Each week, the Assembly will put together their positional rankings for keeper/dynasty leagues. Players are ranked with the next five years of 5 x 5 category production in mind, so when you see Xander Bogaerts ranked ahead of Jose Reyes, that does not necessarily mean that we believe Bogaerts will be the superior short-term option. Also, players are only ranked at what is projected to be their primary position heading into 2015.
If you look too closely at the shortstop list, it might give you indigestion. There are not many sure things on this list. You will find many prospects, a handful of steady veterans and a couple high risk, high reward players near the top. Notables who missed the cut include Chris Owings, Jimmy Rollins, Everth Cabrera, Jed Lowrie, Brad Miller and top prospect Corey Seager (brother of Kyle).
Our 6 experts, with over 100 years combined fantasy baseball experience, each ranked the shortstop position, and here are the results:
1. Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies
Ron: It may always be a matter of taking the good with the bad from Tulowitzki. As long as he’s in Colorado though, the production level he offers over the 60% of the season that he’s healthy still outweighs most of the rest of the field at the SS position. If Tulo is traded though, that’s a different story. He hit .417/43/14/35/1 at home versus .257/27/7/17/0 on the road in 2014.
Tommy: You may not be able to count on Tulo for more than 100 games, but he is so much better than everybody else that it does not matter. 100 games from Tulo plus 60 from Zack Cozart is still better than what you will get from anybody else.
2. Ian Desmond, Washington Nationals
Jim: I’ll take a 20/20 year from Desmond (despite the low average) over Tulowitzki long-term. He could be even better if Rendon and Harper step it up.
Paul: A third straight 20/20 season for Desmond moves him into the elite tier of shortstops. Last year it was Desmond/Reyes/Segura who were all drafted together. Desmond clearly is a cut above them, but a ballooning K rate needs to keep his value in check.
3. Hanley Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers (Free Agent)
Kevin: I rank Desmond before Ramirez only because it’s hard to assume Hanley will stay on the field. If he could consistently reach 550+ AB, he’d be #2 on my list instead of #3.
Ron: If someone signs Hanley to be their SS going forward they might as well find a way to land Billy Butler to be their starting centerfielder too. What I’m trying to say is that Hanley isn’t likely to remain a SS starting for long because he plays shortstop like Curtis Jackson throws out first pitches. The man can still be a productive bat most of the next five years and should still garner plenty of your attention. It just might be wise to plan on using him as a 3B after next season.
4. Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox
Paul: In 2014, Bogaerts went from baseball’s top prospect to showing the kind of inconsistency one might expect from a 21-year-old in the major leagues. He had flashes of brilliance as he hit .307/.364/.453 during April, May and September, while hitting .163/.205/.259 during June, July and August. Nothing has changed as far as his long-term outlook; in fact I’d argue he’s more likely to be an elite shortstop option based on what he did in 2014.
Will: “X gonna give it to ya..” was Xander’s “up to the plate music at one point
in ’14, but he sort of fell short of doing that this past season. Xander is just 22, and the power is coming. Bogaerts had a solid September with an OPS over .800 and while there is some watered down pitching in the last month of the season, I still think Bogaerts will make a big leap in ’15 as he moves towards his hitting prime.
5. Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs
Ron: He was caught stealing in half of his 2014 attempts. A 50% success rate means he will no longer be trusted to run much. The question is; will he have enough power to be a major factor at the shortstop position over the next five years?
Will: The ‘Star Child” bounced back nicely from a tough 2013 season and I think, that is more like the Castro you can expect to see, going forward.
6. Jose Reyes, Toronto Blue Jays
Jim: The Jays are putting in a new turf due to all the injuries on the team, which should extend Jose’s shelf life and lessen the number of DL trips (hopefully).
Tommy: Reyes only averaged 254 feet on his fly balls in 2014, which was just a few spots ahead of last place Emilio Bonifacio. Given his power decline, he would be best served by keeping the ball on the ground. Reyes can still run (30 for 32 on SB attempts), but don’t expect many more than 25 steals going forward. There are a lot of miles on those tires.
7. Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers
Jim: You’ll get a decent average, 90 or so runs, 30 or more stolen bases and 60 RBIs. You might find better, but those numbers are almost a guarantee.
Paul: Andrus’ line of .263/.314/.333 really isn’t that far off of his career totals. It is a lot more forgiving with 40 SB than it is with his 27 from 2014.
8. Jean Segura, Milwaukee Brewers
Tommy: I don’t particularly like Segura, so I am not sure how he ended up so high on my list. He clearly overachieved in 2013, but he underachieved just as much in 2014. The underlying stats from the two years look pretty similar, so the truth is likely somewhere in between.
Will: Segura was fairly irrelevant in 2014, but should be slightly less irrelevant going forward?
9. Addison Russell, Chicago Cubs
Kevin: Whether he plays SS in Chicago is yet to be determined, but the bat should be at least MLB average, and soon. The drop in walk rate at AA is a bit worrisome, but hey, if Starlin can get away with a low BB%, so can Russell.
Paul: Another top SS prospect, Russell has power and speed to become an upper level shortstop for fantasy. The Cubs are giving him some time at 2B in the AFL, as they hopefully sort out their excess of premium infielders. I’m suspecting we don’t see a lot of Russell in 2015.
10. Alcides Escobar, Kansas City Royals
Ron: The difference between Escobar and Aybar is simply that Aybar often gets used in more favorable lineup slots. Otherwise, I view Escobar and Aybar as quite similar in value. If anything I give the slight edge to Aybar in R + RBI production and a slight nod to Escobar in SB production. Either of them can be my SS going forward, especially in deeper formats.
Tommy: Escobar refuses to walk, but his contact rates are pretty good. A high line drive rate allows Escobar to be an asset in the batting average category and his elite glove keeps him in the lineup every day. He won’t hit many HRs, but 30 SBs is a safe bet.
11. Carlos Correa, Houston Astros
Jim: You will need a replacement the next few years and possibly a little longer than that if he goes through the normal growing pains. Correa is perfect for owners of aging shortstops like Reyes, Hanley and Tulo.
Ron: With the full launch of Correa possibly pushed back to 2016 we may need to temper our immediate expectations just a tad. They can’t all be Mike Trout right away though. We all want a piece of the next best thing and all signs point to Correa being just that. It might just require a bit of patience on our part in the early going of the five-year window we’re looking into with these rankings.
12. Alexei Ramirez, Chicago White Sox
Kevin: He went from super speedster to showing the power he’s been missing for a few seasons. You never really know what you’re going to get from him, but he’ll produce in some way. Just remember that he’s no spring chicken at this point.
Paul: Ramirez had an excellent 2014 season with 15 HR and 21 SB. His OBP of .305 (career .314) limits his upside as does his age, as he enters 2015 at 33 years old. A dip to 10 HR/15SB would hurt a lot of his value, especially with his average at .270. It’s been a good run, but there isn’t 5 years left for fantasy purposes.
13. Asdrubal Cabrera, Washington Nationals (Free Agent)
Paul: Cabrera enters 2015 as a 29-year-old free agent who can play both middle infield spots. He is a steady performer. Look for 75/15/75/10/.250 with a possible uptick depending on where he lands.
Will: Yeah, it gets a bit rough at the SS position. You know what you’re getting
with Asdrubal, but for how long? Figure on mid-teens home runs and 60-70 runs and RBIs for the next few seasons.
14. Danny Santana, Minnesota Twins
Jim: He’s a 3 category guy worthy of his rank as long as he can maintain a high batting average. As for home runs and RBIs, be happy with what he gives you and don’t draft him for either.
Kevin: The speed is legit, but everything else is a bit suspect (high BABIP, poor BB/K, not great contact %). That being said, he has the raw tools to continue to produce. For dynasty leagues, I’d rather gamble on him than rely solely on old veterans like Rollins.
