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Player Debates: Andrew Benintendi, Sonny Gray, Mike Moustakas, Mike Soroka, Liam Hendriks

May 28, 2020

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We wrap up the top 100 players on the board in this edition of our player debates. Thanks for following alone!

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

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Player Debates: Corey Kluber, Michael Brantley, Carlos Correa, Jeff McNeil, Roberto Osuna

96) Andrew Benintendi (OF – BOS)

Case For
“If you’re the type of fantasy player who likes to buy low on players off a down year, then Andrew Benintendi is the type of guy that you want to target. He was, after all, going in the late third to early fourth round of drafts in 2019, and he has the pedigree of a top prospect that you want. Is he going to become the second coming of Christian Yelich? Yeah, that’s unlikely, but he’s still in a good lineup (even without Mookie Betts), and he’ll contribute everywhere but home runs. And even then, he still isn’t a zero there.” – Michael Waterloo

Case Against
The simplest question to ask is, “What do we really expect from Andrew Benintendi?” Are we looking for 30 home runs? It’s extremely unlikely. In fact, in his three full seasons, his home run totals have declined from 20 to 16 and then to 13 last year. What about 20 stolen bases? There’s a better chance for steals than home runs, but we still aren’t likely to get more than 20. What’s most concerning is that his batting average tumbled while his strikeout rate jumped without an increase in power output. Right now, Benintendi is trending in the wrong direction.Mario Mergola

Approach
“None of the advanced metrics looked good at all for Benintendi last year, and his career has taken a real turn for the worse at this point. However, despite all the negatives, he hit .266 with a .343 OBP last year and stole ten bases. Those aren’t great numbers, but they are certainly stomach-able as a worse-case scenario considering the upside Benintendi brings. He is 25, and I don’t think anybody would be surprised by him being a 30/30 threat again soon. Picking Benintendi is all about your view on risk/reward. He is not a safe pick and could really hurt you, but he could also be a league-winning type of player.” – Jon Anderson

97) Sonny Gray (SP – CIN)

Case For
“A 2.87 ERA, a 1.08 WHIP, a 3.65 xFIP, a 28.9% strikeout rate and a 9.6% walk rate — those are all fantastic numbers from Gray last year. He has always had really great stuff, and it’s possible that he just really needed the change in scenery to get back to being an ace tier pitcher. He didn’t give us much reason to doubt him last year, which makes me want to go all-in on this draft price. The three bad seasons he posted before last year provide this cheap price, and I think it’s a great price to pay for a potential ace.” – Jon Anderson

Case Against
“Sonny Gray was a favorite of many heading into 2019, as the thought was that he’d have positive regression from leaving New York. Boy, did he ever. The results look pretty legitimate, but don’t forget that we’ve done this same song and dance with Gray twice, where he’s disappointed managers in a big way after his big 2015 and 2017 seasons. If you can get Gray as your SP3, you’re in good shape, but if you’re counting on him to lead your staff, start planning for 2021.” – Michael Waterloo

Approach
Sonny Gray’s numbers from the last few years are all over the place. He ranges from a 2.73 ERA in 2015 to two seasons in which he eclipsed 4.8, but he also delivered with a career-high 10.5 K/9 and an outstanding 2.87 ERA in 2019. This erratic history is not necessarily a bad thing, as it means we can get a return much higher than our investment. Naturally, the opposite is also true. As long as you can stomach the risk, Gray is worth a target in standard leagues. His innings totals have been relatively low, however, so he likely falls behind some other starting pitching options in points leagues.” – Mario Mergola

98) Mike Moustakas (2B – CIN)

Case For
“Mike Moustakas has never reached triple-digits in either the runs scored or RBI categories, but he has clearly emerged as a steady stream of home runs. This power has no signs of disappearing, as Moustakas has now turned in back-to-back seasons with a hard-hit percentage of at least 40 percent. More importantly, he is now providing home runs from a position that frequently lacks it — second base.  Mario Mergola

Case Against
“Moustakas has been a two-category player for his entire career, and that is just going to become more true as he ages. If you need some cheap homers and RBI upside in a great hitters park, Moustakas makes a great pick. However, I think a top-100 selection might be a little too early to take a big-time crater in batting average and steals when there are other players that are potential four or five-category options. I won’t knock anybody for taking Moustakas, but it really does depend on your team build at the time of drafting him. ” Jon Anderson

