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2012 Draft Prep: Rankings debate by position

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Rarely do rankings tell the whole story.

Their main purpose is to provide a rough outline of how a typical draft will unfold, but they're an imperfect blend of scientific projection, public perception and gut feeling. The result is a list that no one person would follow pick for pick for pick.

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You see it played out in our mock drafts. Often somebody will take a player "out of order." Why? We're different people with different opinions. That's what makes drafts so unpredictable.

That's also what makes them so frustrating. At some point during your draft, you'll have to decide between two players at the same position. The rankings will tell you one thing. Your gut will tell you another. How do you know when you're simply exercising a difference of opinion and when you're going out on a limb?

To help you decide, colleague Al Melchior and I have included our own personal rankings. A word of warning: They're different, both from the default rankings and each other. But that's kind of the point. Where they're the same, you'll know there isn't as much room for debate. Where they're different, we'll examine why they're different so that you can better determine where you land in the debate.

It's far from perfect -- we probably agree more than two average Fantasy owners would -- but it's still a more realistic way to approach Draft Day than by assuming everyone will operate off the same master list.

Catchers
Scott White's Top 15 Al Melchior's Top 15
1. Carlos Santana, Indians 1. Carlos Santana, Indians
2. Brian McCann, Braves 2. Brian McCann, Braves
3. Mike Napoli, Rangers 3. Mike Napoli, Rangers
4. Alex Avila, Tigers 4. Alex Avila, Tigers
5. Joe Mauer, Twins 5. Matt Wieters, Orioles
6. Buster Posey, Giants 6. Miguel Montero, Diamondbacks
7. Matt Wieters, Orioles 7. Joe Mauer, Twins
8. Miguel Montero, Diamondbacks 8. Buster Posey, Giants
9. Jesus Montero, Mariners 9. Russell Martin, Yankees
10. Russell Martin, Yankees 10. Jesus Montero, Mariners
11. Wilson Ramos, Nationals 11. J.P. Arencibia, Blue Jays
12. Yadier Molina, Cardinals 12. Yadier Molina, Cardinals
13. Geovany Soto, Cubs 13. Wilson Ramos, Nationals
14. J.P. Arencibia, Blue Jays 14. Geovany Soto, Cubs
15. Kurt Suzuki, Athletics 15. Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers
Scott White: Al has Wieters and Miguel Montero ahead of injury returnees Joe Mauer and Buster Posey, which I see as more of a philosophical difference than anything else. In shallower leagues, I'm willing to gamble on the players with MVP potential, but in deeper leagues, I might side with him and go the safer route. I'm more interested in that one spot we differ on Jesus Montero, who I think has top-five potential given the power he showed late last season and the likelihood he gets everyday at-bats as the Mariners' primary DH. I'd rather move him up than rank him behind Russell Martin, who probably is somewhat overlooked at the position but -- let's face it -- likely won't get any better than he was last year. Among the fringe starters, I prefer Ramos to Arencibia, believing he's just as likely to help in homers but with a higher batting average and better job security. The Blue Jays have to make room for Travis D'Arnaud eventually, don't they? Also, I'm not so convinced of Lucroy's upside. I'd prefer Suzuki, whose playing time always bumps him up the rankings even when his numbers aren't so hot.
Al Melchior: There is very little difference in our rankings at the catcher spot, and I'm glad to see Scott share my enthusiasm for Avila, who is falling out of the top four among catchers in many leagues. I'm more cautious than Scott is about drafting Mauer and Posey, both of whom are trying to bounce-back from injury-marred seasons. Not only may both catchers have lingering health issues, but they also have uneven track records in terms of their power hitting. Wieters fulfilled enough of his power potential last year and Miguel Montero has demonstrated enough consistency that I'd prefer to play it safe with them than risk disappointing seasons from Mauer or Posey.
First Basemen
Scott White's Top 15 Al Melchior's Top 15
1. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers 1. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
2. Albert Pujols, Angels 2. Albert Pujols, Angels
3. Joey Votto, Reds 3. Joey Votto, Reds
4. Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox 4. Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox
5. Prince Fielder, Tigers 5. Prince Fielder, Tigers
6. Mark Teixeira, Yankees 6. Mark Teixeira, Yankees
7. Carlos Santana, Indians 7. Carlos Santana, Indians
8. Eric Hosmer, Royals 8. Paul Konerko, White Sox
9. Mike Napoli, Rangers 9. Lance Berkman, Cardinals
