I’m taking over the shortstop beat around these parts. You’re welcome…like Staind said, it’s been a while since…there have been tiered rankings done for the position. So you’ve no doubt been running around the waiver wire aimlessly, not knowing your Seguras from your Espinosas.
That ends now, where we try to make heads or tails of the position that, according to Baseball Monster, has only provided four net-positive value players so far this year, two of whom are now injured.
With the two names in Tier Two dropped down due to injuries, shortstop has become incredibly thin at the top. Hanley leads the way with the best category juice potential, having hit like a madman whenever he’s been in the line-up. Unfortunately, that’s only been enough for 82 plate appearances, so consider this a prayer that he can stay healthy moving forward.
Similarly, Reyes is back after a few months off and is showing no signs of rust, hitting a pair of home runs since returning and keeping his batting average robust. It’s only been 71 plate appearances for the year, and there’s always the concern of further injury with Reyes, but he’s a solid bet to produce when on the field. The buy-low window has likely expired, however.
Segura has been the position’s best player this year with 11 homers, 24 stolen bases and a .325 average. The average cooled a bit in June but the month was actually fairly positive for his fantasy outlook, as even with a drop in his BABIP he returned solid value via nine steals. The home run rate is unsustainable, but a .300 average and ample stolen bases get it done at this position.
This pair ranks two-three in terms of value to date but both are on the disabled list at present. Consider them Tier One when healthy, but their value to you depends an awful lot on how your league handles DL’d players.
There’s often the chance to take advantage of an “established player” inefficiency in fantasy leagues, because certain names are unsexy and tough to get excited about. Desmond doesn’t really fit the bill as a young 20-20 guy, but Zobrist (mid-level category juice but the highest of floors) and Hardy (all of your home runs, none of your respect) are at times undersold. Desmond is really close to breaking through to one of the higher tiers after a monster June (nine dingers) but the high-K, low-BB profile makes him a candidate for a slump to complement this hot streak.
I realize Peralta has been better than this rank so far, but his .385 BABIP isn’t going to last enough to make him more than a run-stuffer in the Tigers’ line-up. There’s value in that, but the upside isn’t great.
Cabrera returned from the DL recently and the feeling I’ve got is that his value is still a little deflated due to the time off. He’s not the 25-17 guy he was in 2011, but he’d be a solid 15-15 bet over a full season of work and won’t kill your batting average.
Ramirez and Andrus offer nice stolen base plays, even though Andrus can’t seem to get a hit anymore and Ramirez has lost all semblance of power. Franklin, who is likely only SS-eligible in some leagues, is a nice SB-HR combination that can be had for cheap (roughly a 40% ownership tag), while Lowrie might also be cheap thanks to a drop-off in category juice. Lowrie, though, has very strong underlying indicators, making him and Cabrera perhaps the best trade targets at the position right now.
Brad Miller could be nice and is worth a spec play. The rest of these names are largely one or two category producers with some obvious warts, but we’re into back-up fantasy shortstop territory. Rutledge, if he gets regular playing time again, is a nice HR-SB guy but a potential average sinkhole; the Escobars offer low-upside but consistent playing time; Aybar is steady but unflashy; Simmons is really struggling but can run if he can find a way on base.
Starlin Castro…well, the mighty have fallen, and it’s unfortunate. He looked like a safe bet for .300-10-20 for the next decade, but he’s been a disaster this year and was actually the worst shortstop in baseball for the month of June. You could make a buy-low case, I suppose, but I think it’s more likely that he needs some adjustments that will take a while to iron out.
Iglesias’ average is not even in the realm of sustainable and he doesn’t bring a whole lot else to the table; Cozart is good for pop but could be a real problem in OBP-leagues; Aviles had a really good stretch but is back to being a fill-in behind Jason Kipnis and Cabrera.
Jeter is only as far as running bases and his upside isn’t such that he’s worth using an active roster spot on until healthy; Espinosa is back in the minors but if called up or traded is a major HR-SB player but an average destroyer; Hamilton is failing to get on base in Triple-A and looking a bit too much like Gordon, as both have all the wheels in the world but wouldn’t be safe bets for a .300 OBP in the Majors right now. Hamilton is still a great spec add in a dynasty format, though.
Alright, so that’s it for this time out. This was my first time doing a tiered rankings, so I’ll toy with the format and my way of creating the tiers and then expand on a few players each week in this space to provide more context. Think someone should be higher or lower? Let me know in the comments.