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 (which was two weeks ago, due to the MLB draft last week), 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.
|148||Adam Lind||Blue Jays||1B||NR|
|147||Xander Bogaerts||Red Sox||SS/3B||NR|
|138||John Lackey||Red Sox||SP||NR|
|116||Brett Lawrie||Blue Jays||2B||128|
|95||Mike Napoli||Red Sox||1B||124|
|94||Jose Reyes||Blue Jays||SS|
|79||Melky Cabrera||Blue Jays||OF|
|76||Koji Uehara||Red Sox||RP||86|
|59||Alexei Ramirez||White Sox||SS|
|53||Dustin Pedroia||Red Sox||2B|
|50||Jon Lester||Red Sox||SP|
|45||David Ortiz||Red Sox||UTIL|
|29||Chris Sale||White Sox||SP|
|24||Jose Abreu||White Sox||1B|
|10||Edwin Encarnacion||Blue Jays||1B|
|7||Jose Bautista||Blue Jays||OF|
Ins and Outs
This time around, nine players fell off the Big Board:
- Ben Zobrist: Zobrist went from entirely unremarkable to injured and back to entirely unremarkable.
- Jered Weaver: He's been on the fringes of the Big Board all year long, but there are other, more intriguing names that bumped him off this time.
- Ervin Santana: So much for that hot start, eh? Over his past six turns, Santana has given up 26 earned in 36.1 frames for a 6.44 ERA.
- Michael Cuddyer: His latest injury, a fracture in his left shoulder socket, is expected to keep Cuddyer out into late July or even August.
- Joe Nathan: Had the Big Board not taken a week off, Nathan would have been cast aside sooner.
- Jhonny Peralta: His 10 homers are still third-most among all shortstops, but Peralta hasn't done much else.
- Sergio Romo: He blew his second straight save Saturday, and all of a sudden Romo's ERA is north of 5.00!
- Oscar Taveras: Unfortunately for one of baseball's best prospects, his first game was the high point of his initial taste of the majors, which came to an end when the Cardinals activated Matt Adams over the weekend.
- Wil Myers: A stress fracture in his wrist will keep Myers out through July—at the very least—and all but ends whatever little fantasy value the disappointing sophomore had left in 2014.
The nine newbies replacing them, highlighted on the Big Board, are:
- Adam Lind: As long as the right-foot contusion he suffered Saturday isn't serious, Lind and his .331 average should continue to play rather well in Toronto's powerful lineup.
- Xander Bogaerts: The power is starting to show up little by little. Bogaerts has three home runs this month, doubling his season total in just 12 games.
- John Lackey: It's now been nearly a season-and-a-half of extremely consistent production from Lackey, who has eight wins to go with his 3.24 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 7.7 K/9.
- Jonathan Singleton: Since debuting June 3, Singleton has hit four homers and driven in 10 in just 46 at-bats over his first dozen games.
- Evan Gattis: Take El Oso Blanco very seriously, as his 15 home runs are six more than any other catcher. The .293 average might not last, but if he hits 25 to 30 out, who really cares?
- Mat Latos: After all sorts of fits and starts in his rehab process, Latos returned Saturday with six scoreless innings in his first outing of 2014. His owners need a big payoff after waiting oh-so-patiently.
- Angel Pagan: Pagan does a little of everything. Actually, in the case of average (.307), runs (37) and steals (11), he does quite a lot.
- Todd Frazier: His June homer binge—five in 13 games—gets Frazier a nice spot on the Board for the first time this year.
- Gregory Polanco: Having finally made his big league debut last week, let's hope Polanco is more George Springer, who's in a prime position on the Big Board, than Oscar Taveras, who just fell off.
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:
- Adam LaRoche, Kendrys Morales, Dallas Keuchel, Rajai Davis, Christian Yelich, Matt Adams, Josh Beckett, Jonathan Papelbon, Joakim Soria, Jimmy Rollins, Lance Lynn, Torii Hunter and Alex Gordon
Keep in mind: When a few players at the same position are bunched together—like closers Rafael Soriano, David Robertson and Francisco Rodriguez—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:
- Ian Kennedy: He's made 14 starts so far, and in eight of them, Kennedy has whiffed at least as many men as innings pitched. For the season, his 9.5 K/9 is in the top 15 among starters.
- Tim Hudson: Ladies and gents, your major league ERA leader!
- Andrew Cashner: He hasn't been dominant since coming off the disabled list, but at least Cashner is back, looking healthy and throwing well.
- Bryce Harper: With each passing week, Harper is getting closer and closer to making it back from his thumb injury, so he gets a bump here as a reminder.
- Ryan Zimmerman: Speaking of Nationals hitters who suffered thumb injuries, Zimmerman already is back—and has added outfield eligibility to give him a little more fantasy value.
- Scott Kazmir: Dude just keeps pitching like a stud, having given up all of seven earned runs over his past seven starts. Wow.
- Gio Gonzalez: The strikeout-heavy southpaw threw well in his most recent rehab outing and declared himself ready to return, per James Wagner of The Washington Post.
- Joey Votto: Just getting back on the field is enough to give Votto a Board boost—for now. He'll need to show he can stay healthy—not to mention, hit—to deserve the hike, though.
- Jordan Zimmermann: Allowing only 12 baserunners and just one run while whiffing 21 over his past three starts (25.0 innings) is plenty to bump up Zimmermann.
Meanwhile, the big fallers dropped because of the following:
- Joe Mauer: The only fantasy category where Mauer is even close to expectations—let alone league average—is runs scored with 33. Say it ain't so, Joe.
- Cliff Lee: His left elbow strain has become a very real concern given Lee's slow recovery; he only just made 40 throws off flat ground last week, according to Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly. A return before August might be unrealistic at this point.
- Gerrit Cole: On the disabled list with right-shoulder fatigue? Yep, that's worrisome enough to knock Cole back, especially when his performance in his second season was little more than decent—when he was healthy.
- Manny Machado: He hasn't been all that great after getting off to a late start in 2014 while recovering from his knee surgery, and at some point Machado will have to serve a suspension for his immature actions last weekend.
- Justin Verlander: Welp, Verlander has been downright awful of late. In his past six starts stretching across 37.2 frames, he's allowed 35 runs (31 earned). That's a 7.31 ERA, folks.
- Starling Marte: Hope you didn't jump too hard onto the Marte bandwagon prior to the season; he's been wholly underwhelming in his second full season, with only his 16 steals propping up his value.
- Yadier Molina: Since his average was last at .330 on May 24, Molina has gone 8-for-57 (.140) with only one extra-base hit (a double) and two RBI. Ooof.
- Carlos Gonzalez: After dealing with left-index finger inflammation for several weeks, Gonzalez finally hit the DL and underwent surgery to see what the problem was. Turns out, he had a tumor removed, per Nick Groke of The Denver Post, which could keep him out until late July or even August.
- Adam Wainwright: Just when it seemed like elbow injuries had taken out practically every big-name pitcher, Waino came down with a sore wing. The hope, though, is that elbow tendinitis will cost him but one start. Fingers crossed.
Now is about the point in the fantasy baseball season when simply paying attention can go a long way in the standings.
Between the NBA and NHL Finals (just about over) and the World Cup (just getting underway), there are all sorts of other distractions to take your focus away from MLB.
But doing the little things—like setting your lineup every day (or week), making sure you don't have any players on the disabled list "active," and monitoring the waiver wire for streaking players—can be enough to give you a leg up on other owners who may have started to lose interest if they're not in first, second or third place. Or if they've really been enjoying all the basketball, hockey and/or soccer.
So stay on top of your squad. If you do, you might wind up on top of your standings.
To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11