Over the offseason we’ll take a look at each position on the diamond and see how the past season affected the positional rankings and where there might be some potential bounceback value picks going into next year’s drafts. (See shortstops, catchers, second basemen, first basemen, third basemen, and left fielders.)
These rankings are for 5×5 rotisserie fantasy baseball. Eligibility was determined by where the player had the most at-bats last year.
The tier-of-his-own player in right field is Justin Upton, and I doubt there will be too much grumbling about this ranking for a guy who hit .300 with 26 home runs and 20 stolen bases in his firs full year. Sure, we may talk a little about his high BABIP (.364), but for now let’s just look at the fan projections and sigh.
That should end the easy portion of our rankings today. Perhaps this is just a little self-pity in anticipation of the comments thread, but the next two tiers could be a single tier, or could be three tiers, and could probably be re-arranged ad infinitum. We’ll give Ichiro! Suzuki credit for his BABIP and (sexy) infield-hitting prowess which are perfect for the right fantasy team.
Now come the players that are impossible to rank. Where do you put a guy like Nelson Cruz, who will give you great power and speed, but will hurt your batting average? Could he be any more different from Shin-Soo Choo, who is is solid across the board but won’t win you a single category? Bobby Abreu is in the Choo-mold, but we’ll move him back a little for the waning power and, to be frank, his old age and body type. It hasn’t hurt him yet, but someday, well it just has to. Right?
I don’t think blame can be attributed for seeing a separation after Abreu. While Nick Markakis is a metronome, his steady ticking doesn’t provide much beyond a .300 average and 20 home runs. The steals in 2007 have proved to be an aberration, and while he may get a power spike some year, there’s no way to predict it. Andre Ethier should, with a better BABIP (.292 in 2009, .316 xBABIP, .322 career BABIP), have a better batting average next year, but is the power real? When Bill James shaves seven home runs off your total, you should take notice. He may not hit 40+% fly balls next year. Some will complain about Jayson Werth’s placement, because he certainly looks like a Nelson-Cruz-lite, and they might be right. But Werth has had issues with staying on the field, and with his batting average and strikeout issues, the tier seems right.
Jay Bruce may just zoom up the charts next year and make his ranking seem silly, but at least the fans are backing my sense that we should temper our enthusiasm on the young slugger just a tad. He does seem like a great upside play, better than the young but inconsistent Hunter Pence behind him, who has seemingly showed us his best already. Brad Hawpe has some strikeout issues, some defense issues, and never really showed the power we thought he might. Forgive me for not believing in the simultaneous spike in both flyball rate (39.6% in 2009, 35.7% career) and HR/FB (17.1% in 2009, 12.9% career) and agreeing with the projections that say Michael Cuddyer’s power may subside next year.
The last tier is not very exciting in my mind. Nick Swisher’s batting average ranges from awful to terrible, Jermaine Dye is getting older and posted a six-year low in line drive percentage (16.9%), Garrett Jones was a 28-year-old rookie who had done nothing before 2007 in the minor leagues, and Magglio Ordonez, well we all saw what happened there. In fact, I would rather wait until the end of the draft to pick someone off of the “just off” list, so the Deep League Value piece this Sunday will feature some gems.
With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.