Always a shallow position for fantasy owners, shortstop is positively a wasteland so far in 2015. It would almost be impossible for shortstop to collectively be this bad going forward, but there are so few bankable assets at the position. If it were March again, I’d tell you just to punt the position.
Tier One: The Guy Who Doesn’t Play Shortstop
Hanley Ramirez is the lone bright spot at the position, and he obviously no longer plays there. When he loses shortstop eligibility next year, there really may be no good options. But Hanley has been an excellent option this year as his production in April ranked fourth among all hitters according to the ol’ Zach Sanders z-score method.
Entering Sunday’s action, Hanley had ten home runs and a ridiculous 45.5 percent home run per fly ball rate. Perhaps the strangest thing about his HR/FB rate is how it’s propping up his batting average. His batting average on balls in play is just .224, but he’s hitting .281 because the 10 home runs were hits that weren’t “balls in play.” So yes, his BABIP will come around, but it’s actually unlikely to help his batting average as much as it might seem given fewer balls will be leaving the yard.
As for whether you should sell Hanley, you absolutely should if someone is willing to pay for his production to date. People reading this have league mates of wildly varying intelligence levels, so forgive me if the people you play with are sharp. But if people in your league are a little easier to deal with, I’d personally take anyone I thought was a top 20 hitter in exchange for Hanley. Running the ZiPS ROS projections through the z-score method ranks Hanley as the 39th best hitter from here on out (with no positional adjustment being made). A big part of that is a fairly low innings projection due to Hanley’s injury history, and that’s obviously a concern in addition to his current pace being unsustainable.
Tier Two: Guys Who Aren’t Hitting But Should Be
Desmond’s got some of the normal “luck” issues you might see in small samples. His line drive rate is very low, even for him, and he’s hitting way too many groundballs. Always one for a high BABIP, Desmond hasn’t had that benefit so far. As for his power, his HR/FB rate is less than half his career average, and all the groundballs means he’s hitting fewer fly balls as well. The good news is that his spike in strikeout rate from last year has corrected, and Desmond should correct as well when his fortune improves.
As for Tulo, he’s managed to stay on the field for a month, which is the most important thing. But his production has been lackluster. Starting with the good news, his ISO is still over .200 and close to his career average despte having just two home runs. He thankfully has 12 doubles, and presumably a few more of those will leave the yard soon. He’s also hitting for average with a high line drive rate and BABIP as we’re accustomed to.
The problem is his plate discipline. His swing percentage is up seven percent from where it was last year and six percent over his career average. He’s also making a little less contact, so his strikeout rate is close to 20 percent when he’s normally closer to 15 percent. But the bigger problem is that he has only drawn two walks. Given the dearth of offensive production at his position, a continuation of the line drives and a few more home runs would be good enough. But to jump back into the top tier he’s got to get his plate discipline in order.
Tier Three: It Gets Ugly Quickly
If you haven’t noticed, we’re still in the top ten here. Castro leads the group because he can give you something in each category and also because his ZiPS ROS projection looks pretty good. The same goes for Semien with the possible exception of batting average. ZiPS has him reaching double digit home runs and steals from here on out with at least 60 runs and RBI each. His strikeout rate has been much better earlier in the season, so he might not even hurt you in batting average if he keeps the gains he has made in that regard.
After that you’ve got the trio of Segura, Escobar, and Andrus who are here simply because they have a bankable skill. They’re all likely good for at least 20 more steals with at least an above average batting average. Then we’ve got old man Peralta who is a lesser version of a Castro/Semien type who is also missing speed. And then finally we have Reyes who is already hurt and could easily be injured again if/when he returns to the lineup.
Tier Four: Three Old Guys and Two Young Guys
I discussed Flores last week, primarily in comparison to Zack Cozart. The basic jist of the post was that we do not know yet what Flores can be, and we know exactly what Cozart is. In relation to Ramirez, Aybar, and Rollins, the comparison is similar, but we also have to consider the decline in production that could effect these three players that are older than Cozart. Essentially, Flores can go up, Cozart isn’t going anywhere, and the old guys can go down. So give me the upside, and the same goes for Bogaerts. I’m a little worried that Flores’ defense is going to cost him playing time, but I have to believe the Mets will give his bat a chance to develop.
Tier Five: Meh
If you’d like to quibble about the ranking of the particular players within this tier, please spare me. I’ve simply ranked them in the order that they appear when you run the ZiPS ROS projections through the z-score method. There’s just not much to get excited about here.
I suppose we should address Hechavarria since he’s second among shortstops in production so far according to the z-score method. But there’s nothing on his player page to believe in. He’s riding a .365 BABIP to a good batting average, but he’ll fall back to the .260 range when that passes. He has two home runs, but he has a career HR/FB rate of 2.9 percent. If he didn’t hit two more, I wouldn’t be totally shocked. His strikeout rate is what it always is, his walk rate is still very low, and he’s on pace to steal single digit bases just like he was projected to. His counting stats have been nice so far, but they’re also a product of his BABIP putting him on base more often because he’s still hitting at the bottom of the order. There’s nothing there.
Tier Six: Sure
I’ve got Villar and Romine at the top of this tier simply because they could be in line for a bit more playing time due to injuries in front of them, and they’ll at least give you speed if they play regularly.