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The RotoWire 200: January Edition

Jeff Erickson

Jeff Erickson

Jeff Erickson is a co-founder of RotoWire.com and the only two-time winner of Baseball Writer of the Year from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He roots for the Reds, Bengals, Red Wings, Pacers and Northwestern University (the real NU).


This is our top 200 for 12-team, mixed-league drafts. It assumes that you start two catchers, start 14 hitters and 9 pitchers. If this were to translate to auction values, it would assume a 70-30 hitter/pitcher split. Hence, pitchers end up slotting below where they might otherwise, especially closers. Your mileage, of course, may vary as you plot your draft strategy.

I have a list of "known outliers," that I plan to blog about much like I did for Emilio Bonifacio. Feel free to discuss here in the comments too, but I'll have expanded thoughts coming soon.

Known high outliers:

Brett Lawrie, Alex Gordon, Dee Gordon, Michael Cuddyer, Cole Hamels, Stephen Strasburg, Kenley Jansen, Brandon League, Cory Luebke

Known low outliers:

Josh Hamilton, Ryan Zimmerman, Shane Victorino, handful of closers, especially Heath Bell and Brian Wilson

1. Matt Kemp, OF - Kemp is durable, provides power, speed and probably a plus batting average.
2. Albert Pujols, 1B - He's in a new location, but the difference in parks should be negligible.
3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B - Cabrera is as reliable as it gets these days. The safest pick on the board.
4. Jose Bautista, 3B/OF - You can make a case for Bautista to be first overall because he's 3B-eligible.
5. Jacoby Ellsbury, OF - Ellsbury hit 32 homers last year; how many do you project for him this year?
6. Carlos Gonzalez, OF - CarGo went 27-92-92 despite a wrist injury last year.
7. Joey Votto, 1B - If Votto ever increased his flyball rate, he could hit 40 homers someday.
8. Justin Upton, OF - Upton is just starting to hit his prime; his ceiling is scary-high.
9. Troy Tulowitzki, SS - Tulowitzki's rank suffers because of durability concerns.
10. Evan Longoria, 3B - To justify this ranking, Longoria needs to start running again.
11. Robinson Cano, 2B - Cano is a very reliable source of 25+ homers, .300+ batting average.
12. Curtis Granderson, OF - Granderson learned to pound left-handers last season.
13. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B - Gonzalez traded some power for a higher average in Fenway.
14. Prince Fielder, 1B - Fielder had bad timing to be a free agent, with Pujols also on the market.
15. Hanley Ramirez, SS - Ramirez's recovery from his shoulder injury is the bigger story than his position change.
16. Clayton Kershaw, P - For the good of the game, I hope he stays healthy so we can see elite career numbers.
17. Roy Halladay, P - Halladay is safer than Kershaw but has a slightly lower ceiling.
18. Dustin Pedroia, 2B - Pedroia was a beast over the final four months of the season.
19. Andrew McCutchen, OF - McCutchen's batting average should recover, but is there another step in power?
20. Ian Kinsler, 2B - Kinsler's .244 BABIP prevented him from having a truly elite season.
21. Mike Stanton, OF - This is may be too high, but better a year early than a year late.
22. Jose Reyes, SS - The tricky part with Reyes is predicting how many games he'll play.
23. Cliff Lee, P - Lee isn't that far off from Kershaw and Halladay.
24. Justin Verlander, P - Will Verlander's 2011 mileage hurt his 2012 numbers?
25. David Wright, 3B - Wright should benefit from the fences moving in at Citi Field.
26. Carlos Santana, C - If you don't give a boost to positional scarcity, drop Santana et al 20 spots.
27. Mark Teixeira, 1B - The shift played against Teixeira appears to have a significant drag on his average.
28. Cole Hamels, P - Hamels doesn't get treated as one of the elites, but he's there on my board.
29. Shin-Soo Choo, OF - Choo's all-around ability almost always ranks him higher than I expect going in.
30. Brett Lawrie, 3B - If Lawrie runs as often as he did last year, he deserves this spot.
31. B.J. Upton, OF - Is this Upton's last year with the Rays?
