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RotoWire Roundtable: Early March Top 350

Michael Rusignola

Michael Rusignola has been covering fantasy baseball for RotoWire since 1998. He roots for the NY Mets and SF Giants, his two hometown teams.

I'm sure many of you (like me) are in the midst of developing a plan for your league draft or auction. It is in these early days that rosters are at their most limitless and conceptual. You could have a team with a crushing offense or a miniscule ERA. You could steal more bases or save more games than all the other teams in the league. Or, you could not.

With every selection you make on draft day, your team will get more defined and your fate - for good or for bad - will get more sealed. How do you ace your draft day? It's simple: don't overpay for the players you want and don't bank on players falling to you that will be gone. We can all look at ADP to get a sense for where a player might go, but what ADP doesn't tell you is the variability associated with the ranking. This kind of sanity check (which many owners fail to do) ensures your draft day approach will actually be implementable. Think of the RotoWire Roundtable as a proxy for all the different strategies you may encounter: the more diversity there is in our rankings, the more unpredictable that player is likely to be in your own league draft or auction.

Before we jump in, first let's lay out the ground rules: our rankings were assembled for 12-team, 5x5 mixed leagues that starts two catchers per team (thus there is a positional scarcity component added for catchers). We use five rankers: Jeff Erickson, Derek VanRiper, Michael Rusignola, Jason Collette and our newest ranker, Andrew Martinez. The rankings were completely blinded -- none of the rankers saw any of the other rankings before the publication of this article. We aim to publish an update before Opening Day with one more in the series at the All-Star Break to get you set for the second half.

An Overview of Early March's Rankings

Early March rankings always tend to have the most variability, as playing time and off-season health issues are not yet resolved. As is always the case, our fearless leader Jeff Erickson's rankings were to be the most centrist of the bunch (see Table 1a), also exhibiting the highest correlation with the four other rankings (see Table 1b). Overall, there was less variability between the rankings than there was last year. Naturally, batters represented a significant portion of the early draft (see Table 2). Jason once again gave the lowest premium to the top starters. Michael and Andrew were the most bullish on the catching crop. Andrew and Jason had the biggest divide over the ranking of relievers, with Andrew pro-reliever (average elite reliever 62.0) and Jason anti-reliever (average elite reliever 80.8).

Table 1a: Correlation with Final Ranks
Correlations with the final ranks0.990.950.950.870.95

Table 1b: Correlation between Rankers

Table 2: Position Breakdown
Average Rank of Top...50 Batters3 Catchers15 Starters5 Relievers

Rankings with One Outlier

Let's start by going through a couple of players where four of the rankers were in alignment but one ranker was out on the proverbial limb.

Alex Gordon (OF) - The Pessimist: Andrew (194); The Pack: Jeff (58), DVR (56), Michael (52), Jason (52).
Our pessimist cites that the lack of power production, the batting average (which spiked for a few seasons but crashed in the second half of last season), and the lack of stolen bases as key contributing factors to the low rating. If Gordon had one outstanding skill to be trusted, our pessimist likely wouldn't have him this low. The pack thinks Gordon dropping down in the lineup means a slight hit in runs scored and steals, but plenty more runs driven in and an uptick in batting average, as he'll be hitting w/RISP a lot. Pitchers are worse out of the stretch than they are from the windup, which is something Gordon will benefit from.

Adam Eaton (OF) - The Optimist: Andrew (115); The Pack: Jeff (252), DVR (252), Michael (249), Jason (228).

Our optimist thinks Eaton could be Shane Victorino but with a higher batting average upside. Eaton as the everyday centerfielder for the White Sox would mean double-digit homers with 25+ stolen bases and a decent average. If he hits leadoff, bump up those stolen bases a little bit more. The pack think that Eaton's value has been driven largely by speculation on what he might do rather than what he's done. They know that Eaton has a green light to run, but they're not quite certain that his on-base skills completely carry over at the big league level. If they don't, then the plate appearances and counting stats that everyone is hoping for might not happen, given that the White Sox have four outfielders for three spots with the DH not available.

Will Venable (OF) - The Optimist: Andrew (92); The Pack: Jeff (195), DVR (209), Michael (209), Jason (186).

