January 6, 2015
Fantasy Tiered Rankings
Today, we kick off our positional tier rankings. For the third year in a row, we have made this into a collaborative effort. Players at each position will be divided into five tiers, represented by a “star” rating.
Five-star players are the studs at their position. In general, they are the players who will be nabbed in the first couple of rounds of the draft, and they will fetch auction bids in excess of $30. Four-star players are a cut below the studs at the position. They will also be early-round selections, and they are projected to be worth more than $20 in most cases. Three-star players are the last tier in which players are projected to provide double-digit dollar value in auctions, and two-star players are projected to earn single digits in dollar value in auctions. One-star players are late-round sleepers and roster placeholders. The positional tiers aren't simply a regurgitation of last year’s values but rather try to offer some insights into what we expect will happen in 2014.
We retained last year's roster requirements for the positional tier series. Dollar values come from last year’s PFM using a 12-team, standard 5x5 scoring format, with 23-man rosters and the following positions: C (2) 1B (1) 2B (1) 3B (1) SS (1) CI (1) MI (1) OF (5) UT (1) P (9). The minimum bid for players is $1, and, as we did last year, we'll allocate $180 of a $260 budget to hitters. Players needed to play in 20 games at a position to qualify there. The PFM is customizable, so if your league uses a different format you can adjust it to match your league settings and see how it impacts players’ dollar values.
The first edition of the series tackles catchers.
Joe Mauer and Carlos Santana are no longer catcher-eligible in 2015, so the position feels a little bit of a squeeze compared to 2014. Posey’s consistency combined with the possibility that he could crack $25 in earnings make him the top catcher in fantasy by a healthy margin. He isn’t going to be a monster the way Mike Piazza was back in Piazza’s heyday, but that would be an unfair expectation for any backstop.
Lucroy is the next-safest bet, but Mesoraco is the catcher who is most likely to hit 30 home runs, and thus jumps into this tier with the rest of the top catchers. It isn’t difficult to imagine another 100 plate appearances for Mesoraco in 2015, and if he can get to that mark the power numbers could be something to behold.
Four-Star Value Pick: Evan Gattis
An argument could be made for including Gomes or Perez with the four-star catchers above, but in both cases they stay in the third tier. Gomes had a terrific campaign in 2014 and could certainly repeat but it is worth seeing if he has it in him to put up another big year before bidding on him like an established commodity. Perez has been solid as well, but some are concerned about the wear and tear from last year, particularly after a long postseason and a stint in Japan in November.
Molina could easily break into the four-star group as well, but an even bigger concern than his injury last year is the fact that when he did play he was far from a dynamic backstop. He turns 33 this season. While that’s not ancient, Molina has logged a significant number of innings behind the plate during his career. He is far from finished, but it is entirely possible that the days of his $20-plus production in mono formats are gone.
Three-Star Value Pick: Russell Martin
The two-star tier is dominated by batting average risks and/or injury cases. This ranking assumes that Wieters is either going to be ready by Opening Day or will only miss a week or two at the most. When healthy, Wieters has offered the good-power/low-AVG combination that most of the hitters in this tier provided last year. If it looks like Wieters is going to miss a month or more, he moves down to the one-star tier, and in shallower mixed leagues and/or one-catcher leagues he can be avoided entirely.
Ramos could easily sail into the three-star group if he stays healthy, but will he ever manage to do so? Assuming future injuries due to past injuries isn’t particularly logical, but Ramos has missed significant time during nearly every season of his career. A 20-home-run campaign is something that can never be ruled out, but it is safer to assume that he will hit 12-14 home runs and bid/draft accordingly.
Two-Star Value Pick: Yasmani Grandal
The trade of Norris to the Padres makes it seem that the Athletics believe Jaso can handle catching on a full-time basis. However, the acquisition of Josh Phegley makes it more likely than not that this will be a platoon. Jaso could provide great value if he somehow manages to get 500 plate appearances, but a straight-up platoon is a more likely outcome, and Billy Butler’s presence leaves far fewer opportunities for Jaso to DH.
Castro is in a similar situation in Houston. The addition of Hank Conger from the Angels along with the presence of Carlos Corporan makes it unlikely that Castro will clear 500 plate appearances in 2015. It is possible that this brings Castro’s batting average up somewhat, but the danger in two-catcher leagues is getting part-time production, especially in a mixed format.
A change of scenery could help Montero considerably, but he has not produced in the last two seasons for the Diamondbacks and it is possible that what you see is what you get. It certainly isn’t terrible, but the days of Montero producing like a near-elite option are long gone.
One-Star Value Pick: Rene Rivera