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Fantasy Baseball 2013: Comparing Rankings from Around the Web

Andrew GouldFeatured Columnist IVOctober 21, 2016

Fantasy Baseball 2013: Comparing Rankings from Around the Web

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    Rankings from the major websites play a pivotal role in shaping fantasy baseball squads across the world.

    Whether owners realize it or not, their perception of players is often sculpted by the site’s default rankings. If they entered the draft thinking Justin Verlander is a savvy choice with the No. 1 pick, they’ll probably think again when they see he’s slated as a late first-rounder.

    That makes it crucial for serious fantasy gamers to research on their own and scour the Internet for as many different opinions as possible.

    Most drafts will occur on the same few websites that carry substantial power in determining how we draft our fantasy teams.

    So let’s take three of the main fantasy forces to task by identifying three players from each position whose overall ranking differs. One location might make him undraftable by ranking him too high while another rates him so poorly that he becomes a steal.

    Note: All statistics, unless otherwise noted, are courtesy of FanGraphs.com.

Key Players

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    CBS Sports–Their default rankings are not made available on their website.

    Instead, this article looks at individual rankings from its three experts (Scott White, Al Mechior and Nando Di Fino) and uses the average, rounded to the nearest whole number.

    ESPN–The rankings are taken from the site’s collective top 300. Personal rankings from Matthew Berry are also available.

    Yahoo! Sports–While the top 100 is posted, their consensus rankings differ from the O-Ranks, which are used as the default order. For our purposes, the O-Rank (which can be viewed by those in a Yahoo league) will be the standard.

     

    Other Useful Sources

    There are, of course, many other rankings floating around the Internet. These two sites make it easier to find them.

    FantasyRundown.com–Aggregates fantasy rankings (as well as prospect rankings) from several sites across the Web.

    FantasyPros.com–Several participating analysts send their rankings here in order to obtain consensus among experts. Fantasy Pros also determines which writer produced the most accurate forecasting at the end of the season.

Catcher

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    Buster Posey (ESPN–16, CBS–20, Yahoo–30)

    Slotting the top catcher in the overall big board always develops into a hot-button topic.

    There should be no questioning Buster Posey’s stronghold as the premier catcher but should that amount to first- or second-round consideration?

    ESPN is bullish on Posey, who will turn 26 around Opening Day. He’d merit this ranking by hitting .336 again, but will he maintain a sky-high .368 BABIP? Relying on batting average so early in the draft is a scary endeavor.

    That’s also assuming he survives the grueling physical toll occurred from squatting behind the plate.

    Yahoo’s ranking serves as a better indicator for how to value Posey but don’t expect him to last to No. 30 in many leagues.

    Salvador Perez (Yahoo–129, CBS–146, ESPN–206)

    I have to be close to breaking the record for most Salvador Perez references by a Bleacher Report writer.

    Those who have read/skimmed any fantasy articles just about anywhere will know that he’s a prime catcher to target this year. ESPN, however, still has not received the memo.

    The 21-year-old hit .301 last season, blasting 11 homers in 76 games. To be fair, both Yahoo and ESPN slot him as the No. 10 catcher. ESPN just is not on board with reaching for a backstop other than Posey, which is commendable.

    But for Perez, don’t be afraid to jump a few rounds to grab him in ESPN drafts. In Yahoo leagues, be prepared to draft a catcher a tad earlier than anticipated if you want a decent one.

    Wilin Rosario (CBS–95, Yahoo–95, ESPN–184) 

    This discrepancy is a bit more than ESPN shying away from catchers.

    The Mothership places eight catchers ahead of young slugger Wilin Rosario while Yahoo touts him at No. 5, and none of the three CBS experts rank him lower than No. 7.

    As a rookie, Rosario took full advantage of Coors Field, smashing 28 home runs and slugging .530.

    Then again, he struck out in 23.2 percent of his plate appearances, so the average might fall.

