Forgot Log-in or  Password? |  Help  Not a member, Register Now!
      
Fantasy Football Today
Gameday Inactives
Downloadable Draft Kit
Mock Drafts
Get Your Draft Board
Player News
Stats
Players
Depth Charts
Roster Trends
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Red Zone Stats
Teams
Schedules
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Playoff Challenge
Commissioner
Prize Leagues
Free
Office Pool Manager
Game Pick'em
Player Challenge
Fantasy Baseball Today
2014 Draft Prep Guide
Downloadable Draft Kit
Mock Drafts
Player News
Stats
Players
Depth Charts
Roster Trends
Columns
Injury Report
Rankings
Projections
Teams
Schedules
Probable Pitchers
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injuries
Projections
Rankings
Teams
Schedules
Message Boards
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Teams
Schedules
Mock Drafts
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
Downloadable Draft Kit
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Teams
Schedules
Mock Drafts
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
No Fantasy Teams Found
 
 
 

Reality Check: Ranking for 2014

Senior Fantasy Writer
  •  

This time of year, Fantasy Baseball owners fall into two categories: Those who set their lineups this past Monday and those who didn't.

Those who didn't, had nothing left to play for. Those who did are either so deep in talent that they're already on cruise control or so close to elimination that they're hanging on every word of the Hit Parade and Pitching Forecaster.

Check out our Fantasy Baseball podcast!
Stay a step ahead of your competition in 2014 by checking out our popular Fantasy Baseball Today podcasts. Adam Aizer, Scott White and Al Melchior will entertain you and help you dominate all season.
Latest episode | Subscribe!

In short, big-picture concerns have gone out the window because the big picture is all of 3 1/2 weeks.

Which makes now the perfect time to peer into next year.

Here, I give you the first in a series of rankings looking forward to 2014. In the weeks ahead, I'll go position by position, examining how first basemen compare against each other, second basemen compare against each other and so on, but to start out, I've outlined what I consider to be the ideal first two rounds of a 12-team mixed-league draft.

One caveat: Attempting to present the inexact as exact is a difficult, painful exercise wherein nobody comes away happy. I'm not happy. Just in the process of writing this intro, I've stopped to adjust the rankings four separate times. My goal here isn't just to put players in the order they should go off the board, but to do it in a way that has all 12 teams beginning on as close to equal footing as possible. For the most part, I think I've done that.

Except with the 10th pick. If I picked there, I'd feel like I either won the lottery or put myself at risk of going without an elite hitter, depending on how I felt about a certain controversial someone.

Projected first round for 2014:
1. Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Tigers
2. Mike Trout, OF, Angels
3. Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees
4. Edwin Encarnacion, 1B, Blue Jays
5. Joey Votto, 1B, Reds
6. Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pirates
7. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Diamondbacks
8. Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Rockies
9. Chris Davis, 1B, Orioles
10. Clayton Kershaw, SP, Dodgers
11. Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Red Sox
12. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies

OK, so it doesn't start out difficult or painful. Anyone who doesn't select Cabrera first or Trout second should lose the right to pick first or second ever again. With 4.72 Head-to-Head points per game, Cabrera is in a different stratosphere from Trout, and with 4.27 Head-to-Head points per game, Trout is in a different stratosphere from everyone else. The next-best hitters in these first two rounds are averaging 3.93, 3.86, 3.83, 3.83, 3.82, 3.67, etc. -- close to each other, yes, but not to those first two. That's what "different stratosphere" means.

Beyond Cabrera and Trout, differences of opinion enter the equation, making it less an equation than a postulate ... or something. The next two players I think are pretty clear, but what isn't clear is the order. I'm tempted to take Encarnacion third purely for the productivity. This season, he's the fourth highest-scoring hitter in Head-to-Head leagues. Last season, he was the fourth highest-scoring hitter in Head-to-Head leagues. A combination of power and plate discipline will do that. So what about the third highest-scoring hitter this year? He's not under consideration just yet.

Cano, however, is. With his modest regression in 2013, he may not give your team quite the upside that Encarnacion would, but by offering assured production at a position where little is assured, he gives you a better chance of having a team you'll like from top to bottom. Second base may seem deeper than usual heading into 2014, but a few underachievers could thin it out quickly. Just look at third base this year.

