2019 Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: Rankings breakdown, No. 171-180
Learn why you should — and maybe why you shouldn't — draft players 171-180 in our consensus rankings.
Welcome to our 2019 Player Profiles series. We are going through the top-300 in Heath Cummings and Scott White's consensus rankings to give you the case for and the case against drafting each player. By the time you're done, you'll know everything you need to know for drafting in 2019.
171. Chris Taylor, OF/SS, Dodgers
The Case For: As Fantasy players, we're sometimes guilty of overreacting when players disappoint us, and that may be the case with Chris Taylor's draft price this year. He took a big step back from his breakout 2017, but still finished with 17 homers and nine stolen bases, and enters 2019 with eligibility at OF and SS. In a H2H points league, there may not be much reason to draft Taylor, but he's a sneaky value in Roto.
The Case Against: If you thought his 2017 was entirely a fluke, Taylor's 2018 provided some good evidence. He had decent counting stats, but was often overwhelmed at the dish, striking out in nearly 30 percent of his plate appearances, with a massive swinging strike rate. He might be the first Dodger out of an everyday job if he doesn't turn that around.
172. Francisco Cervelli, C, Pirates
The Case For: Cervelli is part of the shrinking middle class at catcher -- not good enough to get excited about, but good enough that he won't hurt you. He doesn't do anything especially well, but when half the league is getting negative value from the catcher spot, it's nice to know you don't have to worry much about him.
The Case Against: That isn't totally true, of course. Cervelli might not have a ton of glaring weakness in his skill set, but he's been sent to the DL four times over the past two seasons with head injuries/concussions, a big issue for catchers. Remember, concussions are largely to blame for Joe Mauer's decline. At this point, Cervelli carries significant injury risk.
173. Kyle Tucker, OF, Astros
The Case For: As a consensus top-15 prospect with a .332/.400/.590 line in Triple-A, we shouldn't have to do much selling on Tucker at all. He's got power and plate discipline, and swipes 20 bases every season to boot. This is a potential Fantasy superstar. All he needs is a shot.
The Case Against: Tucker is in a tough spot, because he really doesn't have anything left to prove in the minors. Unfortunately, the Astros may not have a need for him at the start of the season. And, as we learned last year, they may not be able to find a spot for him as the season goes on, either. That's the risk of investing in a top prospect on a team with plenty of major-league depth. If it was up to Fantasy players, he would have been up in April of 2018. There's no guarantee we see him in an everyday role until 2020, however.
174. Andrew Heaney, SP, Angels
The Case For: The path to success isn't always linear, but Heaney made some progress in 2018. Though his 4.15 ERA doesn't quite hint at it, Heaney showed plenty of potential in 2018, striking out a batter per inning with pinpoint control. He picked up a healthy amount of swinging strikes and got positive results from both his changeup and curveball. A bit more refining and Heaney has a chance to settle in as a mid-3.00s ERA workhorse.
The Case Against: Heaney's 186.1 innings in 2018 were just barely a career high, but that's a bit misleading; he had thrown just 55.1 innings between 2016 and 2017 combined due to Tommy John surgery. He's coming off one of the biggest innings leaps in baseball and has an injury history, a scary combination.
175. Gregory Polanco, OF, Pirates
The Case For: Polanco looked like he might have been making the leap to stardom in 2018. The .254 average was disappointing, but everything else was coming along nicely. He had 23 homers, 156 combined runs and RBI and 12 steals in 130 games, with the swing change to back it up. Polanco hit the ball hard consistently and has Yasiel Puig-esque upside at a fraction of the cost.
The Case Against: There's just the little point of why he comes at a fraction of the cost. Polanco's breakout was derailed by a shoulder injury in September that will keep him out for the start of this season. In fact, Polanco told reporters in January he hopes to return before June. And he'll be returning from the kind of injury that can tend to sap power for a long time. The upside is high, but the floor is in the basement for a player coming off this injury on this timetable.
176. Shane Bieber, SP, Indians
The Case For: If you buy into advanced stats, this shouldn't take much convincing: With a 19.6 K-BB%, Bieber put together one of the best strikeout-to-walk profiles in baseball as a rookie. That helped lead to the 17th-best FIP and 20th-best SIERA in baseball (min. 110 IP). Need I say more?
The Case Against: I am a believer in advanced stats to tell us the whole story, so I don't have many holes to poke in Biebers game. However, he was not touted as a prospect with great stuff, and it's possible his approach may lead to plenty of strikeouts and few walks, but a lot of loud contact because of how often he works in the strike zone.
177. Tyler Skaggs, SP, Angels
The Case For: How excited can you get about a pitcher with a 4.43 ERA and a career-low of 4.02? In Skaggs' case, potentially very excited. In his first 19 starts, he posted a 2.62 ERA with a solid 25.5 percent strikeout rate. It was a legitimate ace turn. Things of course went south from there, but Skaggs was dealing with hip and groin issues, which feels like a good enough explanation for allowing 24 runs in his final 15 innings.
The Case Against: Injuries aren't exactly rare in Skagg's history, though stretches like his first 19 starts are. You can buy the ace turn, but history isn't strongly on his side.
178. Yoan Moncada, 2B, White Sox
The Case For: It's so easy to buy into Moncada. The individual skills are all there. He hits the ball hard (86th percentile in rate of balls hit 95 mph or plus), runs fast (88th percentile in average sprint speed), has a good eye at the plate (10.3 percent walk rate, 22.2 percent swing rate on pitches outside of the zone) … it's still clear why scouts were so high on him, and why the upside remains so high.
The Case Against: It just hasn't turned into actual results. He hits the ball hard, yes, but doesn't hit many home runs; he runs fast but has just 15 steals in 211 games; he walks a lot and doesn't swing at bad pitches, but still led the majors in strikeouts. But his biggest issue might be this: Despite being a switch-hitter, he's hit just .215/.290/.311 against lefties. It might be time to ask where he should ditch hitting from both sides. That's not a ringing endorsement, obviously.
179. Francisco Mejia, C, Padres
The Case For: It's all about upside, here. Mejia's prospect star still shines (top-35 ranking across the board coming into 2019), and he still has the kind of skill set that could make him a star at catcher. In 110 career games at Triple-A, he's hit .293/.338/.471, with only 83 strikeouts. That kind of profile is easy to buy into, even with some struggles in a limited sample in the majors.
The Case Against: At this price, it's hard to argue against taking a chance on Mejia, but his MLB struggles can't be ignored. He had been a terrific contact hitter throughout the minors, but he's struck out 28.9 percent in 32 games in the big leagues. Catchers tend to develop slowly, so it shouldn't surprise if he continues to struggle.
180. Justin Smoak, 1B, Blue Jays
The Case For: Smoak wasn't quite capable of sustaining the gains he made from his breakout 2017 campaign, but don't let that fool you into thinking he wasn't any good. Smoak hit just .242 but walked plenty and clubbed 25 homers and 34 doubles in 147 games. He's not a star, but that's a useful CI or DH at a cheap price.
The Case Against: There probably isn't as much upside here as we had hoped for after 2017, and you might want to chase a higher-ceiling option with your CI -- Smoak might not be someone you miss.
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