2019 Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: Rankings breakdown, No. 71-80
Learn why you should — and maybe why you shouldn't — draft players 71-80 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.
71. Mike Clevinger, SP, Indians
The Case For: You can fake it for a half-season. Maybe even a full one. But Clevinger is now going on a year and a half of strong production behind him now. In 2019, he got his walk problem under control, while sustaining his strong swing-and-miss abilities, helping him take his game to another level. Clevinger has established himself as an above-average pitcher with the increasingly rare ability to go deep into games. You can do worse with your second starter, let alone your third.
The Case Against: You should always be wary of pitchers with control issues in their past, because there's always the chance they crop up again. In Clevinger's case, it doesn't seem like a huge concern, but it's one to keep an eye on early in the season -- he may be an early trade candidate if you notice him heading in the wrong direction.
72. Eugenio Suarez, 3B, Reds
The Case For: One year can be a fluke, so it depends on how you view Suarez's breakout. If you count 2017 (when he went for .260/.367/461 with a big improvement in plate discipline), then 2018 was just him proving it wasn't a fluke. Looking under the hood, there's not really much reason to doubt it: Suarez has developed a good eye at the plate, and his batted-ball profile looks about as close to ideal as you could hope for: 24.6 percent line-drive rate, 37.1 percent fly-ball rate, and a whopping 48.6 percent hard-hit rate backs up pretty much everything he did in 2018.
The Case Against: Of course, while his breakout may have started in 2017, Suarez's 2018 certainly counts as a second breakout. He improved across the board, with more home runs and combined RBI and runs than in 2017, despite playing 13 fewer games. You're going to pay full price for Suarez's 2018, and while the underlying numbers back it up, it was really a tale of two halves for Suarez, who hit .245/.322/.463 after the All-Star break. Suarez still hit the ball plenty hard in the second half, so I'm inclined to buy, but that dropoff in production can't be ignored entirely.
73. Willson Contreras, C, Cubs
The Case For: He's a catcher with a pulse, which automatically puts him in the starting conversation. Of course, he's also been a very good hitter for a catcher, with a career .799 OPS for his career, with strong power and decent plate discipline. There's still a chance he takes an even bigger step forward, too; there's No. 1 catcher potential, here.
The Case Against: 2018 was a distressing season, mostly because it potentially provided an answer to whether his power the first two seasons was legit. Contreras ran HR/FB rates of 23.5 and 25.9 percent in his first two seasons, despite just average-or-slightly-better raw power indicators. In 2018, both crashed. If this is who he really is, he's a run-of-the-mill option at the worst position in the sport.
74. Daniel Murphy, 2B, Rockies
The Case For: How about this: No player in baseball has a better chance to hit .350 in 2018. Murphy hit .346 in 2016, and after a slow start in 2018, hit .315 in the second half. He has plus-plus contact skills and has grown into a solid power hitter, and now gets to play in a park that boosts BABIP and power. There is legitimate first-round upside with his profile in this park.
The Case Against: Age and injuries. His slow start in 2018 was the result of offseason knee surgery, and at 34 just after opening day, Murphy isn't likely to healthier from here. Murphy should hit when he's in the lineup, but it's fair to wonder how often he'll be there.
75. Scooter Gennett, 2B, Reds
The Case For: How do you go about proving your breakout was real? Going out and hitting .310 with 23 homers and 178 combined runs and RBI is a pretty good way to manage it. Gennett doesn't have huge power, but he has enough to play up in his bandbox home park, and his ability to elevate the ball have made him almost a poor man's version of late-career Daniel Murphy.
The Case Against: There was a second-half slide in 2018, and with a player who has a longer track record of being an also-ran than a Fantasy asset, that kind of thing can be pretty worrying. He's also only really shown the ability to hit lefties for one year, and if that regresses, his ceiling can fall pretty quickly.
