MLB

Fantasy Baseball: Sannes' Season-Long Roto League Rankings

In a lot of ways, fantasy baseball roto leagues are antiquated beasts.

It's 2019. We know that batting averages, RBIs, and pitcher wins are terrible ways to evaluate which players are truly the best in the sport. Teams definitely aren't operating based on these numbers anymore.

That doesn't make it any less fun.

Only in a format this strange and beautiful could Billy Hamilton and his career almost-nice-but-not-actually-nice 70 wRC+ be a truly viable option. We know it's completely backward, but the intricacies that arise from it are absolutely entertaining.

As we get set for the upcoming season, let's embrace the madness and dive into some rankings for these spectacular devils. If you're playing in a points league, those rankings went up earlier this week and have already been tweaked a bit to account for recent news. The roto rankings will also be updated as we get deeper into spring training.

We'll go position-by-position here, assuming that it's a traditional five-by-five category roto league, starting with the position of utmost delight that is catcher.

Catcher

RankPlayerTier
1J.T. Realmuto1
2Gary Sanchez2
3Wilson Ramos3
4Yadier Molina3
5Yasmani Grandal3
6Willson Contreras3
7Buster Posey3
8Danny Jansen4
9Francisco Cervelli4
10Tucker Barnhart4
11Welington Castillo4
12Jonathan Lucroy4
13Robinson Chirinos5
14Omar Narvaez5
15Kurt Suzuki6
16Mike Zunino6
17Jorge Alfaro6
18Chris Iannetta7
19Austin Hedges7
20Francisco Mejia7
21Yan Gomes7
22Elias Diaz8
23John Hicks8
24Tyler Flowers8


Catcher sucks. There is no way to get around that. And normally, when a position sucks, you want to minimize investment in the position so that you're not taking an overall dud when you've got desirable assets at another position still on the board.

But at catcher, I'm willing to pay a bit in order to avoid the complete muck.

Part of my willingness to do so stems from the attractiveness of the catchers in the third tier of my rankings. Both Yadier Molina and Wilson Ramos are going outside the top 140 picks on ESPN, and that's not a terribly restrictive cost. I'm expecting to wind up having those two, specifically, on a bunch of my rosters this year.

The other reason I don't mind spending up is that the dropoff after Omar Narvaez is pretty steep. Kurt Suzuki has been a great hitter the past few years, but he and Yan Gomes will be sharing time with the Washington Nationals. Mike Zunino and Jorge Alfaro will single-handedly force you to punt batting average. It gets grim really quickly.

Even in a two-catcher league, I'd ideally like to live in that third tier, potentially snagging catchers on back-to-back picks. I'm not opposed to having someone like Narvaez being the second guy on my roster, but the blackhole of production that comes after him is scary enough for me to change the way I approach a draft.

First Base

RankPlayerTier
1Freddie Freeman1
2Paul Goldschmidt1
3Cody Bellinger2
4Anthony Rizzo2
5Matt Carpenter2
6Joey Votto2
7Jose Abreu2
8Matt Olson3
9Max Muncy3
10Jesus Aguilar3
11Miguel Cabrera4
12Edwin Encarnacion4
13Jurickson Profar4
14Justin Smoak4
15Joey Gallo5
16Jake Bauers5
17Ian Desmond5
18Carlos Santana5
19Eric Hosmer6
20Ryan Zimmerman6
21Yuli Gurriel6
22Josh Bell6
23Trey Mancini6
24Marwin Gonzalez7
25Luke Voit7
26Yonder Alonso7
27Justin Bour7
28Jose Martinez8
29Ryan McMahon8
30Tyler White8


Given that this is Max Muncy's age-28 season, and he's had just 481 plate appearances of true success in the majors, it's likely hard to buy in. This is especially true in a roto league, where his 27.2% strikeout rate and heavy fly-ball tendencies are going to drag down his batting average. But even after accounting for those, he still seems like a solid value.

Muncy is currently going 159th overall on ESPN, making him the 16th-ranked first baseman. When you're picking a player that late, you're taking into account the fact that he'll likely contribute in just three categories. With Muncy's power being as big as it is, he seems on track to contribute in a major way to all three.