You could make an argument for any of the next six at No. 5. I personally wouldn't go the starting pitcher route because I feel like that position is deep enough that you could get a true ace (or maybe two) even if you don't bother with it until Round 4, but Kershaw has become such a standout that I wouldn't fault anyone for prioritizing him midway through the first round. Just don't delude yourself into thinking you'll get a first round-type hitter in the second round. Doesn't work that way this year. Peek ahead if you don't believe me.

Format makes a difference with this group. I've geared these rankings more for Head-to-Head leagues, but in Rotisserie, I might prioritize McCutchen and Gonzalez over Votto, preferring steals to walks. Or maybe I'd leave Gonzalez right where he is. Above all, I want something safe in the first round, and considering Gonzalez hasn't played more than 135 games in any of the last three seasons, the risk outweighs the reward with Votto and Goldschmidt on the board.

But not Davis, the third highest-scoring hitter so far this year? He's risky in his own right. I suppose you could argue he's not any less proven than Goldschmidt, who's also a first-rounder for the first time in his career, but while Goldschmidt's steady progression since arriving in 2011 makes his 2013 breakout the logical next step, Davis' sudden explosion has a bit of a Chase Headley flavor to it.

Maybe that's not fair. I do trust Davis for big power numbers -- he hit 33 home runs last year, after all -- but considering he's batting .261 since the end of May, I don't trust everything else that has made him who he is this year. A .265 batting average and, say, 45 homers are still enough to make him a first-rounder in Fantasy, but not a best-of-the-best-type option, particularly in leagues that penalize strikeouts.

Ellsbury might seem like an odd choice for the first round considering he still hasn't regained the power stroke that generated 32 homers in 2011, but the numbers say he doesn't need to. Between the batting average and stolen bases, what he's done this year is completely sustainable, and it's generated 3.67 Head-to-Head points per game. Apart from Hanley Ramirez, who has obvious injury concerns, no hitter in the second round is above 3.54.

Projected second round for 2014:
13. Prince Fielder, 1B, Tigers
14. Hanley Ramirez, SS, Dodgers
15. Ryan Braun, OF, Brewers
16. Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Red Sox
17. David Wright, 3B, Mets
18. Yu Darvish, SP, Rangers
19. Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals
20. Jason Kipnis, 2B, Indians
21. Adam Jones, OF, Orioles
22. Adrian Beltre, 3B, Rangers
23. Jose Bautista, OF, Blue Jays
24. Jose Reyes, SS, Blue Jays

The top three hitters here are the last three who I believe can deliver first-round numbers, at least in a most-likely scenario. Fielder has fallen a little short this year, but he's still in the prime of his career and has done it so many times in the past that I consider him as safe as safe gets. Ramirez has performed like the player who used to be the first overall pick in Fantasy three or four years ago, but of course, he's done it in between two lengthy DL stints, putting him in the same what-if category as Tulowitzki. Shortstop is unquestionably the weakest position in Fantasy, so Tulowitzki and Ramirez should be among the first of the riskier options off the board. You could make the argument for either, but I trust Tulowitzki more.

The real eye-opener here, though, is Braun, who will have completed his long overdue suspension for now admitted PED use by the start of next season. Where I have him is probably the highest he'll go. Some owners will avoid him strictly on principle. Others will wonder if he'll be even half the player he was now that he's off "the juice." I, for one, don't believe PEDs can make something out of nothing. Six years of first-round production -- and absolutely nothing less -- are enough to make Braun well worth the gamble with a round already in the books. Pairing him -- a top-five hitter most years -- with the best pitcher in Fantasy is an especially appealing thought. Even if Braun doesn't quite recapture his prior form, I can't imagine him being less than a starting-caliber outfielder.

With the boom-or-bust types off the board, you can take your pick with the next group. Pedroia is an injury risk but, when healthy, isn't far off from Cano in terms of overall production. Wright doesn't have a tier to himself at third base, but he's significantly younger than Beltre and a good bit more reliable than Evan Longoria. Plus, he's the only base-stealer of the three. For some, Darvish isn't the clear second choice at starting pitcher, making him seem like a reach here, but his strikeout totals are off the charts. With room to improve at age 27, he has a realistic chance of becoming the majors' first 300-strikeout guy since Randy Johnson in 2002. If you played Fantasy back then, you know how big of a deal that would be.

