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

May 26, 2020

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Three Astros, a former Cy Young, and everybody’s favorite utility man on the docket today. Let’s get into it!

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

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91) Corey Kluber (SP – TEX)

Case For
“You will not often find this kind of pitching upside this late in a draft. Kluber is just two years removed from a 2.89 ERA, a 0.99 WHIP, a 26.4% strikeout rate and a 4.0% walk rate. He threw just 35.2 innings last year before being shut down for the year, but now he is back with a new team for his age 34 season. Given the age and injury history, it might be unfair to EXPECT another ace-like season from him, but you certainly shouldn’t be surprised if he gives you one or two more of those seasons before he calls it quits. This is simply one of the best values in the draft at a position that is tough to fill.” – Jon Anderson

Case Against
“Is there a need to make a case against a 34-year-old pitcher? Typically, no, as you expect the end to be near. With Corey Kluber, not only is his age going against him, but he missed all but seven starts last season with a broken arm thanks to a come-backer. What’s more, it’s not like he was dominant in those starts (slow starter throughout his career, yada yada), but he posted a 5.80 ERA and was flipped for Emmanuel Clase and Delino DeShields in the off-season. This is one of the times where the real-life market for a player should impact your decision to take him in fantasy. His days of being an ace are over.” – Michael Waterloo

Draft Approach
“Arguably the most admirable statistic in Corey Kluber’s career is his volume. He pitched at least 200 innings for five consecutive seasons. It finally caught up to him, as Kluber missed most of 2019 with multiple injuries — however, one was a fluke in the form of a line drive that struck his arm. The shortened season is both good and bad news for Kluber, as he was almost certainly not going to deliver another 200 innings right after failing to throw 40 in the prior season, but a full workload is not out of the question now. With his strikeout rate respectable, but not elite, the debate around Kluber hinges solely on his ERA. If you expect him to revert closer to the 2.85 overall ERA from ’14 to ’18, then buy heavily.” – Mario Mergola

92) Michael Brantley (OF – HOU)

Case For
“So much of Michael Brantley’s career has involved questions about him staying on the field, but the Houston Astros managed to get 148 games from him in 2019 and the returns were outstanding. Most notably, Brantley hit .311, which ranked fourth in the American League among qualified hitters. This is not surprising. Excluding the 2016 campaign in which Brantley played only 11 games, he has a combined batting average of .313 dating back to 2014. Brantley almost never strikes out, and, while he won’t give a tremendous amount of power, he will single-handedly keep a fantasy lineup afloat with his batting average and decent contributions across the board. – Mario Mergola

Case Against
“Brantley is 33 now, and he has not benefited from the new homer-happy MLB. He stole just three bases last year (attempting just five), so it’s hard to argue that he’s anything more than a one-category player. The RBI’s and runs certainly won’t hurt you while he hits in the top half of that Astros lineup, but he is replaceable in those categories. He is definitely one of the best late-round sources for batting average, so I can’t fault anybody for playing catch-up in that category by drafting Brantley, but otherwise I’d rather take some multi-category upside with these picks. – Jon Anderson

Draft Approach
“It’s refershing to see Michael Brantley go inside the top 100 in ADP here, as he’s shown that he can be healthy over the past two years. With pitchers getting pushed up in the early rounds, there are good hitters who you can take at an enormous value, and they don’t get more valuable than Brantley, who will help you in four of the five categories. However, it shouldn’t surprise you if he gave you double-digit steals, either. He’s an OF2 that can be had for the price of an OF3 or OF4. “ – Michael Waterloo

93) Carlos Correa (SS – HOU)

Case For
“There’s an obvious risk with Carlos Correa, but the risk attached to him isn’t performance-based, rather, it’s injury based. Correa just can’t stay on the field. When he does play — including last season — we’ve seen what he’s can do, and those peak A-Rod comparisons are still there. What’s going against Correa is not only his health, but the position he plays is insanely deep, so it’s easier to fade him for guys like Corey Seager, Jorge Polanco, Marcus Semien, and Tim Anderson. Do you know what those guys don’t have? They don’t have No. 1 at the position upside, nor do they possess top-25 overall upside. Correa does, and he’s still only 25 and entering his peak years. This is a great spot to grab him, and you can take one of those depth shortstops later on in the draft to pair with him in case he gets hurt again.” – Michael Waterloo

