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Today, we kick off our positional tier rankings. 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 will fetch mixed-league auction bids over $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 offer insight into what we expect will happen in 2017.

Positional eligibility for the series is determined by 20 games or more at a position in the majors, with priority determined using the following order: catcher, shortstop, second base, third base, outfield, and first base, and designated hitter. Designated hitters are ranked with first basemen. Players who played fewer than 20 games at a position in the majors are ranked at the position they played most frequently. Players who did not play in the majors in 2016 are ranked at the position they played most in the minors. Although Blake Swihart caught 21 games in the majors and minors combined, he is only eligible in the outfield using our criteria.

Dollar values come from last year's PFM using a 12-team, standard 5×5 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 we allocate $180 of a $260 budget to hitters. 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.

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The first edition of the series tackles catchers.

Five Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

NONE

Every year, this series kicks off with an internal staff discussion about the catcher rankings and whether we should put Buster Posey in the five-star tier. This year, not a single staff member brought it up as a point of discussion. Already a dubious proposition, the value of the catcher has declined considerably in fantasy. The rankings this year try to balance the offensive drop-off at the position with an attempt to offer some degree of differentiation. While listing 20 catchers in the one-star tier might be more accurate from a valuation standpoint, it doesn't necessarily help our readers in two catcher leagues attempting to sort through this muddled mess. The one-star tier did jump from 10 catchers in 2016 to 14 this year. The rankings recognize how weak the position is but also try to sort through which options stand out, even if that difference is marginal.

Four Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Buster Posey

SF

$21.51

$21.26

614

82

14

80

6

.288

Gary Sanchez

NYY

$6.08

$7.54

229

34

20

42

1

.299

Jonathan Lucroy

TEX

$21.30

$21.45

544

67

24

81

5

.292

Posey and Lucroy are the safest choices you can make at a volatile position. Posey's value rests primarily in his consistency and ability to stay on the field. Barring injury, he's a safe bet for 15-20 home runs, 70 runs, 85 RBI, and a .290 AVG. He had a down year in 2016, but the contributions in batting average are part of what make him such a stalwart. Lucroy had a career year in power and took his game to another level after he was traded to the Rangers at the deadline. I wouldn't bank on another 24 home run season from Lucroy, but 18-20 dingers with a .280 batting average is a reasonable expectation and playing in the AL could allow the Rangers to slip him in at DH from time to time as well.

Four-Star Value Pick: Gary Sanchez.
Sanchez is the guy who raised the most eyebrows among the staff, particularly since these ranks are geared toward redraft leagues. But while there were suggestions to move Sanchez behind Lucroy or even into the three-star tier, Sanchez belongs here. Only five catchers topped Sanchez's 20 home runs, and all of them had at least 225 plate appearances more than Sanchez did. He will slip in 2017, but even if Sanchez only hits 25 home runs with a .270 batting average, he will easily finish in the top three.

Three Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Salvador Perez

KC

$12.11

$12.62

546

57

22

64

0

.247

Willson Contreras

CHC

$3.12

$7.65

283

33

12

35

2

.282

Evan Gattis

HOU

$16.37

$16.25

499

58

32

72

2

.251

J.T. Realmuto

MIA

$15.35

$18.19

545

60

11

48

12

.303

Yasmani Grandal

LAD

$11.91

$14.50

457

49

27

72

1

.228

Most value at catcher comes from power, so it is not surprising that the three-star tier is dominated by 20 home run hitters and has a rookie in Contreras who was on pace to hit 20. Perez's home run totals have climbed every year since his rookie campaign in 2012 but this has come a significant drop in batting average during that time. Gattis would be ranked higher if it his path to playing time was clearer. The raw power is among the best of anyone at the position.

Realmuto is a positional oddity: a catcher without a lot of power but who steals bases and hits for a solid batting average. Be wary of the batting average. Realmuto saw a 72-point upswing in BABIP in 2016 even though his batted ball profile stayed relatively stable. Realmuto isn't worthless if the batting average slips, but for a hitter without a significant carrying tool, it is a concern. Realmuto's framing metrics are poor, so he has less room for error on offense than other catchers do.

Three-Star Value Pick: Yasmani Grandal
Injuries, inconsistency, and perpetually poor batting averages have kept Grandal's value down throughout his major-league career, but in 2016 he showed signs of turning into the monster hitter that some thought he'd always be. Grandal shook off the cobwebs from multiple, early season injuries and busted out. In 260 plate appearances from June 30 until the end of the regular season, Grandal hit 21 home runs in 260 plate appearances with a .267 batting average and .377 OBP. The 'if he's healthy' caveat matters in Grandal's case, but he has the best chance of all the hitters in this tier of crashing the party in the four-star tier.