    Here lies the perfect demonstrator for how the site’s rankings can alter draft strategy. I’m not looking at Rosario in a Yahoo or CBS league unless he falls significantly, but I might grab him as my starting catcher in an ESPN draft.

    Unless Perez is still on the table, of course.

First Base

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    Paul Goldschmidt (Yahoo–46, CBS–66, ESPN–72)

    If you’re playing in an ESPN league, get Paul Goldschmidt.

    Now it’s naive to assume every drafter follows the default rankings but you can grab him rounds before they advise and it will still be a worthwhile choice.

    He only hit 20 home runs to go along with a .286/.359/.490 triple-slash line and 18 steals, but treat that as the floor.

    For someone who displayed a bounty of power in the minors, his 14.2 HR/FB ratio bears room for improvement. Don’t be surprised if he approached the 30-homer plateau this season.

    Some may think Yahoo’s mark sets the bar high, but it might be too tame. I previously positioned him at No. 34.

    Think I’m crazy? Well you’re probably right, even if it’s for other reasons, but Razzball’s Grey Albright tabbed him at No. 19 overall. He even made a nifty Venn diagram to explain why.

    Ryan Howard (Yahoo–98, CBS–116, ESPN–147)

    So, does anyone know where to rank Ryan Howard?

    Once a first-round choice, the lefty slugger has fallen after amassing a .219/.295/.423 line through 71 games last season.

    What’s truly bizarre is that, despite ranking him the lowest, ESPN projects him to hit .259 with 34 homers and 108 RBI. That’s essentially what Josh Willingham, who rated No. 62 on its player rater, produced last season.

    ESPN ranked him too low but set its projections too high.

    As will often be the case in such predicaments, I’m siding in the middle ground and raising CBS’ hands as the winner here.

    Mark Teixeira (CBS–102, ESPN–128, Yahoo–199)

    Tough decisions must be made when a player goes down with an injury. Should drafters cut ties with the damaged goods, or snatch him later at a discount?

    Mark Teixeira will be sidelined until mid-May after straining his right wrist with Team USA. The 32-year-old missed 39 games last year, hitting .251 with a career-low .475 slugging percentage.

    Yahoo is encouraging everyone to panic while CBS collectively is not expressing as much concern as necessary.

    If Howard, Paul Konerko and all the promising young first basemen (Ike Davis, Anthony Rizzo, Eric Hosmer) are off the table, it might be time to consider gambling on Teixeira to return on time and hit 25 homers.

    But don’t reach for a declining veteran whose injured wrist could stymie his power production all year long.

Second Base

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    Ben Zobrist (ESPN–54, CBS–60, Yahoo–69)

    Ben Zobrist won’t hit .300 without a great deal of luck. Anticipating much more than 20 homers and 15 steals is probably pushing it.

    Then again, he’s eligible at second base, shortstop and outfield in most leagues.

    To go along with his flexibility and appeal to position scarcity is durability. He’s played at least 150 games in each of the past four seasons. In the one season when he failed to hit 20 home runs (he fell short way short at 10), Zobrist offered 24 steals.

    That’s enough to side with ESPN and CBS over Yahoo. If anything, there’s still room to vault him up inside the top 50.

    Rickie Weeks (CBS–66, Yahoo–119, ESPN–150)

    Out of all the fantasy analysts who filed their rankings on Fantasy Pros, CBS’ trio produced three of the four highest endorsements for Rickie Weeks.

    Maybe he has some unflattering photos of them stocked somewhere.

    There’s reason to view his season outlook with cautionary optimism. Weeks has always been a low-average hitter who strikes out in bunches but his averages over the past four years were .272, .269, .269 and .230 in 2012.

    A career-low .285 BABIP could explain the tumble that depraved the 30-year-old of what was otherwise a fine fantasy season. If he hits 21 homers and steals 16 bases again with a .270 average, he’s essentially Zobrist.

    But given his injury past, inconsistency in the stolen-base department and a 25 strikeout percentage, that’s the best-case scenario cluttered with potential roadblocks. Yahoo’s median rank appears to be the best gauge of his value.

