Fantasy Baseball 2014: Updating the Top 150 Big Board, Week 1

Jason Catania@@JayCat11MLB Lead WriterApril 6, 2014

Fantasy Baseball 2014: Updating the Top 150 Big Board, Week 1

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    Mike Trout knows where he ranks on the Big Board.
    Mike Trout knows where he ranks on the Big Board.Jae C. Hong

    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. Now that the season is underway and fantasy drafts are over, the focus shifts toward evaluating players' values based on the remainder of the season.

    Think of it as your security blanket in an otherwise insecure world.

    On the pages that follow is a ranking of—count 'em—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.

    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 either 2013 or 2014.

    With that out of the way, get ready to count down, starting with No. 150 and working all the way to No. 1.

Nos. 150-126

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    Justin Masterson
    Justin MastersonBen Margot
    150Jonathan PapelbonRPPhillies
    149Jed Lowrie2B/SSAthletics
    148Aroldis ChapmanRPReds
    147Jason GrilliRPPirates
    146Sergio RomoRPGiants
    145Starlin CastroSSCubs
    144Andrelton Simmons  SSBraves
    143Michael CuddyerOFRockies
    142Chase Headley3BPadres
    141Addison ReedRPDiamondbacks
    140Rafael SorianoRPNationals
    139Francisco LirianoSPPirates
    138Johnny CuetoSPReds
    137Justin MastersonSPIndians
    136Andrew CashnerSPPadres
    135Austin JacksonOFTigers
    134Manny Machado3BOrioles
    133Brett Lawrie 3BBlue Jays
    132Matt Adams1BCardinals
    131Matt WietersCOrioles
    130Domonic BrownOFPhillies
    129Carlos BeltranOFYankees
    128David RobertsonRPYankees
    127Alex CobbSPRays
    126Hisashi IwakumaSPMariners


    • This time around, Shane Victorino and Wilson Ramos fell off the Big Board due to injury. The former aggravated a balky hamstring at the tail end of spring training, putting him on the disabled list, while the latter suffered a broken hand that will keep him out into May. While they're likely to re-appear in the Top 150, both injury-prone players are too risky to rank right now. The only other player to go bye-bye? Jhonny Peralta, who was No. 150 last week.
    • The three newbies are Francisco Liriano, Johnny Cueto and Justin Masterson, each of whom had been on the bubble and enjoyed a very strong first start to open his respective team's 2014 season.
    • Because you're probably wondering which players are just outside the top 150, Aramis Ramirez, Aaron HillBrandon Moss, Jered Weaver, Lance Lynn, Daniel Murphy and Alejandro De Aza (he of the three home runs in his first three games) are on the outside looking in.
    • Keep in mind: When a few players at the same position are coupled or bunched together—like Starlin Castro and Andrelton Simmons—it means they're more or less in the same boat, with no clear favorite. That can, and will, change as more information, news, injuries and performance comes to light. But for now, when players are grouped, consider their value to your team based more on specific category need than overall value.
    • Jonathan Papelbon fell to the Mr. Irrelevant spot this week after blowing his first save opportunity of the season, picking up the loss and generally looking terrible. There's plenty to worry about here given Papelbon's velocity decline, but the only thing keeping him around is that there is no one else in the Phillies bullpen who poses a real threat to steal saves.
    • If you watched Sunday Night Baseball last week for the first MLB game on American soil this season, then you were impressed by Andrew Cashner, too. The injury history is a concern, but enjoy him while he's pitching, because he has SP2 upside.
    • Austin Jackson has ceded the leadoff gig in Detroit to Ian Kinsler, which will help his RBI total, although it might mean he fails to notch 90-plus runs in a season for the first time in his career.
    • Manny Machado's recovery from knee surgery has gone well for the most part, but he began the year on the disabled list, so his owners are now playing the waiting game. The hope is still that Machado, who is running and doing drills, can be back in late April, per Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun. While you might want him back ASAP, the key here is that the 21-year-old gets fully healthy, so he can help your team for five full months.
    • After missing all of spring training with a torn tendon in his right middle finger, Hisashi Iwakuma has been fully cleared to begin a normal throwing program, according to Greg Johns of While that's promising, it means we still have quite some time until the right-hander's stamina is built up to the point where he can return to the majors. Early May might be the realistic target.