Two Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Russell Martin

TOR

$12.94

$13.26

535

62

20

74

2

.231

Stephen Vogt

OAK

$9.36

$9.98

532

54

14

56

0

.251

Matt Wieters

FA

$9.94

$10.48

464

48

17

66

1

.244

Welington Castillo

BAL

$9.84

$10.68

457

41

14

68

2

.264

Brian McCann

HOU

$10.71

$11.19

492

56

20

58

1

.242

Travis d'Arnaud

NYM

($5.43)

$2.78

276

27

4

15

0

.247

Wilson Ramos

TB

$18.23

$17.52

523

58

22

80

0

.307

Yadier Molina

STL

$12.97

$15.36

581

56

8

58

3

.307

Even in one catcher leagues, at least a couple of fantasy managers will get stuck with a catcher in the two-star tier. Raw numbers have remained steady at catcher, but thanks to the increase in offense and home runs across the board, the fantasy value at the position has plummeted, even when taking position scarcity into account. In two catcher leagues, the question is whether it is worth rolling the dice on a catcher in this tier in the hopes of any kind of production or if you should spend a dollar and allocate your auction dollars elsewhere.

Most of this tier offers double-digit home run power with poorer batting averages than we have seen in prior tiers. Stability and reliability is what makes most of these catchers stand out over the one-star tier. Getting 450 plate appearances with 15 home runs from a catcher goes a long way in this climate. If you insist on upside, Ramos is the clear play. If Ramos' self-assessment is correct and he makes it back to the field by May, he could return three-star value easily.

Two-Star Value Pick: Travis d'Arnaud
It seems questionable that a catcher who had multiple injuries and is coming off a horrific offensive season is even ranked in the two-star tier, let alone as the value pick. But d'Arnaud is only a year removed from having the second best TAv among catchers in 2015 (minimum 250 plate appearances), trailing only Posey. Mets' hitting coach Kevin Long identified a mechanical flaw in late 2016 that was lengthening d'Arnauds swing, and worked with the 27-year-old catcher to fix the problem. There is still a good deal of risk and crash-and-burn potential, but there is arguably more upside to d'Arnaud than there is for anyone at the position.

One Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Austin Hedges

SD

($15.55)

($2.31)

26

2

0

1

0

.125

Yan Gomes

CLE

($5.17)

$1.10

264

22

9

34

0

.167

Francisco Cervelli

PIT

$2.60

$7.14

393

42

1

33

6

.264

Sandy Leon

BOS

$2.55

$5.13

282

36

7

35

0

.310

Derek Norris

WAS

$5.75

$9.78

458

50

14

42

9

.186

James McCann

DET

$1.72

$4.62

373

31

12

48

0

.221

Cameron Rupp

PHI

$6.69

$10.15

419

36

16

54

1

.252

Tyler Flowers

ATL

$0.90

$6.06

325

27

8

41

0

.271

Tom Murphy

COL

($9.65)

$0.95

49

8

5

13

1

.273

Tony Wolters

COL

($1.81)

$4.54

230

27

3

30

4

.259

Andrew Susac

MIL

($14.44)

($1.68)

19

3

1

2

0

.235

Jason Castro

MIN

$1.00

$4.38

376

41

11

32

2

.210

Mike Zunino

SEA

($4.13)

$1.65

192

16

12

31

0

.207

Devin Mesoraco

CIN

($15.81)

($2.40)

55

2

0

1

0

.140

The one-star tier is a mix of catchers who will play but have no upside and others who could break into the two-star tier but whose playing time is tenuous at best. Norris will start barring another Nationals trade or signing, but unless that batting average cracks .200 it is difficult to have faith in a sustainable rebound. Safe plays at catcher used to be safer, but because of the real-life emphasis on framing and defense, a poor hitting catcher with 450+ plate appearances could be an offensive drag.

As is the case in every catching tier, there is power to buy, but the batting averages attached in the bottom tier are mostly bad. Rupp would easily sit in the two-star tier if not for the legitimate risk of losing part or all his job to Jorge Alfaro at some point in 2017. Murphy could be great in a regular role while playing half his games in Colorado but it sounds like the Rockies may opt for a job-sharing arrangement between him and Wolters.

Hedges is the best breakout candidate in the tier based on the combination of talent and opportunity. El Paso inflated his offensive numbers last year, but Petco is no longer the offensive graveyard it once was, particularly for right-handed batters. Zunino's power perpetually fascinates but he has always had difficulty making enough contact to stick as a starter.

One-Star Value Pick: Andrew Susac
Bret Sayre did a great job describing Susac's upside in yesterday's Fantasy Players to Target piece, so I won't rehash his sublime entry. Susac has the skills to finish with a 15 home run, .270 AVG season and is being taken in the 30th round on average in NFBC drafts.