10. Paul Konerko, White Sox 10. Michael Morse, Nationals
11. Michael Morse, Nationals 11. Eric Hosmer, Royals
12. Michael Young, Rangers 12. Michael Young, Rangers
13. Lance Berkman, Cardinals 13. Ryan Howard, Phillies
14. Mark Reynolds, Orioles 14. Freddie Freeman, Braves
15. Ike Davis, Mets 15. Mike Napoli, Rangers
Scott White: First base is an annoying position to rank this year because, after the elite tier, so many of these players qualify at so many other positions that you know most of them won't actually be starting at first base in Fantasy. Such is the case for two of the biggest discrepancies on our lists: Mike Napoli and Mark Reynolds. Napoli is likely a reflection of how differently we prioritize high-end catchers. Reynolds I don't even like all that much, but I know I can count on him for a bunch of homers, which is worth more to me than the uncertainty that comes with Ryan Howard and Freddie Freeman. You see who else I have ranked ahead of both Howard and Freeman? Clearly, valley fever doesn't scare me. Maybe if Davis was complaining of exhaustion, I'd worry about making him my ultimate fallback option at the position, but after reading up on the illness, I'm thinking it'll be less of a hindrance than Howard's injury. Apparently, I'm more fearful of the age factor here. I love Berkman's skill set when he's going well, but at 36, the downside is obvious. Conversely, I trust the up-and-coming Hosmer to build off his September performance of a year ago and wouldn't be surprised to see him rank alongside Fielder and Teixeira by season's end.
Al Melchior: The biggest discrepancy is with Napoli, but that may just reflect how I am ranking multipositional players. I do like Napoli, as I have him ranked third among catchers, but if I am going to draft him as my first baseman, then the downturn that I expect in his batting average puts him at a relative disadvantage compared to others at the position. That means I can afford to wait on him. I also have Hosmer ranked significantly lower, as I am just not yet buying into a power surge in his second big league season. Though Berkman's home run pace tailed off during the dog days, he remained productive all season long last year. I'm looking for a repeat of 2011 or something close to it, so I trust him ahead of Hosmer, Morse and Young.
Second Basemen
Scott White's Top 15 Al Melchior's Top 15
1. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox 1. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
2. Robinson Cano, Yankees 2. Robinson Cano, Yankees
3. Ian Kinsler, Rangers 3. Ian Kinsler, Rangers
4. Ben Zobrist, Rays 4. Ben Zobrist, Rays
5. Rickie Weeks, Brewers 5. Rickie Weeks, Brewers
6. Dan Uggla, Braves 6. Dan Uggla, Braves
7. Chase Utley, Phillies 7. Brandon Phillips, Reds
8. Brandon Phillips, Reds 8. Howard Kendrick, Angels
9. Dustin Ackley, Mariners 9. Dustin Ackley, Mariners
10. Howard Kendrick, Angels 10. Chase Utley, Phillies
11. Jemile Weeks, Athletics 11. Jemile Weeks, Athletics
12. Neil Walker, Pirates 12. Neil Walker, Pirates
13. Ryan Roberts, Diamondbacks 13. Ryan Roberts, Diamondbacks
14. Danny Espinosa, Nationals 14. Kelly Johnson, Braves
15. Jason Kipnis, Indians 15. Danny Espinosa, Nationals
Scott White: Wait, I'm the one who doesn't like Utley, and now I have to defend him? That doesn't seem right. OK, he's clearly on the decline and an injury risk at age 33, but I think his doubles and walks alone should set him apart from some of these less-heralded names, at least in Head-to-Head leagues. And there's always a chance of a minor resurgence for a player like him. But enough about him. Let's move on to the players I do like, such as Ackley. He's basically an Utley lite, offering extra-base power, patience and even some speed, only he doesn't have as much injury risk. I'll take him over someone like Kendrick, whose lack of plate discipline makes him a relative wild card. He's a suitable fallback option given his emerging power, but I wouldn't aim for him in the middle rounds. Al likes Johnson. I like Kipnis. Big deal? They're pretty close to me, but at this point, I'd rather bank on the unknown of Kipnis than the year-to-year (and week-to-week) inconsistency of Johnson.
Al Melchior: I know that Scott is generally not a big fan of Utley's, so I was surprised to see that I ranked him even lower than Scott did. Utley's persistent knee issues and delayed participation in spring training games are a five-alarm blaze of concern all unto themselves. Then, if you mix in his increasing itchiness at the plate and sagging power numbers, there are just too many reasons to doubt a rebound of any kind. While Utley has been getting hackier and hackier, I like the fact that Kendrick's plate appearances now last half a pitch longer on average than they did back in 2008. I think his more patient approach has something to do with his developing power, which catapults him into my top eight.
