Fantasy Baseball 2014: Position-by-Position Rankings
Over the past several weeks, the 2014 fantasy baseball rankings have been rolling out here at Bleacher Report, culminating in the latest, most up-to-date Big Board, which covers the top 150 players heading into the 2014 season.
All the way back in mid-February, the individual position rankings began being pumped out one by one, starting with the top 20 catchers and wrapping up with the top 45 relief pitchers in early March, with every other spot on the diamond included in between.
Thing is, more than a little has changed since then—namely signings, trades, injuries and performances—so the position rankings need to be adjusted to reflect as much. After all, it's now late March and the season is already underway, thanks to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks journeying to Australia for the first two of 2,430 scheduled games.
Don't freak out, though: While there are some alterations here and there, it's not as if everything is all upside down and inside out all of a sudden. Mr. Mike Trout? He's still the No. 1 overall player, thank you very much.
While most drafts are done by now, plenty are still to come. Whether you're an owner who falls into the former camp or the latter one, here's where you can access all of the adjustments in one place.
Presenting for your viewing, drafting and roster-evaluating pleasure, the current fantasy rankings mapped out position by position.
These rankings consider three factors:
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 either must have played at least 20 games there in 2013 or be in line to start there in 2014. Additionally—and this one gets overlooked often—players are listed in the rankings at the position where their fantasy utility would be most useful.
If you're looking for more position-by-position fantasy goodness, you're cordially invited to read this batch of breakout candidates.
- Catcher is much deeper than it has been in recent seasons, as owners should feel good about having any of the above 10 as their starter. In fact, a few names just on the outside looking in, like Jason Casto, Evan Gattis and Miguel Montero, would also be fine-if-necessary options.
- The top three—Posey, Mauer and Molina—form the top tier of talent, and they typically will be taken between Rounds 4 and 6 in most 10- or 12-team drafts.
- Santana and McCann aren't too far off, given that both have the potential for 25-plus homers and 80-90 RBI in 2014. Because of their well-known names and reputations, though, owners will have to pay a decent price (read: Round 7 or 8) to secure their services.
- Beyond that duo is a trio in Lucroy, Perez and Rosario, each of whom has proved he can hit for average as well as varying degrees of power, too. These three actually might present the best value, considering they are often available after Round 10.
- As for Wieters and Ramos, the former is a perennial talent tease, although he's still good for 20 or more homers (albeit with an average that could range from .230-.270) and hits in a great lineup; while the latter's health is a constant concern, his top-10 ability will be justified if he just plays 120-130 games once and for all.
|4||Edwin Encarnacion||1B||Blue Jays|
- First base isn't exactly lacking for options. Heck, any of the next handful of names easily could finish in the top five or 10: Mark Trumbo, Mike Napoli, Jose Abreu, Brandon Belt and Matt Adams, to say nothing of a threesome who are eligible only at Utility in fantasy—David Ortiz, Billy Butler and Victor Martinez.
- Still, as many starter-worthy candidates as there are, the position is extremely top-heavy, as that front five—Goldschmidt, Davis, Fielder, Encarnacion and Votto—all rank in the top dozen or so players overall. If you want one of those studs, you'll need to burn one of your first two picks.
- After that, however, there's a fairly sizable drop-off—maybe 20-30 selections, depending on how much you buy into the guy at No. 6 here—until we get to Freeman and Hosmer, two young risers who top off a tier that extends all the way down to Craig (and frankly, a few even beyond him).
- One last thing to keep in mind: Because of the depth at this position, chances are you'll want a first baseman to be your corner infielder in leagues that require as much. It's not sacrilege to deploy a third baseman there, of course, but there simply aren't as many attractive candidates, as you'll soon see.
|3||Dustin Pedroia||2B||Red Sox|
- Yep, this one ain't pretty, is it? Sure, you don't hate owning one of Utley, Gyorko or Altuve, but relying on one of them to be your starting second-sacker just seems...unappealing. At least there are a few players outside of this batch who either have the potential to push into the mix or at least perform like a top-10er over certain hot stretches: Aaron Hill, Daniel Murphy, Howie Kendrick and Neil Walker.
- Yet again, Cano is the clear cream of the crop here. Even with the move from hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium to pitcher-paradise Safeco Field (not to mention, the Mariners lineup), Cano remains a firm first-round selection in this book, given A) his incredible durability and consistency and B) the relative blaaaaah at the position.
