Power Rankings 5/9
Show me a man who doesn't get fired up about a fresh set of power rankings and I'll show you a geek who doesn't like steak.
Before you bombard the group thread with baseless gripes, allow me to explain how I formulated the first batch of power rankings this season. I did not merely copy the standings and shuffle some names around like a half-assed homework assignment. Nor did I glance at the rosters and say, "Oh this team has guys I like, this team doesn't." It's deeper than rap, my guy. Without revealing the full extend of my methods, I will say there were three main criteria:
- Current category totals + rest of season projections (secret sauce)
- Roster construction (flexibility, balanced vs. unbalanced, etc.)
- Owner reputation and track record
From there, I made tweaks based on my own deep-level analysis and personal biases to spit out the power rankings you see below. To be clear, the teams are ranked by how well they are currently positioned to finish the season as champion, not by how well their boys are tossin' and boppin' right right now. Without further ado...
Losing trades consistently apparently won't stop me from making them. After selling off Nelson Cruz in the preseason and dropping almost half my drafted players, my roster salary sits at $199, the lowest in the league.
Hitting: Gimmicky and below average
Pitching: Fine, with the potential to make you Monday morning quarterbacks look like real dummies by the end of the season.
Mitch's tenure in the league has been marred by deeply negative PR15's and double-digit red numbers in the far right column. Cutting bait with non-contributors and identifying good replacements have always been his biggest weaknesses, but this year's rule changes help him significantly. We all operate under an add/drop cap now — holding borderline players through slumps has become the norm.
Having said that, there's still some bums on his roster. Flavors-of-the-month Christian Villanueva and Jeimer Candelario have long outlived their usefulness. If Mitch is to keep his roster healthily pruned, he'll need to pump the brakes on the $3 FAAB pickups of free agents who aren't exactly hot commodities.
Hitting: There is generally some positive correlation between home runs and RBI. If your team has a lot of one it probably has a lot of the other. Somehow Mitch's team holds down second place in RBI but sits tenth overall in home runs. While the HR category is tightly packed, I do believe Mitch has gotten off to an unsustainable start in RBI — Nick Markakis and Asdrubal Cabrera in particular. Its more likely he finishes in the middle of the pack of those two categories, with above-average marks in R and AVG.
Steals, now that's another issue. Mitch is in desperate need of speedsters. With a few exceptions, the vast majority of his hitters are total non-threats on the base paths. Combine that with his lack of reliable star power and you're looking at one of the worse offenses in the Serious League.
Pitching: Tough to rag on Mitch here. He drafted some big, solid names, and most of them have not delivered. Chris Archer , Jose Quintana, and Luis Castillo — $48 worth of starters — have each allowed more hits than strikeouts. All three have gotten back on track in recent starts, but I'm not confident Archer or Quintana will live up to their draft values, and Castillo has a long way to go before his season line isn't stomach-turning. Also: Mitch has no closers and only two good relievers! His pitching is in deep shit.
The shine is off the Ohtani coin. It's still a valuable coin, of course, but not an ultra-rare gleaming piece from Sakaar. Maloof could have dealt Ohtani for a king's ransom at the beginning of the season and ended up higher on this list, but their demands (ten king's ransoms plus royalties in perpetuity) were outrageous, as usual. It's a safe bet the Angels will be overly cautious with any Shohei scrapes and nicks as the season wears on and they stay in the race for a Wild Card spot.
At the moment, Ohtani is Maloof's only player in the top 50 of the player rater, though Stanton and one of the closers will join him soon enough. Inevitably, some team will fall victim to the tried-and-true strategy of throwing so much trade shit at the wall that something will finally stick/look good by comparison and the Bama Boys will add another huge bat to the roster. (::cough:: Matt and Casey ::cough::)
Hitting: Fellas, I ran the numbers, and they're not as rosy as you might think. Early-season darling Jose Martinez has fallen off a cliff, and I have a feeling $17 Daniel Murphy — who has yet to play this year — is going to be nagged by injuries all season. For this group to be considered among the best, Stanton, Sanchez, and Bregman will have to anchor everything and at least three other guys will have to have full-on breakouts.
