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Player Debates: Aaron Judge, Matt Olson, Lucas Giolito, Tommy Pham, Yu Darvish

May 2, 2020

We are into the sixties in our player debates series. Today we have a pair of high risk, high reward pitchers along with a threesome of very interesting hitters. Check out the rest of the series at the links below before diving in.

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
Player Debates: Rafael Devers, Anthony Rendon, Starling Marte, Jack Flaherty, Stephen Strasburg
Player Debates: Shane Bieber, Justin Verlander, Javier Baez, Xander Bogaerts, Yordan Alvarez
Player Debates: Charlie Blackmon, Jose Altuve, Pete Alonso, Ozzie Albies, Gleyber Torres
Player Debates: Austin Meadows, George Springer, Clayton Kershaw, Ketel Marte, Adalberto Mondesi
Player Debates: Blake Snell, Luis Castillo, Anthony Rizzo, Mike Clevinger, Keston Hiura
Player Debates: Kris Bryant, Nelson Cruz, Manny Machado, Paul Goldschmidt, Patrick Corbin
Player Debates: Eloy Jimenez, Charlie Morton, Chris Paddack, Aaron Nola, Yoan Moncada
Player Debates: Whit Merrifield, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Jonathan Villar, Zack Greinke, Bo Bichette

Be sure to bookmark this page to follow along for our complete player debate series.

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61) Aaron Judge (OF – NYY)

Case For
“The case for Judge is pretty simple, and it’s based on his upside. His career 162 game average is 45 homers, 101 RBI, 119 runs, seven steals, a .273 batting average and a .394 on base percentage. Barring any setback or new injuries, Judge will be in the Yankees’ Opening Day lineup, whenever that fateful day finally comes. While Judge’s stock has risen with the delay, he is still probably going too late in drafts and he currently sits as one of the best draft day values on the board.” – Jon Anderson

Case Against
“Staying healthy is a skill, and it’s one that Aaron Judge hasn’t possessed over the past couple of seasons. Could his size contribute to that? He’s missed significant portions of the past two seasons, and he was dealing with an injury that caused his stock to drop during draft season. There’s no denying the power and overall contributions that he brings, but he, like teammate Giancarlo Stanton, gives owners pause about taking them thanks to durability concerns. The tried and true rule is to not take injured players in the draft as there is enough risk baked into players already. Pass on Judge unless he has a clean bill of health.” – Michael Waterloo

Draft Approach
“Aaron Judge sits on a long list of players that could benefit from the delay of the 2020 regular season, but we still can’t avoid speculating on his status. If healthy, we’re generally getting above-average production across the board — except steals. Really, “if healthy,” we have an early round pick with Judge. That annoying caveat remains the key problem, as Judge isn’t only an injury risk; he’s a currently injured player. Because of his wide range of possible outcomes, he is one of the most volatile players in this year’s draft. The most likely approach is to pair Judge with a more stable player and try to only target him if he falls too far.” – Mario Mergola

62) Matt Olson (1B – OAK)

Case For
“Name recognition plays a large role in a fantasy baseball draft. Unfortunately for Matt Olson, he carries little weight in this area. His misfortune is our gain. Olson is constantly overlooked because of his deflated numbers outside of home runs, and it often results in a discount. As an overall player, this makes sense. The reality is that we shouldn’t be buying Olson as “an overall player.” We want his power, and we want it for as low of a price as possible. That’s how we can take advantage of his depleted draft stock. The added benefit is that first base is thinner in 2020 than it has been in years past. Only four of the top-30 fantasy hitters from 2019 were eligible at first base. – Mario Mergola

Case Against
“Olson’s upside is a ton of homers and RBI with no steals and a fine batting average. He is not going to hit .290 for you, which makes him a lot like tons of other guys in the league. With the league probably playing most of their games in hot weather and pitchers having their usual spring routines completely shredded, there are sure to be home runs aplenty once again in 2020. A home run hitter with no steals or batting average just isn’t that appealing to me right now. – Jon Anderson

Draft Approach
“Remember when a broken hamate bone was supposed to zap power? Matt Olson laughed at that notion, as he still hit 36 home runs last season after suffering the injury in the first week of the season. Olson is a popular target in the industry, and it makes sense, given his job security, power, and production. There are concerns about his home ballpark and his numbers against lefties, but if you miss out on the first wave of first basemen, this is your last chance to grab a true contender to finish top three at the position.” – Michael Waterloo

63) Lucas Giolito (SP – CHW)

Case For
“There’s a reason that you hear fantasy analysts say that you should target post-hype players: baseball is hard, man, and it takes time for players to fully figure it out. With his prospect pedigree, it took longer than most thought for Lucas Giolito to figure things out. But boy did he ever in 2019, with his 25-start dominating stretch to end the season. He looked like a totally different pitcher — but one who mowed down the league. Hitters are more often to click sooner than pitchers are in the big leagues, and if you look at his peripherals, there’s not much to question about Giolito’s breakout performance. As long as he keeps his increased velocity on his fastball, he’ll continue to be a solid SP2 for fantasy managers.” – Michael Waterloo