Third Basemen
Scott White's Top 15 Al Melchior's Top 15
1. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays 1. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
2. Evan Longoria, Rays 2. Evan Longoria, Rays
3. Adrian Beltre, Rangers 3. David Wright, Mets
4. David Wright, Mets 4. Adrian Beltre, Rangers
5. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals 5. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals
6. Brett Lawrie, Blue Jays 6. Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox
7. Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox 7. Brett Lawrie, Blue Jays
8. Pablo Sandoval, Giants 8. Pablo Sandoval, Giants
9. Michael Young, Rangers 9. Michael Young, Rangers
10. Alex Rodriguez, Yankees 10. Alex Rodriguez, Yankees
11. Aramis Ramirez, Brewers 11. Mark Reynolds, Orioles
12. Emilio Bonifacio, Marlins 12. Aramis Ramirez, Brewers
13. Mark Reynolds, Orioles 13. Emilio Bonifacio, Marlins
14. Martin Prado, Braves 14. Ryan Roberts, Diamondbacks
15. Ryan Roberts, Diamondbacks 15. Martin Prado, Braves
Scott White: Once again, I'm the one favoring youth here, preferring the 22-year-old Lawrie to the 33-year-old Youkilis. Youk's numbers were down last year, and I have a hard time believing he'll be any less prone to injuries now that he's in his mid-30s. Lawrie, meanwhile, looked like a stud as soon as he came up to the majors. Was it a relatively small sample? Sure. But when the alternative is risky anyway, why not shoot for the upside? Wright is in the same boat as Youkilis. It's not just about the injury risk with him, but also the declining numbers. Maybe the Mets' decision to move in and lower the fences at Citi Field will help him, but given his equally disappointing numbers on the road since the Mets changed venues and his steadily rising strikeout rate during that stretch, Wright has far more to prove to me than Beltre, who's coming off back-to-back years of elite numbers. Interesting that Al ranks Reynolds higher here after I ranked him higher at first base. Hey, I said I didn't like the guy (Reynolds, I mean, not Al). I guess, then, the discrepancy says less about Reynolds than how much Al likes Ryan Howard and Freddie Freeman. But that's a different discussion for a different position.
Al Melchior: Scott and I have the order for Wright and Beltre reversed, and that might not seem like such a big deal. It is to me, though, because once Bautista and Longoria are off the board, there is a big dropoff, and it's a critical point where owners have to determine whether to pursue a third baseman now or risk missing out on the entire second tier. Wright is clearly an injury risk, as a stress fracture in his lower back mucked up his 2011 season, and he has been slowed this spring by a rib cage injury. However, don't forget that, prior to last year, Beltre had been the less durable player, and as he is set to turn 33 next month, he is nearly four years older than Wright. Beltre may be the slightly safer play for home runs right now, but Wright will give you walks and more steals. The Mets' mainstay isn't as easy to draft as he used to be, but I'd feel comfortable taking him in the third round, even with Beltre still available.
Shortstops
Scott White's Top 15 Al Melchior's Top 15
1. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies 1. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies
2. Hanley Ramirez, Marlins 2. Hanley Ramirez, Marlins
3. Jose Reyes, Marlins 3. Jose Reyes, Marlins
4. Starlin Castro, Cubs 4. Starlin Castro, Cubs
5. Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians 5. Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians
6. Jimmy Rollins, Phillies 6. Jimmy Rollins, Phillies
7. Elvis Andrus, Rangers 7. Elvis Andrus, Rangers
8. Emilio Bonifacio, Marlins 8. Emilio Bonifacio, Marlins
9. J.J. Hardy, Orioles 9. Derek Jeter, Yankees
10. Erick Aybar, Angels 10. Erick Aybar, Angels
11. Dee Gordon, Dodgers 11. Alexei Ramirez, White Sox
12. Jhonny Peralta, Tigers 12. Jhonny Peralta, Tigers
13. Derek Jeter, Yankees 13. Yunel Escobar, Blue Jays
14. Alexei Ramirez, White Sox 14. J.J. Hardy, Orioles
15. Yunel Escobar, Blue Jays 15. Dee Gordon, Dodgers
Scott White: Al and I pretty much see eye to eye at shortstop until about the third tier at the position, when everything goes haywire. I'm noticing he tends to favor safety over upside pretty much across the board, and the same is true here with his ranking of Jeter. Folks, the Yankees shortstop isn't getting any better at age 37. He's more or less a slap hitter at this stage of his career. He likely won't hurt you in Fantasy, but he won't set you apart at the position either. On the other hand, Hardy, Aybar, Gordon and Peralta potentially could if they continue to contribute in either home runs (Hardy and Peralta) or stolen bases (Aybar and Gordon) like they did last year. True, none of the four is a proven commodity, but when you're scraping the bottom of the barrel at the position anyway, you might as well go for the player with the chance of exceeding his draft position. Al still sees something in Ramirez, apparently, but to me, he's no more than a 15-homer guy who doesn't walk. I'd be more inclined to rank him behind Escobar (who does walk) than ahead of Peralta, Hardy and Gordon.
