Posted on: September 17, 2008 12:01 pm
Edited on: September 17, 2008 12:10 pm

Discussing the rankings at first base

As you might have noticed, Eric Mack has begun feverishly composing early position-by-position rankings for next season. The man works hard, people. He asked via e-mail for my input on his rankings at first base, and I thought I'd post my exact response so you could see the thought process that goes into these decisions. I'll save the actual rankings for when he posts the finalized version -- don't want to steal his thunder, after all -- but after every player mentioned here, I included in parentheses where he ranked that player at the time of my response. Enjoy.

"I have a hard time believing I'd take Ryan Howard (No. 3) ahead of Mark Teixeira (No. 4) or Lance Berkman (No. 5), especially now that our standard Head-to-Head scoring penalizes strikeouts. My initial reaction was to move him even lower, but then I saw just how hot he'd gotten over the last month. Still, in my eyes, he's only half a step up from Adam Dunn, with RBI being his greatest advantage.

And while we're on the subject of moving up Teixeira, I might move him ahead of Miguel Cabrera (No. 2) too. I worry that Cabrera's regression this year is another sign of his body prematurely breaking down, going hand-in-hand with his move to first base. Plus, he's not exactly Placido Polanco with the strikeouts either. But that view is a little more nitpicky than my view on Howard, and I could see me talking myself into Cabrera at No. 2 if you're happy with him there. (Edit: After talking to Emack via instant messenger just now, he seems adamant about keeping Cabrera at No. 2. I can't say I blame him. The guy is only 25 years old, which makes my sounding of the "breakdown" alarm borderline ridiculous. Still, the fact he keeps ballooning in size, forcing the Tigers to move him from third base before he even reaches his athletic peak, doesn't bode well for his future. Plus, he's starting to have all the little muscle pulls of a guy 10 years older than him. I just feel a little uneasy about drafting him in the first round; I can't help it.)

I definitely want to move Aubrey Huff (No. 11) ahead of Garrett Atkins (No. 10). The further Atkins gets into his career, the more his 2006 season looks like a fluke. Plus, his walks took a nosedive this year after dropping a bit last year. I'm not high on him at all. I kind of think I'd take Huff even ahead of Adrian Gonzalez (No. 9) -- mostly because of my anti-strikeouts bias -- but I understand Gonzalez has some upside and Huff has some potential to end up a fluke.

I pity the poor sap who ends up with Derrek Lee (No. 12) as his starting first baseman, but I realize we have to put him somewhere. I don't know ... maybe we could bury him behind Carlos Delgado (No. 13) and Carlos Pena (No. 14)? On top of everything else, he strikes out almost twice as often as he walks these days.

Beginning at No. 15, I'd probably go Chris Davis, Conor Jackson, James Loney, Joey Votto, Nick Swisher and Carlos Guillen (Edit: Emack ranked them Loney, Guillen, Votto, Davis, Swisher and Jackson). Based on what I've seen from the two this year, I just think Davis will develop a little faster than Loney and is a near lock for 30 home runs next year. Also, do you realize Jackson has more points in our Head-to-Head scoring than Atkins, even with his power in its underdeveloped state? Crazy, but true. As for Guillen, I have a hard time believing he'll offer anything particularly useful even if he does somehow manage to stay healthy. He has only 10 home runs this year and a ceiling of, what, 18?

I don't have any major qualms with the rest of the top 40, though I think I have more confidence in a Billy Butler (No. 31) breakout and a Paul Konerko (No. 30) rebound than you do. I'd probably move both ahead of Hank Blalock (No. 25), maybe Todd Helton (No. 24), favoring Butler to Konerko. Eh, I'd probably go Butler, Helton, Konerko."
Category: MLB
Posted on: August 12, 2008 8:19 pm
Edited on: August 12, 2008 8:20 pm

A prolonged look at the closer rankings

I hate closers.

They lose jobs, gain jobs and trade jobs to the point that their final rankings look nothing like their preseason rankings. And it makes sense, if you think about it. Their Fantasy value has almost nothing to do with their talent, which you can't say about any other position.

