Fantasy Mailbag: Rankings

Time for another mailbag. If you’ve got a question of your own, don’t hesitate to send me an e-mail. Make sure you include your full name, city and state.

I’ve got some tough questions to answer about my keepers for next year and was wondering if you could lend a hand. Could you please rank the following players in order of value, keeping in mind that I can only sign one player to a long-term (4 yr) contract the rest would be for 2 or 3 years. Could you also please denote which player you would assign the long-term deal? Joey Gathright (eligible @ 2B & OF), Scott Hairston, Grady Sizemore, Jeff Francis, Jesse Foppert, Pedro Feliz, Victor Zambrano.Andrew Klein

That’s an interesting group of guys, Andrew. Here’s how I’d rank them.

1. Sizemore. One reason is that he’s the youngest player in the group, having just turned 22. He hasn’t done much in the majors this year (.221/.310/.337 in 86 at-bats), but he’s hit well throughout the minors. He hit .292/.361/.442 in 394 at-bats in Triple-A when he was still 21. He hit .304/.373/.480 last year at Double-A at age 20.

Those last two seasons in the minors are very impressive considering his age and level of competition. Assuming he doesn’t continue to struggle — and he shouldn’t — he should be a full-time outfielder next season and with some power and some speed. He has the potential to help out a bit in all five categories. I’d give him the long-term deal because he has the most potential of the unproven players, and the proven players have only proven that they’re not great players.

2. Gathright. I don’t know how you managed to have Gathright qualify at second base, but that’s a pretty big bonus. Gathright is young (23), but he has no power as he’s yet to hit a professional home run. What he does have is speed, lots of it. He stole 69 bases between two levels last year and he has 48 steals at three levels this year.

He didn’t play well in his brief time in the majors (.250/.316/.250 in 52 at-bats). However, he did hit .341 in 126 at-bats at Double-A and then hit .346 in 182 at-bats at Triple-A this year. He doesn’t have as much potential as former and future teammate Carl Crawford, but he can rack up a lot of steals if he gets regular playing time and is able to even hit .275.

3. Hairston. One the one hand, Hairston looks pretty impressive. He’s only 24 years old, he hit .313/.375/.565 in 115 at-bats at Triple-A and he’s hitting .267 with 11 home runs in 274 at-bats. On the other hand, he’s playing in the friendly environment of Arizona and he only has a .307 on-base percentage. Still, he plays second base, he should have a job next year and he should be able to at least do a couple things well for your fantasy team.

4. Foppert. This is only because he was once a top prospect and I don’t really like the fantasy value of any of the other three. Foppert’s rehabbing from last year’s injury, and it’s unclear exactly when he’ll be back to where he was. Even then, he needs to show that he’s improved the control that prevented him from having a good rookie season last year.

5. Zambrano. He is what he is — about an average starting pitcher. He strikes people out, but he walks them almost as much. His ERA isn’t terrible, but his WHIP is. If he can stay healthy and learn something from Rick Peterson, maybe he can turn into an above-average starter, but he’s never going to be great.

6. Feliz. He’s already set career highs in games, hits, runs, homers, RBIs and walks. That career high in walks is just 17. He’s hitting .265 with 18 homers, 53 runs and 64 RBIs, but he has a putrid .292 OBP. Even if the Giants decide to keep giving him significant playing time next year, I think it’s more likely that he’ll decline than that’ll he’ll suddenly learn plate discipline and round out his game.

7. Francis. I know he went 13-1 with a 1.98 ERA, 147 strikeouts and 22 walks in 113.2 innings at Double-A this year. I know he went 3-2 with a 3.07 ERA, 49 strikeouts and seven walks in 41 innings at Triple-A right after that. I don’t even care that he allowed six runs in five innings in his major-league debut on Wednesday. What I care about is that no Colorado pitcher has ever thrown at least 120 innings in a season and kept his ERA below 4.00 (two had an ERA of exactly 4.00).

