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June 1, 2017

Updating the Tiers


by Eric Roseberry

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Welcome to the Baseball Prospectus in-season rankings update to our preseason positional tiers article. As we did before Opening Day, players at each position will be divided into five tiers, represented by a “star” rating. In addition, unlike with the preseason “star” ratings, these lists can also be viewed as a straight ranking.

If you are wondering why a specific player isn’t listed, please note that in many cases players in the one-star tier and players who are not ranked are interchangeable.

The rankings above assume a 15-team, standard 5x5 Roto 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). Position eligibility is based on either 20 games at the position last year or five games this year.

Here's the preseason list of shortstops.

Here's the schedule:

Wednesday: Catcher, First Base, Second Base
Thursday: Shortstop, Third Base, Outfield
Friday: Starting Pitcher, Relief Pitcher

Five Star

Trea Turner

Carlos Correa

Francisco Lindor

Corey Seager

Manny Machado

The core of the five-star tier remains relatively unchanged, with a few exceptions. For the most part, Turner has lived up to the preseason hype. The batting average should come up soon, and he leads this group in stolen bases. Lindor has sacrificed average for more power, and he’s already almost matched his career high in that category.

Even if we had this season’s stats available ahead of time, Manny Machado would still be drafted like a five-star shortstop in most leagues. His batting average has made him much less valuable than the other options in this tier. If you’re a Machado owner, you’re banking on his .223 BABIP not lasting much longer. There’s still a lot to like here, but the .210 average has been a major drain for owners who drafted him looking for something closer to .275.

Five-Star Trade Target: Corey Seager

The Dodgers shortstop has “struggled” in May, and it’s possible you could find an owner willing to move him at this point. As of now, he’s not on pace to match his 2016 numbers, but there are reasons to believe that a surge could be coming. His fly-ball rate is up with no discernible change to his exit velocity. Seager has been willing to go to the opposite field more this season, which might help explain the decrease in homers. It’s going to be difficult to trade for any player in this tier, but he’s the most likely one to be available in your league.

Four Star

Xander Bogaerts

Jonathan Villar

Jean Segura

Elvis Andrus

Eduardo Nunez

Chris Owings

Andrus has been the biggest surprise of this category. He jumps from a three-star to a four-star in these rankings, and according to ESPN’s Player Rater he’s been the best fantasy shortstop this season. Andrus is one homer away from tying a career high in that category, and he’s on pace to eclipse 30 steals. He’s provided five-star production, but the track record keeps him from making a two-tier jump. It’s unlikely that Segura will replicate his 2016 numbers, but he’s producing like a top-five shortstop.

Owings is the other player worth mentioning here. He jumps two tiers as it looks like he easily will set career highs in all of his fantasy relevant categories. The .377 batting average isn’t going to last, but he’s hitting in a good spot in the Diamondbacks lineup with a favorable home park.

Four-Star Trade Target: Jonathan Villar

Villar fell out of the five-star tier mainly due to issues with his batting average. There are plenty of reasons to believe the average will come up, his track record being chief among them. Villar’s still near the top of the position in stolen bases. He’s not going to match his numbers from a year ago, but he’s still going to provide a lot of value. It’s probably a good time to see if you can find a Villar owner who’s disillusioned with the production so far and see if you can grab a player who could contribute in five categories.

Three Star

Tim Anderson

Trevor Story

Javier Baez

Jose Peraza

Jedd Gyorko

Outside of Gyorko, you’ve probably been disappointed by the production of the players in this tier. Gyorko has been worth starting in 12-team leagues. He’s unlikely to hit 30 home runs again, but he should provide more production than he did in every other fantasy category from a season ago. He’s not going to keep hitting .316, but he’s a pretty safe bet to hit better than his career .244 average. Peraza has been dropped to the back of the Reds lineup, but he’s a potentially cheap source of steals.

Three-Star Trade Target: Trevor Story

This is completely an upside play. If an owner drafted Story in your league he was likely hoping for numbers close to his 2016 rates. That owner is disappointed at this point, and (s)he’s probably willing to part with Story. You’re not going to get a hitter as good as the 2016 version of Story, but I don’t think he’s as bad as the version we’ve seen in 2017. The strikeouts are still a problem. However, he’s had a much more productive May, and he’s worth a shot if you have a need at the position.

Two Star

Troy Tulowitzki

Dansby Swanson

Didi Gregorius

Addison Russell

Zack Cozart

Russell has been one of the bigger disappointments at the position. His traditionally low batting average has dropped even lower in 2017, and his power numbers are well off track from last season. Tulowitzki has dealt with a hamstring issue that’s allowed him to appear in only 20 games. Swanson dropped a tier in the latest rankings thanks to his abysmal average and mediocre production everywhere else.

Based on production alone, it was difficult not to bump Cozart up an additional tier. He’s on pace for career bests in almost every fantasy relevant category (aside from steals). Yes, the .394 BABIP is unsustainable, but there are real reasons to believe he’s turned a corner at the plate. He’s nearly doubled his walk rate from a season ago, and he’s dropped his swing rates while increasing his contact rates.

Two-Star Trade Target: Didi Gregorius

Cozart has been the best player in this category, but he’d also require the most in return. Gregorius should be the safest bet across the board in this tier. His average will likely come down, but it should remain solid. He’ll have a decent amount of RBI chances in the Yankees lineup, and his home park is a plus. Of the shortstops in this tier, he has the smallest chance of impacting your lineup negatively.

One Star

Asdrubal Cabrera

Tim Beckham

Jose Reyes

Amed Rosario

Brad Miller

Orlando Arcia

Brandon Crawford

Freddy Galvis

Jorge Polanco

A few of these players have battled injuries that have cost them production and spots in the rankings. Cabrera has been dealing with a thumb injury, although he’s been playing well since his return. Crawford suffered a groin injury that cost him about three weeks of playing time. If you’re looking to gamble, now is the time to go get Rosario. The Mets seem insistent that they’re not going to call Rosario up anytime soon, but if he keeps up his current level of production they’ll have no choice.

One-Star Trade Target: Beckham

Beckham didn’t appear on BP’s initial tier rankings, but he’s become a legitimate starter in 15-team leagues. The former No. 1 overall pick (2008) is finally putting it together at the major-league level. He’s on pace for 20-25 home runs, and he’ll come close to giving owners double-digit stolen bases. Sure, there are some red flags in his profile in terms of sustaining this level of production. However, in terms of upside, there isn’t a better option in this tier.

Related Content:  Fantasy,  Tiers,  Update,  Midseason

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