Head-to-head top 300: 1-50

To be fair to everyone reading here at The Hardball Times, I must say that these rankings and projections are strictly the opinion of myself. They are not based on any sort of scientific, sabermetric formulas. If you want a system rivaled by few, you really should check out the THT Forecasts. In my biased opinion, you won’t find a better projection engine, especially dealing with minor leaguers. My rankings are, however, a product of countless hours pouring over data ranges, my own exhausted opinion, and several other products and analysis.

I tried to restrict this rankings list to the head-to-head, “big board” variety. Jeffrey Gross did a good job at giving you positional rankings for roto leagues that could be referenced for H2H just as easily. In my compilation, I really wanted to focus on players that are young and strong who have large talent ceilings.

Positional scarcity, of course, played a role, but it was by no means a determining factor. Points-based leaguers will see some of your favorites intermingled, but I didn’t want to ignore the 5X5 gamers. If anything, these rankings are a combination of both.

Another item I chose not to address is dollar values. THT Forecasts can do an amazing job of taking your league’s settings and giving you base-level prices for all players. To even try to compete with that wouldn’t be fair to you, the reader, and it would entail a lot more work for me.

My advice in regards to auction drafting is to always gauge the room and adapt to the draft. Many times this can only be truly achieved through practice. Just don’t get caught up in the eBay effect, always be looking for value, go hard after the guys you like, and never let the room know whom you like.

Lastly, use these rankings wisely. As Andrew Lang said, “An unsophisticated forecaster uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp posts—for support rather than for illumination.”

Name	                 R	HR	RBI	SB	AVG		W	K	SV	ERA	WHIP
1. Albert Pujols	113	41	120	9	0.320						
2. Miguel Cabrera	102	35	118	2	0.314						
3. Hanley Ramirez	118	29	101	24	0.330						
4. Ryan Braun	        115	36	130	18	0.318						
5. Joey Votto	        100	40	110	9	0.308						
6. David Wright	        112	34	124	17	0.310						
7. Carlos Gonzalez	120	30	107	33	0.298						
8. Evan Longoria	108	28	115	14	0.296						
9. Josh Hamilton	109	38	127	5	0.318						
10. Alex Rodriguez	98	36	120	10	0.299						
11. Troy Tulowitzki	97	25	97	23	0.303						
12. Carl Crawford	106	16	82	40	0.305						
13. Prince Fielder	100	43	138	0	0.290						
14. Chase Utley	        110	27	97	14	0.293						
15. Roy Halladay							22	201	0	2.50	1.05
16. Robinson Cano	95	26	101	4	0.306						
17. Mark Teixeira	100	35	111	2	0.286						
18. Adrian Gonzalez	85	35	119	0	0.280						
19. Dustin Pedroia	121	19	70	24	0.308						
20. Ryan Howard	        91	39	126	3	0.270						
21. Ryan Zimmerman	84	28	100	3	0.310						
22. Joe Mauer	        95	17	91	2	0.323						
23. Matt Holliday	110	29	100	9	0.309						
24. Jason Heyward	102	29	98	19	0.301						
25. Andre Ethier	92	34	106	2	0.286						
26. Tim Lincecum							20	235	0	2.99	1.17
27. Jose Bautista	99	40	105	9	0.270						
28. Josh Johnson							15	197	0	2.68	1.19
29. Kevin Youkilis	90	27	83	8	0.304						
30. Nelson Cruz	        80	34	90	14	0.290						
31. Jon Lester							        18	236	0	3.15	1.21
32. Jose Reyes	        84	13	62	34	0.286						
33. Justin Upton	83	25	80	24	0.283						
34. Felix Hernandez							16	220	0	2.95	1.17
35. Shin-Soo Choo	80	20	89	20	0.300						
36. Jayson Werth	97	30	90	16	0.277						
37. Matt Kemp	        90	29	91	17	0.279						
38. Justin Morneau	78	25	102	0	0.300						
39. Dan Uggla	        90	32	95	3	0.278						
40. Kendry Morales	86	30	101	1	0.299						
41. Brian McCann	70	26	94	0	0.286						
42. Buster Posey	80	21	89	1	0.310						
43. Cliff Lee							        15	180	0	3.20	1.09
44. Billy Butler	80	20	90	0	0.311						
45. Zack Greinke							16	200	0	3.49	1.19
46. Adam Dunn	        82	40	100	0	0.267						
47. Tommy Hanson							17	197	0	3.05	1.14
48. Jay Bruce	        80	31	85	6	0.280						
49. Andrew McCutchen	90	15	40	31	0.288						
50. Jacoby Ellsbury	105	8	53	59	0.293						