Pitching: Outside of Ohtani, none of Maloof's starters cost more than $9 at the draft, and it shows. Maloof far from the bottom in every pitching category (particularly strikeouts), but I attribute that to their stud relievers. Chapman (31), Betances (27), and Hand (27) each have about as many K's as Sonny Gray (30) in about half as many innings.
Speaking of Gray, our old friend Mr. Must-Start has had two solid performances recently, bringing his ERA down to 6.00 on the season. Half of Jeff Samardzija's outings have yielded at least five runs in four or fewer innings. And Trevor Bauer, while off to a hot start, is sure to hit the DL after the Astros throw at him in Houston in a few weeks.
Plain and simple, this team doesn't have the (starting) horses to compete for the title right now.
Even as Bayz' team inches toward full health, his roster remains in shambles. The April injury woes were well-documented (seriously I made an elaborate-ass document, thanks for reading): Justin Turner, Manuel Margot, Rougned Odor, Elvis Andrus, Anthony Rendon, and Danny Salazar. $65 worth of players out at the same damn time. Some were dropped, some were traded for pennies on the dollar. The ironic thing (I think, still fuzzy on how to use that word) is that avoiding high-dollar players in the auction is supposed to protect you from devastating injuries sinking your season. But when six of your mid-dollar guys hit the dirt, there's no superstar to drag you out of the muck.
But there's hope!
Hitting: (see "Pitching" for hope) According to my precise calculations, Bayz' current roster of hitters could sink to the bottom of the four counting stats, but potentially win AVG. Indeed, there is a load of .280+ hitters here. The overall outlook could change in a hurry,
with Anthony Rendon back from injury and if Manny Margot pulls himself out of Billy Hamilton territory.
Pitching: Bayz has five closers at the moment (soon to be six), and is leading the saves category by ten. TEN! Of course, you don't get extra points for lapping the field in a category, and Bayz has made it known his asking price for one of his closers is an ace. On paper, this is a sound strategy. His current starters are nothing to write home about (Keuchel and Teheran are fine, but low-K starters are even less valuable with a reduced starts limit), so an ace in return for a closer would strengthen at least three pitching categories and help him catch up on pace, all without hurting him in saves. Brilliant!
But is it realistic? Maloof traded Craig Kimbrel for Ronald Acuna before Acuna was even called up. Sean Manaea has been dealt for setup men/occasional closers twice already (and Sean Manaea, as we all know, stinks). If someone is willing to deal Scherzer, Verlander, Cole, or Kluber for Edwin Diaz, then yeah Bayz is set with pitching. But some of his guys (i.e. Kelvin Herrera) might get traded in real life, and sooner rather than later. If Bayz comes off that hard-line stance just a little, he might be able to build a monster staff and shoot up the rankings. What I'm saying is, I have good starters and I need a closer.
8. Matt and Casey
Matt and Casey drafted a pretty good team! The secured the best player in fantasy, loaded up on big-name starters, picked up a few closers, added some high-strikeout relievers, and sprinkled in a few Cubs for good measure.
So why aren't higher in these rankings? Well, they haven't really done shit since the season started.
Now, yours truly is a prime example of over-managing one's roster. Not since the days of Troy and Michael have transaction totals strongly correlated with success in the standings. But fellas, you have to do something. Drop droppable players, add hot bats and hope one hits long-term. Matt and Casey have made just three moves thus far: no trades and two true add/drops. At some point, every podium finisher takes risks, some of which pay off handsomely. Jed Lowrie, Kevin Pillar, Blake Snell, (gulp) Sean Manaea — all picked up off waivers, all currently on the first page of the player rater. More will emerge, and when they do, it's probably not holding onto Joe Panik as your third DL'd player.*
(* There's a nonzero chance Matt and Casey are playing the long game here, waiting for the rest of us to blow our FAAB they can can dominate the wire down the stretch. If that's the case then ignore everything above, thanks.)
