Positional rankings redux

About three months ago, I undertook the task of ranking players by position for the 2011 season. Now that many moves have been made by many teams in the offseason since I began ranking the players, I’ll update the lists and give some additional insight.

Remember, rankings are about argument, logic and belief. Projections are volatile and perceived value is subjective. Do not be a rankings slave. Rankings are less valuable for the index than they are for the reasons behind the index. As I always try to point out, if you disagree and have a good reason, then you should adjust your own rankings accordingly. My word is not gospel and I do not claim it to be. .

Here’s my methodology behind the rankings:

Players are ranked based on their beginning of season player eligibility and other eligibility a player is expected to gain at the beginning of the season’; e.g., Gordon Beckham‘s second base eligibility last season. Eligibility is determined under Yahoo’s default standards. The rules of eligibility for Yahoo fantasy leagues are as follows:

The following conditions apply to a player’s position eligibility:
1. A player’s position eligibility will not be adjusted prior to the beginning of the season. (If a player in spring training is playing a “new” position, that position will not appear until a player has met the criteria for a change.)
2. Players will not lose eligibility at a previously established position at any time. (For example, if a catcher-eligible player begins to play first base exclusively, he will remain eligible at catcher for the entire season.)
3. It is not possible to customize this setting within Custom Leagues. All leagues are subject to the same constraints.

Gaining eligibility at a new position:
If a position player makes five (5) starts or 10 total appearances at a new position during this season, he will become eligible to play that position in Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Baseball. Pitchers need to make three starts to become eligible as a starter and five relief appearances to qualify as a reliever.

ESPN imposes a more rigorous default position eligibility standard; e.g., 20 games played at the position last season, 10 games played in the present season), so you may have to do additional research if you play ESPN fantasy to verify that players listed in these articles are in fact “position eligible” in your league.

The rankings below are based on 5×5 standard Roto leagues with one catcher, five outfielders, and one middle and corner infield position. These rankings are not based on real-life value, but fantasy value. Hence, guys like Juan Pierre will have value. The projections listed below are courtesy of Brian Cartwright’s Oliver projection system. Brian updated the Oliver projection system, some significantly, after I had begun ranking players, but these are the original Oliver forecasts. For the most up-to-date Oliver projections, subscribe to THT Forecasts by clicking here

My rankings, however, are not exclusively based on Oliver’s projections. I have also used other sources, such as my xBABIP-adjusted batting lines spreadsheet, Bill James and ZiPS projections (to the extent available), my own xWHIP and xERA calculations (sorry, xERA is not in calculator form, but you can learn the methodology by clicking here or here), to determine my own perception of a player’s total expected production.

The rankings here are not exclusively based on total production by category, but determined in light of balance in production by category (the logic of which is explained in my outfielder rankings), a player’s expected playing time and health (for example, I expect 100 or so IP from Jake Peavy, 220 innings from Zack Greinke, and considerably less from Rich Harden; perceived health risks have been starred), and the relative scarcity and volatility of production by category.

Top 20 fantasy catchers for 2011

Rank      Name              Team            Oliver Slash 2011
1         Joe Mauer*        Twins           .331/.411/.493
2         Brian McCann      Braves          .279/.364/.481
3         Carlos Santana*   Indians         .267/.378/.479
4         Victor Martinez   Tigers          .278/.342/.426
5         Buster Posey      Giants          .300/.376/.480
6         Geovany Soto*     Cubs            .249/.348/.443
7         Mike Napoli       Rangers         .257/.338/.507
8         Miguel Montero*   Diamondbacks    .265/.332/.431
9         Matt Wieters      Orioles         .272/.345/.419
10        Jorge Posada*     Yankees         .240/.324/.405
11        Russell Martin*   Yankees         .253/.353/.347
12        Kurt Suzuki*      Athletics       .261/.317/.392
13        J.P. Arencibia    Blue Jays       .221/.261/.407
14        Chris Iannetta    Rockies         .237/.346/.445
15        Jesus Montero     Yankees         .289/.341/.509
16        Yadier Molina     Cardinals       .270/.335/.351
17        John Jaso         Rays            .259/.351/.375
18        Ryan Doumit*      Pirates         .253/.314/.403
19        Rod Barajas       Dodgers         .246/.287/.412
20        Carlos Ruiz       Phillies        .264/.355/.390

Notes: Russell Martin‘s signing with the Yankees puts Jesus Montero‘s short-term role (and value) in question. Jorge Posada, Mark Teixeira and Martin have the DH, first base and catcher spots locked up at the moment, so I have bumped Montero down from No. 11 to No. 15. Still, neither Posada or Martin is a model of health, so Montero might find himself in the Yankees lineup this year if and when either goes to the DL. Miguel Olivo, originally a deep draft power-source play, signed with the Mariners and has been bumped off this list. Long live Chooch, the new No. 20. I also moved Martin up a few spots and Kurt Suzuki has been bumped down from No. 7 to No. 12 in light of his underwhelming stolen base expectations by every projection system. The change in park for Mike Napoli to the Rogers Centre in Toronto would have been nice, but the subsequent change to the Rangers, even if it does not limit Napoli’s playing time, does not do much for his fantasy value compared to Angels Stadium.

Top 20 fantasy first basemen For 2011

Rank      Name              Team         Oliver Slash (2011)
1         Albert Pujols     Cardinals    .319/.423/.616
2         Miguel Cabrera    Tigers       .311/.389/.579
3         Adrian Gonzalez   Padres       .290/.391/.536
4         Joey Votto        Reds         .301/.395/.535
5         Prince Fielder    Brewers      .278/.391/.524
6         Ryan Howard       Phillies     .263/.342/.516
7         Mark Teixeira     Yankees      .275/.370/.496
8         Kevin Youkilis    Red Sox      .289/.384/.513
9         Justin Morneau*   Twins        .293/.375/.523
10        Adam Dunn         White Sox    .251/.369/.508
11        Kendry Morales*   Angels       .289/.335/.510
12        Mark Reynolds     Orioles      .230/.328/.488
13        Carlos Pena       Cubs         .214/.336/.444
14        Billy Butler      Royals       .297/.365/.467
15        Paul Konerko      White Sox    .266/.345/.455
16        Buster Posey      Giants       .300/.376/.480
17        Freddie Freeman   Braves       .286/.345/.483
18        Luke Scott        Orioles      .252/.331/.454
19        Mike Napoli       Angels       .257/.338/.507
20        Ike Davis         Mets         .260/.335/.441

Notes: Adrian Gonzalez got a big bump, from No. 6 to No. 3 overall for the position. Gonzalez, now a Red Sox, is also a top 12 fantasy option in terms of total value for 2011. I still would not recommend drafting him, however, because first base remains the deepest position in baseball. I was able to get Carlos Pena, who moved up a spot or two on this list after signing with the Cubs, in Round 12 in a recent experts mock draft on Mock Draft Central. Derrek Lee has also been bumped for Ike Davis, who, with Freddie Freeman (new addition), moves Russell Branyan and Aubrey Huff off of the top 20 list.

I also added Mark Reynolds, who I originally forgot had first base eligibility this season. It took almost a year and a half, but enough people showing me enough stats have finally convinced me that Kendry Morales is, at the very least, a better version of Billy Butler. Accordingly, I have bumped him up a few slots. I also forgot about Luke Scott the first time around (19 games played at first) and he has been added to this list. Lance Berkman, now an outfielder, was bumped off the top 20 because I doubt his knees will hold up to warrant the rebound risk.