For my projections and the actual excel file, click this link below.


Points of interest (discord):

Miguel Cabrera: I’m not ready to cast judgment on Miggy yet. He’s dealt with adversity before and never let it really affect his on-field performance. Substance abuse can be a serious and lingering problem, and even Cabrera must recognize that there are more important things than baseball. All reports are indicating he has taken the steps needed to adequately recover.

I could see how analysts and your fellow draftees would argue that he should slide into the second round. I could see that my leaving him ranked as the No. 2 player in fantasy will be seen as wreckless with all this new information. Maybe it’s my faith in second chances or my belief that he’s the second-best hitter in the game (possibly the best), but I can’t seem to shake him from the top two, although a shaky spring and another incident would do much to destroy my confidence in him. He is a risk now and there’s no getting around that.

Ryan Braun: My Braun love runs deep. I think he’s done nothing but prove himself his entire career. 2011 could really be his coming out party where he takes his seat alongside Pujols as a superstar of MLB. His “off” season last year was yet again stellar. Barring injury, he is my preseason NL MVP. Write that down.

Robinson Cano: I figure this will be my most controversial ranking of the Top 50. Cano is an amazing player, and his last two years have been awesome. He hit right around .320 with 25-plus homers each of those seasons. He scores runs and drives them in, and he does all this from the middle infield. What’s not to love?

My opinion is his second half is more of a real assessment of his skill set. Don’t get me wrong, that first half was epic, but his “fade” in the later months is much more of what I see for Cano. If that is truly the case, he should put up numbers near the projection and must be considered an early- to mid-second rounder, not the first rounder he’ll most likely be labeled.

Jon Lester: Lester is as mature a 27-year-old pitcher as there is in baseball. He has made it through some incredible trials and has become the most dominant lefty that will toe the mound in 2011. He’s close to putting it all together.

A slight decrease in his WHIP could set off a chain of events that will have us calling him the Cy Young winner by season’s end. The Red Sox’s success could give Lester a great opportunity at 20 wins, as well.

Felix Hernandez: Felix, on the other hand, graced his fantasy owners with a historical second-half run that culminated in the 2010 AL Cy Young award. I don’t dislike King Felix. He is deserving of the success afforded him.

I just can’t get over how bad the Mariners could be in 2011, and I don’t care who you are—that will negatively affect a pitcher eventually. Hernandez has pitched a lion’s share of innings for a 24 year old. He’ll actually profile better as a points-based pitcher than a normal H2H guy. I believe he’ll be good in 2011, but not as good as Lester, Josh Johnson, Tim Lincecum or Roy Halladay.

Jayson Werth over Matt Kemp: Read my Kemp distrust in the All-Aversion All Stars: Part II article. I believe that having him ranked as high as I do (37th) despite my hatred is directly related to his overall talent level. Even though I don’t think he’ll do well, I understand that the skills he possesses could manifest themselves once more. The choice will be his to make.

I like Werth because he’s safe. Experts who try to downplay his 2010 season haven’t done their due diligence to the statistics. If he can hit around .280 with 30 HR and 15-plus SB, he would be an absolute steal at the 36th pick. Don’t be afraid to stand alone. Live, die, and draft by that mantra.

