In addition to providing their own Top 300 lists, which we then compiled to create the consensus second-half rankings, our fantasy analysts (Matthew Berry, Tristan H. Cockcroft, Shawn Cwalinski of Answer Guys, Jason Grey, Christopher Harris, Eric Karabell, AJ Mass, Nate Ravitz and Brendan Roberts) also answered a few questions about their rankings and how they have changed since Opening Day and could change after the All-Star break. Here is each ranker's top 10, and what each had to say about the ranking process.
The top 10 players in each of our panelists' rankings.
1. Which player was the toughest to rank?
Berry: Any of the injured guys: Chase Utley, Troy Tulowitzki or Dustin Pedroia. Trying to gauge when they will actually come back, how productive they will be and where that value fits in with everyone else is challenging.
Cockcroft: Take your pick of any of the injured guys -- Chase Utley, Troy Tulowitzki, Dustin Pedroia, Shin-Soo Choo... -- but I'd probably say Choo. If he's back by the end of July, which is a possibility, he's a top-100 player from this point. If he's not back until the rosters expand, he's probably ranked too high. Plus, he plays a much easier position to fill in his absence than the other three, which means he plays a position more likely to remain filled upon his healthy return. The others, you'll be counting the days until they're healthy.
Cwalinski: Aramis Ramirez was so bad in April and May that I do not know if the recent hot streak is just an aberration or a foreshadowing for the remainder of the season. I am going with aberration.
Grey: Carlos Beltran was a little tough to peg. Obviously, his base-stealing ability is part of his value, but how much can we expect him to run?
Harris: A four-way tie between Chase Utley, Dustin Pedroia, Troy Tulowitzki and Jacoby Ellsbury. With the first three, they're clearly great players and they'll try to gut it out once they return, but will that be to their detriment? And Ellsbury was my answer to this question last time, too. Guess why!
Karabell: Stephen Strasburg was tough to rank; on ability and strikeout potential alone he's a monster, maybe top 50, but if the Washington Nationals follow through and shut him down when September begins, it's tough to make him a top-100 player. So I didn't. Same with Mat Latos of the San Diego Padres.
Mass: Rightly or wrongly, Jayson Werth has seemingly worn out his welcome in Philadelphia. With free agency looming, a trade in the next few weeks seems certain. If he goes to a contender as a "role-player rental," expect a severe dip in playing time.
Ravitz: Pablo Sandoval. Every time I updated the rankings I moved him lower, and then I looked at the guys ranked below him and realized I liked a lot of them better, and lowered him again. How can you believe in him right now?
Roberts: Stephen Strasburg and Mat Latos. Both stud pitchers will be shut down at some point, so it's almost like you must incorporate a "September DL trip" into their remainder-of-season values. I feel I probably ranked them higher than most, honestly.
2. Which ranking do you feel most compelled to explain?
Berry: Adrian Beltre at 37. He was 144 overall the last time we did these rankings, but he's been a top-40 player on our Player Rater so far this year, a top-5 third baseman. I think he not only maintains what he's done, but actually improves, as he's usually a big second-half guy.
Cockcroft: All of my top starting pitchers, specifically the fact that I have six of them in my top 17, nine in my top 25 and 11 in my top 31. In-season, it's a lot easier to determine which pitchers you can hitch your wagon to, not to mention this is a season where pitching has a greater advantage than it has in over a decade. Yes, I would be open to dealing a top hitter for a top pitcher; any of the ones in the top 25 is well worth the lofty price tag.
Cwalinski: Ian Kinsler at 29. He is not even a top-10 second baseman according to the Player Rater right now and his power has been non-existent this season. But, I think he is finally healthy and will have a huge second half.
Grey: These rankings are only for what a player is expected to do going forward for the balance of the season. As such, I think Mark Teixeira will put up top-10-worthy numbers the rest of the way, getting past some of the bad luck he's had in the first half.
Harris: Jose Reyes at No. 27, especially in light of him re-injuring his oblique this past weekend. I'm betting the All-Star break settles his injury down, and that he continues his upward arc. With that kind of rank, he'd better.
Karabell: There's nothing fluky about what Atlanta Braves second baseman Martin Prado is doing. I've been comparing him to Placido Polanco, but he's so much better. Prado might hit 20 home runs, score 120 runs and win a batting title. That's a top-30 player.