Top 20 fantasy second basemen for 2011

Rank      Name              Team          Oliver Slash (2011)
1         Chase Utley*      Phillies      .271/.369/.468
2         Ian Kinsler*      Rangers       .266/.343/.439
3         Robinson Cano     Yankees       .296/.340/.466
4         Dustin Pedroia*   Red Sox       .284/.355/.441
5         Brandon Phillips  Reds          .257/.311/.398
6         Dan Uggla         Braves        .261/.349/.483
7         Gordon Beckham    White Sox     .280/.351/.455
8         Rickie Weeks*     Brewers       .263/.353/.456
9         Martin Prado*     Braves        .290/.341/.437
10        Ben Zobrist       Rays          .256/.361/.418
11        Aaron Hill        Blue Jays     .241/.296/.409
12        Kelly Johnson     Diamondbacks  .257/.336/.430
13        Brian Roberts     Orioles       .274/.349/.408
14        Dustin Ackley     Mariners      .287/.378/.435
15        Neil Walker       Pirates       .251/.301/.422
16        Chone Figgins     Mariners      .263/.353/.320
17        Mike Aviles       Royals        .276/.307/.398
18        Ryan Raburn       Tigers        .270/.333/.465
19        Howie Kendrick    Angels        .280/.318/.414
20        Eric Young Jr.    Rockies       .238/.316/.313

Notes: Chase Utley remains my No. 1 second baseman and is going in the middle of the second round according to Mock Draft Central’s ADP listing. If you have a late first round pick, he should be your target—even over Robinson Cano. Dustin Ackley‘s role at the open of the season remains unknown, but I want to remind everyone that once this kid is called up, he has top 5-10 potential for the position. I’m also falling more and more in love with Rickie Weeks. I’ve slotted him as No. 8 second baseman, ahead of Martin Prado, Aaron Hill, and Ben Zobrist. Even though he is now ranked a spot or two lower, I still like Aaron Hill as a sleeper for 2011. I also tinkered a bit with the bottom four.

Top 20 fantasy shortstops for 2011

Rank      Name              Team         Oliver Slash (2011)
1         Hanley Ramirez    Marlins      .307/.383/.518
2         Troy Tulowitzki   Rockies      .275/.354/.488
3         Jose Reyes*       Mets         .278/.330/.426
4         Derek Jeter       Yankees      .278/.344/.376
5         Alexei Ramirez    White Sox    .272/.311/.399
6         Jimmy Rollins*    Phillies     .239/.301/.377
7         Stephen Drew      Diamondbacks .261/.324/.427
8         Asdrubal Cabrera  Indians      .281/.339/.390
9         Starlin Castro    Cubs         .303/.342/.420
10        Rafael Furcal*    Dodgers      .275/.344/.399
11        Elvis Andrus      Rangers      .277/.344/.352
12        Mike Aviles*      Royals       .276/.307/.398
13        Danny Espinosa    Nationals    .241/.312/.403
14        Ian Desmond       Nationals    .261/.312/.399
15        Erick Aybar*      Angels       .267/.314/.358
16        Cliff Pennington  Athletics    .237/.322/.328
17        Miguel Tejada     Giants       .268/.302/.378
18        Alcides Escobar   Royals       .267/.310/.357
19        J.J. Hardy*       Orioles      .251/.313/.395
20        Jhonny Peralta    Tigers       .256/.315/.408

Notes: No change (or at least I don’t think I made any changes…).

Top 20 fantasy third basemen for 2011

Rank      Name             Team          Oliver Slash (2011)
1         David Wright     Mets          .291/.371/.491
2         Evan Longoria    Rays          .286/.364/.532
3         Ryan Zimmerman   Nationals     .294/.366/.509
4         Alex Rodriguez*  Yankees       .267/.357/.479
5         Kevin Youkilis   Red Sox       .290/.383/.521
6         Adrian Beltre    Rangers       .276/.323/.449
7         Jose Bautista    Blue Jays     .239/.347/.478
8         Pablo Sandoval   Giants        .305/.357/.506
9         Aramis Ramirez*  Cubs          .259/.327/.446
10        Mark Reynolds    Orioles       .222/.323/.479
11        Martin Prado*    Braves        .290/.341/.437
12        Pedro Alvarez    Pirates       .245/.330/.460
13        Juan Francisco   Red           .273/.308/.513
14        Michael Young    Rangers       .277/.328/.419
15        Ian Stewart      Rockies       .234/.321/.441
16        Casey McGehee    Brewers       .273/.325/.426
17        David Freese     Cardinals     .262/.322/.413
18        Chase Headly     Padres        .264/.333/.403
19        Michael Cuddyer  Twins         .270/.340/.449
20        Chipper Jones*   Braves        .263/.373/.415

Notes: Because Adrian Beltre re-signed with the Rangers (+14 percent home run index for right-handed batters, +11 percent run index) after leaving the Red Sox (-7 percent home run index for right-handed batters, +8 percent run index), his index remains stable, though his value might slightly increase. Jose Bautista, an extreme right-handed pull hitter, is still slotted to bat out of the middle of the lineup for the Blue Jays, whose home park boasts a three year +16 percent home run index for right-handed hitters. Yeah, he’s going to hit at least 30 this year. You might also make a good argument that Michael Young should be rated above Reynolds. Still, as I noted in my third base rankings, Reynolds is an underrated third base option. I also bumped Pablo Sandoval a up past Aramis Ramirez. Juan Francisco’s ranking assumes 550+ PA. If he’s not in the lineup regularly, he’s not worth the pick. Also, you are going to want to avoid Francisco like the plague in OBP league — he’s essentially Mike Jacobs with third base eligibility. Mike Moustakas could get the June call up (yes, yes, I raved otherwise all offseason, but for some reason thought that Moustakas was 2 years younger than he actually is, though 23 could still be young enough for the Royals to delay his call up a full season to save service time…) and I have him paired with Chipper Jones, which may result in top 10 production combined (Chipper is so low on the list only because of health concerns, but he can stay healthy for two months…right?)

Top 20 fantasy middle infielders for 2011 (ignoring the top 12 second basemen and shortstops)

Rank      Name              Team          Oliver Slash (2011)
1         Brian Roberts*    Orioles       .274/.349/.408
2         Dustin Ackley     Mariners      .287/.378/.435
3         Neil Walker       Pirates       .251/.301/.422
4         Chone Figgins     Mariners      .263/.353/.320
5         Mike Aviles*      Royals        .276/.307/.398
6         Ryan Raburn       Tigers        .270/.333/.465
7         Danny Espinosa    Nationals     .241/.312/.403
8         Ian Desmond       Nationals     .261/.312/.399
9         Howie Kendrick    Angels        .280/.318/.414
10        Eric Young Jr.    Rockies       .238/.316/.313
11        Erick Aybar*      Angels        .267/.314/.358
12        Cliff Pennington  Athletics     .237/.322/.328
13        Miguel Tejada     Giants        .268/.302/.378
14        Alcides Escobar   Royals        .267/.310/.357
15        J.J. Hardy*       Orioles       .251/.313/.395
16        Jhonny Peralta    Tigers        .256/.315/.408
17        Yunel Escobar     Blue Jays     .273/.245/.374
18        Sean Rodriguez    Rays          .250/.324/.459
19        Juan Uribe        Dodgers       .258/.308/.432
20        Marco Scutaro     Red Sox       .256/.315/.408

Notes: Players No. 6-10 have changed order and Reid Brignac has been dropped for Sean Rodriguez.

Top 20 fantasy corner infielders for 2011 (ignoring the top 12 first and third basemen)

Rank      Name              Team         Oliver Slash (2011)
1         Billy Butler      Royals       .297/.365/.467
2         Pedro Alvarez     Pirates      .245/.330/.460
3         Paul Konerko      White Sox    .266/.345/.455
4         Michael Young     Rangers      .277/.328/.419
5         Ian Stewart       Rockies      .234/.321/.441
6         Buster Posey      Giants       .300/.376/.480
7         Freddie Freeman   Braves       .286/.345/.483
8         Luke Scott        Orioles      .252/.331/.454
9         Mike Napoli       Rangers      .257/.338/.507
10        Casey McGehee     Brewers      .273/.325/.426
11        Ike Davis         Mets         .260/.335/.441
12        Aubrey Huff       Giants       .265/.339/.448
13        Gaby Sanchez      Marlins      .271/.336/.437
14        Russell Branyan*  Diamondbacks .248/.330/.484
15        David Freese      Cardinals    .262/.322/.413
16        Derrek Lee        Cubs         .257/.339/.421
17        Lance Berkman*    Cardinals    .262/.374/.443
18        Chase Headly      Padres       .264/.333/.403
19        Michael Cuddyer   Twins        .270/.340/.449
20        Chipper Jones*    Braves       .263/.373/.415

Notes: I can’t even begin to tell you how and why I shuffled this list around. Assuming he’s not platooned into oblivion Russell Branyan should be a great source of cheap power. Just missing the cut here are Scott Rolen and Chris Carter.

