The rankings continue like you knew they had to, as we went over our Top 25 Catchers, Top 25 First Basemen, and Top 25 Second Basemen earlier this week. Next up are the Top 25 Shortstops and let’s get to it.
Tier 1: Your Side of the Bridal Party
1. Manny Machado (Baltimore Orioles) — This top-flight story of fantasy baseball SS are the equivalents of your inner circle of trusted confidant(e)s you’d want flanking you at the altar as you exchange vows with your soon-to-be spouse. They are ironclad picks to be groomsmen or bridesmaids at your wedding and you would trust them with your life. Manny Machado is top of that very esteemed heap (though I think he may prefer to be Best Man vice Maid of Honor; sorry, ladies). Not worth worrying too much about semantics of the analogy here since Machado is certifiably your closest friend who’s been through highs and lows with you, and he’s the one person you ensure is in place to make sure your big day (read: fantasy season) goes according to plan with flying colors. He has eligibility at both 3B and SS after sufficient starts at both spots last year for Baltimore, making him even more of a treasure for the roster flexibility. He’s gone yard 35 and 37 times in the last two seasons, coupled with 102 and 105 RBI, respectively. Those are some beefy numbers, friends. What’s more, Machado brings a superb average to the plate that’s been increasing since the start of 2014. If you don’t expect .290 from him, you’re being too stingy in your forecasting of Machado’s abilities or you’re too stubborn to accept the truth that he is a one-man wrecking crew. If only he could get muster a healthy chunk of his 2015 steals back, he’d be a Top 5 pick instead of *just* a first-round pick overall for 5×5.
2. Carlos Correa (Houston Astros) — Carlos Correa is the guy that helped you pick out cake and a DJ for the wedding when Machado was out of town on business. You’re pretty sure he would have made the bachelor party happen if called upon to do so but you’ve known the best man longer and rightfully deferred to his judgment and planning instead. Machado might be leading the way with speeches and being in the right place at the right time all day long, but Correa is keeping family members thrilled to be there and he’s a great dancer for the reception (It’s worth noting seriously here that if Trea Turner had fantasy SS eligibility here, he would be the No. 2 pick and Correa would slide to third). Correa is entering his third year in the majors, but like Francisco Lindor of Cleveland about whom we’ll speak more later, 2016 was the first time the young shortstops participated at the MLB level for the whole season. The 2015 AL Rookie of the Year award winner, Correa did not disappoint during his sophomore campaign: 20 HRs, 76 runs, 96 RBI and a .278 average with 13 SB. His ISO went down from his rookie year, as did the BA and HR count slightly. Hard contact is upward bound and a HR/FB ratio of 17-18% should be easy to hope for this time around. Plate discipline also took a slight hit in Year 2, but the wear and tear of a 162-game season is not something you just snap in to fully accustomed. I’ll consider Correa having a rock-bottom floor of .270 and hope for .285: this Astros team is stacked and Correa will be no different, providing well over 115 weight runs created and tons of fantasy joy for his owners. He has been accurately and necessarily branded with a 2017 second-round pick iron.
3. Corey Seager (Los Angeles Dodgers) — Corey Seager flew in from overseas for the wedding but surprised you by being at the rehearsal dinner too. A truly standup guy you met in grad school who immediately said “yes” and ordered celebratory champagne when you asked him to be a groomsman; he even sent his RSVP with both his and his date’s dinner preferences via snail mail and not via text like the rest of these bozos you love. Seager is the defending NL Rookie of the Year, and the man is an absolute offensive dynamo. To hit for .337 during 27 games of the 2015 season can be written off as a pleasant aberration; to hit for .308 while sitting out just five regular season games is another enterprise entirely. He’s just 22 and he’s not yet known for speed, posting just a mediocre factor of 4.1 last season while stealing just a trio of bags. However, 26 homers and scoring 105 times is stunning for a rookie campaign (although it’s worth mentioning that Correa hit 22 homers in 58 fewer games during his award year), particularly when you don’t know if there will be growing pains by more than sextupling the amount of big-league action a guy is seeing from one season to the next. He mashed with 39.7% hard contact and a 17.9% HR/FB during Vin Scully’s last year in the booth, and he’s spreading the ball around plenty. There’s really nothing to dislike about the guy, save the lack of steals. Projections have Seager and Correa virtually pacing each other in the remaining 5×5 metrics, and the latter could scoot by with better marks in wOBA, weighted runs created and RBI. It’s almost a coin toss between the two: both will yield dividends in largely similar ways.