Our optimist doesn't see much difference between Venable and Alex Rios. He expects some regression in his power numbers, but still views Venable as a highly productive player that could go 20/20 again in 2014. The list of outfielders that deliver that kind of production is shorter than you might think. The pack thinks, with the increased playing time afforded by the Maybin injury, Venable will be overexposed. He doesn't hit lefties that well, and nearly all of his power is versus right-handed pitching.

Players that Divided our Rankers into Two Camps

The players below split our rankers evenly, with half of the rankers taking an optimistic outlook on the player and the other half taking a more pessimistic view.

Chris Davis (1B) - Optimistic Camp: Jeff (6), Michael (6), Jason (8); Pessimistic Camp: DVR (21), Andrew (21).

The optimistic camp asks, is there any doubt that the power is legitimate? Even when he slowed down over the last 65 games of the season, he still slugged .515. Only 13 batters hit over 30 homers last year, part of an ongoing trend where power is falling off. Sure, hitting .240 could still happen, but he's also had three years of .266 or higher in a row. The strikeouts are scary, but they aren't everything. The pessimistic camp feels that Davis's second half (.245/.339/.515, 16 HR, 31.8% K%) showcased a player that more closely resembled what he did in 2012. Even if his baseline is closer to .265-.270 in terms of average, Davis doesn't run much, and as such, he'll provide value more in line with Giancarlo Stanton or Jay Bruce, albeit in a better lineup situation than both thus a slightly higher ranking.

Kole Calhoun (OF) - Optimistic Camp: Michael (128), Jason (128); Pessimistic Camp: DVR (210), Andrew (218).

The optimists say that Calhoun has 20/15 potential and could bring in a .265-.270 average, upper teen homers, lower teen steals, and 80+ runs scored. Calhoun impressed the optimists last year with his play. The pessimists say that Calhoun lacks a standout tool, and he played at a couple of very hitter-friendly environments (Cal League, PCL) that may have inflated his numbers. While his value could rise with an opportunity to leadoff all season, it seems far from guaranteed. If he ends up in the bottom third of the order, or someone slides into a platoon, the volume of plate appearances will suffer.

Oscar Taveras (OF) - Optimistic Camp: DVR (172), Andrew (189); Pessimistic Camp: Jeff (300), Michael (NR), Jason (NR).

The optimistic camp is quick to remind us that it's just a matter of health for Taveras. If Allen Craig gets injured playing in the outfield regularly or if they move him back to first base, that opens up a corner outfield spot for Taveras. The disappointing numbers last season for Taveras seemed to be a function of attempting to play through the injury. Through the optimistic eyes, he's one of the leading candidates for ROY honors in the National League. The pessimists remind us that Taveras still hasn't started playing in spring training games yet, and wonder just how much he's going to be able to run on that ankle. There's a huge ceiling for him, no doubt, but between the health and playing time risks, they think that you're going to get less out of him than you think.

All over the Place

For these players, there was absolutely no consensus, with rankings coming in literally all over the place.

Allen Craig (OF) - Michael (31), Jeff (48), Jason (59), DVR (91), Andrew (121).

For the second year running, Craig was one of the most divisive players on the list, with Michael on the high end at 31 and Andrew on the low end at 121. Last year, those rankings spanned from 65 to 125, so the gap has only widened. The optimists think that the wide variance in Craig's ranks stem from durability questions, especially because he's going to begin the year in right field to make room for Matt Adams. Incidentally, Craig's projection affects Taveras's: if you believe that Craig will miss 30-40 games, then naturally the lower rankings in the group are more appropriate. The pessimists' biggest gripe with Craig is a less than glowing outlook on Craig and his foot. The fact that he's going from first to the outfield on said foot worries them even more. If they knew he was completely over the injury they'd be more optimistic. If Craig's BABIP were to take a dip, we're looking at an ordinary 1B/OF player.

Freddie Freeman (1B) - DVR (16), Jeff (24), Michael (29), Jason (35), Andrew (61).

The optimists say Freeman looks like a player on the verge of a breakout. He did a better job hitting lefties last season, but more importantly, he seemed to take a step forward in the second half. Given his age, they're not convinced he's done in terms of power development. They're looking for .300/25+HR/95+RBI and plenty of runs scored in the heart of the Atlanta order. The pessimists ask what happens if he repeats 2012? If that were to occur, we're looking at someone whose value is suddenly very ordinary at first base. The only skills jump they noticed from 2012 to 2013 was a nearly 80-point jump in BABIP, which isn't a skill at all. Even if the power does jump, the batting average probably isn't coming with it.

