There are thousands of websites posting their top -300 player rankings for everyone to hoot and holler over … blah, blah, blah. These rankings may work for some, but I don’t ever look at these because, if you do any online draft, they are already in this order. Most of the time, I can look at someone’s sleeper list and a list of rookie players who will make an impact, then do my draft off of that. But, some people like looking at player rankings, and I don’t particularly want to rank 500 players.
Solution? I am creating a draft-day big board using someone else’s top-1,000, pre-draft rankings. I am doing this because, in an actual ranking, I might put Nelson Cruz in my top 50 or 60; however, on my draft board, Cruz is going in my “I don’t care how far they fall, I’m not drafting this guy” section. To me, looking at the draft in this way is more beneficial. You may look at this and not agree what tier I put Evan Longoria in or who I put in my undesirables tier, but I am giving you the model to rank players. I implore everyone to make his or her own big board.
For this exercise, I am going to use Tristan Cockcroft’s top 150 players from ESPN. Any list that you look at basically rips his off anyway. So, let’s get started by cutting players I will never draft in standard mixed 10-12 team leagues.
Now, out of 150 players we are looking at, I just cut 23 out. I have my reasons for not liking these guys but it usually falls under one of four categories: They have burned me in the past, I think they are injury prone, I just think that they are too old and past their primes, or I just do not like them. I bet you are thinking, “Yu Darvish?” How does he fall into one of these categories? For me, foreign players are always over-hyped. They are stay-away guys who are a disappointment nine times out of 10 . (Note: I decided not to include every single closer on this list. Unless he can guarantee 40+ saves, I don’t want to burn the draft pick.)
This is my cream-of-the-crop tier. Each player, with the exception of Halladay, is in his prime and offers little risk. We could nitpick here and there about whether these guys belong or not, but when push comes to shove, if you have a chance in the second round at one of these guys, you would be foolish to pass by. I was a little worried about Pujols in a new league until I remembered he is a robot.
Favorite: Justin Upton. I felt that he came into his own at the end of last season.
Least favorite: Roy Halladay. The guy has to slow down some time.
After the first tier, it would not surprise me if any of these guys went next. Maybe you are drinking the Giancarlo Stanton Kool-Aid. Maybe you think Reyes explodes again this season. Again, all of these players are in their primes and come with some upside of producing like someone in the first round. The reason they did not make my first tier is because there is a lot more risk with these guys than the top-tier guys.
Favorite: Evan Longoria. He is hitting his prime years of production.
Least favorite: Jose Reyes. Hamstring.
Toughest omissions: Ian Kinsler. Injury risk. Zack Grienke. He was tough for me because he is one of my sleepers.
This was a pretty easy section to put together, although I should have just put Kinsler in the undesirables section because there is no way he would fall this far in a draft.
Favorite: Matt Holliday. VORP is 46.6 which is too much value to pass up.
Least favorite: Jay Bruce. Power he has, but everything else sucks.
Toughest omissions: Craig Kimbrel. It’s against my DNA to take closer with my third pick.
This is my “I will have to reach if I want one of these guys” tier. With the exception of Utley, all of these guys could return big time value. They are the bright and shiny new faces of the MLB everyone would like to own. Utley is a guy who could be back to his former first- or second-round self and everybody knows it.
Favorite: Kimbrel. He is a closer that could get you 40+ saves.
Toughest omissions: None.
See what I mean about the fourth tier? No one in this tier jumps out at me. If I take one of these guys, I will probably be happy in the long run, but more than likely, I am looking at the next tier.
Favorite: Alex Rodriguez. Have you seen Kobe this year? Dude is killing it. He and Rodriguez happen to have had the same knee surgery that is not legal in the United States.
Least favorite: Cameron Maybin. PETCO, enough said.
Toughest omissions: Billy Butler. He has just enough upside I may reach for him over these guys.
Another fun round where guys in your league are going to be reaching in this tier. Like I said, I put tier five up and its an “eh, just ok for me dog” type of round. Then we get to this round and it is chalk full of story lines, intrigue and mystique.
Favorite: Carl Crawford. He will end up on a lot of people’s undesirable list, but for me I always want to gamble on at least one guy like this. Out of everyone here he has the highest upside.
Least favorite: Mat Latos. I don’t like pitchers who leave PETCO.
Toughest omission: Buster Posey. Just because I know people will reach for him.
For me, this round has some nice value and it is also a good round to fill some needs. Until you see Posey and drop the “Oh shit! He’s still available?” I don’t blame you. He will be hard to pass on.
Favorite: Drew Stubbs. 168 SO is a tough pill to swallow but 17 HR and 36 steals in a shallow outfield crop makes me want to take a risk on this guy
Least favorite: Howard Kendrick. For a rule of thumb, I don’t like guys who change their names unless it’s something cool like Giancarlo.
This is where pitchers start flying off of the board. Other than taking a flier on Hanson’s upside I am going to grab a bat here in this tier.
Favorite: Joe Mauer. Another late-round guy who could give you a big payoff. His VORP (43.7) is nice, too.
Least favorite: Jeremy Hellickson. In a previous post, I explained why this will be a rough year.
Toughest omission: Jesus Montero. People are scared because of where he is playing this season. I still think he is a top-10 catcher.
This round is kind of cleanup round. You want to have most, if not all, of your main positions covered by now. After this round is where you start really reaching for guys that most of your league mates have hopefully never heard of. If you are reaching for Bryce Harper (as of now he is still considered to be in the minor league) before this round, then you are really not getting him at a good value.
Favorite: Adam Wainwright. He is going to be the third or fourth pitcher on your team that could give you top 20 production.
Least favorite: Peter Bourjos. A crowded outfield and if anyone struggles this year they have a very talented Mike Trout waiting in the wings.
After the top 150, you should be reaching for guys you like or reaching for guys that you have been waiting on to fill a certain position. Depending on the size of your roster, this is the time where you can win your draft. Take a flier on a minor leaguer you like or a guy that has been killing it in spring training. Just don’t settle on the next best available player on someone’s top 35,000-player pre-draft ranking.