As was pointed out in previous editions, positional three-year rankings are perhaps most useful for keeper-league owners, but they can serve a number of purposes for dynasty-league owners as well, particularly those who are in (or approaching) contention and not knee-deep in the perpetual rebuild that many owners seem to enjoy. If your contention window is now and you’re wondering who to keep and who to deal, the three-year rankings are for you, as they won’t feature any prospects who are just legally able to vote.
It’s especially important to note that these rankings are decidedly not the consensus rankings of the BP Fantasy Staff; they are the rankings of the selected author.
“The formula is simple: most of the weight is placed upon projected 2016 performance, with a substantial drop in weighting potential 2017 performance and then another drop in how 2018 output is valued. Finally, remember these are themed around positions, so losing eligibility is a big deal within the confines of this particular exercise.”
And now, on to the list of players that will hold down the six-spot in the near-future:
1. Carlos Correa, Houston Astros
Let’s not overthink this. As J.P. Breen so eloquently pointed out on Monday, Correa is basically a young A-Rod without the centaur, and hopefully without the frosted tips or Cousin Yuri. A scary thing about Correa’s fantasy value is that I’m not even sure where his ceiling actually resides, as his 32 steals (in 37 attempts) between the two highest levels of the minors and Houston in 2015 were more stolen bases than any year of A-Rod’s career, outside of his 1998 campaign. In long-term leagues, Correa is the third-most-valuable property behind Trout and Harper for my money.
2. Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers
Seager smashed 18 home runs between Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City of the Pacific Coast League in 550 plate appearances last season and I don’t feel comfortable projecting him for more than 20 in his first season or two, particularly with the possibility that Enrique Hernandez could spot him a bit against lefties as he acclimates to big-league pitching. Seager did post a reverse platoon split in the minors in 2015, so those concerns may be eased if he can handle lefties quickly, but a major difference between Seager and those that surround him in the rankings is that he will struggle to add any value with his legs, as evidenced by his 28 steals in 37 attempts over his minor-league career that spanned 390 games. Make no mistake, this is an elite bat who should be able maintain shortstop eligibility for at least the first few years of his career.
3. Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox
Bogaerts took a significant step forward with the bat in 2015, lowering his strikeout rate by close to eight percentage points and adding 80 points to his batting average from the 2014 season. However, he is unlikely to repeat his .372 BABIP and actually lost 22 points off of his isolated power mark from 2014, as his .101 ISO placed him behind the likes of Didi Gregorius and just and he ahead of Elvis Andrus’ .099 number in 2015. Bogaerts did add value via the running game, with his 10 steals marking a professional season-high, and will have to keep running to make up for his lack of power, but his placement here is a bet that he will add the in-game power that he showed in the minors (20 home runs in 127 games between High-A and Double-A in 2012) as he matures.
4. Troy Tulowitzki, Toronto Blue Jays
Tulowitzki finally was dispatched from Coors Field in 2015 and didn’t exactly flourish away from Denver’s thin air, hitting .239/.317/.380 as a Blue Jay in 183 plate appearances. Fantasy owners would almost assuredly take the 534 plate appearances that Tulo accumulated in 2015 in each of the next three seasons, but even with the presence of the designated hitter as an option to keep him healthy, those 534 PA represented his most since 2011 and his .777 OPS was his lowest since 2008. Tulowitzki’s 17 home runs in 2015 placed him in a tie for fourth at the position, but his days of hitting 25-30 home runs are probably over and he has basically stopped running (five SB over the last three seasons combined), further putting pressure on him to stay healthy as he enters his 30s. There is quite a bit of risk to stomach over the next three seasons, but Tulo’s power potential still keeps him inside the top five.
5. Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians
Lindor’s rookie campaign with the bat went much better than many predicted, myself included, with his .286 TAv placing him sixth at the position (min. 100 PA) and his 12 home runs (in just 438 PA) putting him tied for 13th. The power didn’t come completely out of nowhere, as he did hit 11 homers (in 126 games) between the two highest levels of the minors in 2014, but his 13 percent HR:FB rate and his .348 BABIP suggest that expecting an .835 OPS on a yearly basis may not be prudent. However, there is more to Lindor’s speed game than he showed as a rookie in stealing 12 bases in 99 games, as he stole 25 or more bases in each full minor-league season. Lindor’s speed makes gives him one of the highest floors at the position and he is a lock to stay at short for the foreseeable future. I just wouldn’t feel comfortable counting on him to post a .169 ISO—which was his highest mark as a professional—on a regular basis.
