With the 2014 baseball season into the second half, the fantasy version of the sport still needs all kinds of 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.
|132||Mike Napoli||Red Sox||1B||110|
|131||Jose Quintana||White Sox||SP||NR|
|124||Marcus Stroman||Blue Jays||SP/RP||NR|
|107||Alexei Ramirez||White Sox||SS|
|81||Dustin Pedroia||Red Sox||2B|
|71||Koji Uehara||Red Sox||RP|
|67||Jose Reyes||Blue Jays||SS||102|
|56||Yoenis Cespedes||Red Sox||OF|
|50||David Ortiz||Red Sox||UTIL|
|48||Melky Cabrera||Blue Jays||OF||76|
|39||Edwin Encarnacion||Blue Jays||1B|
|15||Chris Sale||White Sox||SP|
|10||Jose Bautista||Blue Jays||OF|
|6||Jose Abreu||White Sox||1B|
Ins and Outs
This time around, 13 players fell off the Big Board:
- Matt Cain: Surgery to fix bone chips in his right elbow puts Cain on the shelf until season's end.
- Allen Craig: Hope for improved production with his new team—and a better hitter's park—will have to wait while Craig is out with an injury to the same foot he hurt at the end of 2013.
- Joey Votto: The status of Votto's left quad remains very much up in the air, as he's only been doing non-baseball-related activities, as manager Bryan Price told John Fay of The Cincinnati Enquirer. He might make it back this year, he might not.
- Eric Hosmer: He's out with a hand injury, likely until September. But he wasn't hitting (.267 BA, 6 HR, 46 RBI), even when he was healthy.
- Alex Gordon: Clearly, the Royals offense just isn't that good.
- Mike Morse: He has 15 homers and 52 RBI, but 11 of the former and 38 of the latter were achieved by the end of May.
- Josh Beckett: His hip just isn't cooperating, to the point where his season—and perhaps career—have been reported as being in jeopardy, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
- Mike Minor: Admittedly, it took entirely too long to realize that a guy with a 5.42 ERA and 1.59 WHIP just wasn't Board-worthy.
- Brandon Belt: His concussion issues have become a concern now that Belt is back on the sideline dealing with the problem again.
- Starling Marte: Speaking of concussions, Marte just returned from his trip to the disabled list for one, but it's hard to get excited about anything here other than the possibility of, say, eight to 10 more steals.
- Ryan Zimmerman: A serious hamstring strain is the kind of thing that could keep Zimmerman out until September and limit his performance even once he does come back.
- Cliff Lee: After 2,156.2 career innings, his left elbow just said, "OK, enough. I need a break."
- Paul Goldschmidt: The hit by pitch that fractured Goldy's hand hurts fantasy owners almost as much as it hurt him. OK, not really, but losing a top-five player for the season this late in the year is darn painful.
The 13 newbies replacing them, highlighted on the Big Board, are:
- Lance Lynn: He's managed to maintain his performance into the second half for the first time in his four-year career. At least, so far.
- Tanner Roark: With 11 wins, a 2.86 ERA and 1.10 WHIP, the only thing Roark doesn't do at an elite level is strike out batters (6.8 K/9).
- Jimmy Rollins: He might be 35 and hitting just .241, but would you believe Rollins is on pace for 83 runs, 21 homers and 30 stolen bases?
- Jake Arrieta: His last outing was a disaster (13 H, 9 ER in 5 IP), but blame Coors Field. Plus, it raised his ERA to—drum roll please—a still-fantastic 2.80 on the year.
- Rick Porcello: The strikeouts are once again back down (5.6 K/9), but everything else (13 W, 3.09 ERA, 1.13 WHIP) is way better than ever.
- Marcus Stroman: This rookie righty has had the occasional blow up, but for the most part he's been dominant since joining the Jays' five-man at the very end of May: 2.59 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 68 strikeouts in 80.0 innings across 13 starts.
- Javier Baez: With Baez, you're getting the potential for 10 to 12 more home runs from a player who has second base/shortstop eligibility. Just realize that he's going to strike out, like, a lot, and could struggle to hit .240.
- J.D. Martinez: The numbers are slowly coming down for Martinez, who is 4-for-32 (.125) in August, but it's worth recognizing him with a Board inclusion.
- Marlon Byrd: His late-career resurgence—.271 BA, 60 R, 22 HR, 65 RBI—continues. He continues to fascinate.
- Jose Quintana: He's like Roark or Porcello, but with strikeouts (7.8 K/9) instead of wins (six).
- Rajai Davis: The trade of Austin Jackson opens up near-everyday playing time for Davis, who has been his usual base-pilfering self (26 SB) while also contributing in the other four hitting categories (.298 BA, 45 R, 6 HR, 36 RBI).
- Jered Weaver: He's not the SP1 he once was, but Weaver has proved he can still get it done and, more importantly, stay healthy with 25 starts in the books.
- Alex Wood: Since rejoining the rotation in late June, his numbers include a 2.92 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 44 strikeouts in 49.1 frames over eight starts.
