Last week was all about the consensus ranks. This week, you’ll see some tiered ranks as we also try to finish up the depth chart discussion. But before we move on too quickly, I thought it would be interesting and informative for me to pick out the players that I liked and disliked more than the other analysts involved in the consensus ranks. Hopefully I’ll have a short, concise reason for my rankings in each case. Hopefully.
Liked more: Matt Wieters, Jesus Montero, Wilson Ramos
Wieters is turning 27, has steady power, and strikes out less than average. He has enough pedigree to fill prospect booklet after prospect booklet, and only once was his batting average on balls in play over .300. Give him just a tiny bit of luck and he’s close to .280 with 20-25 home runs. That may not sound so over-the-moon, but hey, I put him sixth. Just two spots lower was the Jesus, and nobody f’s with him. I liked Montero last year because of his extra plate appearances, though, so maybe I’m off base this year: for all the advancement his power should make based on his minor league history, his plate appearances are now under attack by the army of designated hitter types in Seattle this year. Wilson Ramos is healthy! Yeah, he’s had two knee surgeries. Mostly, I believe he’s the starter there in Washington, and that he can put up an average batting average with average power. At catcher…
Liked less: Victor Martinez, John Jaso, Jordan Pacheco
The argument with V-Mart is all about his health. Dude can roll out of bed and hit .280-.300. He’s only failed to do so once. And usually his work with the stick means more plate appearances at designated hitter. But he’s also 34 and that’s a catcher 34, even if he’s not going to catch this year. Are you going to pencil him in for 600 plate appearances? I’m not. Obviously. In real life, I like John Jaso. He’s got a great eye and doesn’t strike out much. Unfortunately, I don’t believe in his 2012 power, especially not in his new digs. So now he’s a mediocre-batting-average-only catcher in a pitcher’s park. Jordan Pacheco is a batting-average only guy who doesn’t have great glove at third or catcher. The Rockies have a prospect at both positions that is has more upside.
Liked more: Anthony Rizzo, Ryan Howard
I believe Anthony Rizzo fixed his swing and that might be all I have to say. With a decent contact rate now in reach, and power that should embiggen, I believe in his ZiPs projections. And so does his general manager, who’s acquired him multiple times. I don’t love Ryan Howard in real life, and his contract is atrocious. But dude is owned for his power and his power alone. He looks healthy enough, and how much use is an Achilles to a power hitter anyway. Thirty homers and a .250 average seem well within reach.
Liked less: Freddie Freeman, Adam Lind
Freddie Freeman is fine. He might make things look a little ugly when he’s doing them, but he doesn’t strike out too much, has some power, and is in a good lineup. He’ll accrue runs and RBI and hit twenty or so and have a decent average. But I’m not sure I believe he has much upside beyond. Especially in the power department — he’s pretty much settled into the same power neighborhood that he bought into in the minor leagues. If you don’t believe he can hit 30 this year, then he’s probably best picked as if he was a top-12 first baseman and not much better. Adam Lind looks like the worst regular player on a good team, and sometimes that produces a useful player, like a Mitch Moreland in Texas maybe. Sometimes it’s a problem fixed by a trade mid-season. Lind has platoon problems and won’t start every day, and even the most optimistic power projection comes in around 22 home runs. It’s just not a lot of upside, it’s hard to project him for a lot of plate appearances, and so he’s probably not worth much.
Liked more: Neil Walker, Jedd Gyorko
The fact that I can barely like two second baseman better than my fellow analysts, and I’m pessimistic about the position as a whole, probably should tell you something about the state of second base. I wanted to put Chase Utley on here, but dude has been hurt a ton and that knee condition is degenerative. Neil Walker has more power than he showed last year, can be valuable even with the batting average he showed in 2011 (.273), and just turned 27. He seems fairly safe. (words of doom) Jedd Gyorko is the hot new thing and the Padres are looking for more offense than Logan Forsythe offers, but he may not take that job away right away. And what if his power was PCL-aided. But scouts seem pretty unanimous that he’s got some power, and some speed, and hey doesn’t that just sound like a cheaper Neil Walker anyway? Just don’t spend too much (two or three bucks in mixed leagues, maybe five bucks in NL-only) — he’s still a rookie.