Top 60 fantasy outfielders for 2011

Rank      Player              Team           Oliver Slash (2011)
1         Ryan Braun          Brewers        .307/.367/.533
2         Matt Holliday       Cardinals      .301/.380/.500
3         Josh Hamilton*      Rangers        .301/.360/.501
4         Carlos Gonzalez     Rockies        .288/.340/.508
5         Carl Crawford       Red Sox        .287/.341/.426
6         Matt Kemp           Dodgers        .270/.328/.454
7         Jason Heyward       Braves         .308/.393/.539
8         Justin Upton        Diamondbacks   .291/.372/.536
9         Nelson Cruz*        Rangers        .272/.341/.504
10        Shin-Soo Choo       Indians        .294/.387/.480
11        Andrew McCutchen    Pirates        .277/.357/.448
12        Alex Rios           White Sox      .265/.313/.408
13        Jayson Werth*       Nationals      .261/.361/.460
14        Ichiro Suzuki       Mariners       .309/.351/.392
15        Jay Bruce           Reds           .265/.336/.486
16        Mike Stanton        Marlins        .283/.359/.623
17        Jacoby Ellsbury*    Red Sox        .266/.324/.359
18        Hunter Pence        Astros         .270/.324/.445
19        Drew Stubbs         Reds           .232/.306/.354
20        Andre Ethier        Dodgers        .278/.356/.485
21        Torii Hunter        Angels         .273/.346/.441
22        Domonic Brown       Phillies       .271/.336/.449
23        B.J. Upton          Rays           .244/.338/.394
24        Chris Young         Diamondbacks   .238/.320/.420
25        Colby Rasmus        Cardinals      .259/.338/.467
26        Curtis Granderson*  Yankees        .246/.324/.433
27        Jose Bautista       Blue Jays      .239/.347/.478
28        Grady Sizemore*     Indians        .250/.342/.453
29        Manny Ramirez*      Rays           .272/.371/.463
30        Nick Markakis       Orioles        .280/.358/.424
31        Brett Gardner       Yankees        .256/.353/.345
32        Carlos Beltran*     Mets           .278/.362/.447
33        Shane Victorino     Phillies       .267/.332/.413
34        Vladimir Guerrero   Rangers        .284/.332/.449
35        Desmond Jennings    Rays           .261/.335/.382
36        Jason Bay           Mets           .254/.352/.457
37        Adam Jones          Orioles        .271/.318/.429
38        Bobby Abreu         Angels         .257/.348/.404
39        Vernon Wells        Angels         .272/.324/.446
40        Jose Tabata         Pirates        .298/.351/.422
41        Corey Hart          Brewers        .271/.327/.463
42        Ben Zobrist         Rays           .256/.361/.418
43        Juan Pierre         White Sox      .273/.329/.323
44        Carlos Quentin*     White Sox      .252/.339/.480
45        Angel Pagan         Mets           .278/.331/.417
46        Delmon Young        Twins          .292/.330/.464
47        Michael Bourn       Astros         .254/.325/.331
48        Travis Snider       Blue Jays      .263/.329/.470
49        Lance Berkman*      Cardinals      .262/.374/.443
50        Luke Scott          Orioles        .252/.331/.454
51        Nick Swisher        Yankees        .249/.346/.443
52        Coco Crisp          Athletics      .268/.338/.401
53        Logan Morrison      Marlins        .286/.376/.452
54        Hideki Matsui       Athletics      .253/.339/.412
55        J.D. Drew           Red Sox        .243/.350/.423
56        Aubrey Huff         Giants         .265/.339/.448
57        Michael Cuddyer     Twins          .270/.340/.449
58        Matt Joyce          Rays           .240/.340/.445
59        Rajai Davis         Blue Jays      .275/.316/.374
60        Carlos Lee          Astros         .259/.305/.412

Notes: A few changes in the upper tier: Jason Heyward has jumped from No. 12 to No. 7 on my list, leapfrogging Justin Upton. While it was hard to rank Heyward (.300/25/15/100+/100+ is my expected line) ahead of Upton (expecting .290/25-30/15-20/100+/100+ production, plus he calls Chase Field his home), Heyward’s ceiling is arguably better and he’s just still just 21. Did you know Heyward walked more than 90 times in his rookie season?

I also flip-flopped Andrew McCutchen and Alex Rios on this list. Their values are very close, though Rios arguably has better power upside; again, tie goes to the younger player. The most notable change to this list, as evidenced by the volume of comments on the original outfielder rankings, might be moving up Delmon Young from No. 53 to No. 46, one spot behind Angel Pagan. I still do not think that Young hits even 25 home runs this year, but if he comes close and hits .280 or higher, he will be more valuable than I initially credited him.

Oh, and I bumped both Jacoby Ellsbury and Hunter Pence up a few slots. I also had to bump Desmond Jennings‘ ranking down with the Rays’ recent signing of Johnny Damon. (Reports indicate that Jennings will start the season at Triple-A, but I expect him to get a May call-up). Jennings should remain a prime target for keeper leagues. Vernon Wells was also bumped down several slots due to a change in park.

