Welcome, to Baseball Prospectus’ first (or at least first time in a long time) in-season rankings update to our preseason positional tiers article. As we did during the preseason, players at each position will be divided into five tiers, represented by a “star” rating. In addition, unlike with the preseason “star” ratings, these lists can also be viewed as a straight ranking.

Five-star players are the studs at their position. In general, they are the players who will provide first or second round draft value and will be worth $30 or more in auction formats. Four-star players are a cut below the studs at the position. They will earn more than $20 in auction formats. 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 the types of players who provide back end roster value. The positional tiers aren't simply a regurgitation of what has happened year-to-date but rather try to offer some insights into what we expect will happen the rest of 2016.

If you are wondering why a specific player isn’t listed, please note that in many cases players in the one-star tier and players who are not ranked are interchangeable.

The rankings above assume a 15-team, standard 5×5 Roto 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). Position eligibility is based on either 20 games at the position last year or five games this year.

Monday: Catcher, First Base, Second Base
Tuesday: Shortstop, Third Base, Outfield
Wednesday: Starting Pitcher, Relief Pitcher

Five Star
1) Mike Trout

2) Bryce Harper

3) Mookie Betts

4) Yoenis Cespedes

5) Starling Marte

6) Ryan Braun

7) Andrew McCutchen

We’re getting really close to the point where Harper can overtake Trout for the title of top overall player in fantasy, but as you can tell by the rankings you just read, he’s not there yet. With Trout looking to reverse his declining stolen base output, he’s the stud we all knew he would be. Yet with Harper running a lot more under Dusty Baker than he did under Matt Williams, it’s really just the batting average that is the separator at this point, and their true talents lie far closer together than the roughly 50-point difference right now. Enjoy them. Love them. Own them.

Betts is sneaking up on becoming the first double-digit performer in both homers and steals, while his counting stats explode (he’s on pace for over 140 runs and over 120 RBI—which is insane in this day and age). Meanwhile, about 200 miles to the southwest, the Mets have yet another in-prime superstar on their hands as Cespedes has picked up right where he left off in the last two months of 2015. Unfortunately for Mets fans, he looks poised to hit himself right out of that contact and find himself right back on the free agent market this winter. The Pirates have been aggressive on the basepaths this year and Marte, who picked up his 13th steal last night, has led the charge. Unfortunately for him, the offense surrounding him (and his complete inability to draw a walk) has led to surprisingly low counting stats up to this point. This ranking supposes that I like that aspect to change. Braun would be up near Cespedes if there wasn’t a constant lingering fear that he might be hurt at any time. Last week, he missed a few games with a sore back, but is back to continue to lay waste to National League pitching.

And here is where we pour one out for A.J. Pollock and those who drafted him.

Five-Star Value Pick: Andrew McCutchen

Through May 22nd, McCutchen was hitting .248/.337/.467 and outside of the eight homers, it’s been a disappointing start for those who took him in the first round this year. Yet we don’t have to have too long of a memory to know how this story might end. Last year through May 22nd, McCutchen was hitting .240/.337/.404 and was even more of a disappointment to those who drafted him than he has been this year. Yes, there was the knee injury that contributed to this in 2015, but the same knee has bothered him off and on this year as well. If he’s not running enough to steal 20 bases anymore, there’s a cap on his value, but he doesn’t to hit that number to be a five-star outfielder.

Four Star
8) George Springer

9) Giancarlo Stanton

10) Chris Davis

11) Charlie Blackmon

12) Christian Yelich

13) Adam Jones

14) Lorenzo Cain

15) Gregory Polanco

16) Jose Bautista

17) J.D. Martinez

18) Nelson Cruz

19) Hanley Ramirez

20) Carlos Gonzalez

This tier isn’t quite as thick as it was during the preseason, as some of the names have fallen into the depths and some (Betts, Marte, Braun) have ascended to the heavens. Springer has been solid but hasn’t been stealing bases at the rate that many expected. Success rate, that is—he’s been caught six times in nine attempts. Stanton has taken his strikeout rate from high to excessive and it’s going to put a hurt on his batting average. But with the bottom of the lineup just a shade cleaner than a cesspool, that runs scored total might end up as the most disappointing number in his profile. Jones and Martinez did not get off to good starts, but the former turned it on at the beginning of May and the latter is right in the midst of a streak that makes it look like he never disappointed to start with.

Three names have jumped from inside the top 30 to inside the top 20 in Yelich, Polanco, and Ramirez. The Marlin isn’t running a ton yet, but his contact skills suggest that he’s finally ready to make a run at that batting title, and there’s been more usable power than we’re accustomed to seeing. It may not be a huge dip, but he’s hitting fewer grounders than ever before (58.5 percent), and any additional balls he can put in the air is a good thing. The elder statesman of the group is enjoying his last season of non-first base eligibility without actually having to step foot in the outfield (thankfully). He’s more comfortable at the plate, he’s hitting in the middle of possibly the best lineup in baseball, and most importantly he’s healthy. Sometimes I think that the best possible thing to happen to Ramirez was the vilification of Pablo Sandoval, as it let him off the hook and had to have made it much more comfortable for him to play in Boston.

Four-Star Value Pick: Gregory Polanco

The power would come, they said. Look at that body, they said. Well, this year we’re seeing it. Polanco is combining a step forward in power (his current .227 ISO would be more than 100 points higher than last year’s) with a better approach at the plate. And this isn’t just an “I’m going to see more pitches” thing, he’s not really swinging less than he has previously. He’s just not letting his pitches go by anymore. He could push for a 20/20 season this year, complementing that with over 100 runs and a run at the league lead in doubles. Get ready to start calling him a star.