Liked less: Aaron Hill, Kelly Johnson
I don’t trust Aaron Hill, alright? Not sure if he burned me those years or whatever. But if you sort all the qualified batters from 2012 by ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio, Hill (.77) is the only one with a GB/FB rate under .8 to have a batting average on balls in play over .300. Alfonso Soriano and Cody Ross join him as the only others with a GB/FB rate under .9. I just feel like Aaron Hill has another bad BABIP year in him and it might be this year. Kelly Johnson whiffs too much to put up a good batting average, and it’s possible the platoon splits — he’s lost his power against lefties the last two years — actually mean something. And the Rays will platoon you if they have a better option. So as long as you take some PA out for platooning, and expect about a .225 batting average, then, sure, he’s fine. There’s always a league deep enough.
Liked more: Josh Rutledge, Andrelton Simmons
Josh Rutledge may not have the best approach. It wasn’t great to see him end the season on a cold stretch, too. Some think the league has figured him out. He’s not without risk, but it’s worth taking a step back and a deep breath before considering his 2013. He showed great power for a middle infielder, struck out less than the league average, and stole seven bases without getting caught — all things that are commensurate with his minor league career. He can beat out DJ LeMahieu too. Andrelton Simmons is a defensive wonder who doesn’t have much power or speed, so don’t spend too much. But he can hit double-digit home runs, and since the Braves didn’t really find a leadoff hitter, he’s probably going to lead off for them. That, in turn, hopefully means he’ll steal a few extra bases and push that steals total over 20. .290/10/20? Sure.
Liked less: Hiroyuki Nakajima, Ruben Tejada, Cliff Pennington
With the Japanese shortstop, I just wish he’d played in the American minor leagues. Seems like a lot of risk for me. Especially with Patrick Newman from NPB Tracker pointing out that “he’s lost some range and the consensus is that he’s probably not a full-time MLB shortstop.” On a team built on depth, that sounds worrisome. I’ve already pushed Ruben Tejada‘s projections to the most positive place I could find, and it wasn’t really roto-relevant to me. Pennington? I feel like he could hit .250 with double-digit steals before he loses the job to one of the shortstop prospects his team acquired after they traded for him.
Liked more: Brett Lawrie, Mike Moustakas
Lawrie has more power than he showed last year, and he can steal more bases than he did last year. These things he’s proven before. He’s not too far from .280/20/20 as is, and he’s had another year to adjust to the league. Of course, the injuries are an asterisk. But you don’t get a guy with top-five upside at a position for a cheaper price unless there is an asterisk. Mike Moustakas was a target of mine in AL-LABR. He showed up in the xHR/FB analysis by adding 15 feet to his batted ball distance, and he’s right there in the MASH report every week as a guy that played through injury last season and might have depressed power projections.
Liked less: Aramis Ramirez, Will Middlebrooks
This one is simple. Aramis Ramirez is 35. No part of the hitter aging curves looks nice at 35 years old. He’s been fighting father time valiantly recently, but I expect him to fall short of 600 plate appearances this season. Middlebrooks strikes me as someone that is better in real life — he’s a good defender and has power and is cheap — but his main flaw (strikeouts) should keep his batting average down. IF he hits .250, he has to have elite power in fantasy to be a top-twelver. Add in some injury/PA concerns, and you’ve got my ranking.
Liked more: Jose Bautista, Allen Craig, Jay Bruce, Adam Eaton
I’ll take Bautista’s power! I think his wrist has had a long time to heal up. Allen Craig is older than you think, perhaps (turning 29 this season), and maybe he seems injury-prone. But he was behind a good first baseman for a while and it’s not fantasy-relevant that he’s a bad defender. The injury prone tag might be unfair given that he’s had one high-profile injury and the rest of his ledger is relatively clean. A vote for Jay Bruce is a vote for consistency. He has shown great power for three years now, and is turning 26 this season. To say he doesn’t have elite upside is to ignore the fact that he once had a .330 BABIP and hit .281, and he could do that again. Adam Eaton is the best center fielder in Arizona. That’ll get him the plate appearances he needs to steal 30.
