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Player Debates: Josh Donaldson, J.T. Realmuto, Josh Bell, Kirby Yates, Jorge Soler

May 13, 2020

J.T. Realmuto is the rare catcher who contributes in all categories and might actually be getting better.

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We have three polarizing big swingers, and then a catcher and a reliever on today’s edition of the player debates. We have now cleared 80 players as we push towards triple digits in this series, and we hope you are all enjoying it.

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

76) Josh Donaldson (3B – MIN)

Case For
“There’s not a lot sweeter than finding a guy that can give you this level of production this late in the draft. Sure, the age is a concern, but any of that bad taste in your mouth should be washed away by the fact that it will have a premium spot in one of the league’s best lineups. His floor is bolstered by the fact that he continues to show extraordinary plate discipline, posting a 15.2% walk rate that led to a .379 on-base percentage. He is an elite third baseman in OBP leagues, but he is just fine in standard leagues as well as he is a very good bet to be near the league leaders in counting stats in that juiced Twins lineup. He is one of the best values of 2020, don’t be afraid to reach a bit to get him.” – Jon Anderson

Case Against
“Josh Donaldson showed that he wasn’t quite done yet, as he had a big prove-it year in Atlanta after missing chunks of two straight seasons in 2017 and 2018. Donaldson had his elite plate discipline and power all season, and now he enters a lineup that led baseball in home runs last year. What’s not to love? Well, we can’t really ignore that he missed those two large chunks because of injury, especially with a 34-year-old. Between the chance of injuries popping up again and just really an overall decline in the skill set due to his age, there are yellow – not red – flags when considering Donaldson.” – Michael Waterloo

Draft Approach
“It feels like the fantasy baseball community was simply waiting for Josh Donaldson to collapse. His 2018 season was derailed due to injury, but, even with that outlier, he has still reached 30 home runs in four-of-the-last-five years. He has also driven in and scored at least 95 runs each in the same season three times since 2014. We have to accept that his batting average is not going to recover, but drafting Donaldson for his power is still an acceptable approach. The good news is that he walks enough to be extremely viable in an on-base percentage league.” – Mario Mergola

77) J.T. Realmuto (C – PHI)

Case For
“Drafting a catcher always brings out the same argument: you can either pay a premium for the top hitter at the position or wait for a lesser version at a cheaper price. If we’re discussing the “top hitter,” however, the conversation starts with J.T. Realmuto. He is the rare catcher who contributes in all categories — including stolen bases — and might actually be getting better. His most important asset is actually not any singular category, but the amount of time he remains in the lineup. Even playing for a National League team with no designated hitter, Realmuto has had at least 530 plate appearances in four consecutive seasons. It’s almost impossible to get that level of regular volume from a catcher year after year. – Mario Mergola

Case Against
“All of the points in the pro-Realmuto argument are fine. You really can’t just brush aside the value of a catcher who projects to get all those plate appearances and be strong in every single category. The negative argument here involves opportunity cost. There is no question that Josh Donaldson is a better fantasy hitter than Realmuto, are you really willing to take that much less production just for position’s sake? Maybe you are, and that’s not necessarily wrong. If Realmuto puts up another season with a 550+ plate appearance pace, he will likely justify this pick. However, you do have to consider that there is a ton of extra injury opportunities for catchers. How often do you see a concussion from a collision or a broken bone on a foul tip? It’s a volatile position that I prefer to just punt and/or stream all season and use my premium draft picks on more reliable players. Realmuto has had a ton of wear on that 29-year-old body; I’ll let somebody else assume the risk. – Jon Anderson

Draft Approach
“Look, we get it. No one really wants to draft a catcher. And for those of you in two-catcher leagues (first off, stop), no one wants to draft two catchers. But if you decide that you want to have an advantage at the position, it makes sense to take J.T. Realmuto here because of the overall production he’ll bring and the added volume of games he’ll play in his second season in Philadelphia. If there are no other players you like on the board and you feel like you can get adequate value at the other positions later, go ahead and click the draft button.” – Michael Waterloo

78) Josh Bell (1B – PIT)

Case For
“Prior to 2019, Josh Bell’s career mimicked that of James Loney, as he was a big first baseman who hit the ball on the ground … a lot. That’s why his 2019 season caught some by surprise because he continued to hit the ball hard, but hew as elevating it now to the tune of 37 home runs. Is it a pop-up year? Well, his numbers declined in the second half of the season, but you could make the argument that they really just leveled off, as is the case when most players put up huge numbers that they typically don’t in the first half of the season (a la the home run derby “curse”). Bell has the pedigree – and now the peripherals – to back up the breakout season. At a shallow position, buy-in.” – Michael Waterloo

