February 3, 2015
Fantasy Tiered Rankings
To read the previous articles in this series, follow the links below:
Today, our positional tier rankings series continues with a look at shortstops.
Players at each position are divided into five tiers, represented by a numerical star rating. Five-star players are the studs at their respective position. In general, they are the players who will be nabbed in the first couple of rounds of the draft, and they'll 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 this 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 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.
Players with multi-position eligibility are listed at the position where it is most likely they would start in a standard fantasy league. Anyone with shortstop eligibility will appear in this series. While you might insert Ben Zobrist into your outfield at some point during the season due to an injury, it is unlikely you would use him there at the start of the season.
It could be argued that there are no more elite shortstops in baseball, but the flattening out of the position—along with offense on the whole—pushes both Tulo and Desmond into the elite tier. Whether you prefer Tulowitzki or Desmond depends on the size of your league and your risk/reward proposition. Tulo is the no-brainer in standard and shallower mixed leagues, as even 100 games of Tulo combined with 60 games of a replacement level player could make a huge difference. Desmond is the consistent guy you want in deeper mixed and NL-only. He puts up solid numbers across the board and only his batting average keeps him from being a Top 10 overall draft pick.
Five-Star Value Pick: Ian Desmond
Unlike other positions, the rankings at shortstop get messy and muddled in a hurry. With the exception of Hanley, any of these players could be ranked below in the three-star tier, while some of the three-star players could be ranked in the four-star group. There are so many decisions! Hanley stands out due to his power/speed combination. The temptation is going to be the push him into the five star tier anticipating a big Fenway benefit, but the health and recent performance history say to pump the brakes a little bit.
PECOTA loves Reyes—projecting him to earn $6 more than the second-best player (Tulo) at the position—but the separation in 2014 between Reyes and lesser players like Alcides Escobar and Danny Santana wasn’t particularly significant. He gets the nod here because of his consistency, but Reyes’s ISO has dropped slightly every season since 2011 and while the speed is nice he is unlikely to produce at a 40-plus-SB clip now that he is on the wrong side of 30.
Four-Star Value Pick: Starlin Castro
The three-star tier is crowed. It is mostly a combination of speed-only guys who don’t quite offer enough of anything else to make it to the four-star group along with all-around performers who don’t quite produce enough to make it to the four-star group either. In a standard mixed league, nearly all of these guys are likely to be starting for someone.
Segura and Bogaerts offer the most upside. Bogaerts struggled last year in his first full season, but is still very young and now has an extremely improved lineup around him in his sophomore campaign. Segura looks to bounce back from a lost campaign that included the unfathomable tragedy of losing his infant son. Rollins’s raw numbers are enticing (and PECOTA loves him), but his age makes me reluctant to rank him any higher.
Three-Star Value Pick: Erick Aybar
The two-star tier is an odd mixture of reliable performers with a low ceiling due to low batting averages and a couple of players who are getting a lot of ADP love despite a limited track record or no track record. Asdrubal and Hardy are the boring reliable guys who probably won’t do more than earn $15 or in the only leagues at best, and are the definition of replacement level in standard mixed. Hardy’s power swoon last year was likely an anomaly, so he could be a sneaky power source.
Santana and Baez are the early positional ADP darlings but both come with a high amount of risk. At least the Baez love is understandable. Despite the considerable downside, if he can overcome the greater than 40 percent whiff rate and post that PECOTA projection, he’d be worth owning in standard mixed even with that bad BA. Santana was great last year but his value was tied to a .405 BABIP that elevated his numbers across the board. Maybe Santana can be an Escobar or Andrus type, but that is his ceiling and the floor is extremely ugly.
Two-Star Value Pick: Chris Owings
Welcome to the one-star tier. Residing here are either the boring, vanilla deeper mixed and only options or the guys whose upside isn’t enough to overreach in a standard mixed. Crawford and Lowrie are both capable major leaguers, but Crawford’s ceiling seems awfully limited while Lowrie always seems to be somewhat dinged up. PECOTA is a big believer in a Simmons’ bounce back, but the power from 2013 is going to seem like an anomaly unless or until he does it again. Miller was probably overrated last year but perhaps could do a little bit better with another season under his belt. Gregorius gets the park boost but it is an open question as to where his offensive ceiling is.
One-Star Value Pick: Wilmer Flores