How could I not see it coming?
On Tuesday I sent out a tweet, a #CallMeOut stunt, as I've occasionally done in this space. It's a concept I've used here from time to time, a way to generate discussions about the players you want to talk about, get an opinion on or convince me to polish the player's projection. With well more than 250 players ranked weekly, deep research on every player is exceedingly difficult, and I'll often shuffle which ones I'm examining most closely from week to week. Besides, you might have a completely different player on your mind than I do.
Within a minute, a question was in about Trevor Story.
Well, we've officially come full circle with the Going Forward Rankings. Story, if you'll recall, was the topic of my April 13 edition, "Is Trevor Story a top-100 player?" At the time, Story earned a No. 161 ranking, which was noticeably up from his preseason ranking, but was widely regarded as too pessimistic. I've tried to avoid the topic since, not because I still refuse to make Story puns, but rather so that he didn't become the solitary weekly topic. But that's what being called out on a ranking is all about: Story is apparently still a relevant topic for fantasy owners.
It might not be the final time Story comes up in this space, and it certainly won't be the final time we do a #CallMeOut edition. As always, feel free to send in any of your specific player rankings requests, any week.
So let's get to it, Story and all.
Aaron Foss (@a_foss30): When will you move Trevor Story up?
Aaron wasn't alone in asking about Story; he was merely first. It's a fair question, considering that Story's seasonal paces include a .269 batting average, 54 home runs, 133 RBIs and 113 runs scored, but at the same time, he's one of the handful of players each year for whom seasonal paces do no favors. His are destined to decline with each passing day, and if you don't believe that, may I remind that on the morning of April 11, he was on pace for 189 homers, and on the morning of April 19 he was on pace for 100, and on the morning of April 28 he was on pace for 69.
To provide some perspective on paces, take Story's April 12 through Tuesday -- a span of 27 Colorado Rockies games that followed his torrid first week -- and project those numbers over a 162-game season:
.252 AVG, 24 HR, 90 RBI, 12 SB, 96 R
Now let's compare that line to two of the more popular rest-of-year projection models, scaling these lines to similar, 162-game seasons:
ZiPS: .248 AVG, 23 HR, 72 RBI, 16 SB, 64 R Steamer: .252 AVG, 20 HR, 67 RBI, 15 SB, 80 R
I think both of these sets of paces are right on in estimating Story. To me, he's a player who would hit .250-.260 with 20-25 homers, 12 steals and 80-85 runs and RBIs if we began the year fresh today and played another 162. In short, doesn't it sound eerily similar to Ian Desmond's 2014? Cutting Desmond's 24 steals from that season in half, he'd have had an estimated finish of about 75th on our Player Rater, and while Story hasn't moved up that far in my rankings -- let's not ignore Desmond's 617 games of big league experience entering that year -- it's the reason he has moved up close to it.
Primetime (@Madmike182): What do we do with Chris Carter going forward?
Brace for his inevitable cold spell, which admittedly would make it difficult to keep him rostered in any shallow mixed league? I'm a big believer in Carter and think his 2015 was an aberration, and working in Milwaukee, in a homer-friendly environment (and an underrated one at that) without much attention, a .240-30-80 campaign sure looks possible. If there's anything that concerns me about Carter -- other than the fact that I'll surely get should-I-drop-him questions when he hits that inevitable slump, which, to be clear, shouldn't span the majority of the rest of 2016 -- it's that his hot start has boosted his trade stock and he's a perfect trade candidate for a rebuilding Milwaukee Brewers team. I'd be a bit wary that any team interested in his services won't be able offer him the level of playing time the Brewers can, and most don't play in ballparks as suited to his skill set as Miller Park.
Daniel Fox (@GiantFox): Catcher is a dumpster fire and Matt Wieters is kindling. What's his Going Forward Ranking and who are some high-upside options?
Catcher is indeed in steep decline offensively, as you'll see in my rankings below, but to use Player Rater history to illustrate: Five catchers rank among the top 250 overall on this year's edition, after a 2015 campaign that saw only seven make the cut (two of whom did so by less than 10 spots). To put that in perspective, 10 catcher-eligible players made it in 2014 and 13 did in 2013.
Part of the reason has been the increased focus on defense, pitch framing and reining in of the running game -- the Boston Red Sox's recent switch from Blake Swihart to Christian Vazquez is as representative a recent example as any -- but another, perhaps, is merely a weaker crop of hitting catchers in this generation. In some ways, it's reminiscent of where the position was a quarter-century ago; in 1991, only two catchers hit as many as 20 home runs, one regular batted .300 and one batting-title-eligible had an .800 OPS. As an aside, for some real fun, check out the National League catcher pool from that 1991 season.
Wieters has tumbled down the rankings because he simply doesn't look healthy to me. His strikeout rate is currently a career high, as is his miss rate on swings, and he's chasing more non-strikes than ever, hinting that he's pressing. Any pro-Wieters case is drawing upon his past prospect promise, the possibility he'll snap back to 100 percent overnight or the Baltimore Orioles' willingness to keep playing him through this. Name aside, he's not even a starter-worthy backstop in an ESPN standard league, but to address the second part of Daniel's question, replacements don't look much better: James McCann, Dioner Navarro, Geovany Soto and Curt Casali are four widely available catchers who can provide at least a bit with the bat, but even in their cases, best-case scenarios don't represent much of an upgrade over the what-if hope of Wieters' case.
Nick Lazzari (@yolazy): Welington Castillo at C9? He should be C5.