Case Against
After two-and-a-half seasons of Major League Baseball, Josh Bell exploded into the power hitter many were expecting. He slugged 37 home runs, drove in 116, and scored 94 runs on his own in 2019. At least, that’s what the overall season numbers will say. His seasons splits tell an entirely different story. After hitting 27 home runs in the first half of the year, Bell could only add seven more to his total in the second half. He did end the year with an injury, but the decline in production that immediately followed a significant spike is a sign that regression is likely. Bell is slightly overvalued heading into 2020.” – Mario Mergola

Draft Approach
“Do you believe in the Bell breakout? Does the lackluster performance before 2019 and the second half production dip bother you? If so, you are probably not pulling the trigger on Bell here. If you believe in the talent and the overall numbers from 2019 and want to get your first baseman a little bit late, Bell is a great pick. He is far from a safe bet, but he does have an absolute ton of upside for a potential 8th round guy.” – Jon Anderson

79) Kirby Yates (RP – SDP)

Case For
“Two numbers: 101 and 13. Those are Yates’ 2019 strikeouts and walk numbers. Nevermind the fact that he’s 33, he has posted back-to-back super-elite seasons. In my opinion, his team situation is preferable to Chapman and Hader in terms of saves opportunities. The Yankees figure to win a lot of games by more than three runs this year, and the Brewers are not looking like a very competitive team. The Padres are a team that can win more games than they lose without figuring to be involved in a ton of blowouts. Yates is as good a bet as anybody to lead the league in saves while posting elite ratios, and you can get him at a little less perturbing price tag on draft day than the other elite relievers.” – Jon Anderson

Case Against
“You don’t pay up for closers. You just don’t. The repeatability year to year just isn’t there at the position. Kirby Yates was great last season, but every year, we push up those standouts from a year before at the position, only to have them crush our souls. There’s a reason that relievers have short shelf lives of being useful – especially closers. The Padres built one hell of a bullpen, and with the pressure on the front office to win this season, they won’t hesitate to pull Yates from the role quickly. Don’t pay up for saves, folks. Just don’t.” – Michael Waterloo

Draft Approach
When assessing closers, one of the best approaches is to assume a realistic worst-case scenario. Of course, any pitcher can suddenly implode or get injured, but is it likely that, without getting hurt, the pitcher will struggle to the point that a role change is needed. If not, is the pitcher also a candidate to be traded? Neither seem likely for Kirby Yates, as the San Diego padres should expect to compete in 2020, and they have a closer who was outstanding in 2019. Draft him with the same confidence that you would any other upper echelon closer. – Mario Mergola

80) Jorge Soler (OF – KCR)

Case For
At first glance, it’s easy to cast aside Jorge Soler’s breakout season as unsustainable. It is, but it also isn’t a surprise. The reality is that Soler was likely a forgotten man in fantasy baseball, as he played more than 100 games only once in his career — and the total, in that season, was 101. Soler was finally given a full-time commitment — in his defense, he earned it — and he showed what he could do with a full workload. Of course, we have to scale down the home run total, but he has a speed-happy offense in front of him that should allow him to flourish in the RBI category. In addition, he dropped his soft hit percentage in each of the last two years and held his hard-hit percentage above 40.0 in 2018 and 2019. – Mario Mergola

Case Against
“Soler had a Brady Anderson-esque 2019 season, pounding 48 homers after his previous career-high sat at 12. That was mainly a consequence of him finally playing a full season (he had never played more than 101 games in his career prior to last year’s 162 game output), but it can’t all be attributed to that. The juiced ball and a 28.1% HR/FB rate are certainly notable factors that could lead to major power regression from Soler even if he would stay healthy again in 2020. The 26.2% strikeout rate makes him far from a floor player, he is really a two category guy right now – and you’re really needing things to fall into place to get strong production in those two categories. I’m putting my chips on 2019 being an outlier for Soler and him never being drafted this high again in the fantasy world.” – Jon Anderson

Draft Approach
“Was it a fluke season for Jorge Soler? Possibly, but being that he cracked out nearly 50 home runs while underperforming in his expected stats leads me to say no, it wasn’t. You don’t love the ballpark, nor do you love the rollercoaster career that he’s had thus far, so you should take a few extra seconds before deciding if you want to take the chance on Soler or not. You need more power than ever to compete, and at 80th overall, the risk is already built-in for what could be league-leading power production.”   – Michael Waterloo

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