Survey says ...
Our rankers explain their toughest decisions, biggest changes since preseason
In addition to providing their Top 300 lists, which we then compiled to create the consensus Top 300, our fantasy analysts (Matthew Berry, Tristan H. Cockcroft, Jason Grey, Christopher Harris, Eric Karabell, AJ Mass, Nate Ravitz and Brendan Roberts) also answered a few questions about their thought processes for some of their rankings as well as how their current results compare to what they had before the season. Here's what each had to say:
1. My top 10 is:
2. The player I had the toughest time ranking was:
Berry: Stephen Strasburg. The truth is, we just don't know. We're dealing with a super small sample size -- seven minor league games as of this writing. That's practically nothing. We don't know when he is coming up, how long they will let him pitch in games and, frankly, how well he will do once he has a million TV cameras on him and light bulbs going off after every pitch.
Cockcroft: Manny Ramirez. I really wanted to rank him lower, because I think he's indeed nearing the end, but somehow his name value kept having me thinking "be reasonable." I bet it's why everyone else kept him higher than I did, too.
Grey: Andre Ethier. At the time we did the rankings, his injury status was up in the air. Also, how much do we expect him to slow down, especially when he appears to be doing better against lefties?
Harris: Jacoby Ellsbury. He's reportedly not close to returning from his rib fractures, yet I've still got him No. 25 overall? Gah. Can you tell I don't own him in any leagues?
Karabell: Andre Ethier. I like him a lot, but at the time of these rankings he had broken a finger, so will he miss a month? Will he continue a Triple Crown pace? My high ranking reluctantly favors the latter.
Mass: Mark Teixeira. Overall, the awful April is behind him, but he's still not hitting right-handed pitching (.189 isn't going to cut it going forward).
Ravitz: Jose Reyes. I think we all thought he'd either be healthy and great, or hurt and out. I don't quite know what to do with healthy and terrible.
Roberts: Vernon Wells. We ranked him 189th in the preseason, and he was 10th on our Player Rater at the time of this assignment. What am I supposed to do with that? I shook my head every time I ran back across his name. I ended up ranking him 74th.
3. The player I believed in during the preseason who has vindicated me:
Berry: Ubaldo Jimenez, whom I've touted hard for three straight years now; Francisco Liriano, whom I have also touted for a long time and been made to look like an idiot by. But I stuck to my guns this year and so far, so good. Alex Rios is another guy that every year I like and it's finally paid off this year. Martin Prado and Jonathan Sanchez got healthy preseason love from me, as well.
Cockcroft: David Price. When I wrote our Rays' 30 Question piece, I was a little worried I'd wind up terribly wrong about him being a contender for top honors in that rotation, mainly because it's a deep one. Matt Garza is still better, but I think my Price prediction is looking good so far.
Harris: I had Miguel Cabrera No. 5 overall coming into our preseason rankings meetings, and was met with a brick wall. So far, so good for Miggy and his rehabbed soul.
Karabell: There were obvious reasons to shy away from David Wright, but I made him a first-rounder in multiple leagues. He's hitting for power on the road, and on a 30/30 pace.
Mass: Paul Konerko. My sleeper corner infielder has proven himself to be a legit power threat. Now if only his teammates can get on base so he can actually start to tally some RBIs.
Ravitz: Ichiro Suzuki. I had him top 20 then and do again. Sure seems to be having trouble running on those old legs.
Roberts: David Price. It has been his breakout season, and I called it in the preseason sleepers story. How confident was I when I made that prediction and grabbed him in about every league? Not very. But with his added experience, raw stuff and increased stamina, I bet on this being his year.
4. The player I believed in during the preseason I've now given up on:
Berry: I haven't totally given up on him (I'm an optimist), but certainly, I am way way down on Kyle Blanks from where I was in the start of the year. He's not even playing every day and can you blame the Padres? Ugh.
Grey: Brandon Wood. I thought he might be able to hit .250 with 20 homers, but his career strikeout-to-walk ratio now stands at 107-to-9.
Mass: Nolan Reimold. I was down on Adam Jones, and thought Reimold would shine, especially by way of comparison. Jones has indeed struggled, but now Reimold is at Triple-A, replaced by Corey Patterson. Yes, that Corey Patterson.
Ravitz: Mark Buehrle. I still think he'll turn things around, but he's not useful in 10- or even 12-team mixed leagues. I may even drop him in a 15-teamer.
