Jul 9, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies shortstopTroy Tulowitzki
(2) hits a solo home run during the eighth inning against the San Diego Padres at Coors Field. The Rockies won 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Positional tiers allow drafters to not only get a better bearing on the position, but also can be utilized as a way to judge if you can either wait or have to pounce on a player you want.
Tier 1 – Elite
Troy Tulowitzki– The perennial fantasy debate centers on whether to draft or not to draft Tulo. On one hand, we have a top-3 fantasy producer when healthy. On the other hand, we have a guy who has not had more than 500 AB’s in 3 years. I would recommend any drafters at the back half of their drafts (8-12) to take the plunge and snag Tulo, just for the upside alone.
If you do wind up with Troy this year, it would be wise to choose an insurance SS to step in, if or when he goes down during the season. (Think along the lines of Alcides Escobar or Erick Aybar as fill-ins).
Tier 2—Solid Buys
Ian Desmond– I debated on adding him to the Elite Tier because consistent production in fantasy baseball is paramount. Three straight seasons of 20/20 stats will get your attention, especially coming from such an anemic fantasy position. The AVG was ugly and he struck out a ton, but it does not get much better than Desmond at the SS spot of your roster.
Hanley Ramirez– I have always approached Hanley with caution as nagging injuries and motivation often affect his game. However, a move to Boston and a new position in LF means Hanley should be motivated to perform for his original team. The AVG will be there and he should find a way to get to 20HR. I can envision a .300/20/90/10 line this season.
Jose Reyes– Reyes often gets the injury prone label, but I find that somewhat misconstrued. Over the last 4 seasons he has averaged 594 AB’s. That’s pretty solid for any player, let alone a 30 year old speedy shortstop, who also plays on turf. Reyes should once again reach 30 SB’s and hit around .300. Being atop one of the best lineups in baseball will also benefit his counting stats, target him as he is one of the safer SS options this season.
Starlin Castro– Castro’s 2013 season scared many fantasy owners off going into 2014 and that caused his stock to drop. Last season though, he proved that 2013 was nothing but an aberration and he is back to the Castro we all once knew. Castro will give solid stats across the board, it would be nice to see a little more pop and more chances to steal though. Hopefully, Joe Maddon lets Castro try to get back closer to those 20 SB’s seasons in 2011 and 2012, which would further solidify Castro as one of the better options of the SS class.
Tier 3 – Steady Producers
Jimmy Rollins– I will admit that I was one of those people ready to write Rollins off going into 2014. Rollins actually hit for a worse AVG last season, but that went to the wayside as he was able to get his HR and SB back to career norms. I like J-Roll going into 2015 because he is back on a contender, hitting leadoff on a solid offense and we generally know what we are going to get from him. That sense of security from the SS position is invaluable.
Alexei Ramirez– Ramirez has consistently flown under the radar in both fantasy and real life as one of the better shortstops in the league. He is another one of those guys that plays every day and that allows fantasy owners to pencil him in and not have to worry about finding a SS replacement at an already weak position. There is no reason not to believe that Alexei will not post another .270/10/70/20 line this season.
Ben Zobrist– Zobrist has been a fun guy to own in fantasy as he has been the ultimate fantasy Swiss army knife. The multi-positional eligibility often masks that the fact that Zobrist has to get back to his 20 HR ways in order for fantasy owners to aggressively target him. In the last two seasons, Ben Zobrist has posted an average line of .273/11/61/10.
There does not seem to be any upside here, and I often find myself believing that a line like that can be replaced during the season. Ben Zobrist was slowed last year due to a thumb injury, so he maybe can rebound and reassure fantasy owners that he is worth the price tag.
Elvis Andrus– Would you ever guess that Andrus was caught stealing 15 times last season? For a guy that is solely picked for his SB’s, that kills his value. He had a down year across the board, only hitting .263, with 2 HR, and 41 RBI’s. I attribute most of that to a depleted Rangers lineup. Andrus should rebound some, and he has even pledged that he wants to steal more this season. If Elvis Andrus gets back to that 30 SB mark, then he will do just fine as your starter.
Jhonny Peralta– Peralta is one of those guys that I just cannot figure out. He will have some years where he hits for AVG and then the next year he hits for more power. Last season he was a premier power option at the SS spot as he hit 21 HR’s. If fantasy owners trust that he can repeat that and be that kind of player, then go ahead and target him in the later rounds. It would not surprise me if he comes back to Earth either.
J.J. Hardy– Has anyone seen where Hardy’s power went? The guy hit 20+ HR’s, for 3 straight seasons going into 2014. Then when the 2014 season comes around, he hits 9? There is no way that Hardy lost his power stroke all of a sudden and his batted ball data supports this. This is a conservative ranking of Hardy because there is still a little hesitancy, but I think this season is a great year to sneak in and snag that 20 HR potential at your SS spot.
Tier 4 – Wildcards
Jean Segura– Segura burst onto the scene in 2013, when he stole 44 bags and hit. 294. Going into 2014 he was a consensus top 5 SS and was often taken in the mid round of fantasy drafts. Unfortunately, Segura failed to deliver and saw his SB’s cut in half and his AVG dropped nearly 50 points. I want to attribute this down year to the sudden tragedy that Segura had to endure during the season and that his mind, rightfully so, was not fully on baseball.
Segura could prove to be a great sleeper pick this season, as that top 5 potential is still there. He is worth considering as your starting shortstop if you are targeting steals at the position.
Javier Baez– All fantasy owners are pulling for Baez to win the 2B job this spring because we can then slot him at our SS spot. When it comes to Baez. it is simple. He has to cut down on his Sheffield-esque swing, and limit his K’s. The power is legit and the talent is real, but he does us no good in AAA. If Baez can secure the spot by the time of your draft, target him aggressively as he can potentially provide plenty of pop that would suffice at your SS or MI spots.
Xander Bogaerts– All the buzz and hype that surrounded Boaegerts going into 2014, eventually drove his draft stock up to the point where there was no value to be had. For Xander to provide value this year the Red Sox need to leave him alone at SS and fantasy owners need to temper expectations. Xander Bogarets has 20 HR potential, and he is definitely worth a MI selection. The upside is still there, so do not dismiss him after just one season.
Danny Santana– Santana quietly stole 20 SB’s last season for the Twins and had a pretty solid season. He is an intriguing sleeper this year because he should supply the SB numbers, but the .319 AVG is probably a mirage. He would be great as your MI, or a handcuff to Tulo, as he can post a line somewhere along the lines of .270/5/50/30. That is pretty solid for a late round pick.
Tier 5 – Position Fillers
Erick Aybar– Consistent, durable, and boring, but he is still is valuable because he plays shortstop. If you decide to punt the SS spot, I would look no further than Aybar as your starter. He does not kill you in any category and he can do just enough that fills that starting SS void.
Alcides Escobar– Escobar is eerily similar to Andrus. If you covered your eyes and I told you each of their stat lines, you would not be able to differentiate between them. Yet, Escobar is in this tier and Andrus is in Tier 2. The method behind that is that Andrus has the track record and higher floor between the two. I like Escobar, but I am just not sold on him yet. If he can repeat his stats from last season he will climb the ranks, but going in to this season fantasy owners should target him as a nice source of SB’s from your MI spot.
Andrelton Simmons– The guy puts on a defensive clinic every night, but unfortunately we do not put enough stock into that in fantasy baseball. I have him rounding out the SS Tiers, because there is untapped potential within Simmons bat. It was not too long ago he hit 17 HR. That may be his ceiling offensively but in the waning moments of your draft and you see that your MI spot is open, Simmons is just enough of a flier that he could surprise you with some decent enough value.
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