76. Tommy Pham, OF, Rays
superstar. In 2017, he hit .306 with 23 homers, 25 steals and 168 combined RBI and runs in just 128 games; in 39 games with the Rays last season, he hit .343 and played at a 28 HR, 20 SB, 228 combined R+RBI pace over a full season. He hits the ball hard, he hits a ton of line drives, and he's athletic enough to show 30-30 potential. It's all there for him to put together.
The Case Against: He just never really does … Injuries have been an ongoing concern, as have vision issues, which sometimes leave Pham looking completely lost at the plate. And, because he was a late bloomer, Pham will be 31 years old on Opening Day, so that athleticism could slip any day now. He's about as high-variance a player as you could target, and you'll have to decide if you can stomach the risk for yourself.
77. Ozzie Albies, 2B, Braves
The Case For: We saw glimpses of Albies' upside in 2018, and it made for one of the most impressive stretches by any young player all season. A top prospect with speed and contact ability in his profile, Albies opened the season absolutely launching bombs, hitting 13 homers in the first 40 games, with a .277/.312/.588 line. He looked like Rougned Odor without all of the flaws, someone capable of combining 30-20 potential with a possible .300 average, at the top of an up-and-coming young lineup.
The Case Against: And then the bottom fell out. Over his final 118 games, Albies slumped to .255/.302/.400, with 11 homers and nine steals. That's useful production for a second baseman, but it looks a lot less like "Rougned Odor without all the flaws" and more like … plain old Rougned Odor. We're hoping for more than that with a pick as high as you'll need to invest in Albies, and I worry he gained some bad habits during that hot start, becoming more of a free-swinger without the advanced approach at the plate that made him so intriguing this time last year.
78. Carlos Martinez, SP/RP, Cardinals
The Case For: This time last year, Martinez was going near the top 50. Though he only threw 118.2 innings, there really wasn't much of a sign Martinez's skill set declined. His walk rate was up, but his velocity was mostly fine, and he still racked up swinging strikes at a healthy rate. If you chalk up the control issues to his ongoing issues with a lat injury, it's pretty easy to see Martinez bouncing back into the top-15 SP discussion. That he's RP eligible only helps his case, too.
The Case Against: Martinez's body betrayed him in 2018, as he missed time on three separate occasions with lat and shoulder injuries, issues it seemed he kept trying to pitch through before he was fully healed. With a whole offseason off, you would hope he comes into 2019 fully healthy, but you can't ignore the recurring nature of last season's issues.
79. Justin Turner, 3B, Dodgers
The Case For: When he's healthy, Turner is nothing less than one of the very best hitters in baseball. He's hit .318 over the last two seasons, with nearly a 1:1 K:BB ratio. After sporting just a .671 OPS through his first 30 games returning from a broken wrist, Turner hit .344/.439/.587 from that point on, reminder Fantasy players that he's a truly elite bat. He's Anthony Rendon, available 50 picks later.
The Case Against: Healthy has been an issue. He missed 59 games in 2018, 32 in 2017, 36 in 2015 and 53 in 2014. Turner is an elite hitter, but he's not on the field enough to make that kind of impact, and he's already 34. Can you really bet on him staying healthy enough to put up big numbers?
80. Jack Flaherty, SP, Cardinals
The Case For: Luke Weaver got all the hype last spring, but it was Flaherty who had the breakout campaign. After running up decent-but-not-great strikeout rates in the minors, Flaherty took a major step forward, putting up a 29.6 percent strikeout rate, buoyed by a 13.4 percent swinging strike rate. He got more swings on pitches out of the zone, both inducing weak contact and swings and misses, which helped fuel his breakout. At just 23 on opening day, Flaherty looks like the next great Cardinals' starting pitcher.
The Case Against:
There's still work to do here. His 3.34 ERA was great, but he got a lot of luck in the form of a microscopic .257 BABIP. His 3.86 FIP suggests he was the product of at least some good luck, though Flaherty's ability to induce plenty of weak contact in the form of infield fly balls could help that skill play up. Still, he walks a few too many batters and doesn't get quite enough ground balls to profile as an ace in the immediate future. There's work to be done, and don't let the hype carry you away.
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