Case Against
There’s simply no way around labeling Carlos Correa as ‘injury-prone.’ Even if we forgive his rookie season because of a late call-up, he has still reached 115 games played only once in the other four years of his career. In fact, he has missed roughly 40 percent of his team’s games in the last three years combined. Health is clearly a problem for Correa, and the reality is that it actually dates back to his Minor League days — his 2014 season was cut short due to an ankle injury. With shortstop being as deep as we have seen in years, it isn’t worth the risk in trying to pinpoint if this is the year we will see a full workload from Correa.” – Mario Mergola

Draft Approach
“Drafting Correa is all about how you feel about his health. Does the shortened season make injury-prone players more or less valuable? An injury will be even more deadly when there are half the games to cover, but that also means there are half as many injury opportunities. One thing is for sure, Correa will produce while he is in the lineup. If you want top-20 hitter upside in this late in the draft and you are willing to take the risk, Correa is an awesome pick.” – Jon Anderson

94) Jeff McNeil (2B/3B/OF – NYM)

Case For
“McNeil was an elite source of batting average last year while not really hurting you anywhere else. He scored 83 runs and drove in 75 with 23 homers in just 133 games while attempting 11 steals. The power surge was completely out of nowhere, which could result in major regression if the baseball changes back to however it was before last season, and his run count will depend on him staying at the top of that lineup. This is not a safe pick by any means, but at the very least, he will hit for a good batting average this season. That’s good enough floor to justify some of the risk he brings in the other categories.” – Jon Anderson

Case Against
“Jeff McNeil feels like a late breakout player, but he just turned 28 years old. But one thing we know we need to judge players on is the entirety of their work, not just their most recent performance. With McNeil, if you look at his minor league numbers, you have to wonder if the power he showcased (23 home runs) — in a season where everyone else was hitting home runs — is for real. If it’s not, he’s a replaceable player, even at his premium position.” – Michael Waterloo

Draft Approach
“One look at Jeff McNeil’s overall numbers will clearly point to an impressive batting average that held from his rookie year through 2019. It’s possible that it will still crumble, but we’re buying him for his average above anything else with expectations that he can sustain its high level. The irony is that he traded excess batting average for power in the second half of last season — only seven home runs but with a .349 average in the first half of ’19, and 16 home runs with a .276 average in the second half — and we should be careful of this potential change in approach. Regardless, McNeil is eligible at so many positions that he absolutely has a place on every fantasy baseball roster. It’s just a matter of which numbers he’s targeting this time. – Mario Mergola

95) Roberto Osuna (RP – HOU)

Case For
“Managers love a player with a proven track record of closing games, and Roberto Osuna has it. Through five full seasons in Major League Baseball, he has saved 20 games each time and reached at least 35 saves in three-of-the-four years. His team’s win potential remains one of the best in the league, so opportunities will be plentiful. As long as Osuna’s ERA doesn’t balloon, he will have every chance to continue delivering as a high-end closer for both the Houston Astros and your fantasy team. – Mario Mergola

Case Against
“The only case to be made against Osuna is the “don’t draft closers this early” case — which is more than enough for me! Why take Osuna in the first twelve rounds of the draft when there are so many huge upside bats and starters still floating around. Saves are so spread out in the league this year that it is easy to catch up on after not prioritizing them in the draft. I would not bet against Osuna being top three in the league in saves, but I just don’t think the category justifies this draft price.” – Jon Anderson

Draft Approach
“If you want to invest in a closer but don’t want one of the top guys, you could do far worse than Roberto Osuna. He’s done that thing that managers love where he’s “proven himself” able to handle the late-inning work, and he pitches for one of the best teams in the league, which means the saves should be there. This is a great spot to dip your toes into the saves category.”   – Michael Waterloo

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