6. Addison Russell, Chicago Cubs
Russell made notable adjustments with the bat as the season went along in his rookie campaign, hitting 33 points better after the All-Star break, smacking eight of his 13 home runs in addition to lowering his strikeout rate by five percentage points over his final 70 games of the regular season. Without Starlin Castro on the roster, Russell will see everyday at-bats in a loaded Cubs lineup over the next three years, and although the next three seasons won’t likely represent anywhere close to Russell’s peak with the bat, there should be close to 15-home-run power, along with an average in the neighborhood of .260, which paired with 5-10 stolen bases and improved runs-scored totals, makes Russell an enticing option in leagues of all sizes—with the upside for more if his power progresses quickly.
7. Jung-Ho Kang, Pittsburgh Pirates
Chris Coghlan’s murder attempt/slide shortened a fantastic rookie season for Kang, as his .816 OPS placed him third overall at the position (min. 300 PA), his 15 home runs put him tied for seventh and he even added five steals for good measure. The former KBO standout flourished as he became more acclimated to facing major-league pitching, posting a .310/.364/.548 line with 11 home runs in 53 games after the All-Star break. His knee injury puts the timing of his 2016 debut in question, but recent reports give him a good chance to return in April, and he should be a solid contributor over the next three years with a good chance to maintain shortstop eligibility as he is moved around the Pirates infield.
8. Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants
A nearly 10-percentage-point increase in his HR:FB rate helped Crawford more than double his previous career-high home run total (10 in 2014) with 21 in 2015, which was second at the position. Crawford has increased his isolated-power output in each year of his career, but expecting that trend to continue as he enters his age-29 season is not something I’d be looking to do. A moderate improvement on his 2014 season (.246/.324/.389) is the level at which I’d feel comfortable investing in, but I can no longer ignore that Crawford keeps getting better with experience and the improvements that he's made at the plate make it possible for us to see 15-18 home-run seasons in the future.
9. Ian Desmond, Free Agent
Desmond being tied to draft-pick compensation has certainly hampered his market this winter, and although there remain a number of comfortable landing spots—the South Side of Chicago being one—many teams have been looking at Desmond as a super-utility guy, putting into question exactly how much longer he’ll retain his shortstop eligibility. Desmond’s down 2015 campaign (.233 AVG with 19 home runs and 13 steals) still makes him a standard mixed-league option, and I’m not ready to write him off as he turns 30, but the fact that he’s still unemployed as I am writing this certainly gives me pause.
10. Marcus Semien, Oakland Athletics
11. Brad Miller, Tampa Bay Rays
12. Ketel Marte, Seattle Mariners
I touched on Semien’s 2016 outlook earlier in the week, and I feel the defensive work that he’s put in with Ron Washington will help him maintain his shortstop eligibility in the future. I like both Semien and Miller’s chances of reaching double digits in home runs and stolen bases (as they both did in 2015) on a yearly basis, while hitting for an average that won’t be a drag on the category. Miller and Marte were also profiled as “Players to Target” earlier in the week by Wilson Karaman and Craig Goldstein respectively, and their placement within this list indicates a belief that Miller can fend off the number of other options on the Tampa roster for full-time plate appearances and that Marte establishes himself ahead of Chris Taylor as the Mariners shortstop of the present and near-future. Marte impressed in his 247 plate appearance debut in 2015, hitting for a .289 TAv, which was third at the position for players that received 200 or more plate appearances. He profiles as an Andrus/Segura type who could hit for a better average, and his nearly-10 percent walk rate as a rookie indicates that he may be able to draw a free pass in the future, unlike Segura.
13. Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers
14. Jean Segura, Arizona Diamondbacks
Andrus and Segura are about as similar from a fantasy aspect as any two players on this list. They both should hit in the .250-.270 range with 5-8 home runs on a seasonal basis, while stealing 20-30 bases. They both stole 25 bases in 2015, which led the position, and as long as they both continue to run, they’ll keep themselves on the fringes on mixed-league relevance, although Segura’s playing time could be eaten into by Nick Ahmed, a much better gloveman, in 2016 and beyond.
