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 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.
|120||Shane Victorino||Red Sox||OF|
|106||Alexei Ramirez||White Sox||SS||124|
|104||Koji Uehara||Red Sox||RP|
|101||Melky Cabrera||Blue Jays||OF||118|
|97||Jose Reyes||Blue Jays||SS|
|83||Mike Napoli||Red Sox||1B|
|59||Chris Sale||White Sox||SP|
|56||Jon Lester||Red Sox||SP|
|44||Dustin Pedroia||Red Sox||2B|
|42||David Ortiz||Red Sox||UTIL|
|23||Jose Abreu||White Sox||1B|
|11||Edwin Encarnacion||Blue Jays||1B|
|9||Jose Bautista||Blue Jays||OF|
Ins and Outs
This time around, seven players fell off the Big Board:
- Yovani Gallardo: He's been fine since his hot start but nowhere near as hot as he was during that stretch.
- Kyle Seager: At this point, Seager needs a couple more big weekends like the one he had at April's end to stay on the Big Board.
- Xander Bogaerts: His .364 OBP is great in real life. His .252 average, one homer and five RBI aren't so great in fantasy. Bogaerts feels like the kind of youngster who will "click" at some point, but it hasn't happened yet.
- Mark Trumbo: Hey, sometimes when you're injured for another month-plus, it's easy to lose ground.
- Brandon Phillips: His fantasy value has officially cratered. No longer can Phillips be relied on for much more than double digits in the HR category.
- Martin Perez: So much for that 26-inning scoreless streak, eh?
- Alex Wood: Despite a dynamite start to his first full season, Wood has been shifted to the bullpen to accommodate the return of Gavin Floyd—at least, apparently, for now, as Cory McCartney of Fox Sports South reports. If the Braves' plan to limit the lefty's innings is real, then he could jump back on the board.
The seven newbies replacing them, highlighted on the Big Board, are:
- Sergio Romo: Currently second in baseball with 12 saves, Romo's given up all of three runs and 10 baserunners in his 16.1 innings.
- Ian Kennedy: He hops on in the wake of a seven-inning, one-run, 12-strikeout gem this past week, which brought his season totals to a 3.12 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 10.3 K/9. He's been revitalized as a Padre.
- Tim Hudson: The Energizer Bunny of pitchers, Hudson has been waaaaay better than you think with a 1.99 ERA and a ridiculous 0.74 WHIP. This won't last, but he's in a great spot in San Francisco, so enjoy his production while it does.
- Jhonny Peralta: The .240 average has been rising steadily (.375, 12-for-32 this month) and the eight homers are no joke, especially from shortstop.
- Michael Brantley: He's always been a better-in-real-life player, but perhaps Brantley is changing that by coming into his own? With seven homers and 30 RBI (fourth-most in MLB) already, he's well on his way to surpassing his career highs of 10 and 73, set last year.
- Nate Eovaldi: Saturday night's start was the first in which he didn't go at least six innings, and his 48-to-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio (in 50.1 frames) says this 24-year-old breakout arm is very much for real.
- Brian Dozier: He might be a sell-high candidate, but there's no more ignoring Dozier's pop-speed combo that has him looking like a lock for a 25-25 season, if not more.
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:
- John Lackey, Justin Masterson, Rajai Davis, Angel Pagan, Daniel Murphy, Christian Yelich, Mat Latos, Scott Kazmir, Salvador Perez, Marco Estrada, Dillon Gee, Garrett Richards, A.J. Burnett, C.J. Wilson, Brett Lawrie, Jed Lowrie, Torii Hunter and Mark Teixeira.
Keep in mind: When a few players at the same position are bunched together—like starting pitchers Wily Peralta, Nate Eovaldi and Zack Wheeler—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:
- Francisco Rodriguez: He's still leading the majors in saves, still hasn't given up a run, still striking out more than a batter an inning. Who saw this late-career resurrection coming?
- Ervin Santana: Hes 5-for-six in quality starts, has a 1.99 ERA and 43 whiffs in 40.2 innings.
- Dee Gordon: With an MLB-best 24 steals—including three more Saturday—Gordon is just about lapping the field.
- Ryan Zimmerman: Injured player nearing return part one.
- Josh Hamilton: Injured player nearing return part two.
- Nolan Arenado: If a 28-game hitting streak won't bump you up in the ranks, then simply hitting amid the ridiculous Rockies lineup will.
- Jeff Samardzija: Since when does a 1.45 ERA—second-best in baseball!—equal not only zero wins but also three losses? That limits Samardzija's value, but everything aside from W's is dandy.
- Victor Martinez: Arguably the steadiest hitter around, V-Mart also should be gaining first base eligibility soon in most leagues (eight games there so far), which will make him easier to utilize and more valuable, too.
- Johnny Cueto: OK, Johnny, we're done fighting you and your MLB-best ERA (1.43) and MLB-best WHIP (0.73).
- Ryan Braun: His owners will be happy to hear the injury-prone star, recovering from a strained right oblique, is expected to come back this week, per Adam McCalvy of MLB.com. Going forward, his owners will be happy if Braun can stay healthy for more than a few weeks at a time.
- Clayton Kershaw: This is how you do a return from a month-plus on the disabled list: seven scoreless innings with nine strikeouts and zero walks. Welcome back to being the top pitcher on the Big Board, Clayton.
Meanwhile, the big fallers dropped because of the following:
- Everth Cabrera: On-base percentage isn't a traditional fantasy category, but if Cabrera doesn't improve his .286 mark, he's going to struggle to be of any use in the stolen-base department, which is his primary value.
- Chris Archer: His 4.91 ERA and 1.36 WHIP make Archer bench-worthy right now, but his 2.93 FIP suggests he's actually been throwing much better than the results. Let's give him another chance to prove it.
- Michael Cuddyer: Owners have to be getting frustrated that Cuddyer's hamstring is keeping him from joining the hit parade going on in Colorado.
- Bryce Harper: For now, he stays, but it feels like Harper could be dropped off the Big Board, considering he's not making it back until July. We won't blame you if you drop him in shallow formats.
- Doug Fister: Giving up seven runs on nine hits in only 4.1 frames in your first start after missing six weeks? That's a good way to drop.
- Brandon Belt: Another good way to drop? Getting hit by a pitch and breaking your left thumb, as Belt did over the weekend. He's expected to miss six weeks, per Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area.
- Hyun-Jin Ryu: The southpaw, dealing with shoulder inflammation, only just started a throwing program, as Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times reports. Figure on the Dodgers to be conservative here.
- Carlos Santana: Disappointing fantasy catcher, part one.
- Brian McCann: Disappointing fantasy catcher, part two.
- Jay Bruce: News of his knee surgery came down just after last week's Big Board went live, so Bruce gets knocked down this time around for being out into June.
- Prince Fielder: Slowly but surely, Fielder is starting to come around (.846 OPS in May), but a little too slowly and a little too unsurely for him to remain a top-30 fantasy option.
This is a tricky time of the season. On one hand, it's still early enough that one big week can change the tenor of a player's season, as Edwin Encarnacion proved by smashing four homers and driving in eight runs. But by the middle of May, which is where we are already, owners need actual production to be happening or they risk falling too far behind in the standings.
By now, you should have an idea of your fantasy squad's strengths and weaknesses—both position-wise and category-wise—so start assessing and sending out some trade offers to address any legitimate areas of need. In particular, take advantage of opportunities to deal from excess.
If you're stuck with a proven stud who's still struggling, though, you should probably stay stuck with him for now. Giving such a player away as punishment for his transgressions to date is going to mean you get all of the pain and none of the payoff.
Be patient. But be active, too.
To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11