You’ve got the No. 1 pick in 2020. Who’s your guy? Eric Karabell, Tristan H. Cockcroft and AJ Mass debate.
THC: Mike Trout. Best player on the planet. Next question.
EK: LOL. Sure, I concur on the best player part. But for our purposes, in fantasy baseball, I have a few concerns and they were enough to make me reconsider that top pick for roto.
THC: In all seriousness, for me, it’s a 1-1A-1B situation, where there isn’t a wrong answer from among Trout, Ronald Acuna Jr. and Christian Yelich. But pressed to pick between them, I want the one with the best set of balanced statistics, and that’s Trout: He’s baseball’s only player with a .300-plus batting average, 100-plus home runs and 30-plus stolen bases the past three years combined, and in fact he breezed past those latter two thresholds (117 and 57).
EK: You’re certainly not wrong there, and I concur nobody would laugh at anyone who takes Trout first. The skills are getting better, if that’s possible. I just don’t think we should assume he is the best fantasy option when he has averaged only 129 games over the past three seasons. We dock others when they consistently miss games. Also, Trout stole only 11 bases last season, and in an effort to stay healthy, it is reasonable to worry that number fails to rise. The other guys run.
THC: I think it’s saying something about Trout’s otherworldly ability, though, that since the date of Acuna’s major league debut, Trout still has the better batting average (.301-.285), more home runs (74-67) and an identical number of RBIs (165) despite the missed time. And that’s not to tear Acuna down — he’s still a worthy candidate and, with Trout and Yelich, well ahead of the rest of the first-round pack — but the swing-and-miss in his game bothers me. After the All-Star break, he had a near-15% swinging strike rate, which threatens his batting average going forward. There could be a 25-point gap — or more — between these players.
Interestingly enough, since Acuna’s debut, it’s Yelich who holds the lead among these three in batting average (.328), home runs (78), RBIs (199) and runs scored (208), with only one fewer stolen base than Acuna. Maybe we’re both wrong!
EK: Wouldn’t be the first time! Hey AJ, who gets the nod in points? Probably none of them!
AJM: Not true, Eric. Look, I agree with you — Trout, when playing at 100%, is baseball’s best, but we can’t assume he’s going to play a full season. He’s still a first-rounder, but you have to have some pause here. I have no such concerns with Acuna, who could potentially be ready to hit us with a 40-40 campaign. That’s going to give him the edge for my No. 1 overall. However, the thing with points leagues is that we score weekly and the elite pitchers are often going to outscore all hitters, especially if they have two starts in a given week. That’s why in my rankings, you’re going to see that top tier of SP (Gerrit Cole, Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer) are all going to be sitting in the early stages of Round 1. You just can’t afford to wait on building your rotation in this format.
THC: I’d take Cole in our standard points leagues, actually. Elite pitching can carry your squad much more there than in either rotisserie format. Cole was only four fantasy points off the major league lead last season — Verlander was the one who outscored him — and had 257 more points than even the No. 11 pitcher. In fact, the No. 1 pitcher averaged 215 fantasy points more than the No. 11 pitcher the past three years. The No. 1 hitter’s average annual advantage over the No. 11 hitter? Just 106 points.