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.
|131||Brett Lawrie||Blue Jays||2B||NR|
|115||Shane Victorino||Red Sox||OF|
|111||Jose Reyes||Blue Jays||SS||97|
|93||Koji Uehara||Red Sox||RP||104|
|91||Mike Napoli||Red Sox||1B|
|89||Alexei Ramirez||White Sox||SS||106|
|80||Melky Cabrera||Blue Jays||OF||101|
|54||Chris Sale||White Sox||SP|
|53||Jon Lester||Red Sox||SP|
|42||Dustin Pedroia||Red Sox||2B|
|36||David Ortiz||Red Sox||UTIL|
|24||Jose Abreu||White Sox||1B|
|10||Edwin Encarnacion||Blue Jays||1B|
|8||Jose Bautista||Blue Jays||OF|
Ins and Outs
This time around, 10 players fell off the Big Board:
- Everth Cabrera: Even with his first homer and seventh and eighth steals of the season this past week, he's been more or less useless.
- Chris Archer: He threw five scoreless innings but did so while walking a tightrope—and walked five more batters, giving him 15 in his last 20.1 frames.
- Matt Adams: At this point, his fantasy value is propped up entirely by his .304 average, which in turn, is propped up by his .373 BABIP.
- Zack Wheeler: He's the Archer of the NL—a talented but wholly unreliable right-hander who needs to show some consistency before he can jump back on the Board.
- Billy Butler: OK, time for the Board to get off the Butler bandwagon. A .227 average to go with one homer and 15 RBI just won't cut it.
- Alex Gordon: On the bright side, Gordon's been a bit better than Butler (.250 BA, 16 RBI). On the downside, he joins his Kansas City Royals mate on the outs.
- Carlos Beltran: Already slumping down to a .234 average, Beltran hit the disabled list last week with a bone spur in his elbow, and there's a possibility he faces surgery.
- Austin Jackson: He's been fine. But fine isn't always good enough.
- Matt Wieters: His ailing elbow finally pushed him to the disabled list, undercutting his hot start and leaving questions about whether he'll be the rare position player to require Tommy John surgery.
- Jose Fernandez: Let's all haz a sad.
The 10 newbies replacing them, highlighted on the Big Board, are:
- Tyson Ross: He makes his Big Board debut for being very good overall (5 W, 2.81 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 8.3 K/9) and particularly money at home (3 W, 1.59 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 9.5 K/9).
- Scott Kazmir: The Oakland A's starter got ejected early Saturday, but still has been great (5 W, 2.39 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 7.3 K/9).
- C.J. Wilson: One of the steadier starters around, Wilson also is occasionally brilliant, like he was Saturday with his complete game shutout in which he garnered as many strikeouts as baserunners (seven).
- Rick Porcello: Even with the strikeouts dipping back to previous levels (5.6 K/9), his 7 W, 2.91 ERA, 1.00 WHIP will do.
- Mark Teixeira: He's on one of his hot streaks: Six homers and 14 RBI in 15 games this month.
- Daniel Murphy: With a .320 average, 28 runs and nine steals, he's slowly proving that last year's breakout was for real.
- Brett Gardner: Hitting leadoff agrees with Gardner, who racked up three steals and even knocked a pair of dingers while scoring seven times this week.
- Howie Kendrick: Hitting fourth in the potent Los Angeles Angels order lately, Kendrick already has topped his steals total from 2013 with nine. He does this tease each year, though, it seems.
- Brett Lawrie: One more game at second base and Lawrie will have 10, making him a 2B/3B-eligible 25-homer candidate hitting amid one of baseball's best lineups.
- Garrett Richards: Each of the fireballing righty's past five starts have been quality, and his overall numbers (4 W, 2.42 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 9.6 K/9) indicate this is a breakout in progress.
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:
- Kyle Seager, Rajai Davis, Angel Pagan, Christian Yelich, Mat Latos, John Lackey, Marco Estrada, Justin Masterson, Salvador Perez, Neil Walker, Torii Hunter, Joakim Soria, Huston Street and Jonathan Papelbon.