Al Melchior: It's remarkable that Scott and I agree on our top eight picks, as there isn't much that separates the second-tier shortstops. Further down in the rankings, though, we have our differences, and most notably, we disagree on Jeter, Hardy and Gordon. Even though Jeter has become an extreme ground ball hitter, I like him as mid-round option, as his continued ability to get on base and hit for a high average also helps him to be a good run producer (as does hitting in the Yankees' lineup). Hardy is a one-dimensional slugger who could be hard-pressed to repeat last year's performance (30 home runs in 129 games), so I'll let someone else draft him based on his 2011 stats. Entering his first full season, Gordon has the potential for a .300 average and 50 steals. Then again, so did Alcides Escobar a couple of years ago, and we're still waiting. I need to see more from Gordon before trusting him as anything but a last resort in standard mixed leagues.
Outfielders
Scott White's Top 30 Al Melchior's Top 30
1. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays 1. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
2. Matt Kemp, Dodgers 2. Matt Kemp, Dodgers
3. Ryan Braun, Brewers 3. Ryan Braun, Brewers
4. Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox 4. Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox
5. Curtis Granderson, Yankees 5. Curtis Granderson, Yankees
6. Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies 6. Justin Upton, Diamondbacks
7. Justin Upton, Diamondbacks 7. Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies
8. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates 8. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
9. Josh Hamilton, Rangers 9. Josh Hamilton, Rangers
10. Matt Holliday, Cardinals 10. Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins
11. Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins 11. Matt Holliday, Cardinals
12. Shane Victorino, Phillies 12. Shane Victorino, Phillies
13. Ben Zobrist, Rays 13. Carl Crawford, Red Sox
14. Shin-Soo Choo, Indians 14. Michael Bourn, Braves
15. Desmond Jennings, Rays 15. Ben Zobrist, Rays
16. Alex Gordon, Royals 16. Shin-Soo Choo, Indians
17. Hunter Pence, Phillies 17. Lance Berkman, Cardinals
18. Michael Bourn, Braves 18. Andre Ethier, Dodgers
19. Michael Morse, Nationals 19. Hunter Pence, Phillies
20. Carl Crawford, Red Sox 20. Nelson Cruz, Rangers
21. Lance Berkman, Cardinals 21. Desmond Jennings, Rays
22. Jay Bruce, Reds 22. Chris Young, Diamondbacks
23. Nelson Cruz, Rangers 23. Jay Bruce, Reds
24. Corey Hart, Brewers 24. Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners
25. Andre Ethier, Dodgers 25. Corey Hart, Brewers
26. Nick Markakis, Orioles 26. Alex Gordon, Royals
27. Emilio Bonifacio, Marlins 27. Michael Morse, Nationals
28. Chris Young, Diamondbacks 28. Nick Markakis, Orioles
29. B.J. Upton, Rays 29. B.J. Upton, Rays
30. Drew Stubbs, Reds 30. Brett Gardner, Yankees
Scott White: Apart from a couple of flip-flops, Al and I have the exact same top 12 here. In both cases, one of us is taking the higher-ceiling, riskier guy (Gonzalez, Stanton) and the other is taking the safer guy (Upton, Holliday), but I don't feel like either of us is necessarily wrong in either case. I do have some issues with Al ranking Crawford so high, though. Even without the wrist surgery, I'd be scared to draft him as a borderline No. 1 coming off the year he just had. With one setback already, he's clearly trying to force his way back before he should, which is what happened to Joe Mauer (knee) last year. I see the potential for disaster here. Once again, I have more confidence in a small sample size -- this time for Jennings -- than Al does, but however much we disagree there, we're even further apart on Gordon. Look, I trust the pedigree, and I trust the swing he rebuilt with hitting coach Kevin Seitzer last offseason. He basically reinvented himself as a hitter, so to me, using his previous numbers as a basis for comparison is useless. Our other disagreements are relatively trivial. I have Morse significantly higher, but it has less to do with the way I feel about him than the way I feel about the injury-risk players (like Berkman, Cruz and Hart) behind him. Al has Ethier significantly higher, but I like him an awful lot, too. I just don't see the need to reach for him so early. I am surprised to see Al rank Young so much higher than Upton, though. Both are just as likely to drain your team's batting average. Plus, if you're going to include them and their faults, you have to include Stubbs and his as well.
