Fantasy Baseball: Sannes' Season-Long Points League Rankings
In all fantasy formats, no matter what the sport, you've got to know the rules. If you don't, you'll be up the creek without a paddle before even making a pick.
There is no format in which this is more true than a fantasy baseball points league.
The reason for this is that there isn't really a standard template for how the scoring should look from one site to another. On ESPN, standard scoring deducts a full point when a hitter strikes out. On CBS, it's a half-point deduction, and for DRAFT's best-ball leagues, you can strike out as much as you please. This same variance is true for wins, saves, losses, and on and on and on.
In 2018, Alex Bregman and Giancarlo Stanton both had 705 plate appearances. But in that sample, Stanton had 126 more strikeouts, meaning he lost 126 additional points on ESPN relative to Bregman and 63 points on CBS. Stanton certainly made up for it in other spots, but that's a massive swing. If you're not accounting for it, your team is already toast.
That is all to say that there's not a one-list-fits-all approach to ranking players in points leagues for fantasy baseball. At the end of the day, you've got to know your league and make adjustments based on that. But that doesn't mean we can't have a little fun and shoot some broad lists out there.
Below are my personal season-long points-league rankings for the 2019 season. It's important to note that these are separate from numberFire's season-long rankings, which you can see right here. They're a tool I use in my process, but it's easier to justify listing Jed Lowrie irrationally high yet again when I can toss in a bit of personal feelings on players, as well.
Because spring training stats matter, I'll be making tweaks to this list as March goes along. But for now, here's how I'm feeling about each player as things get going in Florida and Arizona.
While building these rankings, I worked with CBS's default scoring rules. This cuts the strikeout conundrum right down the middle, making things a bit easier. But if you're playing on ESPN with the full one-point deduction for a strikeout, you'll want to move guys like Joey Gallo and Yoan Moncada who are quite fond of that third strike down your list.
We'll do this position-by-position with short annotations for each. So let's get it poppin' starting with everybody's favorite position: catcher.
Even before the news that Salvador Perez could potentially miss the season, Yadier Molina was ranked fourth on this list, a bit higher than he's going on CBS. That's due to both his massive playing time and how good he has been recently.
Despite spending some time on the disabled list last year, Molina still logged 500 plate appearances for the fourth consecutive season and the ninth time in the past 10. He clubbed 20 homers over that time with a 44.4% hard-hit rate and 36.9% fly-ball rate, numbers that will drive in a bunch of runs when they're coming behind a lineup that now includes Paul Goldschmidt. Molina's still a desirable fantasy asset entering his age-36 season.
On the flip side of both the value and the age spectrum, it's hard to get enthused about Francisco Mejia at his current cost. Teammate Austin Hedges is mighty skilled defensively and showed a bit of pop with a .236 isolated slugging percentage after last year's All-Star break. If Mejia can find a spot to play more regularly, he'll shoot up these rankings, but he's sticking a bit lower until that point.
Given that Matt Olson couldn't quite live up to the lofty expectations drafters put on him entering last year, it makes sense that he has slid down some boards this year. But it really does make him an attractive value at an underwhelming position.
Olson cut his strikeout rate down to 24.7% in 2018 while upping his walk rate to 10.6%. His home run total wasn't jaw-dropping at 29, but with a 47.3% hard-hit rate and 43.1% fly-ball rate, we should expect a few more dingers to leave the yard this time around. Olson's being drafted as the 17th first baseman off the board on CBS, and that is much lower than it should be.
The other name to watch here is Jake Bauers. Roster Resource pegs him to bat fifth for the Cleveland Indians, trailing a bunch of dudes who can get on base. Bauers gets a boost in points leagues with his 13.9% walk rate, and with what should be plentiful playing time, he's a solid late-round value.
Normally, when a young player blows up as a rookie, their cost will be prohibitive the following season in fantasy. That's especially true when they're wearing pinstripes.
Both of those apply to Gleyber Torres, but he still seems to be acceptable where he's going.
Some of the hesitance around Torres likely revolves around his slower second half. Even when you include that, though, he still had a 38.4% hard-hit rate and 42.7% fly-ball rate, numbers that validate his 24 homers over 484 plate appearances. Put those numbers in a park like Yankee Stadium, and Torres could easily duplicate or exceed his .271/.340/.480 triple slash. Until Torres' cost rises -- which it very well could -- consider me in on him for his sophomore campaign.
|12||Vladimir Guerrero Jr.||5|
The big story at third base is obviously Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and whether you should draft him, knowing he'll likely start the year in Triple-A. It may be an underwhelming answer, but truthfully, it depends. (Note: Guerrero has since strained an oblique and is expected to miss three weeks. His ranking above now reflects that news.)
Right now, Guerrero is going seventh among third basemen on CBS. That's not far off from where he's at on my list. But it does mean he's going ahead of both Matt Carpenter and Eugenio Suarez, and that's where things get a bit tough.
Carpenter's walk rate makes him a monster in points leagues, and adding Goldschmidt should boost his run and RBI totals. Suarez will also draw his fair share of walks and posted a 48.6% hard-hit rate and 37.1% fly-ball rate in a hitter-friendly park. Those are awesome fantasy assets to have on your roster.