Top 100 fantasy starting pitchers for 2011

Rank   Name                 Team             oERA   oWHIP   oK/9 
1      Tim Lincecum         Giants           3.27   1.21    10.0
2      Roy Halladay         Phillies         3.32   1.13    7.2
3      Felix Hernandez      Mariners         3.35   1.23    7.7
4      Josh Johnson         Marlins          3.40   1.22    7.9
5      Cliff Lee            Phillies         3.34   1.15    6.9
6      C.C. Sabathia        Yankees          3.59   1.24    7.4
7      Jon Lester           Red Sox          3.74   1.25    8.6
8      Dan Haren            Angels           3.68   1.19    8.3
9      Zack Greinke         Brewers          3.49   1.21    8.3
10     Justin Verlander     Tigers           3.67   1.28    8.8
11     Chris Carpenter      Cardinals        3.49   1.20    6.5
12     Francisco Liriano    Twins            4.18   1.37    8.4
13     Cole Hamels          Phillies         3.78   1.23    8.1
14     Max Scherzer         Tigers           3.77   1.27    9.0
15     Clayton Kershaw      Dodgers          3.33   1.26    9.2
16     Mat Latos            Padres           3.37   1.18    8.4
17     Jered Weaver         Angels           3.77   1.25    8.3
18     Tommy Hanson         Braves           3.41   1.19    8.3
19     Ubaldo Jimenez       Rockies          3.35   1.25    8.5
20     Yovani Gallardo      Brewers          3.93   1.36    9.1
21     Roy Oswalt           Phillies         3.56   1.20    7.2
22     Ricky Nolasco        Marlins          4.09   1.26    7.9
23     Jeremy Hellickson    Rays             3.72   1.22    8.5
24     Shaun Marcum         Brewers          3.82   1.24    7.0
25     Chad Billingsley     Dodgers          3.94   1.35    7.9
26     David Price          Rays             3.86   1.32    7.6
27     Hiroki Kuroda        Dodgers          3.64   1.24    6.2
28     Colby Lewis          Rangers          3.33   1.16    8.4
29     Brett Anderson       Athletics        3.87   1.27    7.1
30     Madison Bumgarner    Giants           3.51   1.21    6.9          
31     Ted Lilly            Dodgers          3.67   1.18    7.4          
32     Jhoulys Chacin       Rockies          3.60   1.27    8.0          
33     Wandy Rodriguez      Astros           4.00   1.33    7.6          
34     Josh Beckett         Red Sox          4.26   1.31    7.9          
35     Phil Hughes          Yankees          3.87   1.29    7.7          
36     Daniel Hudson        Diamondbacks     3.94   1.26    8.4          
37     Matt Cain            Giants           3.78   1.27    7.4          
38     Ian Kennedy          Diamondbacks     3.92   1.29    7.7          
39     Ryan Dempster        Cubs             4.02   1.34    7.7          
40     Gavin Floyd          White Sox        4.07   1.33    6.8
41     Jaime Garcia         Cardinals        3.86   1.34    7.3
42     Michael Pineda       Mariners         3.81   1.23    7.4
43     Mike Minor           Braves           5.49   1.55    7.9
44     Brandon Webb*        Rangers          3.86   1.31    6.8
45     Ricky Romero         Blue Jays        4.59   1.49    6.7
46     Tim Hudson           Braves           3.92   1.32    5.4
47     Jordan Zimmerman     Nationals        4.20   1.32    7.7
48     Gio Gonzalez         Athletics        4.40   1.46    8.4
49     Travis Wood          Reds             3.69   1.27    7.3
50     John Danks           White Sox        3.79   1.29    6.8
51     Matt Garza           Cubs             4.15   1.33    6.9
52     Clay Buchholz        Red Sox          3.78   1.32    6.8
53     Scott Baker          Twins            4.37   1.32    7.2
54     Brian Matusz         Orioles          3.89   1.29    7.9
55     Marc Rzepczynski     Blue Jays        4.40   1.44    7.8
56     Trevor Cahill        Athletics        4.00   1.31    5.9
57     C.J. Wilson          Rangers          3.91   1.36    7.5
58     James Shields        Rays             4.62   1.37    7.1
59     Kyle Drabek          Blue Jays        4.10   1.37    6.8
60     Mike Leake           Reds             3.52   1.21    7.5
61     Jason Hammel         Rockies          4.21   1.34    6.8
62     Wade Davis           Rays             4.36   1.41    6.7
63     Dallas Braden        Athletics        4.18   1.34    5.7
64     Jonathan Sanchez     Giants           4.19   1.39    9.3
65     Jorge de la Rosa     Rockies          4.07   1.35    8.8
66     Brandon Morrow       Blue Jays        4.26   1.41    8.7
67     Javier Vazquez*      Marlins          4.16   1.31    7.7
68     Carlos Zambrano*     Cubs             4.06   1.41    7.2
69     Jake Peavy*          White Sox        3.86   1.29    8.0
70     Derek Holland        Rangers          4.12   1.33    7.3
71     Brett Myers*         Astros           4.24   1.35    7.0
72     Johan Santana*       Mets             3.82   1.27    7.0
73     Rich Harden*         Athletics        4.36   1.40    9.2
74     Kevin Slowey*        Twins            4.47   1.30    6.8
75     Johnny Cueto         Reds             4.33   1.35    6.9
76     Justin Masterson     Indians          4.43   1.44    7.0
77     Edinson Volquez      Reds             4.15   1.40    8.5
78     Ervin Santana        Angels           4.50   1.37    7.1
79     Bud Norris           Astros           4.57   1.47    8.3
80     Randy Wells          Cubs             4.12   1.36    6.2
81     Tom Gorzelanny       Nats             4.34   1.45    7.5
82     Jair Jurrjens        Braves           4.12   1.37    6.5
83     Aaron Harang         Padres           4.81   1.44    6.9
84     Bronson Arroyo       Reds             3.97   1.28    5.4
85     Edwin Jackson        White Sox        4.45   1.42    6.9
86     Chris Young*         FA               4.82   1.50    6.7
87     Homer Bailey         Reds             4.43   1.45    7.4
88     Joel Pineiro         Angels           4.10   1.29    4.9
89     Daisuke Matsuzaka    Red Sox          4.46   1.44    7.5
90     Rick Porcello        Tigers           4.19   1.34    5.1
91     Anibal Sanchez       Marlins          4.10   1.40    6.8
92     Derek Lowe           Braves           4.25   1.39    5.6
93     Carl Pavano          Twins            4.52   1.34    5.2
94     Chris Tillman        Orioles          4.28   1.39    7.1
95     Mike Pelfrey         Mets             4.62   1.46    5.1
96     R.A. Dickey          Mets             4.26   1.38    5.1
97     John Lackey          Red Sox          4.37   1.36    6.5
98     Hisanori Takahashi   Angels           4.12   1.34    7.3
99     Clayton Richard      Padres           4.37   1.43    6.3
100    Jeff Niemann         Rays             4.30   1.37    6.5

Notes: As previously noted, none of Kris Medlen, Stephen Strasburg, Justin Duchscherer, Erik Bedard, Chien-Ming Wang, Andrew Cashner, Sean Marshall, or Chris Sale are ranked on this list, due to health concerns, questionable or unclear roles with their teams, or the like. I also took an extended look at Matt Cain in light of the discussion in the comments. Using my xWHIP calculator to normalize Cain’s batted ball distribution to reflect a 19 percent line drive rate for 2009-2010, I found that even assuming his true home run per outfield flyball talent was 7 percent (rather than the league average rate of 11.5 percent, his expected tERA is north of 4.2. Thus, still not a fan of Cain.

Kyle Drabek made a huge jump up the list. His velocity and hammer-curve are just to good to ignore, and his “wildness” may have just been the byproduct of missing low in a small sample rather than lack of control. I also got sold on a ticket for the Mike Leake train, choo choo! I also added two youngsters, Mike Minor and Michael Pineda, who, combined with a “fantasy league average” starting pitcher, should composite to Frankenstein into a top 50 pitcher. Wainwright’s been 86′d because “I told you so” about his elbow.

Oh, and I flopped Lincecum and Halladay. The freak is just in a class of his own, according to my EYES rankings. Oliver’s pricing guide seems to agree, though it also has my boy King Felix ahead of Halladay as well. I like Felix more as a pitcher, but, despite my critiques of the 2011 Phillies’ offensive outlook, I still say Doc Halladay out “wins” King Felix and thus (barely) secures the No. 2 spot ahead of him. Honestly, you’ll be happy getting any of these three pitchers.

Top 50 fantasy relief pitchers for 2011

Rank      Player                Team             oSV     oERA      oWHIP      oK/9   Opening Day Closer?
1         Joakim Soria          Royals           38      3.20      1.12       9.1       Y
2         Neftali Feliz         Rangers          36      3.36      1.18       8.6       Y
3         Mariano Rivera        Yankees          35      3.00      1.08       7.4       Y
4         Brian Wilson          Giants           38      3.41      1.23       9.4       Y
5         Heath Bell            Padres           36      3.48      1.24       8.5       Y
6         Carlos Marmol         Cubs             36      3.52      1.31       11.4      Y
7         Drew Storen           Nationals        32      3.47      1.20       8.9       Y
8         J.J. Putz             Diamondback      38      3.84      1.31       7.8       Y
9         Jose Valverde         Tigers           38      3.81      1.27       8.2       Y
10        Joe Nathan*           Twins            36      3.43      1.16       8.5       Y
11        Andrew Bailey*        Athletics        32      3.66      1.24       8.2       Y
12        Jonathan Papelbon     Red Sox          36      3.48      1.20       8.9       Y
13        Matt Thornton         White Sox        36      3.22      1.17       9.3       Y
14        Chris Perez           Indians          36      3.90      1.30       9.0       Y
15        Francisco Rodriguez   Mets             38      3.78      1.30       8.9       Y
16        Brad Lidge*           Phillies         32      4.21      1.38       8.5       Y
17        Huston Street*        Rockies          26      3.47      1.20       8.8       Y
18        Frank Francisco       Blue Jays        28      3.44      1.20       9.7       Y
19        Craig Kimbrel         Braves           36      3.98      1.44       11.1      Y
20        John Axford           Brewers          40      4.15      1.45       9.0       Y
21        Francisco Cordero     Reds             38      4.06      1.40       7.3       Y
22        Jonathan Broxton      Dodgers          30      3.40      1.22       10.1      Y
23        Joel Hanrahan         Pirates          30      3.70      1.27       9.8       Y
24        Leo Nunez             Marlins          36      4.04      1.29       7.3       Y
25        Koji Uehara*          Orioles           0      3.57      1.18       7.4       Y
26        Brandon League        Mariners          2      3.83      1.27       7.1       Y
27        Brandon Lyon          Astros           22      4.00      1.32       6.2       Y
28        Ryan Franklin         Cardinals        32      4.08      1.32       6.0       Y
29        Fernando Rodney*      Angels           18      4.55      1.50       6.9       Y (possible committee)
30        Jake McGee            Rays             16      4.01      1.39       8.7       (committee)
31        Takashi Saito         Brewers           0      3.65      1.25       8.1       N
32        J.P. Howell*          Rays              6      3.79      1.26       8.7       (committee; on DL)
33        Aroldis Chapman       Reds              0      3.89      1.34       10.4      N
34        Kevin Gregg           Orioles          34      4.14      1.39       7.6       N
35        Daniel Bard           Red Sox           4      3.51      1.23       9.2       N
36        Matt Capps            Twins             4      3.90      1.24       7.0       N
37        Mike Adams            Padres            2      3.33      1.19       8.6       N
38        Evan Meek             Pirates          10      3.84      1.33       7.7       N
39        Hong Chi Kuo          Dodgers           6      3.07      1.12       9.1       N
40        Ryan Madson           Phillies          6      3.63      1.21       8.2       N
41        Rafael Soriano        Yankees          36      3.37      1.20       8.5       N
42        Jason Motte           Cardinals         2      3.76      1.24       9.0       N
43        Jonny Venters         Braves            4      4.21      1.41       6.7       N
44        David Aardsma*        Mariners         38      4.09      1.38       8.2       N (starting on DL)
45        Kerry Wood*           Cubs              2      4.04      1.32       8.5       N
46        Luke Gregerson        Padres            2      3.43      1.20       8.9       N
47        Mike Gonzalez         Orioles          36      4.19      1.32       8.7       N
48        Sergio Romo           Giants            2      3.34      1.15       8.7       N
49        Sean Marshall         Cubs              2      3.54      1.23       8.3       N
50        Tyler Clippard        Nationals         4      3.87      1.31       9.0       N