Tommy Hanson: In his second full season, it is time for Hanson to step up and join the elite fantasy starters. He pitched ridiculously well in the second half of 2010 with a line of 75 strikeouts in 106 innings, coupled with a 2.55 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP. I don’t think his strikeouts-per-nine innings (K/9) ratio is something you should get hung up on. If anything, his success in the K/9 department on the minor league level should point to a chance at bettering his numbers in 2011. With some added dominance, Hanson could be scary good.

Andrew McCutchen: McCutchen is a poor man’s Carl Crawford, and he is nowhere near his professional peak. So to value him this low isn’t really fair to how good he can and will be in 2011. The reason he has fallen on my big board is due in large part to the depth at the outfield position.

Jacoby Ellsbury: Ellsbury is back and leading off atop the best offensive lineup in the game, he has speed blessed by God, and he works hard at his craft and understands his role. If he is healthy, he shouldn’t be too far off his 2009 stat levels. I would adjust his batting average down a bit, and he might need some time to rev his engine. The steals will come in bunches, and he could wiggle into the Top 15 overall players by season’s end.

Overall lack of starting pitchers: I can’t draft pitching before the third round. Maybe it’s against my religion or something. Whether that’s a weakness or not, I haven’t yet decided. So my rankings throughout the 300 will be hitter skewed. Forgive me for letting my personal draft strategies influence my rankings.

As always I welcome the comments below, and 51-100 will be up next Monday.

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  1. Ben Pritchett said...

    Troy needs to show me some consistency to get in my H2H Top 10. He’s also an injury risk. I could humor you and call Arod 10 and Tulow 10a if it will keep me from having to repost my article.

  2. The Baltimoron said...

    Dudes who miss time due to getting hit in the wrist with a fastball are not an “injury risk,” though I will grant you he isn’t the ironman that Reyes or Rollins is. 

    And consistency?  Is there any doubt that Tulo (provided his fragile body is not plunked again) is good for at least 100-30-100-15-.300 at short?  I guess the unparalleled, consistent track record of CarGo, Wright, and Hamilton were too much to ignore. 

    If Tulowitzki isn’t in your top-10 this season, you have to review your ranking criteria and start over.

  3. Derek Ambrosino said...

    If Tulowitzki isn’t in your top-10 this season, you have to review your ranking criteria and start over.

    It’s not everyday that a THT reader so succintly articulates the inverse of the scientific method. Seriously though, you said he should be good for 100/30/100/15/.300 and Ben has him pegged at 97/25/97/23/.303, so where’s the source of the angst? That’s like the same projection.

    Now, I love Tulo but I do have to take issue with your contention that there’s no doubt he’s in for the season you predict, mainly because he’s never had such a season before. He was pretty close in 2007 and certainly had the pace to do it last year, but he was also the beneficiary of one of the hottest months any hitter has ever had. Frankly, if Vegas was giving even odds on whether Tulo would hit your baseline projection, I think just about every sharp in town would bet the under, and that’s no knock on Tulo. I believe that slash line was only achieved by CarGo and Votto last season.

    Meanwhile, David Wright, whose consistency you question, is 3 homers short of averaging that baseline as his career per 162. Minus 2009, not many have been as consistly elite and balanced as Wright. Meanwhile, Tulo has missed more games in the past 3 seasons than Wright has in his entire career.

    Now, I’m not saying you shold draft Wright over Tulo. And, it’s fair to say that Tulo’s star may still be on the rise. But, to act as if 11th is some absurd ranking, is kind of rash.

  4. Ben Pritchett said...

    @Dan- Not an excuse, but I wrote the rankings before the Utley tendonitis news. Although the ranking of Utley would be the only item I would change.

    I know you love the Lester, and you are right to do so.

    I have an affinity for Josh Hamilton. I think the only reason you would rank Josh as low as I did is because of the injuries. His bat is the best in baseball now, and I don’t think there’s many who would debate that. I’m not going to guess at how much playing time he will or won’t have. I do know that Josh will rake if he’s healthy.