Hanley Ramirez (SS) - Jason (7), Andrew (11), Jeff (13), Michael (17), DVR (20).

Hard to believe a player in the consensus top 20 has divided the rankers but he has. The optimists see in Ramirez a guy who was a top-50 player last season despite only getting 304 at bats. Assume health, and he would have challenged Goldy for the MVP with the numbers he would have put up. If they're in a 12-team mock draft, Hanley isn't making it past them in the first round. The pessimists say that Han-Ram at the end of last season was very motivated and finally healthy after dealing with a major shoulder injury during the end of his time in Miami. The difference in ranking here says more about the players on the board between the middle of Round 1 and the end of Round 2 (assuming NFBC 15-team mixed). Once the reality of his injury history set in, the pessimists gave him a pretty steep downgrade based on durability concerns.

And on with...

The List

RankFull NamePosJeffDVRMichaelAndrewJasonMedian
1Mike TroutOF 112111
2Miguel Cabrera3B 221222
3Andrew McCutchenOF 434333
4Clayton KershawSP343644
5Paul Goldschmidt1B 565455
6Carlos GonzalezOF 757867
7Chris Davis1B 62162188
8Bryce HarperOF 91416599
9Robinson Cano2B 141010181010
10Adrian Beltre3B 1188241611
11Edwin Encarnacion1B 10912511111
12Jacoby EllsburyOF 8713131212
13Hanley RamirezSS 13201711713
14Adam JonesOF 12139351313
15Joey Votto1B 172411101414
16Ryan BraunOF 161114161515
17Prince Fielder1B 151715141815
18David Wright3B 201918121718
19Carlos GomezOF 331253191919
20Evan Longoria3B 211821172321
21Jason Kipnis2B 192522232022
22Alex RiosOF 221526892122
23Jay BruceOF 272319702223
24Yu DarvishSP183427152525
25Jose BautistaOF 232925292626
26Ian DesmondSS 254730202727
27Troy TulowitzkiSS 262833274028
28Freddie Freeman1B 241629613529
29Giancarlo StantonOF 30223573930
30Stephen StrasburgSP313128283131
31Cliff LeeSP294123343232
32Dustin Pedroia2B 323236313332
33Yasiel PuigOF 34354194135
34Hunter PenceOF 353724542435
35Justin UptonOF 283846254938
36Jose ReyesSS 413050382938
37Jean SeguraSS 443663373838
38Jose FernandezSP392620464439
39Shin-Soo ChooOF 462747402840
40Chris SaleSP434032443640
41Max ScherzerSP373342454842
42Starling MarteOF 424358393042
43Adam WainwrightSP385248324242
44Eric Hosmer1B 364857433443
45Yoenis CespedesOF 454443483744
46Felix HernandezSP405345474646
47Buster PoseyC 596237224747
48Wil MyersOF 5149491234349
49David OrtizDH 5050841365050
50Madison BumgarnerSP475151675751
51Josh HamiltonOF 6739441695151
52Matt HollidayOF 5246341245352
53Albert Pujols1B 534254265453
54Joe MauerC 605440366154
55Mark TrumboOF 495755604555
56Josh Donaldson3B 556356595556
57Matt Carpenter3B 546539975656
58Alex GordonOF 5856521945256
59Craig KimbrelCL665859426459
60Allen CraigOF4891311215959
61Jayson WerthOF 876160655861
62Carlos SantanaC 637261647064
63Kenley JansenCL706765626365
64Adrian Gonzalez1B 826469556565
65Justin VerlanderSP56661183311066
66Wilin RosarioC 5768386810168
67Ian Kinsler2B 688171536768
68Desmond JenningsOF 6960831196069
69Matt KempOF 716977419271
70Zack GreinkeSP7671671046971
71Billy HamiltonOF 7255120308272
72Yadier MolinaC 65100627211672
73Mike MinorSP7310766946273
74Leonys MartinOF 74110102746674
75Jason HeywardOF 804575507575
76Greg HollandCL758478696875
77Jordan ZimmermannSP779376877777
78Elvis AndrusSS 787889807278
79Ryan Zimmerman3B 815982777979
