- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
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When we re-ranked 340 players back in the first week of May, I have to admit that I didn't change a whole lot from the preseason-draft rankings. My opinions of players and where I wanted to rank them among their peers hadn't really changed all that much because it was one month of play, and really, how much can we learn in that span? Granted, I was interested in jumping on -- and off -- a few bandwagons, but in general I didn't think a whole lot had changed from April 1 to May 1.
Of course, now we're in June and although it has only been one more month, everything has changed. I actually look at my league standings now. I start to float trade offers for players I think are performing way above their capabilities, and move those that are due for a fall. Ranking the players for this week, I didn't feel bad about switching my No. 1 spot again, giving up on some of the struggling players and totally buying into Josh Hamilton. After all, two months is a big difference from one.
By now, you've seen our staff rankings. Some of the names mirror what I am thinking; some don't. Let's take a closer examination of some of the lightning-rod players, for whom there are differences in my list versus the staff ones. I like the "highest" and "lowest" sections because you can really get an idea of how a player's rank can get skewed that way. I'm not concerned about being on my own island about a player -- and I suspect others on the staff feel the same way -- but man, there were a lot of islands here. Let's start with some of the more high-profile players.
Ten top-50 lightning-rod players, and where I stood
Chase Utley, 2B, Phillies: He's our new No. 1, which matches where I had him. Hanley Ramirez didn't fall far, though. Yes, I think Utley will have the greatest season for a second baseman in history, with 40 homers, 130 RBIs and 15 steals, or something approaching that.
Matt Holliday, OF, Rockies: One colleague ranked him No. 3, another No. 26, so clearly there's a big gap there. I placed Holliday at No. 10: My theory is he returns within a week or two, and rakes. Oh, and he won't get traded.
Johan Santana, SP, Mets: I did a big about-face on my top pitcher, after going with Brandon Webb a month ago. I'm back with Santana as my top pitcher, but he's at No. 18 overall, with Webb at No. 23. I'm no longer confident in either Santana or Webb to have the level of dominance that would place them at the top of the Player Rater come October, so they are leaving my top 10. Maybe this year a pitcher doesn't finish first.
Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers: I'm totally on board. I was actually on board a month ago, after being in doubt all winter because of potential injury concerns. So far, so good. One of us ranked Hamilton second overall, which isn't crazy. I had him 13th; he finished 15th. He will knock in 140 runs.
Vladimir Guerrero, OF, Angels: While I was trying to rank him, I kept moving him further down the list on account of my actual projections for him. Let's see. He won't run; he's not hitting for power; he might start missing more and more time. I felt bad ranking him 36th, so he ended up 31st.
Rafael Furcal, SS, Dodgers: This one is all dependent on his health, and Furcal was all over the map, getting a high ranking of 12th and a low of 172nd. That's quite a disparity. I ranked him 39th, but if I got another shot he'd probably be in the 50s. I don't like the reports I'm hearing on Furcal, and it's not like he healed well and ran well a year ago.
Nate McLouth, OF, Pirates: I don't think these stats are really a fluke, so I gave McLouth a No. 63 rank overall. One colleague placed him at No. 13; another outside the top 100, and that's to be expected with someone who remains unproven. If he keeps hitting for power and running, sure, he might be a top-20 player. If his average suffers, then it's sell-high time. I guess I'm in the middle on this one, as he ended up at No. 64, just about where I had him.
Carlos Quentin, OF, White Sox: The other AL hitting darling ended up No. 80 overall, which actually seems like a raw deal to me. Don't we all agree he's legit? Well, not everyone. I had him No. 68, and see him reaching a 35-homer, 110-RBI season.
Edinson Volquez, SP, Reds: Although he's the best pitcher in fantasy at this point, I remain wary of how this is going to end, but I still have him in my top 100 -- barely -- and ahead of Roy Oswalt and Javier Vazquez, among others. He ended up as my No. 19 starting pitcher, and there was clearly a huge disparity among the staff. I wouldn't be surprised if he kept this amazing start up, or if he fell off a ledge. Guess that's why he's not on any of my teams.
Jay Bruce, OF, Reds: The guy had a monster first week, and while I understand why someone would sell high and move him, I have to admit, I don't know if I could. A year ago, Ryan Braun did this, and if you sold high you probably lost the trade. I think Bruce is the same type of fantasy monster. For me, he gets the overall No. 64 spot, right after McLouth. I think Bruce will hit more than 20 home runs and steal more than 15 bases the rest of the way. He does end up among my top-20 outfielders. He missed our top 100, mainly because a colleague didn't think he was in the top 200. Hey, that's possible, too.
Ten places where my name was in the "highest" section
Ryan Braun, 3B/OF, Brewers: I had him ninth and he ended up 10th, so I wouldn't call this one a large leap of faith. Same with the Mets' Carlos Beltran, for whom -- like Braun -- I also paid top dollar in the 18-team office auction league and keep turning down trade offers. I ranked Beltran 32nd last week; he ended up 33rd; so again, it seems we were all pretty much in the same range.
Ryan Howard, 1B, Phillies: I haven't really dropped him from my preseason expectations. He will hit 45 home runs and get that batting average up. I didn't jump off the Prince Fielder bandwagon, either.
Geovany Soto, C, Cubs: Well, I believe. I'm not sure what's not to believe. He's on pace for .293-29-133, and while there will be some drop-off in the second half -- as is generally the case with pretty much all catchers -- who's better? Brian McCann could be, but are there five better catchers? I don't think so. I ranked Soto No. 44, and a colleague had him No. 246! Wow! His overall rank of No. 61 proves there were others like me.
