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.
|130||Brett Lawrie||Blue Jays||2B|
|114||Jose Reyes||Blue Jays||SS|
|99||Mike Napoli||Red Sox||1B|
|84||Koji Uehara||Red Sox||RP|
|81||Melky Cabrera||Blue Jays||OF|
|75||Alexei Ramirez||White Sox||SS||89|
|53||Jon Lester||Red Sox||SP|
|52||Dustin Pedroia||Red Sox||2B||52|
|42||David Ortiz||Red Sox||UTIL|
|33||Chris Sale||White Sox||SP||54|
|25||Jose Abreu||White Sox||1B|
|9||Edwin Encarnacion||Blue Jays||1B|
|7||Jose Bautista||Blue Jays||OF|
Ins and Outs
This time around, three players fell off the Big Board:
- Ian Kennedy: He's been more good than bad, but Kennedy is far from a must-start pitcher.
- Shane Victorino: Re-aggravating a hamstring injury that acted up at the end of spring training and cost him the first few weeks of the season is one way to get bumped off the Board.
- Prince Fielder: Hope your neck feels better in time for 2015!
The three newbies replacing them, highlighted on the Big Board, are:
- Jered Weaver: Healthy for the first time in three years, Weaver has allowed only nine earned runs over his past seven starts (1.70 ERA, 0.94 WHIP).
- Huston Street: It's hard to argue with 13 saves, a 0.50 ERA and 0.78 WHIP.
- Corey Kluber: In retrospect, Kluber should've been on Board already. His 83 strikeouts rank second in all of baseball—and he's an ace when it comes to handling high jinks during on-camera interviews (see video).
On the Bubble
Because you're probably wondering about some players just outside the top 150, disregarding those who fell off this week, that list includes:
- Kyle Seager, Rajai Davis, John Lackey, Angel Pagan, Christian Yelich, Mat Latos, Neil Walker, Aaron Hill, Jimmy Rollins, Todd Frazier, Pablo Sandoval, Joakim Soria, Jonathan Papelbon, Marco Estrada and Salvador Perez.
Keep in mind: When a few players at the same position are bunched together—like outfielders Billy Hamilton, Jason Heyward 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 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.
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:
- Alex Cobb: Finally back from an oblique strain that knocked him out of his second start of the year, Cobb returned this week and is steady as ever.
- George Springer: Talk about timing—Springer was in danger of dropping when he injured his hip earlier in the week and then sat out a couple of games, but he returned Saturday night and smashed a pair of homers to bring his May totals to a .293 batting average, 13 runs, six home runs and 16, RBI.
- Anibal Sanchez: He's been fighting through injuries all year it seems, but at least he's making it to the mound to post numbers very similar to his boffo 2013 (2.83 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 8.2 K/9).
- Josh Hamilton: His speedy recovery from a torn thumb ligament hit a bit of a bump when he felt some discomfort after getting jammed during his Triple-A rehab stint, per Rahshaun Haylock of Fox Sports West, but he's still expected to make it back to L.A. early in the week. Fingers crossed.
- Jose Altuve: Have you seen his numbers? Seriously: .322 batting average, 25 runs, two home runs, 17 RBI and 17 stolen bases.
- Jay Bruce: His return from knee surgery was incredibly quick—just two weeks!—so Bruce gets a boost into the top 60. Now he needs to hit to stay there.
- Hisashi Iwakuma: The second runner-up in the AL Cy Young voting last year has looked like the same pitcher ever since his recovery from a finger injury: 1.76 ERA, 0.72 WHIP.
- Jason Kipnis: After three weeks on the shelf with an oblique strain, Kipnis started his rehab assignment over the weekend, per Jim Massie of The Columbus Dispatch. A return this coming week could happen.
- Nelson Cruz: He's been smokin', is now tied with Jose Abreu for the most homers in the majors (15) and has passed the injured White Sox rookie for the most RBI in the AL (43).
- Victor Martinez: Only one more game until V-Mart and his .331 average and 12 homers are 1B-eligible (nine games).
- Chris Sale: In his return from an arm strain, Sale took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and whiffed 10. That's all.
Meanwhile, the big fallers dropped because of the following:
- Matt Cain: While Cain has yet to be placed on the disabled list due to a hamstring strain that forced him to leave his last outing, his scheduled start for Memorial Day Monday isn't happening. The righty cut short his bullpen session after feeling some pain in the leg, per Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle.
- Ryan Zimmerman: A setback concerning his thumb injury could keep Zimmerman out even longer, so he needs to be dropped down all over again for now.
- Nolan Arenado: Somebody needs to do a public service announcement on head-first slides for baseball players. Then maybe Arenado wouldn't be out for the next month-plus, interrupting his breakout campaign.
- Joe Mauer: If not for his catcher eligibility, Mauer just might be in danger of falling off the Board. There's nothing exciting about a .286 average, two homers and 14 RBI.
- Manny Machado: A sore groin is hampering Machado, and his bat has yet to make it all the way back. He has just 19 hits in his first 83 at-bats (.229) with one homer and three RBI in 20 games.
- Joey Votto: His trip to the DL followed a serious slump, which is a bad combination for Votto's value. Even when he gets back, he may not be 100 percent again this year, according to Mark Sheldon of MLB.com. He's got work to do to get back in the Board's good graces.
- Wil Myers: On the downside, Myers hasn't done much so far. On the plus side, last year he hadn't even debuted at this point (June 18), so the second-year Ray has plenty of time to break out of his sophomore slump.
- Jordan Zimmermann: The strikeout-to-walk ratio is improved over the past few years, but because of an elevated batting average on balls in play so far (.359), everything else is worse.
- Dustin Pedroia: He's slumped right along with the Red Sox. During the club's nine-game losing streak, Pedroia has gone just 7-for-36 (.194) with one RBI and three runs.
- Cliff Lee: An MRI revealed a strained left elbow for Lee, who may have trouble reaching the 200-inning threshold for the seventh season in a row.
- Ryan Braun: He's going to be dealing with bothersome injuries and ailments all year long, isn't he?
Happy Memorial Day! The end-of-May holiday signals the point in the fantasy baseball season where everything starts to sink in and get real.
Player performances—both good and bad—become much more legitimate, and your league's standings and category scores are now relevant. The flip has switched.
So if you've been on cruise control over the past eight weeks, now is the time to put your foot back on the gas and either push further ahead or do your darnedest to catch up.
If you're in the latter category, you have a can't-wait-anymore card to play in order to cut that embarrassing underperformer (think: Carlos Santana, Billy Butler and Zack Wheeler) or injured players who won't be coming back anytime soon (read: Carlos Beltran, Matt Wieters, Mark Trumbo, Ben Zobrist). Of course, if you can hang on to them, that course of action still is preferred, particularly in deeper formats or leagues where there aren't any worthy options on the waiver wire.
And if you have been dragging your feet when it comes to working up a few quality trade offers to propose to your fellow owners, well, pick up your kicks already!
Just because it's a holiday doesn't mean you should be taking the day off from fantasy baseball.
To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11