4. Francisco Lindor (Cleveland Indians) — Good ol’ Frankie Lindor is the childhood chum that features prominently in home movies of both of you playing basketball or awkwardly getting ready to go to prom that you hate being brought out at family Christmases. You always pick up right where you left off, he has a lot of dirt on you from high school that you’d really prefer to stay locked away and you still use the same dumb handshake you invented to greet one another. Lindor had been on the radar of many an Indians fan for several years before he made his highly anticipated MLB debut in 2015 and gave Correa a run for his money on the quest for newbie plaudits. His numbers are still surprising to go back and review, as he and Seager are cut from the same cloth in that they both hit the ground running (literally) in their respective debuts. Lindor has steals in his arsenal where Seager brings more power, but the RBI and scoring production were there for both guys from the outset. Projections that Lindor will go for mid-teens in HR and SB this year gives me no cause to argue otherwise, and he may not reprise the .301 BA of 2016 but you can bet he’ll be damn close with .285 (Correa’s ceiling) probably serving as his floor. The Puerto Rican sensation has a good eye, swinging-and-missing only 8% of the time on his career while also managing an inhuman 71.4% contact with balls outside the strike zone. He should push for 85 runs and 80 RBI, especially when you consider Edwin Encarnacion is on cleanup duty right after him in the order. Correa may have him beat slightly in these run-related categories when the year is through, but Lindor could post the best average of this 2-3-4 crew while also snagging the steals edge here. It’s going to be a bona fide dead heat in much of the H2H 5×5 round robin between these top-tier youngsters, one that is sure to captivate our attention throughout the year.
5. Xander Bogaerts (Boston Red Sox) — Bogaerts is your soon-to-be brother-in-law that you’ve legitimately grown close with during your courtship of his sister, and you didn’t want to be the type of groom that just stuck the new family member furthest from the vow exchange in favor of all your cronies. He came prepared for all eventualities like a champ, bringing chapstick, extra bottled water, a knack for adjusting boutonnières and even a back-pocket flask of whiskey, all at the ready for anyone who might need something. We keep bringing up clutch members of the Boston Red Sox attack in these positional rankings, and Bogaerts is the latest to get his own dossier. In three years proper playing MLB for Boston, the Dutch national from Aruba has spent the first part of his 20s becoming a run-scoring beast possessed. Like those ranked above him, uncommonly high BABIP with sustained production shows there is no fluke to the talent and that the run of play and factors outside his control may vary, but Bogaerts will still manage to dominate. His career BA thus far is .286 and that could soon be inflated if he’s able to land in the .290s as projected by Steamer; a mimicry of his 2015 run and RBI totals in the 80s also seems likely. A monstrous projected OPS of .802 should keep Boston fans appeased, and despite league-average speed he is able to accumulate steals but will probably fall short of marks set by Correa and Lindor. Outbombing Lindor, on the other hand, is distinctly possible if Bogaerts is able to be in the neighborhood of 18-20. Again, the distinguishing lines between these preternaturally talented SS up in this tier are quite blurry and, at times, negligible since every one of them should bring you droves of fantasy success. Bogaerts is a take-it-to-the-bank Top 30 overall pick, though he could certainly depart earlier.
