Welcome to October and the 2013 version of the ESPN Fantasy annual baseball postseason rankings! The Tampa Bay Rays settled the final official playoff spot Monday night, so here we go with position by position rankings and a top 100 to get you ready for your postseason pools. What? You haven’t participated in a playoff pool before? Get in the game, it’s a blast!
Of course, these rankings might appear a bit strange to some, so let’s explain: To win a playoff pool, one must have players who play enough games to accumulate the points needed. Seems obvious, right? In short, it’s nice to have players who advance to the World Series, or at least get a full series of games in! As a result, you’ll see members of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians and Tampa Bay Rays did not fare so well in these rankings. It’s customary for drafters to choose teams before the wild card elimination games, but there’s inherent risk in choosing a Pirate, for example. If they win, the value on their players advances greatly. They would be in the same spot as the division winners at that point. If they lose, well, it’s a problem. As a result, Joey Votto, for example, is not ranked as well as Brandon Moss. Odd? Well, we know Moss is playing at least three games, and perhaps many more. Votto could be one-and-done, and against a tough lefty starter. In most cases, my rankings reflect players I believe will play the most games and pitch the most innings, and devalue those who might play only one game this week.
Another important factor in drafting -- and if you draft after the wild-card games, then simply ignore the players on the losing teams -- is predicting which teams you think will advance, and thus will provide the most value. Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in the game, but if you think the Dodgers aren't getting out of the first round, or even deep into the first round, then he could be making only one start. It’s the same as the losing pitchers from the wild-card round.
That’s the inherent risk/reward of these picks. If you think the Dodgers will win the World Series, Kershaw could make six starts, two in each round. He could win them all. And we know from this scoring system (see below) that it favors the top October starting pitchers who advance and keep winning. That doesn't necessarily mean the top regular season starting pitchers. Last season, World Series champion San Francisco Giants right-hander Ryan Vogelsong finished as the highest-scoring player -- it’s true! -- while third baseman Pablo Sandoval was the top hitter. Overall, remember that good pitching tends to beat good hitting, and the five NL playoff entrants were also the five best in overall ERA this season.
(By the way, I've got the Pirates/Indians advancing to the first round, then the Cardinals/Braves and Red Sox/Athletics meeting for the World Series trip. And Trevor Rosenthal fans Mike Napoli for the final out of this glorious baseball season!)
The scoring we use for purposes of this blog entry and for our own office pool is provided by Tristan H. Cockcroft: 1 point for a single, 2 for a double, 3 for a triple, 4 for a home run, 1 for an RBI, 1 for a run scored, 1 for a walk, 1 for a hit by pitch (batter), 2 for a stolen base, 4 for a win, 8 for a save, 1 per pitching out (so 3 per inning), minus-1 for each hit allowed, minus-1 for each walk allowed, minus-1 for a hit by pitch (pitcher), minus-3 for an earned run, and 2 for a pitcher strikeout. Hitter eligibility is based on what it was in fantasy for the 2013 season, and we have ranked multipositional hitters at the spot you’re most likely to use them. We've also combined the few designated hitters with first basemen.
2. Adam Wainwright, SP, Cardinals: My pick to win the World Series MVP.
3. Clayton Kershaw, SP, Dodgers: Frankly, his previous postseason work is not a factor to me. I just predict the Cardinals advance to the World Series. Nothing personal!
4. Hanley Ramirez, SS, Dodgers: Extrapolate his season numbers and wow!
5. David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox: Well, he’s been in the postseason before. And he can play first base in the World Series in the NL park.
6. Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals: No Buster Posey in these playoffs. Might seem like a generous rank for Molina, but you don’t want his Tampa Bay brother as your only catcher, either. Supply versus demand, like running backs in football!
7. Freddie Freeman, 1B, Braves: Better than most think, and is far from an automatic out versus lefties such as Kershaw.
8. Zack Greinke, SP, Dodgers: Made three postseason starts in 2011. Posted 6.48 ERA. He's a different guy now.
9. Max Scherzer, SP, Tigers: Well, people say he’s a winner.
10. Mike Minor, SP, Braves: No Kershaw, but not exactly a bad pitcher. Finished 17th among pitchers on Player Rater, and I’ve got the Braves beating the Dodgers.
11. Anibal Sanchez, SP, Tigers
12. Prince Fielder, 1B, Tigers: Don’t try to overthink things. Not his best regular season, but stakes are different now.
13. Josh Donaldson, 3B, Athletics: Who would have guessed back in March he’d be this good?
14. Jake Peavy, SP, Red Sox: Last playoff start came in 2006.
15. Matt Carpenter, 2B/3B/1B, Cardinals: He’s a lot better than you think.
16. Yasiel Puig, OF, Dodgers: Should be a blast to watch in this series.
17. Justin Verlander, SP, Tigers: Lifetime postseason ERA is 4.22 in 12 starts. Did beat the A’s twice in last season’s ALDS, though.
