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, which focuses on evaluating players' values over the rest of the season. Below is a ranking of 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.
Think of it as your security blanket in an otherwise insecure world.
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 2013 or or 10 games 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.
|135||Xander Bogaerts||Red Sox||SS||105|
|124||Alexei Ramirez||White Sox||SS||142|
|118||Melky Cabrera||Blue Jays||OF||133|
|117||Shane Victorino||Red Sox||OF||130|
|108||Koji Uehara||Red Sox||RP|
|97||Jose Reyes||Blue Jays||SS||78|
|80||Mike Napoli||Red Sox||1B|
|62||Jon Lester||Red Sox||SP|
|56||Chris Sale||White Sox||SP|
|44||Dustin Pedroia||Red Sox||2B|
|42||David Ortiz||Red Sox||UTIL|
|26||Jose Abreu||White Sox||1B||40|
|19||Edwin Encarnacion||Blue Jays||1B|
|13||Jose Bautista||Blue Jays||OF||24|
Ins and Outs
This time around, eight players fell off the Big Board:
- Aramis Ramirez: A 0-for-25 stretch dropped his average from .347 into the .260s—and dropped Ramirez off the top 150 entirely.
- Pablo Sandoval: With a batting average on balls in play near .200, the Giants third baseman has been unlucky, but at some point, it's about actual production actually happening.
- Salvador Perez: He got off to a slow start last season, too, so there's still hope, but Perez needs to pick up his sub-.250 average and RBI production.
- Wilin Rosario: He's not taking advantage of Coors Field so far, and the concern over Rosario's wacky second half when he walked just once (!) and had a .385 BABIP (!) is growing.
- Michael Pineda: Pine tar-gate, a 10-game suspension and a strained lat muscle that will keep him out even longer? Toodles, Mike.
- Andrelton Simmons: All that contact (3 BB, 4 K) is nice, but even in the Braves' productive lineup, Simmons still was in single digits in runs and RBI entering the weekend.
- Mat Latos: He's taking his rehab slow, per Mark Sheldon of MLB.com, but it's a little too slow for Latos to stay on the Big Board. For now.
- Domonic Brown: Unless he has another incredible May run in him—he smacked 12 homers a year ago this month—fantasy owners are left to wonder what, exactly, Brown can do for them.
The eight newbies replacing them, highlighted on the Big Board, are:
- Francisco Rodriguez: The MLB saves leader still hadn't surrendered a run through his first 14 saves.
- Kyle Seager: A huge previous week/weekend (8-for-15, 5 HR, 11 RBI) gets Seager back on board the board.
- Brandon Moss: Not a sexy option, but he's on his way to another 25- to 30-homer year, and the high strikeout rate of years past has abated.
- Nolan Arenado: Rockies hitter, part one.
- Wily Peralta: In just his second full season, this hard-throwing righty gets overlooked, but the only reason Peralta isn't 6-of-6 in quality starts is that he went five frames in his first outing.
- Mike Morse: He tends to be streaky, but he's on a hot one at the moment with 11 hits, four homers and 10 RBI in his past eight games.
- Justin Morneau: Rockies hitter, part two.
- Dee Gordon: The MLB steals leader won't hit over .300 all year, but 50-plus steals looks likely as long as Gordon doesn't collapse. That and 2B/SS eligibility make him a Big Boarder.
On the Bubble
Because you're probably wondering about some players just outside the top 150, not including those who fell off this week, that list includes:
- Brett Lawrie, Jed Lowrie, Adam Eaton, Christian Yelich, Daniel Murphy, Scott Kazmir, Marco Estrada, Tim Hudson, Evan Gattis, Kyle Lohse, Brian Dozier and Coco Crisp.
Keep in mind: When a few players at the same position are bunched together—like outfielders Charlie Blackmon, George Springer, Austin Jackson, Starling Marte, Melky Cabrera, Shane Victorino and Desmond Jennings—it means they're more or less in the same boat, with no clear favorite at the moment. 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 ranking placement.
Risers and Fallers
The right-most column marked "LAST" on the Big Board indicates a player who rose or fell in the rankings by at least 10 spots in either direction from the previous edition. Similar to the new additions, players who saw their value improve by that margin are highlighted.
