2019 Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: Rankings breakdown, No. 51-60
Learn why you should — and maybe why you shouldn't — draft players 51-60 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.
51. J.T. Realmuto, C, Phillies
The Case For: As good as Realmuto was in 2018, when he was the best catcher in Fantasy, there's potential for even more now that he's in Philadelphia. Realmuto has fared more than fine with the Marlins, but their home park is clearly limiting his upside at this point — he's hit just .245 at Marlins Park with 22 home runs; on the road, he's a .309 hitter with 37 home runs. With the trade coming before Spring Training rather than in July, you'll get a full season of Realmuto hitting in a great park, in a great lineup..
The Case Against: With a declining stolen base rate, Realmuto loses some of the cushion that has helped him step out from the pack. His 2018 was an outlier in power and run production for Realmuto, and if he takes a step back in that department, he's going to sink back at catcher.
52. Xander Bogaerts, SS, Red Sox
The Case For: Bogaerts reworked his swing last season, and it resulted in his best season yet. Bogaerts tapped into more power than we've ever seen from him before, and he did it without sacrificing contact or average. In that Red Sox lineup, his 23 homers and 45 doubles led to 103 RBI, fourth-most among all shortstops. And he did it in just 136 games. He's not a speed demon, but he'll help you out in steals, and there might be more power potential here, as his 15.5 percent HR/FB rate was probably a tad low given his pull tendencies and how hard he hits the ball. This might not be the upside.
The Case Against: Bogaerts has been pretty consistently productive since 2015, but he's never been the same guy two years in a row. One year, he's an empty-average lightweight; the next he's a wall-scraper who seemingly lucks into 21 homers. When he had luck on his side pre-2018, he was terrific; if not, well, 2017 happens. Now 2018 looks like the closest thing we've seen to a legitimately sustainable version of Bogaerts, thanks to his improve batted-ball profile, but he still doesn't have a lot of room to work with. Because of his contact profile and the lineup he plays in, Bogaerts will never be a bad Fantasy player. But he could easily be a bad pick.
53. Lorenzo Cain, OF, Brewers
The Case For: Cain's stock is on the way up, but that's mostly because he was probably a bit underrated before getting to Milwaukee. You can feel pretty certain he's going to hit right around .300, while scoring 95-plus runs and stealing 30-ish bases — you'll even get a dozen or so homers for your trouble. With steals and average at such a premium, he's the perfect fifth-round pick to make up for any deficiencies in those spots.
The Case Against: Another late bloomer, Cain will turn 33 years old just a few weeks after Opening Day. We haven't seen much of a decline from him yet, but speed is one of those skills that can just abandon hitters as they age. A nagging injury can sap Cain of his ability to take the extra base, and all of a sudden you're looking at … Nick Markakis?
54. Zack Greinke, SP, Diamondbacks
The Case For: He throws 200 innings at a low-3.00s ERA pretty much every year. Don't worry about weird velocity readings or cryptic quotes in spring training — Greinke is too reliable to give up on at this point, especially with a newly pitcher friendly home park in the Humidor-ified Chase Field.
The Case Against: But you have to be somewhat worried, right? How long can Greinke get away with diminished stuff by relying on guile and know-how. Eventually, even the best pitchers fade, and few manage to put it off into their mid-30s. We saw some slips from Greinke in 2018, with a 3.71 FIP representing his second-highest mark since 2007. Do you want to be left holding the bag when the end comes?
55. Vladimir Guerrero, 3B, Blue Jays
The Case For: How far back do you have to go to find a teenage minor-league hitter who compares to what Vladimir Guerrero just did in 2018? In 95 games, he hit .381/.437/.636, with 20 homers, 37 walks and just 38 strikeouts. As good as Ronald Acuña was, he didn't hit like that. Neither did Mike Trout. Guerrero posted a 203 wRC+ at AA and a 175 mark at AAA; no teenager going back to 2006 has managed those numbers at either level. It's not a stretch to say Guerrero could have a Juan Soto-esque impact as a rookie. Except … Guerrero might be even better.
The Case Against: The only case is a boring one: We've never seen him in the majors. Guerrero has absolutely nothing left to prove in the minors, even if the Blue Jays are going to go through the show of sending him down for a few weeks to start the season. He'll be up before the end of April, so … I guess you won't have him in your lineup for a few weeks? What a bummer, man.
