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To read the previous articles in this series, follow the links below:

Today, our positional tier rankings series continues with a look at shortstops.

Players at each position are divided into five tiers, represented by a numerical star rating. Five-star players are the studs at their respective position. In general, they are the players who will be nabbed in the first couple of rounds of the draft, and they'll fetch auction bids in excess of $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 try to offer some insights into what we expect will happen in 2014.

We retained last year's roster requirements for the positional tier series. Dollar values come from this 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, as we did last year, we allocate $180 of a $260 budget to hitters. Players needed to play in 20 games at a position to qualify there. 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.

Players with multi-position eligibility are listed at the position where it is most likely they would start in a standard fantasy league. Anyone with shortstop eligibility will appear in this series. While you might insert Ben Zobrist into your outfield at some point during the season due to an injury, it is unlikely you would use him there at the start of the season.

Five Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Troy Tulowitzki

COL

$20.75

$23.03

520

72

25

83

3

.305

Ian Desmond

WAS

$16.04

$22.33

611

71

16

68

22

.261

It could be argued that there are no more elite shortstops in baseball, but the flattening out of the position—along with offense on the whole—pushes both Tulo and Desmond into the elite tier. Whether you prefer Tulowitzki or Desmond depends on the size of your league and your risk/reward proposition. Tulo is the no-brainer in standard and shallower mixed leagues, as even 100 games of Tulo combined with 60 games of a replacement level player could make a huge difference. Desmond is the consistent guy you want in deeper mixed and NL-only. He puts up solid numbers across the board and only his batting average keeps him from being a Top 10 overall draft pick.

Five-Star Value Pick: Ian Desmond
Neither player is truly a “value pick” but Desmond is showing up four slots lower than Tulowitzki in ADP and is the better bet of the two players to play 130-plus games.

Four Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Hanley Ramirez

BOS

$19.05

$21.37

580

74

18

71

18

.275

Jose Reyes

TOR

$26.63

$24.98

652

84

11

60

29

.286

Alexei Ramirez

CHW

$7.70

$17.23

620

62

9

59

21

.266

Starlin Castro

CHC

$7.50

$17.62

630

63

9

64

11

.277

Unlike other positions, the rankings at shortstop get messy and muddled in a hurry. With the exception of Hanley, any of these players could be ranked below in the three-star tier, while some of the three-star players could be ranked in the four-star group. There are so many decisions! Hanley stands out due to his power/speed combination. The temptation is going to be the push him into the five star tier anticipating a big Fenway benefit, but the health and recent performance history say to pump the brakes a little bit.

PECOTA loves Reyes—projecting him to earn $6 more than the second-best player (Tulo) at the position—but the separation in 2014 between Reyes and lesser players like Alcides Escobar and Danny Santana wasn’t particularly significant. He gets the nod here because of his consistency, but Reyes’s ISO has dropped slightly every season since 2011 and while the speed is nice he is unlikely to produce at a 40-plus-SB clip now that he is on the wrong side of 30.

Four-Star Value Pick: Starlin Castro
It is a fairly typical pattern in fantasy (and real) baseball: a player breaks through early, is hyped as an elite or near-elite player for 3-4 years, fails to live up to that level of performance, and is panned as a disappointment even though the numbers overall are solid. Castro will be a 25 years old on Opening Day; he has held his own as a major leaguer and there is still room for improvement. After watching Castro go too early in drafts for the last 2-3 years, he is now going a little too late. At worst, Castro’s 2013 looks like a blip on the radar and you should get a .285-.290 batting average with 15 home runs and solid all-around production.

