Major League seasons with a batting average of at least .283, and he reached triple digits in runs scored last year. The overall package for Merrifield leaves him as one of the underrated high floor and high ceiling players outside of the first two rounds.” – Mario Mergola

Case Against
“Whit Merrifield’s appeal has always been batting average and steals. Well, he went from 45 steals in 2018 to 20 last year despite playing full season both times. The batting average was still strong at .302, but there is no guarantee that repeats given he is entering his age 31 season now. The Royals are a bad offense, so there is no strong basis for counting stats with Merrifield, so I’m thinking we are looking at a one-category guy here. There are so many better options around this point in the draft, I don’t see how anybody could make a really strong case for Merrifield. ” – Jon Anderson

Draft Approach
“Fool me once, right? Those who invested heavily in Whit Merrifield in 2019 were disappointed, as he failed to replicate the stolen base numbers that he gave you in 2018. He’s a non-zero in power, but unless the steals return to 40-plus, which is unlikely for a 31-year-old, he’s going to fail to give you the production that you want. There are better options at both second base and outfield that you can comfortably pass on Merrifield for.”– Michael Waterloo

57) Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (3B – TOR)

Case For
“Only 38 players had an ISO of more than .160 with a K% lower than 18 percent in at least 400 plate appearances. Guerrero has his name there with the likes of Cody Bellinger, Alex Bregman, Ketel Marte, Nolan Arenado, Francisco Lindor, Xander Bogaerts, and more. Guerrero was never going to live up to the expectations in his rookie season, but it was still a damn good season. The generational talent shouldn’t be overlooked due to an OK debut. He crushes the ball, and it’s just about hitting fewer groundballs in his second season. Oh yeah, he’s only 21 years old. Invest now, or get left behind.”– Michael Waterloo

Case Against
If we’re crafting a case against Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., then it starts with the hype and ends with his current trend line. Guerrero was easily one of the most sought-after rookies entering 2019, and his name still carries immense value, but can we accurately gauge when he will develop into a fantasy star? Even if we use his 162-game average as the main metric, he was a disappointment in almost every category. What’s most concerning is that we would have likely settled for either a high batting average or a big power output, and Guerrero had neither. This leads us to the risk of a longer development timeline than originally expected, where we won’t see a significant surge from Guerrero in 2020.– Mario Mergola

Draft Approach
“Do you play fantasy to win, or do you play for fun? The answer is probably both. The one thing you can definitely say for Vladdy is that he will increase your enjoyment in the game. He is one of the most fun players to watch step into the box, as evidenced by the fact that he had 4 of the top 10 hardest hit baseballs last year as a rookie. His upside is enormous, making him a big risk/reward play that could win your league or really put you behind the pace at this draft price. ” – Jon Anderson

58) Jonathan Villar (2B/SS – MIA)

Case For
“You don’t have to believe that Villar will have another 20+ homer season to be interested in him. Steals are incredibly scarce, and Villar is one of the surest bets to contribute in that category. In a shortened season, you are going to want a reliable steals source, and Villar can do that for you without being a total punt in every other category or costing you a top 30 pick. While the price is still definitely a bit high on him, he is a just fine guy to pick in roto around this time given how good he is in the steals category.” – Jon Anderson

Case Against
“Is it really hard to make a case against Jonathan Villar in 2020? I mean, we were fooled just a few years ago with Villar, and he was the biggest bust in fantasy the following year. Why are we doing it again? Sure, he gives you speed, but there’s nothing else that you can really bank on. The ballpark change is tough, and if Villar can’t adjust in the outfield, he could just be an over-hyped utility-man.”– Michael Waterloo

Draft Approach
There is no doubt as to how we approach Jonathan Villar. We’re buying him for his speed. Period. Can he give some power? Possibly, as he just hit a career-high 24 home runs. Can he sustain a high batting average? Probably not an exceptional one, but he can hit well enough to not be a drain. Running in tandem with his stolen bases, can we also expect runs scored to be high? If last year’s 111 runs were any indication, then Villar should contribute there, as well. Still, if he fails in every other category, we’re buying into Villar for his stolen base potential above all else.– Mario Mergola

59) Zack Greinke (SP – HOU)

Case For
“It’s difficult to gauge if the fantasy baseball community simply has fatigue regarding Zack Greinke or if people are universally expecting a sudden decline. In reality, both of these factors are subjective. Greinke is simply a rare specimen in the fantasy baseball world, where he has eclipsed 200 innings pitched in five-of-the-last-six seasons. His ERA in that span is an impressive 2.94, while his FIP is only slightly higher at 3.31. All of this points to the confirmation that Greinke is a reliable workhorse. Drafting his stability would allow for risks to be taken elsewhere.” – Mario Mergola

Case Against
“Greinke continues to get it done, posting another ridiculous 2.93 ERA in 2019 with a 0.98 WHIP. Control is the secret sauce here, as his 6.23 K/BB ratio was one of the best in the league once again. The age and lack of strikeouts are bothersome to me however since if another year on that arm costs him even a tiny bit of control, things could get ugly. By “ugly”, I probably mean he turns into just a good pitcher that nobody considers an ace-type. That’s not really a risk I want to take in the 5th or 6th round, so I’ll leave Greinke for the rest of the league and find someone with more upside a bit later.” – Jon Anderson

Draft Approach
“One of these years, it’s going to happen. Zack Greinke is going to get rocked as his velocity continues to decline. There’s little upside here, with more downside that the end is here at age 36. Greinke has been the model of consistency, but at a position where strikeouts are the most valuable result that a pitcher can give you, Greinke doesn’t help you at all. He’s not worth the risk at his draft price, despite his track record of ace-type success.”– Michael Waterloo

60) Bo Bichette (SS – TOR)

Case For
“Everything that could go right, did go right for Bo Bichette in his rookie year in Toronto. Is he a .300 hitter? Probably not, but he’ll hit around .285 with a power/speed combo that will play up in Toronto. Could there be an adjustment period in his second season? Sure, there could. Are there concerns that the performance wasn’t legit? Not really, if you look at his prospect pedigree and his underlying numbers. The ceiling is sky-high here, and Bichette could be a top 5 shortstop off the board in 2021.”– Michael Waterloo

Case Against
“Bo Bichette may have played fewer than 50 Major League Baseball games in 2019, but he made quite an impact in his short time. Naturally, this will cause his price to be inflated, as it’s easy to scale up his numbers over the course of a full season. This is why we have to turn to his underlying metrics. Perhaps the most concerning is that Bichette’s walk rate decreased while his strikeout rate jumped dramatically when moving up from AAA. He might hold onto a respectable batting average, but this suggests it’s more likely to decline. We also can’t expect a sudden surge in power without an improvement in hard hit percentage. 53 qualified hitters reached 30 home runs in 2019, and all of them had a hard hit percentage higher than Bichette’s. Be careful buying before Bichette has proven worthy of his ADP.” – Mario Mergola

Draft Approach
“Drafting Bichette is all about how your team looks at this point in the draft. He should give you runs and steals, with upside to help in homers and batting average. The strikeouts were high last year, but the small sample size and his raw talent could lead to a big improvement in that category. You are taking some risk here, but the upside justifies it, and he makes a nice pick if your team doesn’t have much runs or steals in the early stages of the draft.” – Jon Anderson

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