56. Walker Buehler, SP, Dodgers
The Case For: It doesn't take much to talk yourself into Walker Buehler. He stepped onto a major-league mount for the first time in 2018 and was dominant, posting a 2.62 ERA and the peripherals to back it up. Among all pitchers who threw at least 130 innings in 2018 (a sample of 99), Buehler ranked in the top-20 in K%, K-BB%, FIP, xFIP, SIERA, DRA, and any other alphabet soup all-in-one advanced metric you could choose. He had four above-average pitches as a rookie. Without any improvement, he's a top-15 starter in baseball.
The Case Against: Of course, improvement isn't always a given. Progress isn't always linear. He ranked 35th in swinging strike rate, indicating less swing-and-miss than you'd expect from such a live arm. Talent isn't the question, but we'll see if the league can adjust to Buehler — and then if Buehler can adjust back. Add in that his 174 innings were more than 70 more than he'd ever handled in any season at any level, and there's more risk in this profile than might be readily apparent.
57. Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF, Dodgers
The Case For: If you want to get in front of the breakout, this is where you do it. There's a superstar Fantasy profile, especially after Bellinger trimmed his strikeout rate and started to run a bit more. Put together the power he showed in 2017 with the improved approach at the plate from 2018, and you've got a guy we're taking in the first round in 2020.
The Case Against: Of course, it's possible Bellinger's more contact-heavy approach led to his decrease in power production. We also need to see if Bellinger can really handle left-handed pitching, as much of his decline from 2017 to 2018 came against same-handed pitchers. As with all young lefty hitters, that's going to be the key for him to becoming a truly elite Fantasy hitter.
58. James Paxton, SP, Yankees
The Case For: When right, Paxton is one of the dozen or so best pitchers in baseball. Since 2016, Paxton has posted a FIP of at no higher than 3.24 in any season, while continuing to dial up more and more strikeouts. Now he's moving to a Yankees team that, more than any team in baseball, de-emphasizes the fastball in search of more strikeouts. Could one of the best strikeout pitchers in the game take his performance to an even higher level?
The Case Against:
The primary concern with Paxton is health, as he's never thrown more than 171.2 innings in a season at any level. However, that's not the only concern here, as Paxton has increasingly become more of a flyball pitcher. That might fly in Seattle, but in Yankee Stadium, it could potentially spell doom. Don't be surprised if he can't quite live up to his lofty peripherals yet again.
59. Stephen Strasburg, SP, Nationals
The Case For: It's a recurring theme in these player profiles, but Strasburg is another one of these players from whom we've probably never seen that perfect season. He's had years where he stayed healthy (2013 and 2014, for the most part), and he's had seasons where he fully lived up to his potential (2017 being the best example), but we probably haven't seen the best of Strasburg yet. How good can he be? It's not inconceivable Strasburg could still have a season as the top pitcher in Fantasy.
The Case Against: Of course, there's no guarantee we'll ever see the best of Strasburg, and it might be too late to really expect. He'll turn 31 at midseason, and just had a season that saw his home-run rate spike. Oh, and he missed another 10 or so starts, his third season in four with fewer than 25 starts. Strasburg's price has fallen enough that the risk is lessened, but it hasn't disappeared.
60. Craig Kimbrel, RP, TBD
The Case For: What's the difference between the good closers and elite ones? Dozens of relievers can find themselves in the right spot to put together a good 60 innings and end up in the top-five closers one year, but only a few can do it year in and year out. Kimbrel isn't the utterly dominant version of himself he used to be, but he's racked up 77 saves and a 2.06 ERA over the past two seasons, with 222 strikeouts in just 131.1 innings. He might not finish as the No. 1 closer this year, but you know he'll be up there.
The Case Against: We've seen some bizarre things from Kimbrel lately. In 2016, he walked 5.1 batters per nine innings. In 2017, it was 1.8. In 2018, it was back up to 4.5. The fact that he's fixed it before should give you optimism, but it's starting to become a pattern. He can still be very good just because of how unhittable he remains, but a version of Kimbrel who doesn't stand out in the ratio stats certainly loses his luster.
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