    @Baltimoron- I think Derek covered all the points. The only minor difference is that I would tell you to definitely take David Wright over Tulow (although my buddy seems to think I have inflated my David Wright projections).

  5. Jeffrey Gross said...

    Not a bad list. Consistency comes as a premium, so it’s not a big shock to see a lot of differences between a roto list of rankings

  6. Will Hatheway said...

    Ben -

    I’m sure you know this caveat, but despite my being an avowed “value guy” one thing practice has taught me is that, especially in shallower drafts, you can get in trouble by not overpaying if need be to get a couple studs and maximize at least a few slots, since replacement value is high enough that a team full of mid-tier players—however better than what you got them for—is almost impossible to win with.

    Also, you already know who I agree with, but I’m also in line with what underlies your Lester and Felix assessments: taking “wins are unpredictable so don’t rank based on projections of them” as dogma ignores reasonably predictable cases such as these.

    Finally, McCuthchen is both very good but also not a particularly great value in the drafts I’ve done so far.

    Other observations: I’d close the [granted not-so-far] gap between Longo and Crawford, at least in the bizzaro world of fantasy where steals count for so much, and wouldn’t be surprised if he had more runs. But whatever, it could easily be the case that he isn’t worth as much, so a kind of unimportant comment.

    However, I do have a significant difference of opinion insofar as I think Holliday is much more likely to put up numbers close-ish to Braun than not. Not that they are at all equal, but more so methinks…

    Finally, I’m scared to use an early pick on Morneau, even if it might more-than-pay off.

    Oh, and had no idea Choo hits far fewer dingers than Cruz. I’ll have to look into that…

    As ever, strong stuff, and I think a number of the against-the-grain picks would still be applicable to roto.


  7. Will Hatheway said...

    Most convincing argument yet … because the top-10 wasn’t cut and pasted from others’ lists, it must be in error. I LOVE drafting against group thinkers.

  8. The Baltimoron said...

    Yeah, what was I thinking, citing the fact that EVERY OTHER RANKING AND DRAFT IN EXISTENCE has Tulo as a top 10 player?  Of course, that’s only because we’re all sheep, and has nothing to do with merit.  Have fun drafting Jeter in the first round to stick it to the rest of the world who lack your ability to think outside the box.

    Just curious—if Tulo was ranked 35th on this list, what argument would you accept that that was in error?

  9. Paul Singman said...

    Given that Ben and Balti have very similar expectations for Tulo, the difference is apparently how much to bump up Tulo’s value due to positional scarcity since SS is indeed scarce.

    Ben doesn’t seem to be giving MIs much of a value boost in these rankings, and just to cherry-pick a few pairs I found interesting:

    -Hanley’s projected line is arguably better than Miggy’s yet he has Hanley below him

    -Uggla is projected for an equally valuable line to Morneau though they are ranked next to each other even though Uggla will give you those numbers at 2B

    I have no standard, mathematical way of adjusting for positional scarcity (I know Zach Sanders at FG tried his hand at it yesterday) but I’m more in Baltimoron’s boat that it should be taken more into account here, which would push Tulo into the top 10. Not that this means there is something wrong with Ben’s list or it needs to be fixed.

    Jeff – I find it interesting you say in H2H “consistency comes at a premium” since I’ve always felt the opposite. In roto leagues it is more important to accrue high totals over the full course of a season, and in H2H I’ve traditionally taken more risky players since it doesn’t matter if they are hurt for most of the summer (as long as you make the playoffs) since as long as your team is healthy come August/September you’ll be in good shape for the playoffs.

    Lastly, love the Lang quote.

  10. Dan said...

    I think choosing “risky” players in roto v. h2h is an interesting argument. I believe it has a lot to do with how deep your league is. If you’re in a 12 team league, there’s going to be players that are available that can get you value over replacement player in the short term (one to two months). In h2h, all that matters is getting to the playoffs and having your team at full strength then. A fun exercise would be to look at the amount of quality players per position are available on a given waiver wire in 10, 12, 14, 16, 20 team leagues etc.