Notes: A lot of names have been shuffled around. Though Rafael Soriano signed for money, not a closing gig, he should still be a very valuable reliever who can stabilize shaky ratios in 2011. I still believe Koji Uehara has the long-term edge on Kevin Gregg for the closing job in Baltimore. I think the Blue Jays’ acquisition of Frank Francisco pushes Octavio Dotel out of a ninth-inning job, and Francisco should be a top 20 closer on talent alone (goodbye closer sleeper Jason Frasor). I bumped up Matt Capps (and bumped down Joe Nathan) because Nathan’s velocity is three or so ticks down from pre-surgery levels. Monitor Nathan closely; Capps is the Twins’ plan B.

With David Aardsma down and out for at least April, Brandon League gets a boost due to job security. Aardsma gets the corollary bump down. Finally, Jays manager Joe Maddon seems intent on opening the seasons with a closer by committee. The job will likely end up in either Jake McGee or J.P. Howell‘s hand long-term, but do not discount Kyle Farnsworth (managers like Maddon love “experience”). Remember, the majority of these rankings have to do with likelihood of accruing saves, not raw numbers alone (hence Soriano is ranked No. 41 behind Evan Meek and Gregg).

Now let’s compare my batter rankings to Oliver’s fantasy guide rankings, indexed. Positive differential values indicate that Oliver likes the player more and a negative value indicates that I liked a player more.

CATCHERS

Oliver Rank  My Rank     Difference    Player            Team
1            1           0             Joe Mauer         Twins
2            3           1             Carlos Santana    Indians
3            5           2             Buster Posey      Giants
4            4           0             Victor Martinez   Tigers
5            2           -3            Brian McCann      Braves
6            9           3             Matt Wieters      Orioles
7            6           -1            Geovany Soto      Cubs
8            N/R         N/R           A.J. Pierzynski   White Sox
9            14          5             Chris Ianetta     Rockies
10           8           -2            Miguel Montero    Diamondbacks
11           12          1             Kurt Suzuki       Athletics
12           N/R         N/R           Josh Thole        Mets
13           10          -3            Jorge Posada      Yankees
14           N/R         N/R           J. Saltalamacchia Red Sox
15           N/R         N/R           John Buck         Marlins
16           16          0             Yadier Molina     Cardinals
17           N/R         N/R           Chris Snyder      Pirates
18           20          2             Carlos Ruiz       Phillies
19           19          0             Rod Barajas       Dodgers
20           N/R         N/R           Miguel Olivo      Mariners

Missing from my list: Russell Martin (11), J.P. Arencibia (13), Jesus Montero (15), John Jaso (17)

FIRST BASE

Oliver Rank  My Rank     Difference    Player            Team
1            1           0             Albert Pujols     Cardinals
2            2           0             Miguel Cabrera    Tigers
3            11          8             Kendry Morales    Angels
4            4           0             Joey Votto        Reds
5            3           -2            Adrian Gonzalez   Padres
6            5           -1            Prince Fielder    Brewers
7            8           1             Kevin Youkilis    Red Sox
8            6           -2            Ryan Howard       Phillies
9            9           0             Justin Morneau    Twins
10           17          7             Mark Reynolds     Orioles
11           10          0             Adam Dunn         White Sox
12           7           -4            Mark Teixeira     Yankees
13           13          1             Billy Butler      Royals
14           N/R         N/R           Dan Johnson       Rays
15           N/R         N/R           Kila Ka'aihue     Royals
16           15          0             Paul Konerko      White Sox
17           20          4             Aubrey Huff       Giants
18           20          3             Ike Davis         Mets
19           22          4             Gaby Sanchez      Marlins
20           12          -7            Carlos Pena       Cubs

Missing from my list: Lance Berkman (14), Luke Scott (17)

SECOND BASE

Oliver Rank  My Rank     Difference    Player            Team
1            1           0             Chase Utley       Phillies
2            6           4             Dan Uggla         Braves
3            3           0             Robinson Cano     Yankees
4            8           4             Rickie Weeks      Brewers
5            4           -1            Dustin Pedroia    Red Sox
6            17          11            Mike Aviles       Royals
7            11          4             Aaron Hill        Blue Jays
8            2           -6            Ian Kinsler       Rangers
9            10          1             Ben Zobrist       Rays
10           13          3             Brian Roberts     Orioles
11           7           -4            Gordon Beckham    White Sox
12           12          0             Kelly Johnson     Diamondbacks        
13           15          2             Neil Walker       Pirates
14           19          5             Ryan Raburn       Tigers
15           5           -9            Brandon Phillips  Reds
16           9           -6            Martin Prado      Braves
17           22          6             Sean Rodriguez    Rays
18           23          6             Juan Uribe        Dodgers
19           19          1             Ian Desmond       Nationals
20           16          -3            Chone Figgins     Mariners

Missing from my list: Dustin Ackley (14) and Howie Kendrick (20)

SHORTSTOP

Oliver Rank  My Rank     Difference    Player            Team
1            1           0             Hanley Ramirez    Marlins
2            2           0             Troy Tulowitzki   Rockies
3            3           0             Jose Reyes        Mets
4            12          8             Mike Aviles       Royals
5            5           0             Alexei Ramirez    White Sox
6            9           3             Starlin Castro    Cubs
7            13          6             Danny Espinosa    Nationals
8            6           -2            Jimmy Rollins     Phillies
9            22          13            Juan Uribe        Dodgers
10           14          4             Ian Desmond       Nationals
11           7           -4            Stephen Drew      Diamondbacks
12           N/R         N/R           Jason Bartlett    Padres
13           4           -9            Derek Jeter       Yankees
14           11          -3            Elvis Andrus      Rangers
15           10          -5            Rafael Furcal     Dodgers
16           8           -8            Asdruba Cabrera   Indians
17           17          0             Miguel Tejada     Giants
18           21          3             Yunel Escobar     Blue Jays
19           18          -1            Alcides Escobar   Royals
20           19          -1            J.J. Hardy        Twins

Missing from my list: Erick Aybar (15), Cliff Pennington (15), Miguel Tejada (17), Jhonny Peralta (20)

THIRD BASE

Oliver Rank  My Rank     Difference    Player            Team
1            1           0             David Wright      Mets
2            3           1             Ryan Zimmerman    Nationals
3            2           -1            Evan Longoria     Rays
4            7           3             Jose Bautista     Blue Hays
5            8           3             Pablo Sandoval    Giants
6            5           -1            Kevin Youkilis    Red Sox
7            4           -3            Alex Rodriguez    Yankees
8            10          2             Mark Reynolds     Orioles
9            N/R         N/R           Dan Johnson       Rays
10           12          2             Pedro Alvarez     Pirates
11           16          5             Casey McGehee     Brewers
12           6           -6            Adrian Beltre     Rangers
13           N/R         N/R           Chris Johnson     Astros
14           11          -3            Martin Prado      Braves
15           9           -6            Aramis Ramirez    Cubs
16           20          4             Michael Cuddyer   Twins
17           19          3             Chase Headley     Padres
18           N/R         N/R           Scott Rolen       Reds
19           N/R         N/R           Casey Blake       Dodgers
20           N/R         N/R           Placido Polanco   Phillies

