Over the offseason we’ll take a look at each position on the diamond and see how the past season affected the positional rankings and where there might be some potential bounceback value picks going into next year’s drafts. (See shortstops, catchers, second basemen, first basemen, third basemen, right fielders and left fielders.)
These rankings are for 5×5 rotisserie fantasy baseball. Eligibility was determined by where the player had the most at-bats last year.
There might be some grumblings about putting Matt Kemp into a tier of his own. The fact is, he’s the closest to .300 30/30 out there and that means something. Even with the eventual bounce back that both Grady Sizemore (.276 BABIP in 09, .308 xBABIP in 09, .317 career BABIP) and Curtis Granderson (.276 BABIP in 09, .301 xBABIP in 09, .323 career BABIP) will be getting in the average department, they both should fall short of those hallowed numbers. Kemp just needs a few more fly balls to leave the yard, and with his increasing fly ball totals and HR/FB ratios, it doesn’t take much squinting to get him there.
Carlos Beltran doesn’t quite have the speed to join the top tier, but injury concerns aside, he’s pretty much the definition of the second tier. Before last year, he’d cleared 600 plate appearances for eight straight years, so he’s a decent bet as a value pick once the first two rounds are complete. Jacoby Ellsbury is in the news a lot these days, has more speed than anyone on the list, but also has very little power and may be destined for a new position. You could pick him if you are getting plus power from a position on the infield, though, and not miss a beat.
Josh Hamilton‘s position in the tier may be the most tenuous. The injury concerns are real (469 average PAs over the last three years), and speed is probably not part of the package any more (20 stolen bases and 7 caught stealings career). I would definitely be tempted to wait on him and pick the surging Carlos Gonzalez instead. CarGo rode a .320/.384/.608 second half (with 12 home runs and 11 stolen bases) into our collective consciousness. One of the main reasons for his effectiveness was that he cut down his strikeouts (23.2% in second half, 26% career), and we know he has the tools to continue producing should the refined approach continue. Bucs wunderkind Andrew McCutchen and O’s rising star Adam Jones help fill the Upside Tier, a trough that many knowledgeable readers will be dipping into next year. With Jones’ tiny walk rate (5.6% career) I just see a little more risk there. We’ve written extensively on B.J. Upton, who may yet have books written about him. Suffice it to say that his oscillating power (ISOs ranging from .046 to .209) and BABIPs (.312 to .399) make him risky.
The next tier we might as well call the “No-Power-All-Speed” tier. With his terrible 2008, of course there’s a reason to doubt Michael Bourn, but his walk rate, BABIP and line drive percentage all finally approached his minor league rates. He might have just found himself on the major league level finally, and he looks to have the best speed of this bunch. Otherwise, there’s not really much difference between Bourn, Nyjer Morgan and Rajai Davis. Take your pick.
The last tier is looking for redemption in some cases. Shane Victorino is being grounded slightly by his splits (.749 career OPS vs righties) but also by rumors that Placido Polanco will take his position in the lineup for reasons unclear. He still could provide tremendous value if he gets drafted at this tier position. It’s unclear why he stole fewer bases as his success rate (79.6%) and speed score (7.5) are still elite. Torii Hunter will get some love in the comments, perhaps, but his BABIP was at a nine-year high last year, and if his average drops, his 20/20 prowess looks a little less sexy. If batting average is not a concern, he’s a decent pickup late in the game. Vernon Wells just needs more space than we have here.
This position was deeper than I expected. Young players like Colby Rasmus, Dexter Fowler, and Franklin Gutierrez could all join the big boys with some steps forward in their games. All of them already make decent bench picks even in mixed leagues.