Mass: Barring injury, Stephen Strasburg is going to be phenomenal in 2011. In 2010, though, his fantasy value (save for strikeouts) just won't be there because his offseason will start a few weeks early and he'll be going only about six innings a start until then.
Ravitz: John Lackey, whom I didn't rank at all. He's been a bit unlucky, but a declining strikeout rate and rising walk rate tell me his struggles aren't a fluke.
Roberts: Buster Posey at 155. I'll be honest, I was tempted to put his ranking at about half that. But realistically I think a slump is still to come for him, as well as a wear-down (meaning more rest) in September. He can't keep doing what he's doing, and scouts/pitchers will eventually find his weaknesses. I think he ends up with a .305 average or so, which means he'll be rather pedestrian over the next few months.
3. Which player's bandwagon have you jumped on since Opening Day?
Cockcroft: Alex Rios. It's hard to believe that a guy who batted just .199/.229/.301 (AVG/OBP/SLG) in 41 games for the Chicago White Sox last season could be on pace for .305-29-94-44 numbers in a similarly fantasy-friendly situation he's still in this year. But everything in his peripherals says he's a much better player now than ever before, and that this is entirely sustainable.
Cwalinski: I am on the Mat Latos bandwagon now. I was very down on him after his April. He had a 6.20 ERA, one win in four starts, a 13/6 K/BB ratio in 20 innings and was pitching for a team that was not supposed to be very good. In May, he went 4-1 with a 1.54 ERA and a 37/9 K/BB ratio and got me on board.
Grey: Chris Young has changed his approach and is more like the hitter who burst onto the scene his rookie season. He's also noticeably back to being aggressive on the base paths again. I think the first-half performance was legitimate.
Harris: Considering I compared Clayton Kershaw to Jonathan Sanchez before the season started, I've come around. Kershaw is now my No. 15 starting pitcher, as his efficiency has gotten better in a hurry. Something in my gut tells me I'm overrating him now, but it's hard to dispute his evidence. Runner-up: Carlos Marmol.
Karabell: I wasn't real high on the Texas Rangers' Vladimir Guerrero or Josh Hamilton, but they are healthy and there's something special happening in Arlington. I don't expect much drop-off the rest of the way with this offense.
Mass: All apologies to Evan Meek, but Andrew McCutchen should have been on the National League All-Star team -- and not just because the Pittsburgh Pirates "had to have someone picked." McCutchen should have been a starter.
Ravitz: Alex Rios. You just can't ignore the numbers, and specifically the fact that even if he slumps, he's still going to run a lot.
Roberts: Brett Gardner. I had to restrain myself from putting him higher than No. 47, but I think he'll lead the majors in steals and hit .300. That's highly valuable.
4. Conversely, which player have you given up on since the beginning of the season?
Berry: Carlos Lee. We discussed a slight decline in preseason on the podcast. However, for one of baseball's most consistent performers, I hung tough with him for a long time, expecting Lance Berkman's return to help. It has somewhat, but not enough.
Cockcroft: Adam Lind. I really thought his power was legit, and that even if his 19.8 percent home run/fly ball rate of 2009 was sure to drop, and with it perhaps his home run total, the impact would only be slight. He's a totally different player who swings at everything. Frankly, I'm amazed the Toronto Blue Jays continue giving him the chances they do, which is the only reason he's even in the top 200 for me.
Cwalinski: Gordon Beckham. It is July, and he's got just three homers and four steals (and been caught stealing three times) with a horrible batting average and is losing playing time to the "great" Brent Lillibridge.
Grey: I'm concerned enough about Mark Reynolds that I am not expecting any big leaps forward in the second half. The Arizona Diamondbacks have been tinkering with his swing to try to get him to go the opposite way more, and I'm not convinced that's the best thing in his case.
Harris: Two words: Brandon Webb.
Karabell: Well, I could say I've given up on Gordon Beckham, but I still ranked the guy since there's still considerable talent. I have, however, given up on seeing Brian Roberts help a fantasy team this season. I don't know why the last-place Baltimore Orioles would push him at this point.
Mass: I thought Marco Scutaro would be what Adrian Beltre turned out to be in Boston. He certainly hasn't been awful, but I'm tired of waiting for something special to happen.
Ravitz: There a quite a few, including Pablo Sandoval and John Lackey. But perhaps none worse than Yunel Escobar. He had as bad a first half as you'll ever see, and I just can't endorse him going further.
