- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
The rankings you see in that fabulous draft kit of ours were born from a one-day alliance of fantasy editors and writers. Of course, put a dozen people in one room for most of a day, with limited food, and air for that matter, and you're going to get a dozen different opinions. Frankly, even if you feed us caviar, which I've never tried, we'll still have different opinions.
This is good. Trust me. You don't want to go to a fantasy site in which everyone has the same opinion. First of all, it's not at all realistic. Maybe the democrats all vote a certain way and back their party, but I doubt they could all agree on a restaurant to eat lunch. Yes, it matters that much. So it is with fantasy baseball. One man's sleeper is another's bust, and we saw that when we did the rankings. That's the second reason why a wide range of opinions are good. You can always find someone who agrees with you, if that's your goal, but we hope to challenge you to figure out who you like on your own. I know who I like, and while I didn't need to hear the opinions of others to get there, I can say I've been swayed on certain players.
Some of you have seen our rankings and find areas of disagreement. Good, nobody should simply print out our rankings -- or mine or Matthew Berry's or anyone else's -- and draft off that. It's your team, use our lists to cross off names, see where the depth is, inquire to what we think and use it as a basis. Heck, I don't even follow my own rankings most of the time. Things are changing all the time. Just the other day I had ranked Derek Jeter in the 30s and Adam Eaton was unranked. OK, so not everything changes.
Anyway, here is my updated top 25 for 2008. A few things have changed, notably with a certain St. Louis Cardinals slugger who can't bend his right arm. Honestly, while I rank him eighth, I don't know if I'd take him there if I had the eighth pick and my first seven were gone. I'm just telling the truth.
1. Alex Rodriguez: I'll project 40-135-20, to be fair. Still No. 1.
2. Hanley Ramirez: I'm convinced his shoulder is fine. 30/30 this year.
3. David Wright: I don't assume those 30 steals were a fluke, either.
4. Jose Reyes: Does more relaxed mean more than 70 steals? Um, no.
5. Miguel Cabrera: A-Rod power, just no speed. Totally legit.
6. Chase Utley: That's 30-100-15 at second base, and growing.
7. Matt Holliday: I'm sold that he's the first OF off the board.
8. Albert Pujols: Reluctantly. I do expect good stats, but a DL stint.
9. Johan Santana: Love the move to Shea, but 25 wins? How about 20.
10. Jimmy Rollins: Beats out Crawford for me based on more power.
11. Alfonso Soriano: Why can't he swipe 30? I say he gets 30/30 again.
12. Ryan Braun: Yeah, I've moved him up recently. He'll rake and run.
13. Carl Crawford: Still terrific, but this might be as good as it gets.
14. Ryan Howard: Only player I project for more than 50 home runs.
15. Grady Sizemore: Takes a run at 30/30; just bat him third, please.
16. David Ortiz: Not so young anymore, but could hit 45 homers again.
17. Prince Fielder: Just a few less homers than Howard, no worries.
18. Jake Peavy: Good value here, actually, but I'll go hitter in round 2.
19. Brandon Phillips: If we think 30/30 is legit, then he deserves rank.
20. Ichiro Suzuki: Frankly, I'd bypass Crawford and get Ichiro later.
21. Mark Teixeira: If he goes a round later than Prince, he's a bargain.
22. Vladimir Guerrero: DH threats concern me, and he will not run.
23. Carlos Lee: Durable, consistent, runs a bit, always underrated.
24. B.J. Upton: Tempted to move him up even more, but BA-cautious.
25. Brandon Webb: Just as safe as Peavy, consistent Cy Young candidate.
OK, enough of that. I'm sure this will change in the coming weeks, and I'll let you know when it does. Frankly, Pujols, Braun, Peavy and Guerrero are the interesting picks of your early draft. Who takes that chance Pujols will be just fine? I'd like to, but there are a lot of signs. One could argue, I suppose, that if Pujols concerns me, then why is he still top 10? Well, he concerns me a bit. I just don't want to be the one to take the chance. If Braun gets more than 15 steals, then he's worth a first-round pick, no? Someone will bite. The difference between where Santana and Peavy go is something to watch, and don't be surprised if Guerrero leaves my top 25 soon. I have no such questions with Houston's Lee, for example.