Nos. 125-101

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    Jose Altuve (left).
    Jose Altuve (left).Bob Levey/Getty Images
    125Jedd Gyorko2BPadres
    124Jose Altuve2BAstros
    123Sonny GraySPAthletics
    122Danny SalazarSPIndians
    121Zack WheelerSPMets
    120Michael WachaSPCardinals
    119Koji UeharaRPRed Sox
    118Chase Utley2BPhillies
    117Brandon Phillips2BReds
    116Billy HamiltonOFReds
    115Victor MartinezUTILTigers
    114Wilin RosarioCRockies
    113Matt MooreSPRays
    112Doug FisterSPNationals
    111Salvador PerezCRoyals
    110Jonathan LucroyCBrewers
    109Glen PerkinsRPTwins
    108Joe NathanRPTigers
    107Kyle Seager3BMariners
    106Alex GordonOFRoyals
    105Jeff SamardzijaSPCubs
    104Mat Latos SPReds
    103Anthony Rizzo1BCubs
    102Brandon Belt1BGiants
    101Jose Abreu1BWhite Sox


    • It might seem silly to see mighty mite Jose Altuve hitting third—and even, occasionally, cleanup—but that should help his run production a bit without costing him much in terms of runs. Heck, he hit leadoff and second in the order for most of the past two seasons and averaged only 72 runs scored, so a little change might not be a bad thing. For now, he gets bumped ahead of fellow second baseman Jedd Gyorko.
    • If nothing else, it was good to see still relatively inexperienced second-year pitcher Michael Wacha hurl a gem his first time out with 6.2 scoreless frames and seven strikeouts. He seems capable of carrying over whatever he was doing during his incredible end-of-2013 run.
    • Billy Hamilton, on the other hand, has done the exact opposite. After swiping an impressive 13 bases in 13 games last September, the rookie speedster with the questionable bat went hitless in his first 13 at-bats with six whiffs. Ooof. So much for that solid spring leading to a fast start.
    • Doug Fister had trouble shaking right-elbow inflammation in March and then a lat strain put him on the shelf to start the season. He's aiming to embark on a throwing program shortly, per James Wagner of the The Washington Post, but he may not be back before May.
    • Joe Nathan fumbled his first save opportunity as a Tiger. Meanwhile, former Detroit closer Jose Valverde has re-emerged with the Mets. Maybe it's the Tigers' ninth inning itself that's cursed.
    • Mat Latos' stats from his rehab outing at Double-A Pensacola weren't the prettiest, but he felt good, per Bill Vilona of the Pensacola News Journal. The right-hander, recovering from surgery to fix torn cartilage in his left knee, gave up five runs on seven hits—one of which was a home run by Cubs top prospect Kris Bryant, last year's No. 2 pick—in four innings. "I knew I wanted to throw strikes and I wanted to leave healthy," Latos said. "The knee feels good, the elbow feels good."
    • I liked Brandon Belt to continue his second-half surge from last season, and with three homers in his first four games of 2014, he's showing he's ready to do just that.
    • So far, so good for rookie Jose Abreu: he's gone 6-for-20 with six RBI in his first five MLB games.

Nos. 100-91

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    Xander Bogaerts
    Xander BogaertsMitchell Layton/Getty Images
    100 Hyun-Jin Ryu SPDodgers
    99J.J. HardySSOrioles
    98Xander BogaertsSSRed Sox
    97Mike MinorSPBraves
    96Martin Prado2B/3B/OFDiamondbacks
    95Ben Zobrist2B/SS/OFRays
    94Pedro Alvarez3BPirates
    93Josh Donaldson3BAthletics
    92Pablo Sandoval3BGiants
    91Anibal SanchezSPTigers


