Waiting Game: Comparing Shortstop Tiers

Method

This series goes position by position, comparing the average production you get out of the top 5 ranked, the next 5 players, and so on. We’re looking for where the value of players starts to drop, so that you can see how long you can wait on a position and what kind of hit in production you’ll take if you do. One thing to note is that I’m not restricting players to only one position for the stat information. If a guy qualifies at 2B, SS, and OF, his numbers are going to appear in all three sets.

There’s a lot of discussion about tiers in ranking players. Some fantasy managers live by it, because they like to make cut-off points where they feel the talent is noticeably different between one group of players and the next group. Other managers don’t like it and prefer a simple straight ranking. I’ve always enjoyed tiers, and depending on the format of your league, there really can be obvious gaps in talent level at a certain number of players. 

I’ve done two things here. First I use CBS’s ranking info for 5×5 roto leagues, and I show the average numbers for the top 5 players at a position compared to players 6-10, and then 11-15. Next I’ll take data from a private CBS points league and show the averages for the same breakdowns (1-5, 6-10, 11-15). Although it’s a custom scoring league, there aren’t major differences from CBS’s public points system, and anyway, a lot of times the points rankings are very close to the 5×5. The nice thing is that it boils down production to a common denominator (points) regardless of whether a player was more speed or power.

The 5×5 Roto Comparisons

Here are your 5×5 averages of the top 5 shortstop, followed by 6-10 and 11-15. I’ve rounded to whole numbers. There’s a unique case at this position.

  • #1-5: 84 R, 13 HR, 61 RBI, 33 SB, .270 BA in 594 AB
  • #6-10: 71 R, 10 HR, 56 RBI, 16 SB, .296 BA in 467 AB
  • #11-15: 69 R, 12 HR, 59 RBI, 11 SB, .266 BA in 566 AB

No, you aren’t reading that wrong. At first glance it looks like the bottom tier is just as good as the second tier, aside from BA. The weird thing that happened in 2014–okay, so it’s really not that weird at SS–was that the second tier contained players who missed significant time but did great when healthy. Tulowitzki (315 AB) and Hanley (449 AB) were in that second tier, along with Danny Santana (405 AB) who was great but didn’t get a full season of playing time. Their rates of production were high enough to offset their lower counting totals. Plus, that middle tier had an amazing BA, with the lowest being .278.

Now, as for the top-tier, what really set them apart were more speed and more AB, which led to more R. There was little power to be found at SS this season, with only three players reaching 20+ HR. That could change if Hanley stays healthy or if Hardy has a big bounce-back campaign, but I wouldn’t count on either of those.

The Points Comparison

Here’s the breakdown. With power being more valuable than speed, and a general lack of big HR totals at the position, shortstop has pretty low average points compared to the other positions. Also, those who didn’t have full playing time did not rank as high, because when everything is broken down into points, playing time does matter more. Tulowitzki went from 7th ranked in roto to 15th in my points league–though of course if you combine his points with whoever you used to replace him, your SS slot would rank better.

  • Range, 1-5: 511.5 – 554, avg. 533.9 points
  • Range, 6-10: 480.5 – 505.5, avg. 488.6 points
  • Range, 11-15: 426 – 460.5, avg. 436.8 points
  • Difference between avg. of 1-5 and 6-10 = 45.3 points = 9.3% more
  • Difference between avg. of 1-5 and 11-15 = 97.1 points = 22.2% more
  • Difference between avg. of 6-10 and 11-15 = 51.8 points = 11.9% more

.

  • Range, 1-5: 511.5 – 554, avg. 533.9 points
  • Range, 6-15: 426– 505.5, avg. 462.7 points
  • Difference between avg. of 1-5 and 6-15 = 71.2 points = 15.4% more

 .

  • Range, 1-10: 480.5 – 554, avg. 511.3 points
  • Range, 11-20: 375 – 460.5, avg. 408.2 points
  • Difference between avg. of 1-10 and 11-20 = 122.5 points = 27.2% more

There’s really not a lot of difference between the top 5 and the next tier, at least not compared to other positions. The jump between 1-5 and 6-15 isn’t all that scary. And because the guys who missed time were pretty good, they made the drop between the middle tier to the bottom tier look not so bad, too. In other words, it was a bad year for shortstop production across the board. That doesn’t happen every year, but as you can tell from our SS rankings, value is all over the board because there are no clear-cut rankings.

The Bottom Line: Disparity between top third basemen and the rest depth was huge in 2014. The issue with shortstops is that none stood out, so the difference between them wasn’t enough to make or break your team. For strategy in 2015, you should target Tulo and pray hard for health. Or if the risk there worries you, then I suggest targeting someone with a good health record, strong BA, and good speed. In points leagues, I’d probably pass on Tulo because you really do need to accumulate AB with your high picks, in order to profit off them. The top spot (Alexei, believe it or not) was followed two high-R, high-SB guys, Gordon and Reyes. Desmond would seem to be a good grab because of his 20/20 ability, but the huge strikeout numbers drag down his total in points (ranked 10th). I’d prefer the BA/SB/R guys in 2015.

Compare tiers for the rest of the positions

CatcherFirst BaseSecond BaseThird Base ShortstopOutfieldStarting PitcherRelievers

Kevin Jebens

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Fantasy baseball player since 2000; winning leagues ranging from 12-team H2H to 18-team experts 5x5. Has written for various baseball blogs, including the 2013 Bleed Cubbie Blue Annual.