Jones stands out as a beacon of stability in a sea of uncertainty. With miserable plate discipline, he's never going to be more than a second-round type, but with back-to-back seasons of that sort of production to begin his prime, he's a safe bet to continue it. Taking Harper ahead of him is a gutsy move, but worth it to me because of his limitless potential. If a worst-case scenario for him is a banged-up Jay Bruce, like this year, I'll manage.

Beltre, Reyes and Bautista are old hat in Fantasy and could potentially drop behind younger players like Evan Longoria, Jean Segura and Giancarlo Stanton on Draft Day, but I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Beltre has put up first-round numbers the last two years, so even though he's at that stage where any year could be his downfall, he's too much of a value to pass up at this point. Despite having only a dozen steals so far -- an injustice that will surely correct itself next year -- Reyes has been as productive as Segura on a per-game basis, so no worries there. Bautista is no help in batting average and no certainty to play a full season, but his walks still set him apart from Stanton. Before injuring his hip, he had performed about like McCutchen in terms of Head-to-Head points per game.

Of course, in some leagues, more than two starting pitchers will go in the first two rounds, bumping players like Beltre, Reyes and Bautista to Round 3, but the type of pitchers you could get here wouldn't be so different from what you could get in Rounds 4 and 5. Can't say the same for the hitters.

Notable omissions:

Max Scherzer, SP, Tigers: My decision to leave the AL Cy Young favorite out of the first two rounds isn't as much a slight as a celebration of the depth at starting pitcher. Unless you think Scherzer can produce another historic win-loss record, he's not any more studly than, say, Chris Sale, who has produced a comparable ERA, WHIP and strikeout rate.

Albert Pujols, 1B, Angels: If Pujols can produce like a third-rounder while playing with a noticeable limp, I'm not so sure an offseason of rest won't make him a first-round type again. Still, enough safer options have emerged -- some at weaker positions -- that you'd be exposing your team to needless risk by taking him before Round 3.

Matt Carpenter, 2B/3B, Cardinals: If you could guarantee me Carpenter will be every bit as good in 2014 as he was in 2013, I'd say he's a second-rounder for sure. But as the president of the Matt Carpenter fan club (self-proclaimed this spring), I reluctantly admit that, going forward, a .290 batting average is more likely than .310 and 100 runs are more likely than 120. He's more Martin Prado than Dustin Pedroia.

Yasiel Puig, OF, Dodgers: My hesitance to rank Puig among the best of the best is as much out of respect for the second-year slide suffered by Jason Heyward, Eric Hosmer, Brett Lawrie and countless other take-the-league-by-storm-type rookies as out of recognition that his .351 batting average, unsustainable by anyone's standards, has generated only 3.33 Head-to-Head points per game. Lowly Shane Victorino is averaging 3.31, and I don't see him in the discussion for a second-round pick.

Buster Posey, C/1B, Giants: Posey is still the best catcher in Fantasy in my mind, but apart from his late-season push for NL MVP last year, he doesn't stand out enough from Carlos Santana, Joe Mauer, Yadier Molina or even Jonathan Lucroy to justify drafting as the foundation of your team, especially with catchers being so susceptible to injuries.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott White at @CBSScottWhite . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

  •  
 
 
CBSSports Facebook Google Plus
COMMENTS
Conversation powered by Livefyre
 
 
Player News
David Hale takes loss Wednesday vs. Dodgers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:47 am ET) Braves pitcher David Hale was stuck with a loss Wednesday, giving up one earned run on three hits in one-plus innings in his team's 3-2 defeat against the Dodgers.

Hale (3-3) gave up a two-out single in the ninth inning but was able to escape the frame unscatched. He then surrendered a leadoff single in the 10th and watched the runner move into scoring position on a wild pitch. The next batter delivered a walkoff single to end the game. Hale owns a 2.76 ERA and 31:26 K:BB ratio in 65 1/3 innings.


J.P. Howell picks up win Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:45 am ET) Dodgers pitcher J.P. Howell walked two batters and struck out one while tossing a scoreless inning and earning a win in his team's 3-2, 10-inning victory over the Braves.

Howell (3-3) had issued just one walk in July coming into Wednesday, though it came one day earlier. He was able to work around his free passes to deliver a scoreless 10th inning before his team picked up a walkoff win in the bottom half of the inning. Howell owns a 1.22 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 36:18 K:BB ratio in 37 1/3 innings.