Al Melchior: After a difficult first year in Boston and offseason wrist surgery, Crawford won't be a top-three outfielder like he was two seasons ago, but I think Scott may need to put the brakes on the downgrade he issued. There is still a very good chance that Crawford won't miss much time this year, and he did rebound nicely after last season's slow start, really picking things up from August on (.462 slugging percentage). After a season in which he showed off improved gap power (34 doubles, 10 triples), Bourn deserves to be considered as a high-end No. 2 outfielder, even in Head-to-Head. When Ethier is healthy, he has shown the potential to be a No. 1 outfielder, so ranking him 18th could be a conservative move, yet Scott has him 25th. Finally, Ichiro deserves a bump after getting moved to the third spot in the Mariners' order, as he could easily have his first 60-plus RBI season in five years. I am less optimistic than Scott about Jennings and Gordon. I still like Jennings for steals and walks, but I'm a little skeptical of the home run power he flashed last year. While he took steps forward early last year in Triple-A (12 homers in 89 games), he appeared to benefit from some pull hitting after his promotion, and pitchers may force him to adjust this year. Gordon is simply a classic BABIP regression candidate. He experienced a huge jump in the rate at which he got flyball and line drive base hits in 2011, and those rates are often subject to random change. Meanwhile, Gordon posted his worst walk-to-strikeout ratio since his rookie year. In short, Gordon experienced a breakout year without showing any discernable skill growth.
Starting Pitchers
Scott White's Top 30 Al Melchior's Top 30
1. Justin Verlander, Tigers 1. Roy Halladay, Phillies
2. Roy Halladay, Phillies 2. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
3. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers 3. Justin Verlander, Tigers
4. Cliff Lee, Phillies 4. Cliff Lee, Phillies
5. CC Sabathia, Yankees 5. Felix Hernandez, Mariners
6. Jered Weaver, Angels 6. CC Sabathia, Yankees
7. Felix Hernandez, Mariners 7. Cole Hamels, Phillies
8. Tim Lincecum, Giants 8. Tim Lincecum, Giants
9. Cole Hamels, Phillies 9. Zack Greinke, Brewers
10. David Price, Rays 10. David Price, Rays
11. James Shields, Rays 11. Dan Haren, Angels
12. Zack Greinke, Brewers 12. Jered Weaver, Angels
13. Ian Kennedy, Diamondbacks 13. Ian Kennedy, Diamondbacks
14. Dan Haren, Angels 14. James Shields, Rays
15. Jon Lester, Red Sox 15. Yovani Gallardo, Brewers
16. C.J. Wilson, Angels 16. Jon Lester, Red Sox
17. Yovani Gallardo, Brewers 17. Josh Johnson, Marlins
18. Madison Bumgarner, Giants 18. Mat Latos, Reds
19. Mat Latos, Reds 19. C.J. Wilson, Angels
20. Matt Cain, Giants 20. Madison Bumgarner, Giants
21. Ricky Romero, Blue Jays 21. Michael Pineda, Yankees
22. Josh Johnson, Marlins 22. Josh Beckett, Red Sox
23. Stephen Strasburg, Nationals 23. Daniel Hudson, Diamondbacks
24. Josh Beckett, Red Sox 24. Adam Wainwright, Cardinals
25. Michael Pineda, Yankees 25. Matt Cain, Giants
26. Adam Wainwright, Cardinals 26. Matt Garza, Cubs
27. Daniel Hudson, Diamondbacks 27. Tommy Hanson, Braves
28. Tommy Hanson, Braves 28. Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
29. Yu Darvish, Rangers 29. Anibal Sanchez, Marlins
30. Gio Gonzalez, Nationals 30. Yu Darvish, Rangers
Scott White: I don't know if Verlander will be as good as he was last year, but I know he's been a Fantasy ace for three years now, which is more than I can say for Kershaw, and I know he's still in his prime at age 29, which is more than I can say for Halladay. That's the reason I have him ranked higher than Al does. My reasoning for Weaver is similarly based on a broad overview of his strength and weaknesses rather than the nitty-gritty of his numbers. I'm not convinced he's the strikeout artist of two years ago or the near ERA champ of last year, but I am convinced that, wherever those numbers fall exactly, he'll be an ace -- one with better run support than Hernandez and Lincecum and fewer durability issues than Hamels. In fact, durability -- or, to be more precise, a pitcher's ability to accumulate innings -- seems to be a bigger deal to me than Al. It's the reason I rank Shields ahead of Greinke, Wilson ahead of Gallardo, Cain ahead of Johnson, Pineda and Wainwright, and Romero ahead of ... well, everyone else on Al's list. Maybe that's the Head-to-Head bias in me, but if all of these guys are putting up good ratios anyway, wouldn't you prefer the ones doing more of it? Romero isn't the only player to appear on one list but not the other. I'm actually a big fan of Anibal Sanchez, but I feel like he has enough skeptics that I shouldn't have to reach for him in the top 30. I gave Gio Gonzalez the nod over Garza for the 30th spot because I consider him the safer source of both strikeouts and victories. He'll probably have the higher WHIP, though.
