Fantasy Baseball 2014: Mid-Spring Training Top 150 Big Board
With spring training about halfway over (yay!) and your fantasy baseball draft getting ever closer if you haven't had it yet (double-yay!), it's time to update the Big Board again.
On the pages that follow is a ranking of—count 'em—the top 150 players for the 2014 fantasy baseball season. With some circumstances and opinions changing since the last iteration, including transactions and injuries, a refreshing of the board is in order.
Before getting to that, though, some housekeeping is needed, as this lengthy list of the top talents comes with a few key qualifications. First, everything is based on 10- or 12-team mixed leagues with standard 5x5 rotisserie scoring for hitters (BA, R, HR, RBI, SB) and pitchers (W, ERA, WHIP, K, SV).
Second, lineup construction accounts for 22 active roster positions consisting of: one each for catcher, first base, second base, third base, shortstop, corner infield, middle infield and utility; along with five outfielders and nine pitchers.
And third, to be eligible at a particular position, players must have either played at least 20 games there in 2013 or be in line to start there in 2014.
With that out of the way, get ready to count down, starting with No. 150 and working all the way to No. 1.
For more fantasy baseball analysis, here's a look at 25 new sleepers and a batch of players to avoid drafting based on their cost of acquisition, as well as a rundown of all the individual position rankings, which can be found here.
|136||Brett Lawrie||3B||Blue Jays|
|131||Shane Victorino||OF||Red Sox|
NEWS AND NOTES
- In case you were wondering which players made the jump onto the Big Board, that would be Austin Jackson and Andrew Cashner (pictured). Next in line but just short were: Patrick Corbin, Jered Weaver, Jurickson Profar, Leonys Martin, Brandon Moss, Lance Lynn, Justin Masterson, Clay Buchholz and Francisco Liriano.
- The only players who dropped out from the previous Big Board? Kris Medlen and CC Sabathia, who were Nos. 111 and 131, respectively. There's a damaged ligament in Medlen's elbow, per Mark Bowman of MLB.com, and he could require a second Tommy John surgery, which would mean the end of his season. Sabathia, meanwhile, is having trouble with his velocity, and after an ugly 2013, that's enough to push him off.
- A quick pointer to keep in mind: When a few players at the same position are bunched together—like closers Jason Grilli, David Robertson, Sergio Romo and Jonathan Papelbon—it means they're more or less in the same boat, with no clear favorite as of yet. That can, and will, change as more information, news and performance comes to light.
- Chase Headley's right calf strain is progressing, and he has been running at about 70 percent, per Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Opening Day still seems to be a possibility barring any setbacks, but getting hurt so early in camp for a second year in a row isn't going to endear him to owners who already are down on him after a disappointing 2013.
- Hisashi Iwakuma, out all spring with a sprained tendon in his right finger, is expected to be re-examined Monday and could have the splint removed, according to Greg Johns of MLB.com. Even in a best-case scenario, the right-hander is likely to miss most or all of April, so don't invest in him as anything more than a third or fourth starting pitcher on draft day.
|119||Koji Uehara||RP||Red Sox|
|115||Jose Abreu||1B||White Sox|
|105||Xander Bogaerts||SS||Red Sox|
NEWS AND NOTES
- Cole Hamels (pictured) has had a roller-coaster spring with his shoulder inflammation setting him back and then being reaggravated recently. The lefty threw a brief bullpen session Wednesday and came out feeling OK, reports Todd Zolecki of MLB.com, but also acknowledged that he's essentially starting his prep for the regular season all over. If he can get healthy, Hamels can be a first or second starting pitcher, so depending on how much of a discount you can get, there could be plenty of room for value.
- At this point, Matt Kemp's status heading into 2014 is anyone's guess. The latest, per Barry Bloom of MLB.com, is that the injury-prone outfielder played the outfield in an intrasquad game Wednesday, his first action in the field since offseason surgeries on his left shoulder and left ankle. If you yearn for a high-risk/high-reward player, it might not get much higher than Kemp.
- Just ahead of Kemp, Mat Latos checks in, and after two surgical procedures in four months—one on his right elbow in October, the other on his knee on Feb. 14—he threw 20 pitches of live batting practice to teammates on Friday, according to Mark Sheldon of MLB.com. It's not often that a pitcher gets cut into twice in the same offseason and comes out of it just fine, so be careful here.
NEWS AND NOTES
- Owners tend to love Ben Zobrist (pictured) for his versatility—hey, that three-position eligibility is mighty handy—but the 32-year-old second baseman/shortstop/outfield-eligible player is more steady than dynamic these days. He posted 12 homers and 11 steals last year and might not top 15 in either category in 2014. He is a Swiss Army knife that cuts best at the shallow shortstop spot.
- Doug Fister and Mike Minor are ranked back to back because both are dealing with injuries. Fister has has trouble trying to shake right-elbow inflammation this month, but he came away well enough from Friday's bullpen session that he may not miss any regular-season starts, reports Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post.
