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February 5, 2014

Fantasy Three-Year Projections


by Craig Goldstein

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Everyone in fantasy sports loves to look ahead. Even in the throes of a pennant race, you can fire up a conversation about next year’s first round and it will go on for an hour. With that in mind, the BP fantasy team will be taking a long-view look at every position this offseason with three-year rankings (composite value over the next three seasons).

Shortstop doesn’t feature as much turnover as it’s up the middle partner, thanks in large part due to stability at the top. The other factor is that while there is a whole ocean of talent underneath the surface and we’re the only ones who can get at it, with only three years of projection, it’s not likely that they’ll make a massive impact. That’s why, even with so many top prospects at shortstop, only Xander Bogaerts cracks the top ten over the three year period. As expected, 2014 will weigh most heavily, and questions as to whether a player will stick at the position do factor in.

1. Hanley Ramirez
2. Troy Tulowitzki

At 30 and 29 years old, respectively, it’s fair to wonder whether these two will slip over the coming seasons, but their wealth of talent leaves them atop the mountain despite injury concerns. Coors will continue to aid Tulo for the foreseeable future, and while he’s stopped running, only his mountain mate Hanley can rival his ability to hit for power and average from the shortstop position.

3. Ian Desmond
4. Jean Segura
5. Jose Reyes
6. Elvis Andrus

More of the same from 2014 ranks, but it stands to reason. These guys are on the top of their games with the possible exception of Reyes, but given the brevity of our outlook and his remaining upside, it’s hard to push him too far down the list. Desmond and Segura are obvious, but Andrus might raise an eyebrow or two. It’s true he can’t hit for power, but he steals bases, scores runs, and at 24 years old, we shouldn’t rule out some added power over the next few years.

7. Xander Bogaerts
8. Everth Cabrera
9. Starlin Castro
10. Andrelton Simmons

Here’s where it starts getting interesting. Bogaerts is going to start in the majors this year, which is why he ranks so much higher than the other top prospects. 2014 value is the most important, and he’s going to provide it. He also benefits from a cozy home park and which should allow his power to play up even though he isn’t as physically mature as some of the other players on this list. Cabrera is a one trick pony but he’s not going to forget how to do it anytime soon. Castro had a rough 2013 but it shouldn’t obscure how good he was before nor how good he could be going forward. Simmons often gets highlighted as a better in real life type, which is of course true because he’s disturbingly good in real life. That doesn’t mean he’s not useful in fantasy though, as his steady playing time, high contact percentage and stolen-base potential make him a solid investment when projecting out multiple years.

11. Asdrubal Cabrera
12. J.J. Hardy
13. Ben Zobrist
14. Chris Owings
15. Brad Miller

A mix of youth and age, Cabrera has been sliding of late and this ranking is something of a hedge that he can get his groove back. Hardy’s best attribute is power, but at 31 he’s going to begin his decline, hence his small slide. Zobrist drops only due to questions as to whether he remains a shortstop going forward. Owings is a personal favorite and I think he outperforms this position by a wide margin if he can grab the starting job this season. This ranking is a hedge that he might not do that. Miller has youth on his side and should be able to add moderate power, but he has little speed to his game which ultimately drags down his value.

16. Erick Aybar
17. Jed Lowrie
18. Jimmy Rollins
19. Jhonny Peralta

An uninspiring bunch, they’re all solid enough but all have glaring flaws. Aybar and Lowrie have health concerns, and while Aybar’s aren’t as dire, his production isn’t nearly the same when he is healthy. Rollins had a nice 2012 thanks to an uptick in home runs but a severe downturn in his power at age 34 doesn’t bode well going forward. Peralta has no speed to speak of and his yo-yo-ing batting average dramatically affects his fantasy value. He also doesn’t boast the power you might think, PEDs or not.

20. Jonathan Villar
21. Javier Baez
22. Marcus Semien
23. Alcides Escobar
24. Alexei Ramirez
25. Addison Russell

Bring on the youth movement! There’s a chance Villar is getting severely underrated here, as he has double-digit home-run power and the potential for 40-plus stolen bases. Put those together and it hardly matters how bad his batting average is. The batting average will put a damper on his value, and if the holes in his swing are exploited enough he could find himself out of a job at some point. That there’s no one on the depth chart behind him makes this less likely though. Baez is a monster talent but the lack of 2014 production leaves a major dent in his three year value. It also seems hasty to assume Baez, with all his talent, will make use of it immediately. As dominant as he may in the long run, his three year value is still somewhat depressed.

Semien might not be a shortstop in the long term, but he adds the ability to get on base, run a bit, and isn’t a zero when it comes to pop. The upside isn’t exactly a top-10 option, but he can contribute across all categories. Russell suffers from the same issues as Baez but his tools aren’t quite as dynamic, which is no insult.

26. Stephen Drew
27. Yunel Escobar
28. Jordy Mercer
29. Zack Cozart
30. Derek Jeter

The top four guys are bottom-tier options now but should hang around for the next few years plying their same wares. Jeter is going to draw attention for his ranking, but this wasn’t to bait Yankee fans in the slightest. There’s reason enough to question Jeter’s ability to contribute starting with this coming season and whether he’ll be shortstop eligible come 2015 is in doubt as well.

The shortstop landscape is ugly when we get right down to it, and while the future is bright, without the top prospects becoming dominant fantasy players almost immediately, it’s going to stay that way. Five years from now, we may be looking at a verdant position, but for the time being, it remains as shallow and urine soaked as a kiddy pool.

Craig Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Craig's other articles. You can contact Craig by clicking here

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<< Previous Article
Fantasy Article Get to Know: Shortstop... (02/05)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Fantasy Three-Year Pro... (01/29)
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Fantasy Article Fantasy Three-Year Pro... (02/12)
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