2019 Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: Rankings breakdown, No. 281-290
Learn why you should — and maybe why you shouldn't — draft players 281-290 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.
281. John Hicks, C/1B, Tigers
The Case For: When you're looking for your second catcher, you can go with an also-ran, someone who is almost certainly going to his .240 with 10 home runs, but at least has an everyday job. Or, you can target someone with questions about playing time, but with a skill set that could be legitimately helpful. Hicks hits the ball reasonably hard, and has 15-homer potential, while hitting better than .260 in each of the past two seasons. With enough at-bats, that's top-12 catcher potential.
The Case Against: We really don't know what his path to playing time is. He could conceivably serve as the team's primary catcher, their primary first baseman, as a backup at both, or primarily as a backup catcher. That's a wide range of playing time possibilities.
282. Reynaldo Lopez, SP, Twins
The Case For: We're always going to be intrigued by hard-throwing young pitchers, and Lopez gave us legitimate reasons to be intrigued in the second half last season. He entered August with a 4.57 ERA and a paltry 16.3 percent strikeout rate, inconceivable numbers for someone with his talent. However, as he told FanGraphs.com in early August, he gained more comfort with his changeup, began using it more over the final two months, and was a completely different pitcher: Over his final 11 starts, Reynaldo had a 2.70 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 24.1 percent strikeout. That's more like it.
The Case Against: It's always hard to tell how much to put into late-season runs like this. The White Sox were hurtling toward a 100-loss season, and Lopez really only began dominating in September. Was that a result of an improvement in skill level, or was it a pitcher on a bad team dominating a watered-down player pool? The potential has always been there, and it's worth taking the risk this late, but Lopez still doesn't inspire a ton of confidence.
283. Jordan Hicks, RP, Cardinals
The Case For: You like velocity? Nobody gives you more of it. It's not just that Hicks threw harder than anyone in baseball in 2018; nobody else was even close. He averaged 100.4 mph with his sinker, 1.6 mph harder than anyone else managed with their primary fastball, and 14 of the 17 hardest-thrown pitches belonged to Hicks, too. He throws with wicked movement, too, which helps explain why he allowed just two home runs and a .266 BABIP. Oh, and he's only 22 and has a chance to be the closer for a playoff team.
The Case Against: You'll notice I didn't mention anything about strikeouts or walks. Well, that's because there isn't much good to say there. For all his raw stuff, Hicks had a below-average 20.7 percent strikeout rate, and an ugly 13.3 percent walk rate. Opposing hitters rarely bothered to swing at his offerings, but when they did, they made contact 77.1 percent of the time; a middle-of-the-road mark. For all the superlatives you can throw Hicks' way, he still just wasn't very good as a rookie.
284. Marwin Gonzalez, 1B/2B/SS/OF, TBD
The Case For: Having someone you can slot in at 1B, 2B, SS, OF, CI, or MI is valuable. If that person has 20-plus homer potential and can help in batting average and stolen bases, too? Well, that's not a bad way to use a late-round pick.
The Case Against: Gonzalez had one great season in 2017 but returned to being a middling-everything player in 2018. Now, we don't know where he's going to play, let alone how much. Not a bad late-round pick, but not necessarily a value if he lands in the wrong place.
285. Dylan Bundy, SP, Orioles
The Case For: Bundy does a lot well. He gets strikeouts at an above-average rate, and does a respectable job limiting free passes. He posted a career-high swinging strike rate, and his slider remains a solid weapon.
The Case Against: It's hard to find much else positive to say about Bundy at this point. He's not lacking in talent, but his approach is a mess, and at this point, basically every pitch except his slider gets absolutely rocked. With a different coaching staff and in a different ballpark, you might be able to find some optimism, but as things stand, he's just a late-round dart throw in the hopes that something clicks.
286. Jake Lamb, 3B, Diamondbacks
The Case For: Before an injury-marred 2018, Lamb was a solid source of power and run production, hitting at least 29 homers with at least 172 combined RBI and runs in his two full seasons in the majors. He even ran a little, picking up six steals in both 2016 and 2017. He wasn't a huge help in batting average, but even so, he ranked sixth at third base in Roto scoring in 2017. If healthy, there's still that upside.
The Case Against: Lamb has serious platoon issues. He's a career .160/.265/.292 hitter against left-handed pitching. That hasn't cost him much playing time in the past, and with the Diamondbacks in a state of quasi-rebuilding, it may not cost him much this year. But that's no guarantee, and either way you're getting someone who hits like a mediocre pitcher for 20 percent of his plate appearances. If you play in a weekly lineup lock league, it might be tough to maximize his value.
287. Ian Kinsler, 2B, Padres
The Case For: Even in a down season, you still got 14 homers and 16 steals in 128 games. He's old, but he still has some valuable skills, especially if you can snag him as a MI in a Roto league.
The Case Against: Can he even manage those meager numbers playing in San Diego, where the eventual emergence of Fernandez Tatis potentially threatens to squeeze his playing time.
288. Joey Wendle, 2B, Rays
The Case For: It's not a terribly thrilling profile, but Wendle seems like he deserves better than just a reserve rounds pick. As a rookie, he hit .300, stole 16 bases and hit seven homers in just 545 plate appearances. He probably got a bit unlucky when it came to power (he hit double-digits in 2015 and 2016), and if he can get up to about a dozen or so long balls, this is a solid, well-rounded skill set for essentially free.
The Case Against: So much of Wendle's value is going to be tied to batting average, and a .355 BABIP is tough to ask him to replicate. If he's hitting .275 and the power doesn't come, he's probably not long for Tampa's lineup, let alone yours.
289. Ross Stripling, SP/RP, Dodgers
The Case For: Stripling was legitimately good last season. He struck out 27.0 percent of opposing hitters and walked just 4.4 percent, an elite ratio, and it led to a 3.13 SIERA, the ninth-lowest in baseball. That's two straight years were Stripling was excellent, both as a starter and a reliever. He's settled any questions about whether he can be a valuable Fantasy asset.
The Case Against: He's probably not going to be a starter, and Stripling probably isn't capable of the kind of Josh Hader-esque dominance you need from a middle reliever to be Fantasy relevant. He's stuck in Fantasy limbo, unless and until the Dodgers suffer injuries that open a rotation spot.
290. Max Kepler, OF, Twins
The Case For: Kepler took a big step forward in 2018 with his plate discipline, emerging with one of the best strikeout to walk ratios in the game. He continued to hit for solid power, but his improvements were largely hidden behind a .236 BABIP, an unsustainably low mark. If Kepler can improve his batted ball profile while hanging on to his plate discipline improvements and gains he made against left-handed pitchers, there's a breakout here waiting to happen.
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