- Minor is in a similar boat—Opening Day is in jeopardy—after being setback due to January surgery to address a urinary tract infection and then battling shoulder soreness early in camp, according to David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constituion.
- Josh Hamilton, who is dealing with a calf strain, took batting practice this week and is hoping to play in his first spring training game on Monday, per Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com.
|86||Mike Napoli||1B||Red Sox|
NEWS AND NOTES
- I'm much, much lower on Alex Rios (pictured) than most, but maybe that's because he's burned me about 18 times before. He does have the Rangers' boffo lineup for support, but he's 33 now, and it wouldn't be surprising to see him lose 15 steals off of last year's career-high total of 42 while also coming up shy of 20 homers. He's consistently inconsistent, and I don't see much of a difference between him and Desmond Jennings or Starling Marte.
- Manny Machado's recovery from knee surgery remains on schedule, as manager Buck Showalter put it to Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun:
Everything that he’s supposed to be doing at this point he’s doing. He's not ahead of schedule, he’s not behind schedule. He’s on schedule. What that is, whether it’s the day after Opening Day, on Opening Day, or it’s a month after Opening Day, we just don’t want any setbacks, and we have not had any setbacks yet.If Machado misses a week or three at the start of the season, he'll still have more than enough time to be worth it in the end.
NEWS AND NOTES
- When it comes to Masahiro Tanaka, you're either an owner who's all in and willing to take him 20 or 30 picks higher than this in order to ensure you get the shiny new toy, or you're an owner who's more than happy to let someone else do just that. This is what happens when every spring training outing is bound to be dissected and analyzed like Game 7 of the World Series. For what it's worth, the $155 million man has looked strong so far (5 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 4:0 K:BB), with his third spring start coming Sunday.
- From the peace-of-mind department: Trevor Rosenthal (pictured) looked just fine while registering triple digits in his first exhibition game after fighting through a minor groin strain from late February, according to Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
- The Great Third Base Experiment continues for Carlos Santana, who homered at the dish and made a pair of nice plays at the hot corner Wednesday, per Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. For fantasy purposes, the extra eligibility would be welcomed, but you'll be using Santana at catcher, so the reason to care is to see if he can be good enough at third to get into the lineup at another spot.
|68||Jon Lester||SP||Red Sox|
NEWS AND NOTES
- While none of them are likely to be a fantasy No. 1 in 2014, each of those five straight starting pitchers—from Jon Lester to Jordan Zimmermann—should be pretty firmly in second-starting-pitcher territory this season. For owners who like to make a point of teaming their top starter with a strong secondary arm, expect to do so in the range of Rounds 5-7.
- Chances are, you'll be able to land Everth Cabrera (pictured) a round or two (or more) later than this, because he's a very underrated starting shortstop that some owners don't see as such. With 81 stolen bases in only 210 games since the start of the 2012 season, this 27-year-old just might wind up being what Billy Hamilton could have had he remained at short.
|55||David Ortiz||DH||Red Sox|
NEWS AND NOTES
- The four outfielders in this bunch are all great second-outfielder options, but they might actually be ranked from safest with the lowest ceiling (Hunter Pence) to riskiest with the highest upside (Wil Myers, pictured). Which one you might grab depends on the type of owner you are (i.e., risk-averse or more caution-to-the-wind) and how your first five or six selections go.
- Craig Kimbrel and Buster Posey mark the shift from best available overall players to best available at a certain position, as the former is the top closer and the latter is the No. 1 backstop. If you want to go that route in order to lock up based more on position scarcity, this is around where you'll have to start taking aim.
|44||Jose Bautista||OF||Blue Jays|
NEWS AND NOTES
- If you accidentally missed out or purposely passed up on the top 10 starting pitchers (which we'll get to in a moment), you should be more than happy to land one of Jose Fernandez (pictured), Madison Bumgarner, Gio Gonzalez or Zack Greinke or to be your No. 1 starter. You may, though, want to take an second starting pitcher within the next three to five rounds in order to make up some ground in the rotation.
- Jose Bautista has bumped up the Big Board yet again, a development due to his ever-present power showing itself—three homers already!—and more importantly, the fact that he looks good and is back to full health after two injury-plagued campaigns. Owners should just want him to stay healthy this year.
- Albert Pujols, who missed the last portion of 2013 with a chronic plantar fasciitis problem that has since been resolved for good, got off to a slow start this spring. The 34-year-old former MVP, though, has been finding his groove of late, writes Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com, and a healthy Pujols could be an enticing get on draft day.
|39||Jose Reyes||SS||Blue Jays|
|37||Chris Sale||SP||White Sox|
NEWS AND NOTES
- Both Giancarlo Stanton and Jay Bruce are more or less locks for 30 homers, assuming they play 140 or so games. Of course, that's something Stanton still struggles with, having hit that plateau only once (2011). At this point, the stability of Bruce gives him the edge over Stanton's health and surrounding lineup.