32. Victor Martinez, C - This could be Martinez's last year qualifying as a catcher.
33. Starlin Castro, SS - How much of a power climb is remaining?
34. Felix Hernandez, P - King Felix gets dragged down by his teammates in the wins category.
35. David Price, P - Watch his fastball in spring training; he was fatigued in September.
36. Tim Lincecum, P - Lincecum's increased fastball velocity bodes well for 2012 success.
37. CC Sabathia, P - Sabathia had a rough September in an otherwise superb season.
38. Adrian Beltre, 3B - Beltre won a lot of leagues with his final month's stats.
39. Buster Posey, C - Posey could play a lot of first base as recovers from his broken leg.
40. Desmond Jennings, OF - Jennings could end up as a 20-40 player eventually, if not in 2012.
41. Alex Gordon, OF - We know the pedigree was there; why can't he repeat?
42. Jay Bruce, OF - Bruce improved his walk rate and hit for more power against lefties in 2011.
43. Josh Hamilton, OF - It's hard to project Hamilton to play more than 125 games, hence his ranking here.
44. Matt Holliday, OF - Holliday's rate stats remained constant last year despite the injuries.
45. Yovani Gallardo, P - Gallardo showed real skills growth in 2011, cutting down his walks again.
46. Jered Weaver, P - Weaver gets remarkable results despite a fastball that hovers around 89-90 mph.
47. Ryan Braun, OF - Braun immediately goes back into the top-five if his suspension is overturned.
48. Elvis Andrus, SS - Andrus improved his contact rate to 87 percent last year.
49. Hunter Pence, OF - Pence should be fully recovered from his hernia operation by spring training.
50. Jon Lester, P - Make a joke about chicken-and-beer when his name comes up, then buy him.
51. Dan Haren, P - There's some potential he'll get overdrafted because of last year's season.
52. Stephen Strasburg, P - I'm admittedly bullish on Strasburg; he's the pitching equivalent to Mike Stanton.
53. Paul Konerko, 1B - Konerko seemingly is always overlooked among the second tier of first baseman.
54. Aramis Ramirez, 3B - Ramirez should benefit from the move to Milwaukee.
55. Mike Napoli, C - What a closing stretch for Napoli; Texas is the perfect fit for him.
56. Brian McCann, C - An oblique injury robbed McCann of a career-year in 2011.
57. Zack Greinke, P - Virtually every advanced metric suggests Greinke was due a better result than he got in 2011.
58. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B - This ranking assumes some of Zimmerman's groundball spike was for real.
59. Michael Bourn, OF - If he hits .285+, Bourn will net you a profit from this spot.
60. Alex Rodriguez, 3B - A-Rod went to Germany for experimental procedures on his knee and shoulder.
61. Pablo Sandoval, 3B - Sandoval is projected for 23 homers, but has a 30+ homer upside.
62. Michael Cuddyer, OF/1B - Cuddyer will get a big bump in moving from Target Field to Coors Field.
63. Nelson Cruz, OF - Cruz's perpetual leg injuries drive his draft price down.
64. Carl Crawford, OF - Crawford's batting average should improve; will he run more again?
65. Dan Hudson, P - Hudson's strikeout rate could begin to climb back up.
66. Matt Garza, P - Garza pitched much better than his record and ERA indicated last season.
67. Brandon Phillips, 2B - Phillips' stat-line from year-to-year is remarkably consistent.
68. Joe Mauer, C - The power isn't coming back, but the batting average should.
69. Ben Zobrist, 2B/OF - Zobrist had a whopping 82 extra-base hits last season.
70. Craig Kimbrel, P - Kimbrel gives you so many strikeouts as a reliever that he's clearly the top closer.
71. Dan Uggla, 2B - Uggla rewarded those who remained patient, after punishing them in the first half.
72. Adam Jones, OF - Jones will probably never walk as much as we'd like, which puts a cap on his value.
73. Ricky Romero, P - If Romero ever pitched in the NL, he'd be a top-40 player.
74. Josh Beckett, P - Beckett's September overshadowed an otherwise elite season.
75. Drew Stubbs, OF - Stubbs took a significant step backwards, losing all confidence in the second half.
76. Miguel Montero, C - Montero will probably spend the full season in the middle of the order this year.
