We’re still riding the high of our Midseason Top 100 Fantasy List that we released on Monday. Yesterday, we released three players we individually think should have been ranked higher on our top 100. And because we are fervent believers in the Ying and Yang of fantasy writing, you already know what this article’s about.
Each of us have a player we think should have been a little lower than they appeared on our list. It’s where we get to maybe plead our case to each other and explain why we ranked someone lower than the the other two did.
Let us know what you think in the comments.
Jesus Sanchez (47th on T100, 61st by Matt) - This could easily make me look stupid two to three years from now, but I’m admittedly not quite as high on Jesus Sanchez as my co-rankers are. The plus raw power is the best tool for Sanchez, and he can absolutely murder baseballs when he gets his body in sync, but the plate approach leaves something to be desired here.
Sanchez has torn through the lower levels of the minor leagues and has consistently found his power stroke until this point. Sanchez first hit Double-A at the end of last season and had his fair share of struggles there that led him getting assigned again to Double-A to open 2019. As of writing this his career slash line at Double-A is .262/.323/.389. He’s performed better this year, but you still crave more from a power first bat.
I’m not here to completely bury Sanchez though, by all accounts he still posts strong exit velocities and can hit a ball out of any yard when he gets extended. I just think his overall rank should’ve been closer to where I ranked him because of the seasons worth of underwhelming numbers at Montgomery. For a guy that won’t help in steals or be a strong batting average or on-base percentage asset it is imperative that he gets that plus raw power to start playing in games in the upper minors.
Adley Rutschman (30th on T100, 60th by Eddy) - Blame the Prospects Live echo chamber that Matt, Ralph and I share, but I don’t think there’s anyone terribly obvious that should have been ranked dramatically lower. As such, I’m going to stay #OnBrand and tell you why you shouldn’t be rating the number one 2019 overall pick so highly on your fantasy lists. I’m going to have to remind Matt, who ranked Rutschman 15th, why you shouldn’t invest your time on catchers unless they’re free.
This is less to do about Rutschman’s skills than it is about the fantasy catching position. I wrote an entire article about why you should stop rostering catchers in your farm. One major detriment is the lack of plate appearances they receive. In the last 11 years, only 29 percent of catchers (min. 300 PA) have registered at least 500 PA. Just under five percent cross 600 PA. It’s a counting stats argument. I do believe that Rutschman is going be very strong at the plate, though if he weren’t a catcher he’d likely have gone fourth or fifth in the draft rather than first, so use that as a hint when judging pure offensive skills.
I prefer someone with who might be riskier but houses more upside, like George Valera, Heliot Ramos, Kristian Robinson or Jasson Dominguez, all players in the range we have Rutschman. There is something to be said about proximity and the new Orioles regime which is doing a great job with their minor leaguers, but it becomes a value proposition to me. And right now, it’s just not there with Adley.
Jorge Mateo (40th on T100, 61st by Ralph) - Did you know that Jorge Mateo is an 80 runner? Of course you did! Why? Because we’ve been hearing about it for seven years. What we haven’t seen is Mateo truly develop the hit tool. After a disgusting 2018 where he slashed .230/.280/.353, Mateo has bounced back in 2019 during his return to Triple-A. His OPS is up by just under 250 points and he’s dwarfed his 2018 home run total of three by hitting 13 in 112 less plate appearances. Obviously a great deal more success. So, what’s changed in his profile?
My friends, therein lies the rub; It seems he hasn’t changed anything in his offensive profile. He even admits as much in a recent interview with MiLB.com, stating plainly “I’m not doing anything differently.” A throw away statement perhaps, but the batted ball data backs that up. His flyball rate is actually down slightly (3%), while his line drives are a wash. He is hitting more ground balls, but it’s slight, and those don’t leave the park as far as I know.
The most noticeable difference is the distance of his flyballs, which are up to the furthest estimated average of his career. (Thanks Smada) There’s one obvious catch to all this, Triple-A is of course using the much maligned major league balls in 2019. So you have to ask, is Mateo’s power surge aided by the switch to the new balls? Or did Mateo’s above average raw power finally manifest itself into game power? Hard to say for sure, but there’s something else that caught my eye during my scrutiny sessions on Mateo. One thing that sent me down a wormhole of numbers and ballpark diagrams.
The Athletics moved their Triple-A affiliate from Nashville to Las Vegas. New ballpark, new climate. Mateo actually mentions the ballpark in his comments to MiLB, commenting about his success partially aided by “the stadium and the fans.” I wonder if this was intentional (or even meaningful) on his part or not. It’s certainly no secret that Las Vegas has long been a hitters haven. There’s one issue with that narrative however, the Aviators no longer play at the home of the 51’s (former Las Vegas team name prior to this season) Cashman Field. So any data we have to a degree might be obsolete. A new park, one we have very small sample on, is hard for us to read. All we can really do is make assumptions. So I’ll make one. Likely it’s a great place to hit just due to the arid climate and conditions. *Shrug emoji* What we do have a lot of data on is his 2018 home confines of First Tennessee Park in Nashville. Which historically has played relatively neutral for a PCL park.
So could the new found power be Ball+Park*Confidence=2019 Mateo?
Don’t misunderstand me, Mateo is an exciting player, I ranked him 61st overall. There’s a lot to like. He’s in Triple-A, strong defensively in the middle infield, gifted athletically, with a top of the scale tool, and enough raw power to tease a massive ceiling. One that can make him a category stuffer, but there’s also inherent risk.
He has a high swinging strike rate at 15.3%, and has had a litany of issues with approach and pitch recognition over the years. Mateo simply has not gotten on base enough to truly utilize his physical gifts. Plus you can’t completely trust the power surge to sustain at this level.
I don’t feel he’s a surefire fantasy superstar, which my colleagues rankings border on. In the end we’re picking nits as it’s a total of 21 spots between my rank and the consensus. Don’t drop Mateo from your team.