6. Trevor Story (Colorado Rockies) — Trevor Story is the longtime friend who had YOU as a groomsman at his nuptials, so it just makes sense that you should and do repay the honor in kind. His referring you to the same wedding photographer saved you and your wife over a grand, too, so you are quite literally in Story’s debt. He’s the self-appointed signalman letting the bartender know whose Cosmos or gin and tonics need to start getting watered down, and you’re cool with him channeling that helpful awareness for good. Story is a redemption tale waiting to happen: he got off to such a white-hot start in 2016, we could scarcely believe he was a rookie. Just how Gary Sanchez was putting up near-impossible power numbers in the second half, it was all hearkening back to the fireworks Story was treating us to before an injured left thumb ligament earned trips to the OR and the DL in that order. To dismiss his 27 HRs through a 97-game stint because he plays at Coors Field is not fair because not every rookie in a Rockies uniform is able to take THAT much advantage of a favorable set of parameters (unlike DJ LeMahieu‘s 2:1 ratio last year, Story attained a 60/40 split between home/away bombs and runs, and a more impressive 55/45 figure for RBI). The guy is poised to make a splash all over again, but I’d perhaps expect a slow start as he gets back in the groove against live pitching with a repaired hand. Then buckle up, because Story could try going yard 30 times if he’s already gotten to the 27 mark. A .270 BA is probably out-of-reach good for him, but some steals and high 70s for runs and RBI should absolutely be counted on happening. Somebody will own Story by the end of the fourth round: speaking as a fantasy owner who reveled in his 2016 work, I recommend you be the one to pick him up if you are able.
Tier 2: We Became Dear, Fast Friends
7. Jean Segura (Seattle Mariners) & 8. Jonathan Villar (Milwaukee Brewers) — You might laugh and roll your eyes at the concept and brevity of this second tier, but I assure you these two gentlemen mean serious fantasy baseball business. The guys listed here are not quite close enough to you to have warranted an invitation to bridal party membership, but they are near and dear to your heart after the three of you crushed a hellish work project together and you’ve bonded as brothers ever since. The “fast” part comes into play when we remind you of the stolen bases with which Jean Segura and his vice thief below, Jonathan Villar, are going to be padding your fantasy team’s stats. We discussed both guys in the Top 25 2B Rankings: both earned eligibility at second and short last year and therefore figure to be extremely versatile assets to you. They’re outstanding baseball players with their bats, they’re just next-level good at stealing bases on top of that so they get their own category. You’re actually more likely to land Segura if you’re patient: even though I find him to be a more balanced 5×5 threat and thus deserving of the higher ranking over Villar, the latter’s gaudy, league-best steals number will lure the greedy toward him first.
Tier 3: Good Pals A Day’s Travel Away
9. Aledmys Diaz (St. Louis Cardinals) — This tier is occupied by those close friends who would hop on a flight or drive for eight hours just to come kick it with you for the weekend. You hadn’t known them quite long or intimately enough to get them involved in the wedding process, but they may have gone out of their way to do something fun with you for your birthday or arranged a spontaneous road trip and you always miss them when they go. Aledmys Diaz is the leader of that pack, and though the Cardinals’ Cuban starter at short also went to the DL with a thumb injury like Story last year, he will be back with a true vengeance at the plate. He was slashing .300/.369/.510 through 111 games, and even a dip down to .280/.355/anything-in-the-mid-.400s would be more than appealing to prospective fantasy enthusiasts. He precedes the illustrious Matt Carpenter and his robust power in the batting order, so that is fantastic news for Diaz’s opportunity to score runs. Is asking for 80 too aggressive if he managed 71 through his shortened 2016 stint? Certainly not. Six steals are achievable, and suddenly you’ve got a tidy little bit of production on your hands. Honestly, the accumulation of more data as Diaz navigates what’s hopefully a full year of plate appearances is something to look forward to, in order to get a feel for the direction in which certain traits he exhibits at the plate are trending. Discipline and contact are good so far: an increase of HR/FB to 15% from 12.6% is one thing to wish for from Diaz. As the dropoff from Tiers 1 and 2 to here is quite steep, Diaz projects to go somewhere later than the sixth round. The average and run production make him worth an investment.