The ESPN top 340 was a group effort, but no two people in the group would have the same list. Here are 10 names that jump out at me as being in places on this list I wouldn't have put them. Doesn't mean our list is wrong, or I am mistaken, but these are just my thoughts on players I would move. And I'm sticking to hitters here, because that's who I generally draft in the first 10 rounds, so most of them are ranked too high for me.
Chone Figgins, Angels: I made my opinion clear at the rankings summit. If I knew Figgins was going to bat .331 with 41 steals again, I still wouldn't rank him in the top 30. If I wanted to take a third baseman, I would, 10 times out of 10, take Aramis Ramirez and Garrett Atkins over him, and think hard about Chipper Jones, too. It's just my opinion. Sure, it's nice to get stolen bases out of a non-running position, but to me, if you do that, you'd better replace those 30 home runs somewhere else. I don't think outfield is particularly deep, but what you can find are Michael Bourn-types late. Similarly, I'd rather have second baseman Brian Roberts, who we ranked No. 40. I like Figgins, actually, but if he goes No. 28 in my drafts, which is where we ranked him, there's no chance I get him. To me he's a fifth-round pick, outside my top 50.
Robinson Cano and Bobby Abreu, Yankees: We rank them Nos. 49 and 50, and I gotta tell ya, I think the difference between them is much more than one spot. I think Cano should be in the 30s, and Abreu in the 60s. Statistically, they are very similar, except for Abreu's steals, but I don't think that sways me enough. Cano is emerging into a 30-homer guy, maybe not this year but eventually, while Abreu is slipping in power. Don't be shocked if Cano is the guy hitting third in the Yankees lineup. He deserves it. If two players put up similar stats, I have three factors to choose between them. One is age. The younger player is more likely to emerge. Two, who runs? In this case, that favors Abreu. Three, which position is more scarce. No question about that one. Cano is a steal at pick 49, Abreu is a good pick there in OPS leagues.
Miguel Tejada, Astros: I appear alone on Miggy island, but I see a 25-90 season coming, and to me when a shortstop puts up those stats, he's a top-50 player. Easily. We rank Tejada at No. 72. I've already drafted him a few times 20 picks before that. He's not going to jail, nor is he going to be suspended for his past transgressions. Houston's park isn't Coors Field, but it does favor right-handed pull hitters, which Tejada most certainly is. See Craig Biggio for more proof right-handers with pull power and who torch lefties well enough to have a good fantasy season. Tejada is viewed as a curiosity, an older player who needs a comeback season. Well, he went .296-18-81 while missing 29 games with an injury that shouldn't be a problem going forward. He's not going to win comeback player of the year, because he doesn't have that far to go.
Adam Dunn, Reds: I'll draft Ichiro if I need batting average. And really, Dunn hitting .264 in 2007 doesn't kill a fantasy team. What helps a fantasy team are the 40 home runs, which Dunn does every season. That's not hyperbole, he's hit precisely 40 home runs the past three seasons, and in 2004 he smacked 46. I won't bring up the fact it's a contract year, because I'm convinced that works both ways, but the fact is Dunn is on that short list of players you can count on for power. He made my top 50, which is quite a bit better than going No. 80. He's 28 years old. Do we expect some sharp decline? If he's there in Round 8, don't hesitate to snap him up.
Vernon Wells, Blue Jays, and Jason Bay, Pirates: Both ended up in our top 100, which is fine if this is two or three seasons ago. I don't like what I saw in 2007, and these are outfielders, neither of whom are guaranteed to hit for average, steal bases or, most importantly, stay healthy. Sure, I could see them each bouncing back with better seasons, but they're outfielders. They're 29, not 26. By Round 10 of a normal draft, I might have two outfielders on my team, and neither will be named Wells or Bay. Among the outfielders we rank worse who I would select over them are Delmon Young, Brad Hawpe, Shane Victorino, Jeff Francoeur and Chris Young, and Corey Hart would be much higher in my rankings. Matthew Berry has a man crush on Hart. I won't go that far, but certainly I have Hart ranked closer to a fifth- or sixth-round pick.
And there are more. That was just players in the staff top 100. As I do drafts and see myself leaning toward other tendencies, I will share them.
The rankings you see in that fabulous draft kit of ours were born from a one-day alliance of fantasy editors and writers. Of course, put a dozen people in one room for most of a day, with limited food, and air for that matter, and you're going to get a dozen different opinions.