Muncy finished last year with a 47.4% hard-hit rate and 44.9% fly-ball rate, numbers that fully validate a lofty home run total. numberFire's projections peg him for 29 homers in 544 plate appearances, a rate you'd happily accept in that lineup at this price. Even with a lower batting average and a lack of steals, Muncy's worth targeting.

Second Base

RankPlayerTier
1Jose Altuve1
2Whit Merrifield2
3Javier Baez2
4Ozzie Albies3
5Travis Shaw3
6Daniel Murphy3
7Gleyber Torres3
8Jonathan Villar3
9Rougned Odor3
10Scooter Gennett3
11Brian Dozier4
12Robinson Cano4
13Dee Gordon5
14Yoan Moncada5
15Cesar Hernandez5
16Jed Lowrie6
17Asdrubal Cabrera6
18Ketel Marte6
19Joey Wendle6
20Marwin Gonzalez7
21Lourdes Gurriel7
22Niko Goodrum7
23Jonathan Schoop7
24Starlin Castro7
25Jeff McNeil8
26Ian Kinsler8
27Kike Hernandez8
28DJ LeMahieu8
29Adam Frazier8
30Nick Senzel9


Because the Milwaukee Brewers have a fairly deep bench, there's a chance Travis Shaw will lose some volume when left-handed pitchers are on the mound. He still seems to be a value at this position despite that.

Shaw made big strides as a true hitter last year, trimming his strikeout rate to 18.4% with a 13.3% walk rate. Those walks don't directly help you in roto leagues, but they do give him chances to score runs and ensure that he'll stick in the lineup for a talented club. We shouldn't ignore walks just because they don't provide an obvious and immediate lift.

Shaw made these plate-discipline gains while also upping his hard-hit rate to 39.8% with a 44.5% fly-ball rate. That lofty fly-ball rate will prevent him from ever having major upside in his batting average, but the power potential helps nullify those losses.

Even though Shaw's batted-ball data hit the tank against lefties, he did still manage an 18.0% strikeout rate and 12.0% walk rate without the platoon advantage. He wasn't a total scrub, which is another positive for his outlook. With Shaw coming off the board as the 11th-ranked second baseman on ESPN, we should feel good betting on another fine season.

Third Base

RankPlayerTier
1Jose Ramirez1
2Nolan Arenado2
3Alex Bregman2
4Javier Baez3
5Kris Bryant3
6Anthony Rendon4
7Eugenio Suarez4
8Matt Carpenter4
9Josh Donaldson5
10Travis Shaw5
11Vladimir Guerrero Jr.5
12Matt Chapman5
13Max Muncy5
14Miguel Andujar6
15Mike Moustakas6
16Justin Turner6
17Wil Myers6
18Jurickson Profar6
19Rafael Devers7
20Eduardo Escobar7
21Asdrubal Cabrera7
22Kyle Seager7
23Joey Wendle7
24Jeimer Candelario7
25Jung-ho Kang7
26Evan Longoria7
27Ian Happ8
28Miguel Sano8
29Jake Lamb8
30Yuli Gurriel8


Given the nightmarish injury luck he had last year, it would seem a bit foolish to put Josh Donaldson 9th at a position that is fairly deep on talent. What Donaldson did when healthy, though, seems to show that he's still got it.

Donaldson did see his strikeout rate creep up to 24.7% last year, which is certainly concerning and a career-high mark. He helped cancel part of that out by boasting a 41.0% hard-hit rate and 35.1% fly-ball rate. Both those numbers -- and Donaldson's strikeout rate -- looked even better when he came back in September, stirring optimism that the old Donaldson was still there.

Now, Roster Resource projects that Donaldson will hit second for the Atlanta Braves, right between Ronald Acuna and Freddie Freeman. Situations don't get much sweeter than that. As long as Donaldson can duplicate what he did in September and hold down that spot in the order, he should be able to justify a decent investment on draft day.