    • Hyun-Jin Ryu made two very strong starts but then wasn't so hot in his third (2 IP, 6 ER, 8 H). In fairness, though, there were a bunch of soft singles, and the Dodgers defense didn't do Ryu any favors, as the highlights show.
    • Have you bought into Xander Bogaerts as a potential fantasy force at a shallow position, yet? Given his pedigree as a consensus top-three prospect, his hitter-friendly home park and his surrounding lineup, the 21-year-old could be primed for a big-time breakout. I find myself looking for excuses to move Bogaerts up, and his hot start jumps him over fellow SS J.J. Hardy. Bogaerts has seven hits in first 17 at-bats with four walks.
    • After being set back due to offseason surgery to address a urinary tract infection and then having to battle shoulder soreness early in camp, Mike Minor finally made his first rehab start Thursday at Double-A in which he allowed four hits and three runs over two innings but whiffed five. He'll need a few more turns to build innings, but it's possible he could make it back to the Braves by late April.
    • One-hit wonder? Josh Donaldson is just 2-for-22 with seven K's through his first fives games.
    • Anibal Sanchez, who had been battling shoulder soreness in spring, threw to live batters for the first time since March 12 when he took the hill Friday, per Chris Vannini of He only went four innings, but that was because a rain delay cut into his action by an inning or two.

Nos. 90-81

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    Josh Hamilton
    Josh HamiltonBob Levey/Getty Images
    90Nelson CruzOFOrioles
    89Starling MarteOFPirates
    88Desmond JenningsOFRays
    87Josh HamiltonOFAngels
    86Matt KempOFDodgers
    85Billy ButlerUTILRoyals
    84Mike Napoli1BRed Sox
    83Alex RiosOFRangers
    82Jayson WerthOFNationals
    81Cole HamelsSPPhillies


    • Nelson Cruz ingratiated himself to his new Orioles teammates and fans by hitting the game-winning homer on Opening Day. He then followed that up with another jack in the next game. Health is always the big concern for Cruz, but if he plays 120-plus games, he could eclipse 30 four-baggers. 
    • Josh Hamilton went 0-for-4 with four whiffs to earn the golden sombrero Tuesday versus hard-throwing Mariners lefty James Paxton, which indicates that Hamilton's splits against southpaws might not improve much. In the two games immediately following Hamilton's four-whiff outing, however, the veteran slugger went 6-for-8 with a pair of jacks.
    • Fellow former first-round outfielder Matt Kemp was activated from the DL on Friday. Now all he has to do is prove he can be a productive major leaguer once again. There's still a see-it-to-believe-it aspect when it comes to Kemp getting back to his old self, but at least this is promising.
    • Cole Hamels had a roller-coaster spring while battling left-elbow issues, but the latest is good news: The southpaw is set for his first rehab start back at A-ball Clearwater on Sunday, reports Matt Gelb of The Philadelphia Inquirer. If all goes well, Hamels could be back in Philly before the month is out.

Nos. 80-71

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    Trevor Rosenthal
    Trevor RosenthalAndy Lyons/Getty Images


    80Brian McCannCYankees
    79Matt CainSPGiants
    78Jason HeywardOFBraves
    77Shelby MillerSPCardinals
    76Julio TeheranSPBraves
    75Masahiro TanakaSPYankees
    74Carlos SantanaC/1B/3BIndians
    73Trevor RosenthalRPCardinals
    72Greg HollandRPRoyals
    71Kenley JansenRPDodgers


    • Following his boffo spring (15 IP, 12 H, 5 R, 16:3 K:BB), Masahiro Tanaka's debut Friday night was rather impressive (7 IP, 2 ER, 6 H, 8:0 K:BB). I think he has it in him to be a top-25 starter. Like, this year.
    • The great third base experiment is in effect, as former Indians catcher/designated hitter Carlos Santana is getting a shot to hold down the hot corner. Monitor: Through his first five games, he'd played catcher twice (with zero errors) and third base three times (one error). He'll also serve as the backup catcher, which means not only could Santana play more games in 2014, he also might remain catcher-eligible in fantasy for 2015.
    • Trevor Rosenthal is one of the few closers who hasn't blown a save or allowed a run yet. Given his age, stuff and team, it wouldn't at all be surprising if he wound up leading the majors in saves—or even finishing as fantasy's top closer.
    • On the other hand, Kenley Jansen hasn't been especially sharp in his first four games, allowing four hits and three walks over three frames. He is, though, 2-for-2 in save opportunities, and while setup man (and former closer) Brian Wilson's stint on the DL with nerve irritation in his elbow might hurt the Dodgers, that makes Jansen's already lengthy leash just a tad longer.

