Is a changing of the guards about to happen at second base for the 2020 Fantasy baseball season? It's not quite there yet in our rankings, with Jose Altuve leading the way in our breakdown of players 31 through 40 and Ozzie Albies bringing up the rear. Of course, there isn't universal agreement there — Scott White has Altuve first, while Frank Stampfl goes with Albies. Altuve is the upside pick, given the potential for steals, an elite average, and the 30-homer pop he showed in 2019. But Albies might actually be the safer pick, despite the shorter track record. Because it's not hard to see how things could go quite wrong for Altuve in a hurry, as you'll see.
Consider this your reintroduction to the 2020 draft pool, accounting for all the changes that have taken place since and because of the coronavirus lockdown. Over the span of 20 articles, Scott White and Chris Towers look at the top 200 in Scott's Rotisserie rankings, highlighting the reasons for and against drafting each. It makes for a well-rounded education on every player, revealing critical details that more argument-based evaluations might conveniently leave out.
So if you want a crash course on this year's player pool, particularly in light of more recent events, you've come to the right place. We're going through Nos. 31 through 40 here. And you can find the rest right here: 1-10 | 11-20 | 21-30 | 31-40 | 41-50 | 51-60 | 61-70 | 71-80 | 81-90 | 91-100 | 101-110 | 111-120 | 121-130 | 131-140 | 141-150 | 151-160 | 161-170 | 171-180 | 181-190 | 191-200
The Case For: Dude can still hit and in fact set a career high for homers in 2019, topping the previous mark by seven. He ended the year on a particularly high note, batting .325 with 21 homers and a .995 OPS after the All-Star break. With his high batting average, he remains one of the most reliable sources for one of the most difficult categories to fill -- and at a weak position, no less.
The Case Against: Altuve is no longer a reliable source for the absolute most difficult category to fill, swiping just six bases last year and 17 the year before after averaging 37.3 steals the previous six years. It all changed with a fractured kneecap a couple years ago and seems unlikely to go back. So now his worth is tied entirely to his bat, and while he has an impressive track record in that regard, last year's power surge was probably a one-time event. The possible impact of the sign-stealing scandal has to enter the back of your mind when drafting him, too. -Scott White
The Case For: At least as a hitter, Blackmon is as Blackmon always has been, delivering four straight seasons with at least 29 home runs and 111 runs scored. His .314 batting average last year brought the four-year mark to .315, so no red flags there. In fact, his entire batted-ball profile is mostly unchanged — if anything, he's hitting the ball harder and striking out less — and of course, the thin-air environment of Coors Field offers a nice safety net if his skills were to begin to erode. Altogether, it's hard to explain why a perennial late first-, early second-round type is going in Round 4 on average, so maybe you should just enjoy the discount.
The Case Against: Well, he is turning 34 this year, which puts him more at risk of decline, especially when you consider he hasn't rated as well defensively the past couple years. And while he hasn't been a big base-stealer for any of this four-year stretch, the decline from 12 in 2018 to two last year is noteworthy, given the premium placed on stolen bases. It's a thin case, but it exists. -Scott White
The Case For: Springer finally had the season we've been waiting for in 2019, as he established a new career-high in homers despite missing 40 games. He did it by maximizing his efficiency as a hitter, increasing his launch angle and hard-hit rate to new career-best rates. He swung at pitches outside of the strike zone less often than ever and grew more aggressive on the first pitch, which together led to better results overall. Springer has always teased this kind of potential, but for the first time he put it all together — and the underlying data pretty much backs it all up. He really was that good.
The Case Against: We can start with health, as Springer hasn't played more than 140 games in any of the last three seasons and has only done it once overall. We also can't neglect to mention the Astros sign-stealing scheme, for which they were punished this offseason by MLB. We can't know what kind of impact that punishment and the increased scrutiny surrounding the team may have, but Fantasy players are going to be wary of any Astros player on Draft Day this year. Fair or not, we'll find out soon enough, but you'll have to decide for yourself if you want to trust them. -Chris Towers
The Case For: Marte found a new home after a trade to Arizona in late January, and it only helps his Fantasy appeal. The Diamondbacks give him a better lineup and home park than he had in Pittsburgh, though it's not like he needed much help to be a high-end Fantasy option. Marte is a rare five-category contributor, being one of just five players to hit at least 23 homers and steal 25 bases in 2019. The days of Marte running up elite stolen base numbers are probably gone, but as long as he can be around 25 steals — or that sort of pace in a shortened season — he should finish as a top-10 outfielder in Roto in 2020.
The Case Against: Players who rely primarily on their speed tend not to age quite as well as others. Now, Marte is no Dee Gordon or anything, but if his steals production takes another step back, all of a sudden the whole package looks a lot less appealing. There's no sign of Marte slowing down — his average sprint speed, per StatCast, was actually higher in 2019 than any year since 2015 — but that's the risk with stolen-base targets. -Chris Towers
The Case For: Giolito finally looked like the prospect we were promised in 2019, racking up huge strikeout numbers behind an improved changeup and a 2-mph uptick in velocity. And he might have been even better than the raw numbers indicate, as he carried a 5.30 ERA through the first month before the light flipped on. That happened during a late-April start against the Royals that saw him go on the IL with a hamstring injury. Upon returning, Giolito ran off a 25-start stretch with a 3.19 ERA and 205 strikeouts in 158 innings. The stuff looked as good as the results, and at just 25, Giolito looks like he's finally here to stay.