15. Jhonny Peralta, St. Louis Cardinals
16. Jose Reyes, Colorado Rockies
17. Asdrubal Cabrera, New York Mets
18. Starlin Castro, New York Yankees
We’ve reached the portion of our list where eligibility questions knock down the values of several still-productive veterans and that features a player entering his age-26 season who has already been moved to the right side of the infield.
Peralta had another solid season in 2015, hitting .275 with 17 home runs, and his .745 OPS placed him inside the top 10 at the position. His 6.6 FRAA was actually good for fifth among shortstops in 2015, but I have questions about how much longer he’ll be able to stay at the position, as he will turn 34 in May.
Reyes’ days as a full-time shortstop are likely numbered, as reports of his declining defense were prevalent, even before his move from the artificial turf at the Rogers Centre. Add to that his possible suspension for domestic violence and I’ll gladly let somebody else take the headache. Reyes’ last two seasons have looked more like an Andrus or Segura campaign than that of an option that you’d be thrilled with starting in a standard mixed league, and the presence of Trevor Story makes it likely that Reyes will see his playing time decreased even if he is on the field in 2016.
Cabrera moves to Citi Field in 2016, which could help him maintain his 15-18 home run power output, but it won’t do much to mask that he finished 30th (out of 32) at the position in FRAA and will likely slide over to second base once the Mets tire of his lackluster defense—likely after Neil Walker leaves via free agency at the end of the 2016 season, assuming the keys aren’t handed to Dilson Herrera.
Castro was moved to second base in the second half of 2015, and will start the season there in his new home with the Yankees in 2016. It’s possible that he maintains his shortstop eligibility past the upcoming season, but outside of an extended Didi Gregorius injury, it’s hard to see how that happens. Castro handled his demotion admirably with the Cubs and his production afterwards was well documented (.783 second-half OPS), but he still profiles as a below-league-average bat overall, albeit one who should reach double-digits in home runs and hit for a .260-.280 average. Castro has continued to not draw walks as he’s matured and has stopped running, stealing just 18 bases over the last three seasons after swiping 22 in 2011 and 25 in 2015, putting more pressure on his power production as he moves to the American League.
I think both Story and Turner will see 300 or more plate appearances at the major-league level in 2016—enough for each player to make an impact—but most of their respective values will come in 2017 and beyond, dinging their value on this list a bit.
Story is a notoriously slow starter when reaching a new level of competition, as I touched on last May, so even if Jose Reyes is indeed suspended for a chunk of the 2016 season, expectations should be tempered. Turner has to move past Danny Espinosa in Dusty Baker’s eyes to receive playing time in 2016, but I like his chances to force his way into at least a timeshare situation within the first few months of the season, and there’s always the possibility of an injury to one of Washington’s brittle infielders to open the door for playing time as well. Turner stole 15 bases in 68 Double-A games and swiped 14 bags in 48 Triple-A contests in 2015, showing that he doesn’t need much time to make an impact with his wheels.
Anderson could also make a similar impact in 2016 if given the opportunity, but he will likely need extended Triple-A time to further hone his defensive skills. His placement here is a testament to the damage that he can do in 2017 and 2018, but also a hedge against him moving off of the position in the future. If I were sure that he would receive a decent amount of playing time in 2016 and stick at the position, he’d easily rank inside the top 10.
22. Erick Aybar, Atlanta Braves
23. Alcides Escobar, Kansas City Royals
Aybar’s new home shouldn’t be an impediment to his game; it’s just an uninspiring one from a fantasy aspect, save for the steals. Aybar has stolen 12 or more bases every year as a starter, but if there’s anybody that can stall a running game, it’s Fredi Gonzalez. Escobar’s 2015 season mirrored that of his awful 2013 season and his stolen base total of 17 was his lowest as a Royal. These two will run enough to stay relevant in deeper leagues over the next few seasons, but aren’t worthy of investing in long-term.
24. Wilmer Flores, New York Mets
25. Eugenio Suarez, Cincinnati Reds
26. Jedd Gyorko, St. Louis Cardinals
Each of these three players would rank much higher on this list without the large questions facing each for the upcoming season. Playing-time concerns haunt Flores and Gyorko, despite their productive 2015 seasons, and Suarez faces a rumored move to third base to fill Todd Frazier’s shoes in Cincinnati. All three of these players have enough pop in their bats to be starters in 16-20 team leagues, but the possibility exists that none of them will retain their shortstop eligibility after the season, moving their values down in this exercise.