Roberts: Jason Bartlett. He has potential, obviously, and will continue to get lots of playing time, so I still ranked him. But let's just say his 2009 numbers are nearly outta-sight, outta-mind to me.
5. Which player's rank would you plant your flag on?
Berry: Chris Young of the Arizona Diamondbacks. This is a different player who has developed a much better batting eye. He's not going to be a .300 guy, but in the .265-.270 range with that power and speed. He's basically Grady Sizemore. You know, when Grady was good.
Cockcroft: Jon Lester. He's about as underrated as a pitcher gets, and an almost-certain top-5 starter for me the rest of the way. I think it's crazy for anyone not to have him among the top 20 overall looking forward.
Cwalinski: Could I plant it on Gordon Beckham so he goes on the DL and I do not have to tell the two remaining owners that they can drop him? Otherwise, Vladimir Guerrero is going to have a very good second half, I am very confident that he will be a top-40 player the remainder of the season.
Grey: Carlos Gonzalez stays a top-20 player for the balance of the season.
Harris: I'm proud of standing by Josh Hamilton since before the season started. And Martin Prado appears to have been a pretty good call.
Karabell: I went back and forth on whether Miguel Cabrera should be second or first. Honestly, he's doing what Albert Pujols normally does, and he's currently doing it better. I'm confident Cabrera can be a top-2 player this season. I'm also confident in Martin Prado's tremendous rank.
Mass: Joe Mauer. Batting average can take you only so far. Last year's power isn't coming back, so let's stop pretending he's a top-50 player in fantasy.
Roberts: Joe Mauer. Not only did I not lower him from our May ranks, I actually moved him up two spots. Look, he's a career .323 hitter; Target Field or no, there's no way he ends up hitting just .293. He has a BABIP of .315, very un-Mauer-like. Plus, I think he hits a good 10 homers in the second half, too, meaning from here on out, he hits, say, .345-10-46. Those numbers are pretty nice from a catcher.
6. What real-world happening could most affect one of your rankings? (i.e., Team X falls out of contention and shuts down Player Y; Player A gets traded to Team B)
Berry: A closer getting traded and no longer closing. So much of their value rests on opportunity and role, more than any other position. Heath Bell is the most highly ranked of the risky guys, in my opinion.
Cockcroft: It might be a potential Roy Oswalt deal, because it'd do him a heck of a lot of good to be on a team that could score him some runs, but then I ranked him accounting somewhat for the chance he'd be traded. The other obvious answers: If Matt Capps and/or Octavio Dotel get dealt, neither seems likely to close elsewhere, and each would drop off the list. Rising in their stead: Evan Meek and Drew Storen specifically.
Cwalinski: I tried to account for players possibly getting shut down or traded in my rankings. If somehow the San Diego Padres fell apart and completely fell out of contention I would need to move Mat Latos down a good deal in my rankings.
Grey: I think some current closers (Kevin Gregg, Matt Capps andDavid Aardsma, to name a few) could be dealt to teams to work in non-closing roles. We could see a lot of shakeups in saves in the second half.
Harris: Mat Latos might be headed for the DL, and regardless I've got a sense that San Diego Padres will have a tug-of-war with Latos' innings count the longer they stay in the NL West lead. Oh, and a meteor could fall on Stephen Strasburg.
Karabell: If Joba Chamberlain continues to struggle, the New York Yankees could opt to acquire a starting pitcher and push Phil Hughes back to the team's setup role, costing fantasy owners a potential top-20 pitcher. I would have ranked Hughes better if I was confident he'd make 33 starts. I wouldn't be able to rank him at all if the Yankees trade for Ted Lilly or Roy Oswalt.
Mass: You don't shut down a young pitcher like Mat Latos -- your best starting pitcher, no less -- when you're in a pennant race. For all the talk about handling Latos' innings count with kid gloves, if the San Diego Padres keep winning, he'll keep pitching.
Ravitz: I wanted to go even higher on Mat Latos, but his projected innings limit held me back. If the San Diego Padres stay in the playoff hunt and he ends up with 200 innings instead of 180, he could be a top-10 pitcher the rest of the way.
Roberts: I know injuries can't be rushed, but Chase Utley (thumb) says he thinks he'll beat that eight-week timetable (meaning early September). If the Philadelphia Phillies fall much further behind the Atlanta Braves, they'll need him back, pronto. Utley has a history of returning sooner than expected and producing from the get-go (see his recovery from hip surgery between the 2008 and 2009 seasons). I ranked him cautiously, and I dare not drop him even in shallow leagues. If he returns after just six weeks out of action, that would leave about six weeks of important production from an elite player.