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:
- Jacob deGrom, Kole Calhoun, Dallas Keuchel, Jake Odorizzi, Danny Duffy, Wily Peralta, Neil Walker, Ervin Santana, Angel Pagan, Marcell Ozuna, Kyle Lohse, Kevin Gausman, Jake McGee, Cody Allen, Mark Melancon, Oscar Taveras, Arismendy Alcantara and Kolten Wong
Keep in mind: When a few players at the same position are bunched together—like closers Francisco Rodriguez, David Robertson, Rafael Soriano and Huston Street—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 Kemp: Arbitrary starting points and all, but since July 25, Kemp is hitting .370 with 10 runs, six homers, 13 RBI and a pair of stolen bases over 15 games. Hmmm.
- Homer Bailey: It took forever, but Bailey finally has his ERA under 4.00 for the first time all season, thanks to a 2.66 mark since the start of June.
- Brett Gardner: Gardner isn't the stolen-base threat he used to be, but he does have 18 thefts, and his owners are loving the other-category production, including a nearly-twice-his-career-high 15 homers after a recent power surge.
- Doug Fister: Sure, he missed the start of the season with injury, but Fister is doing exactly what was expected in this corner in his first shot at the NL: 11 wins, 2.49 ERA, 1.07 WHIP.
- Sonny Gray: Last week's stinker was Gray's first non-quality start since June.
- Melky Cabrera: It might feel like much of Cabrera's production came early on, but he's still hitting .315 with 72 runs, 14 homers and 61 RBI. Oh, and he's batting .356 since the start of July.
- Corey Kluber: In 40.0 innings since the All-Star break, Kluber owns a—get this—0.68 ERA (yes, really). That is the best in baseball.
- Michael Brantley: OK, Brantley has stayed hot all year long, so it's time he's pumped up into the top 25 overall.
Meanwhile, the big fallers dropped because of the following:
- Shin-Soo Choo: It's a shame Choo's ankle hasn't been right since April—not to mention, the Rangers offense has been wrecked by injuries—but you can feel free to drop him if you need to.
- Mark Teixeira: His recent finger injury was a freak thing, but it goes to show just how injury prone Teixeira has become in his mid-30s.
- Matt Carpenter: This was the fear with Carpenter: When he's not hitting north of .300 (.282 BA) and scoring oodles of runs (72 R) like he did in his breakout 2013, he doesn't do enough in the other categories (6 HR, 42 RBI, 4 SB) to be an impact fantasy player.
- Pedro Alvarez: Alvarez's arm (MLB-high 24 errors) finally cost him not only an everyday job but also his third base position, as he's now transitioning to first base, per Karen Price of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The Pirates, remember, already have Ike Davis and Gaby Sanchez.
- Gio Gonzalez: He's striking out more than a batter per inning, but Gio has been inconsistent since returning from injury in mid-June.
- David Wright: It's time everyone stops thinking of Wright, now 31, as a fantasy stud. His .270 average, 44 runs, eight homers, 54 RBI and six stolen bases are across-the-board pedestrian.
- Chris Davis: Such a disappointment, as Davis has gone back to his low-average (.195), high-strikeout (AL-high 136) ways, without nearly enough power (20 HR, 55 RBI) to make up for it.
- Bryce Harper: Sure, the recent walk-off homer was a good sign, but Harper's potential still vastly outweighs his production (.254 BA, 4 HR, 16 RBI in 56 games) in a 2014 ruined by his thumb injury.
- Troy Tulowitzki: With the Rockies tied with the Rangers for MLB's worst record, there's absolutely no reason for Tulo to rush back from his hip injury. That doesn't mean he won't return—but it doesn't mean he will, either. We've seen this sort of thing before with the injury-plagued superstar.
- Andrew McCutchen: The all-around fantasy stud has missed the past five games while dealing with a fractured rib, but the team is taking the (very) conservative approach—frustrating many a fantasy owner—by not yet placing him on the DL. Cutch has taken some light swings recently, per Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but this remains a very difficult situation to read until a decision is made one way or the other.
Fellow fantasy fiends: The end is in sight!
That's a good thing if you've been stuck in the bottom half of your league's standings for most of the year and are just waiting for the misery to end.
But it's also a great thing if you're fighting for the top spot and need to make the best use of these final six weeks or so to polish off a strong season.
That means doing whatever it takes to take that top spot. Whether that requires putting together any final, last-minute trade offers (if your league's deadline hasn't passed yet) or making a few hard-to-accept roster cuts of players who just haven't been performing all year or of late.
After all, while past performance still matters and should be taken into account, a six-week stretch is a small sample size over which any player can fall into a cold spell—or hopefully, get and stay hot.
Be cognizant of your team's needs and weaknesses with regard to positions and categories, and focus your efforts on addressing those. Even this late, the waiver wire can still be your friend, too.
And above all else, remember to set your lineups with players who are active every day! Crazy as it may seem, that alone can be the difference between winning your league and coming up just short.
To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11