It's the fantasy baseball draft season. To us baseball nerds, few things are more exciting than arguing about player rankings. Today, we'll discuss and compare Kyle Schwarber's RotoBaller staff rankings. He was ranked No. 45 overall by Jeff Kahntroff, and No. 74 by Nick Mariano.
Throughout this series, we'll be using our February Staff Rankings to debate where to draft certain players. In cases where our writers had discrepancies, we've asked them to explain their rankings. These debates will provide us with some well-rounded analysis, and help identify undervalued/overvalued draft picks.
2017 Draft Rankings Debate: Kyle Schwarber
Jeff Kahntroff's Rankings Analysis
His Overall Ranking: 45
Just as I used the example of the Pirates shopping Andrew McCutchen off a down year as a sign that they may not be believing in a major rebound, I feel the opposite with Schwarber: the Cubs have reportedly resisted many inquiries on him. They reportedly declined to discuss him for two and a half bargain years of Andrew Miller, but instead chose to deal a then top-20ish prospect (Gleyber Torres) and three others for half a season of Aroldis Chapman. To me, he meets the description of “you know it when you see it”; he has that “it” factor. The numbers back up the Cubs’ stance, as he has absolutely raked at every level despite only having four regular season at-bats beyond the age of 22:
A Ball (all levels): .344/.428/.634/1.061
Schwarber has played 85 games (including the postseason) with a .261/21/60/53/4 line. Projecting those numbers to 145 games for 2017, we get .261/36/102/90/7. At 24, he should be improving. Yet, he could face league adjustments and wear down later in the season after barely playing last year. Balancing these competing factors, .270/30/95/80/5 seems reasonable to me.
It’s important to note that Nick and I don’t diverge that much on our rankings of Schwarber relative to the other top three catchers. While I have Schwarber first of four and he has Schwarber fourth of four, we both have them packed tightly together. I valued Schwarber and Posey at $23 and Lucroy and Sanchez at $22; Nick ranked all four within a 14-pick range. However, I have all four higher than Nick because I believe there is a ton of separation between these four and the rest of the catchers, and thus that they are highly valuable. But, because I have them ranked similarly, I would not reach for any of these four way ahead of the others; I’d seek the best value. If these four were grabbed too highly and I missed out, I would simply wait until the end of the draft for my catcher.
Nick Mariano's Rankings Analysis
His Overall Ranking: 74
First of all, while we have similar bunching with the top four catchers in 2017, we differ in where they should be pegged as a class. His C1 is Schwarber, while I have him at C4. That’s less about Schwarber being “bad” than it is about the other three simply being preferable, but we’ll keep this analysis local to Schwarbs.
Obviously, the Cubbies feel they have something special in Schwarber, and how could they not? He’s delivered at every level and then gave them a nice boost in 2015 even as he posted a 28.2% strikeout rate. He also posted a 42.3%/40.4%/17.3% flyball/groundball/line drive profile, which adds up to the mediocre .293 BABIP. We’re talking 5x5 leagues here, so that lovely OBP of his is irrelevant.
While I believe that Schwarber has the capability to be a solid asset with 30 homers well within reach, I just see the holes in his swing as too much of a liability. Since we’re not really assessing him for his average, we’ll pull up his ISO chart:
Now, it’s not a hard science that Schwarber hasn’t adjusted and learned how to effective hit the inside pitches, but we haven’t seen it. That inside streak of being 1-for-31 is not pretty. While comparing anything to Gary Sanchez's wild 2016 debut requires a grain of salt, one should note his plate coverage:
While this raises questions about Sanchez digging too low below the zone, the main takeaway is how capable he was at covering much of the strike zone with his power. Eight of those nine zone sections are at least lukewarm, it isn't as though he looked lost against a whole portion of the plate like Schwarber. All-in-all, fantasy owners who get Schwarber in 2017 will likely be happy with things, but I'm not prepared to elevate him into the top 50 until he can either step up his batting average or improve on his vulnerability to the inside pitch.