So, unless Francis gets traded to another organization, I don’t see him having much fantasy value. You simply do not want Rockies pitchers on your fantasy team. It’s nice that Francis has 204 strikeouts and only 30 walks at three different levels this year, but he’s still a Colorado pitcher, and that’s going to kill his value.

I can pick up one “Free Player” in my 5×5 roto league (OBP for BA though). I am trying to hold onto second place with a very strong offense, but a floundering pitching staff. I would like my Free Player to be a pitcher obviously, but not sure where the cut-off his for helping/hurting my team. How do you feel about this ranking of players I am looking at: El Duque, Jaret Wright, Aaron Rowand, Jeff Suppan, Darin Erstad, Zach Grienke, Mark Kotsay.Lou Poulas

Alright, time for another ranking. Here we go, keeping in mind that you’d prefer pitchers.

1. Hernandez. It’s unbelievable, but it looks like he’s for real. He has an excellent ERA (2.81), a decent WHIP (1.32) and a good strikeout rate (9.64 K/9IP). It certainly doesn’t hurt that he pitches for a team with an excellent offense and back end of the bullpen. If he continues to pitch well, he’ll continue to be rewarded with wins.

Retroactive Review: Ace
Looking back at some of Justin Verlander's most interesting moments.

2. Wright. Another guy you wouldn’t have expected to be of any use in fantasy leagues, but here he is at 12-6 with a 3.17 ERA, 1.34 WHIP and 122 strikeouts in 145 innings. He bounced back nicely from his worst outing of the year by allowing one run on three hits with seven strikeouts and no walks in seven innings on Sunday. I see no reason why he can’t continue to pitch well.

3. Suppan. He doesn’t have the ERA or strikeouts of Hernandez, but he does have a slightly better WHIP and he has the nice offense to help him fill up the win column. I think he’s more likely to fall apart than Hernandez or Wright, but that might just because he folded after getting traded last year.

4. Rowand. He’s been a revelation this season, and he wouldn’t hurt you in any of your categories. He has a very solid .367 OBP, 19 home runs, 14 steals, 73 runs and 47 RBIs. He’s easily the best combination of power and speed of the three hitters you mention, and all three guys have similar OBP, run and RBI numbers.

5/6. Erstad/Kotsay. Erstad and Kotsay are almost exactly even in OBP (.366 for Erstad, .367 for Kotsay), runs (61 for each) and RBIs (52 for Erstad, 53 for Kotsay). Kotsay has twice as many home runs (12 to 6) and Erstad has twice as many steals (14 to 7). Since steals are harder to come by, that gives Erstad a slight advantage. Erstad’s also in a better offense and could see an uptick in runs scored because of it.

7. Greinke. I think Greinke will eventually develop into a very nice starter, but he’s just too inconsistent to count on heavily this season. Once he learns to keep the ball in the park a little better, his pinpoint control will make him an excellent option, but he’s not there yet.

I’ve been offered David Newhan and Dallas McPherson for Mike Young and Trever Miller. Young has a high salary for me and won’t qualify for second next year (if things stay the way they are). On the other hand, Newhan and McPherson are both third basemen, and I’ve already got Kevin Youkilis… Thoughts?Matt Klaassen, Stouffville, Ontario, Canada

I’d stick with what you’ve got, Matt. Newhan’s having a very nice season, but he’s slowed down from his .400-plus start and he’s certainly not a prospect with his 31st birthday a couple weeks away. His minor league numbers have pretty much been all over the place, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s nothing special next season.

McPherson’s obviously an excellent prospect, but there’s no guarantee he’ll have a major-league job next year, and like you said, you’ve already got a decent third baseman in Youkilis. Meanwhile, Young’s legitimately an excellent fantasy option at second base even if he’ll be expensive for you. You know he’ll play, and there’s no reason to think he won’t keep playing at this level.

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