With the 2014 baseball season nearing the end, 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.
|138||Mike Napoli||Red Sox||1B|
|130||Marcus Stroman||Blue Jays||SP/RP|
|125||Jose Quintana||White Sox||SP|
|107||Alexei Ramirez||White Sox||SS|
|84||Dustin Pedroia||Red Sox||2B|
|67||Koji Uehara||Red Sox||RP|
|66||Jose Reyes||Blue Jays||SS|
|56||Yoenis Cespedes||Red Sox||OF|
|49||David Ortiz||Red Sox||UTIL|
|34||Melky Cabrera||Blue Jays||OF||48|
|19||Edwin Encarnacion||Blue Jays||1B||39|
|14||Chris Sale||White Sox||SP|
|10||Jose Bautista||Blue Jays||OF|
|6||Jose Abreu||White Sox||1B|
Ins and Outs
This time around, seven players fell off the Big Board:
- Troy Tulowitzki: Season-ending hip surgery? Off the Board.
- Carlos Gonzalez: Season-ending knee surgery? Off the Board.
- Anibal Sanchez: While Sanchez's oblique injury isn't expected to keep him out for the rest of the year, it should have him sidelined until September. That's long enough to push a borderline start-him-every-time-out arm outside the top 150.
- Justin Verlander: Everyone should officially be over the idea of Verlander coming around, especially now that he's missing a couple starts with shoulder inflammation.
- Alex Rios: He's been banged up of late and has exactly one home run since May 14. You can drop him if you haven't already.
- Mark Teixeira: If you desperately need power, Teixeira still can provide it, but he and the rest of the Yankees lineup have been in a massive slump lately.
- Shin-Soo Choo: After a season ruined by an early ankle injury combined with ailments to just about every one of his Rangers teammates, it's time to get off the Choo train.
The seven newbies replacing them, highlighted on the Big Board, are:
- Kole Calhoun: Following an early August slump, Calhoun has picked it up, going 15-for-34 (.441) with two homers and seven RBI over his past seven games.
- Torii Hunter: One of these years, the 39-year-old Hunter will slow down. Just not this year.
- Jake Odorizzi: Here are Odorizzi's digits since early May: 3.00 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 120 strikeouts in 102.0 innings.
- Dallas Keuchel: The southpaw has hurled 15 quality starts in 23 outings and has never given up more runs than innings pitched, which makes him consistent and safe.
- Danny Duffy: Somehow Duffy is sporting a 2.60 ERA and 1.09 WHIP on a (surprise) first-place team—hello, Royals!—and is still only 8-10 on the year. Which goes to show: Wins are flukey.
- Josh Harrison: OK, Harrison, you've done enough to earn a spot on this Board—for now—because a .307 average along with double digits in homers (10) and steals (17) can't be overlooked forever.
- Chris Carter: The slugger is still whiffing 30.8 percent of the time on the year, but a furious August (.367 BA, 8 HR, 20 RBI) has him up to a .236 average with 29 homers and 69 RBI.
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:
- Henderson Alvarez, Lucas Duda, Mark Trumbo, Jake McGee, Cody Allen, Mark Melancon, Fernando Rodney, Wily Peralta, Neil Walker, Mike Morse, Ervin Santana, Wil Myers, Angel Pagan, Marcell Ozuna, Kyle Lohse, Kolten Wong, Kevin Gausman, Oscar Taveras and Jacob deGrom
Keep in mind: When a few players at the same position are bunched together—like starters Jose Quintana, Rick Porcello, Alex Wood, Jake Odorizzi and Yordano Ventura—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 more than 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:
- Max Scherzer: Have you seen what Scherzer's been up to lately? Click and find out.
- Edwin Encarnacion: After missing six weeks with a quad injury, Encarnacion is back and ready to hurt baseballs again. Remember, he can do damage in a hurry. He hit about 74 homers in May. (OK, it was actually 16, but still...)
- Dee Gordon: The MLB stolen base leader—with 56!—already has eight thefts in August, his highest total since 21 in May. He needed to be higher.
- Garrett Richards: Has any pitcher had a bigger breakout 2014 than Richards? The only pitchers who have been as good or better than Richards in wins (13), ERA (2.53), WHIP (1.01) and strikeouts (164) are—get this—Johnny Cueto, Clayton Kershaw and Felix Hernandez. Seriously.
- Melky Cabrera: No, all of Cabrera's production didn't come early on. He's hitting .366 with 19 runs, four homers and 22 RBI in 22 games since the break.
- Ian Desmond: He may be batting only .248 overall, but Desmond will set a career high in RBI (72 closing in on 80) and perhaps even homers (20 closing in on 25). Oh, and with six more swipes, he'll have his third straight 20-20 campaign—all while doing as much at shortstop.
- Matt Kemp: Let's not say he's back to being the Kemp of old, but his .304 average, seven home runs, 20 RBI and three steals (and .950 OPS) in 28 second-half games is a very nice turnaround.
- Alex Cobb: In his last eight starts, Cobb owns a 1.93 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 54 strikeouts in 51.1 frames. He's also 5-0.
- Corey Dickerson: That CarGo guy we mentioned earlier? Yeah, he's out for the year, so Dickerson should be seeing regular run the rest of the way, and he does some of everything (.322 BA, 52 R, 16 HR, 52 RBI, 8 SB).
Meanwhile, the big fallers dropped because of the following:
- Adam Wainwright: While Waino is still an every-time-out kinda guy, he has been a bit shaky since the break with a 4.65 ERA and 47 baserunners in 31.0 innings.
- Ryan Braun: He did manage to homer off Kershaw Saturday, which is something not many have done this year, but since Braun's average peaked at .327 on June 1, he's hitting just .248 with six homers in 61 games.
- Yu Darvish: A disabled list stint for elbow inflammation comes at a bad time for owners of MLB's strikeouts-per-nine leader (11.4).
- Hanley Ramirez: After dealing with all sorts of injuries and ailments all year long, Ramirez finally hit the DL with an oblique strain. It's just not his year.
- Hyun-Jin Ryu: His hip/glute injury might not be serious, but it was enough to put Ryu on the shelf, which is enough to knock him down a peg on the Board.
- Evan Gattis: For a second straight year, a midseason injury killed Gattis' momentum, as he's hitting just .217 with two homers and seven RBI in 22 games since coming back.
- Josh Hamilton: Imagine how great the Angels offense would be if Hamilton (.266 BA, 35 R, 8 HR, 35 RBI in 72 games) was, you know, good or, heck, even halfway decent.
- Manny Machado: When one's right knee collapses mid-swing, causing one to go down in a heap of pain and resulting in a sprain, one will also go down several spots on the Board.
- Homer Bailey: Just when Bailey was pitching his best (1.61 ERA, 0.82 WHIP since the break), elbow inflammation crops up and puts the rest of his campaign in jeopardy.
At this point, you're either in it or you're getting ready for fantasy football.
If you fall under the latter umbrella, well, better luck with the pigskin. But if you're still hanging around and trying to place in—or even win—your fantasy baseball league, then the advice is simple: Do. Not. Get. Distracted.
August is a brutal month to make it through. You're trying to enjoy the last part of summer, while also hoping to figure out who Drew Brees' third-favorite option behind Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston is going to be (Kenny Stills? Robert Meachem?? Brandin Cooks???) in time for your drafts.
And then September gets even crazier as football's regular season begins and baseball rosters expand from 25 to 40 players, giving owners everywhere way, way too many names to try to keep track of.
So bear down and buckle up, because if you've made it this far, what's another month? Especially if it means victory and bragging rights in the end.
To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11