Fantasy Baseball 2014: Updating the Top 150 Big Board, Week 2
With the 2014 baseball season going full tilt, the fantasy version of the sport needs all kinds of attention. Like, every-week attention—lest we fickle owners get frustrated and cranky, and that just isn't good for anyone.
With that in mind, it's time for the weekly update of the Big Board. Now that games are underway and fantasy drafts are over, the focus shifts toward evaluating players' values based on the remainder of the season.
Think of it as your security blanket in an otherwise insecure world.
On the pages that follow is a ranking of—count 'em—the top 150 players from now until the end of September. With opinions and circumstances changing since the last iteration, including player performances, transactions and injuries, a refreshing 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 played at least 20 games there in either 2013 or 2014.
With that out of the way, get ready to count down, starting with No. 150 and working all the way to No. 1.
|150||Melky Cabrera||OF||Blue Jays|
|132||Koji Uehara||RP||Red Sox|
News and Notes
- This time around, Matt Moore, Brett Lawrie, Chase Headley, Andrelton Simmons, Jed Lowrie and Jonathan Papelbon fell off the Big Board. Of that group, Moore's elbow injury was the biggest blow, as he had been ranked No. 113 last time.
- The six newbies are: Michael Pineda, Aramis Ramirez, Torii Hunter, Alex Wood, Chris Tillman and Melky Cabrera, who takes the Mr. Irrelevant slot for now.
- Because you're probably wondering which players are just outside the top 150 and looking in, they are Brandon Moss, Aaron Hill, Yovani Gallardo, Jhonny Peralta and Jered Weaver, as well as some others like Tony Cingrani, Dexter Fowler and Shane Victorino, who may rejoin the ranks once he returns from his hamstring injury.
- Keep in mind: When a few players at the same position are coupled or bunched together—like Alex Wood, Justin Masterson and Francisco Liriano—it means they're more or less in the same boat, with no clear favorite. That can, and will, change as more information, news, injuries and performance come to light. But for now, when players are grouped, consider their value to your team based more on specific category need than overall value.
- The most amazing aspect of David Robertson's groin injury that forced him to the disabled list is that it happened merely a week into the Yankees' post-Mariano Rivera Era, proving just how incredible the future Hall of Famer's run of great performance—and health—really was over a decade and a half.
- Fellow closer Aroldis Chapman, who has been playing catch recently in his recovery from that gruesome comebacker to the head late in spring training, is set to throw a bullpen session Monday. Let's hope for no setbacks, so he can return to top-five closer status soon enough.
- Speaking of top-five closers, a big reason why Koji Uehara wasn't one heading into the season is his injury history, which cropped up again over the weekend when he was shut down with right shoulder soreness. The Red Sox are taking the cautious approach here, so owners should plan on being without Uehara for a bit, but go grab fill-in Edward Mujica, if he's still available. That might need to be a handcuff all season long.
- Josh Hamilton, Ryan Zimmerman, Mat Latos and Alex Cobb are ranked consecutively because each one is dealing with injury: Hamilton tore a ligament in his thumb while sliding into first base; Zimmerman did the same thing and wound up with a fractured thumb; Latos' rehab start was skipped and he's having an MRI to check on his sore right elbow; and Cobb just hit the 15-day DL with a strained left oblique. Hamilton, Zimmerman and Cobb were off to great starts, so this is more than a little unfortunate.
News and Notes
- Did you see that crazy line from Danny Salazar last time out: 3.2 IP, 6 H, 5 ER...but 10 K!?!? If he can get it together, he'll be a strikeout monster. But he shouldn't be more than an SP4/5 in your rotation right now, considering his injury history and lack of experience.
- Doug Fister had trouble shaking right-elbow inflammation in March, and then a lat strain put him on the shelf to start the season. At this point, it's looking like he may not be back before May.
- Starlin Castro jumps up a couple dozen spots after a big week. The 24-year-old is trying to put a brutal 2013 behind him, and a two-homer game and .326 average are a good way to start.
- Michael Cuddyer is old and verging on ancient in baseball years (35), but he's hitting .386 with three homers and 10 RBI. Maybe his NL-high .331 average from a year ago wasn't a complete fluke?
- After missing all of spring training with a torn tendon in his right middle finger, Hisashi Iwakuma has started a normal throwing program. While that's promising, and the hope is he can get back by month's end, the right-hander's stamina still needs to be built up to the point where he can go at least five or six innings. Early May might be a more realistic target.
- Certainly, Billy Hamilton has been disappointing for those who drafted him, especially if it was before Round 10 or so. You can bench him and his .147 average for now and pray he figures it out, but you cannot drop a player who can do what Hamilton did Wednesday.
- Mike Minor remains on the comeback trail from shoulder tendinitis and is set to make his third rehab start Sunday at Class A. Another couple of turns and he should be ready to go.
