Commentary

Hill, Inge among top gainers in Top 250

Updated: May 14, 2009, 1:51 PM ET
By Brendan Roberts | ESPN.com

Hit Parade
Let's see: Just six weeks ago, Aaron Hill was not even worth owning; Geovany Soto was a top-three catcher; Joe Mauer was on a lot of "Do Not Draft" lists; Manny was, well, not suspended; and many fantasy owners didn't even know who Dexter Fowler was.

Things sure have changed, no?

Relatively speaking, five weeks of a 26-week season is a small sample size. But in terms of projecting, it can be huge. When a starter suffers a major injury or loses his starting job, his projected value can plummet. When an emerging youngster such as Adam Lind sets the fantasy world on its ear, we see stars in our eyes, sometimes even if that's not really warranted.

Which is why we at ESPN Fantasy felt now was a good time to re-rank the players. And when we re-rank, we're not talking about one fantasy guy you rarely follow using some complex formula to spit out rankings, we're talking about an aggregate vote from eight of the brightest and most visible fantasy baseball experts. We send in our votes, we tally them and average them out, and voilà, a new top 250.

So what has changed in five weeks? Well, a lot more than you might realize. We had top-15 players falling outside the top 40 (ahem, Lance Berkman), players who couldn't crack our top 300 jumping into the top 100 (Hill) and supposedly solid shortstops not even making the top 250 (Mike Aviles).

It's time to get into the specifics, but two notes before I begin. As I indicated before, this is not a computer-generated-formula ranking; this is perceived value, which is more important to you users. Basically, we asked ourselves the question, would you trade Player X for Player Y? If yes, then Player Y is ranked higher, and vice versa. That doesn't mean Player Y is a better fit for your team, of course, but this is his overall perceived value. And secondly, this is from here on out. What a player has done is used only to help us determine what we think he will do.

And with that, let's look at a few of the biggest climbs and drops among the hitters, and the reasoning behind them:

See the full Top 250.

Fortunes Rising

Brad Hawpe, OF, Rockies: Hey, sometimes playing in the WBC has its advantages ... even when the player doesn't actually play in the WBC. Reports circulated this winter that Hawpe changed his workout plan in order to be in top shape earlier than normal so he could play for Team USA in the World Baseball Challenge. Alas, he sliced his finger and had to bow out of the spring games. But the change in approach appears to be helping him now. Normally a better hitter from June on, Hawpe is batting .362 and already has 27 RBIs, so he appears to have hit midseason form a bit earlier this season. It's looking like a big season ahead for him

Top 100 Hitters

Note: Brendan Roberts' top 100 hitters are ranked for their expected performance from this point on, not on the statistics that have already been accrued.

