Disclaimer: After watching Randy Wolf throw six good innings on Monday night, I’m no longer sure I know anything about baseball, so what follows may just be gibberish.
And, of course, there’s no turning back from my early-May proclamation that Troy Tulowitzki is now in a tier of his own at the shortstop position. Four weeks later, the Rockies slugger has cooled some – he “only” had a wRC+ of 172 in May, compared to 211 in April, and he’s off to a horrid 1-for-4 in June – but he’s still producing far beyond what any player at the position could even dream of.
Having said that, the resurgence of Hanley Ramirez, the continued success of Alexei Ramirez and the staying power of some early-season surprises, the position remains an interesting one.
Even if you love Hanley Ramirez, Tulowitzki projects to beat him handily in every category except stolen bases for the rest of the season. The only reason anyone would take Ramirez is a belief that Tulowitzki is “due” to get injured, which is not only impossible to know but also ignores Ramirez’ own spotty track record for healthy.
Ramirez obviously tops the second tier, then, and he’s followed by three names that you’ll probably vary on in terms of how much you like them. Desmond remains the most likely bet for 20-20 per-600 numbers and the underlying statistics suggest a batting average rise could be coming, while Reyes is always a top play when healthy, which he is for the time being. Alexei Ramirez is the most interesting name, as he’s been the number two player at the position so far and projects to keep on producing, just at a lesser level. Given the risks associated with the next tier, he slots in here for now.
This tier is a nice reminder of how mixed a bag the spot can be. Gordon’s projections aren’t great beyond the steals but they don’t fully account for the change in his discipline profile so far, and I’d personally bet he steals another 30. Andrus and Segura, too, are good bets for another 20 steals. Castro and Rollins present a lower stolen base upside but a better balance with power, and Zobrist does a little bit of everything, making him the easiest to plug in (he’s multi-position eligible, too) but tough to rely on for anything beyond what has now been established as his standard.
This becomes kind of a specialist category, offering similar profiles to the players in tier three but with lower upsides and greater risk. Lowrie, Peralta, Hardy and Asdrubal Cabrera bring pop, Everth Cabrera and Villar bring steals, and Simmons offers a bit of each, with projections remaining bullish despite a slow start at the dish. Oh, and a prediction: Hardy, who owns an 11 percent career HR/FB rate but has zero home runs on 58 fly balls, will eventually homer.
Can we trust Escobar at this point? Will Drew have anything left? Is Owings going to continue to get the requisite playing time for a prorated 12-15? Will Brad Miller get it together in time to avoid demotion? Some of you will have no choice but to hope on questions like these, and that’s completely fine, but you’re just splitting hairs based on how you evaluate each profile. Bogaerts and Aybar, however, are close to the fourth tier, with the former still looking like a 20-home run bat and the latter being the safest (and most boring) fantasy player of the last three seasons and the last six if you ignore his unlikely 2011 breakout.
Slim pickings here, enough so that I’ve kept Furcal on the DL for chunks of the season in a really deep league hoping that he’s eventually used. Jeter probably also has one hot streak left in him, if you can time it right, because it wouldn’t be a Jeter final season without him tricking Yankees fans into thinking he could go another year.
The table below shows the players listed here with their rank to date and their Steamer Rest of Season projections:
|Player||Preseason Rank||Tier||Rank To Date||AVG||R||RBI||HR||SB|
Blake Murphy is a freelance sportswriter based out of Toronto. Formerly of the Score, he's the managing editor at Raptors Republic and frequently pops up at Sportsnet, Vice, and around here. Follow him on Twitter @BlakeMurphyODC.