Missing from my list: Michael Young (13), Ian Stewart (14), David Freese (15), Chipper Jones (17)

OUTFIELDERS

Oliver Rank  My Rank     Difference    Player
1            1           0             Ryan Braun
2            4           2             Carlos Gonzalez
3            2           -1            Matt Holliday
4            10          6             Shin-Soo Choo
5            16          11            Mike Stanton
6            9           3             Nelson Cruz
7            3           -4            Josh Hamilton
8            27          19            Jose Bautista
9            13          4             Jayson Werth
10           6           -4            Matt Kemp
11           5           -6            Carl Crawford
12           7           -5            Jason Heyward
13           59          46            Rajai Davis
14           14          0             Ichiro Suzuki
15           8           -7            Justin Upton
16           45          29            Angel Pagan
17           48          31            Travis Snider
18           41          23            Corey Hart
19           N/R         N/R           Adam Lind
20           20          1             Andre Ethier
21           15          -6            Jay Bruce
22           11          -11           Andrew McCutchen
23           18          -5            Hunter Pence
24           36          12            Jason Bay
25           33          8             Shane Victorino
26           12          -14           Alex Rios
27           46          19            Delmon Young
28           21          -6            Torii Hunter
29           44          15            Carlos Quentin
30           58          28            Matt Joyce
31           30          -1            Nck Markakis
32           51          19            Nick Swisher
33           43          10            Juan Pierre
34           32          -2            Carlos Beltran
35           23          -11           B.J. Upton
36           40          4             Jose Tabata
37           47          10            Michael Bourn
38           N/R         N/R           Alex Gordon
39           42          3             Ben Zobrist
40           35          -5            Desmond Jennings
41           53          12            Logan Morrison
42           N/R         N/R           Magglio Orgonez
43           17          -26           Jacoby Ellsbury
44           N/R         N/R           Franklin Gutierrez
45           N/R         N/R           Ryan Raburn
46           26          -26           Curtis Granderson
47           N/R         N/R           Martin Prado
48           60          12            Carlos Lee
49           56          7             Aubrey Huff
50           N/R         N/R           Andres Torres
51           31          -20           Brett Gardner
52           37          -15           Adam Jones
53           24          -28           Chris Young
54           N/R         N/R           Austin Jackson
55           39          -16           Vernon Wells
56           55          -1            J.D. Drew
57           N/R         N/R           Denard Span
58           57          -1            Michael Cuddyer
59           N/R         N/R           Jason Kubel
60           N/R         N/R           Chris Coghlan

Missing from my list: Drew Stubbs (19), Domonic Brown (22), Colby Rasmus (25), Grady Sizemore (28), Manny Ramirez (29), Vladimir Guerrero (34), Bobby Abreu (38), Lance Berkman (49), Luke Scott (50), Coco Crisp (52), and Hideki Matsui (54).

And now, for something completely different: Fangraphs is hosting a new fantasy baseball service this year. The game is unique in many aspects, including the fact that it’s essentially a year-round game. The service retails at $19.99, but if you sign up before March 1, 2011, it will cost only $9.99 to join or create a league.

To that end, Fangraphs was nice enough to set me up as one of the “guest commissioners” for Ottoneu (you may have noticed my league idly existing on the mainpage by now), and I am officially opening my league, on a first-come, first-served basis, to Hardball Times readers who want to participate in what I hope will be a very competitive league. Because I am a traditionalist, my league will be “Old School” format, meaning that it will use the standard 5×5 categories. The league, titled Jeffrey Gross—Hardball Times, will also include Hardball Times fantasy writer Brad Johnson. You can sign-up by clicking here, though you will need to register a login and username first. The password for my league is genius. Do not delay, as space is limited.

As always, leave the love/hate in the comments.

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Comments

  1. Jeffrey Gross said...

    @JB,

    From what people say about him, I’d peg him in the Solid MI range, around Neil Walker/Chone Figgins. Unfortunately, I know too little about him to say definitely…

  2. Jeffrey Gross said...

    @Paul,

    I have Pujols-the-Cubs hitting 40-50 in 2012/13, 40+ for 2013-2015, 30+ for the remainder…but that’s all if healthy. Wrigley’s dimensions would do wonders for Pujols

  3. Brad Johnson said...

    One minor quibble on the RP rankings, a couple non-closers like Adams, Kuo, and Gregerson are very likely to be more valuable than guys like Lyon or Franklin. Also, Kimbrel and Venters are expected to close by committee.

  4. Andrew said...

    Very useful stuff.  One minor issue is that Danny Espinosa doesn’t have SS eligibility in Yahoo (just 2B), and he’s unlikely to get it because Desmond is entrenched there.  But thanks for putting this together!

  5. Jeffrey Gross said...

    Brad,

    You are probably right. However, I feel like most people, especially scrap save scroungers, mostly care about the saves element of relievers, so I just ranked them largely based on saves first, talent second

    Also, I do not think the Kimbrel/Venters bit will end up as bad as the Soriano/Gonzalez bit from 2009

  6. Jeffrey Gross said...

    @Andrew,

    Are you sure? Word on the street is that Espinosa is the far superior defender, so it would seem odd to slot him at 2B and keep Desmond at short (he’s got Hanley-bad defense)

  7. Jeffrey Gross said...

    Thank you to everyone who joined my Ottoneu league. We have officially filled up (well, actually, we did about an hour ago). Thanks to everyone for their interest and keeping THT’s Readership strong.

  8. Brad Johnson said...

    Jeff,

    The Nationals intend to keep Desmond at SS and Espinosa at 2B. I have this from a reliable source. They think Desmond’s struggles are mere growing pains and that replacing Dunn with LaRoche could help quite a bit in the throwing error department.

    I still expect Espinosa to gain SS eligibility sometime around mid-season since he’ll probably serve as the backup shortstop with Jerry Hairston backing him up at 2b. I don’t foresee Desmond playing any games at 2b. This could change if he looks atrocious this spring or something. Whatever they decide on will be a year long plan.

  9. Jeffrey Gross said...

    And I’m going to leave Espinosa on my SS list because I strongly believe that he’ll gain SS eligibility this season, especially in Yahoo leagues which only require 5 starts/10 appearances at a position

  10. Will Hatheway said...

    I’d asterisk Wood, as well, as his role in the rotation is hardly a sure thing as of now (though it should be).

    I share the lower esteem for Crawford in the real world, but especially with the runs in the Sox lineup and his SB, I think his true fantasy impact will be near the very top of all players (I know, I know, you’re going to say “unbalanced”!)

    Should Neil Walker get a better ranking?

    Hensley should be on the reliever list, as he backs up a shaky Nunez.

    -Will

  11. Jeffrey Gross said...

    Will,

    I have more confidence in Nunez than Hensley, honestly. Not the biggest fan. Crawford’s a fine asset in fantasy, but I think he’s overrated. I doubt he tops last year’s runs (or SB) totals. .300/10-15 HR/40-45 SB/100-110 R/60 RBI. Yeah, thats strong, but it’s not top 5

  12. Brad Johnson said...

    Will, I’d look at Ryan Webb as the potential fall back closer at this point. They’d probably run things by committee if Nunez broke down.

  13. Jeffrey Gross said...

    Let’s just say the Marlin’s bullpen is not one you want to get involved with if you dont have to. It’s 2010 Orioles/Diamondbacks bad.

  14. Brad Johnson said...

    You really think it’s bad? As a unit I think it has a decent shot at being…well decent. Nunez, Hensley, Webb, Mujica, and Dunn should provide the bulk of the innings and all five have the makings of an above average reliever. There’s no shutdown element to the group but general competence should be achievable.

