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.
Today: Catcher, First Base, Second Base
Tuesday: Shortstop, Third Base, Outfield
Wednesday, Starting Pitcher, Relief Pitcher
Come on, it’s relievers.
1) Aroldis Chapman
4) Zach Britton
5) Wade Davis
If it were possible to have a five-star closer, Chapman would be it. Without the suspension to start the season, he’d have been the top closer off the board in all drafts. He’ll just have to settle for being top of the pops now. After him, the rest of the group could be almost in any order, and they’ve all been their excellent selves thus far in 2016. Jansen doesn’t walk anyone and he’s basically made one mistake all season (to Melvin Upton Jr. last week). Kimbrel leads all active closers with 31 strikeouts and he’s been almost perfect outside of the two home runs he’s given up. Davis was our top reliever heading into the season, and on the surface he’s been excellent, but his velocity is down around 1.3 mph from last May and his walk rate is well up. This, of course, just means he’s human.
Four-Star Value Pick: Zach Britton
There’s an anchoring with Britton that keeps him from being valued as the truly elite closer he is. Whether that’s because of his lack of strikeouts in his first season in the role (21.8 percent) is anyone’s guess, but that number shot up to 31.2 percent last season is even higher in 2016. And when he’s not striking batters out, nearly four out of every five balls put in play against him stay on the ground. He’s earned entry into this tier and has a strong argument to be the second-best stopper right now.
9) Cody Allen
10) Hector Rondon
11) Santiago Casilla
12) A.J. Ramos
13) Mark Melancon
This tier is your not-quite-elite-but-still-really-safe-and-good tier. Robertson and Familia were pretty close to making the four-star tier, but the former has his stats looking all shiny because he hasn’t allowed a homer yet. History says that won’t continue. Meanwhile, Familia’s strikeout rate is down and it’s likely a direct result of both his almost non-existent splitter usage and the decline in the number of bats his slider is missing. Of course, like Davis, this just means he’s really good rather than elite. Meanwhile in Toronto, the Blue Jays made their decision right before the start of the regular season and all indications are it was the correct one as Osuna looks the part of a top-10 closer again. The other jumper is Casilla, who has been excellent across the board and has been very successful in holding off a charge from pre-season darling Hunter Strickland.
Three-Star Value Pick: Cody Allen
It was an April to forget for the Indians’ closer and I was worried I’d have to drop him out of this tier entirely. Yet in May, he’s been, well, the good Cody Allen but with more walks. Of course, eight walks in 10 1/3 innings is forgivable when you strike out 15 and only give up three hits. Will he find the plate over the last four months of the season? Will it even matter? Allen’s stuff is so good that it might not, yet his owner is likely not happy with what he’s gotten out of his supposed-to-be-stud closer.
15) Fernando Rodney
16) Jeanmar Gomez
17) Trevor Rosenthal
18) Andrew Miller
19) Dellin Betances
20) Jeremy Jeffress
21) Brad Boxberger
23) Sam Dyson
24) Jake McGee
25) Huston Street
26) Arodys Vizcaino
27) Luke Gregerson
Yes, we have both Miller and Betances ranked above at least 10 active closers. The banked value, in the form of ratios and strikeouts, they provide is very real and generally more predictable than the save totals of the lower tier. Gomez is still holding strong as the Phillies closer despite everything we thought we knew about baseball—which led us to want to believe in things like “David Hernandez” and “Andrew Bailey”. There’s some interesting kabuki theater happening in Tampa with the Proven Closer in Brad Boxberger about to return from injury only to find that his job has been more than adequately done by one-star reliever Alex Colome. Kevin Cash’s comments all back Boxberger as the guy as soon as he returns, but we’ve seen this play out a few different ways before. Of course, with them ranked as they are, I’m sort of ruining the ending, aren’t I?
If you chose Dyson over Keone Kela as the stash for when Shawn Tolleson exploded, you chose correctly though I still believe that Kela is the better pitcher and option for the Rangers. Dyson is a ground ball machine, but doesn’t have the strikeout rate that you ideally want in your closer. Vizcaino hasn’t had to do much sharing of the closer role in Atlanta with Jason Grilli on account of the former three-star closer being a fraction of his former self. Unfortunately for Vizcaino, his save total will still reflect that of a shared closer because the Braves may not win 50 games this year.
Two-Star Value Pick: Fernando Rodney
As we all predicted, the last closer to not give up a run in 2016 is Rodney—just about the last closer anyone wanted to touch this pre-season (non-Steve Cishek division). He’s still walking too many batters, but he’s bought himself quite a lot of leash in San Diego and the only thing keeping him from being a three-star closer is the inevitability that he’ll be traded at the deadline. Of course, there are a handful of teams who would probably use him as a closer so it’s not an automatic death knell to his value—especially since he can just sit and point to the 246 career saves on his player page.
28) Hector Neris
29) Brad Ziegler
30) Ryan Madson
31) Alex Colome
32) Steve Cishek
33) Sean Doolittle
34) Kevin Jepsen
35) Ken Giles
36) Glen Perkins
37) Trevor May
38) Nate Jones
39) Nick Vincent
40) Matt Bush
One-Star Value Pick: Alex Colome
Yes I wrote that whole diatribe on Colome and Boxberger—though on second thought, it was probably too short and inconclusive to be a diatribe. Yet, Colome with the rest-of-season job is likely a top-15 closer and could be worth trying to pry away right now given the comments being made by Rays management.
Thank you for reading
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