80Brandon Moss1B 7986681987479
81Jonathan LucroyC 6294648213082
82Jose Abreu1B 6482861357182
83Aroldis ChapmanCL84851015810285
84Koji UeharaCL9777878510887
85Michael CuddyerOF 8888701797388
86Kris MedlenSP9911874908390
87Salvador PerezC 86109908122590
88Kyle Seager3B 83117911127691
89Brandon Belt1B 91701041478991
90Coco CrispOF 94891001067894
91Anthony Rizzo1B 859695579695
92Alfonso SorianoOF 95116802068195
93David PriceSP61971164912597
94James ShieldsSP89108971148697
95Carlos BeltranOF 9298881769797
96Gio GonzalezSP93119961309898
97Gerrit ColeSP1008310686111100
98Chase Headley3B 1019285154117101
99Austin JacksonOF 1021157219387102
100Ben Zobrist2B 10813410378104104
101Curtis GrandersonOF 1041069817788104
102Nelson CruzOF 11610510573103105
103Jose Altuve2B 1188713563105105
104Pedro Alvarez3B 1097411310890108
105Masahiro TanakaSP12610413893109109
106Hyun-Jin RyuSP1101249417599110
107Christian YelichOF 10612011020893110
108Anibal SanchezSP9676121111114111
109Matt CainSP10375111117113111
110Brett GardnerOF 10711213114094112
111Doug FisterSP9012711217495112
112Julio TeheranSP113101122109126113
113Joe NathanCL11410213988137114
114Billy ButlerDH 10511416114591114
115Trevor RosenthalCL9812212679115115
116Hisashi IwakumaSP11513181238100115
117Aaron Hill2B 11773108137118117
118Mat LatosSP11112513075119119
119Brian McCannC 1317911976203119
120Victor MartinezDH 11999184173106119
121Homer BaileySP11212814299120120
122Michael WachaSP1221327956133122
123Shelby MillerSP120133124105131124
124Mike Napoli1B 12413712595134125
125Jered WeaverSP1281267319584126
126Jedd Gyorko2B 13315012384127127
127Daniel Murphy2B 127149117151112127
128Andrelton SimmonsSS 129130149170121130
129Matt WietersC 13013510796277130
130Michael BournOF 171111114132167132
131Brett Lawrie3B 132123166153122132
132Pablo Sandoval3B 1349513371155133
133Starlin CastroSS 14180154133136136
134Sergio RomoCL146113136110144136
135Aramis Ramirez3B 136103129155156136
136Alejandro De AzaOF 1881369322380136
137Danny SalazarSP121139137164132137
138Martin Prado3B 138141127103149138
139David RobertsonCL143121145118139139
140Casey JanssenCL140147109142107140
141Alex CobbSP135140158171129140
142Cole HamelsSP12316414183147141
143Andrew CashnerSP125169156122141141
144Jonathan VillarSS 142152222116123142
145Chase Utley2B 139167143107146143
146Marco EstradaSP145160144126143144
147Jim JohnsonCL137153168144135144
148Wilson RamosC 144145146202219146
149Chris CarterOF 1851489222285148
150Steve CishekCL147157150160138150
151Glen PerkinsCL153142151131151151
152Will Middlebrooks3B 239151115152140151
153Hiroki KurodaSP155154148260171155
154Evan GattisC 15017515591330155
155Jonathan PapelbonCL154156191139201156
156Torii HunterOF 15716599178148157
157Matt Adams1B 152161173102158158
158Manny Machado3B 148146172158193158
159Jimmy RollinsSS 159266177138152159
160Kyle LohseSP169159132313142159
161Angel PaganOF 170162160148145160
162Grant BalfourCL158184165127161161
163Jon LesterSP161173225100154161
164Lance LynnSP162206205162157162
165Domonic BrownOF 16312917666178163
166Sonny GraySP192144235146165165
167Jason CastroC 164166185156284166
168Josh ReddickOF 167208134278124167
169Kole CalhounOF 168210128218128168
170Shane VictorinoOF 173182169113159169
171Kendrys Morales1B221178140163169169
172Rafael SorianoCL149170183125174170
173A.J. BurnettSP156220159245172172
