Last week, Josh Shepardson, Ben Pritchett and myself debuted the 2012 dynasty league rankings of players 25 years or younger. The subsequent discussion led me to re-think some rankings, add and delete a few names, and move a certain Clayton Kershaw up a few spots. The list, both old and tidied-up:
Rk Old List New List 1 Stephen Strasburg Stephen Strasburg 2 Justin Upton Clayton Kershaw 3 Brett Lawrie Brett Lawrie 4 Clayton Kershaw Justin Upton 5 Desmond Jennings Mike Stanton 6 Felix Hernandez Desmond Jennings 7 Matt Moore Matt Moore 8 Mike Stanton Felix Hernandez 9 Starlin Castro Starlin Castro 10 Carlos Santana Carlos Santana 11 Jesus Montero Jesus Montero 12 Andrew McCutchen Andrew McCutchen 13 Eric Hosmer Eric Hosmer 14 Bryce Harper Bryce Harper 15 Mike Trout Mike Trout 16 Madison Bumgarner Madison Bumgarner 17 Pablo Sandoval Pablo Sandoval 18 Jay Bruce Paul Goldschmidt 19 Paul Goldschmidt Jay Bruce 20 Jason Heyward Jason Heyward 21 Michael Pineda Matt Weiters 22 Buster Posey Michael Pineda 23 Matt Weiters Buster Posey 24 Elvis Andrus Mat Latos 25 Dee Gordon Dee Gordon Next Five: Next Five: 26 Craig Kimbrel Elvis Andrus 27 Yovani Gallardo Julio Teheran 28 Dustin Ackley Yu Darvish 29 Mat Latos Jason Kipnis 30 Brandon Belt Yovani Gallardo Five More: Five More: 31 Cameron Maybin Logan Morrison 32 Julio Teheran Brandon Belt 33 Yu Darvish Mike Moustakas 34 Daniel Hudson Dustin Ackley 35 Jason Kipnis Tommy Hanson
I do remain steadfast in my decision to place Stephen Strasburg ahead of the reigning NL Cy Young award winner. It’s not for the risk-averse — neither is a 1-2 ranking of starting pitchers, of course — but my rationale lies in the upside the former possesses.
Sure, there is something (a lot, actually) to be said about a pitcher on a steep uphill trend, who put together a ridiculous 2.28/2.47/2.84 stat line in his Cy Young campaign, along with a sub 1.00 WHIP, an incredible 9.57 K/9, and 21 wins. It doesn’t get much better than that, but the key word is much.
I wouldn’t wager that Strasburg will ever be much better than Kershaw, but his K upside is higher, his pedigree is greater, and he may very well be the best prospect the game has ever seen. Sample size aside, the returns at the MLB level have been excellent (an 11.35 K/9 and a 1.87 FIP in 17 starts), and RotoChamp projects a jump to Kershaw-esque stats right away, with a 10.70 K/9 and a 2.37 ERA. I’ll play the upside, though my deeper research into Kershaw led me to bump him up to number two.
I’ll address some other changes I made:
Justin Upton moved below Brett Lawrie
2011 was the year I became a Justin Upton believer, but he remains a player better in real life than in fantasy. Sure, his power-speed combo with a fleeting batting average is drool-worthy, but the fact is that his MVP candidacy stems from his five-tool performance, including his superb right field and smart base running.
Lawrie is also a five-tool player as well, but his spot on the diamond is enough to warrant a higher ranking. Lawrie, in — gulp — only 171 plate appearances, launched himself into fantasy stardom. He hit nine homers in those 43 games, stole seven bases, chipped in over 25 steals and runs, and hit nearly .300, effectively pacing himself for a 34 homer, 100 run, 96 RBI, 27 steal season – all at the hot corner. To think he did that in his first go-round at the major league level is scary.
Mat Latos jumps from #29 to #24
Several commenters thought Latos was placed too low, and I agreed in retrospect. I had Michael Pineda and Yovani Gallardo above him, mostly due to the PETCO-Great American Ballpark transition. Latos, after all, does have a 3.57 ERA away from home in his short career– fairly pedestrian to be ranked so high on these lists—and isn’t so elite as the other two in the strikeout department. That said, he historically has a higher home run rate at PETCO than away from it, and if he can return his K/9 to the 9+ range, he’ll be a fantasy ace for years to come—which surely leaves him in the top 25, no?
Dee Gordon over Elvis Andrus?
Both young, soft-hitting speedsters at the shortstop position, Dee Gordon and Elvis Andrus, at this juncture, are practically a toss-up. Andrus seems to have capped out at just under 40 steals—he’s put up 33, 32, and 37 in the last three seasons—while Gordon has 70+ steal upside if he can manage to get on base a respectable amount. Sure, he doesn’t draw too many walks, but he can beat out his fair share of bunt and infield hits, and with Davey Lopes teaching him the ropes, he should be a wildly successful base stealer.
Jason Kipnis moves from #35 to #29
Kipnis essentially switched spots with Dustin Ackley, who fell from 28 to 34. Ackley is a more intriguing player in real life terms, but batting average isn’t his strong suit and he doesn’t put up superb counting stats. Kipnis has 20/20 upside as soon as next season, and could be a Chase Utley-like second baseman in terms of fantasy production, whereas Ackley might win fifteen Gold Gloves and lead the Mariners to a World Series victory. Okay, maybe I’m dreaming.
Craig Kimbrel disappears…
I’m a huge Kimbrel homer —– I’ve written about him here and here — but the fact of the matter is that closers are, indeed, incredibly volatile and untrustworthy. He’s certainly the first closer I take in dynasty formats, and his numbers do look better than Mariano Rivera’s ever have (I know, a seemingly hyperbolic statement), but the fact is that saves are easy to find in the final few rounds of any draft or on any waiver wire, and that alone makes Kimbrel worth ditching if you can snag another top 25 player in return. Sure, he might strikeout 100+ per year and might be a lock for 40 saves in five years, but if you find yourself mulling over a Craig Kimbrel for Buster Posey deal, for example, I’d pull the trigger. Frank Fransisco is always waiting in the last round…
Is Matt Moore really ranked higher than Felix Hernandez?
The short and sweet: Matt Moore will have more strikeouts, should have no problem besting Felix’s 1.22 WHIP year-in and year-out, and should challenge a sub 3.00 ERA without a problem. He also doesn’t have three straight years of 230+ innings to his name, which is either a good thing or a bad thing depending on your propensity for risk-aversion and value of past performance. It’s a good thing in my mind, for what it’s worth.