Case Against
Let’s pump the brakes on Lucas Giolito’s rapid ascent into the top tiers of starting pitchers. Just one year before his outstanding breakout, he finished with an atrocious 6.13 ERA. “Small sample size?” you ask. Not quite. He made 32 starts for 173.1 innings. Last year, he threw 176.2 innings. It’s not outside of the realm of possibility for a pitcher — and a former highly-touted prospect — to emerge so suddenly, but we’re looking at some of his numbers nearly doubling –– such as his strikeout rate from 6.5 K/9 to 11.6 K/9. Similarly, his home-run-to-fly-ball ratio remained the same, and his fly ball rate actually increased. Giolito may be on the right side of his trend-line overall, but some drifting toward the mean is likely. When it happens, it can drag down Giolito’s fantasy value with it.” – Mario Mergola

Draft Approach
“Drafting Giolito is all about where your pitching staff is at the time of the pick, and whether you want to go with the safety or the upside. He certainly showed SP1 upside last year, and nobody should be surprised if he would turn in a top-five season at the position this year. If your draft strategy is to wait a bit for pitching and then go for the upside, Giolito will probably end up on your team. If you want to play it a little more safe, there are better options for you.” – Jon Anderson

64) Tommy Pham (OF – SD)

Case For
“You know what’s tough to find in fantasy baseball? Batting average and steals. Pham gives you both of those things. He has hit .273, .275, and .306 in his last three seasons with steals totals of 25, 15, and 25. He is far from a zero in homers as well as he has gone three straight years clearing 20. Now he joins a pretty solid lineup with the Padres and should be able to score runs at a good pace atop that lineup. He is one of the best options for mid-round steals, as he does not hurt you anywhere else, and that is not easy to find.” – Jon Anderson

Case Against
“You really need to try to remember that Pham is already 32 because of the late start he got to his career. While he’s been a top fantasy contributor for the past three years, he’s at the age where skills tend to fall off. If you look at Pham’s batted ball data, he still has a high exit velocity and hard-hit rate (both 82nd percentile), and his sprint speed and xOBA and xBA are all great and above average, respectively. But there are signs that a decline could take place, making him a guy you could be over-drafting at 83rd overall. He recorded the lowest launch angle of his career in 2019, which resulted in the fourth-highest groundball rate in the big leagues. What’s more, he also was 128th in baseball in Brls/BBE%, tied with the likes of Adalberto Mondesi, Travis d’Arnaud, Maikel Franco, and Andrew Benintendi. Take into account his batted ball profile and his age, seeing the loss of a handful of steals and homers could make him a pick you regret, especially when you see names like Nelson Cruz, Eddie Rosario, Matt Chapman, and Nick Castellanos going after him. ” – Michael Waterloo

Draft Approach
“No matter where he plays — seeing as he will be joining his third different team in a three-year span — Tommy Pham excels at getting on base. This makes him invaluable in an on-base percentage league — although he did also pop for a .306 batting average in 2017. Elsewhere, he’s been a remarkably consistent contributor in all categories — stolen bases among them — but won’t dominate in any singular area. The bigger issue with Pham stems from the uncertainty. He isn’t young, as he’s entering play at 32-years old, and he was already dealing with a side injury during Spring Training. The aforementioned shuffling of teams is not exactly a vote of confidence. – Mario Mergola

65) Yu Darvish (SP – CHC)

Case For
“The entire case for Yu Darvish in 2020 stems from the splits from his 2019 campaign. In the first half of the year, he was terrible. A 5.01 ERA was the most glaring number, with a high walk rate right behind it. Then he flipped a switch. Darvish delivered a 2.76 ERA in the second half, dropping his walk rate to a ridiculous 0.77 per nine innings. His strikeout rate also exploded to 35.8 percent. All told, under normal circumstances, this type of split season might be viewed as a cause for concern. Darvish’s case is not, however, normal. He had his 2018 season prematurely ended due to an elbow injury, and it’s possible that some lingering effects carried into the start of 2019. Darvish also dropped his fastball percentage and relied more on the curveball in the second half than he did in the first few months of the season. Between the improved health and reliance on better pitches, there’s a significant upside to Yu Darvish in 2020. – Mario Mergola

Case Against
“Pitching is going to be really weird this year with the super-delayed and super-short season in all kinds of different ballparks. I can’t knock Darvish’s upside, as he was one of the best pitchers in the league after the calendar flipped to June last year. However, the risk is obvious. He posted nearly a 12% walk rate in 2018 and was off to a horrible start in the regard last year before turning a corner overnight. If the walks revert back to that 10%+, Darvish is not a very good option. He has really fallen apart when he doesn’t have his command in recent years. While his upside is immense, I am not sure this is the kind of risk I want to assume this season, especially from a 33-year-old.” – Jon Anderson

Draft Approach
“There’s a lot of focus on the second-half performance of Yu Darvish, one in which he allowed just seven walks over his final 13 starts, but not a lot on his dreadful first three months of the season, where he was at best a streamer who was walking everyone. Maybe he figured it out, but the whole is a greater sample than selected stretches. For Darvish, you’re likely looking at a player who will be somewhere in between. He’ll be a strikeout artist, but he’ll be an average pitcher who is fine – not great – in the other categories. If his first half of the season in 2019 happened in the second half of the season instead, we’d be looking at him as a late-round flyer at best.   – Michael Waterloo

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