- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
Way back in March, when all was possible in fantasy baseball, all the ERAs looked good and everyone could be a .300 hitter, Matthew Berry, Stephania Bell and I appeared on a special "Baseball Tonight" fantasy preview. At the end of the show we were asked for bold predictions. I'm never shy about being wrong about something, but at the time I just blurted out that I expected both Upton brothers to be top-10 fantasy hitters.
Well, that's just not going to happen. In our mid-May rankings, I thought about dropping Arizona Diamondbacks right fielder Justin Upton out of my overall top 20, but I decided to leave him at 19 in part because I couldn't find anyone else deserving of that high of a rank. I admit that. I thought about moving Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia there, since he's showing the same power, but we all know who has more fantasy upside. I thought about Colorado Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez, but I already have two starting pitchers in my top 20 in Tim Lincecum and Roy Halladay. Ultimately, I decided to leave Justin Upton there.
His older brother B.J. Upton, however, tumbled in my rankings, dropping a few rounds to No. 64 overall. I don't want to say I'm tired of his act, but I don't see any end in sight to the batting-average problems this guy has. The Tampa Bay Rays aren't leading him off anymore, as his .224 batting average and .297 on-base percentage just aren't worth it when there are other options. He certainly could steal 40 bases again, and that's why he's in my top 100, but I don't see a 20-homer season or even a .250 batting average in his future. In retrospect, I should have dropped him quite a bit more. He is no top-10 hitter. He is a disappointment.
Providing the counter to the "players I like more than my ESPN Fantasy colleagues" blog that I wrote Wednesday, here are five more players I like less than my ESPN colleagues:
Rajai Davis, OF, Oakland Athletics: Davis has raised his batting average 25 points in the past week, and there's little question he can be a big-time base stealer, but I think he must play well to guarantee playing time. The Athletics don't hit enough as it is, and Davis, with his .285 on-base percentage and brutal .307 slugging percentage, hardly helps. With Coco Crisp on a rehab assignment and days away from wresting the center field job from Davis, I ranked Davis No. 247, nearly 100 spots worse than the consensus. Like Texas Rangers speedster Julio Borbon, whom I did not rank at all, these aren't leadoff guys, and who knows how much they will play?
Alexei Ramirez, SS, Chicago White Sox: Tell me what I'm missing. Yes, his first year in the majors went well. He hit for power, was eager to attempt stolen bases. He walked only 18 times that season, which was a harbinger of bad things, but he really increased that rate in 2009. I thought he was in for a 15-homer, 15-steal season, and it's certainly possible he still gets there, since we're not talking Barry Bonds numbers here. But there's one stat that screams at me: Ramirez has drawn four walks. Not this week, but this season. No power, no speed, no patience, and the fact that he plays shortstop no longer matters. I ranked Ramirez as a 27th-round pick, meaning he's borderline ownable in standard leagues.
Aubrey Huff, 1B, San Francisco Giants: I feel like this situation was kind of doomed from the start. Huff is hitting a capable .275, which is certainly an improvement from last season, but two home runs a month won't preserve many first basemen their starting jobs, and let's face it, the Giants have Buster Posey lurking in the minors. The fact the team would consider using a catcher at first base is pretty telling, and it shouldn't be tough for them to upgrade via a July trade if they so choose. Huff doesn't seem rosterable to me in 10-team leagues.
Raul Ibanez, OF, Philadelphia Phillies: It was certainly a blast watching his monster first two months of 2009, when Ibanez hit 17 home runs, knocked in 46 runs and hit .331. Ibanez has been living off that run since then. I watch pretty much every Phillies game, and when he does get around on the fastball, he's not driving it with much authority. Is he hurt? Has age caught up to him? Jimmy Rollins batted sixth for the Phillies on Wednesday, a precursor to him and Shane Victorino switching spots, and Ibanez was pushed to seventh, the first time that has happened to him since 2004. Charlie Manuel notices the sub-.400 slugging percentage. I ranked Ibanez No. 175, 30 spots after a pair of younger outfielders I also dropped quite a bit: Carlos Quentin and Adam Jones.
Brian Roberts, 2B, Baltimore Orioles: Not to be mean, but what's the best we can hope for here? Maybe he returns in June? Maybe he steals the occasional base? It's a back problem, and the Orioles are a last-place team. I ranked Roberts at No. 244; two colleagues had him in Round 12. I want to be optimistic, but I'm just not seeing it here.