    Jurickson Profar (ESPN–209, Yahoo–326, CBS–N/A)

    Is the World Wide Leader hiding some inside information about Jurickson Profar?

    Had the Texas Rangers enforced their initial plan to shift Ian Kinsler over to first base and start the 20-year-old at second, this ranking would make sense. Even then, it’s a bit hopeful for a youngster who never took a swing in Triple-A.

    Unfortunately, for the middle infielder commonly regarded as baseball’s top prospect, Texas is keeping Kinsler at second and handing over first base to Mitch Moreland or Mike Olt.

    Barring any unseen developments unfolding, Profar is now just worth a last-round flier in most leagues. Don’t expect much playing time (or major production if he gets a chance) from the rookie.

Third Base

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    Chase Headley (ESPN–44, CBS–60, Yahoo–62)

    Breakout players usually spark discourse among fantasy gamers the following season.

    Some see a third baseman with 31 homers, 115 RBI, 95 runs and 17 steals and wonder how he’s not a top-20 talent. Other skeptics see a player who shattered his previous high of 12 homers and call shenanigans.

    ESPN is buying into his career season enough to price him over Ryan Zimmerman.

    Apparently the site is not concerned with his HR/FB rate jumping from 4.3 percent in 2011 to 21.4 percent last year.

    Then again, White and Melchior ranked Headley even higher than ESPN, but Di Fino sunk the average by slotting him at No. 105.

    If you’re banking on anything more than a .280, 20-homer, 15-steal performer, chances are you're due for a letdown. That’s still valuable, just not as valuable.

    Will Middlebrooks (CBS–111, Yahoo–154, ESPN–188)

    There are plenty of studs occupying the hot corner but the bottom falls out of the position quickly.

    Few safe bets exist outside the top 10, so chasing a high-upside third baseman is likely a drafter’s best option.

    Judging off its three rankers, CBS thinks owners should look no further than Will Middlebrooks, who needed just 75 games to register 15 homers and 54 RBI.

    Those numbers probably won’t prorate fully over the course of a full campaign, but a potential 25-homer, 90-RBI third baseman is still rather enticing. Middlebrooks’ potential might soar high enough to make the high outlier the ranking worth following.

    Manny Machado (ESPN–178, Yahoo–213, CBS–237)

    ESPN instead is placing its eggs in the Manny Machado basket as the other two databases proceed with caution.

    The payoff from selecting the 20-year-old could be massive. For a player jumping to the majors straight from Double-A and just exiting his teenage years, Machado defied most reasonable expectations.

    He didn’t take the league by storm, but hitting .262 with seven homers during 51 games is solid.

    Because the talent pool at third is shallow after Machado goes, the ESPN ranking is not very far-fetched. 

Shortstop

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    Elvis Andrus (Yahoo–64, CBS–69, ESPN–93)

    With no true top dog, the entire shortstop position is covered in fog.

    Since all the premier options are packaged with flaws, Elvis Andrus looks like a beacon of dependability in comparison. He'll steal bases and score runs, but is it worth the hefty price tag?

    Yahoo likes him more than Zobrist, Ian Desmond and Jimmy Rollins, all of whom tallied over 20 homers last season. Andrus hit three balls over the fence with an unappetizing 21 steals.

    The 24-year-old could up his steals total back to 30, but that could also be obtained from Rollins and Desmond. Sacrificing a little average for 20 more homers is worth the trade-off.

    Split the high and low points and Andrus lands a No. 78.5 rank. That's a nice spot for him.

    Josh Rutledge (CBS–133, Yahoo–183, ESPN–247)

    So hey, this is kind of embarrassing, but did ESPN forget about Josh Rutledge?

    Maybe as they wrapped up the rankings everyone realized the oversight, but placing him higher would have created too much more work.

    He’s starting at second base for the Colorado Rockies–the team that plays in Coors Field. After playing shortstop last season, he’ll soon earn eligibility at both positions.