Victor Martinez, C, Indians: I guess it's a catcher thing. He's my No. 48 guy, even though he's hit nary a home run. So what? Looking ahead, I can see a few six or seven-homer months.
Michael Young, SS, Rangers: He hits .300 every year and should again; plus, some of his power is back. He was top-50 for me in March, and in May, and still is now.
Justin Upton, OF, Diamondbacks: This one is unexplainable, since I'm not really a fan of his for this season. He's not running, and all those strikeouts have already begun to destroy his batting average. I think he's talented enough to make adjustments and succeed, and I thought placing him at No. 81 overall was more a reflection of his tools and ability, rather than the hope that he'd have a monster season. Yet nobody else ranked him better.
Cliff Lee, SP, Indians: A few average starts recently must have made people jump off the bandwagon. The thing is, I don't believe stats always revert to the mean. Why does his batting average on balls in play have to get a lot worse? Why does he have to pitch like 2007?
Mike Lowell, 3B, Red Sox: Steady, consistent, not at all too old to produce like he did a year ago, just with a lot fewer RBIs this year. He's a top-100 player to me.
Eric Hinske, OF, Rays: A few times when I was ranking Hinske, I looked at his career stats, then the current ones, and thought there was little chance he'd pick now to have a career year. But why can't he? It's not like the Rays are going to stop playing him, especially now that Carlos Pena is on the DL. Hinske is the team's top lefty power hitter. I ranked him 168th, so it's not like he was Jay Brucian, but at least one colleague didn't even rank him.
Ian Stewart, 3B, Rockies: Pretty soon we'll be adding second base to his position eligibility, and I'm not that concerned about his bat. The Rockies are so bad right now, I think Garrett Atkins or Todd Helton will be on the move, but even if they aren't, it's not like anyone deserves to play second base over Stewart. He has 20-home run ability, for this season.
Ten places where my name was in the "lowest" section
Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers: The first time my name shows up in this section is for the No. 46 guy, Kemp. I had him at No. 100. I love the potential and the speed, but where's the power? Do you still think a guy who has a monthly rate of two home runs, and is on pace this season for 43 walks and 159 strikeouts, is a 30/30 possibility? I don't. I could see about 15 homers and 20 steals, but I think Jay Bruce is better.
Ben Sheets, SP, Brewers: It's nothing personal, but I like to know my top-20 pitchers are going to start more than 30 times, and Sheets doesn't qualify. I was also the low guy on Rich Harden, shockingly. Sure, the numbers will be there when he's actually pitching, but do you feel lucky? I downgrade pitching to start with, and maybe I was a tad harsh on leaving Harden out of my top 300, but it's hard to look past his long list of injuries.
Johnny Damon, OF, Yankees: I don't dislike Damon, and my answer here is I probably didn't give him enough credit for his solid two months. He's on pace for 17-73-23, and I could see him getting there.
Rick Ankiel, OF, Cardinals: He's not on pace for 30 home runs, and since that's about all he could possibly deliver for fantasy owners, I don't see him as a top-150 option. With Ryan Ludwick looking more legit and Colby Rasmus a month from forcing himself onto the roster, Ankiel needs to play better.
Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B, Padres: I'm down on this team and most of its members not named Adrian. Kouzmanoff was supposed to make strides this year, flirt with 30 home runs and not hurt the batting average, and all that might happen. But nine walks in two months is not the way to accomplish this. At some point this decade, maybe we'll see Chase Headley, who I still maintain could beat Kouzmanoff's numbers right away, if the team ever saw fit to promote him. Bitter? Nah. As for Kouzmanoff, whom I ranked No. 200, if I wanted 22-68, which is his current pace, I could've waited until after the draft and selected Kevin Millar.
Mike Napoli, C, Angels: I didn't rank him at all, meaning he was not one of my top-15-or-so catchers. Sure, I like the power, but the .212 batting average reminds me of David Ross. I didn't rank David Ross.
Adam Jones, OF, Orioles: He was the last player I ranked, No. 340 overall; for at least one or two colleagues, he was in the top 200, so let's take a look. Jones is an everyday player, but he has just two home runs and 19 runs scored. Right-handed pitchers are having little problem with him (.621 OPS, .236 batting average), so unless Jones is facing a lefty, he's not doing much. He's not running much. I don't think much will change in the next few months.
Max Scherzer, RP, Diamondbacks: I barely ranked him, but he ended up at No. 264, so clearly there is a major disparity here. He's not going to close. Brandon Lyon has done nothing wrong, and if he starts to, Arizona is unlikely to just plug a rookie into the role. He has a shot to start if someone gets hurt or really struggles, but there's little indication Randy Johnson, Doug Davis or someone else is having problems. Scherzer allowed a couple home runs the other night to Milwaukee, and Arizona has won only one of the eight times he's pitched. I don't see wins coming his way, just a lot of strikeouts, but plenty of others can perform similarly.
Richie Sexson, 1B, Mariners: He does have power, but I think it will be free-agent power in a matter of weeks, when the Mariners designate him for assignment and finally let Jeff Clement man first base. I didn't rank Sexson and his .200 average. He's done.
Jayson Werth, OF, Phillies: I love what he does to left-handed pitching, but even when he gets off the DL, he won't get to face the right-handers as long as Geoff Jenkins keeps hitting. Werth is a fourth outfielder, a Ryan Spilborghs-type who just won't play enough.
Eric Karabell is a senior writer for ESPN.com fantasy. You can e-mail him here.
Eric Karabell looks at the latest top 340, pointing out 10 players he's highest on and 10 he's lowest on.