Opening Day of the 2015 MLB season is less than a month away, which means fantasy baseball is just around the corner. For some leagues, drafts have already begun or will soon begin and Athlon Sports is here to help.
Besides providing our comprehensive Fantasy Baseball Big Board, we also have our positional rankings, courtesy of Bruce Herman. These are pulled straight from this year’s 2015 MLB Preview magazine, which is available at newsstands everywhere and for purchase online.
A: FRANCHISE PLAYER — You need one to compete, two to win, three to dominate.
B: CAREER YEAR — Veteran with a strong possibility of delivering his best season.
C: SLEEPER — Could be a great acquisition at a price or draft slot below his true value.
D: ROADBLOCKED — Rank has been lowered because there is no current opportunity to play regularly.
E: DECLINER — Expect moderately to significantly worse stats than in 2014.
F: INJURY RISK — Has had a recent injury that could affect performance.
G: INVESTOR’S SPECIAL — Top prospect whose immediate impact may be minimal.
Batting stats are expressed AVG-HR-RBI-R-SB. Positional eligibility for specific players may vary depending on league, as well as other Web sites and resources.
2015 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Shortstops
1. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies (F)
Tulo was the third player (Ted Williams, Pudge Rodriguez) with a .340-21-52 line in fewer than 100 games. And if he had sustained his 1.035 OPS over qualifying PAs, it would have been the third-highest ever by a shortstop. Those statements are fraught with mixed messages, since he’s been able to marshal just one proper season since 2009.
2. Ian Desmond, Nationals
Desmond is queued up to become the second shortstop ever to string together four straight 20-20 seasons. He’s yet to drive in 100 runs or score 80, and his AVG (.255) is being cannibalized by an alarming mid-career SO spike (183).
3. Jose Reyes, Blue Jays
Reyes isn’t the force of nature he once was, but he assembled a nice sequence of 30 (SBs), 31 (age), 32 (SBAs), 33 (doubles). Hasn’t hit below .279 since 2005, and scores reams of runs when healthy. The confluence of age and a spindly lower half must be considered.
4. Starlin Castro, Cubs (F)
Polarizing because of his great talent, “unusual” makeup, adventurous defense and ubiquity in trade rumors. More objectively, Castro is on pace for a 2,500-hit career with enough power to have been the Cubs’ first shortstop to hit cleanup since Ernie Banks.
5. Alexei Ramirez, White Sox
Ramirez shrugged off his worst season to sweep the power categories for AL shortstops with 15 HRs, 75 RBIs, 52 XBHs and a .408 slugging percentage. He’s also twice as good a base-stealer in his 30s (24 per year) as he was in his 20s (12).
6. Elvis Andrus, Rangers
At 26, Andrus is going in the wrong direction, his two weakest seasons coming back-to-back. If Texas can follow him in the lineup with something better than last year’s sub-4.0 runs/game bunch, he could be that 90-run/60-RBI/30-SB asset again.
7. Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox
Bogaerts’ full-season debut began with one homer in 43 games, peaked in June when he was hitting .304, slogged through a 22-for-151 tarpit and wrapped with a .320 AVG after Aug. 30. He’ll regain equilibrium to be a top-10 shortstop now and top-three later.
8. Alcides Escobar, Royals
If you’re looking for a shortstop to tag-team 90 runs, 50 RBIs and 30 SBs, the only other place you would have found that grouping in 2014 was Reyes. Escobar’s power is nil and his AVG erratic, but since 2011, he’s normed 28 thefts and has missed only 15 games.
9. Jean Segura, Brewers
Nagging injuries and a family tragedy conspired to make Segura a shell of the player he was in 2013. After a June/July/August in which he batted .204 with no pop whatsoever, his .319 in September resuscitated hope. At the least, his 20 SBs should creep back towards 40.
10. Chris Owings, Diamondbacks (C,F)
Batting .300 into May, Owings was corroborating our sleeper code, but then he slumped, recovered and got hurt. A smoother ride in 2014 could make him one of the value plays of the summer. Recall his .330-12-81-104-20 Triple-A campaign of two years ago.
11. Jed Lowrie, Astros
Lowrie’s robust two-year run ended with an unexplained thud, and the A’s let him walk. He quickly chose to return to Minute Maid Park, where he’s hit 11 HRs in only 222 ABs. He’s not a candidate for stardom, but he is for a resilient comeback.
12. Erick Aybar, Angels
Aybar is the flannel pajamas of shortstops — not one of the more aesthetic options, but very comfy. Over six look-alike seasons, he’s normed .280-7-52-70-19 and played in 88% of possible games. Stolen base element is evaporating.
13. Brad Miller, Mariners (C)
If Miller doesn’t win the Seattle shortstop post it’s only because Chris Taylor out-gloved him. If he does, he’s going to hit enough to be one of the year’s better buys. That’s not readily apparent from his results to date, but — trust us — he can rake.
14. J.J. Hardy, Orioles
His fantasy value has been tied to his five 20-HR years. His collapse to nine pushed him deep down into the pack. Despite a pathetic SO/BB ratio (3.6), the O’s re-upped him at nearly double his salary. You, conversely, should pay half.
15. Jordy Mercer, Pirates
Mercer, another of our 2014 sleepers, weathered an appalling start (.199 AVG, 1 HR through May) to do a .278-11-48-44-4 the last four months and cement himself as a top-half shortstop. Further advancement would not surprise.
16. Jhonny Peralta, Cardinals (E)
17. Andrelton Simmons, Braves
18. Brandon Crawford, Giants (B)
19. Jimmy Rollins, Dodgers (E)
20. Eduardo Escobar, Twins (B,C)
21. Wilmer Flores, Mets
22. Adeiny Hechavarria, Marlins
23. Jose Ramirez, Indians
24. Jose Iglesias, Tigers (F)
25. Marcus Semien, Athletics
26. Didi Gregorius, Yankees
27. Yunel Escobar, Rays
28. Zack Cozart, Reds
29. Freddie Galvis, Phillies
30. Francisco Lindor, Indians (G)
31. Nick Ahmed, Diamondbacks
32. Alexi Amarista, Padres
33. Chris Taylor, Mariners
34. Ruben Tejada, Mets
35. Jonathan Villar, Astros (D)
36. Clint Barmes, Padres
37. Eugenio Suarez, Reds
38. Stephen Drew, Free Agent
39. Marwin Gonzalez, Astros
40. Andrew Romine, Tigers