  15. Jeffrey Gross said...

    Per Oliver:
    Name       oERA   oWHIP
    Clay Hensley   3.91   1.32
    Edward Mujica 4.18   1.24
    Leo Nunez     4.06   1.29
    Michael Dunn   4.64   1.53
    Ryan Webb     4.33   1.40

    a 4.00 ERA is Nunez’s upside in my opinion. That’s a pretty bad bullpen

  16. Will Hatheway said...

    On Espinosa -

    Not anything that will change opinions, just an explanation from someone else (me) who wants them to switch: the specific aspects of what makes up their overall defense actually makes Espinosa better as the turn-man on a 6-3-1, and Desmond has decent range. For what it’s worth, that’s the 411…

    Will

  17. Jeffrey Gross said...

    And, for good measure, here’s what one person had to say about my rankings (Adam Kaplan – Game Of Inches):

    CATCHER
    I personally think that Black Magic Woman (Carlos Santana) will end up being the best catcher in 2011. I understand ranking McCann and Mauer (and if you take them) are less risky but I think all experts are too afraid to be bold and I think Santana will be the best and should be ranked the best. However, if you view this list as tiers, the players are correct. I personally would nit pick and have Posey over V-Mart and Napoli over Suzuki, but overall this is a good list. I am also staying away from Derek Zoolander, er, Matt Wieters. I drafted him for two years straight and I’m flat out sick of him. I personally would leave him off any list but the year I don’t draft him is the year he does amazing and the year I do draft him is the year he’ll stink again.

    FIRST BASEMAN
    I think the hype is getting a little bit ridiculous for A-Gon at this point. Sure he’s coming out of one of the worst home run ball parks (Petco) and into Fenway, but he’s also leaving the cushy NL (specifically the NL West) and into not only the hardest division in baseball (AL East) but probably the hardest divison in sports (I still put it ahead of the SEC in college football). But that being said he’s still awesome. But don’t kid yourself into thinking he’ll hit 50 home runs. Hell, he probably won’t even top 40. Again, with the tiers, this is a pretty good list, although my main complaint is that I would not rank Lance Berkman. If he went to an AL team (where he could play DH) or at least played 1B then I’d take a chance on him. But a guy that old that looked that washed up I would not trust if he becomes an outfielder for the Cardinals. I have an irrational like for Derrek Lee this year. He seems to have his best year every other year and this year is one of those years. Like I said, irrational. Lastly, I would rank Gaby Sanchez and knock Aubrey Huff off of the list.

    SECOND BASEMAN
    Normally I agree with Mr. Gross’ tier of players, but Chase Utley and Ian Kinsler (mainly Kinsler) are just a gross (no pun intended) injustice. Even in Ian Kinsler’s best year (where he went over 30/30) he was only ranked the 6th best second baseman. He has the talent to put up great fantasy numbers but nothing seems to indicate that he ever will. Not only that, he’s a HUGE injury risk and I can almost guarantee that he will miss at least 30 days. You can’t put up fantasy numbers when you’re cheering for Michael Young on the bench. I also don’t like Chase Utley and think he will finish outside the top 8. I can’t in conscious rank him that low but he’s not going to end up on any of my teams. He just looks old and slow and he’s on the wrong side on 30. Utley and this entire Phillies line up will severely disappoint fans. Other than that everything else looks pretty good and I also like Bacon (Gordon Beckham).

    THIRD BASEMAN
    As I’ve personally said to Mr. Gross numerous times, Michael Young will be a top 10 third baseman. You look at his numbers and they scream “Eh?” to you, yet you look at where he’s ranked in fantasy and he’s never finished below top 8. He needs to be ranked much higher to compensate for this. I hate Aramis Ramierz. Not only because he was on my fantasy team last year (I got so sick of him that I dropped him before his power surge) but because there are so many guys I would take ahead of him. I would take Kung Fu Panda, Young, Mark Reynolds, Martin Prado, and Pedro Alvarez ahead of him. In theory I like a bounce back year from Sandoval but he just looked so fat and out of shape and so bad at baseball that if he doesn’t come to training camp without having lost 30 pounds then I can’t ever draft him- nevertheless drafting him as the 9th best 3B off the board.

    MIDDLE INFIELDERS
    Draft a top 12 second baseman or shortstop instead. I feel like critiquing this list is a futile exercise in ranking the best of the worst…although I do like Brian Roberts…

    CORNER INFIELDERS
    See my comment for middle infielders, above, but substitute Gaby Sanchez for Brian Roberts.

    OUTFIELDERS
    Going back to my tiers I think this is a good list. Don’t be a rankings slave like Kevin in The League and take specific rankings designations too literally. While I personally would rank CarGo No., I am fine with the top of this list. I’m really risk adverse, especially for extreme injury prone guys like Josh Hamilton, so I don’t think I would rank him in the top five nor draft him. But his upside is the best player in fantasy so I dunno. I also personally would move Nelson Cruz to 5 or 6 on the list but ranking him 8 seems fair because he’s also a huge
    injury risk. I think the ranking of Heyward is just ridiculous and think the hype has overtaken the productivity. At least for 2011. I think Heyward will finish outside the top 10 for outfielders for next year. I hate B.J. Upton as well. I’m fine with leaving him off of this list entirely and anywhere he is ranked is too high in my opinion. Unless he’s below me. Double that commentary for Nick Markakis.

    I think the ranking of Drew Stubbs and Mike Stanton are also wrong. I think they both belong in a tier below guys like Hunter Pence, Curtis Granderson, and Jacoby Ellsbury, and in a tier above Desmond Jennings and Dominic Brown. Speaking of Ellsbury, this was a guy who was a top 10 outfielder in 2009. Sure he was out most of 2010 with an injury but it was his third baseman running into him, Remember when we all thought Yovani Gallardo was an injury risk early in his career? Ellsbury will be healthy and should be top 15.

    Grady Sizemore is done like, um, something that is really old and crappy and can’t play baseball anymore. A top 30 ranking is just insane. Angel Pagan seems to me like one of those guys who had one good year and never to be heard from again. Although he is ranked 45…. Whatever, go straight sleepers at that point if you’re thinking of drafting Pagan.

    Delmon Young will be a top 15 OF. Mark my words. OK, top 20. Ranking him outside the top 50 is like a victim of… hmmm. I’m going to restrain myself and not make any specific natural disaster references. Either way, a travesty.

    PITCHERS
    I’m done with Ricky Nolasco. Every year he has great peripherals and every year he sucks in fantasy. Maybe if he got traded to a good team or even just a team with defense, but he’s still on the Marlins and I’m done with people thinking he’s good. For fantasy. Cole Hamels is a top 20 pitcher but not a top 15 guy. Great for Roto, bad for head to head (unless you only use him in the random, sporadic months/starts he’s good).

    I like the Dirty Scherz and I even traded for him right before he got demoted and kept him in 2010. But with that being said, with starting pitching so deep I can’t justify him top 15. Where this current list is I would rank him around 25. I love Matt Cain. Rather I like him as a crush. I think Mr. Gross’ hatred of him goes too far. I also think Jeremy Hellickson will have a bad year. There’s something in the water in Tampa Bay that makes great prospects suck in their rookie year and do awesome in their second season. That being said, I think Wade Davis is way too low.

    Guys I think Mr. Gross is way too low on (that I have not already mentioned): Gavin Floyd, Clayton Richard, Jonathan Sanchez, Trevor Cahill, Ubaldo Jimenez, Johnny Cueto, Clay Buchholz, and David Price. Guys I think Mr. Gross is way too high on: The Repo Man, Shaun Marcum, Jake Peavy, Carlos Zambrano, Bud Norris, Justin Masterson, and C.J. Wilson.

    CLOSERS
    Whatever. Don’t pay for saves.

  18. Jeffrey Gross said...

    (the above was initially in the org. draft of the post, but the article would have been too long with it included, so I had to relegate it to the comments, sorry Adam)

  19. Brad Johnson said...

    “Espinosa better as the turn-man on a 6-3-1”

    Those SS to 1B to P throws are always crucial which is why it’s so important for Espinosa to watch from 2B in order to best critique the plays.

    6-4-3 smile

  20. Paul said...

    Jeffrey,

    a ton of work, really useful stuff.  Also a willingness to engage with readers opinions, even those you don’t like (Cain!) is appreciated by this reader

    P.S. What’s the projection for Pujols as a Cub in 2012? Hopefully about 0.5mil per HR for a 30 for 10 AP5

  21. Jeffrey Gross said...

    Here’s the thing with Nunez’s numbers.