Keep in mind: When a few players at the same position are bunched together—like starting pitchers Tim Hudson, Tyson Ross, Scott Kazmir, Alex Cobb, Wily Peralta and C.J. Wilson—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 performances 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:
- Cole Hamels: Despite starting the year on the DL with shoulder problems and throwing 133 pitches in his previous gem of an outing, Hamels pitched incredibly well Saturday night for his 100th career win.
- Brian Dozier: Ladies and gentlemen, your first player to reach double digits in homers and steals. Yes, really.
- Victor Martinez: A case could be made that V-Mart, who's leading the AL with a .336 average, has been the most consistent hitter in the sport this year.
- Jon Lester: On Friday, he pitched almost as well as Max Scherzer, whom Lester has matched in whiffs (73 each) and is nearly as good in WHIP (1.10 vs. 1.03).
- Nelson Cruz: Currently tied for second in the majors with 12 homers, the injury-prone Cruz has been doing his typical production-per-game routine.
- Josh Donaldson: Any hitter who has 10 homers and 34 apiece in runs and RBI—and is healthy—merits a move up.
- Johnny Cueto: His success through nine starts is undeniable (1.25 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, 9.5 K/9). It's also inexplicable (.160 BABIP, 99.5 LOB percentage). Those latter two numbers are tops in baseball. By a lot.
- Yasiel Puig: He might not have gotten off to the same otherworldly start he did in 2013, but Puig's second season has been about as impressive as his first, thanks to his 16-game hitting streak during which he's batting .409 with six homers and 21 RBI.
Meanwhile, the big fallers dropped because of the following:
- Carlos Santana: By now, it's OK to move on. If you haven't already.
- Andrew Cashner: Get ready for a run of injured arms, led off by a guy who has a long injury history and whose elbow is barking. Uh oh.
- Gio Gonzalez: The lefty's last two outings had been bad, and now we may know why: He's on the DL with shoulder inflammation.
- Homer Bailey: He looked to be settling down...until his blowup on Saturday at Philadelphia (6 ER, 3.2 IP) pushed his ERA back above 5.00.
- Eric Hosmer: One homer and 18 RBI from a first baseman isn't nearly enough. And he's not even running (0 SB) or scoring runs (17 R), either.
- Joey Votto: His May slump (.209 BA, 4 R, 2 RBI) turned into a potential disaster with news that his quad strain could mean a DL stint. Starting to feel like a lost season for this former fantasy stud.
- Prince Fielder: Just when he was starting to hit a little, a herniated disc in his neck could become a big problem if it doesn't go away quickly.
Has one or more of your stars gotten hurt this season? Wait, rephrase that: Have you been playing fantasy baseball this season? Because if the latter is true, then so is the former.
With injuries and/or DL stints claiming all of (deep breath) Chris Davis, Adrian Beltre, Clayton Kershaw, Joey Votto, Ryan Braun, Bryce Harper, Jason Kipnis, Jose Fernandez, Chris Sale, Jay Bruce, Gio Gonzalez, Ryan Zimmerman and now Jose Abreu—forget anyone???—at some point along the way, you should be happy if your team is still standing at this stage of the season.
Owners everywhere are crying "uncle!"
When you possess more players on the real-life DL than you can fit on your fantasy one, it's time to make some hard decisions—and cuts, if necessary. That's especially true if your club is floundering in the bottom half of the standings right about now.
Roster upkeep and maintenance is key to making the long climb back to relevance, even more so because in this pitching-dominated era, every single hit, run, homer, RBI and steal matters. You can't afford to let too many go to waste.
If you're reeling and dealing with a M-A-S-H unit, weigh the injured players' ETAs against their fantasy value once healthy and keep only those who will be no-brainer starters by, say, mid-June.
It's a painful process. In more ways than one.
To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11