The big SB Nation fantasy football preview came out Monday. (Really, it did! My name appears so many times! Here, look, it's wonderful!) As part of the preview, of course, we did all sorts of rankings. Position, overall, what have you. I feel like I've seen the name of every skill player in football a thousand times over the last few weeks.
One thing that I'm reminded of every time I do rankings is conviction. I ranked Eli Manning as my No. 4 quarterback this season. I didn't think it was that crazy a ranking. He never misses a game, finished 10th last year (six points out of seventh) and has a full season of the transcendent Odell Beckham Jr. to go with the returning-from-injury Victor Cruz, plus Rueben Randle, James Jones, Larry Donnell, Rashad Jennings, Shane Vereen and Andre Williams. Maybe Andrew Luck has a better collection of weapons than Eli, but that's it.
So that's where I ranked him. Fourth. Behind Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson, but that's it. Like I said, I didn't think it was crazy. Until I saw the rest of our staff rankings. Two guys had him at ninth, and everyone else had him at 10th or worse.
I gave myself some time to rethink things. Was I overrating Manning? Just as importantly, was I underrating the others? Drew Brees scares me this year. So does Peyton Manning, for different reasons. No, I decided, there wasn't a quarterback I ranked lower than Eli Manning that needed to move above him. Our rankings came out, he was fourth for me, and that was that.
Which brings me to baseball. In our preseason rankings, I went against the grain at third base (I could also make this exact same point at first, but third is more stark) by ranking Chris Davis first overall. One guy had him as high as fifth, but most everyone else had him much lower, with one guy having him 28th and another having him outside his top 30 altogether.
I reconsidered Davis. I of course had all sorts of reasons why I believed in Davis entering this season, but I had to admit he wasn't a sure thing. Then again, who was? Anthony Rendon had injury concerns, Adrian Beltre is aging, Josh Donaldson was taking his knees to a balky turf. No, I decided, Davis was my best pick there. While it hasn't worked out perfectly — I was way off on Donaldson, Todd Frazier took another step, and Manny Machado and Nolan Arenado emerged — I feel like I've at least been vindicated in my Davis trust, and if his post-ASB carries the rest of the way, heck, he might end up top two.
Of course, I also had Rick Porcello pegged as a sleeper starting pitcher; I was easily the highest on him among our rankers, and that hasn't worked out even close to a little bit.
Conviction is a great thing. If you think strongly about a player or a ranking, some expert (or "expert) disagreeing with you shouldn't change your mind. Unless, like Porcello, it should. But still, your opinions shouldn't be so flexible that a quick look at a handful of other rankings will sway you.
Basically, hold to your opinions until it doesn't make sense to do so. Davis has worked out for me. Porcello, less so.
Holding out hope for Eli.
On to The Ticker. We've passed the standard trade deadline for Yahoo!, but ESPN and some other sites still have trade options. Once we pass all the trade deadlines, what Tickers that remain will focus more on likely waiver guys, but for now, we can still include the bigger names. As always, stats are through Monday; ownership percentages are as of Tuesday afternoon.
(The players' values are at or near their low points, and you might be able to get them for cheap)
Jhonny Peralta, SS, STL (89 percent)
Okay, so the talk during the All-Star Game that he was in the MVP discussion was a bit much, considering Peralta plays in a league with Bryce Harper, Paul Goldschmidt, Buster Posey and all sorts of other names. Still, Peralta entered the break with a .298/.355/.473 slash line and 13 home runs, all while playing the important position of shortstop. Since the break, though, Peralta has acted like he wanted to make sure no one put him on their MVP ballot, hitting .226/.281/.349 with three home runs. Even with this slump, Peralta is on a three-year run with a 117 OPS+. He's proven himself an elite shortstop, and this is just a blip. He'll be fine down the stretch.
Jeff Samardzija, SP, CHW (85 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues)
It was in back in the second week of the season that I wrote to sell on Samardzija. It wasn't based on his performance in 2015, because heck, it was the second week of the season, but my point was that I never really expected a lot out of Samardzija this season. He didn't look great in his initial move to the AL last year, and that was in Oakland, not the hitter-friendly Chicago. The flip side, though, is that, since his July 9 shutout, Samardzija has pitched 38.1 innings over six starts with a 7.28 ERA. Samardzija never made sense as a top-shelf fantasy option, but he isn't this bad. He's currently rolling with a left-on-base percentage and a home-run rate that are his worst as a starter. Those will level out. He won't return draft-day value, but he'll be better than this.
