Pence, Sale, Darvish shift in ranks

Friday's here!

It's a fine day indeed to update our entire rankings and cheat sheet packages, with many drafts due to commence this weekend. You'll find that each of my rankings -- including the Keeper Top 250 and Rotisserie 6x6 -- have fresh updates as of Friday.

But what noticeable changes will you see? Ah, that's where this column comes in. Let's take a player-by-player look at the most notable moves:

Sale Sale
Chris Sale (down to No. 24 overall, No. 4 SP) and Carlos Rodon (up to 382nd overall, No. 122 SP): Sale's broken foot didn't adversely affect his ranking, as he might be back in action as soon as March 21, giving him potentially enough time to be ready for the start of the season. Still, any movement among the top 25 overall players represents significant movement; he moved down one starting pitching spot, behind Max Scherzer, who simply seems safer at this point. Rodon, who will occupy Sale's rotation spot during early Cactus League action, hasn't yet joined the mixed league-relevant ranking tiers, but he's now a $2 player in 10-team AL-only formats. That could put him on the borderline of mixed-league reserved pick status.


Ryan Zimmerman (up to 112th overall, No. 13 3B): After initially ranking him 14th among third basemen, I decided after much summit debate to move him up two spots, on the idea that his shift to first base should give him at least somewhat better odds of a full, healthy season. I tossed this fact out at the summit: He has averaged 119 games played the past five seasons combined, meaning he has missed 26 percent -- more than one in four -- of Washington Nationals games during that time. Our projection forecasts 141 games played for Zimmerman, which seems fair but perhaps slightly optimistic. At least it's easy to make your own adjustments if you disagree -- whether taking an optimistic or pessimistic approach -- as it's fairly likely he'll perform at our rate-stat projections for the games he gives you.


Rafael Soriano (down to 385th overall, No. 58 RP): Previously ranked as a borderline draftable closer in mixed leagues, Soriano tumbled noticeably if for no better reason than, as a free agent, he's facing a race against time to secure himself that all-important closer job. With spring games underway and Opening Day now 30 days away, Soriano's window to prepare adequately for the start of the season is dwindling, not to mention that another possible closer opening found a fit when it was announced that the Milwaukee Brewers had re-signed Francisco Rodriguez on Feb. 26 (Rodriguez has yet to pass his physical, however, but that's considered merely a formality in the upcoming days). Soriano's fantasy value is significantly tied to saves, so where is he going to find them? The Toronto Blue Jays seem content going with either Aaron Sanchez or Brett Cecil, and while the Los Angeles Dodgers have a need, such a move couldn't be a more obvious short-term fix, deflating Soriano's full-season value besides. He's now more AL-/NL-only speculative pick, and off the mixed-league radar.


Hunter Pence: (down to 82nd overall, No. 24 OF): His was the awful news of the past week, as he suffered a non-displaced fracture in his left forearm after being hit by a pitch during a Thursday Cactus League game; he is expected to miss six to eight weeks, which puts his estimated return date sometime near the end of April. For draft purposes, it's smart to estimate a May 1 return, or approximately five-sixths of a season from Pence, and that has a noticeably adverse impact upon his ranking if only because of how he was initially ranked. This 40-or-so spot drop entirely reflects our adjusted projection for the missed time; 136 games of Pence rather than 158 makes him more of a ninth-round than fifth-round selection. As for the San Francisco Giants who will fill in, none is a productive enough hitter to make a substantial gain in fantasy terms; Gregor Blanco remains late-round NL-only material. Juan Perez, Justin Maxwell and Gary Brown also could factor in.

Pence Betts
Mookie Betts (up to 101st overall, No. 29 OF) and Rusney Castillo (down to No. 147 overall, No. 39 OF): These represent barely one-round moves in either direction, at most 10 overall spots either way, but the reason they're incorporated into the rankings is that any minor development in the Boston Red Sox's outfield race could influence the result. Castillo's strained left oblique initially threatened to cost him three weeks of spring training, but upon further examination, might be more of a 1-2 week issue, giving him plenty of time to return as a primary competitor in this spring's most compelling (for fantasy) position battle. Any missed time swings the pendulum further in Betts' favor, but both players remain mixed-league-relevant picks.


Yu Darvish (down to No. 51 overall, No. 14 SP): He left Thursday's start after one inning due to right triceps tightness, though the Texas Rangers called the move precautionary. Still, after Darvish's injury-shortened 2014, any setback bears mention, especially considering the depth of the upper tiers of starting pitching. With any further setbacks, Darvish could be in danger of slipping out of the top 25, perhaps as far as two other injury-risk pitchers: Masahiro Tanaka (32nd) and Cliff Lee (33rd).


Michael Saunders (down to 357th overall, No. 83 OF): Like Castillo, Saunders is another player whose initial injury diagnosis was worse than the re-examination result. It was announced Feb. 26 that he tore the meniscus in his left knee and was expected to miss half the season; after surgery Feb. 27 to remove 60 percent of the meniscus, it was announced that he would miss closer to 6-8 weeks. That's still a significant enough chunk of Saunders' season missed that Kevin Pillar and/or Dayan Viciedo could factor into the left-field picture, but what originally looked like a drop into the 600s overall -- and out of the conversation in everything but deep AL-only leagues -- now appears to have put less of a dent in his sleeper potential in AL-only formats.

Shane Greene: (up to 442nd overall, No. 138 SP): He's representative of some of the minor tweaks I've made to the lower-tier AL-only rankings -- all very minor, a-buck-here, a-buck-there -- as part of my preparation for the weekend's League of Alternative Baseball Reality (LABR) drafts. Greene's being unranked for AL-only leagues was a mere oversight; I've corrected him to $1 in AL-only formats, based on the minor adjustments he made to his arsenal during his stint with the New York Yankees late last year, which perhaps could translate to some lower-level/streamer potential with the Detroit Tigers.

Keeper Top 250

First off, let's remind that rankings adjustments here are going to be far less extreme than they would in the just-for-2015 set; the Keeper Top 250 uses a five-year (plus) projection method, so an injury like Darvish's wouldn't register on the rankings scale. Still, there was one significant February development:

Jurickson Profar (dropped out of the top 250): A second consecutive season lost because of injury isn't a positive development, even for a player as young as Profar. He's not far outside the top 250, but he was barely in it in the first place, mostly because of my own optimistic opinion of his ability.

Other minor moves: Pence dropped eight spots because of his injury; at his age even the slightest missed time influences a keeper ranking. ... Castillo dropped four spots, merely adjusting for the increased possibility he might not make the Opening Day roster. ... Rodon moved up 10 spots, accounting for the increased chance that he'll see significant time with the Chicago White Sox this season. ... Jon Singleton dropped 19 spots, as I'm growing increasingly concerned that the Houston Astros simply don't have a place for him to play in the majors in 2015.