- Ian Desmond (pictured) has had back-to-back 20-20 seasons as a shortstop. That is all.
- Here come the stud starters. Chris Sale, David Price and Justin Verlander all have the potential for 15 wins, 200 strikeouts, sub-3.00 ERAs and sub-1.10 WHIPs. This is the stuff of fantasy No. 1s.
- Verlander wasn't himself for almost all of 2013 (3.46 ERA, 1.32 WHIP), and he's recovering from surgery on his abdomen, but he looked strong on Tuesday in throwing 3.2 innings in his first outing. His velocity was in the low to mid-90s, which is right where he said it should be at this stage, as Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reports.
|24||Dustin Pedroia||2B||Red Sox|
NEWS AND NOTES
- Don't worry, just monitor: New Rangers outfielder Shin-Soo Choo has been hampered a bit by persistent elbow pain this spring training, so he had an injection of anti-inflammatory medication to address it, reports Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Good thing he's not a pitcher, eh?
- As if Stephen Strasburg wasn't already unfair enough, he's been working on a new pitch—a slider—that he plans to incorporate this year, according to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. Here's a look at the new weapon, via Mike Axisa of CBS Sports.
- His thumb now healthy, Dustin Pedroia (pictured) could be in for a better year in 2014. Not that last season was bad—he hit .301 with 91 runs and 84 RBI—but if he could that while playing with a torn ligament all season after injuring himself on Opening Day, imagine what Pedroia might do now that he's back to full strength.
NEWS AND NOTES
- Coming off a wrist injury, performance drop-off and 65-game suspension, your guess on Ryan Braun (pictured) is as good as mine, but it's hard to ignore a guy who could be a top-five fantasy player again. Especially when he's started out going 8-for-14 (.571) with a pair of dingers this month.
- You'll find other fantasy sites that put Carlos Gonzalez within the top 10 overall. Not here, though, where we prefer our early selections to be consistent and durable. CarGo is a safe bet for 20-plus homers and steals—and games missed.
- Adam Jones, on the other hand, is all about consistency and durability in the form of a .270-.290 average, 30 homers and a good shot at 100 runs and 100 RBI. He'll even throw in a dozen or so steals to boot. So what if he walks once every five games? The Orioles offense is nasty, and Jones is at the center of it.
|10||Edwin Encarnacion||1B||Blue Jays|
NEWS AND NOTES
- Remember when you used to be able to wait to draft a first baseman? Not anymore. If you count Votto, six of the top 12 players on the board—that's exactly half—come from that position. In other words, you'll either get your stud early or wait a few rounds for a second-tier option.
- In 2013, Prince Fielder (pictured) had his worst year since his rookie season of 2006, but now that he's in a park that historically has been among the best to hit in, a 35- or even 40-homer season could be in the offing. The Rangers are going to score—a lot.
- Even as a Mariner in spacious Safeco Field, Robinson Cano (pictured) is still the top fantasy second baseman, and his durability is a thing of beauty; he's played at least 159 games each of the past seven years. Not that it matters, but you might have noticed that he's having a boffo spring with 14 hits in his first 23 at-bats (.609).
- Over the last four seasons, Adrian Beltre has averaged—averaged—a .314 batting average, 32 homers, 100 RBI and 87 runs scored. He will enjoy more of that while hitting fourth, behind Shin-Soo Choo, Elvis Andrus and that Fielder guy.
- Look, if anyone in the top 10 is going to crap out, it's Chris Davis, who was the MVP of fantasy baseball in 2013 after mashing 53 homers and 138 RBI as a mid- to late-rounder. He's going to hit 30-plus homers for sure, but there's also plenty of risk that he drops back to, say, 35 homers and 100 RBI with a .250 average. That's great, but maybe not first-round great.
- With Andrew McCutchen, the floors in each category are: .300 BA, 90 R, 20 HR, 80 RBI, 20 SB. Because he's still only 27, we don't yet know what the ceilings are.
- In a season when he was busy hitting .302 with 36 homers, 125 RBI and 103 runs, maybe you didn't realize Paul Goldschmidt also stole 15 bases. That makes him fantasy's No. 2 first baseman, just behind Miguel Cabrera.
- Regarding Miguel Cabrera versus Mike Trout for the No. 1 overall spot, some might argue for Miggy's epic consistency and the extra power production he provides, even after offseason surgery to address his core, which ailed him throughout the second half of last season. Me? I'm taking the 22-year-old who could hit .330, or could score 130 runs, or could smack 30 homers, or could drive in 100 runs or could steal 50 bases—or could do all of that.
This is the continuation of a writer-reader team effort that's intended to take your opinions and perspectives into account, so let 'er rip in the comments below. Which rankings do you disagree with and why? Which players not included absolutely need to be on the Top 150 Big Board, and which ones would you kick to the curb? How's the top 10? The top 25?
To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11.