- Tier 2 consists of Kipnis and Pedroia, who generally come off the board in Round 2 or 3. If you prefer them in the other order because you trust Pedroia's track record over Kipnis' upside, that can be arranged.
- Carpenter is likely to see a slight dip in his .318 average and a larger decline in his MLB-high 126 runs from a year ago. He also doesn't bring much in the way of power or speed to the table. He is, though, for real as a starter, just don't draft him like he's turning the top three into a top four.
- In his new Detroit digs, Kinsler could be revitalized enough to approach one last 20-20 season, but his hitting history outside of Texas isn't all that promising: .242/.312/.399. In the end, going with the safer, more versatile Prado or the 18-homers-every-year Phillips might be the better route.
- Now that Jurickson Profar is out for a few months, if you're looking for another second-year sleeper, consider Anthony Rendon, who is likely to win the starting gig for the Nationals and could provide a boost in batting average and perhaps homers and RBI in his first full campaign.
|10||Brett Lawrie||3B||Blue Jays|
- Hot corner? More like room-temperature corner, am I right? (Hey, is this thing on?)
- Seriously, though, when the final two spots at a position's top 10 are rounded out by a guy who is a few homers-turned-warning track-power fly balls from being another Adam Dunn (Alvarez) and an injury-prone more-potential-than-production player (Lawrie), there just isn't as much here as you might've thought.
- Thank goodness, then, that Cabrera—in a tier unto himself—is still 3B-eligible. Owners: Please, please take advantage of that for one last time, should you be so lucky as to net one of the top-two choices in your draft.
- Beltre, Longoria and Wright inhabit the second grouping of talent at this spot, with the first of that trio being unquestionably the most consistent and durable even though he's also by far the oldest. That pushes Beltre into first-round consideration, while Longoria (a .280-30-100 candidate) and Wright (still a 20-20 one) are worth a take by the end of Round 2.
- Depending on how much you trust his streaky, injury-prone ways, Zimmerman may or may not be in a tier of one. There's another top-50 season in there yet, but he could just as easily fall below Sandoval or Seager or Donaldson—or all three. Still, be careful of overrating any of this quartet. You're best to let one fall to you in the middle rounds rather than reaching just to reach.
- Just outside is where you'll find Manny Machado, who surely would rank in the middle of the top 10 if not for the fact that he's starting 2014 on the disabled list and may not be himself until May or June. He's followed by likely-to-disappoint-again Chase Headley and breaking-down-by-the-day Aramis Ramirez. Should you prefer to take a shot instead in the middle rounds on one of the up-and-coming (Nolan Arenado, Nick Castellanos) or bounce-back (Mike Moustakas, Will Middlebrooks) youngsters, by all means.
|4||Jose Reyes||SS||Blue Jays|
|10||Xander Bogaerts||SS||Red Sox|
- Shortstop has been the position of burden for fantasy owners over the past handful of seasons, but here's a serious question: Which top 10 is better—SS or 2B?
- Even extending beyond that, there's still a smattering of starter-caliber options in mixed formats in Andrelton Simmons, Starlin Castro, Jed Lowrie, Jhonny Peralta and Asdrubal Cabrera. Each of those could leave you wanting more, but any one also could be a top-five guy if it clicks.
- Ramirez and Tulowitzki are perched atop this, and it's hard to argue otherwise considering their immense talents. Alas, because both have dealt with injury issues recently, the key question is: Do you feel lucky enough to burn a borderline first-round selection on either one.
- Because they offer solid power and solid speed, Desmond and Reyes are a click above mostly-just-speedsters Andrus, Segura and Cabrera. You'll have to pay a few rounds extra to get the more diversified portfolio, though. So if you'd rather build your roster by getting SBs from your SS, then wait a bit and take one of the latter three.
- Zobrist and Hardy are the old reliables, but at some point they'll start getting more old and less reliable. Bogaerts, on the other hand, is the shiny new toy who just needs to be unwrapped and taken out of the box before he quite possibly jumps into the top half of this list.
|14||Jose Bautista||OF||Blue Jays|
- Welcome to the position where it's Mike Trout...and everyone else. OK, not really—even though Trout is in his own tier.
- Despite what you might hear elsewhere, outfield is still a very, very deep position. Obviously, it's less so if your league requires four or even five starters (which most do) as opposed to a mere three (which some do), but the reason it remains plentiful is because there are all sorts of ways to build and utilize your multiple OF spots.
