Reactions to the rankings

I promised that we would expand upon the THT rankings list, and today I am going to deliver. A few of the writers chimed in with their thoughts on the rankings and, without further ado, here is what was said.

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Lewis is an outfielder worth waiting for in deep leagues. (Icon/SMI)

High on: Fred Lewis | THT rank: 42 | My rank: 31 — In his first full season as the Giants’ left fielder, Lewis impressed, batting .280 with 10 home runs and 20 steals. Even with a regressed batting average (due to a .367 BABIP and alarming 26 percent K rate), I expect Lewis to produce at a high level in 2009. A .270 batting average complemented by 15 home runs and 25 steals are reasonable expectations of Lewis given a full season of at-bats. Those projections propelled him up my rankings, pushing him ahead of guys like Brad Hawpe, Jermaine Dye, and Chris Young.

Low on: Aramis Ramirez | THT rank: 5 | My rank: 10 — Praised for his consistent level of production over the last six years, Aramis is valued highly by many experts, who are accounting for the lack of depth at third base and considering him “a lock” for .290/30/100. I boldly predicted in this article that 2009 would be the first year that Aramis disappoints, batting a mere .275 with around 20 home runs. Aubrey Huff and Edwin Encarnacion are two players I ranked right ahead of Ramirez, and Ryan Zimmerman and Adrian were the two players I listed directly behind. If you are going to reach for a third baseman early in your draft, Aramis is one player I would not take.

- Paul Singman

I think I got it wrong: Carlos Quentin | THT rank: 20 | My rank: 10 — In retrospect, I was putting far too much credence in Quentin’s 2008 numbers. His earlier numbers with Arizona are so erratic that it is easy to just ignore them. Most of his numbers seem for real, with the exception of a fairly high 18.1 HR/FB percentage. However, I should have adjusted for the small-sample uncertainty and not ranked him above Ichiro and Vlad, both of whom may have lower upside but have far lower uncertainty.

I think I’m right: Nelson Cruz | THT rank: 36 | My rank: 61 vs. Milton Bradley | THT rank: 41 | My rank: 36 — Clearly the discrepancy is due to Cruz. I don’t think anyone is betting on Cruz batting anywhere near .330 or maintaining a HR/FB rate above 20 percent. Still, if we’re penalizing Quentin for having a small sample, we should do so with Cruz as well. I think Cruz and Bradley both project out similarly (and both actually had similarly high BABIPs and HR/FB percentages last year), but we have more data on Bradley. So I have higher confidence in Bradley’s forecasts, even with his injury risk.

I’m not sure what to make of: Rickie Weeks | THT rank: 10 | My rank: 14 — Rickie Weeks is fantasy dynamite. We all know this. He can blow up for good or bad and he can do it in your starting lineup or as a reserve. If he gets off to a cold start, I’d probably want to keep him as a reserve until he showed me some consistency. So, if I draft Weeks, I’m gonna draft an Aaron Hill or a Polanco or a DeRosa around him to ensure some above-par performance. That has a cost though and I penalized Weeks for it a bit in my rankings.

- Jonathan Halket

High on: Zach Greinke | THT rank: 34 | My rank: 19 — To be honest, I’m not sure why my colleagues here seem to be so down on Greinke, who not only posted a 3.47 ERA last year, but did so with more than eight strikeouts per nine innings pitched and a healthy groundball rate. Does everyone fear that he’s not over his head problems? Afraid of the run support he might get as the ace of the Kansas City Royals staff? Regardless of the reasons, I see a pitcher who is still only 25 years old and continuing to improve from a strong base skill set. Greinke is going behind pitchers like Chris Young and Justin Verlander in most drafts; I see him as comparable to pitchers like Daisuke Matsuzaka or Cliff Lee, with better upside.

Low on: Bobby Jenks | THT rank: 11 | My rank: 18 — Everyone is in love with Jenks’ reliability, having posted at least 30 saves in three consecutive seasons. However, it’s hard to ignore his eroding strikeout rate, and while a good ability to induce groundballs has allowed him to continue to be effective, Jenks seemed to benefit from some BABIP good luck (.261) in 2008. I’m also concerned about that Jenks has other risk factors, from injuries associated with his stocky physique to the possibility of a trade associated with his looming 2011 free agency. Frankly, from a skills standpoint, Jenks is the fourth-best reliever on the White Sox at the moment, behind Thornton, Dotel, and Linebrink, and I’d need much better strikeouts or risk assurances to draft Jenks at his current ninth-round draft position.

- Eriq Gardner

High on: Mike Napoli | THT rank: 13 | My rank: 7 — In 227 at-bats last season, Napoli hit 20 home runs while splitting time with Jeff Mathis. I fully expect him to get more plate appearances in 2009 as Mathis has not shown much improvement at the plate over the past few years. While I don’t expect him to repeat his 23.5% HR/FB ratio of last year, his power seems to be legit, as Hit Tracker labels only a handful of his home runs as “lucky.” I also don’t expect much of a drop in his batting average either, a la Kelly Shoppach, as his BB/K ratio appears to have stabilized around 0.5 and his 0.307 BABIP last year was only slightly higher than his career rate (0.294). A tolerable batting average and a 20-plus HR potential is enough for me to put Napoli in the top 10 list for catchers.

- Marco Fujimoto

A few of the writers (and perhaps a few of you) found it interesting that Aubrey Huff was ranked above Garrett Atkins in the first base rankings but below him in the third base ones. Jonathan Halket was able to offer up a possible explanation and here is what he had to say:

The Fantasy Focus consensus rankings is, like any voting system, an attempt to summarize in one dimension the rankings of many individuals. As has been known since at least the time of Condorcet consensus rankings are not always as “logical” as the individual rankings they are based on. For instance, take the following rankings (> means “prefers”):

Joe: A > B > C > D
Dan: A > B > C > D
Jim: B > C > D > A

Question: In the consensus ranking, is B ranked higher or lower than A? If we use a numerical ranking system and then take averages, A has an average rank of 2 (two 1st places and one 4th place) whereas B has an average rank of 1.67, so B would be ranked ahead of A. If we use Condorcet’s Method, which ranks A vs. B by asking which would win a pairwise election with no other candidates, A would be ranked ahead of B since A is ranked higher by two out of three voters. There are still other ways to do the ranking. Which system is preferable to you depends on how heavily you want to consider the strength of someone’s opinion. Average ranking weighs the strength of each opinion equally whereas Condorcet’s Method does not.

Lastly, when using an averaging method, it is possible to get seemingly contradictory results like Huff ranked over Atkins at first base but Atkins over Huff at third. For instance, suppose the above ranks were for players at first base and the following is over a different set of players at third base (but players A and B are eligible at both positions).

Joe: A > B > E > F
Dan: A > B > E > F
Jim: B > A > E > F

So, A > B at third base but B > A at first base using the averaging method. Using the Condorcet Method however, A would be ranked higher than B (A > B) at both positions.

- Jonathan Halket

I did use an averaging system when compiling the rankings so that explains some of the seemingly irrational results.

I am hoping to get an update of the rankings in before the season starts, so look forward to that next week.

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