With the 2014 baseball season entering the second half, the fantasy version of the sport still 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 an 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.
|146||John Lackey||Red Sox||SP||124|
|110||Mike Napoli||Red Sox||1B|
|104||Alexei Ramirez||White Sox||SS||91|
|102||Jose Reyes||Blue Jays||SS||92|
|79||Koji Uehara||Red Sox||RP|
|76||Melky Cabrera||Blue Jays||OF|
|75||Dustin Pedroia||Red Sox||2B||65|
|52||David Ortiz||Red Sox||UTIL|
|45||Jon Lester||Red Sox||SP|
|33||Edwin Encarnacion||Blue Jays||1B||9|
|18||Chris Sale||White Sox||SP||30|
|16||Jose Bautista||Blue Jays||OF|
|10||Jose Abreu||White Sox||1B|
Ins and Outs
This time around, seven players fell off the Big Board:
- Andrew Cashner: The injury-prone right-hander has remained just that after a hot start that had owners everywhere hoping he could avoid such a fate.
- Michael Wacha: At this stage, even getting Wacha, who's dealing with a rare stress reaction in his right elbow, back on the mound for more than a handful of starts might be as good as it gets.
- Jonathan Singleton: The rookie has more talent than someone hitting .182 with a 36.4 percent strikeout rate, but he's clearly going through a major adjustment period in his first taste.
- Jean Segura: Forget fantasy here, and just send Segura plenty of positive thoughts and prayers in reality.
- Angel Pagan: He just can't get past a back injury that has kept him out since June 14 and is expected to keep him out into August, per Alex Pavlovic of the San Jose Mercury News.
- Yadier Molina: He wasn't having the fantasy season we've come to expect, and now surgery to repair a torn ligament in his thumb will leave Molina on the sideline until late August. At least.
- Masahiro Tanaka: Even though his partially torn elbow ligament has been prescribed another month-plus of rest, chances are he'll have to go under the knife; and even if he doesn't, we won't know until late August, and Tanaka still might not be 100 percent. So from No. 16 overall to off the Board.
The seven newbies replacing them, highlighted on the Big Board, are:
- Alex Gordon: He's not particularly adept in any one area, but Gordon's been, as usual, a steady performer who can contribute to all five hitting categories.
- Zack Wheeler: Even with one absolute dud (6 ER in 2.0 IP on June 25), Wheeler has a 3.07 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 59 strikeouts in 58.2 innings over his past 10 starts.
- Khris Davis: The batting average might not help much (.250), but it's hard to ignore 16 homers and 50 RBI anymore.
- Aramis Ramirez: When Ramirez is healthy, he's always been productive. And, well, he's healthy.
- Salvador Perez: He may fall short of reaching his 79 RBIs from 2013, but Perez is on pace to set new bests in runs (39), doubles (17), homers (11) and, hey, he even stole his first base this year.
- Mark Teixeira: The wrist is a constant concern, but Teixeira's 17 home runs and 48 RBI prove he can still hit 'em out.
- Christian Yelich: In his first full season, Yelich has very quietly put up some strong fantasy numbers: .276 BA, 52 R, 8 HR, 31 RBI, 11 SB—even while missing two weeks to injury in June.
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:
- Kole Calhoun, Mark Trumbo, Howie Kendrick, Marcell Ozuna, Lance Lynn, Jason Hammel, Jose Quintana, Jered Weaver, Erick Aybar, Alex Wood, Rajai Davis, Kevin Gausman, Jake Odorizzi, Jake Arrieta, Jake McGee, Cody Allen, Mark Melancon, Steve Cishek, Joakim Soria
Keep in mind: When a few players at the same position are bunched together—like pitchers Matt Cain, Alex Cobb and Tim Hudson—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:
- Matt Adams: After yet another home run Saturday, Adams has nine homers and 26 RBI in 31 games since getting off the disabled list in mid-June.
- Cliff Lee: He is finally ready to return; he'll start Monday against the San Francisco Giants, according to Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly. If he's close to being the usual Cliff Lee, this could be a big boost for owners who've been without him since May 18.
- Pablo Sandoval: Remember when Sandoval was killing your batting average with a sub-.200 mark into mid-May? Well, he's up to .280 on the year, to go with 12 homers, 43 RBI and 44 runs.
- Manny Machado: It seems even the All-Star break couldn't cool off Machado, who smashed a homer in the first game of the second half for his sixth in his past 14 games.
- Jeff Samardzija: Hey, any starting pitcher who goes from the Chicago Cubs to the Oakland Athletics is going to win some games, which still matters in fantasy.
- Carlos Gonzalez: Cautious optimism here, as CarGo has recovered from surgery to remove a tumor in his thumb, but let's see how it impacts his performance going forward.
- Garrett Richards: After matching King Felix pitch for pitch on Friday (highlights below), it's time we all start considering Richards (11 W, 2.47 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 9.2 K/9) a borderline No. 1 starting pitcher for fantasy purposes.
- Billy Hamilton: In 42 games since the start of June, Hamilton has hit four homers and driven in—get this—28 runs while hitting .312. He's no longer just a base stealer.
- Anthony Rizzo: With 22 homers already, Rizzo is just one shy of his career high set last year, and his total is in the top five in the sport.
Meanwhile, the big fallers dropped because of the following:
- Allen Craig: Now that Matt Adams is playing regularly while hitting for more power and rookie Oscar Taveras is once again in the picture, Craig's playing time has dipped after his production already had.
- Matt Kemp: If Kemp still wants to be a starting center fielder, maybe he should show he can do better than a .265 average, eight homers and five steals.
- Joey Votto: Sure, Votto might be back at some nebulous point in the future this year, but he wasn't doing anything even when he was playing, and that quad injury doesn't seem to be getting any better.
- Corey Dickerson: With Carlos Gonzalez back, Dickerson has seen his PT dry up, which is a shame, because he deserves a better fate, even on a Rockies team with about 17 outfielders.
- Gerrit Cole: A sore right back/shoulder area has been plaguing Cole for the past month or so, and while he's eligible to come off the disabled list July 20, Jenn Menendez of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports there are no indications he's ready to do so.
- Mike Minor: After missing the first month of 2014, Minor has fallen back into some early-career problems, namely being too hittable (10.8 H/9) and homer-prone (1.5 HR/9).
- Elvis Andrus: He does have 50 runs and 20 stolen bases, but that's the entirety of Andrus' fantasy value, and with the surrounding lineup falling apart, who knows if the runs will continue.
- Shin-Soo Choo: In case you weren't sure the Texas Rangers—owners of the worst record in MLB these days—were completely done, Choo and his .186/.256/.292 line since June 15 joins Andrus on this list of Board droppers.
- Alex Rios: Oh, and Rios and his—count 'em—four homers, too.
Are you refreshed after a few days off during the All-Star break? I hope so, because the next month is when the dog days set in, both in real and fantasy baseball.
Also coming up in both versions of the sport? The trade deadline, which hits on July 31 in MLB and thereabouts in most fantasy leagues.
In other words, make sure you do your due diligence when it comes to evaluating your roster's position holes and category needs, and then make a move or two that will address those.
At this point, trades are your best chance to improve your club going forward, primarily because the best waiver-wire adds and top-tier prospects are owned everywhere. To make a major impact, you'll need to look at other rosters as a way to better your own.
And as much as it might be painful, you should start ignoring the names of your players and focusing instead on their numbers. If that means trading—or even cutting—someone you're a fan of or had high hopes for, then so be it.
To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11