10. Brad Miller (Tampa Bay Rays) — Miller was inadvertently omitted from our Top 25 1B Rankings, and he’s a talented enough bat to have landed a ranking in the teens just under Matt Carpenter on that list with the eligibility he earned by playing 39 games away from his primary station of shortstop. Miller is the lower-average hitter you don’t mind picking up because it’s like he’s trying to make up for his shortcomings by being a provider to you, the hungry fantasy mouth, in other ways. Homers? Miller’s got you covered with 20-plus, no question. People will greedily want a number more reminiscent of the 30 he sent caroming into the stands last year, but 23-25 is probably in a realistically doable zone. Stolen bases? Touchy subject, since he was caught four times in 2016 but only managed to steal six, so that was generally a failed venture even though he came out of nowhere to nab 13 for Seattle in 2015. We’ll just have to see how the Rays’ baserunning coaches guide his decision-making and not necessarily count on anything significant. 70 runs and 70 RBI with 7 stolen bases is what I’ll be wanting to see from Miller. Hitting for average in the .250s range is my glass-half-full prognostication. The lefty pulls a lot, which is fine, but soft contact needs to be lowered into the teens and HR/FB needs to stay ample. He’s a solid grab before 10 rounds are through and his value only escalates from there.
11. Addison Russell (Chicago Cubs) — It’s a common misconception this offseason that everyone on the Cubs will be able to play practically every position: Russell is locked in at SS only for the time being, so just come to terms with it and survey what sort of batting cornucopia he brings to your table. Like Miller before him, Russell is not a great hitter for average. My prediction for Miller to break .250 might be too lofty of a mark for the Russell of the career .240, but driving in 95 RBI last year will get anyone’s attention. Normalize that run production to account for an historically prolific year for the Cubs, but they’re going to be back in force so don’t dial back expectation TOO violently. Russell is likely going to be trying to really reach for the 80 mark for runs and RBI but I don’t think he’s a likely candidate to realize the runs goal. High 60s and low 80s in that order sounds viable, with tolerances for each figure peeking up and down into the 70s. He should be able to launch 17 HRs past the wall and will likely steal a mere handful of bases. Circumstance and upside are there, but the six-point differential between his decent hard contact and soft contact percentages needs to be larger—pay attention for if and when the split is 10 (say 30% hard and 20% soft) in order to really time your excitement for what his power could become. Good news is that line drives are becoming a more substantial part of his batted ball repertoire, so some work on exit angle and velocity with the contact improvements means 20 jacks should be theoretically easy. He’s just 23 years old, so the growth will be real.
12. Marcus Semien (Oakland Athletics) — Semien hit 27 HRs last year, but he is yet another member of the mediocre batting average club that occupies part of this tier along with Miller and Russell. Statistically, his 2017 should be rather comparable to Russell’s with Semien relishing a slight advantage in homers, BA and SLG. Semien’s RBI should outnumber his runs, and Khris Davis two spots before him in the order will certainly present Semien with some RISP opportunities to rack up valuable assists. I also like Semien to make it three years running, pun intended, in which he accrues 10 or more SB. I like the 14.7% HR/FB ratio from last season, and his ISO was up on a down-BABIP year, so let’s hope he can keep the average more respectable in the .240s while he continues to be a potent power producer for Oakland. If his Z-contact and hard contact percentages can swell a couple points back to his 2015 numbers, the perfect storm could brew for him to be more BA-efficient WHILE giving As fans plenty of four-baggers to cheer about. It’s been one or the other, and Semien needs to string it together to be able to do both. Excellent acquisition for the middle of your draft if you need a moderate boost in power and SB for 5×5 without RBI or runs being a liability for you.
13. Elvis Andrus (Texas Rangers) — These next two guys probably deserve their own mini-tier because they are like the slightly less expensive version of the Segura-Villar steals dream team. Elvis Andrus has been a workhorse for the Rangers since 2008, and he figures to secure the juiciest batting average of this steal-happy quartet overall. It’s a little more difficult to decode why Andrus had a great year last year because while .302 is wonderful, it could be easy to dismiss it as a BABIP fluke. But his swinging discipline has remained virtually the same, he was swinging at MORE with slightly regressed contact efficiency both inside and outside. So what gives? His ISO has been steadily increasing over four straight years but he’s not a homer guy. Andrus’ improvement in velocity is easy to overlook because a) he reduced his soft contact in 2015 paired with an increase in hard contact, fine, but then b) he kept hard contact the same (27.1%) while boosting medium contact at the expense of soft contact. Still with me? It was a two-year renaissance for Andrus to finally start REALLY crushing line drives for a better average as often as he should be, with two years before that as the developmental foundation for that success. He pulls a ton, but Globe Life Park but the hot corner doesn’t seem to deter him from racking up hits. He is one of the best values in these rankings because you’re not breaking the bank to use an early pick for his 25-odd steals necessarily, but you’re getting them with an average that should be in the neighborhood of .280 this season. Throw in 65 apiece for runs and RBI, and you understand what sort of package deal Andrus could appreciably offer you. Have your eye on whom the rest of your league is drafting at SS and a healthy wait for Andrus might pay dividends.
