Early risers, fallers in points leagues
"What about us?"
We've heard the cries of anguish from fantasy owners in points leagues who are constantly bombarded with fantasy analysis regarding what players can give you in particular categories or how they'll impact your rotisserie standings. While the information found in those columns can certainly be useful, it isn't tailored to your particular format and, as such, might not always apply.
Points leagues are their own particular animal, and they cry out for a different measuring stick. A player can be a solid 5x5 performer, ranked in the top 20 on the ESPN Player Rater, and be an enormous albatross in the points format. Similarly, a pitcher can barely be worth rostering in a 10-team mixed league, yet have enormous value to a similarly sized league that doesn't worry as much about where the points come from, so long as they come.
Top 100: Points leagues
AJ Mass' top 100 overall players are ranked based on statistics that have already been accrued in ESPN standard points formats and should be used as a supplement to the ESPN Player Rater.
In this debut edition of what we hope becomes a regular watering hole for points-league owners, we thought it best to explain what to expect to see here. First off, you'll notice a ranking of the overall Top 100 in terms of value to this format. Although it is not a forecast of future value, it is also not simply a list of which players have tallied the most points in ESPN standard scoring either. What we've tried to do is to give points-league players a "player rater" of their own, where hitters and pitchers are weighted based on overall consistency and how much they have contributed on a per-week basis relative to the rest of the talent pool.
We also will go more in-depth into which players are trending to be more/less valuable in points leagues as compared to their value in category-based leagues. Generally speaking, you won't see names like Francisco Liriano on this list. A pitcher who blows up like he did in the past week, allowing 10 earned runs over 7 1/3 innings, is going to be detrimental in any format. You also won't see the likes of Marlon Byrd and the 1-for-19 swoon that predated his trade to Boston. Sometimes bad is universal.
However, Michael Bourn has hit .400 for the past week with six stolen bases. That's certainly good for any format, but his being ranked No. 17 on the ESPN Player Rater shows how much more valuable he is to standard-league owners than he is in points leagues, as the lack of any power, along with his strikeouts, finds him only reaching No. 85 on my rankings.
Owners who are less experienced with using a single point value to determine each player's value might be surprised by some of the names found below. However, that's kind of the whole point of this article, isn't it? We certainly hope so.
Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Boston Red Sox: Currently checking in at No. 66 overall on the ESPN Player Rater amongst hitters, Pedroia is No. 48 in my hitters' ranks. Although he had a down week in production, hitting just .217, one of his five hits was a home run and only two of his 18 outs were strikeouts. Hitters who continue to make contact are not going to hurt you as much as those who whiff as often as the Red Sox had to change pitchers against the New York Yankees. Don't get discouraged here, as even this down week was not that bad in the grand scheme of things.
Carlos Pena, 1B, Tampa Bay Rays: Another case where the category-based numbers for the week scare you far more than the points-league impact. Pena did not hit a home run in the past seven days. He had just one RBI. He hit .227 for the week. Yet his value actually rose a bit in points leagues thanks to eight walks and a HBP that led to a .452 OBP and more than negated his six strikeouts. If this is going to be Pena at his worst, then the sky is truly the limit for the returning Ray.
Ross Detwiler, P, Washington Nationals: It's hard to ignore a 2-0 record with a 0.56 ERA and 0.94 WHIP. Yet a look at his rank at No. 64 overall on the ESPN Player Rater seems to indicate many are paying him little mind. My ranks have him at No. 27 overall. Part of that is the simple truth that starting pitchers have more value on a per-game basis than do hitters in points leagues. However, Detwiler's 3.75 K/BB rate is the biggest reason for optimism here going forward; strikeouts count for double points. Chien-Ming Wang might not have a spot in the rotation to return to at this rate.
Kyle Drabek, P, Toronto Blue Jays: At the end of the day, the most important thing that a pitcher needs to do for his points-league owners is to keep the opposing team off the scoreboard. When you start losing two points each time someone crosses the plate, you quickly learn this lesson. That's why we're still very optimistic about Drabek after his less-than-stellar outing against the Kansas City Royals this past week. Allowing six walks and five hits exhibited an unwelcome lack of control, but at the end of the day, allowing only two runs despite that shows some tenacity that bodes well for the future.