Shortstop

RankPlayerTier
1Trea Turner1
2Francisco Lindor2
3Alex Bregman2
4Manny Machado2
5Trevor Story2
6Adalberto Mondesi2
7Javier Baez2
8Carlos Correa3
9Gleyber Torres3
10Jose Peraza3
11Jean Segura3
12Xander Bogaerts4
13Jurickson Profar4
14Corey Seager4
15Elvis Andrus5
16Jorge Polanco5
17Paul DeJong5
18Andrelton Simmons6
19Marcus Semien7
20Amed Rosario7
21Eduardo Escobar7
22Garrett Hampson7
23Asdrubal Cabrera7
24Willy Adames7
25Tim Anderson8
26Ketel Marte8
27Marwin Gonzalez8
28Lourdes Gurriel Jr.8
29Didi Gregorius9
30Chris Taylor9


The value on Adalberto Mondesi depends heavily on where you're drafting. He's coming off the board at 37th overall on CBS, 36th in March drafts for the National Fantasy Baseball Championship, 72nd on Yahoo, and all the way back in 123rd on ESPN. So, on which sites should we be comfortable taking him at his current cost?

Some of the fear on the lower-end sites around Mondesi likely revolves around his plate discipline. His 26.5% strikeout rate and 3.8% walk rate last year were fully not great, Bob, and they mean his value in on-base-percentage leagues will be lower.

The other fear is that he could be 2019's Jonathan Villar. Villar burst on the scene in 2016 and stole 62 bases, elevating himself into being a high-end draft pick the following year. Villar completely flopped, getting hurt in June and later benched. But there are some major differences between Villar's 2016 and Mondesi's 2018. Here's a look at their respective breakouts with UZR/150 referring to Ultimate Zone Rating to account for each player's defensive skills.

SeasonAgeStrikeout RateHard-Hit RateFly-Ball RateUZR/150
Villar in 20162525.6%35.1%24.1%-19.7
Mondesi in 20182226.5%43.1%37.6%10.1


Yes, Villar had better plate discipline as his walk rate was also much higher than Mondesi's. But Mondesi was three years younger, had much better batted-ball numbers, and doesn't wield a concrete glove on defense. Villar's struggles and the Brewers' depth led to a benching, but Mondesi doesn't have that issue on a team that seems to have no interest in winning. The two situations couldn't be much different.

numberFire's projections tab Mondesi for 39 steals and 18 home runs this season. The only other player projected for at least 25 steals who is also projected to hit at least 18 home runs is Trea Turner. It's fine if you want to avoid Mondesi on CBS and NFBC due to his cost, but on Yahoo and ESPN, drafting this guy truly seems to be a no-brainer.

Outfield

RankPlayerTier
1Mike Trout1
2Mookie Betts1
3Bryce Harper2
4Christian Yelich2
5J.D. Martinez2
6Ronald Acuna2
7Charlie Blackmon2
8Aaron Judge2
9Giancarlo Stanton2
10Whit Merrifield2
11Cody Bellinger3
12Kris Bryant3
13Andrew Benintendi3
14Rhys Hoskins3
15Lorenzo Cain4
16Juan Soto4
17Tommy Pham4
18Starling Marte4
19George Springer4
20Yasiel Puig5
21David Dahl5
22Eddie Rosario5
23Mitch Haniger5
24A.J. Pollock5
25Marcell Ozuna5
26Michael Conforto6
27Mallex Smith6
28Justin Upton6
29Andrew McCutchen6
30Michael Brantley6
31Victor Robles6
32Aaron HIcks7
33Nicholas Castellanos7
34Byron Buxton7
35Eloy Jimenez7
36Wil Myers8
37Joey Gallo8
38David Peralta8
39Ian Desmond8
40Dee Gordon8
41Stephen Piscotty8
42Brandon Nimmo8
43Jake Bauers9
44Ender Inciarte9
45Nomar Mazara9
46Ramon Laureano9
47Adam Eaton9
48Austin Meadows9
49Max Kepler9
50Jackie Bradley Jr.10
51Corey Dickerson10
52Marwin Gonalez10
53Kyle Schwarber10
54Hunter Renfroe10
55Randal Grichuk10
56Jesse Winker10
57Billy Hamilton11
58Cedric Mullins11
59Kevin Kiermaier11
60Nick Markakis11
61Harrison Bader11
62Domingo Santana11
63Trey Mancini12
64Ryan Braun12
65Odubel Herrera12
66Steven Souza Jr.12
67Christin Stewart12
68Chris Taylor12
69Manuel Margot12
70Ian Happ12
71Jose Martinez13
72Shin-Soo Choo13
73Kyle Tucker13
74Jay Bruce13
75Matt Kemp13


