Fantasy Baseball Rankings – Shortstop

Fantasy Baseball Rankings – Shortstop

By: Kyle Brown (@CavghtLooking)

The shortstop position is very difficult to dissect this season. In fact, you will not find more injury risk in the top tier of any other position. After the upper echelon of players, there is a grab bag of young breakout candidates, players who broke out last season, and old veterans who are more reliable then most fantasy managers are willing to admit. If I drafted a team for a yearly league this season, I would probably avoid using my high picks on a top tier shortstop. The price you have to pay is too great for the risk inherent in the position.

Tier 1 – Handle With Care

Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado (.287/.360/.486)
Jose Reyes, Toronto (.287/.347/.433)
Hanley Ramirez, Los Angeles (.257/.322/.437)

Tulowitzki sits atop the shortstop positional rankings because I cannot help but salivate when I look back at his 2010 and 2011 seasons. Tulowitzki is a legitimate 30-homerun player from a position that rarely yields that kind of power production. Add the power to his high average, solid BB%, and ability to drive in runs and you have a truly elite player. The only question with Tulowitzki is whether or not he can stay healthy. He had surgery on his groin last year and has battled a few other nagging injuries in previous seasons. That said, if Tulowitzki can play 130+ games and produce at his 2010 and 2011 levels, then he merits a first round selection. Without all of the injury concerns I would have put Tulowitzki in the first tier all by himself. He’s that kind of player.

Jose Reyes is good. He has been good for a long time. He is going to be good in 2013. Just how good Reyes will be hinges on his health more than anything else. If he can stay healthy playing most of his games on an artificial surface he will score a lot of runs and steal a lot of bases (at least 40). Assuming his BABIP doesn’t take an unlucky dive, his batting average should hover around .280 – .300. However, do not jump to the conclusion that the move to Toronto will usher in a return to his 2011 form. The gaudy numbers he put up in his last year as a Met were dependent on a .353 BABIP. On the other hand, do not turn your nose up at a solid .290/10/40 season with over 100 runs scored. Reyes has still got it where it counts.

Hanley Ramirez is one of the most frustrating players in fantasy baseball. After several seasons with the Marlins in which he produced Trout-like numbers from the shortstop position, he suddenly began to slow down. The nagging injuries he experienced probably played a part in Hanley’s decline, but the most alarming change I can see is in his batted ball profile. Starting in 2010 he began hitting many more ground balls. After a 38% groundball rate in 2009 (when he hit .342/.410/.543) the number suddenly spiked to 51% for both the 2010 and 2011 seasons. Hitting more ground balls while your speed is declining will not lead to a positive outcome. He lowered his GB% in 2012 to 47%, but I don’t think that we should expect a return to Hanley’s previous form for any of his remaining seasons. All things considered, the move to the Dodgers should help his run production numbers.  I would expect him to go 20/20, but his batting average will probably stay around .270. Do not draft him for the player he was. Draft him for the player he is today.

Tier 2 – Gather Ye Rosebuds

Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs (.283/.323/.430)
Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay (.270/.377/.471)

Is Starlin Castro just apathetic or have we all been foolish to expect so much of him so soon? After a very promising season in 2011, Castro did not advance as much as fantasy owners would have hoped in his next campaign. However, the drop in batting average last year could just be the result of a career low BABIP. Still just 23 years young, Castro managed to increase his home runs and his stolen bases in 2012 and there is plenty of reason to think he can continue that trend this year. If he can learn to take a few more walks (5.2 BB%) and not get thrown out stealing so often (13 times last year), then he is going to be a top tier shortstop heading into 2013. I am banking on a serious breakout this year with 25/30 potential.

My thoughts on Ben Zobrist have been well documented already in the second base rankings. I love the versatility he offers for both draft strategy and lineup flexibility. He is going to hit 20 home runs with above average runs scored and RBI totals while being eligible at three positions. Do not sleep on Ben Zobrist

Tier 3 – Old Dogs, New Tricks

Ian Desmond, Washington (.292/.335/.511)
Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia (.250/.316/.427)
Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland (.270/.338/.423)
Derek Jeter, New York Yankees (.316/.362/.429)

Every manager who reached for Asdrubal Cabrera last year is probably going to make the same mistake with Ian Desmond in 2013. I always like to see young players break out, but I don’t think what we saw from Desmond last year is sustainable. For starters, Desmond’s HR/FB% jumped 12.2% to a career high of 18.2% last season. He did hit more flyballs last year than ever before, but the increase was not as dramatic as his home run percentage. If Desmond’s new penchant for flyballs continues in 2013, then he should hit between 15-20 homeruns. I would not draft Desmond expecting a repeat or an increase in homerun output, but he is a safe bet to have solid numbers in at least four out of five categories. Pay for his all-but-certain regression this season and avoid reaching for him in drafts.