14. Eduardo Nunez (San Francisco Giants) — Nunez is the other bargain SS-eligible grab who accrues a ton of stolen bases. He’ll be a close third in BA behind Andrus and Segura in all likelihood, while leaving Villar wanting down below; although he’s a career .273 hitter in the bigs so the battle for that runner-up spot within the group between him and Segura will be a joy to spectate. He distributes nicely to all reaches of the diamond as a RHB. And despite the fact that he plays at AT&T Park—notoriously miserly for power—Nunez managed 16 homers in 2016 and eight of them came at home, so there goes the converse of the Trevor-Story-at-home splits argument. I like Nunez for 11 HRs this coming year and he should push for 60 RBI, 60 runs and 30 SB. He’s 29 and incorporating more flyballs into his offerings from the plate with a year-by-year boost to the HR/FB ratio that factors into, as contrasted with the line-drive focus Andrus has been exhibiting. He swings with alarming frequency but has the contact stats to back that audacity up. Same advice applies: he is one of your better 5×5 values for where you stand to acquire him.
15. Javier Baez (Chicago Cubs) — The Cubs’ most fantasy-flexible utility man brings a nice prognosis into 2017, and we discussed what Javier Baez could offer your team at the 17th spot in Pitcher List’s Top 25 2B Rankings.
16. Troy Tulowitzki (Toronto Blue Jays) — Tulowitzki has been perfectly solid for Toronto. He’s defensively phenomenal, but the fact is he’s 32 years old and the days of him bombing 30 out of the park seem to have passed. He also posted the lowest BA rating of his career last year while still managing to hit 24 jacks so there might be hope for his fantasy outlook, although it might be less multifaceted than in years past. His ISO did in fact improve from a 2015 that featured the upheaval of moving from bat-friendly Colorado to a different yet still favorable spot at the Rogers Centre. So what can we expect from the man they call “Tulo” this year in fantasy? He’s a career .292 hitter, so I’m willing to suspend my misgivings and call last year a severe aberration: gunning for .270 and perhaps setting for low-to-mid .260s is what we may have to do in compromise. Base-stealing has been off the table for six years, so scratch that for 5×5 purposes. I think he pierces the 70-RBI threshold all over again, while 60-odd runs and 21 HRs should be reasonable goals to set for the Blue Jays’ SS. A more-than-decent guy to pick up, provided you have speed accounted for with other guys from your early-round picks. If that is the case, Tulowitzki is probably the final guy of these rankings I feel comfortable about as a starting option with no provisos and regardless of day or matchup.
17. Jedd Gyorko (St. Louis Cardinals) — We talked about Gyorko’s largely power-dependent credentials as a fantasy play who has multiple positions of eligibility in the Top 25 2B Rankings. To reiterate, if his run/RBI totals don’t amount to more than mid-50s and he does not hit greater than 25 HRs, you’re missing out on guys that could be doing more for you across the board. That said, Gyorko is a pretty killer UTIL asset even if he does not solidify a claim to a positional starting job on your roster.
18. Jose Peraza (Cincinnati Reds) — We talked about the speedy Peraza’s upside at playing time with the departure of Brandon Phillips for Atlanta in the Top 25 2B Rankings. He sneaks into this tier by virtue of the projections for his batting average and stolen base count; however, Peraza is likely not going to be a viable starter because of his perennially decisive lack of power and the moderation he will probably exhibit in run/RBI production.