77. Matt Wieters, C - After years of going over slot, Wieters presents bargain potential in 2012.
78. Kevin Youkilis, 3B - Youkilis has Last Year's Bums potential, especially if you wait a little on third base.
79. Dee Gordon, SS - Gordon could steal upwards of 50 bases in a full season.
80. Shane Victorino, OF - Victorino was on a career-year pace before injuries hit last season.
81. James Shields, P - Shields was the subject of trade rumors this offseason, but so far he remains in Tampa Bay.
82. C.J. Wilson, P - Wilson thrived in Texas; the move to Anaheim should only help.
83. Eric Hosmer, 1B - Years from now, Trumbo over Hosmer is going to look pretty silly.
84. Chase Utley, 2B - Can Utley ever get back to the 30-homer plateau?
85. Rickie Weeks, 2B - We've seen what Weeks can do when healthy, alas he's been healthy once in five years.
86. Mark Reynolds, 3B - Reynolds has very reliable power, albeit with a very reliable batting average risk.
87. Michael Young, 3B - Young's low walk-rate works to our advantage when he hits for high average.
88. Alex Avila, C - There is a pretty big drop-off at the catcher spot after Avila.
89. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS - Cabrera broke out for 25 homers last season; we project 17 for him this season.
90. Matt Cain, P - I'm convinced Cain's low HR/FB rate is a skill, not a fluke.
91. John Axford, P - Axford's shaky first week of 2011 is long forgotten.
92. Derek Jeter, SS - Jeter's so overrated that he's now underrated in fantasy circles.
93. Mariano Rivera, P - Rivera is still the safest closer out there; his surgery this offseason was to his vocal chords.
94. Josh Johnson, P - Johnson's shoulder will be one of the closer-watched stories this spring.
95. Mat Latos, P - The Reds took a big gamble that Latos can be an ace outside of Petco Park.
96. Adam Wainwright, P - Wainwright is returning from Tommy John surgery, apparently without Dave Duncan.
97. Drew Storen, P - Storen is the latest player to tank in the spring then dominate in the summer.
98. Jayson Werth, OF - Werth has good buy-low potential after he tanked in his first year with the Nats.
99. Jimmy Rollins, SS - Rollins is back for three more years with the Phillies, at age 33.
100. Ichiro Suzuki, OF - Ichiro is coming off his worst season; can his batting average rebound?
101. Andre Ethier, OF - Ethier apparently played a significant part of 2011 with a bad knee, which explains the power decline.
102. Chris Young, OF - What you see is what you get with Young; a low batting average with a 20-20 season.
103. Jonathan Papelbon, P - Papelbon should continue to thrive with Philly, even though four years is too long.
104. Jason Heyward, OF - Everything went wrong for Heyward, but don't forget he had a .849 OPS at age 20.
105. Matt Moore, P - Moore's contract extension implies he has a rotation slot locked up.
106. Madison Bumgarner, P - If Bumgarner can replicate his second half, this ranking is too low.
107. Michael Pineda, P - Pineda faded with the added workload late, but the sky is the limit here.
108. Ian Kennedy, P - Kennedy's wins last season will lead him to be drafted higher than this, which is a mistake.
109. Lance Berkman, 1B/OF - Berkman should play exclusively at first base this year.
110. Jemile Weeks, 2B - Weeks was the one hitter the A's deemed untouchable this winter.
111. Yu Darvish, P - The best to come over from Japan so far, assuming he signs.
112. Howie Kendrick, 2B/OF - Kendrick finally had his breakout in 2011; this is as good as it gets.
113. Corey Hart, OF - Speed isn't a significant part of Hart's game any longer.
114. Brett Gardner, OF - Is this the year the Yankees stick Gardner in the leadoff spot and leave him there?
115. Ryan Madson, P - Madson got his wish to close, getting a one-year deal with the Reds.
116. Cameron Maybin, OF - It's too bad that Maybin plays in Petco; he had huge home/road splits last year.
117. Cory Luebke, P - Then again, pitchers like Luebke wouldn't be so high but for Petco.
118. Ike Davis, 1B - Davis was having a fine sophomore season before his ankle injury; he should be ready for 2012.
119. Danny Espinosa, 2B - Espinosa can get you a 20-20 season, albeit at the expense of a low batting average.
120. Peter Bourjos, OF - The Angels' have a logjam in the outfield, but Bourjos' defense is a trump card.
121. Johnny Cueto, P - Cueto has traded strikeouts for control with positive results.
122. Derek Holland, P - Holland was 9-1 with a 3.06 ERA and 80 strikeouts after the All-Star break.
123. Brandon Beachy, P - With a little bit of run support, Beachy could be a monster this year.
124. Brandon League, P - League walked just three batters in 157 plate appearances in save situations last year.
125. Kenley Jansen, P - Jansen struck out a whopping 16.1 batters per nine innings last season.
126. Gio Gonzalez, P - Gonzalez leaves Oakland, but lands in a good spot in D.C.
127. Alexei Ramirez, SS - What you see is what you get; it's not bad, but it's not getting better.
128. David Ortiz, DH - It's hard to imagine Ortiz will stay as healthy as he did in 2011.
129. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B - Goldschmidt will strike out a lot, but his power is also legit.
130. Coco Crisp, OF - Crisp is back for more with the A's and should again be a cheap source of bags.
131. Michael Morse, 1B/OF - Morse won't hit .300 again this season without a considerable amount of luck.
132. Billy Butler, DH - Butler is hurt here by losing his first base eligibility.
133. Logan Morrison, OF - Morrison was on his way to a breakout before drama and then injuries interceded.
134. J.J. Putz, P - Putz is dominant when healthy, but at times it appears his arm is hanging by a thread.
135. Joel Hanrahan, P - Don't be alarmed in the drop in Hanrahan's strikeout rate; he's throwing as hard as ever.
136. Brian Wilson, P - Wilson dropped a bit in our rankings thanks to his season-ending elbow injury.
137. Colby Lewis, P - Lewis isn't exciting, but he'll get you strikeouts and probably a goodly amount of run support.
138. Chris Carpenter, P - Carpenter came on strong in the second half, but how much does he have left in the tank?
139. Tim Hudson, P - Hudson had surgery to fix a herniated disc in his back in the offseason.
140. Max Scherzer, P - Scherzer came up huge in the playoffs, demonstrating his not-always-realized talent.
141. Jason Kipnis, 2B - Kipnis is capable of hitting 15-to-20 homers right off the bat.
142. Carlos Beltran, OF - Is Beltran this year's version of Lance Berkman, getting healthy in St. Louis?
143. J.P. Arencibia, C - With Arencibia's low contact rate, he's always going to trade off power for batting average.
144. Neil Walker, 2B - Walker would really benefit if other Pittsburgh hitters took the leap this year.
145. Yadier Molina, C - Was 2011 a breakout season or a career year for Molina?
146. Erick Aybar, SS - Will Aybar get more walks or stolen bases this year?
147. Nick Swisher, OF - Boring, but in a good way.
148. Nick Markakis, OF - Markakis had abdominal surgery in January and might not be ready for the start of the season.
149. Anibal Sanchez, P - Sanchez has had two healthy seasons in a row, with considerable skills growth.
150. Hiroki Kuroda, P - Unsigned at press time, but Kuroda did say that he'll pitch in the U.S. one more year.
151. Jason Motte, P - Motte took over the closing duties halfway through 2011 and should keep the job this year.
152. Rafael Betancourt, P - Betancourt is a flyball pitcher in Coors Field, but he also doesn't walk anyone.
153. Carlos Marmol, P - Marmol melted down over the second half, but with Marshall gone, there's no competition.
154. Joe Nathan, P - The signing of Nathan by the Rangers ensures Neftali Feliz stays in the starting rotation.
155. Tommy Hanson, P - Hanson was dominant until his shoulder injury, after which he had a 5.59 ERA.
156. Jaime Garcia, P - Garcia isn't dominant, but his impeccable control goes a long way.
157. Wandy Rodriguez, P - Rodriguez spent the trade deadline and part of the offseason on the block, but remains in Houston for now.
158. Brandon McCarthy, P - McCarthy finally got to pitch at a place that doesn't punish flyball pitchers, with good results.