1. Albert Pujols, 1B, STL (1)
2. Hanley Ramirez, SS, FLA (2)
3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B, DET (3)
4. Alex Rodriguez, 3B, NYY (8)
5. Ryan Braun, OF, MIL (5)
6. David Wright, 3B, NYM (10)
7. Jose Reyes, SS, NYM (7)
8. Ian Kinsler, 2B, TEX (6)
9. Grady Sizemore, OF, CLE (9)
10. Chase Utley, 2B, PHI (4)
11. Mark Teixeira, 1B, NYY (13)
12. Evan Longoria, 3B, TB (12)
13. Alfonso Soriano, OF, CHC (14)
14. Carlos Beltran, OF, NYM (15)
15. Nick Markakis, OF, BAL (16)
16. Ryan Howard, 1B, PHI (11)
17. Carlos Lee, OF, HOU (20)
18. Josh Hamilton, OF, TEX (19)
19. Carl Crawford, OF, TB (28)
20. Dustin Pedroia, 2B, BOS (25)
21. Jason Bay, OF, BOS (22)
22. Ichiro Suzuki, OF, SEA (31)
23. Jimmy Rollins, SS, PHI (29)
24. Justin Morneau, 1B, MIN (26)
25. Prince Fielder, 1B, MIL (21)
26. Kevin Youkilis, 1B/3B, BOS (17)
27. Matt Kemp, OF, LAD (34)
28. Lance Berkman, 1B, HOU (27)
29. Joey Votto, 1B, CIN (23)
30. Nate McLouth, OF, PIT (41)
31. Raul Ibanez, OF, PHI (33)
32. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, SD (30)
33. Curtis Granderson, OF, DET (35)
34. Matt Holliday, OF, OAK (47)
35. Brian Roberts, 2B, BAL (32)
36. Alex Rios, OF, TOR (38)
37. Torii Hunter, OF, LAA (64)
38. Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, BOS (44)
39. Bobby Abreu, OF, LAA (46)
40. B.J. Upton, OF, TB (37)
41. Brandon Phillips, 2B, CIN (43)
42. Carlos Pena, 1B, TB (36)
43. Andre Ethier, OF, LAD (39)
44. Hunter Pence, OF, HOU (65)
45. Johnny Damon, OF, NYY (81)
46. Russell Martin, C, LAD (76)
47. Victor Martinez, C, CLE (48)
48. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, WAS (49)
49. Carlos Quentin, OF, CWS (24)
50. Corey Hart, OF, MIL (53)
51. Aubrey Huff, 1B/3B, BAL (56)
52. Derek Jeter, SS, NYY (62)
53. Robinson Cano, 2B, NYY (51)
54. Joe Mauer, C, MIN (59)
55. Shane Victorino, OF, PHI (55)
56. Brian McCann, C, ATL (63)
57. Jermaine Dye, OF, CWS (71)
58. Chipper Jones, 3B, ATL (58)
59. Jay Bruce, OF, CIN (75)
60. Alexei Ramirez, 2B, CWS (40)
61. Adam Dunn, OF, WAS (57)
62. Nelson Cruz, OF, TEX (60)
63. Rafael Furcal, SS, LAD (66)
64. Adam Lind, OF, TOR (68)
65. Magglio Ordonez, OF, DET (73)
66. Michael Young, SS/3B, TEX (42)
67. Adam Jones, OF, BAL (69)
68. Aaron Hill, 2B, TOR (54)
69. Derrek Lee, 1B, CHC (86)
70. Chris Davis, 1B/3B, TEX (83)
71. Vernon Wells, OF, TOR (78)
72. Vladimir Guerrero, OF, LAA (74)
73. Manny Ramirez, OF, LAD (18)
74. Jayson Werth, OF, PHI (NR)
75. David Ortiz, DH, BOS (87)
76. Pablo Sandoval, 1B, SF (70)
77. Jorge Cantu, 1B, FLA (61)
78. Stephen Drew, SS, ARI (82)
79. Ryan Ludwick, OF, STL (52)
80. Denard Span, OF, MIN (88)
81. Chris Iannetta, C, COL (79)
82. Garrett Atkins, 1B/3B, COL (80)
83. Aramis Ramirez, 3B, ChC (45)
84. Chone Figgins, 3B, LAA (67)
85. Justin Upton, OF, ARI (NR)
86. Placido Polanco, 2B, DET (NR)
87. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, COL (NR)
88. Adrian Beltre, 3B, SEA (NR)
89. Brad Hawpe, OF, COL (90)
90. Carlos Delgado, 1B, NYM (NR)
91. Howie Kendrick, 2B, LAA (91)
92. Dan Uggla, 2B, FLA (85)
93. Willy Taveras, OF, CIN (NR)
94. Geovany Soto, C, CHC (NR)
95. Rickie Weeks, 2B, MIL (99)
96. Jim Thome, DH, CHW (NR)
97. Miguel Tejada, SS, HOU (NR)
98. Mike Lowell, 3B, BOS (84)
99. Bengie Molina, C, SF (95)
100. J.J. Hardy, SS, MIL (77)

Hunter Pence, OF, Astros: I've had two knocks on Pence since the moment he debuted: (1) He was a notorious free swinger who swung at too many bad pitches to hit for a decent average; and (2) He's slightly built and was bound to have injuries because he's a reckless outfielder and baserunner. He's proving me wrong. While watching him play recently, I noticed he actually is laying off breaking pitches away and pitches around the letters. Shockingly, he's on pace for 82 walks, which is pretty darned good. And secondly, he has a certain smoothness about him that makes his recklessness look rather natural and effortless, like a Nate McLouth rather than an Eric Byrnes. I also noticed the guy literally can't stop moving; he's as fidgety a player as I've seen, which is a good thing. Slowly, he has won me over, and I now wish I owned him in more leagues.

Fortunes Falling

Lance Berkman, 1B, Astros: I wasn't worried about Berkman whatsoever until I heard he has been dealing with a sore wrist. So what, right? Well, when I was researching for reasons for his "down" 2007 campaign, I was tipped off by a few alert sources that Berkman had battled wrist soreness for much of that season but hadn't told anybody about it because he didn't want it to seem like an excuse. Well, here he is struggling mightily, and then I hear he is having wrist problems, and I can't help but wonder if there's a connection there. There's really nothing you Berkman owners can do with him right now but stick with him, but I'd be concerned.

