February 23, 2011
Center Fielder Rankings
Like last year, the fantasy rankings are broken into tiers. Generally speaking, five-star players should be worthwhile in five categories and have an auction dollar value of $30 or more in your standard, mixed leagues. Four-star players should be worth at least $20 and useful in four categories, three-stars $10 and up, two-stars are more of your single-digit buys that you hope fill a hole or return some bargain value, and one-star players are, most likely, roster filler in the deepest leagues that you hope can be worth the buck you throw down on them.
This year we are listing stats like we have in the past (plate appearances, average, R, RBI, SB and HR projections from PECOTA) but are also including dollar value estimates produced by the Player Forecast Manager. In order to make these columns fit into the tables, I had to shorten them: "2L-$" is for mixed leagues, and "1L-$" is for AL- or NL-only leagues, depending on the player. The dollar values may not match up perfectly with the tiers, but those are just cases of PECOTA and I disagreeing on a player.
For reference, the dollar values were created with the PFM using standard 5x5 roto scoring, 23-player rosters—broken down as C (2) 1B (1) 2B (1) 3B (1) SS (1) CI (1) MI (1) OF (5) Util (1) P (9)—and $180 of the $260 budget allocated for hitters and $1 minimum salaries. A minimum of 20 games needed to be played at a position in the previous season to qualify (though I snuck a few brand-new players likely to qualify in). If your league uses different settings, be sure to plug them into the PFM to see what kind of differences in dollar value we are talking about—I set these to be as close to standard roster construction as possible.
Center field might be deep, but Gonzalez is the lone elite talent in which it's worth investing loads of money. Sure, he's overrated in real life, but he can rely on Colorado to keep him overrated for your personal gain.
Kemp's 2010 season was a huge disappointment, but I'm not ready to give up on him after one season. The same goes for PECOTA, who projected Kemp for something more akin to a five-star campaign. He's borderline after his 2010, so I stuck him in four-star territory instead. Let's hope that the removal of the coaching staff that blamed Kemp (or, in Twitter language, #BlameKemp) helps him out, and that the addition of Davey Lopes, who had a positive effect on the Phillies' baserunning, improves Kemp's production on the bases.
I discussed Josh Hamilton in the left fielder rankings—between his ridiculous 2010 BABIP and his injury history, I have a hard time putting him into the five-star category. If he's healthy all year, he should deserve it, but like Joe Mauer, he hasn't exactly earned that kind of trust. Jayson Werth will miss Citizens Bank Park, but he should still be able to put up a $20-plus season between his bat and his legs. Andrew McCutchen is more speed than power at this point, but an improved Pittsburgh lineup should make him a better 2011 pick than a 2010 one. Jacoby Ellsbury, with ribs intact, is an exciting fantasy player. Don't forget that. Now that I've put Alex Rios back into a high tier, I'm sure he will completely fall apart again.
Drew Stubbs was worth much more than this in 2010, and he should outdo his projected runs-scored total above. Curtis Granderson's forecast is very pessimistic, considering that he is playing for the Yankees and will receive all the wonderful R and RBI opportunities that come with that. Let's not forget that the park loves lefties, too. Colby Rasmus didn't impress PECOTA with his 2010 campaign, but to be fair, PECOTA didn't like him very much heading into that season, either. Shane Victorino is declining slowly and the Philadelphia offense around him is nowhere near as strong as it used to be, but between the runs and the steals, he will net you plenty of value.
Rajai Davis's projection says four stars, but his track record says three. I may be wrong, but I'm sticking with it. Chris Young finally broke out and produced in both real life and in fantasy baseball. Now we get to see if he can repeat that trick. I have faith in him, but don't let him know, as my lack of patience last season was clearly the deciding factor in his putting it together.
I'm finally putting B.J. Upton where his production merits, rather than where his potential sits. Expect to see him hit .300 with 30 homers and 40 steals now, just because I've finally given up on it getting any better than this. Michael Bourn's steal totals are tantalizing, but without home-run power he isn't going to be driven in very often. What, you think one of the other Astros in the lineup is going to do that? I thought not.