Tier 4: Buddies From A Past Chapter
19. Dansby Swanson (Atlanta Braves) — This tier is reserved for those amigos with whom you could still potentially rekindle a bond with, but time and distance have found you suddenly far apart to the extent that you’re only really acquainted with their current life happenings because of Facebook right now. True effort from both of you could really yield dividends. Now comes the fantasy corollary of the argument: these are guys who very well could be fantastic and instantaneously rise up the ranks, but there will be others among this upside-rich tier who just languish and stay put instead of becoming fantasy studs. It’s effectively Dansby Swanson’s rookie year in 2017, so while we have reveled in what we’ve seen, it’s not a résumé sufficient to go on for the sake of your fantasy hopes that hang in the balance. Swanson was good enough, however, to completely leapfrog AAA Gwinnett from AA Mississippi with his callup last year. He enjoyed a high-BABIP stint of 38 games in which he hit for .302, scored 20 times and got 17 RBI. Three homers total is a little disconcerting, but once his ISO mojo settles into a groove during his first 162-game campaign, we could end up seeing 15-plus jacks from the guy. He should score more runs than RBI for sure, as Freddie Freeman and cleanup assignee Matt Kemp stand good chances of driving Swanson around the bags. 70 runs and 55 RBI are what I’ll be desiring from the 2017 Swanson Showcase, and throwing in eight steals for good measure sits well with my conscience. The 2:1 hard/soft contact ratio is wonderful to see from an inexperienced bat, and I’d like to see that to continue and Z-contact to creep toward 90% because we are fantasy saveages and we demand greatness. If he’s still on the board at Pick 201 in your draft, color me flummoxed and call me Suzie.
20. Tim Anderson (Chicago White Sox) — It’s probably appropriate that these fellows are back-to-back in the rankings because Anderson is fresh off a 99-game MLB debut for the White Sox and is now poised to elevate his involvement at the big-league level. A tick below what Correa and Lindor were able to do during their first respective half-seasons, Anderson stole 10 bases and is project to steal double that in 2017 if not more. Hitting for .283 on a BABIP-positive body of work over less time means I’m crunching numbers to expect low-.260s or thereabouts for Anderson this go-around, while scoring 70-plus should be well within his capabilities to do. 57 runs in 99 games is stout and workmanlike, so I think Chicago is going to rejoice that they have his foundation cemented in the order. He was never a power guy in the minors, so the ISO of .149 last year even seems high: if he only gets 10-12 HRs, don’t say I didn’t warn you. Average should be a relative bright spot, as .275 should be the goal Anderson sets for himself to live up to. Even falling short into the .260s wouldn’t be half bad if you have tens of steals to show for it. Not quite starter material for your fantasy squad just yet, but he’s definitely worth targeting for a Peraza-esque injection of speed and BA consistency. Plate discipline could use work, but 32.3% hard contact and a 12.3% HR/FB ratio in a dress rehearsal for full-on immersion in a proper MLB season? Yes, please.
21. Did Gregorius (New York Yankees) — Statistically, I enjoy the weird paradoxes Gregorius poses because in posting decent averages (.265 & .276) during recent years with the Yankees in which his BABIP is quirkily sub-.300, you realize he’s bettering himself as a baseball player despite not necessarily being fortunate always. This, coupled with the strange feeling that he’s defying expectation because his career numbers are low after poor showings in Arizona, makes it easy to be happy-go-lucky when approaching what he may do in the fantasy world. The Yankees are coaching him at the plate really well: a) his ISO clocked at .171 last year and his HR/FB ballooned back to 10.9% after some power doldrums in the preceding years, b) both O-contact and Z-contact are up to career-highs, and c) he’s swinging and missing more seldom than ever before. I like his chances to have a very successful 2017. A .270 BA, 65, runs and 70 RBI are his for the taking, and he should also clearly be able to outpace the expectation set out for his power production. 19 homers are on the agenda with seven steals. Great blossoming talent who could ascend to fantasy prominence instead of just fantasy relevance.
Tier 5: Just Drinking Buddies
22. Alcides Escobar (Kansas City Royals) — The next four guys are ranked purely by volume of expected games in which they will play. They’re reliable but flawed. This band of four ranks below the trio of Swanson, Anderson and Gregorius simply because I am cautiously expecting flashes from brilliance from those three, while the men who close this list out are playing-time hounds with a commodity or two they should do well in AND severe limitations in others. Escobar in Kansas City is the best of the proverbial worst (they’re still ranked, so that sounded harsh). Steamer projects him to steal 17 bases, which is the most you’re going to get at this stage in the draft from any SS-eligible player. His shortcoming is power: the highest ISO he’s ever had was .098 back in 2012 when he walloped for…wait for it…five homers on the year. Chilling around .260 has been his wont for two seasons now, but he should promisingly draw close to 70 runs scored. Take Escobar for what he’s worth but do not expect any fantasy pyrotechnics from his bat to wow you.