18. Jon Lester, SP, Red Sox
19. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B. Dodgers
20. Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Red Sox
21. Coco Crisp, OF, Athletics: Hey, there were nine 20-homer, 20-steal players, and he’s the only one guaranteed more than one playoff game.
22. Matt Holliday, OF, Cardinals
25. Craig Kimbrel, RP, Braves: Closers end up being boom or bust picks in this format.
26. Koji Uehara, RP, Red Sox
27. Trevor Rosenthal, RP, Cardinals
28. Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Athletics
29. Justin Upton, OF, Braves: Will this be one of his good or bad months?
30. Kenley Jansen, RP, Dodgers
31. Shane Victorino, OF, Red Sox
32. Carlos Beltran, OF, Cardinals
33. Brandon Moss, 1B/OF, Athletics: He said he’d hit 30 homers, and he sure did.
34. Jason Heyward, OF, Braves: Walks matter here, too.
35. Joaquin Benoit, RP, Tigers
36. Grant Balfour, RP, Athletics
37. Bartolo Colon, SP, Athletics: Game 1 starter. And potentially Game 5.
38. Kris Medlen, SP, Braves: Also a Game 1 starter.
39. Torii Hunter, OF, Tigers
40. Austin Jackson, OF, Tigers
42. Shelby Miller, SP, Cardinals: Rookie didn't pile on the strikeouts down the stretch, nor pitch deep in games.
43. Andrelton Simmons, SS, Braves: Ah, if only defensive runs saved counted here!
44. Jed Lowrie, SS/2B, Athletics: Oakland has multiple offensive weapons. And middle infielders are helpful here.
45. Hyun-Jin Ryu, SP, Dodgers
46. Clay Buchholz, SP, Red Sox
47. Omar Infante, 2B, Tigers
48. Jon Jay, OF, Cardinals
49. David Freese, 3B, Cardinals: He has shined in the playoffs before.
50. Lance Lynn, SP, Cardinals
51. Daniel Nava, OF, Red Sox: Underrated statistical season.
52. Chris Johnson, 3B, Braves: Also an underrated season. Nearly won the batting title.
53. Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Red Sox: Certainly hit better in September.
54. Jarrod Parker, SP, Athletics
55. Julio Teheran, SP, Braves
56. Dan Uggla, 2B, Braves
57. Jason Grilli, RP, Pirates
58. Aroldis Chapman, RP, Reds: He will rank better among closers next March, when all teams have 162 games pending. Chapman might not pitch at all this postseason if Reds lose Tuesday.
59. Mike Napoli, C/1B, Red Sox
60. Brian McCann, C, Braves
61. Evan Gattis, C/OF, Braves
62. Michael Wacha, SP/RP, Cardinals
63. Doug Fister, SP, Tigers
64. John Lackey, SP, Red Sox
65. Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pirates
66. Fernando Rodney, RP, Rays
67. Francisco Liriano, SP, Pirates
68. Johnny Cueto, SP, Reds
69. Alex Cobb, SP, Rays
70. Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays: If only the Rays were guaranteed more than one game, he might be top-5 overall here.
71. Joey Votto, 1B, Reds: Same with this guy. And he’s got to face a nasty lefty Tuesday.
72. Ricky Nolasco, SP, Dodgers: See his September and don’t trust him too much.
73. Jay Bruce, OF, Reds
74. Starling Marte, OF, Pirates
75. Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Reds
76. Jason Kipnis, 2B, Indians
77. Ben Zobrist, 2B/OF, Rays
78. Wil Myers, OF, Rays
79. Nick Swisher, 1B/OF, Indians
80. Josh Reddick, OF, Athletics
81. Juan Uribe, 3B, Dodgers
82. Danny Salazar, SP, Indians
83. Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pirates
84. James Loney, 1B, Rays
85. Justin Morneau, 1B, Pirates
86. Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, Indians
87. David Price, SP, Rays
88. Stephen Drew, SS, Red Sox
89. Jose Iglesias, SS, Tigers
90. Andre Ethier, OF, Dodgers
91. Sonny Gray, SP, Athletics
92. Mark Ellis, 2B, Dodgers
93. Victor Martinez, C/1B, Tigers
94. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C, Red Sox
95. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS, Indians
96. Carlos Santana, C/1B, Indians
97. Michael Bourn, OF, Indians
98. Marlon Byrd, OF, Pirates
99. Michael Brantley, OF, Indians
100. Jhonny Peralta, SS, Tigers
Others: Yunel Escobar, SS, Rays; Jordan Schafer, OF, Braves; B.J. Upton, OF, Braves; Desmond Jennings, OF, Rays; A.J. Griffin, SP, Athletics; Matt Moore, SP, Rays; Gerrit Cole, SP, Pirates; A.J. Burnett, SP, Pirates; Derek Norris, C, Athletics; Eric Sogard, 2B/SS, Athletics; Mark Melancon, RP, Pirates