Three Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Elvis Andrus

TEX

$14.05

$19.04

674

78

2

44

31

.269

Ben Zobrist

OAK

$8.89

$14.35

637

77

10

56

11

.254

Alcides Escobar

KC

$10.96

$18.04

672

73

4

46

30

.259

Jean Segura

MIL

$8.42

$19.89

561

64

8

49

29

.268

Xander Bogaerts

BOS

$1.00

$11.62

561

60

14

61

3

.255

Erick Aybar

LAA

$0.42

$12.84

566

57

6

48

16

.265

Jhonny Peralta

STL

$1.35

$13.85

574

59

14

65

3

.255

Jimmy Rollins

LAD

$15.02

$20.45

649

81

13

56

25

.239

The three-star tier is crowed. It is mostly a combination of speed-only guys who don’t quite offer enough of anything else to make it to the four-star group along with all-around performers who don’t quite produce enough to make it to the four-star group either. In a standard mixed league, nearly all of these guys are likely to be starting for someone.

Segura and Bogaerts offer the most upside. Bogaerts struggled last year in his first full season, but is still very young and now has an extremely improved lineup around him in his sophomore campaign. Segura looks to bounce back from a lost campaign that included the unfathomable tragedy of losing his infant son. Rollins’s raw numbers are enticing (and PECOTA loves him), but his age makes me reluctant to rank him any higher.

Three-Star Value Pick: Erick Aybar
I could duplicate last year’s comment for Aybar in this space. He gets no respect from either the NFBC drafters or PECOTA, but every year Aybar steadily produces 6-10 home runs, 15-20 steals, and a solid batting average. There are other guys I’d rather have in a vacuum, but if you don’t want to overreach for position scarcity, taking Aybar in the 13th or 14th round of a 15-teamer is a solid play.

Two Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Daniel Santana

MIN

$13.87

$19.27

639

74

7

52

24

.274

Javier Baez

CHC

$8.68

$18.73

520

66

25

71

14

.224

Chris Owings

ARI

$0.83

$14.85

536

56

11

54

12

.262

Asdrubal Cabrera

TB

$2.34

$12.82

566

62

13

58

10

.250

J.J. Hardy

BAL

-$0.88

$10.77

568

55

15

65

1

.249

The two-star tier is an odd mixture of reliable performers with a low ceiling due to low batting averages and a couple of players who are getting a lot of ADP love despite a limited track record or no track record. Asdrubal and Hardy are the boring reliable guys who probably won’t do more than earn $15 or in the only leagues at best, and are the definition of replacement level in standard mixed. Hardy’s power swoon last year was likely an anomaly, so he could be a sneaky power source.

Santana and Baez are the early positional ADP darlings but both come with a high amount of risk. At least the Baez love is understandable. Despite the considerable downside, if he can overcome the greater than 40 percent whiff rate and post that PECOTA projection, he’d be worth owning in standard mixed even with that bad BA. Santana was great last year but his value was tied to a .405 BABIP that elevated his numbers across the board. Maybe Santana can be an Escobar or Andrus type, but that is his ceiling and the floor is extremely ugly.

Two-Star Value Pick: Chris Owings
The shoulder is a concern to some degree, but with Didi Gregorius out of the picture, Owings should get a clean shot at the shortstop job in Arizona. As the tiers above demonstrate, power/speed combinations at shortstop aren’t particularly common, and Owings has 15-home-run/15-stolen-base potential. The batting average might not be there, but it isn’t there for any of the other players in this group anyway (unless you believe Santana is going to duplicate that BABIP).

One Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Brad Miller

SEA

-$15,06

$5.94

382

41

9

40

5

.250

Jed Lowrie

HOU

-$2.23

$9.89

534

56

12

57

1

.258

Didi Gregorius

NYY

-$14.76

$5.36

445

43

8

44

2

.244

Andrelton Simmons

ATL

$5.42

$15.14

634

70

12

58

6

.255

Brandon Crawford

SF

-$9.42

$8.67

531

51

8

49

3

.238

Wilmer Flores

NYM

-$4.12

$11.55

512

51

14

58

1

.254

Welcome to the one-star tier. Residing here are either the boring, vanilla deeper mixed and only options or the guys whose upside isn’t enough to overreach in a standard mixed. Crawford and Lowrie are both capable major leaguers, but Crawford’s ceiling seems awfully limited while Lowrie always seems to be somewhat dinged up. PECOTA is a big believer in a Simmons’ bounce back, but the power from 2013 is going to seem like an anomaly unless or until he does it again. Miller was probably overrated last year but perhaps could do a little bit better with another season under his belt. Gregorius gets the park boost but it is an open question as to where his offensive ceiling is.