In 2012, Jimmy Rollins hit 23 homeruns, scored 102 runs, and stole 30 bases. Conclusion: Jimmy Rollins is still very useful. Everyone seems to want a young player instead of an old player, but it’s players like Rollins and Jeter who keep making us all look like clowns. If you can wait a few rounds and grab Rollins late then you will be rewarded.

Cabrera had a great season two years ago and lots of managers saw the breakout as legitimate and drafted him expecting another 20+ homer season. They were sorely disappointed. However, a shortstop that can hit around .270, pop 14-18 home runs, steal 10 bags, and provide solid RBI and run totals will certainly help your lineup. Cabrera isn’t flashy, but he will get the job done.  

Derek Jeter is a freak of nature. Who was the hits leader for all of baseball last year? Derek Jeter. Which 39-year old shortstop scored the second most runs for shortstops last season? Derek Jeter. I don’t know if he is ever going to be bad. As long as he plays baseball he is going to be fantasy relevant (there…I said it).

Tier 4 – Elvis Has Left The Building

Danny Espinosa, Washington (.247/.315/.402)
Elvis Andrus, Texas (.286/.349/.378)
Erick Aybar, Los Angeles of Anaheim (.290/.324/.416)
Alcides Escobar, Kansas City (.293/.331/.390)
J.J. Hardy, Baltimore (.238/.282/.389)

I already covered Espinosa in the second base rankings. I think he is a cheap way to get a 20/20 season from the middle infield positions. I also would not be surprised if he hit .230. 

Elvis Andrus is ranked ridiculously high in most formats. For example, Yahoo has him ranked 66th overall and CBS has him at 70. Elvis will steal some bases and have a decent average, but there is no way I am paying a high price for a player who is going to hit 5 homeruns. You can get performances similar to what Elvis will produce from guys like Erick Aybar and Alcides Escobar without having to pay nearly as much for it.

If near the end of your draft you find that your team needs a little extra power and you don’t have a shortstop, then J.J. Hardy will be a good fit. The average woes are irritating, but 20+ home runs from a late round shortstop can be just what the doctor ordered.

Tier 5 – Pick a Card, Any Card

Josh Rutledge, Colorado (.274/.306/.469)
Alexei Ramirez, Chicago White Sox (.265/.287/.364)
Zach Cozart, Cincinnati (.246/.288/.399)
Marco Scutaro, San Francisco (.306/.348/.405)
Jean Segura, Milwaukee (.258/.315/.325)
Andrelton Simmons, Atlanta (.289/.335/.416)

Except for Scutaro and Ramirez, all of the players in this tier are young and hard to predict. For Rutledge, I’m wary of any young Colorado player who gets limited at bats and has a decent power showing. His home/road splits are not damning, but I’m not entirely sold on Rutledge as a complete hitter. Cozart is a good cheap source of power but has never shown an ability to hit for average. Segura should hit for a decent average but with minimal power. Simmons has always been known more for his glove than his bat, but if his glove keeps him in Atlanta’s lineup he might provide a decent set of numbers.

Honorable Mention

Hiroyuki Nakajima, Oakland (No 2012 Stats)

I took a look at Nakajima’s numbers from the NPB and while some of them are good I do not pretend to have any idea how his game will translate to the MLB. Hiroyuki is already 30 years old, but, who knows, maybe he is worth a late round stab in the dark. 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Newly acquired A’s shortstop Jed Lowrie injured himself reading this article and was omitted from the rankings.  Additionally, if you dare draft Japanese infielders, then do so with extreme caution as they have proven unable to translate their success from Japan to Major League Baseball (see Kaz Matsui, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Akinori Iwamura, et al.).

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather