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The RotoWire 200: Our First Bite of the Apple

Jeff Erickson

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

The RotoWire 200

This is our top 200 for 12-team, mixed-league drafts. Here's a few guidelines on how this list is compiled:

- I'm assuming it's a standard 5x5 league.

- Though it doesn't strictly hew to our projected auction values, it's pretty close. Occasionally draft dynamics will push a player up or down beyond what his stats are worth. To that end, these players are listed in order of where I think they should rank, without regard to ADP. To the extent that there are some early outliers, I've tried to note them in the comments. I do operate under the assumption of a 68-32 hitter-pitcher split in valuing the players.

- A player needs to have played at least 20 games at the position last year to qualify there this year, or if he was a minor leaguer it would be at the position where he played the most last year. Cuban players ... honestly, determining positions for them is a harder enterprise. I'm slotting them at where I think that they'll play.

- 200 isn't really that deep. We'll come out with a top 350 later on, but this version is going into the magazine, where 200 is a tidy number. In a similar vein, the format necessarily requires shorter comments. For more insight, read the player's outlooks, which are now up on the site.

1. Mike Trout, OF - A year ago there was a clear top three, with some debating whether Trout belonged in that trio. This year there's no doubt.
2. Miguel Cabrera, 3B - This will be Miggy's last year at third base, which might keep him healthier down the stretch.
3. Clayton Kershaw, P - How you choose to structure your team may vary, but this is what Kershaw is worth.
4. Andrew McCutchen, OF - If you crave reliability, McCutchen is your man.
5. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B - It's possible that Goldschmidt has another level in him, but we're not going there ... yet.
6. Jacoby Ellsbury, OF - A bad real-life contract doesn't make for a bad roto investment.
7. Carlos Gonzalez, OF - Even with all of his injury issues, CarGo has had four consecutive .295+ 20-20 seasons.
8. Chris Davis, 1B - Davis still whiffs a lot, but he consistently makes hard contact when he gets ahold of it.
9. Hanley Ramirez, SS - Ramirez is a volatile pick with an extremely high payoff if things go right.
10. Adam Jones, OF - Jones produces a steady baseline as long as you're not playing in an OBP league.
11. Yu Darvish, P - Darvish could really benefit from a revamped Rangers offense.
12. Bryce Harper, OF - What's more important to you - ceiling or floor?
13. Robinson Cano, 2B - How much do you discount for the move to Safeco Field?
14. Adrian Beltre, 3B - Beltre needs a couple more elite seasons to start entering HOF discussions.
15. Joey Votto, 1B - Votto is somehow still underappreciated by his own fanbase and/or local media.
16. Jason Kipnis, 2B - Are Kipnis's second half fades features or bugs? The bet here is the latter and thus correctable.
17. Ryan Braun, OF - Braun's placement here accounts for fewer stolen base attempts and games played.
18. Edwin Encarnacion, 1B - Try to get an update on E5's wrist rehab before pulling the trigger if you can.
19. Prince Fielder, 1B - The move to Texas couldn't have come at a better time for Fielder.
20. David Wright, 3B - Wright could go higher if recurring injuries to his hamstring weren't a concern.
21. Evan Longoria, 3B - The same could be said about Longoria, though in fairness he made it through 2013 unscathed.
22. Stephen Strasburg, P - Potentially a huge swing player, but just how likely is it that he wins just eight games again?
23. Alex Rios, OF - Rios actually stole at a higher rate in Texas than with the White Sox.
24. Jose Bautista, OF - Bautista has 55 homers the last two years despite playing in only 210 games.
25. Carlos Gomez, OF - Gomez's strikeout rate worsened in 2013, but playing time won't change once his BA drops.
26. Giancarlo Stanton, OF - Stanton is the rare player where the "lack of protection" argument carries significance.
27. Buster Posey, C - I'm a little concerned about attrition, but Posey is still my top catcher.
28. Cliff Lee, P - A ranking dilemma - do you slot a player where you have him ranked, or closer to where he should go?
29. Max Scherzer, P - What will Scherzer do for an encore in 2014?
30. Adam Wainwright, P - There are just as many volatile hitters now as there are pitchers, thus more pitchers in my top three rounds.
31. Freddie Freeman, 1B - Is 24 the new 27, or does Freeman have more space to improve?
32. Jay Bruce, OF - Bruce has not had the proverbial next level, but could the power spike still arrive?
33. Felix Hernandez, P - So far King Felix has defied the velocity doomsayers, self-included.
34. Chris Sale, P - The biggest threat to Sale's value is the team context - consider him the AL's Cliff Lee.
35. Matt Kemp, OF - Kemp is a good gamble for an owner that already has two solid hitters before him.
36. Ian Desmond, SS - Remember when Danny Espinosa was going to take away Desmond's job?
37. Jose Reyes, SS - How much will Reyes run after a full offseason to rest his ankle?
38. Hunter Pence, OF - Nobody wants to pay for a hitter's career year, but only his stolen bases were out of line of his career numbers.
39. Troy Tulowitzki, SS - I don't bump up for positional scarcity among middle infielders, especially when they don't run.
40. Wilin Rosario, C - Rosario's defense remains so dreadful that the Rockies spent a good portion of the offseason looking for a catcher.
41. Dustin Pedroia, 2B - Unless you give second basemen a positional scarcity bump, Pedroia should not go in the second round.
42. Joe Mauer, C - Mauer's move to first base gives him a one-year bump, but watch him drop 50 spots in 2015.
43. Shin-Soo Choo, OF - Choo goes from one awesome offensive environment to an even better one in Texas.
44. Jean Segura, SS - Segura hit .241/.268/.315 in the second half. This rank might not get him and could still be too high.
45. Yasiel Puig, OF - Bonus points to the first opposing park that plays I Can't Drive 55 in his first at-bat.
46. Madison Bumgarner, P - It's amazing that the Giants skipped one of his playoff starts in 2012 - Shelby Miller, take heart.
47. Jose Fernandez, P - Please Marlins, don't screw him up.
48. Starling Marte, OF - Eventually Marte could get moved out of the leadoff spot, but not in 2014.
49. Eric Hosmer, 1B - Hosmer improved almost immediately to the day that George Brett temporarily was the hitting coach.
50. Justin Upton, OF - Did the brothers feed off each others' midseason slumps?
51. Yoenis Cespedes, OF - Cespedes' likelihood to hit for average is quite shaky.
52. Allen Craig, 1B/OF - Craig could spend a lot of time in the outfield this year to make room for Matt Adams.
53. David Ortiz, DH - Ortiz almost always goes later than his true value because of his position.
54. Craig Kimbrel, P - The gap between Kimbrel and the other elite RP's has narrowed.
55. Mike Minor, P - Everything is trending in the right direction for Minor.
56. Matt Holliday, OF - Holliday's slow decline has been graceful so far, but he's missing more games than before and hitting for less power.
57. Carlos Santana, C/1B - Santana played some third base in Winter Ball and is catching less than ever.
58. Yadier Molina, C - At some point the Cardinals might have to think about having Molina catch less to avoid nagging injuries.
59. Albert Pujols, 1B - So far his recovery from foot surgery has gone smoothly, but he was already declining before it ruined his 2013 season.
60. Josh Donaldson, 3B - Donaldson might have a short peak, but he's in it right now for the next couple of years.
61. Kenley Jansen, P - Jansen is still improving across the board, notably with his control.
62. Justin Verlander, P - A mechanical change in September led to better velocity and results.
63. Zack Greinke, P - Greinke really put it all together after returning from the injury stemming from his brawl with Carlos Quentin.
64. Josh Hamilton, OF - Hamilton's strikeout rate was actually marginally better in 2013.
65. Matt Carpenter, 2B - Carpenter is moving to third base this year after the trade of David Freese.
66. Wil Myers, OF - Look for Myers' batting average to drop just a little this year, thanks to his high strikeout rate.
67. Jonathan Lucroy, C - Lucroy gets overlooked frequently when identifying the elite roto catchers.
68. Mark Trumbo, 1B/OF - Trumbo should benefit from the move to Arizona, but will be exposed playing the OF regularly.
69. Hisashi Iwakuma, P - It's remarkable that he was the last active pitcher to pitch in a game in 2012, given where he is now.
70. Jordan Zimmermann, P - Zimmermann has three straight years of allowing fewer than two walks per nine innings.
71. Greg Holland, P - Holland joined the elite closers in 2013, with a 103:18 K:BB in 67 innings.
72. Billy Hamilton, OF - Is Hamilton the next Vince Coleman, or the next Dee Gordon?
73. Kris Medlen, P - 2013 was not a bad follow-up season for Medlen, just not up to the other-worldly standard set the year before.
74. Jered Weaver, P - Weaver's velocity continued in 2013. I would not want him to be my best starter.
75. James Shields, P - The Royals quietly improved behind Shields this offseason, offensively and defensively.
76. Cole Hamels, P - The Phillies could be truly dreadful behind Hamels this year.
77. Desmond Jennings, OF - Jennings has one big shortcoming - hitting fastballs against right-handers.
78. Jayson Werth, OF - Werth was remarkable over the second half in 2013, but we have to discount some for durability.
79. David Price, P - Price's velocity decline, DL trips last season and possibility of getting dealt lower his value.
80. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B - There's not much reason to believe that Gonzalez's 30-homer power is coming back.
81. Doug Fister, P - In light of how the rest of the offseason played out, Fister's trade made no sense from the Tigers' perspective.
82. Alex Gordon, OF - Gordon's batting average should improve by at least .15 points this year.
83. Elvis Andrus, SS - This might not get him, but without a positional scarcity bump he doesn't belong higher.
84. Jason Heyward, OF - Heyward finished strong after his penultimate injury - I could see his ADP rising in the spring.
85. Ian Kinsler, 2B - The trade to Detroit could slightly depress Kinsler production.
86. Salvador Perez, C - The only thing keeping Perez out of the catcher elite is the power, which could still come.
87. Brian McCann, C - McCann could really benefit from Yankee Stadium's short right-field porch.
88. Gio Gonzalez, P - This is about as good as it gets for Gonzalez, which isn't bad.
89. Michael Cuddyer, OF - The signing of Justin Morneau locks Cuddyer out of first base on most days.
90. Gerrit Cole, P - Cole was the Pirates' best pitcher down the stretch. It's a question of when he's an ace, not if.
91. Matt Cain, P - Cain was a fantasy assassin last year, but quietly was better the last two months.
92. Koji Uehara, P - This is a modest ranking - if you wanted to put him up with Holland, I wouldn't argue too vociferously.
93. Anibal Sanchez, P - Sanchez gave us a tiny scare with his shoulder, but then was dominant in the playoffs.
94. Aroldis Chapman, P - There's a small possibility he could start - new manager Bryan Price was an advocate of the idea last season.
95. Leonys Martin, OF - Martin could end up as a 15-homer, 40-stolen base player if all goes right.
96. Chase Headley, 3B - Headley is entering his walk year - a midseason trade could be a huge boost.
97. Hyun-Jin Ryu, P - Ryu gets precious little love in mock drafts, but he has good ratios on a winning team.
98. Trevor Rosenthal, P - Rosenthal has elite closer potential, but the return of Jason Motte could cloud that future.
99. Mat Latos, P - Latos had bone chips removed from his elbow at the end of the season, but he was able to pitch with them for two months.
100. Homer Bailey, P - Bailey is the rare starting pitcher that added velocity on his fastball five years into his career.
101. Masahiro Tanaka, P - Will Tanaka maintain such a low HR rate in MLB? That and his high 2013 workload are concerns.
102. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B - How the mighty have fallen. He could be a year away from moving to first base.
103. Brandon Moss, 1B/OF - Moss has now done it two years in a row - will anyone believe in him?
104. Matt Wieters, C - We should stop waiting for the Wieters breakout - this is who he is, which isn't bad.
105. Julio Teheran, P - The breakout has already started. This might not be high enough to get him.
106. Shelby Miller, P - For such a smart organization, the Cardinals' treatment of Miller in the playoffs was puzzling.
107. Casey Janssen, P - Closers with superb control like Janssen get a boost in my rankings.
108. Joe Nathan, P - Nathan keeps defying the odds - can he do it for multiple seasons in Detroit?
109. Hiroki Kuroda, P - Back for another under-the-radar year with the Yankees.
110. Derek Holland, P - Quietly had the year that everyone expected from him in 2012.
111. Jose Daniel Abreu, 1B - The fear of the unknown keeps the price on Abreu lower than this, but he could hit 30 homers.
112. Coco Crisp, OF - Crisp stole fewer bases than expected, but compensated by hitting for more power.
113. Kyle Seager, 3B - Seager's finish marred an otherwise excellent season. He might hit behind Cano this year.
114. Austin Jackson, OF - How much of a playoffs hangover will he have?
115. Curtis Granderson, OF - Granderson's rank is depressed both by his batting average and his fewer stolen base attempts.
116. Billy Butler, DH - Butler is back to being a DH-only in leagues that require 20 games to qualify at a position.
117. Michael Wacha, P - Wacha's late-season work is pumping his ADP higher than this.
118. Ben Zobrist, 2B/SS/OF - Zobrist just barely qualifies at shortstop still.
119. David Robertson, P - The heir apparent to Mariano Rivera - can Robertson stay healthy?
120. Andrew Cashner, P - The analysis of the Cashner-Rizzo trade has been turned on its head.
121. Alex Cobb, P - Cobb has a pretty high ceiling, though the AL East serves to puncture some of our optimism.
122. Jim Johnson, P - Johnson should thrive with the change of ballparks.
123. Jose Altuve, 2B - If you addressed stolen bases earlier in the draft, Altuve is the type of player you should downgrade by 40 slots.
124. Carlos Beltran, OF - While the ballpark change is great, don't count on Beltran as the DH that often - it's a crowded spot for the Yankees.
125. Brandon Belt, 1B - We're finally past the angst of Belt not getting regular playing time.
126. Christian Yelich, OF - How much will the league adjust to Yelich the second time around?
127. Steve Cishek, P - The one time in your draft when you can call out a Marlins Run.
128. Sergio Romo, P - Romo's heavy reliance on his slider has us a little concerned.
129. Marco Estrada, P - Estrada has maintained a high strikeout rate despite losing velocity. Can it last?
130. Pedro Alvarez, 3B - Alvarez is a good bet to hit 30 homers, but are you willing to pay the batting average cost?
131. Martin Prado, 2B/3B/OF - Prado's versatility once again bumps his value higher than where his raw stats would project.
132. Michael Bourn, OF - Watch to see how well Bourn is rehabbing his surgically-repaired hamstring this spring.
133. Anthony Rizzo, 1B - Burst on the scene as a rookie but gave a lot back in his second year.
134. Brett Gardner, OF - Gardner was the subject of trade rumors in the offseason, but remains with the Yankees at press time.
135. Chris Carter, 1B/OF - Carter is a poor man's Pedro Alvarez - high power, low average, but at a less valuable position.
136. Aaron Hill, 2B - Hill probably has one more season remaining at this level.
137. Rafael Soriano, P - Soriano fits the classic "Last Year's Bums" profile, except that he really wasn't all that bad.
138. Glen Perkins, P - Perkins might get more save chances than anticipated - Minnesota should be improved in 2014.
139. Kyle Lohse, P - Because the Brewers were out of it by midseason, it's easy to overlook how well Lohse pitched in the second half.
140. C.J. Wilson, P - Wilson has the occasional blowup outing, but the overall numbers have been pretty steady.
141. Victor Martinez, DH - Martinez is no longer catcher-eligible, but is also less of an injury-risk.
142. Wilson Ramos, C - Ramos was one of the best hitting catchers down the stretch last year.
143. Evan Gattis, C - Gattis will stick behind the plate for most of his playing time instead of playing the outfield with McCann gone.
144. Daniel Murphy, 2B - Where did the 23 stolen bases come from, and how likely are they to repeat?
145. Andrelton Simmons, SS - Simmons already makes good contact and hits for power. He's a .280 batting average away from stardom.
146. Jedd Gyorko, 2B - Gyorko hit 13 of his 23 homers in Petco. He could be a 35-homer guy in a neutral park someday.
147. Jon Lester, P - Lester gets hurt too much by his division to go much higher than this.
148. Nelson Cruz, OF - Still unsigned at press time - this rank presumes him hitting in a neutral ballpark.
149. Jonathan Villar, SS - Villar has 40-SB upside, though with the risk of getting sent down if he starts slowly.
150. Starlin Castro, SS - Castro has gone from being the Cubs' marquee player to one that's hearing footsteps from Javier Baez.
151. Lance Lynn, P - Lynn gets overlooked some because of the presence of Miller and Wacha.
152. A.J. Griffin, P - The A's offseason maneuvers ensure that Griffin is firmly ensconced in their rotation.
153. R.A. Dickey, P - Dickey lost 1.5 mph on his knuckleball last year - it was his velocity that made the pitch so special in 2012.
154. Josh Reddick, OF - Reddick played with a multitude of injuries in 2012 - he's a really good buy-low candidate.
155. Mike Napoli, 1B - That he remained in Boston bodes well for Napoli's value.
156. Brett Lawrie, 3B - Lawrie is a post-hype sleeper, now that he's turned in two bad years.
157. Alfonso Soriano, OF - This ranking presumes that the Yankees' outfield logjam will be resolved before the season begins.
158. Alejandro De Aza, OF - De Aza is an underappreciated player both by the White Sox and in fantasy.
159. Chase Utley, 2B - The peak years aren't coming back, but still a fun player to watch.
160. Jimmy Rollins, SS - Rollins' batting average has been better than .252 just once in the last five years.
161. Jason Castro, C - Look for Castro's batting average to decline with an expected BABIP correction in 2014.
162. Kole Calhoun, OF - Trumbo's trade opens the door for Calhoun to play every day.
163. Pablo Sandoval, 3B - Sandoval's ISO dropped to a career-low .139 in 2013.
164. Everth Cabrera, SS - What's going to happen to Cabrera's batting average upon returning from suspension?
165. Angel Pagan, OF - How much will Pagan run this year, following a year lost due to a big hamstring injury?
166. Grant Balfour, P - What did the Orioles' doctors see? Still unsigned at press time.
167. A.J. Burnett, P - This ranking assumes that Burnett will re-sign with the Pirates eventually, though he's suggested that retirement is also an option.
168. Johnny Cueto, P - Will Cueto's adjustment in his delivery keep him healthy after multiple injuries in 2013?
169. Dillon Gee, P - Gee's knuckle-curve bodes well for future success.
170. Jason Grilli, P - Grilli's DL stint and the presence of Melancon are the reasons for Grilli being this low.
171. Ernesto Frieri, P - Frieri flirted with losing his role as the closer but then finished the season on a high note.
172. Jonathan Papelbon, P - That the Phillies are looking to trade him after two years speaks volumes.
173. Alex Guerrero, 2B - Fear of the Unknown, Part II. Even using a pretty strong regression from his Cuban stats, Guerrero looks promising.
174. Aramis Ramirez, 3B - Ramirez is still trying to recover from the right knee injury that ended his 2013 season.
175. Bartolo Colon, P - Colon could be an ideal fit in the NL East.
176. Matt Garza, P - One of the many starting pitchers whose contract status was held while waiting for Tanaka to sign.
177. Matt Moore, P - The walk rate went up and Moore also led the league in wild pitches.
178. Torii Hunter, OF - Old and boring, but even with some regression Hunter should be a four-category player.
179. Shane Victorino, OF - Victorino gave up switch-hitting toward the end of the season, with good results.
180. Alexei Ramirez, SS - Ramirez's stolen bases make him a better hitter in roto than in real life.
181. Dexter Fowler, OF - Fowler's trade was pretty confusing from the Rockies' perspective.
182. Brandon Phillips, 2B - Don't be fooled by last season's RBI - the decline phase is already here.
183. Manny Machado, 3B - Machado is recovering from knee surgery and is at risk of missing Opening Day.
184. Nolan Arenado, 3B - Slotting Arenado here is betting on the come that the power kicks in some this year.
185. Domonic Brown, OF - Walk rate isn't everything, but Brown didn't improve there at all, and faded badly in the second half.
186. Kendrys Morales, 1B - Morales' rejection of the Mariners' qualifying offer has left him in limbo - nobody wants to give up the pick to sign him.
187. George Springer, OF - My favorite candidate for AL Rookie of the Year.
188. Brad Miller, SS - Miller had 25 extra-base hits in half a season with the Mariners as a rookie.
189. Ervin Santana, P - Santana follows a lot of writers in the industry on Twitter - who knows, he may follow you too!
190. Francisco Liriano, P - Can Liriano do it again this year? In early drafts, he's been as early as 106 and as late as 215.
191. Addison Reed, P - Reed's flyball tendencies might hurt him in Arizona.
192. Tony Cingrani, P - Cingrani's strikeout rate will go down as he becomes more pitch efficient, but he's starting at a high point.
193. Danny Farquhar, P - Farquhar has already paid dividends from the Ichiro trade.
194. Rick Porcello, P - Porcello thanks his lucky stars every five days for the Tigers' infield realignment.
195. Matt Adams, 1B - The big risk with Adams is if Allen Craig can't handle playing the outfield.
196. Adam LaRoche, 1B - LaRoche still has 20-25 homer power in a good lineup.
197. A.J. Pierzynski, C - The move to Boston could hurt him - LH power tends to go down in Fenway.
198. Danny Salazar, P - The departure of Kazmir ensures Salazar a spot in the rotation.
199. Sonny Gray, P - Gray had surgery to repair a broken left thumb, but should be ready to go by spring training.
200. Xander Bogaerts, 3B - Check your league's eligibility rules. We have him as 3B-eligible only right now.