Mookie Betts, Bryce Harper and Giancarlo Stanton are each, in their own way, massively talented fantasy baseball assets. All three outfielders are deservedly selected in the first round of fantasy drafts. Betts has an average draft position of 8.0 in Yahoo leagues, while Harper’s ADP is 9.1 and Stanton’s is 9.7. Each of these dudes will do their hitting in a prime spot in a terrific lineup, too.
So let’s just say, hypothetically, that you’ve got the seventh or eighth pick in your draft and you’re choosing between these three players. (And let’s also assume that Charlie Blackmon is off the board, because he complicates things. He’s great. No disrespect intended.) If you’re conflicted, we get it. Our experts don’t agree on this three-way debate, either. Each of them argues for a different player in today’s Face-Off.
The case for Mookie Betts
Mookie Betts just had his worst season to date, battling a bunch of injuries (especially a thumb problem that nagged him multiple months) and losing some batting points and home runs.
He was still sixth in the American League MVP race, and seventh in fantasy OF value. This is the wonderful thing about Betts. Even his bad season was, essentially, a good season. Everyone in the first round has upside, but he’s the type of floor pick that makes sense with premium selections.
Whether it’s willingness to play hurt or the ability to not break significantly, Betts has a better health track record than the other outfielders in this discussion (Harper and Stanton both have a mere two full seasons out of five). Betts is also a likely five-category contributor; Harper only ran much in one of the past four years, while Stanton brings a station-to-station approach and even some batting-average risk.
No, Betts doesn’t have the power upside of Stanton or Harper, and he doesn’t have the splash value of those picks. But I’m not looking to market my team, I just want it to have the best chance of competing. Say yes to five categories. Say yes to a more consistent profile. Last year’s batting average and BABIP are easily explained by the nagging injuries (that he nonetheless played through; not everyone does that). Put your chip on Betts. —Scott Pianowski
Bryce Harper, anyone?
From the start, I’d like to say that I won’t be shaking my head if any of these guys are selected in the first half of the first round of any draft. I have nothing particularly harsh to say about Betts or Stanton. You guys already know the (trivial) issues with each player. Mookie might very well get back to being a five-category fantasy star, and Stanton, if healthy, could hit 60 homers. Again: I have nothing bad to say.
Bryce Harper, however, is baseball’s most dangerous hitter when he’s right. He’s a player with legit Triple Crown upside, which we can’t say for either Betts or Stanton. Harper is only 25 years old and heading into free agency, and the man has delivered an OPS north of 1.000 in two of the past three seasons. Back in 2015, at age 22, he slashed .330/.460/.649 with a league-leading 42 home runs. He lives on base and hits in an excellent lineup, so he’s a great bet to deliver 100-plus runs and RBIs. I can’t dispute that health has been a small concern, but no player is exempt from injury worries. Harper, for me, is the easy No. 2 at his position, and the only outfielder I’d consider placing in Mike Trout’s tier. —Andy Behrens
Giancarlo Stanton is ridiculous, too
Giancarlo Stanton obviously carries injury risk but so does Harper, and Betts owns a career .839 OPS. That risk comes with possibly the greatest reward among fantasy hitters, certainly the highest power ceiling in baseball. Stanton’s 59 homers last season were the most in MLB since 2001 despite playing in Marlins Park, which suppressed HR by 12 percent for right-handed batters. Meanwhile, Stanton will now be calling Yankee Stadium home, a park that’s increased HR for RHB by 23 percent over the last three years, the second-highest in baseball. Not that Stanton’s prodigious power needs help, but that’s a drastic difference, and he’ll be batting atop or in the middle of a loaded lineup projected to score among the most runs in baseball.
He improved his K% last year, and the usual conservative Steamer projects Stanton to finish with a .287-53-103-125 line. In 135 games! Stanton’s upside is through the roof, as I’d put his HR over/under at 59.5 if guaranteed 650 at bats. Maybe that’s conservative. It wouldn’t surprise me even a little if Stanton is in strong consideration as the No. 1 pick in 2019 drafts, so don’t hesitate to grab him if the slugger falls to you, as a historical power season could easily be in store. —Dalton Del Don