174C.J. WilsonSP160174195239153174
175Jason GrilliCL151193179141175175
176Brandon Phillips2B 17618115398182176
177A.J. GriffinSP177215163254162177
178Nick MarkakisOF 189176147285177177
179Everth CabreraSS 1809024152191180
180Johnny CuetoSP190180157159183180
181Alexei RamirezSS 175183180190160180
182Ernesto FrieriCL172204181168181181
183R.A. DickeySP179188182233168182
184Adam LaRoche1B 182189152296176182
185Dexter FowlerOF 183190164212170183
186Tony CingraniSP196185174101208185
187Nick Swisher1B 194138162188185185
188Brian Dozier2B 187205186172150186
189Matt MooreSP166186218191164186
190Ben RevereOF 178187204217163187
191Francisco LirianoSP165191228120192191
192Xander BogaertsSS 193143335166239193
193Will VenableOF 19520920992186195
194Asdrubal CabreraSS 210171197181207197
195Howie Kendrick2B 211194199267189199
196Todd Frazier3B 201218187203196201
197Brad MillerSS 202202170204179202
198Matt GarzaSP186203207280180203
199Dan StrailySP204200224289198204
200Michael BrantleyOF 205222196240204205
201George SpringerOF222201208184216208
202Rick PorcelloSP208199292256200208
203Dan HarenSP200216246210195210
204Rajai DavisOF 262211268197194211
205Miguel MonteroC 198NR211180NR211
206Nolan Arenado3B 213158201216244213
207Dillon GeeSP184267213NR173213
208Ervin SantanaSP220207236214184214
209Chris TillmanSP212228214263210214
210Norichika AokiOF 227224215165166215
211CC SabathiaSP215226277199212215
212Zack WheelerSP214198245257215215
213Jim HendersonCL181219216161220216
214Marcell OzunaOF 216237198NR187216
215Marlon ByrdOF 217238171252188217
216Justin Morneau1B 197217175274221217
217Corey KluberSP218229259167197218
218Jurickson Profar2B 236163302211218218
219Patrick CorbinSP219196250207229219
220Tommy HunterCL206326221266205221
221Tim HudsonSP223227217321214223
222Ivan NovaSP207223255314206223
223Erick AybarSS 228225232150222225
224Omar Infante2B 225240189248209225
225Anthony Rendon3B 191155251226251226
226Khris DavisOF 234192193302226226
227Ryan Howard1B 230231206200240230
228Jose QuintanaSP229230258306223230
229Adam Lind1B 276256231128224231
230Justin MastersonSP231197307242227231
231Addison ReedCL226232254134261232
232Clay BuchholzSP240179244220233233
233Jarrod ParkerSP233213261283232233
234Denard SpanOF 232234233297230233
235Jeff SamardzijaSP235221304234234234
236Andre EthierOF 268235202293235235
237Jhonny PeraltaSS 237212219236236236
238Ryan LudwickOF 263236194NR231236
239Matt Dominguez3B 238313188NR202238
240Yan GomesC 199NR238129NR238
241Travis WoodSP224278239NR217239
242Chris Johnson3B 241269200251211241
243Adam EatonOF 242252249115228242
244Melky CabreraOF 273247190232242242
245Robbie GrossmanOF 312242220NR199242
246Josh WillinghamOF 243253227235246243
247Corey Hart1B 271245192215249245
248Bartolo ColonSP244254234304247247
249Scott KazmirSP248272305227241248
250Bobby ParnellCL249273237143260249
251A.J. PierzynskiC 174NR178249349249
252Jed LowrieSS 277257212221250250
253Derek JeterSS 252282240243273252
254Mark Teixeira1B 253290242201287253
255Alex Guerrero2B203268167264254254
256Neil Walker2B 255250260183291255
257B.J. UptonOF 245255285277248255
258Yovani GallardoSP246214317290255255
259Huston StreetCL256239257182292256
260Colby RasmusOF 280195226301256256
261J.J. HardySS 257258253149298257
262Drew SmylySP258168299157302258
263Nate JonesCL254249274258288258
264Jake PeavySP247271271241259259
265Nick CastellanosOF 308260262244305262