Adam LaRoche, 1B, Washington Nationals: He ranks at No. 14 at his position on the ESPN Player Rater, but even though he had a very slow week, he's still a much more valuable commodity in points leagues. His .308 on-base percentage over the past seven days reads a whole lot better than does the .217 batting average and he pretty much maintained his average run production for the season (1.0 per game). He may not be in the Top 100 overall, but there's no need to toss him to the waiver wire just yet, gang.
David Phelps, P, New York Yankees: This is an unusual pick to be sure, but when it comes to relief pitchers, sometimes it's about the volume of work, and Phelps may get his fair share of looks this week. While long relievers have practically no value in standard leagues, keep in mind that a few solid innings out of the pen can help you just as much as a week's worth of hitting action if not more. Case in point? Phelps has earned only one fewer fantasy point so far in 2012 than has Nelson Cruz.
Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Oakland Athletics: What? He's the No. 12 hitter on the Player Rater! He hit .318 for the week with eight RBIs! How can he be pointing down? For one thing, only one of his hits last week was for extra bases and he scored only twice himself. Then there's the fact that six of his 15 outs were K's. Sure that's 40 percent of all outs resulting from a swing and a miss, down from his season-to-date 50 percent rate -- but it's still not good for points leagues.
Jordan Schafer, OF, Houston Astros: He's only one spot behind Cespedes on the Player Rater, coming in at lucky No. 13. Yes, he hit a grand slam this weekend to surely grab the interest of many fantasy owners, but where is this value really coming from? Is it the steals? He only had one this past week, to go along with an OBP of .296. He'd have to steal at least once a day in order to counteract the damage done by the 12:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio if that trend continues. We just don't see that happening.
Cole Hamels, P, Philadelphia Phillies: Hamels went just 5-5 last season in the 11 games in which he allowed double-digit fly balls. Conversely, he went 7-1 when he served up double-digit ground balls and kept the fly ball total in single digits. That's why we're a little concerned over his first three starts of 2012, because he's already been "fly happy" twice. True, he's won both those games, but the 12 runs his offense scored for him helped out a lot. We're not saying to bench him, only to pay attention.
Bronson Arroyo, P, Cincinnati Reds: There's no question that you have to be impressed with Arroyo's 0.88 WHIP and blown away by his 13:1 K/BB ratio. However, last season Arroyo's opposing batter miss percentage was only 14.3, fifth-lowest in all of baseball. That makes him far more likely a candidate to live or die by his BABIP, which so far this season is 32 points lower than his career mark. It looks far better than it is, and even less attractive to points-leaguers, because his strikeout total per game is never going to jump out at you.
Desmond Jennings, OF, Tampa Bay Rays: There's no mistaking that Jennings, currently the No. 32 hitter on the Player Rater, did far better in this past week than he had in the previous "supersize" Week 1. He hit his first two home runs en route to accumulating 28 of his season-to-date 39 points. We can't dispute that his ranking soared up the charts. But consider this: Take away those two big swings and you instantly lose 15 of those 28 points. It's just a little perspective that the margin for error in points leagues can be razor-thin, and we don't want to exaggerate Jennings' value after just one seven-game stretch.
Joe Nathan, P, Texas Rangers: Saves is a category that counts just as much as home runs in standard leagues. As such, Nathan is currently seeing 100 percent ownership in fantasy leagues thanks to his position as the Rangers' closer. But in points leagues, every time a closer pitches and doesn't get the save, he more than likely (due to the shortness of his typical outing) costs you more points than he earns when he does close out a victory. With two losses and two blown saves to go along with a 4.50 ERA, Nathan ranks No. 64 among relievers in terms of fantasy points. And with 50 percent of his outings so far not resulting in a save, it's hard to justify a spot on your staff right now.