  11. Dan said...

    Good stuff. As you know, I love Lester as well. He was terrific last year and is only going to get better. Some minor points of contention: I like Cano better than Chase, especially with the reports of Utley suffering from patella tendinitis already. Also don’t like Hamilton in the top 10, solely because of the injury risk. Would put Tulo in his spot (Tulo’s injuries have been fluky, while Hamilton’s have been strains/ligament type deals). Good work.

  12. Ben Pritchett said...


    Crawford is a funny guy to rank for me. I am so infatuated in the BoSox that I had to discount someone as I drove the values of Pedroia, AGon, Youky, and Ellsbury’s up. The green light has to slow down for Crawford. I think he could turn into more of a 20/30 guy in 2011 and those 40+ steal seasons may be gone for the moment. If that’s Longo worthy, then you may be right.

    I agree that wins are “unpredictable” but there are some guys who have a better chance at winning because of several factors like offensive support, pitching late into games, good bullpens, or great bullpens. Those elements you can predict with some certainty.

    Agreed on Morneau.

    Agreed on McCutchen.

    It’s not that there’s a large gap of actual home run production from Choo to Cruz. Those projections are misleading in a sense. Cruz has trouble making 500+ plate appearances whereas, Choo has been a lock for 640+.

    So Cruz had 22 HR in 445 PA

    Choo had 22 HR in 646 PA

    I just like to imagine an entire season of Nelson Cruz. As you know he wen 33 HR/ 20 SB in just 515 PA in 2009 and 44 HRs between minors and majors in 2008. That’s not including great performances in the DWL and WBC in between

    Cruz had 5 extra inning HRs in 2010 leading MLB. He’s almost won a HR Derby (09). More HRs per AB than Josh Hamilton. Basically, I am a massive “healthy” Nelson Cruz fan.

  13. Ben Pritchett said...

    “good bullpens and great bullpens”  although clever was supposed to read “good bullpens and great DEFENSE”. Sorry I don’t have an editor to fix my mistakes in the comment section.

  14. Will Hatheway said...

    My problem about the initial Tulo comment is in the way in which its tone suggests close-mindedness, not that ranking him outside the top ten is most probably the best answer. Specifically, the assumption that positional scarcity trumps probable production is not, in my opinion, a given in the earliest rounds. There is a very valid argument to be made that the probability that a first-rounder nears his projection is more important than either upside or scarcity. I want to be as sure as possible that I maximize those first couple of roster spots production-wise, so therefore I would shy away from a player whose three-year regressed PAs rank below over ONE HUNDERED others, not to mention the streakiness displayed in the past year. I think that one needs to be pretty assured of a pretty good reward for early picks, moreso than one needs to fill a scarce position or gamble on great reward at the cost of taking on more risk with those first picks.

    In effect, there is SIGNIFICANT doubt that Tulo goes 100-30-100-15-.300. Based on a 3-2-1 PA-regression and his past production, I don’t see how one could assume any of those first four numbers, let alone “at least” that much. If anything, I think Pritchett’s projections are far too high in SB, as well as overreaching in runs. I happen to think a good 50/50 is 90-25-95-10-.300. I’m not saying I’m sure to be right about that, and certainly believe he can be much better, but it is a fair assessment given his actual past production and, as such, gives me every reason to avoid him in favor of any number of bats more likely to produce a good deal more.