- Joe Nathan's "dead arm" officially has become a thing after the active saves leader blew two of his first three opportunities with his new club, while allowing five runs on seven hits and four walks in 4.2 innings so far.
- Has any pitcher had worse luck than Johnny Cueto? The injury-prone vet owns an 0-2 mark despite allowing all of five runs in 21 innings to go with 23 whiffs. C'mon, Reds offense!
- Manny Machado took a big step in his recovery from knee surgery, hitting against live pitching over the weekend and being cleared to sprint this week, which is the final hurdle before he embarks on a rehab stint to get some at-bats and find his timing. Barring any setbacks, end of April seems like a good possibility for owners who drafted Machado and have been waiting not-so-patiently.
|100||Xander Bogaerts||SS||Red Sox|
News and Notes
- One-hit wonder? Josh Donaldson did smack a pair of homers last week, but overall, he's walked but once and struck out a whopping 15 times through his first 50 trips to the dish. For a guy whose plate discipline was a key to his late-bloomer breakout in 2013, that's not exactly encouraging.
- Did you catch Andrew Cashner's Friday night outing? If not, here's the must-see video. (Spoiler alert: It was a one-hit CG SHO of the Tigers that will make you go "OMG.")
- Thanks to the Dodgers early start in Australia, Hyun-Jin Ryu is one of only two pitchers to make four starts so far—Wade Miley of the Diamondbacks, who were the Dodgers' opponents down under is the other—and three of them have been gems.
|87||Mike Napoli||1B||Red Sox|
|81||Jose Reyes||SS||Blue Jays|
News and Notes
- Pedro Alvarez is hitting under .200, but he's smashed five homers already, which is tied for most in the majors, and the normally aggressive slugger is sporting an intriguing 9:8 K:BB ratio. If the walks are for real, he could be dangerous.
- Cole Hamels had a roller-coaster spring while battling left-elbow issues, but the latest is good news: The southpaw was superb Saturday night in what could be his penultimate rehab start. If all goes well, Hamels could be back in Philly before the month is out, perhaps even by April 22.
- That two-homer game Saturday probably provided a little relief to Brian McCann owners, eh?
- It took all of one plate appearance for injury-prone Jose Reyes to succumb to a balky hamstring that bothered him in spring training. He's set for a rehab stint, so he could be back soon, but "could" is the operative word in that sentence. And even if he makes his return in late April, how much will yet another leg injury impact his ability to steal bases?
News and Notes
- With 10 hits, including two homers, and three walks allowed, Kenley Jansen hasn't been especially sharp in his first eight games. He does, though, have 11 strikeouts in his six innings, and his stuff looks good as ever, so don't be too concerned.
- Aside from his two-homer game last Sunday in what was just his third of the season after offseason ankle surgery, Matt Kemp hasn't done a whole lot. Then again, the fact that he's playing is promising, so owners should give him a little leeway in the production department for now. Because of the way he's being eased back in, he's little more than an OF4/5 or utility option at the moment, but if Kemp can stay healthy and find it again, he'll be way more than that.
- Jayson Werth has carried over his crazy-hot second half of 2013 into the start of this year (.368 BA, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 2 SB), so hopefully his recent groin tightness isn't going to cost him any real action or slow him down at all.
|66||Jon Lester||SP||Red Sox|
|65||Jose Abreu||1B||White Sox|
News and Notes
- After liking him a lot in the preseason, I've bumped up Brandon Belt substantially this week, as he's currently tied for the major league lead with five home runs. You know, in case you hadn't noticed.
- Same massive bump-up goes for another first baseman I was into back in March, rookie Jose Abreu, who had not one, but two, two-homer efforts last week and looks like the next big thing.
- Fellow first-year star-in-the-making Masahiro Tanaka is showing he can overcome early troubles in a start, settle down and make the necessary adjustments. With 18 strikeouts against a mere one walk through 14 innings over his first two really impressive starts, the 25-year-old already might be the Yankees' ace—and a legitimate SP2 in fantasy.
- Hunter Pence takes a minor drop for his slow start (.167 BA). It's still too early to worry that much, but he did put up about a third of his home run and RBI production last year in the final month, when he hit 11 out and drove in 32. It'd be nice if owners don't have to wait for that to happen again—because it won't.
News and Notes
- In whiffing 10 Cubs Thursday, Gerrit Cole had his second career double-digit-strikeout game. There should be plenty more where that came from from the second-year stud.
- Homer Bailey's ugly first two starts shouldn't concern anyone: His 60.6 percent ground-ball rate is excellent, and he's allowed only two fly balls—both of which somehow have gone for home runs. That's just unlucky.
- No one could have expected super-steady Jordan Zimmermann to fall apart against the Marlins, of all teams, like he did last week (5 R, 7 H in 1.2 IP). Sometimes, as they say, "stuff" happens.
