Thursday, February 20, 2014

Fantasy Funkhouser: 2014 Fantasy Baseball Player Rankings - Round 1

Time to start building a super team. (
Fantasy Funkhouser will review all things Fantasy Baseball. After all, life is a small sample size.

When I started writing about fantasy sports a couple odd years ago, I knew it was mostly for my own purposes. My own outlet. With the Internet the way it is, there's no telling if this would get 1 pair of eyeballs or 100,000. Getting 100,000 on a daily bases would be grand, but if only I was able to read this, then I'd be fine with that as well. As we enter into Year 2 of my fantasy baseball rankings, I am reminded of this as I scroll through past Fantasy Funkhouser articles. A lot of the stuff I've said or written about is pretty interesting to re-read. And aside from this article from two years ago brazenly stating that David Robertson is the new Yankees closer, most of the stuff has at least a morsel of worthwhile information stuffed in there. In particular I was proud of my Man Crush picks for last year (which will be back again in 2014), and my Leap Game article on Jose Fernandez. For the record Fernandez did get shelled that night in Cincy, but I think it's safe to say he pulled through. 

Reviewing what I wrote and the amount I wrote for my rankings struck me as daunting. Writing a narrative around an assortment of 12 players in a given week was a challenge, but also not quite worth it. There are much more capable minds to breakdown the nuances of drafting or strategy, and more people will tune into those advisers for that kind of player or draft analysis. I'd like to take more time focusing on the players not trying to build a catch-all article around them. I've competed my Top 250, so over the course of the next month, I'll be able to more quickly and efficiently make them available along with some of my thoughts. On the Big Board, I've added position rank as a reference as well, and while this will be a continually evolving list, I'll try to keep things as fresh as possible along with some analysis as to why a player might have moved up or down the list. 

In summation, if you're new to reading this or think you want to check in periodically, yes, there is some good stuff on here. 

With that all out of the way, time to look at the First Round of the 2014 Fantasy Funkhouser Rankings.

The first pick in the draft is truly a coin flip.  I had Mike Trout as my clear #1 overall selection a couple of months ago, and he could still very well be an excellent #1. However, as I looked into things a bit further I started reviewing certain things. Like who finished higher in Yahoo's final standings (Cabrera #1, Trout #4) or who was on top of ESPN's player rater in 2013 (Cabrera), and who earned more auction dollars (Cabrera $47, Trout $43)? In all of the fantasy rankings Cabrera was still the man to beat. When you look at that and also note that Cabrera has 3B and will soon have 1B eligibility, that is a big plus. Also, Cabrera battled a groin injury over the past month of the season and through the playoffs - so he was capable of an even greater year than he had! And for all you Triple Crown truthers out there, Cabrera had better numbers across the board last year than his Triple Crown winning season in 2012. I guess that's the benefit of not having Chris Davis going off. It's a statistical anomaly, people. Not that it's not amazing, just not as big a deal as some would like you to believe.

Cabrera is still easily in his prime years, and let me just leave the Cabrera side of the argument with this:

.292 AVG/ 26 HR/ 105 RBI / 85 R/ 130 OPS+

That is a line made up of Cabrera's WORST seasons since he was a full-time player in 2004. Yes, that's the bottom of the barrel for Miggy. At this rate, he is legitimately one of the greatest players of all time. The back to back AL MVP along with his unmatched consistency and elite production for your fantasy game make him my top overall choice. He's good at baseball.

As for Trout, he's just the best consolation prize in fantasy history. The 22-year-old is all about breaking records and inspiring awe from those who watch him. Yes, those 2 MVPs with Miguel Cabrera engraved in them could and possibility should read Mike Trout, but this is fantasy people. We truly only care about offense. Trout batted away any body's regression voodoo and actually had a better baseball season in 2013. His LD% increased, his GB% dipped (which isn't too big a deal when you have Trout's speed), and he nearly doubled his walk total while striking out three less times despite playing in 18 more games. Trout is only getting better and although his baseball card stats didn't show it. 

The good news for Trout is that he's not going to be overly aggressive or make mistakes. He's going to be patient. If the pitcher wants to walk him, go ahead. If the pitcher makes a mistake, he'll crank out a double and steal 3rd because he feels like it. For Trout to surpass Cabrera the formula is pretty clear. He has to at the very least maintain his current hitting numbers: high 20's for homers and pushing 90+ RBI with at least a .310+ AVG. The push is going to come from runs scored and steals. When Trout led all of fantasy in 2012 he had 129 R and 49 SB. Those number dropped to 109 R and 33 SB last year, ironically enough due to  $363 MM worth of ball players in Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. The severe lack in production from either of these overpriced superstars had a negative effect on Trout's ability to produce comparable runs scored numbers and while there isn't a direct correlation to the dip in steals, Trout has already indicated this Spring that he wants to steal more bases. There is no right or wrong answer for the #1 pick. If I'm fortunate enough to have the opportunity I want to own both Cabrera and Trout spread across my fantasy teams because they're just too fun to have.

For any questions regarding my Ryan Braun at #5 ranking, I refer you to this

I mentioned before that with the many question marks lining the offensive player pool this year, I would imagine pitchers like Clayton Kershaw or Yu Darvish or Craig Kimbrel going much earlier than in years past. This is clearly indicated with Kershaw going #7 overall on my board. You always want to try to lock up offense when you can because you can fill out your staff a bit later through free agency. There aren't many 30/20 guys relaxing on your watch list, but then again there aren't pitchers like Clayton Kershaw either. He has put together enough consistency and dominance to warrant this spot. Trusting Ramirez, Ellsbury, or even Encarnacion to be productive and healthy is a risky one. Chris Davis is worthy of a shot at #7, but there is some hesitancy for how much his production will regress. Plus he's more of a .260-.270 hitter and expecting 50+HR in this day and age just isn't the practice of a sane individual.

I am big on Encarnacion this year. His injury bug seems to be past him, and with him too adding 3B eligibility makes him a very tempting target. Imagine pulling him and Cabrera in a draft? Oh, boy. 

Finally, for Robinson Cano, his #12 overall rank is nothing more than where he normally should be ranked. Moving from the Yankees to the Mariners is overblown in the ballpark change sense. Who knows if Cano's relaxed attitude will become a hindrance in the more laid back city of Seattle as opposed to the cauldron that is New York City? There's really no one in Seattle that will or can keep Cano's attitude in check, so while there might be some mud slinging going on regarding his effort, I'm confident that the pressure of $240 MM will motivate him just fine. Cano has always been steady and honestly, been drafted much higher than his value dictates. I expect nothing more or less than what Cano has produced in previous seasons. 

1 Miguel Cabrera 3B 1 DET
2 Mike Trout OF 1 LAA
3 Paul Goldschmidt 1B 1 ARZ
4 Andrew McCutchen OF 2 PIT
5 Ryan Braun OF 3 MIL
6 Carlos Gonzalez OF 4 COL
7 Clayton Kershaw SP 1 LAD
8 Hanley Ramirez SS 1 LAD
9 Chris Davis 1B 2 BAL
10 Edwin Encarnacion 3B 2 NYY
11 Jacoby Ellsbury OF 5 TOR
12 Robinson Cano 2B 1 SEA
On Deck: Adrian Beltre, Joey Votto, Bryce Harper



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