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Previous entries in this series:

2015 U25 NL East Rankings

2015 U25 AL East Rankings

Remember this from last year? We do. That’s why we decided to do it again.

Here’s the intro from the 2014 round of U25 rankings:

For this exercise, we're each going to rank our top 30 U25 fantasy players by division before we collaborate on a top-150 list once this portion of the project is complete. For each division, we'll give you our individual rankings and then discuss any major discrepancies in our rankings, talk about some sleepers we wanted to rank higher and take cheap shots at each other along the way. It will be like the TINO podcast, but for your eyes, complete with an imaginary Bret Sayre breaking up our fights.

You get the idea, then. Players have to be born after April 1st, 1989 to qualify. Here’s the linked to last year’s U25 NL Central Rankings.

Ben's Rankings

Craig's Rankings

1. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, CHC

1. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, CHC

2. Kris Bryant, 3B, CHC

2. Kris Bryant, 3B, CHC

3. Gerrit Cole, SP, PIT

3. Addison Russell, 2B, CHC

4. Gregory Polanco, OF, PIT

4. Gerrit Cole, SP, PIT

5. Addison Russell, SS/2B, CHC

5. Gregory Polanco, OF, PIT

6. Starlin Castro, SS, CHC

6. Billy Hamilton, OF, CIN

7. Jason Heyward, OF, STL

7. Jason Heyward, OF, STL,

8. Billy Hamilton, OF, CIN

8. Kolten Wong, 2B, STL

9. Jean Segura, SS, MIL

9. Jorge Soler, OF, CHC

10. Javier Baez, 2B, CHC

10. Starlin Castro, SS, CHC

11. Michael Wacha, SP, STL

11. Michael Wacha, SP, STL

12. Jorge Soler, OF, CHC

12. Carlos Martinez, SP, STL

13. Kolten Wong, 2B, STL

13. Jean Segura, SS, MIL

14. Trevor Rosenthal, RP, STL

14. Javier Baez, 2B, CHC

15. Tyler Glasnow, SP, PIT

15. Jimmy Nelson, SP, MIL

16. Carlos Martinez, P, STL

16. Trevor Rosenthal, RP, STL

17. Jesse Winker, OF, CIN

17. Arismendy Alcantara, 2B/OF, CHC

18. Jameson Taillon, SP, PIT

18. Jameson Taillon, SP, PIT

19. Arismendy Alcantara, UT, CHC

19. Tyler Glasnow, SP, PIT

20. Wily Peralta, SP, MIL

20. Robert Stephenson, SP, CIN

21. Robert Stephenson, SP, CIN

21. Austin Meadows, OF, PIT

22. Jimmy Nelson, SP, MIL

22. Wily Peralta, SP, MIL

23. Josh Bell, OF/1B, PIT

23. Kyle Schwarber, C/OF, CHC

24. Kyle Schwarber, C/OF, CHC

24. Orlando Arcia, SS, MIL

25. Stephen Piscotty, OF, STL

25. Stephen Piscotty, OF, STL

26. Albert Almora, OF, CHC

26. Alex Reyes, SP, STL

27. Austin Meadows, OF, PIT

27. Marco Gonzalez, SP, STL

28. Marco Gonzalez, SP, STL

28. Dan Vogelbach, 1B, CHC

29. Dan Vogelbach, 1B/UT, CHC

29. Josh Bell, 1B, PIT

30. Alex Reyes, P, STL

30. Jesse Winker, OF, CIN

Disagreement One: Orlando Arcia

Craig’s Take: It’s taken me some time, too long, really, to warm to Arcia. But I’m going to go to bat for him here. His relatively lackluster campaign as an 18-year-old in Low-A clouded my view of what Arcia was becoming. I was worried he wouldn’t have the power to keep pitchers honest following last season. After seeing him in spring training, and noticing how he filled out—and how he barreled the ball—that shouldn’t be a problem. He’s a true shortstop, with 20-plus stolen base potential, who makes consistent, hard contact. He should be able to help your average, and might be able to do so in a major way. Home runs will never be there, but he could be a top of the order hitter, who won’t hurt you anywhere and helps in three categories. I think his stock soars this season.

Ben’s Take: I’m not one to denigrate the value of a shortstop, but a player whose entire profile is based off of 20-steal potential and the ability to maybe hit for a good average if it all breaks right isn’t one I’m super interested in investing in. We just spoke about Arcia on TINO and threw out names like Alcides Escobar and Erick Aybar, and while those are two shortstops who have had valuable years in their careers, they’re not exactly fantasy stalwarts. Arcia definitely has value because he’s a shortstop and he’s in Double-A, but he doesn’t have the type of upside that warrants a ranking above guys like Josh Bell and Jesse Winker in fantasy formats. He’s a better MLB prospect than a fantasy one.

Craig’s Take: I think calling him “better in real life” is a bit of a copout. Sure it’s true, but it’s not like that negatively impacts what he can do in fantasy. I disagree with the Escobar comp, but even Aybar put together a 10-homer, 30-stolen base campaign and followed it up with 8 homers and 20 stolen bases, during his prime seasons. He was more than competent in average those two years too. Add in contextual factors (that player plays atop a lineup) and you’re talking about a four category contributor from shortstop. I think that’s immensely valuable. He’s 20 years old and at Double-A, and hitting for more power every season. I think that ability is what separates him from the Escobars and Sardinases of the world.