Hitting: Solid all around. Mike Trout and Jose Abreu make them a player in the AVG race, and all of their eternally rostered players are projected for double-digit home runs. There are a few bats I — to steal a phrase from Kyle — wouldn't be caught dead owning. But I'm power ranked 12th so let that go in one ear and out the other.
Pitching: Some big names here. Big names! Kluber, Arrieta, Lester, McCullers, Ray, Felix Hernandez, Marcus Stroman. Would be pretty cool to open a pack of cards with all those guys in it huh?
Unfortunately some of those names might not be up for it this year. Marcus Stroman, a soft-throwing bum, is off to a horrendous start. Robby Ray was actually punching people out so hard that he injured himself. Folks King Felix abdicated the throne long ago. An impressive group of washed-up names if there ever was one. Fellas, can I interest you in David Price?
Oh boy, the second legend ranked in the bottom half (James and Zach are just dudes, Maloof is one legend). Rim must be trying to stir shit up, poke the bears a little bit. I see right through your game. (That's you talking to me.)
Ols has taken the injury mantle from Bayz. Or, more accurately, he has ripped the mantle from Bayz' clutches and smashed it over his head Bo Jackson-style. What was once the healthiest bunch in the league is now like an episode of M*A*S*H!! A whole M*A*S*H unit. It's like a, well it's a dang infirmary. It's like a whole hospital sometimes. So many injuries, it's like an ambulance! Ols is driving an ambulance.
Hitting: Take a look at Ols' team salary. (If you haven't looked at the Google doc yet then I can't help you.) It's a similar setup to Bayz' roster: None of his players cost more than $18 at the draft, but 13 of them cost $10 or more. His team is loaded with good players, [Mike Wilbon voice] but none of them are great, okay Tone?
There have been some pleasant waiver wire surprises, but long-term there just isn't much in the way of power or average on this roster. Eddie Rosario can only carry you so far.
Pitching: Ols' pitching looks even better than it did a week ago. James Paxton is a "Star Is Born?" topic on PTI and Walker Buehler appears to be the real deal. Both of those guys could be dealing with innings limits this year, but they're welcome surprises on a staff anchored by Justin Verlander.
As far as relievers go, Ols made big moves to acquire two top-line closers recently: Zack Godley for the now-healthy Corey Knebel and Ronald Acuna for old reliable Craig Kimbrel. On top of that, all but one of his pitchers have double-digit K/9 rates (potential Blue Jays vulture Ryan Tepera is sitting at 9.72). It might not look like it, but this is a very good pitching group.
This was a tough call. The difference between Pat and Ols was razor-thin, but ultimately I decided to put the healthier team (with fewer starts) ahead.
Hitting: I like Pat's hitters more than my numbers do. It's well-balanced across all five categories, anchored by stars in Altuve and Goldschmidt, and bolstered by high-upside plays like Gallo and Mazara. I even like the two catchers thing, as long as one of them isn't taking someone's spot in the UTIL slot. But overall, if you're going to own Gallo, Schwarber, and Trumbo, then Altuve, Goldschmidt, and Dee Gordon are the necessary complements. If Pat hadn't invested in what have turned out to be the two least-valuable keepers, we'd be looking at an elite offense.
Pitching: Folks I call this the Darvish Debacle because the Cubs pitcher has been terrible! Until Darvish figures things out, Pat's best starter might be Jake Junis. Thirty-five-year-old J.A. Happ is striking guys out at the highest rate of his career [i]by far[/i], so I'm not sure how much longer that ride will last. Meanwhile, Chase Anderson's K-rate has plummeted. And oh, Oh.
Not really in desperate need of closers, Pat jumped in to the FAAB fray with a $21 bid on Seung Hwan Oh, who may or may not be receiving save chances over the next few months. (Tyler Clippard picked up the save Wednesday night, but the Jays didn't take the lead until the bottom of the 8th and by that point Oh had already pitched.) If Oh establishes himself firmly as the Jays' closer, saves may be Pat's best pitching category moving forward. If not...well that's a high price to pay for some WHIP help.