Alex Wood strikes out eight vs. Dodgers Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:41 am ET) Braves pitcher Alex Wood didn't factor into Wednesday's decision after giving up one earned run on six hits and two walks in seven innings and striking out eight in his team's 3-2 loss to the Dodgers.

Wood surrendered a solo home run in the second to tie the game 1-1, and it turned into a pitchers' duel after that. It was an excellent rebound effort after giving up 12 hits and five runs in his last outing. Wood owns a 3.30 ERA and 102:26 K:BB ratio in 103 2.3 innings. He's scheduled to face the Mariners Tuesday.


Zack Greinke strikes out 13 in no-decision vs. Braves
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:41 am ET) Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke didn't factor into the decision Wednesday, giving up one earned run on five hits and one walk and striking out a season-high 13 batters in his team's 3-2 win over the Braves.

Greinke tossed seven scoreless innings while striking out 10 in his last start, and he kept on rolling Wednesday, with his only damage coming on an infield single in the second inning. He owns a 2.65 ERA and 153:29 K:BB ratio in 139 1/3 innings. Greinke is slated to face the Angels Monday.


Kenley Jansen blows save Wednesday vs. Braves
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:41 am ET) Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen blew a save opportunity Wednesday, giving up one earned run on one hit in one inning of action in his team's 3-2 win over the Braves.

Jansen hadn't allowed an earned run in 13 appearances going into Wednesday's game, but he served up a game-tying home run to Justin Upton to lead off the inning. He was able to retire the next three batters, though he didn't strike out any of them. Jansen owns a 3.27 ERA and 68:13 K:BB ratio in 44 innings.


Justin Upton slugs 19th home run Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:40 am ET) Braves outfielder Justin Upton had a big game Wednesday, going 3 for 4 with a double and a solo home run in his team's 3-2 loss to the Dodgers.

After the Dodgers took a 2-1 lead in the top of the ninth, Upton came through with a no-doubt, leadoff home run in the bottom of the inning to tie the game. While it was just his third home run in July, Upton has hit .287/.354/.511 with 19 home runs, 62 RBI and seven stolen bases in 376 at-bats.


Matt Kemp homers, knocks walkoff single Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:40 am ET) One day after smacking two home runs, Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp went 3 for 4 with a walk, a home run and two RBI in his team's 3-2, 10-inning win over the Braves Wednesday.

Kemp smacked a solo home run in the second inning and scored a run in the eighth before coming up big in the 10th, collecting his third hit of the game and sending his team home with a win. He has delivered three straight multihit performances and is 17 for 35 with six walks in his last nine games. His hot stretch has bolstered his line, and he's hitting .288/.353/.465 with 11 home runs, 46 RBI and five stolen bases in 343 at-bats.


Will Venable knocks fourth home run Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:27 am ET) Padres outfielder Will Venable went 2 for 4 with a home run and four RBI in his team's 12-1 win over the Cardinals Wednesday.

Venable was just 1 for 14 in his last five games heading into Wednesday. He put his team up 4-0 with an RBI single in the fourth inning and capped off an eight-run seventh inning with a three-run home run. Venable has hit .212/.264/.306 with four home runs, 21 RBI and six stolen bases in 288 at-bats.


Jedd Gyorko homers, drives in four in big night Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:24 am ET) Padres second baseman Jedd Gyorko delivered a big performance Wednesday, going 3 for 5 with a double, a home run and four RBI in his team's 12-1 win over the Cardinals.

Gyorko slapped a solo home run in the fourth inning, but his big hit came during an eight-run seventh, when Gyorko smacked a double with the bases loaded to drive in three. He's 6 for 11 in three games since returning from a lengthy absence caused by plantar fasciitis. Gyorko has hit .181/.232/.302 with six home runs and 29 RBI in 215 at-bats.


Jesse Hahn tosses seven one-run innings in win Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:24 am ET) Padres pitcher Jesse Hahn earned a win Wednesday, giving up just one earned run on four hits and two walks in seven innings and striking out three in his team's 12-1 victory over the Cardinals.

Hahn (7-2) has given up a single run in each of his last three outings, with Wednesday's damage coming on a fielder's choice in the seventh inning. He hasn't surrendered a home run since serving up two in his debut eight starts ago. Hahn owns a 2.01 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 54:21 K:BB ratio in 53 2/3 innings. He's scheduled to face the Twins Tuesday.


 
 
 
Rankings