7. Who is the one player you ranked highly whom you fear might make you look bad?
Berry: Matt Kemp. I'm hanging tough and still believing he'll be a top-10 player by the end of the year, but he needs to raise his batting average by 30-40 points or so to make that happen.
Cockcroft: Everyone's going to say Josh Hamilton, because who expects him to stay healthy; but even accounting for that risk, I can't rank him lower than I did. No, the real player who worries me is Stephen Strasburg, because I'm a huge proponent of young pitchers' adjustment periods, as most people know, and he could be heading right into his ... at a time when he's already facing an innings cap. My admiration for his talent, however, is too great to rank him lower than 51st.
Cwalinski: Brandon Phillips at No. 16 looks way too high.
Grey: I'm still pretty high on B.J. Upton, and still convinced there's more than he has shown.
Harris: Elvis Andrus has been the No. 13 shortstop in fantasy over the past month, but I've still got him in my top 50 overall. Run, Elvis! Run!
Karabell: I think Chris Young of the Arizona Diamondbacks can make a legitimate run at 30 homers, 30 steals, and hit .270 or so, but it's also certainly possible he stops hitting and drops 50 points off his batting average. He's compelling, but I made him a top-40 player.
Mass: I'm all-in with Dan Haren, who had his so-called second-half slump in the first half of the season. I'm putting it on the board: His ERA drops a full run by the end of September.
Ravitz: Matt Kemp. He just doesn't seem like a proverbial "happy camper," for reasons I can't begin to guess. He'll get the counting stats, but if he continues to hit .260, he's obviously nowhere close to a top-10 player.
Roberts: Aubrey Huff. I've always been a fan, which is why I own him in about every league I'm in. But even I am suspect of the .295-32-101-6 pace he's currently on. I know he'll slip a little, but when I ranked him, I felt the slip would be only minor. Wishful thinking, I guess.
8. Which player did you not rank in your Top 300 but worry might come back to haunt you?
Berry: Jeremy Hellickson. With no timetable for his arrival to the majors, he's impossible to project. But he's absolutely dealing right now in Triple-A, Wade Davis continues to struggle for the Tampa Bay Rays, and again, as said with Price, he's backed by good offense and a good bullpen. If Hellickson gets the call, he could be a big second-half fantasy guy.
Cockcroft: Rick Porcello. However, I feel like his best chance at soaring up the ranks is if the Detroit Tigers trade him to a team out of the race for some pitching help. Unfortunately, he's looking like much more of a project for them than teammate Max Scherzer was.
Cwalinski: I did not rank Edinson Volquez. I have no doubt that he will be a good source of strikeouts once he returns. The problem is the damage he will do to your WHIP and, to a lesser extent, ERA. Control is the last thing to return after Tommy John Surgery and Volquez was below-average in WHIP before the injury. I just do not think the strikeouts will be worth the 4-plus ERA and 1.4-plus WHIP.
Grey: I have a hunch on Michael Pineda of the Seattle Mariners. I wanted to be a little ahead of the curve on him but couldn't pull the trigger because he may not come up until it's too late.
Harris: Wade Davis could find his mojo again, though I'm not holding my breath. I think the Tampa Bay Rays eventually will go to Jeremy Hellickson. But Davis probably gets a few more starts to right the ship after the break.
Karabell: One of these days Texas Rangers first baseman Chris Davis will figure it all out and hit 40 home runs, but I'm skeptical he'll hit for power while not hurting batting average this season. I ranked new Seattle Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak, but not the power-minded Davis.
Mass: I never bought Carlos Silva, even as he started the season 8-0. After watching his implosion on the last day of the first half, I'm even more convinced I'm right. And yet, why do I get this voice in the back of my head screaming, "17-6"?
Ravitz: Daisuke Matsuzaka. He's looked a lot better lately, and could easily win 7-9 games in the second half.
Roberts: Miguel Olivo. That's right, I didn't even put the top-ranked catcher on our Player Rater in our Top 300. I know, I am an idiot! Look, he's a soon-to-be 32-year-old who came into the season with a .243 career batting average. Coors Field is the cat's meow for hitters, but a collapse is coming, and I think it will be absolute. By September, he'll be backing up Chris Iannetta, and mixed owners in one-active-catcher leagues will be "cashing out." Two words for you: Sell. High.