Three Star

21) Odubel Herrera

22) Mark Trumbo

23) Hunter Pence

23) Adam Eaton

24) Justin Upton

25) Dexter Fowler

26) Michael Conforto

27) Jason Heyward

28) Wil Myers

29) Matt Kemp

30) Billy Hamilton

31) Jackie Bradley Jr

32) Nomar Mazara

33) Jacoby Ellsbury

34) Stephen Piscotty

35) Marcell Ozuna

36) Gerardo Parra

This is the crossroads tier. A place where risers like Myers, Bradley and Mazara can roll down the windows and wave to fallers like Upton, Heyward and Ellsbury. Atop the tier, however, is one of the biggest risers of them all. Herrera started the year off at the top of the one-star tier, but his incredible transformation even from last season has catapulted upwards. He already has drawn more walks (31) than he did last season (28), and he has a quarter of the strikeouts to show for it. This leaves him as a true candidate to hit .310 or higher consistently—and when paired with some pop and speed, you get a player who is super closer to joining the four-star world.

The helium continues. Conforto is establishing himself as a hitter who can contribute both in average and power, and down in Texas, Mazara is doing the same. Both were already high-end options in dynasty leagues heading into the season, but redrafters can believe as well. Bradley is not this good, but if he were, he might be the leading candidate for AL MVP. Instead, he’ll likely settle as more of a .290-.300 hitter with near 20-homer power and some steals to boot. That is a far cry from the defensive specialist many thought he was becoming.

Three-Star Value Pick: Billy Hamilton
Yes, Hamilton has only stolen eight bases so far this year, which is far off from the elite number he needs to make up for the fact that he doesn’t really offer much value anywhere else, despite his single home run and 18 runs scored. It’s not even that his batting average has been so great this year either—he was hitting .243 heading into Monday’s games and I’m just going to pencil him in for an 0-fer against Kershaw since that’s the safe bet with just about everyone. It’s the nature of his hits. Hamilton has reduced his fly ball rate so far from just north of 37 percent in each of the last two seasons to 23 percent this year. More grounders and line drives are a wonderful thing from Hamilton, they just haven’t shown up in the raw numbers yet. Give it time.

Two Star

37) Ben Revere

38) Randal Grichuk

39) Denard Span

40) Jay Bruce

41) Khris Davis

42) Leonys Martin

43) Melvin Upton Jr

44) Curtis Granderson

45) Shin-Soo Choo

46) Yasmany Tomas

47) Kole Calhoun

48) Yasiel Puig

49) Billy Burns

50) Joc Pederson

51) Matt Holliday

52) Michael Brantley

53) Steven Souza

54) Michael Saunders

55) Alex Gordon

56) Colby Rasmus

Two-Star Value Pick: Leonys Martin
You may have heard of him from such seasons as 2013 and 2014, when he stole upwards of 30 bases in each. The power has been awfully surprising this year, especially considering he plays half his games in Safeco now, but reliance on that continuing is not the basis for this recommendation. After an April that saw him hit .200, he’s been over .300 in May with a reduction in strikeouts, and he’s now led off each of the last two games. Of course, he’s played nine more games on the road than at home and he’s hit seven of those eight homers away from Seattle, but if there weren’t warts here, he wouldn’t be in the two-star tier.

One Star
57) Carlos Gomez

58) Josh Reddick

59) Corey Dickerson

60) Melky Cabrera

61) Rajai Davis

62) Brett Gardner

63) Brandon Moss

64) Cameron Maybin

65) Byron Buxton

66) Carlos Beltran

67) Jayson Werth

68) Kevin Kiermaier

69) Kevin Pillar

70) Trayce Thompson

71) Domingo Santana

72) David Peralta

73) Mallex Smith

74) Jesse Winker

75) Ender Inciarte

One-Star Value Pick: Jayson Werth
The hidden value of Werth is his ability to produce counting stats—which is something you can’t really say of too many other players in this tier. Quietly, over the last week, Dusty Baker has started putting him in the two-hole and he has an .856 OPS (ridiculously small sample size alert) in those five games. What’s not ridiculous is that he’s likely to be pitched to differently being right in front of Bryce Harper than he was hitting in front of Wilson Ramos. The average may never be what it was, but he can get it into the .250 range and tack on a few residual steals from Dusty’s aggressive tendencies.

Thank you for reading

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Has any outfielder has such a rapid descent as Gomez since Carl Crawford?
Probably not. I'd have him ranked a little higher than this for a keeper/dynasty list, as I'm not giving up on him entirely, but this year is looking more and more lost by the day.
Interesting point. Would be really curious to see a dynasty buy low list across positions. Or just a few names.
If Kemp isn't going to run anymore, I don't see much of a difference between him and Khris Davis at this point.
How many games in the OF until Ian Desmond is considered an outfielder?
As long as he has his SS eligibility intact, infinity games.
I'd be curious to know what percentage leagues have CF, OF, OF instead of OF, OF, OF. That's what my league does and it pumps up the value of center fielders (rightfully, IMO).
Also, Brandon Belt has OF eligibility in Yahoo leagues. Maybe he'd rank toward the top of the three-star tier?
David Peralta's tier ranking seems a bit low to me. And my God Billy Hamilton is an awful hitter. He has no business being in the 3rd tier. He helps in only one category. All of those steals don't produce Runs scored. He's on pace to score another 60 Runs for an entire season. Outside of Roto leagues the guy is totally useless. He's been on waivers for the past month in my points leagues.
"The rankings above assume a 15-team, standard 5x5 Roto scoring format"