I call, "Do-over!"
Wouldn't it be great if, knowing the information we now know, we could do our 2014 fantasy baseball drafts all over again? Alas, most owners don't have that luxury, but I'm sorry to admit this to you: I do. (Every week, in fact.)
The 2014 baseball regular season will be one-quarter in the books as of Thursday night, so why not use this marker to review and refresh our player values? No, the approach taken to the rankings in this space each week -- what's called my "going forward" ranks -- is no different this week than weeks past, but in terms of analysis, let's approach this from the angle of a "what-if," draft from scratch.
To do that, let's turn the calendar back six weeks, 45 days, 40-ish games (per team), whatever mathematics you prefer, and compare the Week 7 rankings with mine from the preseason. We'll go round by round: I'll list the final preseason ranks for that round, then analyze the biggest movers from each.
Top new entry: Clayton Kershaw, up 34 spots. This one's misleading, because Kershaw's final preseason ranking was depressed merely by his disabled-list placement coinciding with Opening Day in the U.S. (remember that he had pitched in the Dodgers' season opener in Australia on March 22); he was my No. 9 player overall for the entirety of the offseason and spring training before that point. Fret over the back issue that shelved him if you wish; I'm not remotely worried, based upon the Los Angeles Dodgers' wise usage of the lefty ace over the years. Also: Giancarlo Stanton, up 21 spots. His is the first-round story thus far, as Stanton finally looks healthy and like a legitimate contender for the 50-homer plateau.
Since exited: Adrian Beltre, down 17 spots (into the third round). Again, injuries have played a part in his rankings change, as Beltre missed much of April with a quadriceps issue, but he's also a 35-year-old who hasn't hit especially well when healthy. He's on pace for fewer than 20 home runs while sporting his worst triple-slash line since 2009 (.242/.312/.404 this year, .265/.304/.379 then).
Preseason Round 1: 1. Mike Trout. 2. Miguel Cabrera. 3. Andrew McCutchen. 4. Paul Goldschmidt. 5. Robinson Cano. 6. Hanley Ramirez. 7. Carlos Gonzalez. 8. Jacoby Ellsbury. 9. Adrian Beltre. 10. Troy Tulowitzki.
Top new entry: Jose Bautista, up 23 spots. You read all the reports about his offseason workout regimen, and you've seen his statistics both during spring training and now through six completed weeks of the regular season. What's to doubt? Bautista possesses that brilliant combination of power, patience and contact ability, and remember, three seasons ago he finished as the No. 9 name on our Player Rater.
Since exited: Bryce Harper, down 167 spots (into the 19th round). Sensing an injury theme? Harper's thumb surgery, which threatens to sideline him into July, explains most of his rankings decline, but even before that, he was hardly living up to vast preseason expectations, sporting just one homer and one steal in his first 22 games. Also: Prince Fielder, down 27 spots (into the fourth round). Despite his move to a seemingly more hitting-friendly situation in Texas, Fielder has struggled to a similar extent that he did in 2013 in Detroit, showing continued, small increases in pull and ground-ball rates.
Preseason Round 2: 11. Chris Davis. 12. Adam Jones. 13. Prince Fielder. 14. Carlos Gomez. 15. Ryan Braun. 16. Joey Votto. 17. Edwin Encarnacion. 18. David Wright. 19. Bryce Harper. 20. Adam Wainwright.
Top new entry: Adrian Gonzalez, up 33 spots. Though his batting average thus far has disappointed -- he's hitting .261, which would be his worst single-year number since his rookie year of 2005 -- Gonzalez's power has been encouraging, as he's on pace for 36 home runs on the strength of .242 isolated power.
Since exited: Stephen Strasburg, down 15 spots. Not many of my initial third-round players have suffered in terms of ranking, with Strasburg's movement only slight. Most of it centers on his ever-so-slowly declining fastball velocity: He has averaged a career-low 94.2 mph with it this season, down from 95.3 mph in 2013, which was down from 95.7 mph in 2012.
Preseason Round 3: 21. Max Scherzer. 22. Felix Hernandez. 23. Cliff Lee. 24. Jason Kipnis. 25. Yu Darvish. 26. Evan Longoria. 27. Giancarlo Stanton. 28. Freddie Freeman. 29. Justin Upton. 30. Stephen Strasburg.
Top new entry: Masahiro Tanaka, up 45 spots. He has been every bit as good as advertised and then some, especially his splitter and its resulting strikeouts. Per Elias, Tanaka's 58 strikeouts are the fifth-highest total by any pitcher in his first seven career games since 1900. The going-forward question regarding the right-hander is how he'll adapt his second time through the league -- not to mention whether the lengthier U.S. schedule might cause him to tire in August and/or September -- and that opponents have chased 62 percent of his splitters thrown outside the strike zone plays to that. Will they be more selective? That said, Tanaka's is a special pitch; I'm not so sure he cools. Well, at least not in 2014.
Since exited: Jose Fernandez, no longer ranked. His was arguably the most depressing bit of news of the season's first quarter; Fernandez was diagnosed this week with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow -- that's the one typically repaired by Tommy John surgery -- and his season is in all likelihood over. Keeper-league owners can keep him around if he's at low cost, but remember, a Tommy John surgery (if the end result) would probably shelve him for a month-plus into 2015, too. Also: Jay Bruce, down 48 spots (into the ninth round). An unexpected knee surgery cost Bruce this amount in the rankings, but at least Tuesday's news was positive, as he began jogging and took batting practice, making his initial three-week timetable look about right.
Top new entry: Jose Abreu, up 101 spots. He enjoyed the most upward movement of any player within my preseason top 250, and he has been a subject of not one but two previous "going-forward rankings" columns because of his skyrocketing jump. Abreu is a legitimate power source and a contender for the home run crown, even if he's a risk in terms of batting average due to his tendency to chase nonstrikes: His 36.1 percent chase rate ranks 166th out of 180 qualifiers.
Since exited: Homer Bailey, down 26 spots (into the eighth round). Yes, 26 spots is all the adjustment I'm willing to make for Bailey's year-to-date struggles; I've said many times that I believe most of them are the result of fluky circumstances. Sure enough, he has three consecutive quality starts, and while his K-to-walk ratio has suffered slightly this season, it's still a healthy 2.75. Your buy-low window on Bailey might be quickly closing.
Preseason Round 5: 41. Madison Bumgarner. 42. Clayton Kershaw. 43. Craig Kimbrel. 44. Albert Pujols. 45. David Ortiz. 46. Homer Bailey. 47. Elvis Andrus. 48. Zack Greinke. 49. Yadier Molina. 50. Shin-Soo Choo.
Tristan H. Cockcroft's top 250 "going-forward" rankings
For a detailed rankings breakdown by position, click here.