Many people are saying Nolan is only ranked this high because of his effusive brown-nosing. Once again I must reiterate that no biases play a role in these rankings. Strictly analytics.
Hitting: Stat Boy's Boppers lead the league in bops, thanks in part to ten big flies from Ozzie Albies, who has never hit ten home runs in any season at any level. That pace aside, Nolan's hitters do look poised to compete in at least three categories (R, HR, RBI) and possibly four if Ender Inciarte ends up with a 50-steal season out of nowhere. The average though, the average is going to be a disaster. That's the category that keeps Nolan out of the top third of these rankings.
Pitching: In the wake of benched gems left and right, starts pace has become a main topic of discussion. There is a school of thought that says it's better to be ahead of pace in April than lag behind all year and scrape the wire for spot starts in September. Nolan has great pitching ratios but the fewest starts in the league, leaving him near the bottom in strikeouts and wins. The way I see it, this means he has room to grow. There are at least four months until the wire gets super competitive for spot starts. Nolan knows what he needs and he knows what he can trade to acquire it. Batting average may keep him from the top, but there is a lot of meat on the pitching bone for him to gain points long-term.
No owner has had a steeper fall in recent weeks than two-time defending champion Alex Bradford. From a peak of nearly 100 points in mid-April down to the absolute muck of the fifties with losers like Rim and Mitch. YUCK!
So what gives? His roster is mostly crap, Clayton Kershaw is hurt, and Billy Hamilton might get the boot in Cincinnati (I always remember how to spell Cincinnati because of the made-for-TV Babes In Toyland starring a Keanu Reeves and a young Drew Berrymore.). Unless one of us falls for his Didi blockbusters, there doesn't seem to be much hope on the horizon.
But fellas, scroll up and take another look at that criteria. Third bullet: Track. Record. The numbers put AB in the middle of the crowd. I don't know how he's going to get there, but I think it's more likely he finishes among the top four than the bottom four.
Hitting: Sorely, and I mean sorely lacking in power. If not for Didi' torrid start, AB might find himself 20 back of the 11th-place team in home runs. The way guys are boppin' em out theses days, two 30-homer threats is no longer enough. And while it seems steals are a non-issue, owning Billy Hamilton no longer guarantees contention in the steals category. While Hamilton's OBP is in line with his career number, the batting average is worse than ever. On top of that, Cincinnati's outfield rotation is eating into his plate appearances. As of right now, Hamilton is on pace for just 24 steals.
Pitching: Some live arms here, live arms! Blake Snell, picked up the morning after the draft, has been terrific, and all five relievers have ERAs of 3.00 or below. The injuries to Clayton Kershaw and Noah Syndergaard (hasn't happened yet, but obviously the Mets will bungle something) are scary, but as long as AB sits certified bum Jameson Taillon for life then his pitching staff will be in good shape.
Remember when Mil spewed out insulting trade offers every three hours like we were all idiots? Folks I called him Milserable because the process was miserable. Well those days are long gone and I just want to formally recognize the guy for keeping his initial offers in the ballpark these last few years. Round of applause for Mil, good job man.
Hitting: If not for his weird obsession with Michael Conforto, Mil's roster of hitters would be almost without stain. From first base down through Charlie Blackmon in the outfield, he's completely solid at every position. While Trea Turner has turned on the burners after the slow start, contrary to popular belief he alone won't win you a category. Mil will need to find another hundred steals to make that happen, and at the moment I don't see that here.
Mil is playing with fire a bit when it comes to some of these established stars. A healthy Josh Donaldson is a monster, but he still seems to have these weird, nagging ailments. Miguel Cabrera was on track to revive his .300+ ways, but has missed nine of the last ten games with a hamstring injury. Not something you want to see from a player who's "35". And the iron man days of Ryan Zimmerman are long gone. Mil will be teetering along the thin line between power downpours (little rain reference) and complete disaster all season.