Al Melchior: Scott and I have the same pitchers in our top three -- Halladay, Kershaw and Verlander -- but we disagree on the order. That's a minor quibble, as I can see the argument for taking any one of the trio first. Our real differences occur a little further down the rankings, starting with Weaver. His 2011 campaign has "lucky" written all over it, as he allowed flyballs at the highest rate of any of his past four seasons, yet he registered his lowest rate of home runs per nine innings. Assuming there will be more homers and fewer baserunners stranded (80 percent left on base in 2011) in his future, Weaver simply doesn't fit the profile of a solid No. 1 starter. Similarly, I have Cain much lower than Scott, because I don't see him allowing anywhere close to nine homers again. That was the lowest total for any pitcher with at least 175 innings last year, and Cain needed a home run per flyball rate that was close to half the major league average to achieve it. I am a bit more optimistic than Scott when it comes to a couple of risky pitchers: Josh Johnson and Josh Beckett. Johnson is not only the Marlins' ace, but when he is healthy, he is a legitimate Fantasy ace. While he has had more than his share of injury concerns, my No. 17 ranking still seems conservative for someone who has Cy Young potential. Beckett is both a health and performance risk, but just last season he performed like a solid No. 2 starter. Even if he doesn't get the highly favorable line drive and pop-up rates that helped to limit opposing hitters to a .211 batting average, Beckett is still good enough to trust as a borderline No. 2 or 3 starting pitcher.
Relief Pitchers
Scott White's Top 15 Al Melchior's Top 15
1. Matt Moore, Rays 1. Craig Kimbrel, Braves
2. Craig Kimbrel, Braves 2. John Axford, Brewers
3. Jonathan Papelbon, Phillies 3. Drew Storen, Nationals
4. John Axford, Brewers 4. Heath Bell, Marlins
5. Drew Storen, Nationals 5. Matt Moore, Rays
6. Mariano Rivera, Yankees 6. Jonathan Papelbon, Phillies
7. J.J. Putz, Diamondbacks 7. Mariano Rivera, Yankees
8. Heath Bell, Marlins 8. J.J. Putz, Diamondbacks
9. Cory Luebke, Padres 9. Cory Luebke, Padres
10. Brian Wilson, Giants 10. Ryan Madson, Reds
11. Joakim Soria, Royals 11. Brian Wilson, Giants
12. Ryan Madson, Reds 12. Joakim Soria, Royals
13. Jose Valverde, Tigers 13. Joel Hanrahan, Pirates
14. Joel Hanrahan, Pirates 14. Neftali Feliz, Rangers
15. Sergio Santos, Blue Jays 15. Jose Valverde, Tigers
Scott White: Kimbrel and Moore are both going in about the fifth or sixth round in Head-to-Head leagues. But while I personally wouldn't dream of drafting a closer that early, I could actually see myself taking Moore there. My original ranking was a little more conservative, like Al's, but once I found out the Rays wouldn't limit the rookie left-hander's innings and 200 became a legitimate possibility, he suddenly became just as likely as Adam Wainwright or Michael Pineda to put up ace numbers this year. To me, that's more valuable than any closer, especially since, as you can tell by comparing our two lists, the closer role is one of the most volatile in the game. Al and I don't agree on anything here, and yet I really don't have any major objections to his list. Maybe he's not bothered by Bell's reduced strikeout rate. Maybe he's not convinced Papelbon will get more save chances with the Phillies. Maybe he thinks Feliz's transition to the starting rotation will go without a hitch, or maybe he thinks Santos' move to the AL East won't. I don't know. But if you put a gun to my head and told me I had to draft my relievers according his list, it probably wouldn't be the worst thing that happened to me that day.
Al Melchior: Of all the young pitching phenoms, there are none (including Strasburg) that I like better than Moore. Still, it feels like a reach to make him the first relief-eligible pitcher off the board. Even with optimistic projections for playing time and performance, Moore is likely to come up short in both Rotisserie and Head-to-Head value when compared to relief elites like Axford and Storen. Papelbon didn't crack the top five in either Rotisserie or Head-to-Head value last year, and I don't expect him to this year either. Maybe he will get more save opportunities in Philadelphia, but that value of extra saves could get washed out if he reverts back to his typical strikeout and walk rates. While I think Papelbon will regress down to his normal rate stat levels, Bell's diminished strikeout rate is something of a concern, but he has come back from dips in his rate before. He blamed an early-season calf injury for his downturn, and his velocity, strikeout rate and WHIP did perk up in the second half. I see little reason to stop viewing Bell as an elite reliever.