One-Star Value Pick: Wilmer Flores
He isn’t discussed much as a young up-and-comer, but Flores held his own in half a season in Triple-A at the age of 22 (in a very favorable offensive environment, granted) before his promotion to the Mets. Flores is being ignored by many who believe that he won’t hold his own defensively at shortstop, but if the glove survives that PECOTA projection isn’t out of the question. It is a shame that the Mets piss poor financial situation has turned Flores’s name into a part of a punchline, but don’t let that fool you into overemphasizing the major league results for a 22-year-old in two abbreviated stints at Citi Field. There is still a lot of opportunity for growth.

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MikeGianella
2/03
I have him 27th. He could easily slide into the one-star though; most of these guys are interchangeable.
johnklein
2/03
I second the Mercer question. 20.3 VORP in the Pirates Depth Chart. I realize there's a question with PT because of Kang, but still.......not worthy of at least one star?
MikeGianella
2/04
The list cuts off at 25. There's really a nominal difference between Flores - the last SS listed here - and the next 3-4 guys, which includes Mercer.
sebaker
2/03
0 star value pick: Jose Ramirez!
Robotey
2/03
Is there any point in even attempting to predict how many games Tulo will play? Wouldn't it be better to just assign value to him based on 10 game increments? In other words, in NL-only, I'd pay, say, $25 for 100 games of Tulo. For 150 games, I'd pay $45, and calibrate accordingly. Then, when his name comes up, what you're really bidding on is the bet that he will play.
MikeGianella
2/04
That's pretty much what my bid limits do. Look for the first edition of those late this month.
Robotey
2/04
Excellent. I gotta say, Tulo's games played could easily be the difference between finishing in or out of the money in a good NL only league. I've always wanted to do cross-referencing of teams in comparable leagues to check how many pennant winners shared the same good fortune of acquiring the unforeseeable breakout players. For instance, there's got to be a correlation between how many owners picked up Tanner Roark on a lark in April and then just rode him to success. You can plan for a draft all you like, but you get lucky with Tanner Roark, Josh Harrison and Justin Turner and it can cover a few boo boos on draft day.
ravenight
2/03
Reyes last year: .287 / 94 / 9 / 51 / 30 Reyes projection: .286 / 84 / 11 / 60 / 29 Escobar last year: .285 / 74 / 3 / 50 / 31 Escobar projection: .259 / 73 / 4 / 46 / 30 Alexei last year: .273 / 82 / 15 / 74 / 21 Alexei projection: .266 / 62 / 9 / 59 / 21 Hanley last year: .283 / 64 / 13 / 71 / 14 (512 PA) Hanley projection: .265 / 74 / 18 / 71 / 18 (580 PA) Seems like PECOTA thinks only Reyes can keep his BA from last year, but almost everything else will stay the same (except that Alexei is going to have less power and a harder time scoring). How much of that $ value for Reyes comes from his projected BA? If you dropped it to Alexei's projected level, he'd still be 20 runs and 8 steals better, but that only gets him to like $14-15, right? Which brings up a different question - if, instead of Reyes failing to hit .286, you instead assumed that a bunch of these other guys would also hit the same as last year (except Tulo) - that would bring up the BA available at SS, but would it significantly reduce the value of Reyes, or only slightly reduce it?
MikeGianella
2/04
The PFM and my values are slightly different, but I have Reyes generating 14.5% of his value from that batting average with that PFM projection. If you dropped Reyes batting average to A Ramirez's level, I show him losing $2.65. It would only slightly reduce Reyes's value. Contextual changes have to be extremely significant to move the valuation needle.
phgold09
2/04
Thoughts on Chris Taylor?
MikeGianella
2/04
He could sneak ahead of Miller and get some playing time at shortstop, but the upside isn't particularly high. I'd probably put him in the top of the 0-star category if he beat Miller for the job in camp.