Previous articles in this series:
- Three-Year Rankings: Catcher
- Three-Year Rankings: First Base
- Three-Year Rankings: Second Base
- Three-Year Rankings: Third Base
Listen guys, Javier Baez doesn’t rank here. He played in more games at…
Wait. Baez… Baez is ranked here! You do not have to ask me where Baez would rank on this list, because he is indeed ranked on this list! YOU CAN’T TOUCH ME THIS TIME, COMMENTERS!*
The disclaimer for this whole series holds true: these are personal rankings, not based on a BP Fantasy Staff consensus. If you don’t like what you see here, Matt Collins made me do it. Also, one more disclaimer:
Three-year rankings disclaimer: Most of the weight is placed upon projected 2015 performance, with a substantial drop in weighting potential 2016 performance and then another drop in how 2017 output is valued. Finally, remember these are themed around positions, so losing eligibility is a big deal within the confines of this particular exercise.
The top two choices here are pretty obvious. Tulowitzki could challenge for a fantasy MVP trophy (disclaimer: not a real trophy) if he stayed on the field, but he hasn’t played in 130 games since 2011 and he suited up for just 91 last year. If he does accumulate 500-plus PA, 30-plus homers, 100-plus runs, and 100-plus RBI are well within his reach. Desmond has been consistently excellent for three years, and while his average dipped as his strikeout rate rose in 2014, there’s little reason to think that regression is real as Desmond enters his age-29 season. He’s safe, reasonably young, and still comes with upside.
Reyes finished as fantasy’s third-most productive shortstop last year, stealing 30 bases, hitting nine homers and batting .287/.328/.398. He’s in a great park for contextual factors, has largely stayed healthy for the last two years and could score 100 runs next year. Castro hit .292/.339/.438 with 14 homers and is entering his age-25 season. It’s disappointing that he doesn’t look to be a big stolen base threat moving forward, but he’s got youth and a plus-plus hit tool on his side. He ranks behind the older Reyes because there is a chance he moves off shortstop to accommodate one of the Cubs’ other talented infielders.
Here’s where the tiers really start to get interesting. In some ways, I had a tough time ranking Bogaerts this low. In other ways, it’s scary to have him this high. You can read my full thoughts about him here (or if you just Google my name at this point), but basically, I think he’ll be good-not-great in 2015 and then start to dominate in 2016. Segura battled through enough on and off the field last year for me to mostly write off his lackluster 2014 season. While he’s probably not as good as his 2013 line suggests, he can still hit 12-plus homers, steal 30-plus bases, and bat .270 or better with regularity.
Ramirez would probably rank third on this list, but this is his last year of SS eligibility and he’s moving to the outfield instead of a fantasy-friendly position like 2B or 3B. Still, if Tulo misses time, he could easy finish as the best shortstop in the game in 2015. Baez is the fantasy world’s preeminent boom-or-bust proposition, and if he ever quits his part-time job as a human windmill, he could turn into a fantasy monster. He’s also unlikely to stay at shortstop, but he could be a top-three second or third baseman by 2017.
I had an awful, awful time with this tier, even speaking to Craig Goldstein on purpose in order to try to get some help. Ramirez and Zobrist are fairly old, but they’re still quite useful and look primed to have solid 2015 seasons. Ramirez’s speed may start to leave him as he reaches his mid-30s and Zobrist is already declining, but they’ll get the job done in the short term.
Andrus is young and seems like he should be higher, but he’s pretty much a two-trick fantasy pony at this point, only offering meaningful contributions in R and SB. Peralta turns 33 this year and sees a lot of season-to-season fluctuation in terms of AVG, but he can routinely challenge for 20 homers and a good RBI total; all that can also be said for Hardy, I just don’t like his odds of producing quite as much.
Rollins’ age knocks him down here, but I like him to have the best 2015 of anyone in this tier. He could easily perform as a four-category fantasy threat atop a potent Dodgers lineup.
Here are some of the more exciting young names you’ve been waiting for. Owings has the potential to contribute modestly in all five fantasy categories, as evidenced by his decent showing in 332 PA last season. Lindor has similar potential and a higher floor, but probably won’t see regular playing time until the second half of 2015. Russell has the most upside here by a longshot but has the least certain path to regular plate appearances in this time period. Still, if you’re not planning on competing in 2015, you’d be wiser to invest in this tier than anyone in the tier above.
This group is… not exciting. Escobar is only 28 but tremendously volatile, equally likely to be a borderline top-10 fantasy shortstop or essentially useless any given year. Aybar is steady, but he’s older than you think (unless you think he’s 31) and doesn’t run much anymore. Flores has been largely forgotten since he’s not yet blossomed into a star, but he’s only 23, has been terrific in over 700 Triple-A PA and should have SS eligibility at least through 2016. I like him more than most if he gets the playing time he needs.
This seems low for Simmons, and while he’s assured of playing time and has some power, that’s really it. Lowrie isn’t assured of playing time thanks to his health, but he’s got the most upside of anyone in this group save Escobar. Crawford is as boring offensively as he is dazzling defensively, but he’s got guaranteed playing time. When you’re talking about shortstops, that’s all it takes to avoid the bottom grouping.
Let’s hear it for upside! Correa might be a bit higher up on this list were it not for a leg fracture that ended his 2014 season prematurely: now he looks like a safer bet to debut in 2016. Seager’s on a similar timeline, and while his hit tool may be better than Correa’s he’s a worse bet to stick at short and lacks Correa’s power upside. Still, these are two of the best prospects in the game and could both be top-10 shortstops (or third basemen) by 2017.
Blergh. Miller still has some upside thanks to his ability to post double-digit homers and steals, but he’s hit .241 in 763 career PA and could lose his job to Chris Taylor. Gregorius figures to get plenty of playing time in a solid lineup in 2015, but lacks any semblance of a carrying fantasy tool. Cabrera is moving to second base, now bats in a crappy lineup in a bad park and hit .241 last year. He’s only 29, but his career is not headed in a good direction.
Santana was really good last year, but that .405 BABIP looms large, as does his time in center field. Cozart has power sort of but was god-awful last year and is an NL-only guy even in his peak seasons. I usually like ending these with puns but good luck finding something that goes with Cozart.
Notable Omissions: Alen Hanson, Pirates; Jose Ramirez, Indians; Chris Taylor, Mariners; Jordy Mercer, Pirates; Luis Sardinas, Brewers; Jose Iglesias, Tigers; Yunel Escobar, Nationals; Stephen Drew, Yankees; Adeiny Hechavarria, Marlins; Freddy Galvis, Phillies; Cliff Pennington, Diamondbacks
*Yoan Moncada would rank 27th on this list.
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