- Here's betting that Allen Craig owners literally would start buying a hit or two for him. Coming off of career highs in average (.315) and RBI (97), the 29-year-old is just 4-for-38 (.105). It'll come.
- Case in point? Justin Upton, who was hitting .200 as of the middle of last week before going on a 9-for-11 splurge—with three homers in two games—over the weekend. This early, things can change just that quickly.
|50||David Ortiz||UTIL||Red Sox|
|42||Jose Bautista||OF||Blue Jays|
News and Notes
- If nothing else, it's encouraging to see Buster Posey off to a hot start with a .325 average, three homers and seven RBI, proving he's over that brutal second half last year (.244 BA, 2 HR, 16 RBI in 58 games).
- Jose Bautista may be batting only .200, but he's bashed four home runs and has an MLB-high 16 walks, which shows he's still doing the power-patience thing that helped him lead the majors in dingers two years in a row back in 2010 and 2011. Healthy again, the power is and always has been there. The guy just needs to stay healthy enough to hit 35-plus again.
- With a .243 average, no homers and just one RBI, Eric Hosmer is on the hot seat for a potential drop in the rankings next time. He needs to avoid a third straight poor April.
|33||Chris Sale||SP||White Sox|
News and Notes
- Clayton Kershaw's back inflammation could wind up keeping him out until May. The massive drop comes because every single start counts for a pitcher's value, so even if Kershaw is the reigning Cy Young winner, right now, he's nothing but the reigning Cy Young winner who'll make only 25 or 26 starts instead of 32 or 33. That knocks him just outside the very elite starters, a group comprised of about a dozen or so arms.
- Honestly, you could rank Ryan Braun No. 10, No. 50 or No. 100. His right-thumb injury could be the sort of chronic problem that never goes away and severely limits his numbers. He's also gone 11-for-24 with 10 RBI and that three-homer game against the Phillies since news of the re-aggravation last weekend. If you're the cautious kind, it might not be a bad idea to see if you can still get a top-25 player for Braun while he's hot (and healthy-ish).
- So apparently, Jose Fernandez is human after all?
- Yasiel Puig, the first of three star-caliber hitters to damage a finger on a head-first slide—enough with that already!—returned to the lineup Friday, so he appears to have dodged the much worse fate that befell Josh Hamilton and Ryan Zimmerman.
|25||Dustin Pedroia||2B||Red Sox|
News and Notes
- Trying to describe the things Giancarlo Stanton has been doing to baseballs so far would only lead to the use of inappropriate terminology. Rather than try to use words, then, just watch.
- Cliff Lee owners, repeat after me: I will not worry about Cliff Lee.
- After Justin Verlander's first two outings (14 IP, 5 K), his owners were probably asking, "Dude, where's the strikeouts?" On Saturday night, the former MVP answered that query with eight whiffs in seven innings of two-run ball for his first win of the season.
- King Felix just keeps getting it done. Through three starts, he's whiffed 30—most in the majors— and allowed just 16 baserunners and three runs in 21.1 innings.
News and Notes
- Stephen Strasburg's first two outings could have gone better (7 ER, 13 H, 5 BB in 10.1 IP), but his third one was the sort of gem that should become the norm: 6.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 12:1 K:BB.
- Reigning MLB K king Yu Darvish is back and dominating.
- A week ago, Bryce Harper hadn't done anything. In his past five games, though, he's 8-for-19 and crushed his first homer of the year.
- A strained left quad has kept the usually durable Adrian Beltre out for the past few days and is likely to put him on the 15-day DL, per Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. While it doesn't sound too serious, it's enough to knock him out of the top 10 for now, where he had been nestled since the first Big Board.
|10||Edwin Encarnacion||1B||Blue Jays|
News and Notes
- A pair of Carloses—Gonzalez and Gomez—burst into the top 10 after their super starts. I still have my doubts about Gonzalez with his injury issues, but Gomez is just fun to own. After hitting .284 with 24 homers and 40 steals in 2013, it seemed like that might be his peak, but perhaps it's not.
- Even as a Mariner in spacious Safeco Field, Robinson Cano 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. Plus, with the likes of Justin Smoak, Corey Hart and Brad Miller picking up some of the slack, the Mariners' lineup suddenly doesn't seem to be as bad as it has been in recent years.
- Andrew McCutchen had to leave Friday's game with an ankle injury, causing all sorts of panic. Alas, he played Saturday and even stole a base, giving him three in his past two games. Nothing to worry about after all, it seems.
- After hitting his seventh home run against him in all of 28 plate appearances, Paul Goldschmidt should face Tim Lincecum every week, against whom he sports—get this—a 1.994 OPS for his career.
- Mike Trout's already smacked three homers in 11 games, but the dude has yet to steal a base or even make an attempt. Sheesh. (Sarcasm alert.)
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.
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