2017 Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: Shortstop tiers 2.0 – CBSSports.com

Things are looking up.

Shortstop will never be a deep position. The defensive threshold is so high that only a small percentage of the best baseball players in the world can meet it, and the odds of them all being good hitters is, frankly, pretty low. 

But an infusion of talent over the past couple years has made for a new golden age at the position, giving it, at least to the extent it’s represented in mixed-league drafts, comparable depth to most any other position.

It almost makes you wonder why you bother tiering any of them.

The Unmatched: Manny Machado
The Elite: Corey Seager,
Carlos Correa
,
Xander Bogaerts
,
Francisco Lindor

The Near-Elite: Jean Segura,
Jonathan Villar
,
Trevor Story
,
Aledmys Diaz

The Next-Best Things: Addison Russell,
Jose Peraza
,
Troy Tulowitzki
,
Eduardo Nunez

The Fallback Options: Dansby Swanson,
Brad Miller
,
Elvis Andrus

The Last Resorts: Orlando Arcia,
Asdrubal Cabrera
,
Marcus Semien
,
Didi Gregorius
,
Brandon Crawford
,
Javier Baez
,
Jedd Gyorko
,
Tim Anderson

The Leftovers: Zack Cozart,
Chris Owings
,
Jorge Polanco
,
Ketel Marte
,
Danny Espinosa
,
Alcides Escobar
,
Freddy Galvis
,
Tyler Saladino
,
J.P. Crawford
,
J.J. Hardy
,
Jordy Mercer
,
Andrelton Simmons

There’s still something to gain, of course. In the heat of the draft, you can see which position is closest to a drop-off, but with the tiers depleting more evenly from position to position, several could be equally close. That makes the “right” pick not as obvious.

And given where shortstop was just two years ago, that’s a pretty amazing development.

Since then, Seager, Correa and Lindor have taken the league by storm, Bogaerts has developed as expected, and Segura, Villar, Story and Diaz — an entire tier right there — have come out of nowhere to challenge for top standing.

But the biggest victory was Machado getting an extended run at shortstop, enough to accumulate the 20 appearances necessary to retain eligibility this season. He’d be a first-rounder at any position, which even with the increased depth makes him unmatched in terms of both ceiling and floor. Hence the tier (one you won’t find at every position, mind you) all to himself.

The Elite can all compete in terms of upside, but they’re still aspiring to be what Machado already is. Where this tier should be drafted is a matter of debate — and I’m talking internally, as in my own head. I’ve had drafts where selecting Seager as early as Round 1 seemed appropriate and drafts where selecting Lindor as late as Round 4 seemed early. And while a four-round swing in the middle tiers would be par for the course, it’s much more significant at the start of a draft.

Still, the clearer divide is between those four and The Near-Elite, none of whom has more than 2016 to hang his hat on. Neither Story nor Diaz were major prospects, and neither Segura nor Villar had many believers remaining, but all performed on the level of The Elite last year. The distinction between the tiers is more a measure of risk than actual production.

And thus, the following tier feels like a concession in comparison. Part of me wants to just skip it and lump Russell, Peraza, Tulowitzki and Nunez in with Swanson, Miller and Andrus, but the latter group has greater potential for disaster. I like all seven players’ upside about the same, though, with Andrus standing out as the one definitively boring player.

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