Rotoworld Top 250 MLB Fantasy Rankings just released their July rankings of the top 250 fantasy baseball players. The rankings are based on how the site believes each player will perform in 5×5 leagues over the rest of the season.

Here’s their top 15:

1 Albert Pujols Cardinals
2 Hanley Ramirez Marlins
3 Tim Lincecum Giants
4 Carl Crawford Rays
5 Alex Rodriguez Yankees
6 David Wright Mets
7 Ian Kinsler Rangers
8 Ryan Braun Brewers
9 Chase Utley Phillies
10 Johan Santana Mets
11 Mark Teixeira Yankees
12 Roy Halladay Blue Jays
13 Joe Mauer Twins
14 Evan Longoria Rays
15 Miguel Cabrera Tigers

All in all, these rankings are extremely helpful for owners trying to project how players are going to do throughout the rest of the year. If you’re looking to trade before your league’s deadline, these rankings can be a useful tool.

That said, I’m a little surprised to see players like Dustin Pedroia (41), Josh Hamilton (49) and Pablo Sandoval (105) ranked so low. Pedroia should get his average back up over .300, he’s on pace to steal another 15-plus bases, and one would have to believe that his power numbers will be better in the second half as well. (He only has three dingers so far on the season, but hit 17 in his MVP season last year.)

Hamilton’s injury is a concern, but he hits in a great lineup and as long as he stays healthy, he should have at least another 12-15 home runs left in him with the RBI totals to match. And while Sandoval (who qualifies at 1B, 3B and C) plays in a weak offense, he’s already proven that he can flat out rake. He’s currently batting .332 with 13 home runs and 48 RBIs, which better David Wright’s .326/5/42 numbers. Plus, with the Giants in contention and looking to trade for a quality bat, Sandoval’s RBI and run totals could rise in the second half as well.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Fantasy owners: Keep an eye on Andre Ethier

In the Dodgers’ 8-2 victory Friday night over the Mariners in Seattle, L.A. right fielder Andre Ethier had his first ever three-homer game, also driving in six runs in the process. It was Ethier’s fifth multihomer game of the season.

For fantasy owners, Ethier’s night was a gift from the FBB gods. Owners relished in Ethier’s start to the ’09 season when he raced out to a .327 batting average and .574 slugging percentage in early May, but then watched as he sunk into fantasy hell after Manny Ramirez was suspended 50 games.

A month and a half ago, owners couldn’t give Ethier away as a throw in to a trade. He would still hit the occasional home run, but his batting average was hovering around .260 and he wasn’t driving in any runs. (He couldn’t get on base to score any either.)

While his average could still use some work (he’s hitting just .268), he’s raised his home run total to 14 and his RBI number to 49. With Ramirez set to come back soon, Ethier could be due for a fantastic second half.

If you need more power production in your fantasy lineup, the time to make a play for Ethier is probably now. Granted, his three-homer night might make his owner overvalue his production, but Ethier’s second half potential could justify giving up a little more than you would have liked. Remember that Ethier was scorching before Manny was suspended, so he could still have 15 home runs and 50 RBIs left in him. That said, considering he’s hitting only .268, you shouldn’t have to give up an arm and a leg for a player that his owner would have gladly given up for Mike Cameron and a pat on the back just a couple months ago.

On the flip side of all this, owners of Ethier could cash in big if they play their cards right and wait to deal him once Manny comes back. If Ethier starts raking, he could be a valuable chip in a multi-player deal that nets you three or four significant pieces depending on what else you throw in the mix.

Keep an eye on Ethier’s stat line the next couple weeks before the All-Star break.

When in doubt, go for the healthy young guy

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If you’re a fantasy baseball or football owner and you don’t read Rotoworld every day (or, in my case, several times a day), you’re not only missing out, but you may very well be costing yourself a chance at a league title. As far as free and comprehensive fantasy advice goes, nobody does it better than Rotoworld. Their player updates pull from all sorts of local and national sources and are updated throughout the day, and their columnists offer up plenty of great insight, both during the season and leading up to draft day. They even have their own draft guide, although you’ve got to pay $15 for that.

Howard Megdal (who, as far as I can tell, is new to the Rotoworld staff this season) just posted a great article about the value of youth and health on draft day:

So when I draft, I want as much predictability as possible. Therefore, my two touchstones are getting as many players in their age peak (roughly 25-30), with an added focus on injury history. Such a strategy provides no guarantees—no strategy does—but puts me in the best position to consolidate my gains. And as a bonus—a healthy player of peak age, more likely than not, is going to be a player who has that surprise season you were hoping for from the rookie, anyway.

I’m always amazed by how many owners don’t pay attention to age or injury history during their drafts, especially in the early rounds. Every year, someone drafts a guy like AJ Burnett too early, and every year Burnett goes down with some kind of injury. Go ahead and take Lance Berkman in the second round — I’ll gladly wait another round or two and snag the younger Adrian Gonzalez or Prince Fielder. Upside, upside, upside.

Megdal goes on to target some of the likely first-rounders that he’s avoiding this year:

Ian Kinsler is another top-12 player with red flags of the white bandage variety. For the third straight season, he showed that when healthy, he is an offensive force at a position, second base, with very few of them. But he played in just 121 games, this time due to a sports hernia, and his season-high through three seasons is 130. No reason he can’t help a fantasy team—but let someone else draft his injury history first.

Also consider dropping Jimmy Rollins, who played in 137 games last season and already has back issues in spring training, and Carl Crawford, who was limited to 109 games with a finger injury last year. Crawford in particular appears to be healthy this spring—but grab the guy who just put up 150-160 games in 2008. An extra 10-15 games out of your best player could be the difference in some leagues.

Instead of Kinsler, who averaged fewer than 124 games per season from 2006-2008, how about Brandon Phillips, who has averaged around 150 games per season? Phillips is 27, suggesting that his best year may come in 2009.

I’m pretty high on both Kinsler and Phillips, as I noted in my second base preview, but while Kinsler is younger (by one year) and may arguably have a little more upside, Phillips has the much healthier track record and can be snagged a little later than Kinsler, which likely makes him the better value of the two. When you consider the premium you’ll need to pay for Kinsler (a late first or early second rounder), Phillips becomes that much more intriguing.

Megdal wisely suggests not becoming a slave to this (or any) draft strategy, because remaining too loyal to a plan could close you out of any mid- to late-round bargains that may fall into your lap. But when it comes to debating the merits of Carlos Delgado vs. Adrian Gonzalez, AJ Burnett vs. Edinson Volquez, or Carlos Lee vs. Nick Markakis, you’d be wise to go with the younger, healthier guy.

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