With two months under our collective belts in the fantasy baseball season, guys are really starting to move in the rankings. Some slow beginnings have lingered longer than expected, and some scorching starts have surprisingly possessed staying power. As with most rankings lists, there will be some (read: a lot) of disagreement, so without any further ado, here are the tiers:
No changes at the top. Robinson Cano didn’t enjoy a stellar month, but I don’t think anyone is legitimately worried about his rest-of-season performance. He still posted a .220 ISO and his walk/strikeout rates remained relatively consistent. Consider it a blip on the radar — especially considering his .256 BABIP in May — and expect to enjoy elite production throughout the rest of the year.
Dustin Pedroia has been interesting. He owns a .377 wOBA and an on-base percentage north of .400. He also is on pace to steal more than 20 bases and score approximately 100 runs, yet numerous fantasy owners are wondering the same thing: where’s the power?
He’s compiled a career-low .111 ISO thus far in 2013 and only has three home runs in 258 plate appearances. That’s not what we’ve come to expect from Pedroia. The biggest culprit appears to be his ground-ball rate, which currently stands at a career-high 53.1%. His HR/FB isn’t obscenely low, but he hasn’t given himself many chances to hit home runs this season because he’s hit the baseball on the ground so frequently.
Still, Pedroia has produced so well in other categories that his power decline has proven to be a mere curiosity, rather than a reason for owners to panic.
In recent seasons, Ben Zobrist has become extremely valuable in fantasy leagues due to his positional flexibility and power/speed combination. In three of his previous four seasons, he hit 20+ home runs and stole 15+ bases, and last season, he was the seventh-ranked second basemen in all of Major League Baseball. So what can we say about the way he’s spun his wheels out of the gate this year?
His .312 wOBA is the lowest mark of his career since his brief, 31-game stint with the organization in 2007. He’s also on pace to barely reach double-digit marks in home runs and/or stolen bases. It’s just a very different player than to which we’ve become accustomed.
And, unfortunately, there’s just not much to point at thus far. He’s not swinging at more pitches out of the zone. His contact rates are similar to (or better than) career norms. His ground ball and fly ball mix is fine. His BABIP doesn’t scream anything in particular. It appears to be a situation in which Zobrist owners must simply ride out the storm because there’s no reason to believe he won’t shake off the cobwebs. And, at the very least, his run and RBI totals have been solid enough while the remainder of his production hasn’t matched expectations.
Kendrick looks to have bounced back from his disappointing ’12 campaign and may compile a 15+/15+ season for fantasy owners. He’s also batting sixth in the order for the Angels, which means his RBI totals should increase from previous seasons. While owners in OBP leagues may not value Kendrick as highly as standard leagues, his potential in every other category should still make him plenty valuable.
I didn’t put much stock in Kelly Johnson this year for two reasons: (1) he wasn’t guaranteed everyday at-bats, and (2) his batting average has made him borderline unplayable the last two years. His tremendous start to the season, though, has catapulted him up fantasy rankings, and I’m finally buying Johnson because his approach at the plate has been much improved this season.
His plate discipline numbers are even better than his 2010 season, in which he hit 26 home runs and posted a .378 wOBA. I’ll have that on my roster.
Owners certainly love the high batting averages provided by Scutaro, Carpenter, Lowrie and Murphy, but the lack of power, RBI totals, and stolen bases make all of them limited assets. The positional flexibility of Carpenter and Lowrie is nice. It doesn’t make up for the lack of production in key categories, though.
I still believe Rickie Weeks will pull himself out of his putrid slump — much like he did last year. Too much track record exists to believe he’s completely lost it, but owners have to be wary of the fact that the Brewers are starting to occasionally sit him in favor of Jeff Bianchi. If they remain well-below .500 into July and Weeks hasn’t completely shaken his slow start, they could look to Triple-A and see what Scooter Gennett can provide at the big-league level.
The Twins have handed the reins over to Dozier at second base, and while he’s certainly nothing special at the plate, he could steal 15-20 bases this year with regular playing time. He could even approach double-digit home runs if he gets lucky. The low batting average and severe run-producing limitations of the Twins’ offense should put a damper on him being anything but a marginal option in deep leagues. Still, if you’re desperate for stolen bases and don’t mind punting a couple other categories, he’s an option.
None of these options are worth allocating a roster spot to. Donovan Solano has a decent batting average, but offers next to nothing in any other category. I mean, even Darwin Barney has doubled his run total this year. This is simply not a tier worth delving into.