Once you get past those two, there are a couple extra question marks, which makes Guerrero more palatable. As such, if he slips a tad below his current ADP, it'd likely be wise to pounce and scoop him up. But if you're on the clock and have the chance to snag either Carpenter or Suarez instead, it's not a bad idea to take the less flashy route.
|28||Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
At shortstop, everything revolves around the health of Francisco Lindor. Even with Lindor likely to miss some time at the beginning of the season, he still seems worthy of a top-end selection.
Prior to Lindor's injury, he was going fourth overall in drafts for the National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) and tops among all shortstops. He has since slipped to 13th overall and third among shortstops (though it's worth noting that the NFBC is a categories league rather than points). You are getting a discount because of Lindor's health.
Lindor has started to hit in a cage and take ground balls, according to Marly Rivera of ESPN. That means that while opening day may be out, he should be back some time by mid-April. In the time until he returns, you're not taking a zero at shortstop; instead, you'll get whatever value a late-round fill-in at the position can get.
So the question becomes at what point does a late-round sub for two weeks plus Lindor get you more than the other players available. For me, that would be the case after Trea Turner and Alex Bregman are off the board in points leagues. As such, it seems like the market is handling the news around Lindor appropriately, and he's still someone we should be willing to consider.
|54||Jackie Bradley Jr.||11|
|63||Steven Souza Jr.
Harper in 2018 drew an 18.7% walk rate, his third season within the past four with a walk rate of at least 17.2%. Those are all equivalent to a single in points leagues whereas they have only secondary benefits in a categories league. Toss in a great new park with a solid supporting cast, and it's easy to buy Philadelphia's newest millionaire.
Byron Buxton has generated plenty of talk this spring with his sudden affinity for dingers, and that's justified, but his teammate, Max Kepler, seems to be the big value. Kepler has been holding down the leadoff spot this spring, which would be huge for his volume in a points league. He also upped his walk rate to 11.6% last year, and when coupled with just a 15.7% strikeout rate, it hints at a player who could break out in 2019.
Davis is going 59th overall on CBS while Cruz is going 110th. This means Davis is going between Starling Marte and Michael Brantley among outfielders, and Cruz is between Max Muncy and Travis Shaw. Muncy and Shaw are also fairly attractive options in that range, but Cruz has hit 37 home runs for five straight seasons and now heads to a good park and a solid lineup. And with Davis, because it's a points league, he won't hurt you in batting average when he hits .247 for the fifth straight season, giving him very few warts to speak of. These two are worth the decreased flexibility that comes with drafting them.
Shohei Ohtani is a bit of a tougher sell due to an assumed lack of volume. Not only will he be on the shelf to start the season, but he can't play the field, which will keep him out of the lineup for road inter-league games. Toss in that his strikeout rate went up to 31.8% against lefties last year, and you could also see Ohtani sitting when he doesn't have the platoon advantage. As such, even with Ohtani's immense talent, he's likely best left to leagues with daily lineup changes or to your rosters in daily fantasy.
In a points league, you need strikeouts. Desperately. If a pitcher isn't going to get you those, the margin for error is razor thin. That's why I'm willing to take risks on guys like German Marquez, even when the park is far from ideal.
The turnaround for Marquez last year started on June 24th, when he jacked up his average curveball velocity (it was 80.3 miles per hour prior to that day and 83.1 miles per hour from then on). Over his final 18 starts, Marquez had a 32.8% strikeout rate, pairing his 2.63 SIERA with a 2.79 ERA. In this format, that's absolute money.
Now, those who are skeptical of Marquez will be quick to point out that only 8 of those 18 starts came in Coors Field, and they would be fully justified in saying this. Off-speed pitches work differently at altitude, which could nullify the improvements in Marquez's curveball.
But in those eight starts at home, Marquez had a 2.66 ERA and a 35.4% strikeout rate. That thin air couldn't kill his vibe.
There's definitely risk in Marquez because of his park and because his success was in a relatively small sample last year. With that said, he's entering just his age-24 season, he's not overly costly in fantasy yet, and his upside is immense due to the strikeouts. That could be enough to justify him even as a top-30 starting pitcher.
In a categories league, we can lean on guys like Dellin Betances who will get strikeouts and suck down our ratios. Those guys also have value in points leagues, but in reality, it's all about save opportunities.
On CBS, a save is worth the same number of points as a win. If a pitcher is unlikely to get either of those, they're fighting an uphill battle in a points league. That's why we have to put a fairly heavy emphasis on these two stat categories.
Because of this, guys like Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier are interesting late-round gambles. Both are expected to compete for the Boston Red Sox's closer role with Craig Kimbrel likely out of town. Whoever wins that job would have access to monster upside via saves on a team that good.
If your league doesn't draft until later this month, then you should be monitoring this situation closely to see if news leaks before then. But if you draft in early March, you'll want to take swings at both of these guys. Barnes was electric with a much higher strikeout rate last year, which is why I have him higher on my list, but you can bet that if I miss out on Barnes, I'll be looking to snag Brasier later on to compensate.