(Just because a guy is at or near peak value doesn't mean he has to regress. These are guys who are exceeding expectations, but I can see it continuing)
Ian Desmond, SS, WAS (90 percent)
Desmond entered Tuesday with a 79 OPS+, as good a metaphor for the Nationals season as I could legitimately have hoped for (if you want a fun game, play "what's higher, Desmond's OPS+ or Washington's 2015 win total?") from this exercise. Still, that 79 includes a last month with a .301/.369/.602 slash line and eight home runs. Desmond has 15 home runs, 10 stolen bases and 54 runs. Yes, the .225 average is brutal, but all told, Desmond has been a far worse real baseball player than he has a fantasy player. He hasn't been great for fantasy, but he's helped. Add in the fact that he seems to have figured things out a bit since the All-Star break, and I'd buy in down the stretch.
Gregory Polanco, OF, PIT (69 percent)
I wrote in late May that I was selling on Polanco because, absent a strong first month in the big leagues, he had struggled mightily. I pointed out that, long term, I was still a Polanco believer, but we had no way of knowing when that might come, and for 2015, it might not happen. That ran May 29, with Polanco hitting .239/.302/.350. He went 12 for his next 29 and continued hitting; since I wrote that, he's at .275/.352/.416 and has gone from two home runs to seven. His season-long numbers have finally reached respectability, and he's still stealing, with 20 on the season now. Polanco might have some time to go before he's a super-duperstar — assuming he ever gets there — but something appears to have clicked, and he's a legitimate big-leaguer now.
(Sure, these guys have been great, but this is the time to cash in your chips)
David Ortiz, 1B, BOS (95 percent)
Fewer hitters have been hotter than Ortiz of late (non-Chris Davis division). He's hitting .386/.455/.795 with nine home runs since July 22, raising his OPS more than 100 points. The thing about Ortiz, though, was never that he was done, it was that he was largely done against lefties. That's still true — .954 OPS against right-handers this year, .651 against southpaws. During this hot stretch, here's the list of left-handed starters Ortiz has faced, in alphabetical order: Adam Conley, John Danks, Mike Montgomery, Matt Moore, Justin Nicolino, Daniel Norris, Vidal Nuno, Jose Quintana, CC Sabathia, Chris Sale. You could easily make an argument that the only guys on that list who are legitimate big-league starters are Quintana and Sale. While it's true that Ortiz did hit Sale, he was hitless in Quintana's start. The Red Sox are going to run into tougher lefties down the stretch. Ortiz will cool.
Martin Perez, SP, TEX (3 percent)
As a Rangers fan, what I've seen from Perez the last few weeks has given me a lot of hope for 2016 — a potential rotation of Darvish-Hamels-Perez-Holland gives me the giddies. What it doesn't, though, is make me super excited about the Rangers staying in the race this year. In August, Perez has pitched 20.1 innings with five earned runs, good for a 2.21 ERA. The downside, though, is that he has 12 strikeouts against 19 baserunners allowed in that time. For the season, he has 4.7 strikeouts per nine innings. I like the talent for Perez, and like I said, I'm really excited for next year, but this is a guy fresh back from Tommy John, and his command isn't quite there. I wouldn't be investing.
(Yeah, their current values might not be at peak, but frankly, I think lower is more likely than higher; get out if you can)
Prince Fielder, 1B, TEX (98 percent)
Fielder has re-made himself a high-profile player this year, spending a big chunk of 2015 at or near the AL batting average leaders and hitting 17 home runs. Heck, as of Tuesday he's still third in the AL in average, behind Miguel Cabrera and Jason Kipnis. But Fielder has worn down as the season has gone on; he's hitting in the mid-.200s over the last whatever-split-you-want-to-use, and his power these days is only mediocre, not great. We have heard about the heat wearing on all players in Texas; imagine the heaviest Ranger (The Heaviest Ranger would be an awful title for a kids' book) dealing with it. Fielder's profile might have him still holding trade value, and I'd explore that.