Nos. 70-61

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    Jose Reyes
    Jose ReyesCarlos Osorio
    70Yadier MolinaCCardinals
    69Jon LesterSPRed Sox
    68Jose ReyesSSBlue Jays
    67Joe MauerC/1BTwins
    66Ian Kinsler2BTigers
    65Gerrit ColeSPPirates
    64Craig KimbrelRPBraves
    63Everth CabreraSSPadres
    62Jean SeguraSSBrewers
    61Elvis AndrusSSRangers


    • Jose Reyes tried to fight through a "mild" hamstring strain at the end of spring training, but that just proved to be a bad idea when he re-aggravated it after exactly one plate appearance. Reyes claims he could be back by mid-April, per Gregor Chisholm of, but given yet another hamstring injury in a long, long, looooong line of them, how much will the 30-year-old run? Considering he tumbled from No. 47 to No. 68 and also dropped behind fellow shortstops Elvis Andrus, Jean Segura and Everth Cabrera, I'm thinking not enough to make up ground.
    • Ian Kinsler is off to a fine start with his new club, but his career home-road splits are not insubstantial: .305/.387/.511 at home vs. .242/.312/.399 on the road. Now that he calls Detroit's Comerica Park home—and not hitter-friendly Rangers Ballpark—that's the sort of thing that owners should be aware of, in case they weren't already.
    • Speaking of Segura, he made a dramatic recovery from a sore shoulder that nearly put him on the DL to start the season, so try not to get too impatient with his slow start. At least he's playing. Hey, it could be worse, right? You could own Reyes.

Nos. 60-51

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    Jordan Zimmermann
    Jordan ZimmermannAlex Brandon
    60James ShieldsSPRoyals
    59Homer BaileySPReds
    58Hunter PenceOFGiants
    57Mark Trumbo1B/OFDiamondbacks
    56Jordan ZimmermannSPNationals
    55Justin UptonOFBraves
    54Yoenis CespedesOFAthletics
    53Wil MyersOFRays
    52David OrtizUTILRed Sox
    51Zack GreinkeSPDodgers


    • If you're a Hunter Pence owner, you're probably staring at his .120 average so far and hating him. Don't freak out, don't cut him, don't even bench him. Stick with your players, especially the good ones, through the early struggles. This kind of thing can turn around with one big game.
    • Jordan Zimmermann's first start was scratched, sending his owners into an immediate tizzy at the announcement. It turns out, it was merely a bout with the flu. Zimmermann wound up starting only a couple days later, and he actually was rather impressive in striking out—get this—nine over just five frames. If the 27-year-old, who has been an ERA/WHIP stud the past three years (3.12 ERA, 1.13 WHIP), is going to start upping his K/9 like that, well, look out.
    • I told you well before the season that Mark Trumbo was going to enjoy his new hitter-friendlier digs in the desert, and he's the current MLB home run leader through Saturday with four, including one in each of his past three games. Seriously, 40 homers could happen.

Nos. 50-41

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    Jose Bautista
    Jose BautistaChris O'Meara
    50 Gio GonzalezSPNationals
    49Buster PoseyC/1BGiants
    48Ryan Zimmerman3BNationals
    47Matt Carpenter2B/3BCardinals
    46Allen Craig1B/OFCardinals
    45Albert Pujols1BAngels
    44Adrian Gonzalez1BDodgers
    43Matt HollidayOFCardinals
    42Jose BautistaOFBlue Jays
    41Eric Hosmer1BRoyals


    • ICYMI: Gio Gonzalez more or less beat the Mets by himself in his first start of the season, twirling six innings of three-hit, one-run ball—and hitting a solo home run in the 5-1 Nationals win.
    • If nothing else, it's encouraging to see Buster Posey off to a hot start with a .381 average, two homers and four RBI, proving he's over that brutal second half last year (.244 BA, 2 HR, 16 RBI in 58 games).
    • Jose Bautista's two-homer game during the week gave him three on the young season. He also has a league-high seven walks, which shows he's still doing the power-patience thing that helped him lead the majors in dingers two years in a row back in 2010 and 2011. Healthy again, the power is and always has been there. The guy just needs to stay healthy enough to hit 35-plus again.

