Shortstop has become a very difficult position to fill. It offers very little power, made evident by the fact that only four shortstops hit 20 or more home runs last year. If you’re looking for steals, however, this is where you find ‘em. Twenty five shortstops racked up double-digit totals last season, including seven who stole 20-plus.
There’s a steep drop off after Ramirez and Tulowitzki, although Reyes could re-join the elite ranks given a full season in the lineup. Derek Jeter should bounce-back from a career-worst season, while rising stars such as Ian Desmond and Starlin Castro bring hope to fantasy managers in the later rounds.
1. Hanley Ramirez (SS – FLA): His career averages (112 runs, 25 HRs, 78 RBI, 39 steals, .313 batting average) are jaw-dropping considering his position. However, the most impressive stat (and the one that separates him from Troy Tulowitzki) is that he’s averaged 152 games per season over the last five years.
2. Troy Tulowitzki (SS – COL): He was the only shortstop to hit 25 HRs last season. Entering his age-26 season, he’s one of only two players at a thin position capable of a 30/20/.300 line.
3. Jose Reyes (SS – NYM): Averaged 113 runs, 14 HRs, 66 RBI, 65 steals, .287 batting average while missing a total of just 15 games from 2005 to 2008. Has missed 155 games over last two seasons, but remains capable of elite fantasy numbers given healthy Mets lineup.
4. Jimmy Rollins (SS – Phi): Low BABIPs and injuries have hindered last two seasons. Three-year averages (75 runs, 13 HRs, 59 RBI, 32 SBs, .258) remain impressive (given position) despite low batting average.
5. Derek Jeter (SS – NYY): Career worse batting average (.270), BABIP (.307), on-base percentage (.340), slugging percentage (.370) and OPS (.710) in 2010. Notwithstanding, he maintained consistent contact (85.5 percent) with an above-average strikeout rate (16.0 percent), while scoring 111 runs and stealing 18 bases. Expect a bounce-back 2011 season.
6. Alexei Ramirez (SS—ChW) : Likely to hit eighth, limiting his value. Well-rounded, consistent game, however, offers 15/15/.280 floor.
7. Stephen Drew (SS—Ari): Diamondback’s likely No. 3 hitter is due for a 2011 very similar to last year. Expect a line in the area of: 80/15/80/15/.275. Recent ab injury is somewhat concerning, however.
8. Elvis Andrus (SS—Tex): Elite contact rate (87.8 percent) and improved walk rate (9.5 percent) hint at development despite posting a doughnut in the HR column last season. While the 22-year-old is still younger than some prospects you’re salivating over, he’s stolen 30 bases in his first two seasons. Decline in efficiency (85 percent to 79), however, is concerning.
9. Ian Desmond (SS—Was): Nationals’ new leadoff hitter should fare well in his age-25 season. He’ll need to improve his on-base percentage to stick, but his power/speed combo offers excitement in front of Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman. A dynamic line of 80/15/50/20/.275 is well within reach.
10. Rafael Furcal (SS—LAD): Thirty-three-year-old has missed 203 games over the last three seasons, but he remains capable of 10 HRs, 25 steals and a .280 average given 130 games. As long as he’s in the lineup, the Dodgers’ leadoff man should score plenty of runs via Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier.
11. Juan Uribe (2B/3B/SS—LAD): Thirty-two-year-old offers 20-HR pop and .250′s average. His second, third and shortstop eligibility enhances his value immensely, and the power makes him most valuable as a shortstop.
12. Starlin Castro (SS—ChC): Didn’t offer much to fantasy managers last year, but the fact that he hit .300 in 463 at-bats as a 20-year-old is mind-blowing. It’s unreasonable to expect a breakout season this early in his young career, but improvements across the board should warrant a top-12 selection among shortstops. Expect 80 runs, 15-plus steals and a .290 batting average from the young phenom.
13. Mike Aviles (SS—KC): Royals’ leadoff man could push for 15/15/.300, and comes with second, third and shortstop eligibility.
14. Asdrubal Cabrera (SS—Cle): The 25-year-old leadoff man doesn’t offer much power potential, but 80 runs, 15 steals and a .290 average are within reach.
15. Tsuyoshi Nishioka (2B/SS—Min): Nobody is quite sure what to expect from the 26-year-old Japanese switch-hitter, but this is certain: He’s batting second in the Twins lineup in front of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. His contact ability, plate discipline and plus-speed should help solidify his value, but he’ll have to prove he can hit major league pitching.
The best of the rest: After posting a line of: 89/14/76/5/.299 in 2009, Yunel Escobar mustered just five HRs and a .256 average between Atlanta and Toronto last season. Batting second in front of Jose Bautista in 2011 could help provide a bounce-back campaign…J.J. Hardy could provide 15-20 HRs, 75 RBI and a .270 average thanks to his new home, Camden Yards…If he can hold off Jed Lowrie, Marco Scutaro could be a cheap source for runs. The return of Jacoby Ellsbury will bump him from leadoff to the nine hole, however…Alcides Escobar should have a bounce-back season with the Royals. Twenty steals aren’t unrealistic, but his run-scoring opportunities will be minimal if he doesn’t hit near the top.
Image courtesy of: Michael G. Baron
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Tags: Alexei Ramirez, Asdrubal Cabrera, Derek Jeter, Elvis Andrus, Hanley Ramirez, Ian Desmond, Jimmy Rollins, Jose Reyes, Juan Uribe, Mike Aviles, Rafael Furcal, Starlin Castro, Stephen Drew, Troy Tulowitzki, Tsuynoshi Nishioka