Evan Gattis, C/OF, HOU (92 percent)
At the start of August, Gattis' on-base percentage reached a season-high point. Of course, that season-high point was .278, so, you know, woo freaking hoo. This is a guy with a fair amount of power and absolutely nothing else going for him. It's true that there's a point in power at which OBP is less important, and vice versa. A guy with a .780 OBP can hit zero home runs and still help you. A guy with a .220 OBP can help you if every one of his few hits leaves the park. Gattis, though? He's not near the league leaders in home runs. He's just not special. And with that so-very-random nine triples, people are talking about Gattis as though he's better than he is. That gives you the chance to make a trade.
(No matter what trade you might come up with for these guys, it won't be fair)
Mike Trout, OF, LAA (99 percent)
Don't look now, but Mr. Trout has been slumping. He's hit .169/.300/.271 in August with one home run and no steals, and 20 strikeouts in 59 at bats. His slide has coincided with the slide of the Angels, taking them out of a playoff spot. Of course, it's still Mike Trout. Anyone dealing him will want good return on the best player in fantasy; anyone dealing for him will expect a discount because he's slumping. There's no winning there. Just keep him where he is, geez.
Dee Gordon, 2B, MIA (98 percent)
Since returning from the DL, Gordon has hit fine — .299/.316/.416 — but frustratingly, he hasn't been running, with only four steals in six attempts across 18 games. I don't know if that's because of the injury — it was a thumb, but it was suffered running the bases — but a Gordon who isn't running the bases is a guy who is literally only helping you in average, and sometimes not even that. Now, the problem with trading him: If you have Gordon, and you strategized well, you probably don't have any other big steal guys. That means you more-or-less have to sit on Gordon and hope he starts running again. Dealing away your one steals guy is a good way to ruin a strong category.
(Low-owned guys who have low value now, but might burst onto the scene from wherever they are in the next little while)
Denard Span, OF, WAS (41 percent)
Ken Rosenthal noted Monday that the Nationals are 35-24 with Span in the lineup, and 23-35 when he isn't. Before the injuries, Span was having one of his best seasons; he has five home runs in 265 plate appearances, far and away the best rate of his career, with a batting average and slugging percentage near his career highs. He started rehabbing the other day, and could be back in the next week or two. He's a free agent after the year, meaning he needs to show something before the year ends. Yes, there's a lot of soft factor, "but he wants it!" stuff there, but he's also just a good ballplayer who will be back in the big leagues soon.
Sean Doolittle, RP, OAK (35 percent)
Have y'all seen what Edward Mujica has done since the Tyler Clippard trade? He has a 9.39 ERA and a 1.139 OPS allowed. Evan Scribner has been better, with a 2.84 ERA in 6.1 innings, but that's on the heels of a relatively blow-uppy July. Doolittle, meanwhile, is in rehab and due back after, according to reports, two more outings. He might not get his closer role back immediately, but lord, there's no other reliever in the Oakland bullpen who is viable. If Doolittle can prove himself again with any kind of quickness, he might be a save-getter over the last month.
(Handcuffs; low-owned guys who have someone in front of them, but they are strong backups or replacements to stash)
Greg Bird, 1B, NYY (2 percent)
The Yankees called Bird up the other day, with the prospect having nothing really left to prove in the minors. He's a first baseman only, and with Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez still on the roster, it might look like there's nowhere for Bird to play. On the other hand, Teixeira is 35 and Rodriguez is 40, and both guys have noticeably started to wear down. The Yankees are still fighting for a playoff spot, so maybe they'll just run Rodriguez and Teixeira into the ground, but from here, the best bet is to give both older guys a couple of days off a week, meaning Bird would play three or four days a week in exchange. He might not be an option for a 10-team league, but when you get deeper, he's certainly in the discussion.
Jesus Montero, 1B, SEA (2 percent)
Are we done with Logan Morrison yet? Yeah, he's 27 (28 in a week), but his best year includes a .262 average and a .315 OBP. He hasn't hit more than 12 home runs in a season since he was a 23-year-old in Miami in 2011. The Mariners ran him out there because they didn't really have other options. Jesus Montero might also not be very helpful — he's 25, but has a .670 OPS over the last four years — but he's hit so well in the minors, and there's still at least a question of whether there's something there. The Mariners are done for this year, so they should spend the last month and a half seeing who they might be able to trust for 2016. That isn't Morrison. It might be Montero.