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 fantasy team 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.
|124||John Lackey||Red Sox||SP||138|
|106||Mike Napoli||Red Sox||1B||95|
|92||Jose Reyes||Blue Jays||SS|
|91||Alexei Ramirez||White Sox||SS||59|
|75||Koji Uehara||Red Sox||RP|
|68||Melky Cabrera||Blue Jays||OF||79|
|65||Dustin Pedroia||Red Sox||2B||53|
|51||Jon Lester||Red Sox||SP|
|43||David Ortiz||Red Sox||UTIL|
|30||Chris Sale||White Sox||SP|
|19||Jose Abreu||White Sox||1B|
|9||Edwin Encarnacion||Blue Jays||1B|
|8||Jose Bautista||Blue Jays||OF|
Ins and Outs
This time around, seven players fell off the Big Board:
- Howie Kendrick: His hot start was just that—a start—and Kendrick has gone back to being a useful but not impactful fantasy second baseman/middle infielder.
- C.J. Wilson: He's still having a solid year all around (3.70 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 8.4 K/9) but June wasn't great (5.46 ERA).
- Adam Lind: He's worth starting at utility or first base (on a fill-in basis) because his .338 average plays up in the Blue Jays lineup, but Lind remains a platoon player with limited upside.
- Xander Bogaerts: Just when it looked like the rookie was about to go bang, he went bust: .140/.182/.258 with a 27-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in June.
- Joe Mauer: Even going 14-for-36 (.389) during a modest nine-game hitting streak couldn't save Mauer from falling off amid the worst season of his career.
- Shelby Miller: A superficially solid season—a 3.75 ERA but a 4.76 FIP—took a turn for the worse when he had to leave his last start with a back injury.
- Brett Lawrie: He's out until at least late July after breaking a finger via a hit-by-pitch, which you can watch below.
The seven newbies replacing them, highlighted on the Big Board, are:
- Corey Dickerson: While playing regularly in June after Carlos Gonzalez went down, Dickerson has hit .333 with 16 runs, four homers, 17 RBI and three steals in 23 games.
- Devin Mesoraco: His second crazy-hot stretch of 2014—a homer in five straight games from June 19 to June 24—puts Mesoraco on the Board for the first time.
- Sean Doolittle: On Saturday, he actually blew his first opportunity—and gave up his first run—since taking over at closer in mid-May for the team with MLB's best record, but Doolittle's digits in that time are still ridiculous: 20.0 innings pitched, five hits, one earned run, a 32-1 K-BB ratio and 10 saves.
- Matt Adams: Doubts remain about a guy with a 51-7 K-BB ratio, but his performance since coming off the disabled list—.328 batting average, 10 runs, six home runs, 16 RBI in 16 games—has to be acknowledged.
- Josh Beckett: So the 34-year-old is pitching over his head (3.78 FIP); the actual numbers (2.11 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 8.5 K/9) are Board-worthy.
- Jonathan Papelbon: Remember when everyone said Paps was done after he blew his first save chance of 2014 by allowing three runs while getting but one out back on April 2? Well, he's thrown 30.0 frames since then—and allowed just two runs.
- Adam LaRoche: He won't reach the 30 homers and 100 RBI he managed back in 2012, but LaRoche's 11 and 43 so far are plenty good, and so is his .308 average.
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:
- Dallas Keuchel, Mark Teixeira, Christian Yelich, Salvador Perez, Steve Cishek, Joakim Soria, Lance Lynn, Alex Gordon, Khris Davis and Marcell Ozuna
Keep in mind: When a few players at the same position are bunched together—like outfielders Angel Pagan, Starling Marte, Brett Gardner and Jason Heyward—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:
- David Price: You've seen this, right?
- Todd Frazier: Heading into 2014, Frazier seemed like just another corner infield option, but after three months of surprising across-the-board production (.284 BA, 51 R, 17 HR, 46 RBI, 11 SB), we may be looking at the top fantasy third baseman.