Matt LaPorta, OF, Indians: The reason LaPorta started the season in the minors was because the Indians appeared to have plenty of capable options. That hasn't changed, which is why LaPorta hasn't played everyday since being recalled. The Indians are already in desperation mode, and they can't afford to let a rookie get his feet wet while hurting the team. Granted, that could change if the team falls out of the picture early, but I think this LaPorta stop was merely a cup of coffee, and he could even be sent down once Travis Hafner returns. And the kid has shown he's not ready to help fantasy owners yet. I say you drop him in non-keeper mixed leagues.

Pickups of the Week

Mixed: Eric Byrnes, OF, D-backs: I'm not surprised he's owned in just 36.8 percent of leagues, but with Conor Jackson out, he should be an everyday player. He has nine hits in his last 23 at-bats.

AL-only: Jamey Carroll, 2B/3B, Indians: Carroll was activated from the DL on Tuesday and was in the lineup at third base Wednesday. He's currently in line for at least a platoon job in the infield, and he did hit .277 with seven steals last season.

NL-only: Shane Robinson, OF, Cardinals. Likely will play often since both Rick Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick are on the DL, and was hitting .345 with four steals in Triple-A before getting called up last week.

5x5 Watch: SBs

As I troll through stats, one thing that strikes me is how many of the league's top base stealers are available in standard mixed leagues. At this point in the season, anybody with, say, seven steals is likely to get plenty more of them. Among those with less than seven-plus steals and less than 60 percent ownership in ESPN standard leagues: Denard Span, Emmanuel Burris, Michael Bourn, Dexter Fowler, Nyjer Morgan, Akinori Iwamura, Cesar Izturis.

Position Watch

Daniel Murphy, Fernando Tatis and Gary Sheffield have all been platooning in the outfield and at first base because Carlos Delgado has been hurting, diluting all three players' value. But if Delgado's hip forces him to the DL, which right now seems very possible, things get very interesting. Jerry Manuel told WFAN radio on Tuesday that Murphy will get starts at first base, and he could be the one to replace Delgado (not Tatis, who helps the team more as a utility player). Sheffield likely would play almost everyday in left field. If that happens, Murphy definitely becomes a worthwhile mixed-league start, and maybe Sheffield (gasp!) does as well.

On the docket

And you thought the Diamondbacks' offense has been underwhelming already ... beginning Friday, the team plays 10 straight and 17 of its next 24 games on the road. That's bad news; the team is hitting just .182 on the road this season.

Lineup Card

Jimmy Rollins has been moved to the fifth hole in the Phillies' lineup. Ho-hum, anything to get him going. But the big news here is that Jayson Werth is batting third after hitting mostly in that fifth hole for much of the season. At the third spot, he should score more runs while still getting the chance to drive in runs since Shane Victorino and Chase Utley are in front of him. In his first game there, he stole four bases (including home) and scored twice.

On the farm

Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Rockies: The Rox are deep in outfield options right now, but keep an eye on this once-hyped prospect. He's hitting .333 with 37 RBIs in 30 games in Triple-A. Granted, Colorado Springs is a favorable place to hit, but Gonzalez might force himself into the Rockies' outfield picture soon.

Brandon Wood, SS, Angels: Wood is gone from the Angels (again) but shouldn't be forgotten. He has been playing exclusively shortstop in Triple-A, and the speculation here is that they're giving him the chance to show he can supplant Erick Aybar or at least work himself into a platoon. One thing is for sure: Aybar will be a lot easier to supplant than Chone Figgins. And as Kevin Goldstein notes, Wood is tearing it up offensively.

Nick Evans, OF, Mets: I once was a closet Evans fan, as some of you were, and he did have his moments this spring. But he is firmly out of the Mets' outfield picture at this point. In fact, after he batted .093 with 27 strikeouts in his first 75 at-bats for Triple-A Buffalo, the Mets sent him not to Double-A, but all the way back to extended spring training, according to the New York Post. You can wipe him from your prospect list for now.

Final thoughts

I'll be along next week to break down DH situations, or lack thereof, just before interleague play begins next weekend, but be sure to take them into account when setting your weekly lineups for Week 7. For instance, what will the Blue Jays do with Adam Lind when the team heads to Atlanta? Will he play the outfield, and if so, who will he kick out of the lineup? Travis Snider perhaps? We'll take a closer look next week.

Brendan Roberts is a contributing writer/editor for ESPN Fantasy.

Brendan Roberts is a contributing writer/editor for ESPN Fantasy. He has been covering fantasy sports as an editor and writer for more than eight years and was awarded the Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year award in 2006 from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. Roberts can be read in both the fantasy baseball and football areas at ESPN.com.

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