23. Brandon Crawford (San Francisco Giants) — Crawford is the true starting shortstop in the San Francisco infield with the higher-ranked SS-eligible Nunez playing to his right at 3B. Crawford is like a lesser version of Miller: he hits for average uninspiringly, but he packs a little bit of power pop and will be scoring runs and RBI at acceptable, not desirable, levels. A BA of .260 is probably the best Crawford can yearn to earn this year, while 15 compensatory homers could improve your opinion of his fantasy viability. The RBI count could slide up to 70 if he plays his cards right with Buster Posey and Hunter Pence in scoring position. Could be a huge relief to have him on the maintenance days for occupants of your SS or 2B/SS spots.
24. Orlando Arcia (Milwaukee Brewers) — Arcia has the worst average of anybody occupying this tier but his saving grace, when facing a panel of judgmental fantasy players like yourself, are the stolen bases he can rack up for you. Through 55 games, Arcia had a dismal .219 BA but managed to steal eight bases. He’s not on Escobar’s level, but they could very well toy with a miniature competition to see who ends up at 18 instead of 16, for example. Throwing in an extrapolated 11 HRs as the improvement upon his short-season contribution of four is a stretch but a doably painful one, like if a yoga instructor is there to reinforce the motion. Arcia is down here because this is all speculative until he produces over the course of a season, but if he can figure out how to at least sustain a respectable average close to .240 and can bring you some bonus run production (mid-40s probably for both) and steal some cheap bases, snatch him up.
25. Asdrubal Cabrera (New York Mets) — No speed featured in this final rankings spot whatsoever in Cabrera, but just as Arcia is going to make your very inexpensive investment enjoy a modest return, he diiiiid hit 23 homers last year. Realize this was a rare exception for him and get on board with more like 17 homers in 2017. His career BA is not horrendous at .269 but I don’t see him inflating that number with a competitive year swinging the bat. If you can be OK with .255 and a medium-sized power combo meal with a 60-run side of fries and a 60-RBI Coke, then he’s all yours. That will be useful on off days or if someone more valuable goes down due to injury. It bears mentioning that the Mets have elicited in Cabrera hard contact 36.7% of the time so that is definitely worth monitoring because that would play a role in him being a better fantasy player if he can maintain that metric.
The On Deck Circle — Honorable Mentions
Andrelton Simmons (Los Angeles Angels) — Simmons just barely missed out on inclusion. He’ll have production in runs and RBI slightly below Cabrera with less power, but the bright spot could be a batting average registering higher than every single memeber of Tier 5 if he can crack .265 this year.
Jose Iglesias (Detroit Tigers) — Comparable to Simmons but with fewer HRs projected, yet he sees your lack of speed and raises with 10 projected steals. At a career BA of .275, keep an eye on this guy if you are truly deficient at speed and run out of options: he’s your waiver wire pickup to stanch the bleeding.
Jorge Polanco (Minnesota Twins) — May as well be a carbon copy of Iglesias’ project contributions in runs, RBI and steals. His BA should be lower, but Polanco could sniff 10 runs if the chips fall in his favor. Similarly a valuable waiver wire or free agency acqusition.
LEMONs — Leading Every Manager On, Not Startable
Adeiny Hechavarria (Miami Marlins) — You’re slated to play in 140 games, mount a middle-of-the-road .265 BA while offering zero power production and very well sub-50s in runs and RBI? OK, well, you’re probably good at stealing bases, then. Single digit SB? HARD pass.
Zack Cozart (Cincinnati Reds) — At least Orlando Arcia is making amends for his potentially abominable batting average by stealing some bases. The 12 HRs Steamer says Cozart might get are something I can easily get, along with many other points/attributes/advantages/upside, from someone else.