    Rutledge accumulated eight homers and seven steals in 73 games.

    You’d expect his limited resume and inability to draw a walk to lead me toward the middle with Yahoo, but take the plunge on Rutledge closer to CBS’ forecasting. Not many other 15/15 threats are lingering late in drafts at the middle-infield slot.

    Derek Jeter (Yahoo–141, CBS–149, ESPN–186)

    Is Derek Jeter actually undervalued this year?

    The same guy who some argue is the greatest New York Yankee ever, even though Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantley and Lou Gehrig wore pinstripes?

    The poster boy of a decade-plus long dynasty losing its grip on the throne? Undervalued?

    His speed has all but vanished and his ankle is still not 100 percent but he still has enough to hit around .300 with around 10-12 homers.

    Throw in a bunch of runs and that still makes for a solid shortstop.

    Granted, these rankings don’t represent the ultra-casual fantasy player who sees Jeter in the fifth round and jumps at the familiar name. But if all your league members hold true to these parameters, even those who despise the Evil Empire should consider swallowing their pride and drafting its leader if he falls far enough.

Outfield

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    Justin Upton (ESPN–12, Yahoo–23, CBS–33)

    Such parity rarely exists at the top, but everyone is all over the place on Justin Upton’s ranking.

    ESPN trusts his comeback potential enough to keep him in the first round, but CBS is not as sold on the 25-year-old.

    Even during an off year, Upton still hit .280, scored 107 runs and broached a 20/20 campaign with 17 homers and 18 steals.

    Then again, a first-round selection should feel as close to money in the bank as possible. Despite his sky-high ceiling, Upton’s not safe enough to grab so high.

    To conclude this game of Goldilocks, Yahoo’s ranking is just right.

    Nick Markakis (CBS–86, Yahoo–135, ESPN–226) 

    Nick Markakis is another player whose potential spot on a roster could depend entirely on the league host.

    Mechior catapulted CBS’ consensus by slotting him at an unimaginable 38. Unless the Markakis from 2007 who hit .300 with 23 homers and 18 steals shows up, that’s way too high.

    If any of the site’s readers are paying attention, an outfielder with little power or speed to offer will get taken too early. On the opposite spectrum, ESPN ignores the fact that he’ll at least produce some serviceable counting numbers in the heart of Baltimore’s batting order.

    In a CBS draft, stay away from Markakis. But in an ESPN league, he’s a sneaky bargain as a fifth outfielder or utility man.

    In Yahoo formats? Probably not. He belongs closer to the 160s.

    Adam Eaton (CBS–172, Yahoo–177, ESPN–264)

    For those trying to keep track, this is the 10th position player whom ESPN holds in too low regards.

    Adam Eaton did not earn much outside praise through the minors, probably because everyone thought he was the lackluster pitcher. He’s quickly proven that he’s his own man ready to reclaim prestige to the Adam Eaton name.

    Before receiving a September call-up, Eaton hit .381 in Triple-A with seven homers, 119 runs and 38 steals. He quickly displayed a propensity to reach base in the majors, tallying a .382 on-base percentage in 103 plate appearances.

    With a full season of at-bats, Eaton is a 10/30 threat who could score plenty of runs on top of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ batting order. That’s worthy of top-200 consideration.

Starting Pitching

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    Stephen Strasburg (Yahoo–12, ESPN–24, CBS–35)

    Where do you rank an ace with a limited track record but all the potential in the world?

    Yahoo’s aggressive ranking solidifies Stephen Strasburg as a first-rounder in many leagues. Don’t follow their advice to take him over Clayton Kershaw—who is only a few months older but has netted a sub-three ERA four seasons in a row.

    CBS, on the other hand, takes their skepticism to the extreme. Strasburg showed massive upside by striking out 197 batters through 159.1 innings last year. Even though he’s yet to holster a full season under his belt, Strasburg should still be considered a top-five starter.