Liked less: Austin Jackson, Ben Revere, Hunter Pence, Cameron Maybin
Like Bruce, Austin Jackson is also 26, but eh. Even if this new power level is real, his base stealing has gone downhill and there’s no reason to push it on a team full of sluggers. With his strikeout rate, he looks like a .280 15/15 guy, and that doesn’t get me going. The problem with not having power like Ben Revere doesn’t have power is not only the fact that you don’t have power — power does help you hit for batting average, too. And besides, there’s probably a cheaper Juan Pierre doing Juan Pierre things later in your draft. Hunter Pence used to use his athleticism to overcome a poor approach at the plate and put up enough good streaks to end up with fantasy value. But now at 30 years old, his power and speed have waned, and he’s staring a 20/5 season in the face… with a to-be-determined batting average. Maybin is only 26, but over 1739 plate appearances, he has a .251 batting average. With that kind of batting average, he needs to be elite in power or speed or really good in both, and barely double-digit power with 25+ stolen bases… It’s okay.
Liked more: Stephen Strasburg, Zack Greinke, Yu Darvish, Jarrod Parker
I don’t see an innings limit for Stephen Strasburg. The rule of thumb is that you can add 30%, and Strasburg could pitch up to 207 innings based on his 159.1 innings last season. Even if they try to sit him for a few starts in order to have him for the playoffs, he’ll basically pitch a whole season. And Jeff Zimmerman‘s research on guys with multiple Tommy John surgeries suggests that he’ll be good to go for this season at least. Zack Greinke is back in the National League and his new home will be much more pitcher-friendly that Milwaukee. Yu Darvish can find the zone, I think. Jarrod Parker has an elite changeup and will figure the rest out in my estimation.
Liked less: Clayton Kershaw, James Shields, Ian Kennedy, Vance Worley
Being injured last year is one of the best predictors of being injured next year, and that doesn’t bode well for Kershaw. Have we all forgotten that he had a hip injury that would almost certainly need surgery and then didn’t? Getting the healthy elite pitcher is the lottery that we’re all undergoing when we pick a top pitcher. I’m just not convinced his odds of staying healthy are as great as some of the guys around him. (Cliff Lee, too, I guess.) James Shields is just leaving a great pitcher’s park and a great defense, and the how he does with half his starts in the new park is unknown. But at 31 now, age-related decline is coming, too. Yes, Ian Kennedy will get strikeouts, and he has good control. But I’m not convinced that his batting average on balls in play or home run per fly ball rates were unlucky last year. He has an underwhelming fastball, after all. I really don’t think Vance Worley can continue to rely on the called strikes, especially now in the American League.
Liked more: Joe Nathan, Mariano Rivera, Joel Hanrahan, Bobby Parnell
Joe Nathan has the velocity and swinging strikes back, and with his control, he can survive a few home runs. Mariano Rivera hurt his leg, not his arm. I think he’ll have a fine last season. What are we worreed about with Joel Hanrahan? He’s been successful with iffy control before, and anyway his first strike rate was about league average and that’s one of the best walk rate peripherals out there. The most recent news has it that Bobby Parnell stays the closer if he can manage not to screw up in the first couple weeks of the season. Anyway, that’s the best rule of thumb with closers: who’s closing now.
Liked less: Jonathan Papelbon, Sergio Romo, Fernando Rodney, Jason Grilli
Jonathan Papelbon has lost velocity and it’s not coming back, it looks like. Maybe he can be successful with the lower velocity, but will he be elite? His price is. Sergio Romo has always had the injury bug, but maybe it’s not as bad as I first thought. Yeah, he sprained his elbow in 2009, and he missed time in 2011 with inflammation, but that’s not so bad. The Giants seem to be wary, though, using him for 48 and 55.1 innings the last two seasons, respectively. That’s good enough for me. There’s a long history of bad control for Fernando Rodney, changed rubber position or no. And Jason Grilli hit a velocity peak at 36 years old last season, which is enough for me to worry just a little bit more than others I guess. I’d still own him.