Approach
“Mike Moustakas is the poster child for betting on yourself, as he’s done so in back-to-back seasons. Now he’s in Cincinnati, which we know is a great hitter’s venue, so he won’t experience any drop-off from leaving Milwaukee. What’s more, Moustakas is playing second base, which makes him even more valuable than if he only had third base eligibility like in years past. The power is real, and so is this value for Moose in drafts. Michael Waterloo

99) Mike Soroka (SP – ATL)

Case For
“The knock on Soroka is that he can’t strike guys out. Sure, that’s fair, as he had a 20.3 percent strikeout rate in 2019. But don’t rule out Soroka taking a step forward with the strikeouts. Remember, that was the knock on Sonny Gray and Aaron Nola at first, too, and they both turned out just fine with their strikeout numbers. Soroka, just 22, could take a big step forward this year for the Braves along with Max Fried, and he may elevate himself into SP2 conversation. Don’t miss the boat. ” – Michael Waterloo

Case Against
“Mike Soroka dominated the Minor Leagues en route to a full season with the Atlanta Braves in 2019, but we are now stuck between a short time-frame and the determination of sample size. Soroka threw 174.2 innings, which is enough to value his full season statistics. The problem is that it was his only full season from which we could draw conclusions. Buried in that season is also a FIP 0.77 points higher than his ERA, and an xFIP more than one full point above his 2.68 ERA. This, coupled with a relatively low strikeout rate — not even one-batter-per-inning — suggests that an on-field regression is likely and his price point is too high. It’s a bad combination for overpaying. – Mario Mergola

Approach
“If you think Soroka can continue to post sparkling ERAs despite his below average strikeout rate, then he becomes a decent value at this point in the draft. However, we know how hard it is to continue to put up strong ERAs when you get this few whiffs, as evidenced by the fact that almost nobody else has done it in the last five years. Soroka is a good add if you have a pitching staff that already has a bunch of strikeouts but needs a wins boost, as the Braves should win a bunch of games this year, but I don’t like the value here if you’re looking for a higher strikeout rate or big-time upside at SP. I’ll likely leave Soroka for someone else and invest in the higher-strikeout pitchers later on in the draft.” – Jon Anderson

100) Liam Hendriks (RP – OAK)

Case For
“Given how volatile relief pitchers can be year-to-year, I cannot justify taking Hendriks even with the 100th pick of the draft. Last year was his first truly elite year pitching, and he’s already 31 years old. That said, the Athletics are one of those teams that should play in a ton of close games and win more than they lose. Hendriks has no real competition for the closer job after that sparkling 2019 season, so if you are just looking for a high volume of save attempts, Hendriks is a good guy to take a shot on. You can probably get him with your 12th pick or so, which is a significantly cheaper price than going after the elite closers.” – Jon Anderson

Case Against
“It’s almost like we don’t learn as a community. We gravitate toward the pop-up closer who put together a career year in the prior season, and we expect the same level of production from them going forward. Closers are so volatile year to year, and it’s especially so when it comes to the Oakland A’s. Let’s take a look at their saves leaders over the past seven seasons: 2019: Hendriks, 2018: Blake Treinen, 2017: Santiago Casillam 2016: Ryan Madson, 2015: Tyler Clippard, 2014: Sean Doolittle, 2013: Grant Balfour. Balfour was the saves leader in 2012, too, making him the last Athletic to lead the team in saves in back-to-back years. One thing Hendriks did do was add velocity across the board last year, as well as increase the spin on his fastball. Could the gains stick for Hendriks? Sure, they could. But let’s not forget that in 2018, he was designated for assignment for the fifth time in his career, so there’s not a lot of track record outside of 2019 that we can go off of. He’s the pop-up closer that you need to avoid.” – Michael Waterloo

Approach
“Liam Hendriks was an absolute gift to fantasy baseball owners in 2019, delivering a sub-2.00 ERA and 25 saves for basically the price of a waiver wire add. Now we have to pay a premium. As long as Hendriks remains the closer in Oakland, we should be fine to buy. The fact that he was not the closer immediately in 2019 does suggest that Oakland needed to be sold on him, and we have to be careful that the Athletics don’t start experimenting with Hendriks in other roles. Therefore, while he’s still an outstanding option in standard leagues, he is an even easier target in formats that value holds. – Mario Mergola

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