    ESPN found a comfortable spot in the middle for the young ace. Follow their appraisal of the 24-year-old as the game's No. 4 pitcher and a late-second, early-third round pick.

    Jered Weaver (Yahoo–38, ESPN–39, CBS–39)

    Here’s a rare case where all three are in precise agreement.

    And they’re all wrong.

    Sure, he’s a dependable source of a low ERA and WHIP with a loaded offense prepared to offer him an array of run support. He’s also a 30-year-old whose strikeout rates have dipped dramatically over the past two seasons.

    After posting a career-high 9.35 K/9 ratio in 2010, the rate fell to 7.56 in 2011 and 6.77 last year.

    At No. 38 or 39, owners are likely drafting Weaver to anchor their fantasy rotation. That’s simply not enough strikeouts for a fantasy ace.

    There are others fighting the crusade against drafting Weaver. FOX Sports’ John Halpin diverged from his colleagues by slotting him at No. 72 overall while Albright positions him at No. 79.

    Marco Estrada (Yahoo–166, CBS–211, ESPN–233)

    Come on Nando!

    Di Fino tanked CBS’ ranking of Marco Estrada by placing at him at No. 290. He must have been chatting with some ESPN employees.

    In 138.1 innings last season, Estrada struck out 143 batters and walked just 29. That’s almost Cliff Lee good.

    He also registered a 3.35 FIP. Really, that’s not a pitcher who deserves to crack the top 200? His ranking on Fantasy Pros averaged out to 191, but the lower overall number than Yahoo represents a lower accreditation of pitchers across the board.

    Anyone playing in an ESPN league should set their sights on Estrada.

Relief Pitching

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    Craig Kimbrel (ESPN–43, Yahoo–55, CBS–76)

    One of the more interesting quandaries is where to place top closer Craig Kimbrel on cheat sheets.

    The major sites aren’t offering much clarity.

    Despite warnings from Berry, ESPN’s head honcho, to never “pay for saves,” the staff (but not Berry, who ranks him No. 61) makes an exception for baseball’s apex closer.

    Drafting Kimbrel would provide owners with a major advantage in the bullpen. No other reliever will touch his 1.01 ERA (2012 was a once-in-a-lifetime deal for Fernando Rodney), 0.65 WHIP and certainly not his 16.66 K/9 ratio.

    Still, it’s a hefty price tag to pay for a pitcher who threw 62.2 innings last season. Is 60-70 awesome innings from Kimbrel worth passing up 200 great innings from Madison Bumgarner or Adam Wainwright?

    But at CBS, the going rate is low enough to consider committing the cardinal sin of drafting an elite closer.

    Fernando Rodney (ESPN–96, Yahoo–127, CBS–155)

    Rodney didn’t record a 0.60 ERA last year. Can’t be.

    That has to be a typo. Or maybe the Internet pooled together to pull an elaborate prank on baseball fans. Well done.

    When a 35-year-old with a career 3.75 ERA and 4.42 walk rate earns a 0.60 ERA (a measly five earned runs surrendered) and 1.81 BB/9 ratio, how do rankers treat that?

    Some regression to the mean is inevitable, but can we completely write off his masterful season?  ESPN says no, slotting him ahead of Mariano Rivera and Joe Nathan.

    Yahoo and CBS, however, aren’t believers. Di Fino is the loudest skeptic, placing him No. 236.

    Years of mediocrity are rarely followed by years of utter dominance. There’s too much talent in the bullpen to stick with Rodney in 2013.

    Tom Wilhelmsen (Yahoo–175, CBS–182, ESPN–222)

    Now the tables are turned, with ESPN playing Negative Nancy on Tom Wilhelmsen.

    The Seattle Mariners closer is receiving no respect despite submitting a 2.50 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 9.87 strikeout rate last season.

    His biggest supporter, Yahoo, touts him as the No. 19 rated relief pitcher. No matter the format, Wilhelmsen is a solid source of saves for those who wait until the end to draft their closers.

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