266Wade MileySP270244264NR238264
267Carl CrawfordOF 251281265185271265
268David Freese3B 278265223250265265
269Eric Young Jr.OF 269243296270237269
270Alcides EscobarSS 281270284237257270
271Daniel NavaOF 313233272228307272
272Chris ArcherSP209275273253278273
273Zach McAllisterSP274248308NR243274
274Ian KennedySP250277NR291264277
275Miguel GonzalezSP279NR266NR253279
276Russell MartinC 260NR267279NR279
277Bronson ArroyoSP275NR280NR245280
278Adam Dunn1B 292286243230281281
279Joakim SoriaRP286279NR281268281
280Alex WoodSP336276NR259282282
281Scott BakerSP282NR281NR258282
282Charlie BlackmonOF 288283283NR274283
283Darren O'DaySTP285349203NR267285
284Jarrod SaltalamacchiaC 264NR247286NR286
285Nick Franklin2B 287280303NR269287
286Gregory PolancoOF 289274334346275289
287Fernando RodneyCL297292263186290290
288Wei-Yin ChenSP290284323NR276290
289Tim LincecumSP296291NR276289291
290Jhoulys ChacinSP291285343NR280291
291Gerardo ParraOF 298251282298293293
292Mike Moustakas3B 293287289337313293
293Avisail GarciaOF 307263294231303294
294Jorge De La RosaSP294288330NR285294
295Jose VerasCL259307320246295295
296Welington CastilloC 265NR295213NR295
297Jarrod DysonOF 295289NRNR286295
298Joe KellySP284297331NR190297
299Alex AvilaC 266NR298284NR298
300Mike LeakeSP299293344NR296299
301Oscar TaverasOF 300172NR189NR300
302Yonder Alonso1B 301294300261333300
303Carlos QuentinOF 304264269308301301
304Jon NieseSP302295325328252302
305Martin PerezSP303259349NR300303
306Brett OberholtzerSP267NR230NR304304
307Kelly Johnson2B 305261327NR213305
308Zack CozartSS 324305297287315305
309Raul IbanezOF 306NR290NR266306
310Joaquin BenoitSTP317298256307309307
311Oswaldo ArciaOF 272262329310322310
312Carlos RuizC 311NR286196NR311
313Jon JayOF 319300312339311312
314Mark Reynolds1B323304313NR314314
315Alexi OgandoSP314296NRNR308314
316Kevin SiegristSTP316NR210NR263316
317Cody Asche3B 322303322317283317
318Lorenzo CainOF 318299326323310318
319Ubaldo JimenezSP344320NR255262320
320Jackie BradleyOF 320301337NR312320
321Chris DenorfiaOF 326308321NR317321
322Phil HughesSP321302NRNR272321
323Mark MelanconSTP328312291NR324324
324Dioner NavarroC 310NR288324NR324
325Trevor CahillSP325306NRNR316325
326Dayan ViciedoOF 330314310NR326326
327Travis d'ArnaudC 261327NR268NR327
328Wandy RodriguezSP327311333NR321327
329James Loney1B 335318328336297328
330Brandon MorrowSP333316345300329329
331Cody AllenSTP343324311329339329
332Matt HarrisonSP283NR276NR331331
333Jake OdorizziSP331315NRNR327331
334Junior LakeOF 334317NR205332332
335Danny FarquharSTP346NR332305306332
336Garrett Jones1B 332NR315NR328332
337Michael SaundersOF 337319342265334334
338Gordon Beckham2B 340322341331337337
339Mike ZuninoC NR310338262NR338
340David MurphyOF 342323336NR338338
341A.J. EllisC 339NR339303NR339
342Rafael FurcalSS 338NR340NR335340
343Ichiro SuzukiOF NR241229NR342342
344Wily PeraltaSP345321NRNR320345
345Devin MesoracoC 315NR346247NR346
346Ike Davis1B NR330347334NR347
347Chris YoungOF 350348NRNR347350
348Tyson RossSPNR177NR224NRNR
349Neftali FelizCLNRNR270192NRNR
350Taijuan WalkerSPNR325NR219NRNR

NR = Not Ranked

Players with the same median were ranked secondarily by their average ranking. Players who were not ranked were assigned a ranking of 388 (the midpoint between 351 and 425, the total number of ranked players) for the purpose of computing the median and average.