Granted, I try to target the few late-round options with talent -- people like Joakim Soria, for instance -- but I get ahead of myself.

I generally avoid talking about closers -- generally. But after looking over the closer rankings today -- yes, I'm the idiot who maintains those rankings, though I didn't take over until sometime in June -- I thought I should address the reasoning behind some of my decisions.

At the top of the list, I have the elite class: Francisco Rodriguez, Jonathan Papelbon, Mariano Rivera and Joe Nathan. I don't think anyone would disagree with those four at the top, in some order. All play for contenders and have excellent stuff and established track records.

Coming in fifth as the first point of possible contention is the aforementioned Soria, who has better stats than every closer other than K-Rod. Some might say he deserves a higher ranking, then, but let's not forget he pitches for the Royals, who haven't had an elite Fantasy closer since ... I don't know, Jeff Montgomery?

On the flipside, some might say he deserves a lower ranking for the same reason, because he pitches for one of the worst teams in baseball, but let's not mistake the Royals for the Mariners. They'll win a handful of games each week, and they don't have enough offense to make any of those wins blowouts. I don't foresee a significant decrease in Soria's saves.

I rank Bobby Jenks sixth because he pitches for a contender and has one of the better ERAs and WHIPs you'll find among closers. He doesn't get the strikeouts of the five guys ahead of him, though, and he trails them by a few saves, mostly because he spent most of July on the DL. Still, numbers concern me more than anything else with him.

Brad Lidge only recently dropped behind Jenks, and only because he has a stiff right shoulder. In Fantasy, you don't want your closer missing save opportunities. They don't seem to come nearly often enough as is.

Jose Valverde comes in eighth, but he bothers me because he can look dominant for six weeks, helping your team's ERA and WHIP as well as providing saves, and then blow it all in a span of three days. Still, the Astros give him opportunities, and he converts them often enough to keep his job. When it comes to closers, saves still take priority in Fantasy.

Kerry Wood could easily rank fifth and actually did not too long ago, but with the Cubs babying him after his DL stint, he has the potential to fall even more. Like I said with Lidge, you don't want your closer missing save opportunities.

Jonathan Broxton rounds out the top 10, which some might call too high for a guy with eight saves. But really, only those eight saves prevent me from ranking him higher. He pitches for a low-scoring contender and has dominant, Brad Lidge-type stuff. I could see a Fantasy owners turning down an offer of Jenks for Broxton straight-up.

Emack and I talked on the podcast earlier today about how Fantasy owners still seem unwilling to trust Salomon Torres. My ranking of No. 11 only underscores that argument. No, he doesn't have the best stuff in the world, but you can't complain about a 2.69 ERA or his supporting cast. Emack says he'd take Torres over Wood right now. I wouldn't go that far just yet, but I can understand his point.

At No. 12, Brian Wilson completes the list of No. 1 Fantasy closers, but he barely edges Kevin Gregg, who has proven himself more than just a one-year wonder for the contending Marlins. In the end, I gave the nod to Wilson because I decided a 32-save pitcher in mid-August would start in any Fantasy league, even if he makes his own team nervous anytime he takes the mound. Besides, his good work of late has his ERA almost below 4.00.

Here's a few quick notes on the rest of the top 40:
-- Billy Wagner won't stay out of the top 12 for long. He'll come off the DL soon and has the numbers to leap ahead of Valverde. Don't get too attached to No. 32, Aaron Heilman.
-- A few weeks ago, Brian Fuentes hardly seemed worth starting in two-closer leagues. Now, he's all the way up to No. 17. Thank the rest of the Rockies.
-- Fernando Rodney has actually impressed early in his stint as Tigers closer. I moved him just inside the top 24, which still seems a little too high, but anyone who looks like he can save games for a contender deserves to start in Fantasy.
-- Rookie Chris Perez has officially leaped Jason Isringhausen in the rankings. Perez has each of the Cardinals' last two saves after Isringhausen blew his last opportunity. The team hasn't made an official announcement, but I have: You'd rather have Perez.

That's all for now.
Category: MLB
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