Welcome to the Baseball Prospectus in-season rankings update to our preseason positional tiers article. As we did before Opening Day, 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. Here's how to define the stars:
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 2017.
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 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.
Here’s the schedule:
Wednesday: Catcher, First Base, Second Base
Thursday: Shortstop, Third Base, Outfield
Friday: Starting Pitcher, Relief Pitcher
Here's what the second-base list looked like in the preseason.
He’s hitting about .030 points lower than he did last year and is on pace for roughly 20 fewer RBIs, but Altuve is still the class of the position and one of the 5-10 best position players in roto.
Five-Star Trade Target: Altuve
That was an easy choice. It’ll take a lot to pry Altuve away from his current owner considering his five-category production and his positional eligibility. If the team that has Altuve is a serious contender, it’ll probably be nearly impossible to get him unless that team also has an obvious weakness that has to be addressed in a dramatic way.
I’m a big fan of Cano in just about any roto format due to his reliable production and durability. I tried to find a way to move him up into the five-star tier, but because he offers nothing in terms of steals makes that nearly impossible. Gordon offers little in two categories—home runs and RBIs—but offers decent numbers in average and runs, while providing outstanding production in steals. Gordon is currently second in the majors to Billy Hamilton in steals and there’s no reason to believe he won’t maintain that over the course of the rest of the season.
Four-Star Trade Target: Jose Ramirez
The numbers posted by Ramirez so far this season are good, but they’re not as good as they were last season. This might leave his owners frustrated, making them willing to deal based more on their disappointment than on Ramirez’ probable output over the rest of the season. He’s still a solid contributor across all five categories, even if he doesn’t end up posting an average as eye-catching as the one he put up during his breakout 2016 season.
Castro is doing his best impression of Cano, hitting for average and moderate power with no speed at the keystone. The next three players in this tier have been disappointing in 2017, with LeMahieu losing a lot of the average compared to 2016, Kipnis missing a significant amount of time and Odor losing production across the board.
Three-Star Trade Target: Cesar Hernandez
He doesn’t have the track record of a lot of the other guys in this tier, but Hernandez has outperformed all of them except for Castro. He has five homers and six steals to go with a .286 average and 35 runs and 12 RBIs.
Kinsler would have been positioned in the Three-Star tier before he landed on the disabled list over the weekend with a hamstring strain. It’s not clear how long Kinsler will be out, but the injury combined with his age and his disappointing 2017 production (a .239 average with four homers and one steal) make him a risky proposition the rest of the way.
I considered moving Pedroia up to the Three-Star tier, too, until he hit the disabled list with a wrist injury this week. He’s not expected to miss much more than the minimum, but his age and the way that wrist injuries tend to linger make me feel more comfortable placing him in the two-star tier.
Two-Star Trade Target: Jonathan Schoop
He’s not the most exciting play in this tier, but Schoop is reliable and is still only 25 years old despite the fact that it seems like he’s been around for a decade. He’s hitting .275 with seven homers, 24 RBIs and 23 runs with virtually no competition for playing time as part of a good offense on a team that plays in a hitter-friendly park. Players with solid but non-flashy lines like Schoop can sometimes be undervalued in the trade market, even in knowledgeable leagues. Test the waters and see if that’s the case in your league.
There’s not a lot here, which sounds obvious given that it’s the One-Star tier. Most of the players here present significant playing-time risks as well as mediocre production. As far as I’m concerned, the most interesting player here is Schimpf, but being interesting doesn’t mean he’s a good trade target. I just like watching his three-true-outcomes-gone-wild approach in action and want to see how extreme it can get without becoming unplayable.
One-Star Trade Target: Panik
The target in this tier for me is Panik primarily because he’s in no danger of losing his starting job, unlike most of the rest of the tier. He doesn’t offer much in terms of power or steals, but unlike most of the other guys here, if he isn’t on the DL, he should get plenty of playing time the rest of the way.
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He's 26 years old, and has hit .293/.332/.462 over 200+ MLB games, while hitting 64 doubles and 23 homers. I'm not arguing for him to be a 4/5 star type of guy, but I believe he's worth more than a snarky 1-star placement. Health is the big concern here, of course, but if he's playing and hitting near the top the Jays lineup, for more games than not, I think he's got a solid shot at earning more value than a 1-star.
Two months into the season, he's had one atrocious month (.388 OPS) and one great month (1.009 OPS), making him a performance risk. As you noted, he also presents an injury risk. A pretty significant one, at that. He's 26 years old and his career high in plate appearances in the majors is 432. He hasn't reached 500 plate appearances in a season across all levels since 2013. The performance risk and the injury risk combine to make Travis a big gamble.
He has a higher ceiling than a lot of guys in the one-star tier. The best version of Travis, when he's healthy and hitting, is better than most of those guys can hope to offer. However, betting on getting that version of Travis would have been a losing proposition in each of the last few years because of the games he's missed and the stretches he endures where he doesn't hit.
If your risk tolerance is higher than mine and you like to gamble on upside, move Travis up in your rankings. These rankings are meant to be a starting point, not the final word. As you can see from my picks in a few other tiers, I value reliability and durability a little more than some other evaluators and my picks reflect that. If you're more of a gambler, then by all means, go and gamble.
1. Stolen Bases are harder to come by then home runs
2. Peraza likely won't hurt you as much in average as Schimpf