Nos. 40-31

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    Clayton Kershaw
    Clayton KershawJae C. Hong
    40Clayton Kershaw SPDodgers
    39Ian DesmondSSNationals
    38Ryan BraunOFBrewers
    37Freddie Freeman1BBraves
    36Madison BumgarnerSPGiants
    35Jose FernandezSPMarlins
    34Chris SaleSPWhite Sox
    33Jay BruceOFReds
    32Yasiel PuigOFDodgers
    31Shin-Soo ChooOFRangers


    • Here's the plummet of the week, folks: Clayton Kershaw's back inflammation could wind up keeping him out until May, per Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times, so he goes from the top 10 to No. 40. The massive drop comes because every single start counts for a pitcher's value, so even if Kershaw is the reigning Cy Young winner, right now, he's nothing but the reigning Cy Young winner who'll make only 25 or 26 starts instead of 32 or 33. That knocks him just outside the very elite starters, a group comprised of about a dozen or so arms.
    • Ryan Braun nearly matched Kershaw's drop with news that his right-thumb injury has cropped up again, writes Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. The former MVP has started off with one hit in his first 16 at-bats and was limited to DH duty against the Red Sox in Boston (where they use the DH) on Friday before sitting out Saturday's game. Here's the money quote: "It's frustrating. I've dealt with it a long time. I'm optimistic that eventually we'll figure something out to make it better. But when it gets to the point where I can't come close to taking a normal swing, it's counterproductive to the team and to me to continue to play."
    • Freddie Freeman's two-homer game last week is making me wonder whether there is, in fact, more power in his bat than I originally thought (read: 30 home runs?).
    • Madison Bumgarner had arguably the best spring of any pitcher (1.19 ERA, 0.75 WHIP over 22.2 IP) and then put up a dud his first time out with a four-frame clunker, which was salvaged only by the fact that the Giants defense made all four runs unearned. Saturday night, though, he was back to his usual self: 6.1 innings of two-run ball with a 10-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
    • Jose Fernandez: Ew. (And I mean that in the good way.)
    • With Yasiel Puig, you take the bad (being benched—again—for showing up late) with the good (smacking a long ball off old foe Ian Kennedy). He was back hitting leadoff Saturday night but then injured his thumb sliding into first base on an infield single, as Ken Gurnick of reports. He did, though, finish the game.

Nos. 30-21

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    Stephen Strasburg
    Stephen StrasburgAlex Brandon
    30 Giancarlo StantonOFMarlins
    29David PriceSPRays
    28Max ScherzerSPTigers
    27Felix HernandezSPMariners
    26Justin VerlanderSPTigers
    25Cliff LeeSPPhillies
    24Jacoby EllsburyOFYankees
    23Stephen Strasburg  SPNationals
    22Dustin Pedroia2BRed Sox
    21David Wright3BMets


    • Trying to describe the things Giancarlo Stanton has been doing to baseballs so far would only lead to the use of inappropriate terminology. Rather than try to use words, then, just watch.
    • So much for that 2013 luck that helped Max Scherzer pick up 21 wins: In his first start, a scoreless eight-inning gem, Scherzer lost the W when new closer Joe Nathan—the active saves leader—blew his first opportunity with the Tigers.
    • King Felix just keeps getting it done. Through two starts, he's whiffed 19, and allowed just 12 baserunners and three runs in 14.1 innings.
    • Cliff Lee's first start was mostly disastrous (eight earned in five innings), but at least he got the win! For the sake of their ERAs and WHIPs, though, owners, would prefer the opposite. On Saturday, he scattered 10 hits over seven scoreless with six K's to pick up his second victory.
    • The right-calf discomfort that Jacoby Ellsbury was dealing with at the end of spring doesn't appear to be an issue any longer after he ended his three-game hitless streak to start the year by going 6-for-9 with a pair each of doubles and steals through the first two games of the second series. 
    • Stephen Strasburg's first two outings could have gone better (7 ER, 13 H, 5 BB in 10.1 IP), but at least he's racking up strikeouts with 16. If any silly owner is panicking on him this early, you could try to take him off his or her hands. Gladly.

