Though it may seem self-explanatory to start this two-parter looking at guys ranked 1-10, I think it best displays the purpose of this article. That is, by the way, to show that preseason rankings are based, almost entirely, on public perception. While not always a bad thing, it oftentimes doesn’t pay much heed to common sense, last year’s performance, or even what makes the most sense in a draft setting.
That said, with the top three picks this year being a unanimous Trout, Cabrera, Braun combo and most thinking that Pujols is a dunk for your fourth overall pick, let’s first take a look at how the fantasy baseball season ended last year, rankings-wise;
Not surprisingly we find our top three picks sitting comfortably at the top of last year’s final rankings. But, going down the rest of the list you’ll notice Chase Headley at eight. Meaning it’s no longer cool to be “high” on Chase Headley. Chase Headley was high on Chase Headley last year, as were owners of Chase Headley. Start being edgy with someone else, now. There are some of the usual suspects on there like Hamilton, Cano, and McCutchen, these are guys you’d expect to be near the top come year’s end, albeit a hair surprising it’s this high. Adrian Beltre snuck in the nine spot while everyone was busy being flabbergasted by Encarnacion playing out of his mind and into all of his fantasy owners’ hearts at number seven. R.A. Dickey is the only pitcher in the top ten and, while it’s not surprising that there is only one pitcher in the top ten, the fact that it’s R.A. Dickey would never have been predicted.
That’s the point here, folks. Look at that list again and you’ll see a couple guys on here you definitely would have drafted that high before last year’s draft… and some dudes on here that you made you laugh when their owner/league champ drafted them, even though four of those players (Trout, E5, Headley, and Dickey) were all drafted in the 200′s. Keeping that in mind, let’s look at what a rough consensus of this year’s preseason top ten would be:
There they are, our guys, Trout, Miggy, and Braun. One, two, and three. You can draft them in any order and feel like good. Warm and fuzzy. Going down the list, everyone is feeling pretty good about Pujols this year because he just had a bad start last year, that’s all. As if that can’t happen again (/sarcasm). Psh, nah. Dude’s a machine. It’s still a solid pick, stick to the formula.
Votto seems to be a nice pick if you didn’t get Pujols… and then Fielder looks like the choice for the next runner-up for Pujols/Votto. Seems silly to draft (arguably) the third best first baseman with the seventh pick, but it’s your team. Do whatever you want with it. You can go smoke a whole box of Prince Fielder if you love the idea of drafting (arguably) the third best (blank) with your seventh pick, overall.
We are, strictly, drafting from preseason rankings. We are, somehow, turning a blind eye to the glaring fact that none of the aforementioned first basemen finished in the top ten last year. (Spoiler alert: None of them finished in the top 30) We are, together on this journey, drafting Matt Kemp either overall when we aren’t sure if he was actually playing baseball at the end of last year, or lost a bet and had to pretend he could only play with one shoulder.
What is happening here? This all seemed so promising when we looked at this list the first time. I mean, look at our guys up there. Trout, Cabrera, and Braun. Give us the answers. Why does it feel like, every year, one of you is going be a monumental disappointment? The way Hanley Ramirez did us dirty in 2011. Or Carl Crawford, since people started actually watching him. Or Hanley Ramirez continued to do us dirty in 2012…
Maybe you’re one of the owners out there that doesn’t look at preseason rankings. You know who you want going in, and you have your backups all mapped out. Good for you, that owner, I’m glad you have everything in life figured out. For the rest of us, though, we do depend, at least a little, on these preseason rankings as a guide as to how we should draft. But should we? How can you look at someone with a straight face and tell them that Matt Kemp is a better pick than Josh Hamilton? Both have injury risk, both are streaky, both play in (projected) high-powered offenses. So, what is this based on? It isn’t last year’s numbers… and it isn’t outlying risks and environment…
Take a look at that top ten again. Marinate in the idea that you have been lied to… take the red pill and we can see just how gruesome it gets.
Jeff is a new contributor to RotoAnalysis. Check out all his work all season long on RotoAnalysis.com, and follow him on Twitter @JeffreyBSharp.
Photo Credit: http://ballertainment.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Matt_Kemp_86745354.jpg