159. Trevor Cahill, P - On one hand, Cahill switches to the NL, but on the other hand he exchanges Oakland's park for Arizona's.
160. Freddie Freeman, 1B - The career track record of 21-year-olds that hold their own in the majors is fantastic.
161. Gaby Sanchez, 1B - Sanchez teased a breakout last year, only to fade in the second half.
162. J.J. Hardy, SS - Hey Minnesota, thanks for the free shortstop. Not that the Twins needed one or anything.
163. Huston Street, P - Street goes from Coors Field to Petco Park for the win.
164. Jose Valverde, P - Valverde is overrated in the beat writer world and underrated in the saber-community.
165. Sergio Santos, P - The White Sox's sign-and-trade of Santos to Toronto was perplexing.
166. Ubaldo Jimenez, P - Can Jimenez regain his velocity and benefit from the change in ballparks?
167. Jordan Walden, P - A brutal blown save the final weekend marred a superb rookie season for Walden.
168. Chris Perez, P - Beware of Perez's incredibly shrinking strikeout rate.
169. Joakim Soria, P - Soria's decline is illustrative in the danger of relying on max-effort relievers.
170. Vernon Wells, OF - Wells had a horrible overall season yet still hit 25 homers.
171. Angel Pagan, OF - Pagan now gets to ply his wares in San Francisco.
172. Stephen Drew, SS - Drew was a trendy breakout guy last year, but might be under the radar this year.
173. Mike Moustakas, 3B - Moustakas struggled as a rookie, but a big September gives us hope.
174. Mark Trumbo, 1B - An offseason foot injury scuttled the Angels attempt to transition Trumbo to third base.
175. Melky Cabrera, OF - The Giants bought high on Cabrera and sold low on Jonathan Sanchez.
176. Jeff Francoeur, OF - The Royals are buying into Francoeur with his contract, so his playing time is ensured.
177. Scott Baker, P - Health and not performance is Baker's biggest hurdle.
178. Alexi Ogando, P - Right now it looks as if Ogando will stay in the rotation.
179. Brandon Morrow, P - Morrow could be a boom or bust pick, but high strikeout pitchers are always worthy gambles.
180. Heath Bell, P - Is Bell's strikeout rate decline legit or a sample-size fluke?
181. Andrew Bailey, P - Bailey is dominant when healthy, but has had elbow problems each of the last two years.
182. Grant Balfour, P - Balfour is our pick to be the A's closer in the wake of the Andrew Bailey trade.
183. Jordan Zimmermann, P - The Nats will probably take the kid gloves off of Zimmermann this season.
184. Bud Norris, P - Norris is exciting, but his reliance on the slider is a warning signal.
185. Austin Jackson, OF - Jackson's strikeout rate is a problem, but on the plus side he did walk more last year.
186. David Freese, 3B - Freese would rate higher but for durability concerns.
187. Matt Joyce, OF - Joyce provided 19 homers and 13 steals despite getting platooned last season.
188. Martin Prado, 3B/OF - Prado was disappointing last year, but his third-base eligibility retains some of his value.
189. Torii Hunter, OF - Hunter is clearly slowing down; don't be surprised if he drops in the order this year.
190. Ervin Santana, P - Santana could be affected the most by who they choose to start in the outfield.
191. Jeremy Hellickson, P - Hellickson had a pretty big gap between his ERA and FIP-ERA.
192. Emilio Bonifacio, SS/3B/OF - Bonifacio's average will decline, but he could still get 30+ steals.
193. Doug Fister, P - Fister faced an easy schedule after joining the Tigers, but also came up big in the playoffs.
194. Adam Lind, 1B - Lind still can't hit lefties, limiting his overall value.
195. Dustin Ackley, 2B - Ackley held his own as a rookie and could provide double-digit homers and steals this year.
196. R.A. Dickey, P - How much will Dickey get hurt by the change in Citi Field's dimensions?
197. Ryan Howard, 1B - We project Howard to miss half the season with his Achilles' tendon injury.
198. Ryan Roberts, 3B/2B - Is Roberts a late bloomer or a one-hit wonder?
199. Colby Rasmus, OF - Rasmus tanked after the trade to Toronto, but he still has a load of talent.
200. Jhonny Peralta, SS - Peralta won't hit .299 again, but could have 15-20 homers.
201. Yoenis Cespedes, OF - Should provide homers and steals upon arrival to MLB.