The Case Against: It's not like Giolito took a small step forward in 2019; he became an entirely different pitcher. He was going undrafted in nearly all leagues, and most analysts had given up all hope he would ever figure it out. That's a reminder that progress for young pitchers is rarely linear, but also a reminder of how tenuous Giolito's grasp on Fantasy relevance could be. If the fastball velocity ticks back down, we've seen how bad he can be. It's a lot of risk to take on at this cost. -Chris Towers
The Case For: When Castillo is on, he looks like one of the best pitchers in baseball, and he was on a lot more often in 2019 than ever before. The surface numbers are impressive enough, but Castillo started his 2019 with a 20-start stretch where he posted a 2.36 ERA and 1.11 WHIP and 10.5 K/9. It's stretches like those that will push someone to grab Castillo on Draft Day with the hopes that he puts it all together for a full season.
The Case Against: Unfortunately, Castillo ran out of gas after that stretch, putting up a 5.08 ERA over his final 12 starts, and that has been the issue for him in his career. Castillo will go through stretches where he looks like one of the half-dozen best pitchers in baseball, and then he'll follow it up with stretches where he isn't nearly as good. He is primarily a two-pitch pitcher and has struggled against lefties and with runners on base in his career. Those things are solvable, and the upside is clearly sky high, but the inconsistency can be maddening. Let someone else convince themselves this is the year he puts it all together. -Chris Towers
The Case For: Though he has underwhelmed on multiple occasions in his career, never has the enthusiasm for drafting Harper been lower than it is right now, and that's kind of surprising considering how strong he finished, batting .270 with 19 homers, 10 steals and a .941 OPS in the second half. The strikeouts, which had gotten out of control over the first two months, more or less corrected, and he never stopped crushing the ball, his xBA and xwOBA both suggesting even better times are in store. The way he ran in the second half, going a perfect 10 for 10 on steal attempts, should go a long way to restoring interest at a time when steals are scarce.
The Case Against: Harper has had some trouble staying on the field over the years and has also experienced some decline as a hitter. While he did bring the strikeouts back under control after an embarrassing start, the fact is they've been a part of his profile the past two years, limiting his batting average ceiling. As such, it'll take a fairly significant steals contribution for him to be a truly elite player again. -Scott White
The Case For: Arguably the best power hitter in the minors came up to the majors and did exactly what he was supposed to do: Hit a ton of homers. He doesn't have Aaron Judge's raw power, but Alonso does about as good a job as anyone of maximizing his power, ranking in the 89th percentile in expected slugging despite a lower ranking in exit velocity. He elevates the ball and doesn't strike out at an especially alarming rate, which helped Alonso hit a rookie record 53 homers. And he's just getting started.
The Case Against: Of course, just ask Judge how hard it is to repeat that kind of rookie season. Judge has struggled to stay healthy, but he also hasn't been able to come close to his rookie season homer pace. It's more likely Alonso had a season where pretty much everything came together in a perfect way than it is that he's hitting for that much power again. He probably overperformed his baseline skill set, and while the homers were consistent all season, the strikeout rate jumped in the second half and his overall production fell — he hit .235 after the All-Star break compared to .280 before. The risk here is that the average bottoms out and he's a one-trick pony, and those power guys aren't hard to find these days. -Chris Towers
The Case For: The list of players with more homers than Torres' as a 22-year-old includes just seven names, in case you're wondering how unlikely what he did last season was. Write it off as a product of the juiced ball or his home park if you want, but as far as we know, neither of those things is going to change for 2020. Torres has a swing geared for hitting fly balls and a home park that makes it likely more of those will go over the fence than just about any other in the game. Oh, and he's second base eligible for 2020, the weakest non-catcher position in the game these days. It's a good spot to be in.
The Case Against: What Torres did last year probably wasn't sustainable, even with his home park and the juiced ball. He hit 13 homers in 18 games against the Orioles alone, making him one of just 11 players in the last 50 seasons to hit 11 homers against the same team in one season; on average, those other 11 players hit just 76.8% as many homers the following season. Torres isn't a strong contributor outside his homers yet, so if his power production takes a small step back, he might not stand out much even at second base. -Chris Towers
The Case For: Albies did a better job of staying within himself in his second full big-league season, putting together a stat line that's especially impressive when you consider his 22 years of age. He's a whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-his-parts type, making worthwhile contributions across the board without dominating in any one category, though his best may be batting average, which is bolstered by his low strikeout rate and line-drive approach.
The Case Against: Particularly in Rotisserie leagues, big totals are what move the needle, and that's just not Albies' game. Given his early-round price tag, Albies is a decidedly unsexy pick, and his stock heavily relies on him delivering another decent steals total. When the threshold is that low, the margin for error is equally low, so even a mildly disappointing contribution in that category could have a significant impact on his value. -Scott White
So which sleepers should you snatch in your draft? And which undervalued first baseman can help you win a championship? Visit SportsLine now to get rankings for every single position, all from the model that called Kenta Maeda's huge breakout last season, and find out.