- Ideally, you'll land one or even two from the top half of the names above, purely from an aggressive, take-the-best-available approach in Rounds 1, 2 and 3. From there, it becomes more of a mix-and-match mentality where you can focus on power (Bautista, Hamilton) or speed (Jennings, Marte)—or power and speed (Cespedes, Werth, Rios...Kemp?).
- And for those owners wondering what sort of non-top-25 OFs are out there to prove that this position is, in fact, deep, you would find Nelson Cruz, Alex Gordon, Billy Hamilton, Shane Victorino and Carlos Beltran rounding out the top 30. Then the likes of Domonic Brown, Austin Jackson and Brett Gardner all barely inside the top 40. And even all sorts of appealing upside plays like Christian Yelich, Adam Eaton, Khris Davis, Oswaldo Arcia and Kole Calhoun floating around the top 50.
- The point? You want to take advantage of the very top talent while you can, but if your fourth and fifth outfielders are a youngster with potential (Avisail Garcia) or a bounce-back candidate (B.J. Upton) or simply a category filler (Rajai Davis), that's not a bad thing.
|7||Felix Hernandez ||SP||Mariners|
|10||Chris Sale||SP||White Sox|
|19||Jon Lester||SP||Red Sox|
- It was just drilled into your head that the previous position, outfield, is deep, but every fantasy spot is shallow compared to starting pitcher.
- Consider that you could start off your staff in Round 8-10 or so with one of the final five on this ranking of the top 25—Teheran, Miller, Cain, Sanchez or Minor—and still have a serviceable SP1. Sure, your rotation and ratios would be a bit behind the eight-ball, but then you could simply spend two or three of your next handful of selections on starters to make up some ground and come away with a perfectly competitive pitching corps.
- Not buying it? Here are some SPs that weren't good (or healthy) enough to make the cut: Doug Fister, Cole Hamels, Mat Latos, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Jeff Samardzija, Matt Moore, Hisashi Iwakuma, Alex Cobb, Johnny Cueto...need we go on?
- If you want to talk tiers, the top two—Kershaw and Darvish—are a slight cut above the rest, but it could be argued that the stability of Wainwright and Lee or the sex appeal of Strasburg or Fernandez keeps the whole top dozen together in one massive grouping. These are the guys you'll need to take before Round 4.
- Gonzalez to Shields makes up the next tier, as each one of those five is either a proven 200-strikeout arm or an elite ratio helper. All of them are fine SP1 candidates but are top-of-the-line SP2s, if you can swing a second starter by Round 6-8.
- Cole is a fantasy force waiting to happen—a possible top-10 starter this time next year—so he tops the third bunch, which covers all the way down to Minor at No. 25.
- Once your draft reaches the double-digit rounds, there still will be hurlers galore, so you're liable to find a pitcher who can serve as an SP3 in Round 15 or 18 or even 22. Of course, that doesn't mean you should wait that long to do so, because leaving so much to luck isn't smart. Plus, you do actually need enough pitching to keep up with the owners who have been gobbling 'em up along the way.
|7||Koji Uehara||RP||Red Sox|
- You might think Kimbrel gets his very own tier, but he does not. Jansen, Holland and Rosenthal, each of whom struck out 100-plus batters—something Kimbrel did not, by the way, with "only" 98—are right there, too. Of course, Kimbrel will go first because of his rep. But name recognition doesn't often result in the best fantasy value.
- Nathan, Perkins and Uehara are the next three, with the two old fogeys sandwiching the younger guy who is much more underrated because he's on a terrible Twins team. But, hey, bad teams provide save opportunities, too.
- Robertson, Soriano and Reed lead a long batch that also includes Jonathan Papelbon, Sergio Romo, Jason Grilli, Steve Cishek, Jim Johnson and a few others. Really, other than Robertson—who does have top-five potential if he can handle the ninth instead of the eighth—the arrangement after Uehara is a crapshoot made up of equal parts crap and shoot.
- The missing name here, you probably noticed, is that of Aroldis Chapman, who is way too much of an unknown after that horrific come-backer to the face to count on as a top-10 closer. He's expected to miss at least a few weeks of the season, which probably costs him 8-12 saves (aka the lifeblood of this position). Still, Chapman is lucky he remains a top-15 option because, frankly, he's lucky to be, you know, alive. Sometimes, reality is more important than fantasy.
To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11