    1) never trust a one year pitcher sample, ESPECIALLY for a reliever (<70 IP).

    2), His career GB% before 2010 was below 38%. That 51% GB% last year seems more the fluke (though batted ball data tends to start showing more than just noise past the 150 TBF mark).

    Positives for Nunez, however, include improving control (BB%, FStrike%), improving whiff stuff (K%, SwStr%), Mid-90’s fastball.

    Perhaps I shouldn’t rank him so low or be so down on him that he’s 28. Still, not a top 20 closer.

  22. Jeffrey Gross said...

    Shauntell,

    On second thought and a re-look at the numbers, I think you raise a good point. Perhaps I’m too sold on SwStr% and velocity, but I’m bumping up Nunez a few spots

  23. Jeffrey Gross said...

    Just realized that I forgot all about Freddie Freeman. If he breaks camp as the starting 1B, he should be top 20, ahead of Ike Davis and on par with Luke Scott

  24. peric said...

    Jeffrey,

    You appear to go against all of Mike Rizzo’s pronouncements listing Danny Espinosa as a starting shortstop instead of second baseman and regarding Ian Desmond as a starting “middle infielder” or second baseman instead of shortstop.

    Most discriminating Nats fans wouldn’t disagree but it sure seems opposed to all that Mike Rizzo has planned? Do you have inside sources of information we don’t?

  25. Jeffrey Gross said...

    Peric,

    As noted in one of the comments above, I was unaware that Mike Rizzo announced that he was going to use the far inferior defender at the defensively premium position. I made changes in my 2B rankings to reflect this, but I still believe that Espinosa will gain SS eligibility at least playing SS backup by July. Yahoo only requires 5 starts/10 appearances at a position. Hence, I left Espinosa in the SS rankings.

  26. Joeymitch said...

    Jeffrey,

    As I recall from your article regarding auction values and and the e.y.e.s. system using mr. Oliver’s projections, Juan Francisco was very highly thought of. Where is he in the 3b section here in Oliver’s projections? Have they really changed that much in the past week!?

  27. Jeffrey Gross said...

    Joeymitch,

    You raise an amazing point. How I missed Francisco is baffling on both Oliver and my rankings was pure oversight. I will fix that later tonight or tomorrow. D’OH!

  28. Ben Pritchett said...

    Maybe I’m missing something. Why are we high on Juan Francisco? Is it because my dad watched Rolen play when he was a kid? Or is it because of Juan’s unbelievable power he only shows in Santo Domingo?

  29. Jeffrey Gross said...

    It’s because the kid has a pretty potent bat. He crushed Triple-A pitching last season, launching 18 home runs and striking out a mere quarter of the time for a robust .279 ISO and .565 SLG%. I doubt his minor leauge average (.282) will translate over given his extremely poor BB/K ratio (16.8%), but he is probably capable of at least Adam Dunn-like numbers given his age, home ballpark, and production to date.

    Bill james expects a strong 10 home runs and .233 ISO over less than 200 PA, but Scott Rolen’s health is no sure thing and Francisco’s bopping bat could convince the Reds to make room for him on the starting lineup if some of the team’s weaker hitters do not improve. Oliver thinks he is capable of 30+ homers if given 600+ PA (.266 AVG).

    Think of him as a substantially better version of Jeff Francouer? Better fantasy bat than real life.

  30. batpig said...

    WTF is up with the Oliver projection for Cano?  It’s bad enough that Gross ranks him #3 at 2B (no need to recapitulate that debate from the original 2B rankings thread), but how can any legitimate projection system predict an 806 OPS next season? 

    His career OPS is 836 and he’s coming off consecutive seasons of 871 and 914… and he’s right in the middle of his peak (age 28 in 2011).  Obviously some regression from 2010 would be predicted but that projection is a little ridiculous.  I will take ANY odds you give me on the OVER on that 806 OPS projection!!

    Oliver is projecting a big drop in ISO (170 vs career 180 and coming off 199/214 the past two seasons)… and it’s not like his BABIP is out of line (324/326 past two seasons vs career 322).  Every other projection system has him much better than that….

  31. Jeffrey Gross said...

    If it makes you feel better, the Oliver update pegs him for a higher OPS than .806: .811

    Look, Cano’s upside is what he did last year. That’s the best you are likely to get from him. Strong numbers, of course, but he has to repeat his max upside to justify his value. On the other hand, Ian Kinsler is top 5 capable injured and, if healthy, .285/30/30 capable. Cano is entirely overvalued for 2011 and not worth the risk of a first or top 20 pick. You wouldn’t draft Zimmerman top 12, would you? He’s just an older Zimmerman at second, which is arguably deeper than third this year.

  32. Jeffrey Gross said...

    Yeah, Pedroia’s probably the safest value bet. Still, I might rather risk Gordon Beckham late+Dustin Ackley.

  33. Chris said...

    Just out of curiosity, why is Hammel ranked above DLR? I know you’re not basing it solely on Oliver projections, but DLR beats him in the three categories you list from Oliver and if healthy should pitch around the same amount of innings.

    Given DLR’s historically high K/9 and the oddity of his injury last year (that tendon sheath finger injury was reported to be rare for pitchers but common for rock climbers) and I can’t see why a guy who doesn’t fool anyone is ranked better than a guy who is one of the most deceptive lefties out there right now.

  34. Jeffrey Gross said...

    It is because I expect Hammel to post a slightly better ERA/WHIP and stay healthier. My simplified Hammel expectation is a 3.9 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 7.2 K/9. For DLR, it is 4.1 ERA, 1.35-1.40 WHIP, lots of Ks. It’s largely about the health risk, to be frank, however.

  35. Erik said...

    What does Gallardo have to do to be an SP1 this year? Maybe getting some outs in the 7th inning would be a start instead of watching the pen blow half his wins.

  36. Brad Johnson said...

    I assume you mean Frank Francisco.

    The problem there is that the early rumblings seem to put Dotel ahead of him on the depth chart. Frasor could also compete for saves. He’s a nice option as a handcuff in any league with scarce closers (AL only or 20 team formats for instance) but in a more traditional 12 team setting he’s not the best buy. There are comparable quality pitchers at a similar price with a more secure job (i.e. Brandon Lyon) and if you happen to have snagged a few closers already, a guy like Mike Adams will help your team more.

    That said, he’s probably roughly as valuable as Koji Uehara, Kevin Gregg, or Mike Gonzalez. I happen to disagree with how the relief rankings were formulated.

  37. Jeffrey Gross said...

    I just added Francisco. If he’s a full time player, he’s top 12. I can’t argue him ahead of Reynolds, who has a longer track record and is essentially the Adam Dunn of third. I put a few extra comments on him in the comments. Francisco is like Mike Jacobs…but for third basemen

  38. Jeffrey Gross said...

    Call me a hypocrite, but I’ve finally been convinced Moustakas is getting the call up this year. In my recent experts draft, I selected both Chipper Jones and Moustakas to split time as my CI. I think they will combine to produce top 10 3B material full season.

  39. Nathan said...

    Feels a bit odd not to have Smoak on either the 1B or the Corner Infield list. Are you down on him this year?

  40. Jeffrey Gross said...

    Yup. Super down on him. I’d rather have Belt and the like first. Smoak’s upside is 2008 derrek lee.

  41. Joel said...

    Not a big point since he’s ranked #98 but Takahashi is not currently in the Angels rotation (Weaver, Haren, Santana, Piniero, Kazmir) so will he get the IP for the season as the long man/Kazmir replacement to be a top 100 SP?

  42. Jeffrey Gross said...

    i surmise so. I think he posts serviceable swing-man numbers, better than you’d expect out of relief and he’ll get lots of innings

  43. Jeffrey Gross said...

    I still have Utley #1.

    No more time to update again, sorry. If someone gets injured, just bump them around.

  44. Justin said...

    Great list Jeffrey!  Will you be updating again before the start of the season, or is this the final draft?

    Also with Utley having these knee problems, do you still rank him as your #1 2b, and, would you still draft him end of first/beginning of second?

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