On the topic of catchers, yes, I've been too pessimistic about Castillo, and he jumped three spots to sixth, not far behind No. 5 Stephen Vogt. Castillo's preseason projection was a bit more modest in my system because his track record was a bit shorter than some of the others I had ranked around him, but at this point his .260-hitting, 20-homer potential looks highly likely (if not still a conservative estimate). I do think that the hitter-friendly ballpark has helped.
Joseph Johnston (@HalfNHalf101): How isn't J.A. Happ ranked yet? Even going back to last year.
Since Aug. 1 of last season, Happ ranks fourth in ERA (1.93), 16th in WHIP (1.08) and tied for third in wins (12). It's therefore a good question, and that date was cherry-picked because it represents when Happ joined the Pittsburgh Pirates, where his work with pitching coach/magician Ray Searage might explain the left-hander's sudden transformation. Happ has joined my rankings -- my starting pitching rankings rather than the overall top 250, that is -- and he did sneak in a few appearances in the position ranks late last year. Why not the top 250? Simple: Happ's modest K rate (15.7 percent of all hitters in 2016, 14th-lowest out of 103 ERA qualifiers), his lack of a ground-ball leaning (he's actually pretty balanced on balls in play) and his homer-prone home ballpark. His 3.92 FIP and 4.36 xFIP, both within range of his career numbers (4.18 and 4.25), tell the tale of a matchups-homework pitcher. If Happ had remained in Pittsburgh and the forgiving PNC Park, I'd probably be a lot more optimistic about him.
Trey (@treyslom21): When is Nick Castellanos making a jump in the rankings? Can hard-hit and line-drive rates let him sustain a high BABIP?
Castellanos did move up quite a bit this week, though in defense of it not being a bigger jump, I was already extremely high on him entering the year; I didn't feel that a substantial adjustment to my projection was needed. As for the BABIP, though -- and this topic came up on our Monday Fantasy Focus Baseball podcast -- Castellanos has zero chance of sustaining a .449 BABIP, not so long as he maintains his high 42.4 percent fly-ball rate, except in the entirely improbable circumstance that the vast majority of those flies clear the fence. Yes, his boosts in terms of that fly-ball rate and, more important, his well-hit average (now .246) bode extremely well for his full-season outlook, and I do think that as his average comes down, his power numbers will increase. He gave you a .378 batting average and seven home runs thus far; you'd need to be happy and declare it a huge victory even if he bats just .260 the rest of the season, because he might well give you another 20 home runs while doing it.
Paul (@buca_man): Is Vince Velasquez a top 30 starter or a sell high?
If "top 30" is the selling point, then he's undoubtedly a sell high. That's no knock on his raw ability; Velasquez's strikeout potential is immense, and he's probably got a few 200-K seasons in his near future. Still, he's a pitcher with only 25 games of big league experience, his fly-ball nature puts him at greater risk as teams begin to get more of a book on him and, most important, I think he'll be on a rather conservative innings cap. In his past four pro campaigns, Velasquez has tallied 45 2/3 innings (2012), 124 2/3 (2013), 63 2/3 (2014) and 88 2/3 (2015), so it's difficult to imagine him being afforded many more than 160. He's already on pace for 183 1/3 innings, so if you're debating selling him at the level of a top-30 starter, I'd recommend you do so.
Scott Lomoglio (@thebump34): Is Jackie Bradley Jr. now a legit option or do I squeeze the juice from the orange?
Bradley is another player who came up on the podcast, and the stats I tossed out were these, which break down his past year into admittedly arbitrary endpoints:
Aug. 9-Sept. 7, 2015: 25 G, .446/.489/.952 rates, 7 HR, 32 RBI, 2 SB, 29 R
Sept. 8, 2015-April 23, 2016: 41 G, .172/.257/.284, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 1 SB, 14 R
April 24-May 10, 2016: 16 G, .390/.438/.763, 4 HR, 18 RBI, 1 SB, 10 R
I don't think Bradley is nearly as good a player as the two hot-hitting spans show, nor as bad a player as his lengthier -- it's the same number of games as his two hot-hitting spans combined -- span hints, but it does show a propensity for streakiness, which you'll need to accept going forward. That said, Bradley's glove is excellent, and it's his path to playing time, which is a significant advantage in everything deeper than our standard league. Frankly, he's one of those few players I'd call somewhat underrated in deeper leagues but clearly a juice-the-orange type in a shallow mixed. The sum: a player who did make a pretty decent jump in my ranks this week.
New ESPN position eligibility
The following players added new position eligibility within the past week. As a reminder, position players need to appear 10 times at a new position to gain in-season eligibility, while pitchers need to make three starts to earn starting-pitching eligibility or five relief appearances to earn relief-pitching eligibility.
Javier Baez (3B), Chris Coghlan (2B), Derek Dietrich (2B), Brandon Drury (OF), Dillon Gee (RP), Tyler Goeddel (OF), Howie Kendrick (OF), Tommy La Stella (3B), Manny Machado (SS), Brett Oberholtzer (RP), Miguel Rojas (1B), Tyler Saladino (SS), Cesar Vargas (SP), Brett Wallace (3B), Colin Walsh (3B)
The following players are within two games of earning new eligibility, with their total games played noted at the listed position.
Going-forward rankings: Week 6
Listed below are my updated going-forward rankings. These are based upon an ESPN standard league of 10 teams and Rotisserie 5x5 scoring. Click here to see these rankings sorted by position.