Roberts: Scott Kazmir. Not that I expected a whole lot, but I really thought he'd turn it around in L.A. He posted a 1.05 WHIP with the Angels after being traded, and he's only 26. As it is, he's barely hanging on to his rotation spot much less a mixed-league roster spot.
5. The other player(s) that I've clearly changed my mind about since Opening Day is/are:
Berry: Jered Weaver. Honestly, I didn't think he had the stuff to be a true fantasy elite pitcher. But he's increased his K/9 to more than 10 (previous career high: 7.7) while maintaining everything else and even having very slight decreases in walks and home runs allowed. I'm a believer now.
Cockcroft: Francisco Liriano. Talent's legit, he's back to top form. ... Jason Heyward. Not that I didn't like him before the season, but I didn't expect him to be this good this fast. Yes, he's this good. ... Magglio Ordonez. I saw the increasing ground ball rate of 2009 as a warning sign, but out of nowhere he's right back to being what he was in 2008. ... Adam Jones. Boy, I wish the guy would take a pitch every now and then.
Grey: Vernon Wells. I own him in two AL-only leagues because the prices were too good not to take a chance on, and low enough that he'd earn it even with just a repeat of last season. After watching him this year, I think the turnaround is legit given the better health of his wrist.
Harris: I had Ubaldo Jimenez No. 17 among pitchers in January. Now I have him No. 21 among all players. No-hitters are fun. I'm happy I stuck by Josh Hamilton and kept dissing Grady Sizemore (an annual event); I wish I'd been in Shin-Soo Choo's corner more strenuously. The kid can play.
Karabell: I didn't expect Todd Helton and Chipper Jones to combine for 40 home runs, but now I'll take the under on 20 total. These old fellows are barely worth owning in 10-team formats, neither seeming capable of hitting close to .300.
Mass: Injuries are the X factor in any season, and now we'll never truly know if Jacoby Ellsbury (No. 44) would have lived up to my preseason praise. Similarly, I was all set to buy into Andre Ethier, but the unknown severity of his fractured finger keeps him from being in the mix for the top 10.
Roberts: Jason Heyward and Javier Vazquez. One for the better, one for the worse. No way I was touching a 20-year-old rookie in my mixed-league lineup. I am, ahem, regretting that about now. As for Vazquez, his age, stuff and health made him as safe as they come, in my mind, even following his move to New York (and a team that wins a lot of games). Boy is my face red.
6. What changed the most from my preseason rankings:
Berry: I was higher on starting pitching in some areas and I devalued catchers even more. In a 10-team league in which you only play one catcher, they are all the same after the few elite guys. I will say that, while I still say you don't pay for saves in shallow, mixed leagues, I did rank some of the more secure closers a bit higher than I normally do because they do offer value beyond just saves.
Cockcroft: I tend to rank pitchers during the season higher than before the season, for a couple of reasons: One, these are most often used to judge trade value, so I think more realistic, Player Rater-like pitching rankings helps fantasy owners more. Two, once a few weeks are in the books it's easier to identify which pitchers are the most trustworthy, because pitchers -- at least the best ones -- seem to settle into long-term grooves once the games begin to count. During the preseason, with a lot of the lesser guys, it's really anyone's guess.
Grey: I put an even heavier emphasis on offense than ever, and I'm known as a guy who goes pretty far in that direction to begin with. You can still find a lot of good, cheap, effective pitching, and I find teams seem to be scrambling for better bats more than in recent season. Sometimes you can never have enough sticks.
Harris: I can't find any major strategies that changed. Picking Francisco Liriano would've been a good strategy. Alas, I didn't do it.
Karabell: Quite a few young players I liked in March are struggling, and while I dropped them some in the rankings, I'm still buying low on Chris Coghlan, Gordon Beckham and Rick Porcello, among others. May is way too early to punt on talented sophomore players.
Mass: Normally, I'm not too quick to jump on starting pitching when I draft, but this season there's been such a disparity between the top tier and the best of the rest that I ranked 16 starters in my top 75, including Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum in the "first round."
Roberts: There's no such thing as an early round catcher option. Granted, it's still very early, but I am one of those who highly values the top-hitting catchers in the preseason. With Joe Mauer, Jorge Posada, Miguel Montero and Kurt Suzuki already missing time with injuries, Chris Iannetta being sent down, Brian McCann hitting .243 with little power, what little faith I had in the top guys at the position is just about gone. Only Matt Wieters and Victor Martinez (but only recently) are meeting expectations.
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