Ben’s Take: Ok. Those two seasons aren’t terribly indicative of who Aybar is as a player overall, and I think we have little reason to believe Arcia can match or exceed that on a regular basis right now. Unless he’s really hitting .300 on a routine basis, he’s what … Elvis Andrus? Andrus hit .263 with 27 steals last year, and that was only good for the 14th-best fantasy shortstop. There’s a low bar at short, but it’s not that low unless we’re talking really deep leagues. Maybe we’re getting caught up in comps here, but it seems to me like you’re tying an awful lot of Arcia’s future value into his average (saying he could bat atop the lineup is quite the leap of faith), and I’m not willing to bet on that over some of the better bats I have ranked above him.

Imaginary Bret: I shouldn’t have been willing to bet on either of you.

Disagreement Two: Jesse Winker

Ben’s Take: Aside from a better position, Winker has a lot of what you look for in a fantasy prospect. He’s got a good hit tool with a lot of believers, he projects to have modest but meaningful power and he may even run a tiny bit in his early years, too. Add to that profile his proximity to the majors and his very favorable contextual factors, and I’m not sure what’s not to like here unless you truly don’t believe in the bat. I’ll buy into the argument that Winker’s upside is probably as an OF2/3 in moderately sized leagues, but I think he has a high floor and I think he’ll be an everyday player by early 2017.

Craig’s Take: More than anything I don’t like the combination of the skillset. The hit tool is there, and that’s fine, but I’m not sure it’s there enough to make the power play to a really usable level, given the high bar there is in the outfield. He had 15 home runs last year, but 13 came in the Cal League. He’s had 200 plate appearances at Double-A and is hitting .222 with no power, which is concerning. Sure it’s still a small sample, and I do believe he’ll hit considerably better going forward – but I think we’re talking about more of an OF4/5 here than anything else. He doesn’t run, the contextual factors are hard to discern, and the power is going to be moderate at-best. If he was at shortstop… I’d love him.

Ben’s Take: It seems like you agree that Winker is probably going to hit, so this really becomes an exercise in valuing floor vs. ceiling. I’d be surprised if Winker produces as more than an OF3 at any point his career, sure, but I think he’s a great bet to hit that OF3/4 mark many times, and I think he can do so in fairly short order once he reaches the majors. His SSS struggles in Double-A as a 21-year-old don’t bother me at all, and I don’t think it’s terribly difficult to discern that his contextual factors are going to be pretty nice unless he’s dealt. This has less to do with me loving Winker than it has to do with me valuing mid-tier outfielders more than shaky MLB starters, pitching prospects and however one politely classifies Dan Vogelbach.

Craig’s Take: I think he’s probably going to hit, but if that’s .270 with moderate power as a 70th percentile production, than something in the 50th percentile makes him waiver material in leagues that care about Jesse Winker right now. So yeah, I think he’ll hit, but even at maturity I think it’s a limited package that’s mostly replaceable. No one cares about Matt Joyce (even before his horrid 2015) and reasonably so. He wasn’t ever worth keeping outside of 20-team leagues. I do think the contextual factors are harder to predict and matter more to someone like Winker than you’re indicating. Sure, the ballpark is good, but Winker batting in the upper half of the lineup versus the lower half is fairly important to his value, especially since a lower-order Winker probably means he’s not producing to expectations. That version of Winker becomes droppable. The upper-half order of Winker is the OF3/4 that you’re talking about.

Imaginary Bret: If I had known that each of your 90th percentile outcomes was a platoon-writer then I would have dropped you in my author rankings significantly.

Craig’s One Player He Wanted to Rank Higher: Monte Harrison, OF, MIL

Harrison got a lot of praise this offseason, with a lot of it coming from yours truly. He’s struggled to open the season, but his non-presence here doesn’t mean I’m any less invested. Harrison is a raw player with a lot of edges to smooth out, but the five-category potential that he offers is still tremendous. He’s just so far away, that it doesn’t make sense to rank him ahead of the players already mentioned (and others) in a very deep and talented NL Central.

Ben’s One Player He Wanted to Rank Higher: Jason Heyward

Generally I use this section to talk about a player who just missed the list, but in this case I’m going with Heyward, who I really wanted to rank higher but who I just can’t justify placing ahead of any of the high-upside names above him. Heyward is a terrific real-life baseball player thanks to his patience, defense and power/speed combo, but from a fantasy point-of-view he’s more of solid contributor than a savior. Aside from him incredible 2012 campaign, Heyward has been more of a 10-15 homer, 20-steal guy with an acceptable average. That makes him a nice OF3, but it also means he falls well short of the OF1 status so many are waiting for him to retain on a yearly basis. There’s still the potential for Heyward to blossom into the hitter so many thought he’d be, but at this point, the safer bet is on valuing him for his consistency and his well-roundedness: not his upside.

Ben, say something nice about Craig: He’s good at getting me to write his jokes for him. He’s also good at making jokes in Google Docs as we work.

Craig, say something nice about Ben: Ben gave me the line Matt Carpenter missed the Cards’ weekend series against the Pirates with a case of “extreme fatigue,” which is both a great line, and also how I feel about him.