2015 Fantasy Baseball Shortstop Rankings: Is Tulo the Best Option?
Looking at the top 15 of our overall rankings for 2015, you won't find a single player with shortstop eligibility. That isn't the case with catcher, first base, second base, third base, outfield, or starting pitcher -- shortstop and relief pitcher are, in fact, the only mainstream fantasy positions missing from this list. Why? Because, well, they aren't very strong positions.
We only have one shortstop projected to have an average over .285, only one shortstop in the 20/20 club, we don't have anyone sniffing 100 RBI or runs scored, and we only have three players projected to hit over 20 homers.
The rankings below reflect the numberFire algorithm's projections and what we call our “numberFire score”. The score, from a high level, takes a player’s contributions across all relevant scoring categories (5X5 league) and adjusts for position scarcity.
Without further ado, let's take a look at this year's top shortstops.
1. Ian Desmond, Washington Nationals
Not a whole lot has changed at the position since last year. Except, of course, that our top-ranked shortstop is Ian Desmond. Despite his .255 batting average last year, Desmond's still the safest pick at the position. He has a career average of .270, so last year was more of a down year for him in that category. He's had at least 20 home runs and 20 steals in each of his last three seasons -- in fact, he's the only player in baseball who can say that. He led all shortstops in home runs and RBI last year, and this season will also be the final year of his contract. Needless to say, we project him having a big year.
2. Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies
When healthy, Troy Tulowitzki is one of the best options in all of fantasy baseball. He was the second-best hitter in head-to-head points-per-game last year, but he's also averaged only 88 games played per season over the past three years and hasn't reached 150 games in a season since 2009. You know this, I'm sure. Troy Tulowitzki is like that one girlfriend every guy had in college. A lot of potential, things are going amazing, and then out of nowhere, she breaks your heart. Eventually you decide to give her a second chance, things are going great, and then boom -- another broken heart. So should you just walk away, or should you give it another go and maybe just temper your expectations? Cold, soulless, and calculating -- much like your college girlfriend -- our advanced algorithm thinks it's more of the latter. While not as generous as our rankings were last year, we do have Tulo as our second shortstop overall. 521 plate appearances for the season seems charitable as well. In reality, even if we averaged out his last seven injury-riddled seasons, you'd get the following spread: 468 plate appearances, 71 runs, 22 home runs, 71 RBI, 6 stolen bases, a .303 batting average, and an on-base plus slugging percentage above .900. Even in the kind of limited season we've come to expect from Tulowitzki, those are still numbers few hitters can come close to.
3. Jose Reyes, Toronto Blue Jays
Jose Reyes is another talented shortstop with major injury concerns. Over the past six seasons, Reyes has only reached 150 games once. In spite of this, he's still been one of the most consistent fantasy shortstops over that period. And while he's also not the same guy who had over 55 stolen bases in four consecutive seasons, he's still pretty much a lock for near 10 home runs, 30 stolen bases, and a batting average above .280. Last year, Reyes stole 30 bases, hit 9 home runs with 94 runs score, all while hitting .287. Over the past five seasons, he's averaged 31 stolen bases, 10 home runs, 84 runs, and a .297 average. To measure his season-to-season consistency, the last time he hit below .275 was in 2005 with a batting average of .273, and the only time he stole fewer than 30 bases were in injury-plagued seasons where he played fewer than 100 games.
4. Dee Gordon, Miami Marlins
26-year-old Dee Gordon was lights out at the beginning of last season. He had a .292/.344/.742 line with 43 stolen bases and a pair of home runs before being selected to play in his first All-Star game. Post-All-Star break, however, things started to trend downwards. During the season's second half, his line was a less impressive .284/.300/.648 with 21 stolen bases and no home runs. Then, in December, he was traded alongside Dan Haren to the Miami Marlins for a flurry of young talent. The move to Miami shouldn't be too damning, and although he did suffer a significant drop in production after the All-Star break, his 2014 numbers are still very impressive (he ranked as our top overall short stop last year). The risk involved in drafting Gordon is that he doesn't contribute in any of the power categories -- last year was his first time playing more than 90 games in a season, and over the 2012 and 2013 seasons (125 games), he averaged a paltry .229 average. Still, over four seasons, he has a career batting average of .272. And if we averaged his stolen base per game percentage out over a full season, it's well over 60 per season. If you're looking to lock up steals, Dee is the guy to own.
5. Hanley Ramirez, Boston Red Sox
Hanley Ramirez is another familiar name in a new city. He was signed this offseason by the Boston Red Sox and is slated to play left field for the first time in his career. Last year, in a 127-game season, Hanley hit .283/.369/.817 with 13 home runs and 14 stolen bases. Our algorithm projects a slightly better year for him this year, and with good reason. The potential is obviously still there, as just the year prior he had 62 runs, 20 home runs, 57 RBI, 10 stolen bases, and a .345/.402/1.040 line in 86 games. Like many of his fellow shortstops, he needs to stay healthy. But if he does, there's a solid floor with a nice ceiling to take advantage of.
6. Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds
Billy Hamilton may not be eligible to play shortstop in your league, but he will be in some, which is why you see him on this list. While his hitting is a serious issue (he hit .200 over his final 60 games last year and hit only .256 in 123 games at Triple-A in 2013) his potential on the basepaths is drool-inducing. He holds the Minor League Baseball single-season stolen base record with 155 steals, and impressed with 56 stolen bases last year in spite of his sub-.300 on-base percentage. He'll be a detriment in most all other hitting categories, but will go a long way in helping you lock up the SB category.
7. Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins
While Brian Dozier had an unimpressive batting average last year at .242, his on-base percentage was .031 above the league-average at .345. He also managed to hit 23 home runs with 21 steals to give him a very solid fantasy season. With some promise of duplicating last year's efforts this year, in 2013, Dozier's first full season in the Majors, he hit 18 home runs with 14 stolen bases and a .244 average. While his average might hurt you, he should be good for at least another 15/15 season.
8. Alexei Ramirez, Chicago White Sox
Managing to record his first double-digit home run season since 2011, Alexei Ramirez had his best season in some time a season ago. Still, Ramirez has been incredibly consistent over the past few years, playing 158 games in all of his last four seasons. He bats between .265 and .285 almost every year, has stolen at least 20 bases in three of the last four seasons, and has 15 home runs in five out the seven seasons he's played. Again, our projections have him right around there. Alexei might not wow you in any category, but with him you know what you're getting.
9. Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers
While only 26-years-old, Elvis Andrus is coming off his sixth full season in the bigs. Typically he's been one of the guys to target if you're looking for steals and don't mind giving up some power -- he's stolen at least 30 bases four times in those six seasons, and has a career .272 average which isn't terrible considering the competition at the position. Though, he's also coming off a disappointing year where he suffered career lows in average and stolen base percentage. We have his average dipping again this year, but he should once again his 30 steals.
10. Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs
Starlin Castro might not blow you away in any category, but he'll contribute in all of them. His rookie year is the only season he did not hit between 10-15 home runs, and 2013 was the only year he hit below .280. And while his production in stolen bases has dipped the past two years, he's still only 24 years old and two seasons removed from a 25 stolen base year. Our projections indicate a significant drop from the .292 average he had last year, but we also have him swiping more bags and staying consistent in the home run category.
The rest of the short stop projections can be found here.