As you've probably been reading in our sister fantasy positional articles this week, middle infield has borne the brunt of the offensive downturn. When playing Scoresheet, factors such as handedness, defensive prowess, and durability also are in play, the back end of the shortstop rankings in both leagues can best be described as "a pile of mush." We're happy to help you dig.
As always, these rankings are developed for a continuous 10-team keeper league playing under standard Scoresheet rules, with 13 keepers and up to two league crossovers. Also as always, your mileage may vary.
Finally, one quick programming note before we hit the rankings. Our keeper rankings will proceed alongside the regular weekly fantasy positional rundown, but since many or most leagues have their keeper cut down coming soon, we're aiming to have a full set of rankings posted next week, either as an Unfiltered article or in next week's article at the latest. Those who are looking for specific keeper advice are welcome to follow along, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or hit the comments below for advice both from us and from the maddening crowd. Good luck!
1. Xander Bogaerts (Overall Ranking: 2)
The source of some controversy on our podcast, the optimistic read of Bogaerts is that he'll be an adequate hitter in 2015, which would be enough to make him easily the best continuous league option in the league. Of course, a repeat of 2014 will not only cost you this season, but cut into his future. Either way, you're keeping him, so this is mostly an academic exercise. But you're an academic audience!
Part of the downward pressure at the position is that the best players in the league are moving off shortstop after the season (although Zorilla may barely qualify again). Hanley would probably drop 2-3 rounds in next year's startup drafts, but he'll still be a quality keeper, and you certainly were never playing him for his defense in the first place, to the point where you may be better off making the same decision as the Red Sox.
An object lesson in the value of defense in Scoresheet, Hardy leaps ahead of Reyes on these rankings even though his batting approach has collapsed. Hardy gains nearly 20 points of defense on Reyes, which is almost the difference between playing Reyes and playing a second baseman out of position. You could set the keeper line at or above Reyes if you had a very strong team elsewhere, or if you play in a soft keeper league.
Chris Taylor may win the 2015 battle, but to us, Miller's the long-term keeper. Not only is he likely to be a better hitter in the long run, but his slightly heavier than average splits make him an easy player to build around year-to-year. A trade improves both of their lives immeasurably.
Below the Keeper Line
The line between Alexei Ramirez and Erick Aybar is a porous one for sure, and due mostly to 10-team leagues each having their roster filled. Aggressive players may see the reasonable options later in the draft, and keep that fifth starter or talented near-rookie instead. Asdrubal Cabrera's weakening bat makes him a below average option at either middle infield position. Alcides Escobar is about 4-6 points of defensive rating away from being a keeper. Are you struggling to find 13 keepers? Jose Ramirez is a strong pre-keeper trade target for a rebuilding team.
Outside of Tulo, Peralta and Desmond are the best pennants added style keepers in the majors. Are you sufficiently whelmed by this news? If you're unhappy with your shortstop situation, just be satisfied that you're among company.
4. Andrelton Simmons (7)
Scoresheet simply underrates Simmons' defense. Simmons with a legitimate defensive ranking moves up a tier. As is, he remains a near-certain keeper, even if he wrecks you on offense. We're still assuming that while the Silver Slugger is out of reach, 2014 was a low point for the bat. He's the kind of player who allows you to move Chris Davis to third base, or play three corner outfielders, or something similarly wacky.
5. Starlin Castro (9)
A player with some relatively wide error bars, PECOTA's forecast sees Castro giving back about half of his 2014 gains. Combined with the weak defense and long-term positional uncertainty, and he's only a solid keeper, not a great one. That said, if you're a bigger fan than the projection systems are, by all means, move him up your rankings accordingly.
6. Jean Segura (11)
We still believe enough to make him a keeper, but the questions are far louder than you would have expected around, say, June. You could argue that he's a trade candidate with his value at a minimum, but even his 40th percentile projection probably ends his long-term keeper status, and gets the Brewers shopping in the Arcia aisle.
Below the Keeper Line
We're cutting keepers short in the National League, assuming that the 7-12 options are of similar unappealing value. Zack Cozart is a destitute man's Andrelton Simmons, somehow projecting as an even less effective hitter, but his defensive value can help balance your team elsewhere. Jimmy Rollins is a fine single-year value, which may be enough with your last keeper slot. Brandon Crawford has some leftiness, some defense, and some pop, but SS/SIM is a skeptic that he returns enough 2015 value to push your team forward. Chris Owings and Wilmer Flores are not prospects, but not yet a keeper, to paraphrase a wise Louisianan philosopher.