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Today's article is one in a series of debates regarding the overall ranking of some of the most fantasy-relevant players of the 2018 baseball season.

RotoBaller's expert writers have come up with our consensus rankings for mixed leagues, but that doesn't mean we agreed on everything. 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.

We continue with New York Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. Pierre Camus will defend his position that Cespedes is worth the 53rd pick, while Jeff Kahntroff argues that he should be selected nearly 40 picks later. Let's get ready to rumble!

Editor's Note: Stay on top of our MLB off-season news and fantasy analysis all year round. Read our daily fantasy columns about MLB prospects, dynasty outlooks, player outlooks and much more. It's always fantasy baseball season here. Let's Go!

 

2018 Draft Rankings Debate - Yoenis Cespedes

Rank Tier Player Position Kyle Nick Pierre Jeff Harris Bill
70 7 Yoenis Cespedes OF 69 75 53 92 64 68

 

Pierre Camus's Ranking: #53 overall

Yoenis Cespedes was an ADP bust in 2017. Not because he put up career-worst numbers or slumped terribly in the second half, mind you. He made the unfortunate decision to be chronically injured throughout the season. You can’t bring back a decent ROI if you aren’t on the field, after all.

That said, you can’t hold an injury-riddled season against a player who isn’t known for missing huge chunks of time. He was betrayed at times by his hip, quad, heel, and a hamstring that is still not 100% heading into spring training. The good news is that he should begin practicing this very week as February comes to close and, as a player who doesn’t exactly rely on speed for value, he should be able to produce at the same consistent level as the previous five seasons in the majors.

Cespedes only tallied 81 games last year, but still produced 17 home runs and 42 runs batted in. You don’t even need a GED to do the math on that: over a full season that extrapolates to 34 HR and 84 RBI. He boasted a healthy .292/.352/.540 slash line as well and posted the second-best BB:K rate of his MLB career (0.43). A repeat of that career-best batting average is far from improbable; Cespedes has hit .280 or higher in four of his six big league seasons thus far.

While power hitters are somewhat devalued in this new live-ball era, 30-HR hitters that can bring an average close to .300 aren’t a dime a dozen. The number of outfielders to hit over .290 and jack even 25 home runs last season is a whopping five and it reads like the top of your draft list: Charlie Blackmon, Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Marcell Ozuna, and JD Martinez. Now, imagine getting similar value from a player that might be available as late as the eighth round. Reaching a round or two higher doesn’t seem like a bad idea, does it?

You may have read that his exit velocity was diminished last year, but that should be understandable given the nature of his various injuries. Besides, if you’re using that metric alone as a power predictor, we should be devaluing Marcell Ozuna, Rafael Devers, and Justin Smoak, all of whom registered lower exit speeds and launch angles.

Simply put, a healthy Cespedes is still a dynamic hitter and solid OF2 on any fantasy squad. He should be valued over players like Andrew McCutchen and Domingo Santana on draft day, both of whom are prime candidates for negative regression.

 

Jeff Kahntroff's Ranking: #92 overall

Cespedes is an entertaining player.  He has shown up to camp in various cars, bought a 270-pound grand champion pig, and moved to a sprawling ranch.  If these ratings were based on entertainment value, then I too would have Cespedes as a top 50 player. However, when looking at 5x5 redraft value, his appropriate ranking is 92nd.

As Pierre acknowledged, Cespedes is battling a hamstring injury to start 2018. It isn’t uncommon for players to have minor injuries in the spring, but Cespedes missed half of 2017 due to a smorgasbord of injuries. He also missed a good chunk of 2016.  A 32 year-old who has missed over 100 games the past two years and is battling an injury in spring training is a concern, and thus I have to ding him a bit.

Further, Pierre unfairly discounts the value of stolen bases. Nowhere does he mention that Cespedes had zero (0) stolen bases last year. Given the injury concerns above and his dwindling stolen base totals in recent years, it is reasonable to project that at most he will steal a couple bases. However, stolen bases have become increasingly valuable. There were 2.43 times as many homers as stolen bases last year, so when Pierre mentions that power is being discounted, that is rightly so.

Pierre also states that Cespedes should be well above McCutchen and Domingo Santana, but this comparison just highlights that he is failing to properly account for stolen bases. Santana stole 15 bases last year and McCutchen stole 11. Using the 2.43 multiplier, 15 and 11 stolen bases are equivalent in value to 36 and 27 home runs. Converting those players' stolen bases to their equivalent home run value, we are looking at lines of .278/66/88/85 and .279/55/94/88 for Santana and McCutchen. There is a reason they are well above Cespedes, even if you assume they will experience some negative regression. The reason is that they add significant value on the basepaths.

Hitters without speed need to do more than hit for power with a relatively high average to be an elite player. Pierre sets up an arbitrary category of hitters who batted .290 and had at least 25 homers, and then says only five outfielders met that threshold last year. Why are we only comparing a player to others in his position, based on ADP? Paul Goldschmidt is not on Pierre's list despite batting .297 with 36 homers. Nor is Joey Votto who hit .320 with 36 homers. What about Eric Hosmer and Jose Ramirez, who also met those thresholds? Freddie Freeman anyone? How about Jose Abreu? The list goes on (Anthony Rendon, Jonathan Schoop, Kris Bryant, Eddie Rosario). Many of them also were contributors in the stolen base department. Cespedes does not belong in that group.

The following table shows the lines of all batters last year who had four or fewer stolen bases and ended the year with a ranking between 40-60 or 80-100. The last two rows calculate (1) an overall average and (2) an average if each stolen base is converted to 2.43 homers.

RANKS 40-60 RANKS 80-100
.322/23/93/94/2 .270/38/75/85/0
.258/38/96/104/2 .272/26/73/101/4
.246/43/91/109/4 .293/22/85/77/4
.317/29/95/85/4 .280/23/79/97/1
.270/38/85/90/0 N/A
AVG: .283/34/92/96/2 AVG: .279/27/78/90/2
AVG converting SB to HR: .283/40/92/96 AVG converting SB to HR: .278/33/78/90

Which seems more like Cespedes? Well, Cespedes’ career high in homers is 35 and he has hit more than 26 just twice. Over the past five years, he has averages of .292, .280, .291, .260, and .240. He has only posted 90 or more runs one time. And as Pierre said, in half a season last year, it does not take a PhD in math to figure out that he was on pace for .282/34/84/92, which is worse in all four categories than the final ranks of players ranked 40-60. Further, we project Cespedes’ numbers to 162 games while not doing so for the players in the table, showing that Cespedes is even less valuable than the table would suggest.

After this review, it’s clear that Cespedes deserves a ranking below 80 more than the 40-60 range. Due to the health concerns, lack of speed, and inconsistent batting average, Cespedes is being valued more for his entertaining perception than his actual 5x5 value. Cespedes is a very good, but not elite, fantasy hitter who will give you nothing in the stolen base department and has health risk. Given the increasing value of stolen bases, this fact cannot be discounted and thus my ranking of 92 is more appropriate than 53.

 

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