Nos. 20-11

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    Carlos Gomez
    Carlos GomezTom Lynn
    20Jason Kipnis 2BIndians
    19Troy TulowitzkiSSRockies
    18Adam WainwrightSPCardinals
    17Yu DarvishSPRangers
    16Carlos GomezOFBrewers
    15Bryce HarperOFNationals
    14Hanley RamirezSSDodgers
    13Carlos Gonzalez  OFRockies
    12Evan Longoria3BRays
    11Joey Votto1BReds


    • Adam Wainwright gets a small bump for his Opening Day dominance and health, the latter of which is rather important, as Kershaw and Yu Darvish—the top two SPs heading into the season—have proved.
    • Speaking of Darvish, the majors' reigning K king, who is out with a neck strain that cost him his Opening Day outing, is due to make his first start of the season Sunday against the Rays. After throwing an 86-pitch bullpen session Tuesday, Darvish told Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, "There's no concern." If you've got him, I say start him; no need to play it safe by seeing how he comes through the first time out.
    • By sprinting around the bases in 16.18 ticks after his leadoff homer against the Braves, apparently, Carlos Gomez learned the lesson Brian McCann taught him late last year. Either that or he's keeping his legs warm for his stolen base attempts.
    • Plays-with-his-hair-on-fire Bryce Harper passed concussion tests after taking an Eric Young Jr. knee to the head while breaking up a double play on Opening Day. Now if only he would start hitting after going 3-for-21 to begin 2014.

Nos. 10-1

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    Miguel Cabrera
    Miguel CabreraLeon Halip/Getty Images
    10Adam JonesOFOrioles
    9Edwin Encarnacion1BBlue Jays
    8Robinson Cano2BMariners
    7Prince Fielder1BRangers
    6Adrian Beltre3B Rangers
    5Chris Davis1BOrioles
    4Andrew McCutchen  OFPirates
    3Paul Goldschmidt1BDiamondbacks  
    2Miguel Cabrera1B/3BTigers
    1Mike TroutOFAngels


    • Neither Prince Fielder (4-for-20) nor Adrian Beltre (5-for-18) have really gotten going yet, but they're still entrenched in the top 10 because the Rangers are going to score. Like, a lot.
    • Even as a Mariner in spacious Safeco Field, Robinson Cano is still the top fantasy second baseman, and his durability is a thing of beauty; he's played at least 159 games each of the past seven years. Plus, with the likes of Brad Miller and Justin Smoak picking up some of the slack, the Mariners lineup suddenly doesn't seem to be as bad as it has been in recent years.
    • After an absolutely monstrous spring (.417 BA, 5 HR, 9 RBI), the first week of Andrew McCutchen's 2014 was quite the opposite (.211, 0, 2), but he does have an NL-high six walks. That means he's seeing the ball well and staying patient while pitchers approach him more carefully than they did in March. It'll happen.
    • Paul Goldschmidt's 26-game hit streak (which dated back to last season—duh) ended Saturday night, but he's been a beast with 12 hits, four doubles, a homer and even two steals through his first eight games.
    • It was only fitting that Miguel Cabrera's 2,000th career hit was not only his fourth of the game on Friday but also a home run.
    • Mike Trout's already smacked two homers and driven in five to go with seven hits in his first 19 at-bats (.368), but the dude has yet to steal a base. So: Bust!

    This is the continuation of a writer-reader team effort that's intended to take your opinions and perspectives into account, so let 'er rip in the comments below. Which rankings do you disagree with and why? Which players not included absolutely need to be on the Top 150 Big Board, and which ones would you kick to the curb? How's the top 10? The top 25?

    To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11.