Pitching: Mil is apparently so confident in his starting pitching that he didn't think twice about dropping piping-hot Johnny Cueto as soon as he hit the disabled list. And it's hard to blame him: Luis Severino looks even better than last year, Jacob DeGrom is on fire, Charlie Morton is probably getting away with cheating, and Kyle Hendricks continues to fool everyone with BP speed. Honestly, who needs Cueto when you're set up like that?
Saves are a problem. Mil has one of the worst closer Mike Sorrentino's in the league, and as I stated earlier in the rankings one miserable category situation is enough to knock you down a few pegs. He can't tread water with me and Mitch for much longer -- Mil needs to make a move in this department or I will be forced to drop him in the June power rankings. Nobody wants that.
Let's not overthink this: Kyle's roster is preposterous. His team salary ($284) is the highest in the league by a healthy $20, and that includes two of the most valuable keepers in $10 Cody Bellinger and $10 Aaron Judge. He might have like ten All-Stars. This isn't rocket science.
Hitting: This looks like a 8-team league roster. Machado, Lindor, Rizzo, Judge, Bellinger, Cruz. Wow, incredible names. Oops wait I forgot one, BRYCE HARPER. I mean come on fellas. Kyle could pull a Rob and leave his team untouched and still finish in the top half. Runs might be a problem, and not using subs in a year when most teams have multiple plug-ins could come back to haunt him, but at the end of the day I am in awe at the power of these lads. Absolute units.
Pitching: Not going to lie, I ran the numbers before Roberto Osuna's charges. Kyle traded Corey Knebel days before that news, and is now left with one full-time closer. Wade Davis is one of the best, but that still hurts. The other relievers are above average, and while Stephen Strasburg and Zack Godley don't mow down opponents at elite clips, they're pretty solid anchors. At the moment, this is an average staff.
Ole Notre Dame back in the mix! Love how we did that college football programs thing last year, fun stuff.
Hitting: I think we're headed for a more competitive season than 2017. The way standings are bunched more than normal, I don't expect a 20-point margin of victory like we saw with AB last year. So, I don't think the winner needs to have top-3 finishes in every category. We're seeing that now with Seyf's hitters: above average everywhere but runs. And that could be his floor.
Seyf has power and average to compete with the best of them (Joey Votto and Nolan Arenado will make sure of that), but he also has some sneaky steals going for him. A.J. Pollack and Mallex Smith (a worthy replacement for the injured Kevin Kiermaier) are both outrunning projections -- and adding stellar averages to boot. The names aren't as imposing as Kyle's roster, but if you look close enough, you'll see there's enough here to compete across the board.
Pitching: It's Seyf. [Arby's commercial voice] He has the closers. As far as his starters, well egg on my face, folks! At the draft, ole buzzed Rim (new haircut + some Coors Lights) chided the Inaugural Champion for spending $13 on Gerrit Cole, a disappointing keeper for yours truly in 2016. 4.26 ERA, 8.7 K/9 and he's leaving the NL? Hah, no thanks!
Well wouldn't you know it, the guy is having a breakout year. Cole's career K/9 is 8.8; right now he's striking out 13.7 batters per nine. His ERA is 1.43 and his WHIP is 0.74. What a start. The question is, can he keep it up?
Well, probably! I read somewhere the other day that Cole's spin rate is up about 170 RPMs from his previous three years, from 2170 to 2330. Something is going on down there in Houston (they're cheating), but whatever it is (cheating), it seems to be paying off for Gerrit Cole.
Anyway, his other pitchers are really good too. Carlos Carrasco struck out 14 guys yesterday, and Patrick Corbin is the Humidor Starter I should have been after all along. Plain and simple, Seyf knows how to build a staff. This is among the best.
In the next update:
- All the latest news and buzz from around the diamond
- Nolan reviews regional fast-food restaurants in mid-size metropolitan areas
- The big reveal: Ols' college football program!!