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Player News
A's deal Josh Donaldson to Blue Jays for Brett Lawrie
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:55 pm ET) The Athletics have dealt third baseman Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays for third baseman Brett Lawrie and pitcher Kendall Graveman, according to FoxSports.com. CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman has confirmed the deal.

Pitcher Sean Nolin and shortstop Franklin Barreto are also heading to Oakland, according to Yahoo! The 28-year-old Donaldson is entering his first year of arbitration. He's under team control until 2019. Lawrie is also entering his first year of arbitration, but will become a free-agent in 2018. Lawrie is entering his age-25 season. Graveman sky-rocketed through Toronto's farm system last year, jumping multiple levels. The 23-year-old posted a 1.83 ERA in 27 starts over four levels. He made his major-league debut as well, coming out of the bullpen five times at the end of the year. 

The 24-year-old Nolin posted a 3.43 ERA over three levels in the minors last season. He tossed one inning in the majors last season, giving up one run. The 18-year-old Barreto hit .311/.384/.481 over 328 at-bats in Class A ball. 


Athletics' Jeff Samardzija has not been informed of possible trade
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:41 pm ET) Athletics pitcher Jeff Samardzija has not been informed about a possible trade, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.

There was an earlier report suggesting Samardzija was involved in a deal, but that doesn't appear to be the case. Samardzija is a high profile player, and likely would have been contacted by the team if a deal was close. Oakland is said to be working on something, but it's unclear which players are involved. 