Here are the reasons for some of the biggest risers this week:
- Charlie Blackmon: At some point the production will slow—he's not going to be the best player in fantasy baseball, obviously—but Blackmon can do a bit of everything and has shown as much for more than a month now.
- Desmond Jennings: He's not flashy, but Jennings has settled in as a very useful third or fourth outfielder with the potential to approach 20 homers and steals while also scoring 80-plus runs. To top it off, he's been hot of late.
- Matt Wieters: He's fooled us before with his pedigree and hot stretches, and his batting average isn't going to finish anywhere near where it is now (around .350), but Wieters has an idea at the plate, hits for power and is surrounded by a boffo lineup.
- Aroldis Chapman: The Reds closer was clocked in the triple digits during his first rehab outing as he continues to recover from being struck in the face by a comebacker. Chapman could have his job back in a week or so.
- Hisashi Iwakuma: OK, so his first outing against the lowly Astros Saturday wasn't exactly worth writing home about, but Iwakuma did pitch well and efficiently (81 pitches in 6.1 frames). Expect him to be an SP3 once he gets his bearings soon enough.
- Sonny Gray: The second-year starter was absolutely studly in a complete game shutout of the Rangers in their own park. That'll get you elevated yet again.
- Jose Abreu: Setting rookie records for homers (10) and RBI (32) in the month of April is a good way to keep climbing the chart.
- Jose Bautista: It might've taken a while, but the belief in Bautista is back to full force as the former two-time home run king has been bashing baseballs all spring training and regular season so far.
- Jose Fernandez: Because, honestly, Fernandez is too consistently dominant not to be the No. 1 fantasy pitcher at this point.
Meanwhile, the big fallers dropped because of the following:
- Xander Bogaerts: One of the very elite prospects around entering the season, he just hasn't translated his patient approach into fantasy production at the premium shortstop position—yet.
- Shelby Miller: ICYMI Miller's underlying underlying numbers—6.20 FIP is nearly twice his 3.15 ERA—suggest he's a sell-high guy. Fast.
- Alex Wood: After a stinker against the Marlins (10 H, 7 R) a week after a gem against them, the second-year southpaw needs to return to his previous performance level to maintain his spot in the rotation with Gavin Floyd on the verge of coming back.
- Bryce Harper: News that he'll be out, perhaps until July, due to surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament injured during a head-first slide makes Harper all but irrelevant. Dropping him off the Big Board seemed like a bit much, but that outcome is a possibility next time.
- Matt Carpenter: Following his breakout 2013, Carpenter was a candidate for regression, and the only thing he's doing to help owners right now is scoring runs (23). Otherwise, his .256 average, 10 RBI, one homer and one steal are drags on many a roster.
- Everth Cabrera: News of a sore knee over the past week makes this speedster, whose value derives from his stolen-base ability, a much riskier player to rely on (only 4 SB), especially since the club he leads off for is currently the worst offense in baseball.
- Jason Kipnis: A strained oblique will cost Kipnis anywhere from three to five weeks, and given the nature of that injury, it would be wise to anticipate the longer end of the spectrum. That could keep him out through mid-June. Ooof.
- Ryan Braun: Health hasn't come easy for Braun this season, huh? He's been hampered by a chronic thumb injury and now hits the disabled list due to a a strained oblique. Braun's strain may not have him out quite as long as Kipnis, but his reliability factor is dropping.
- Adrian Beltre: He made it back from his strained quad in the minimum number of days, but now Beltre needs to put up more than the minimum number of statistics to get back in the good graces of owners who drafted him with their first or second selection.
Now that the first month is over, the fantasy standings are starting to matter more and player performances—both good and bad—carry a little extra weight.
That said, a lot still can change in any given week, or even weekend. It's hard not to fall for the hitter or pitcher who's making you look like a genius for drafting him late (or picking him up off waivers); but it's worse to give up on a proven talent who hasn't yet hit his stride or gotten untracked yet.
Go ahead and be fascinated by overperformers and frustrated by underperformers, but don't make any silly decisions based on 30 games.
To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11