Sticking with the topic of hitters who broke out and then took a step back, Tommy Pham's 2018 was a mixed bag. He added 40 plate appearances over what he got in 2017, but he regressed in every category except runs scored. A change of scenery could allow him to be a solid asset in 2019.

The obvious benefit of joining the Tampa Bay Rays at least year's trade deadline is that Pham's playing time should be more secure with an extra position player in the lineup each day in the American League. That's a plus for a guy who was getting squeezed a bit for starts during his stretch run in St. Louis.

Additionally, Pham -- potentially due to his eye condition -- has always struggled during day games, striking out 27.0% of the time compared to a 24.7% strikeout rate during night games. The sun will play less of a factor with his home games being indoors, and in a small sample of 174 games in domes, Pham has a .306/.416/.528 triple slash. After joining the Rays in August, Pham had a 14.4% walk rate with a 51.0% hard-hit rate, allowing him to post some bonkers numbers.

Back in 2017, Pham hit 23 homers and stole 25 bases, which would be great numbers for fantasy. The optimism around his new home means we should be willing to take a shot on him once we get beyond the first 60 or so picks.

Utility

RankPlayerTier
1Khris Davis1
2Nelson Cruz1
3Shohei Ohtani2
4Ji-Man Choi3
5Mark Trumbo4
6Kendrys Morales4


As mentioned in the points league rankings, the lack of a position is allowing Khris Davis and Nelson Cruz to be massive bargains.

On ESPN, Davis is going 45th overall and 31st among hitters while Cruz is 78th and 53rd, respectively. numberFire projects Davis to tie for the league lead in homers with 42, and Cruz's projected 35 put him in a tie for eighth. Both guys also contribute in other categories and won't pull a Joey Gallo on your batting average, so there's really no reason not to draft them. Just figure out where they're going on the site you're playing on and plan on taking them slightly before your draft gets to that point.

Starting Pitcher

RankPlayerTier
1Chris Sale1
2Max Scherzer1
3Justin Verlander1
4Gerrit Cole1
5Jacob deGrom1
6Carlos Carrasco2
7Aaron Nola2
8Noah Syndergaard2
9Trevor Bauer2
10Walker Buehler2
11Corey Kluber2
12Blake Snell2
13James Paxton3
14Patrick Corbin3
15Luis Severino3
16Clayton Kershaw4
17Stephen Strasburg4
18Mike Clevinger4
19German Marquez4
20Jack Flaherty4
21Jameson Taillon4
22Jose Berrios5
23Zack Greinke5
24Zack Wheeler5
25Masahiro Tanaka5
26Miles Mikolas5
27Charlie Morton5
28Rick Porcello5
29David Price5
30Cole Hamels5
31Luis Castillo6
32Chris Archer6
33J.A. Happ6
34Rich Hill6
35Robbie Ray6
36Yu Darvish6
37Nick Pivetta6
38Kenta Maeda7
39Madison Bumgarner7
40Tyler Glasnow7
41Dallas Keuchel7
42Kyle Hendricks8
43Ross Stripling8
44Jake Arrieta8
45Kyle Gibson8
46Joe Musgrove8
47Eduardo Rodriguez8
48Jesus Luzardo9
49Hyun-jin Ryu9
50Alex Wood9
51Joey Lucchesi9
52Andrew Heaney9
53Mike Foltynewicz9
54Tyler Skaggs9
55Jose Quintana10
56Marco Gonzales10
57Nathan Eovaldi10
58Shane Bieber10
59Jon Lester10
60Zack Godley10
61Yusei Kikuchi10
62Alex Reyes11
63Jimmy Nelson11
64Carlos Martinez11
65Matthew Boyd11
66Carlos Rodon11
67Kevin Gausman11
68Touki Toussaint12
69Reynaldo Lopez12
70Michael Wacha12
71Chris Paddack12
72Mike Fiers12
73Jon Gray12
74Forrest Whitley12
75Steven Matz12


On ESPN, Carlos Carrasco is currently going 12th among starting pitchers, putting him third among Cleveland Indians starters. Given how well he performed last year, that seems to be a bit of a bargain.