Update: Athletics 'close' to making a deal
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8:48 pm ET) Update: The Athletics are close to making a deal, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Oakland is looking to acquire hitters in a possible deal. The initial rumor had pitcher Jeff Samardzija in a potential deal, but that may not be the case, according to FoxSports.com. First baseman Brandon Moss is also not included in a possible deal, according to MLB.com. The reports seem to indicate the A's are actively pursuing a deal, but the players involved are not known at this time. 


Report: Nationals' Ross Detwiler open to a trade
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:14 pm ET) Nationals pitcher Ross Detwiler is open to a trade, according to The Washington Post

The 28-year-old has been a starter most of his career, but was shifted to the bullpen last season. Though he was effective, Detwiler was relagated to being the team's long relief option/mop-up man. Detwiler doesn't have much of a role with the club, and his camp has suggested that the Nats pursue a trade if possible. Detwiler posted a 4.00 ERA over 63 innings. 


Report: Nationals have checked in on Asdrubal Cabrera
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:15 pm ET) The Nationals are one of several teams to have checked in on second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera, according to The Washington Post

Cabrera spent the second half of 2014 in Washington, and has expressed a desire to remain with the club. The Nationals are said to be in pursuit of a middle infielder. Shortstop Ian Desmond is in the final year of his contract, and it's unclear if the team wants to go with Danny Espinosa at second. The 29-year-old Cabrera hit .241/.307/.387 over 553 at-bats last year.


Giants pitcher Juan Gutierrez elects free agency
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(5:33 pm ET) Giants pitcher Juan Gutierrez has elected free agency.

Gutierrez was designated for assignment by the club on November 20. The team attempted to send him to the minors, but Gutierrez rejected the assignment, becoming a free-agent. He's now free to sign with any club. Gutierrez posted a 3.96 ERA over 63 2/3 innings last season. 


Marlins will consider using Aaron Crow as a starter
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(5:12 pm ET) The Marlins will consider using newly-acquired pitcher Aaron Crow as a starter, according to the Sun Sentinel.

There's no guarantee Crow will be stretched out during spring training, but President of Baseball Operations Michael hill praised Crow's versatility. "We love the thought he could possibly be a starting option for us, but at a minimum we know he’ll be a valuable bullpen piece," Hill said. Crow started 48 games in the minors before converting to the bullpen. He's been solid with the change, posting a 3.43 ERA over 233 2/3 career innings as a reliever. 


RHP Belisario opts for free agency after assigned by White Sox
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:42 pm ET) Reliever Ronald Belisario has chosen free agency over a minor league assignment from the White Sox.

Belisario struggled in 2014 to the tune of a 5.56 ERA and 78 hits allowed in 66 1/3 innings.


White Sox sign OF Tony Campana
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:35 pm ET) The White Sox have signed speedy veteran outfielder Tony Campana to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training.

Campana spent brief periods of time with the Diamondbacks and Angels this season and managed just 14 hits in 75 at-bats.


Report: Nats, Doug Fister not making progress in extension talks
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:52 pm ET) The Nationals made pitcher Doug Fister an extension offer in the spring after acquiring him in a trade with the Tigers. Both sides weren't able to agree to terms at the time. According to James Wagner of the Washington Post, both have not made any progress in extension talks "for months"

Fister is entering a contract year after going 16-6 with a 2.41 ERA in 25 starts. He'll make $7.2 million in 2015.


 
 
 
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