- Yoenis Cespedes: Sure, a few more steals would be nice—Yo has only one—but his 47 runs, 14 homers and 55 RBI provide big boosts in those categories, and his average is up to .272.
- Jay Bruce: Over the past 10 days, Bruce has found it by hitting .457 with two homers, nine runs and nine RBI during a nine-game hitting steak, the last four of which have been multi-hit efforts.
- Bryce Harper: You've seen this, too, right? Out since late April with a torn ligament in his thumb, Harper has been ripping it up on his rehab assignment and could be back as soon as this week.
- Billy Hamilton: All of a sudden, Hamilton's 36 steals are only six behind Dee Gordon, and he's hit .333—with three homers and 17 RBI—in June.
- Gregory Polanco: OK, so he's gone 0-for-9 the past two games. Polanco still has at least one hit in all but four of his first 18 big league games, to go with 14 runs, two homers, 10 RBI and four swipes.
- Garrett Richards: The 26-year-old's breakout continues, as Richards' ERA (2.76), WHIP (1.12) and K/9 (8.8) are in the top 15 among all starters.
- Justin Verlander: Two quality starts in a row isn't quite enough to buy all the way back in, but the 16 strikeouts over those 13.0 innings certainly is a promising sign Verlander is on his way to regaining top-30-starter status, thanks to his mechanical adjustments.
- Nolan Arenado: Having begun his rehab assignment, Arenado should make it back to Colorado—and fantasy lineups—right around Independence Day.
Meanwhile, the big fallers dropped because of the following:
- Andrew Cashner: On his second DL stint of 2014 and getting harder and harder to rely on, Cashner might be the Rich Harden for this generation of fantasy owners.
- Michael Wacha: A stress reaction in one's shoulder just sounds painful, so expect the Cardinals to handle their prized second-year pitcher very, very carefully.
- Yadier Molina: A .279 average from Molina, who hit .313 from 2011 to 2013, has everyone wondering what exactly happened to the real-life MVP candidate who used to be in the running for fantasy's best backstop.
- Matt Holliday: Yikes—our third Cardinal in a row. Holliday's production so far (.267 BA, 40 R, 5 HR, 39 RBI) looks like something you might find floating around your waiver wire these days.
- Carlos Gonzalez: His recovery from finger surgery is going to be a slow go, and with the Rockies falling out of the playoff picture with a 7-19 June, there's no motivation to get CarGo back before he's absolutely ready. That may be August.
- Alexei Ramirez: Before his one-homer, two-RBI effort on Friday, Ramirez hadn't managed a single one of either since—get this—May 26. (Seriously, dude went a full month without a home run or a run batted in.)
- James Shields: Very quietly, Shields has been mediocre—at best—in 11 outings since the start of May: 4.77 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 5.8 K/9.
- Dustin Pedroia: No. 65 overall actually might be too high for Pedroia, whose 44 runs scored is saving an otherwise dismal season (.268 BA, 4 HR, 27 RBI, 2 SB).
- David Wright: His 2014 wasn't all that hot to begin with, and now Wright is dealing with a sore rotator cuff that kept him out over the weekend. He will be re-evaluated on Monday.
In case you haven't noticed, this week marks the midway point in the 2014 season, as teams will have surpassed the 81-game threshold.
On one hand: Wow—that was fast, huh? But on the other: 81 more games is still a long way to go—and a lot of time to lose or make up ground in your league.
By now, there's a good chance at least a few of your fellow owners have checked out, probably those who are at or near the bottom of the standings. But please: Don't join them.
After all, if you're in good shape, you need to maintain your edge. But even if you're not, the whims of your competition just means you'll be facing less of a climb back into the race.
Whether you've been waiting for a stud like Harper to get back, planning a blockbuster trade to shake things up or expecting some underperformers to finally start, you know, performing, it's time for that second (half) wind.
To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11