  15. Will Hatheway said...

    Oh, and that hardly means I’d then overreach on a Jeter or the like. Needing such an assumption to support one’s argument is facile, at best. If you must know, I’d gladly punt SS in favor of a sick CI-group backed by a strong supporting cast at the other positions…

  16. Ben Pritchett said...

    Well said Will. All of my ‘projections’ are on the high side with the exception of a few (coming in the next rankings list). Since projections are pretty much meaningless, I like to have more fun with them. Like I said, there are much more scientific projections out there. I like THT Forecasts for a broad, career look. I like Baseball Forecaster by Ron Shandler to help keep my grounded. I like Bill James’ stuff for his wishful projections. I model more closely to his. I am indifferent towards PECOTA and Marcel. I don’t know much about Marcel, and the Baseball Prospectus guys do a really good job with their player evaluation write ups.

  17. Ben Pritchett said...

    To all who are arguing positional scarcity, your points are valid, and I can agree. My ranking of Tulow is more of an adjustment on my disbelief that he will replicate his 2010 stats into 2011. I think he’ll have a much harder time than the ten ahead of him. Arod is really the only guy on the list that I would even consider dropping below Tulow.

    Tulow had 12 home runs going into September. Yes he had an incredible month, and he was awesome in 2009. The volatility bothers me in H2H. Give me Votto who was a steady producer all year.

  18. Ben Pritchett said...


    Adressing MIs separately

    - I rank Miguel Cabrera ahead of Hanley because his bat moreso than my projections merit such ranking

    - I was on the low side with my projection of Morneau because of the Concussion mess. I was on the high side with Uggla because I like the situation he is in at Atlanta. Given a choice in a draft I might take Uggla over Morneau due to the Pos Scar. argument. But then again Morneau could be an MVP candidate. Could Uggla?

    Is nobody going to comment on the #24 ranking of Jason Heyward?

  19. The Baltimoron said...

    Anyone who would completely concede a position is foolish.

    Just so I’m clear, what are you questioning in Tulo’s uncertainty in reaching his projections?  His health?  His talent? 

    Three fake trades, who gets the better end of it:

    Tulo and Nelson Cruz or Justin Upton for Reyes and Hamilton

    Tulo and Youkilis for A-Rod and Reyes

    Tulo and a waiver wire OF for Hamilton and a waiver wire SS

  20. Will Hatheway said...

    Was done w/ Tulo posts, but since you asked for a comp:

    [as per ESPN draft result ADPs and Marcel projections]:

    Votto and Tulo = 9th ADP, Tejada and Ike Davis = 211th ADP

    Votto + Tejada vs. Tulo + Davis = + 11 runs, +2 HR, +15 RBI, = SB, and + .016 avg.

    you ALWAYS “punt” some position intentionally or not, insofar as a roster always has someone drafted late/ for a dollar; it’s not being thoughtful about what and why you do that is foolish.

  21. Dan said...

    Why is Butler so high @44?  I did not see an explanation.  1st base is pretty deep and if your projections hold, Dunn’s 40 bombs and .267 avg should definitely be ahead of 20/.311 Butler.

    Also Kinsler has more than a good chance to beat Butler’s projection by a decent margin from the 2nd base spot and he doesn’t even get a mention.

  22. The Baltimoron said...

    Only if you can get your mom outta my bedroom, Jimmy.  Bazinga!  Sorry, you really did set yourself up for that one.

    But seriously, come get your mom.

  23. Ben Pritchett said...

    Butler is ranked so high for a points based system H2H system. I tried to mix them in. As Butler compares to Dunn, 44 to 46 really isn’t that big of a difference. Dunn could easily outperform Butler. That’s a given.

    I like Butler, and I think 2009 is more what we can expect from him. Last year in a Points Based League, he ranked around 40 overall. Dunn was closer to the 100 mark.

    Ian Kinsler could be back in 2010. He leads off my 51-100 rankings. You may be right. I may be ranking him too low, but 2010 wasn’t all that good.

    Honestly though, Kinsler may actually be a guy I will need to rerank. Especially if he continues his great spring.

  24. Ben Pritchett said...

    If he’s hitting third then he should get at least 20 more RBIs. I didn’t have depth chart info like that when I forecasted, and that’s all the more reason to like what he offers the fantasy gamer.

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