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We on the RotoBaller staff have come up with our consensus rankings for mixed leagues, but there's plenty of debate over individual players' proper place in the pecking order.

In this space, we'll hear from rankers with the biggest differences of opinion on a well-known player and have them defend their position against each other.

Today, we're butting heads over White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu. Harris Yudin sees an underappreciated and consistent middle-of-the-order bat who deserves consideration in the third round, while Kyle Bishop isn't quite ready to make that investment. They each make their case below.

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2018 Draft Rankings Debate - Jose Abreu

Ranking Tier Player Position Kyle Nick Pierre Jeff Harris Bill
34 3 Jose Abreu 1B 56 32 30 37 33 31

 

Harris Yudin's Ranking: #30 overall

Jose Abreu may not belong in the elite tier of first basemen -- which consists of Joey Votto, Paul Goldschmidt, Anthony Rizzo and Freddie Freeman -- but he’s not far behind. Among first basemen over the last four years, his numbers are on par with those of Miguel Cabrera (who is, in all likelihood, finished) and Edwin Encarnacion (who is also being criminally undervalued). There’s a pretty big drop-off after that, with only a few young guys knocking on the door. Cody Bellinger, Rhys Hoskins and Matt Olson fall into that group.

Abreu is the only player in baseball with at least 25 home runs, 100 RBI and a .290 batting average in each of those four seasons-- no one else has even done it three times in that span. He cranked out 30 long balls in three of those years, finishing in the top 25 in wRC+ every time. His only “down” season was 2016, when his HR/FB rate was 37 percent lower than his career average and he still posted an .820 OPS with 120 wRC+.

The downside for Abreu is the same as the downside for Justin Upton (whom I defended here)-- we know his ceiling. So my argument is similar. How many players, available at the end of the third or beginning of the fourth round, have the potential to hit 30 HR with 100 RBI and a .290 average?

Over the last four years, eight other active players (David Ortiz did it in 2016) with an ADP above 30 have managed that stat line in a single season. Of that group, Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera have shown clear signs of decline due to injury. Robinson Cano, Adrian Beltre, Ryan Zimmerman and Yoenis Cespedes are all older than Abreu and have been less consistent. That leaves Marcell Ozuna, who sits one spot above Abreu in my rankings, and Jonathan Schoop. If Schoop’s 2017 breakout is legitimate, then perhaps he should be valued higher, as well. But the point remains that you’ll be hard-pressed to find this kind of production later in the draft-- even Bellinger’s being drafted 20 spots earlier.

Kyle has Abreu ranked at No. 56, a full 26 (!!!!) spots lower than Hoskins, a soon-to-be 25-year-old with 18 career bombs. In order to prove how insane this is, it’s important to note that I am also incredibly high on Hoskins (my No. 34 overall player). Wouldn’t anyone be thrilled with 30-35 HR, 100 RBI and a .290 AVG from Hoskins, even with a late third-round pick? After all, each of the nine players who managed those numbers last year finished among the top-30 fantasy hitters.

I wouldn’t even blame anyone for taking a shot on Hoskins in the late 20s. But there’s no way Abreu should remain on the board a full two rounds later. A 31-year-old with that kind of consistent production should not fall out of the third round, let alone flirt with sliding into the sixth.

 

Kyle Bishop's Ranking: #56 overall

I'll admit my ranking of Abreu is probably a bit harsh. As Harris pointed out, there simply aren't many players who can provide the combination of a high average and solid pop that he can. But I still wouldn't take him in the top 30.

Prior to last season, Abreu's production had been steadily trending down across the board. His average dropped from .317 to .293, his home run total declined from 36 to 25 (thanks in large part to a 12-point drop in HR/FB%), and he went from 80 runs scored to just 67. 2017 arrested the decline, but it's not something we should completely ignore. Players like Ozuna, Schoop, and Hoskins are in their mid-twenties and are trending up. Abreu just turned 31. That isn't a death sentence, but he's got a body type that historically hasn't aged well.

I also don't see a lot of help around him in the White Sox lineup, which projects to be one of the worst in baseball. Abreu has managed to top 100 RBI every season so far, but right now the guys who are projected to bat in front of him are Charlie Tilson (a 25-year-old who hasn't hit much in the minors or played at all since 2016) and Yoan Moncada (who, however rosy his long-term outlok, is projected to be a below-average hitter this season). Even if you assume Abreu will get his RBI opportunities as usual, who's driving him in? Y'all can bet on Avisail Garcia's unsustainable performance last year if you like, but color me skeptical.

 

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