I rated Jones as a four-star center fielder last year and he put up a three-star season. Even if he improves a bit, he may still be three-star, though there is room for him to push toward the top of this group. Torii Hunter isn't a fantasy star, but he's been dependable for awhile now, and there was nothing in his 2010 campaign that makes me think that is going to change this year. Carlos Beltran missed most of 2010 and didn't play well when he was on the field, but he finished strong in September (slugging over .600 in that month) and is even further removed from his knee surgery. I think he has potential to have a much bigger season than this ranking or PECOTA gives him credit for, but he needs to stay on the field before I can give him the credit for that outright.
Andres Torres was discussed in detail yesterday as someone whom PECOTA is understandably lumping in with many of the other late "bloomers" who never did much more outside of their supposed breakout campaign. As I said then, I like him, so pick him up as a power/speed guy on the cheap if others show the same lack of faith as PECOTA. Austin Jackson confuses me—his ceiling is higher than this ranking, but his floor is also much lower. He's been plopped down in the middle for that reason—you can read much more about my thoughts on him here.
Denard Span would be more thrilling to me if not for Target Field, which seems like it is going to be deter his already limited power. Calling Grady Sizemore a question mark is an understatement, especially since we aren't entirely sure how long it will take for his all-important speed to return. He's no longer an elite option even if he remains healthy—he hasn't been elite for a few years now, despite my overzealous ranking of him in 2010. Marlon Byrd might be capable of sneaking into the bottom of the three-star tier—he did so last year—but it seems like a smarter bet to leave him where he is, especially since he doesn't excel in any one area. Vernon Wells is going to see a drop in his production now that he's out of Toronto, so don't get caught paying for his 2010 rebound one year later.
I have a feeling that Will Venable is going to be worth more than this ranking indicates in 2011, but Petco Park and its destruction of lefty production loom large. He will absolutely steal more bases than PECOTA is projecting, though, which is why he is here despite a negative dollar-value projection. Coco Crisp will play fine when he is on the field, but as usual, he may miss too much time to keep him from being a difference maker in mixed leagues. I don't know why PECOTA has the hots for Fowler, but maybe the forecasting system just respects the Harvard acceptee's mind. He's had a quality minor-league career, and Rob McQuown likes him, too.
Julio Borbon was supposed to be a fantasy monster in 2010, but platoon issues and a drop in stolen-base rates got in the way of that. Peter Bourjos is at the bottom of the two-star tier, but it's easy to see him slipping into $1 territory—his projection is pretty ugly as is, and relies almost entirely on plenty of of playing time and stolen bases to keep him afloat.
Nate McLouth hit well in September (.275/.345/.549) after a horrific season full of poor production and injuries. That merits a cheap, sleeper-style bid in 2011 auctions. Carlos Gomez has the potential to be better than this now that Ken Macha and his anti-stealing ways are out of town, but his PECOTA line is even uglier than Bourjos's. Michael Brantley will steal some bases but is basically a pointless commodity outside of AL-only leagues. Franklin Gutierrez has the same issue, unless you're in a Scoresheet league where you can leverage his production against lefties, and his defense as well. Nyjer Morgan has fallen a long way in the space of a year. Cameron Maybin is a player I like to produce eventually, but moving from Florida to San Diego is not going to help him on a superficial level.
Lorenzo Cain should get plenty of playing time in Kansas City—his competition is Melky Cabrera—but PECOTA isn't sure he's ready to provide much in the way of offensive value just yet. Cody Ross is another player who is more useful in something like Scoresheet or an NL-only league, thanks to his huge platoon splits and defensive ability. Jon Jay should pick up some more playing time with Jim Edmonds now retired, but that doesn't make him any more exciting. You hear that, La Russa?
Roger Bernadina might be more intriguing with more playing time, but it doesn't look like he'll get it in Washington unless someone goes down with an injury. Tony Gwynn can contribute stolen bases and is free from Petco Park, but even without his home park dragging him down he's not going to do much with the bat. Mike Cameron will have much more value than this if one of Boston's outfielders goes down—he's still capable of producing as a starter, but he doesn't have a starter's job.
Ben Revere is a quality prospect—Kevin Goldstein recently gave him a four-star ranking and ranked him fourth in the Twins Top 11—but he won't get much playing time this year unless one of the Twins' regulars goes down with an injury. Chris Denorfia might be more intriguing if the Padres move Ryan Ludwick during the season. The rest of the list is basically roster filler in deep leagues, but hey, at least they project to be worth a positive amount of money.