Carrasco's numbers for the full season were elite as he had a 3.03 skill-interactive ERA (SIERA) with a 29.5% strikeout rate and 5.5% walk rate. But he reached a whole new level of nastiness after returning from an injury in July.

From July 6th on, Carrasco started 15 games, roughly half a season of sample. In that span, he upped his strikeout rate to 33.0%, a number fully validated by his 17.2% swinging-strike rate. He did all of this while still keeping his ground-ball rate well above average at 51.4%, meaning Carrasco really was the full package. He pitched at least six innings in 11 of those 15 starts, so volume wasn't an issue, either.

If Carrasco were to do that for a full season, he'd be in that top tier at pitcher. Because we haven't seen him do it over that long of a sample yet, we've got to keep him a notch below the others. But given that 15 games is a pretty sizable mark, he's definitely someone we'll want to target once the top-end aces are off the board.

Relief Pitcher

RankPlayerTier
1Edwin Diaz1
2Roberto Osuna2
3Kenley Jansen2
4Aroldis Chapman2
5Craig Kimbrel2
6Josh Hader3
7Sean Doolittle3
8Blake Treinen3
9Kirby Yates3
10Brad Hand3
11Felipe Vazquez3
12Corey Knebel4
13Jose Leclerc4
14Will Smith4
15Cody Allen4
16Ken Giles4
17Raisel Iglesias4
18Jose Alvarado4
19Wade Davis4
20Matt Barnes5
21David Robertson5
22Seranthony Dominguez5
23Dellin Betances5
24Collin McHugh5
25Brad Peacock5
26Trevor May6
27A.J. Minter6
28Adam Ottavino6
29Andrew Miller6
30Ryan Brasier6
31Alex Colome6
32Pedro Strop7
33Jeremy Jeffress7
34Kelvin Herrera7
35Jordan Hicks7
36Mychal Givens7
37Shane Greene7
38Arodys Vizcaino7
39Drew Steckenrider7
40Brandon Morrow8
41Craig Stammen8
42Archie Bradley8
43Blake Parker8
44Jose Castillo8
45Wily Peralta9


If you play in a roto league where there's a limit on the number of innings pitched your staff can accumulate, you need Josh Hader on your roster.

Assuming everyone in the league uses the full allotment of innings, the strikeout category will be won by the person who gets the most strikeouts per inning. If one of your guys has a 46.7% strikeout rate over 81 1/3 innings -- what Hader did in 2018 -- then you'll be white-knuckling all the juice that orange has to provide.

Hader isn't going to get a ton of saves due to the way he's used, but he'll help you in strikeouts, ERA, and WHIP. He'll also pitch in with a couple of wins because he enters in the highest-leverage situations. Even while not fitting the traditional mold for a fantasy reliever, Hader's someone we should actively seek out in roto leagues.

If you do wind up with Hader and need to scramble for saves later, Matt Barnes could be your guy. The Boston Red Sox have yet to name a closer, but Barnes' performance last year should make him the front-runner. Over 61 2/3 innings, Barnes had a 36.2% strikeout rate with a 2.78 SIERA and a 53.0% ground-ball rate. That's not quite on Craig Kimbrel's level, but it'll get the job done. With the other competitor for the closer's role -- Ryan Brasier -- dealing with a toe issue, Barnes' chances of snagging the role are going up.

Finally, the other late-round guy you should be eyeing for saves is Trevor May. The Minnesota Twins may not have a traditional closer this year, but May figures to be pitching in high-leverage spots to get saves and wins. He came back from Tommy John surgery last year to post a 35.0% strikeout rate, 4.9% walk rate, and 15.4% swinging-strike rate over 25 1/3 innings. As the 34th reliever off the board on ESPN, May's worth the gamble even in an ambiguous situation.