27. Orlando Arcia, Milwaukee Brewers
28. J.P. Crawford, Philadelphia Phillies
Crawford and Arcia were both very hard for me to place on this list. While I like both long term, particularly Arcia, I don’t have a good feel as of right now what the 2016 plan is for either. I could see both of them spending the entirety of the year in Triple-A and reaching the majors in September–particularly with each team’s designs on non-contention this season—or I could see either being good enough to force the issue after the Super Two date and play the rest of the season in the majors from that point.
From a fantasy valuation standpoint, these two prospects profile very similarly to me over the early years of their career. I think they both hit for a .260-.280 average in their pre-peak seasons, with Crawford hitting for a bit more home run power and Arcia making up the difference with his legs. I’d hesitate to invest fully in 2016 with either player, but they both should be regulars for about the next decade (and stick at the position) whenever they do make their debuts.
29. Alexei Ramirez, San Diego Padres
30. J.J. Hardy, Baltimore Orioles
31. Zack Cozart, Cincinnati Reds
Ramirez hit 10 home runs and stole 17 bases in 2015, but didn’t do much else and his move to San Diego isn’t likely to help his cause offensively. He’s not a bad NL-only play for 2016, as the Padres have basically nobody else to play shortstop, but as he enters his age-34 season, his days as a starter aren’t likely to last much longer. Hardy’s power has fallen off a cliff over the last two seasons, and I don’t see much in his batted-ball profile that indicates a resurgence is coming any time soon. Cozart’s .201 isolated-power mark in 2015 was an almost 50 point jump from his previous high as a starter, a number I certainly don’t see him replicating, but he could very well reach double-digit home run totals (as he did in 2012 and 2013) if he stays healthy.
32. Jonathan Villar, Milwaukee Brewers
Villar should open the 2016 season in a starting role, but will likely move to a utility role once Orlando Arcia is deemed ready, lowering his future value on this list. Villar stole 42 bases last season between Triple-A and the majors with Houston and if he gets a full-season’s worth of plate appearances in 2016, 30 or more steals should be within reach, and if he were assured of playing time over the next few seasons, he’d be a player worthy of a starting in a 16-20 team league.
33. Dansby Swanson, Atlanta Braves
I don’t think Swanson sees the majors in 2016, but a late-season cameo wouldn’t surprise me in the least, and he should be ready to start at some point in 2017, just as the Braves move into their new ballpark. Swanson’s going to be the next Derek Jeter after all, but even Cap’n Jetes needed some time in the minors. If you play in a league where great hair is rewarded (and why shouldn’t it be), then move Swanson up to the top of the list, as nobody else here has appeared in GQ to discuss the greatness of their flowing locks.
34. Jose Iglesias, Detroit Tigers
35. Didi Gregorius, New York Yankees
36. Andrelton Simmons, Los Angeles Angels
37. Adeiny Hechavarria, Miami Marlins
38. Eduardo Escobar, Minnesota Twins
Iglesias once again defied the BABIP-gods in hitting for a .300 average again in 2015, but only hitting two home runs and driving in 23 runs isn’t enough to add to his 11 stolen bases to make him anything other than a deep-league option. Gregorius and Hechavarria both showed marginal improvements with the bat in 2015, but they both don’t hit for a high-enough average or steal enough bases to offset their lack of power, and it’s hard to see that changing in the future. If Simmons can regain the power than he showed in his 2013 season (17 home runs in 157 games) with the Braves in his new home, he could be an interesting fantasy asset once again, but that’s the only season that he’s flashed that type of pop as a professional, and unless you play in a UZR/DRS league, he’s probably somebody to avoid in anything other than AL-only leagues. Escobar will reportedly open the season as the starter in Minnesota, but unless he can repeat his career-high .183 isolated-power mark from 2015, it’s hard to see him as a long-term solution at the position for the Twins.
39. Nick Ahmed, Arizona Diamondbacks
40. Chris Owings, Arizona Diamondbacks
Dave Stewart’s acquisition of Segura puts a major dent in both Ahmed and Owings’ 2016 value, and it remains to be seen what the general plan for the Diamondbacks infield is (outside of Goldy of course) over the next few seasons.
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