15. Erick Aybar, Los Angeles Angels
Jim: There is nothing special here, but he will contribute a little everywhere along with a decent average. He’s a fall back option, which isn’t a bad thing.
Will: Nothing flashy here, folks, but Aybar will be decent and not kill you entirely in any category.
16. Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians
Paul: While Lindor likely won’t start 2015 in the majors, he should be ready by year’s end. He has surprising pop with excellent speed and should be a solid lead off hitter for the Indians. Look for 8-10 HR with 25+ SB with a good AVG and OBP.
Tommy: Lindor is an elite defensive talent, but his offensive upside looks similar to Alcides Escobar. Jose Ramirez has proven to be a solid stop-gap, so Lindor’s debut might still be a ways off and he may not be a legitimate fantasy producer until after our five-year window is up.
17. Jhonny Peralta, St. Louis Cardinals
Kevin: I like power from the MI when you can get it, and he should continue with 20 HR and a respectable if not helpful BA. He’s not young, but he’s proven, and that counts for something at a shallow position.
Ron: Still going strong and no reason to think that will stop at least for the next few years. Peralta will be 33 in May and should continue to provide a predictable state line for fantasy owners who punt their SS or middle infield position and just want something reliable to plug in.
18. J.J. Hardy, Baltimore Orioles
Kevin: The power outage will let you get him at a discount in 2015, but it’s hard to tell whether the HR will get back above 15. He also posted a career-worst BB/K, so it may be more decline than an unlucky off-year. Still, he’s worth a gamble given the relative uncertainty throughout the SS ranks.
Tommy: Hardy’s HR/FB rate was a crazy low 5.6%, but his average fly ball distance remained near 277 feet. Hardy will hit more HRs next year, but he is 32, so a slow decline is likely.
19. Wilmer Flores, New York Mets
Jim: He hit .292 in the minors and .321 in AAA. There is double-digit power here as well so you’ll get a nice mix of numbers. Unlike other shortstops, you won’t find any speed here.
Ron: His glove might not keep him at the SS position but his bat will be useful whether he stays there or makes the move over to 2B. For comparison sake, he might be able to give us about what Jhonny Peralta has for the better part of the last five or six years.
19. Andrelton Simmons, Atlanta Braves
Tommy: Simmons has the contact rates to hit for a decent average, but he does not steal many bases and he is unlikely to hit more than 12 HRs. Unless you get points for web gems, Simmons is best left to another owner’s roster.
Will: I like Andrelton plenty, but most of his worth revolved around his defense in 2014. Expect that to change a bit in 2015, but I think young Simmons will start to hit his stride in the next few years.
While Troy Tulowitzki is clearly the top shortstop, Ian Desmond has been the top SS producer over the past three seasons. Those two players make up the top-tier. Neither comes without risk, but their production potential is worth that risk at an otherwise weak position. The second tier consists of two former superstars on the downside of their careers (Hanley and Reyes) and two young players who have yet to reach their peak (Bogaerts and Castro). There are some steady veterans available later on, but owners who invest in one of the top six options can earn a substantial edge if their gamble pays off.
Once you get past the top six, there are some big time prospects and a few steady, boring veterans. As you can see, there was a ton of variance for many of the players listed. None saw a greater swing than Carlos Correa who was ranked as high as third by Ron and as low as 20th by Jim and Kevin. Alcides Escobar, Jean Segura, Asdrubal Cabrera, Francisco Lindor, Erick Aybar, Danny Santana, Jhonny Peralta, and Andrelton Simmons all had high/low differences of ten or more.
We each have our favorites along with a couple of players we do not like as much as the rest of the group, but there is one thing that the entire crew can agree on. Shortstop appears to be the most talent poor position for short-term fantasy purposes. Whether you invest early or wait until the late rounds to grab a SS, you would be wise to make a contingency plan. There are no sure things here.
Still need more rankings, head on over to Fantasy Rundown where Goose will be compiling rankings for the 2015 season as well as prospect rankings and the best baseball links available this off-season.