Clearing The Bases
To finish out our infield rankings we come to the spot that defines position scarcity. What I mean by that is fantasy owners will reach to grab a shortstop earlier than they probably should because they don’t want to be stuck with someone who is going to be a black hole on their team all season long. It will start right off the bat with Troy Tulowitski. He should be taken in the 1st round of your draft, but in the second half. Yet I have already been in drafts where he has gone as high as number three because of position scarcity. In my home league, a keeper league, only one top SS will be kept, Starlin Castro. I have the 5th pick overall and it has crossed my mind that maybe I should grab Tulo even though I have him ranked 8th overall. Will I grab him, probably not, but still the thought has crossed my mind that Tulo, Reyes, and HRam could all be gone before I pick again and then I will have to play the guessing game of when the next tier of shortstops go off the board. That’s a game I don’t like to play.
As always these rankings are designed for 5×5, 10 team, mixed leagues. In most leagues I don’t expect to have a top five SS, just believe they are going to go to early or for to much money than I would be comfortable with. I’ll end up taking a shot that JJ Hardy or Jhonny Peralta can have another solid season. In rotisserie leagues, Dee Gordon is an interesting play if he can remain in the lineup, he could go along with towards getting you 10 points in SBs.
- Troy Tulowitski, Colorado: Now if you saw what I wrote above you know I believe Troy is a top eight pick in your draft, top three in an NL only league. He is prone to going into going into prolonged slumps which can drive you crazy in a H2H league and injuries can be a concern, but overall there is not much to dislike here. Even though he has played 143 and 122 games the past two seasons, he has still averaged 28.5 HRs, 100 RBIs, 10 SBs, batted over .300 both seasons, and with an OPS over .900. Yeah, give me Tulowitski, maybe I should take him 5th overall in my home league.
- Hanley Ramirez, Miami: I have to put him second on this list but he comes with a big buyer beware sign in my mind. Last season was cut short by injury and he only played in 92 games but his numbers weren’t so hot even before the injury. They were even worse when you put into the equation that he went top five in most drafts. Before injury, 10 HR, 45 RBI, 20 SB, 55 Rs, .243 AVG and .712 OPS. Not to good for a supposed star player. Now you factor in that he is being forced to move to third base and we don’t know how the new ballpark is going to play. No thanks, I’m staying away, especially when I know it will probably take a 2nd round pick or $40+ to draft him.
- Jose Reyes, Miami: Let me start by saying this, I love Jose Reyes. He’s a triple waiting to happen every time he hits one into the gap but he also will require a high price, higher than I’m willing to pay when you know there is at least one DL stint in his future, the man just can’t stay healthy. Can he hit, oh yes, provides everything except power. Do I worry how the new ballpark will play with Reyes, no, doesn’t matter, he’s not a power hitter. However he has missed 61 games the past two season with assorted leg injuries, and his legs are his game, not like he can rest them, and you know he’s not jaking it, he even had two DL stints last season in his contract year that could’ve cost him big bucks in free agency. Not to mention you throw position scarcity in there and he’s going to go early than he should, maybe even the second round, I just prefer more of a guarantee for my money.
- Starlin Castro, Cubs: Castro had 207 hits, 10 HRs, 66 RBIs, 22 SB, and batted .307. This all at the tender age of 21. Imagine what he might be able to do with another year’s experience under his belt. The power may turn you off a bit, but also keep in mind that eight of his home runs came in the last 69 games, power is sometimes the last thing a young hitter figures out, it should surprise no one if Castro hits 18-20 bombs this season. He has all the tools to be a very good SS in MLB and a great one in fantasy, playing in Wrigley Field certainly doesn’t hurt either.
- Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia: The Phillies took a leap of faith with Rollins, signing him to a $33 million three year contract in the off-season. Do fantasy owners have to take the same leap? Not really, assuming you’re not spending a premium pick or high dollar amount for him. His average the last two seasons (.268, .243) certainly leaves much to be desired but how many shortstops are going to hit 16 HRs and steal 30 bases, yeah, it’s a short list. How many runs he scores this season could also be in flux as they Phils will be without Ryan Howard until at least May, probably longer and Chase Utley may no longer be the player he once was. The Phillies offense as a whole has declined the past three seasons, even in that bandbox they call Citizen’s Park, they are more of a pitching team than a hitting one.
- Alexei Ramirez, White Sox: Ramirez is another one of those players who leaves me wanting more. He has power, plays in a home run haven in Cellular Field yet has only hit 15, 18, and 15 HRs the last three seasons. Stolen bases have declined for three straight seasons, although never a strong point of his, 15 was a nice number for what he could provide power wise, but seven last year, really. The good news is that he should be a top of the lineup hitter now that the Sox have realized Gordon Beckham is not going to be the player they had hoped for.
- Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland: Okay, raise your hand if you saw Cabrera hitting 25 HRs, 92 RBIs, 87 Runs, and 17 SBs. Yeah, put your hand down, no one saw this coming. Question now is, can he do it again? Yes and no, he’s a good player, and will go quickly in AL only leagues, but he did struggle during the second half of last season, was it because of injuries, or because teams learned to how to pitch to him? I have a tendency not to trust one year wonders, especially when it comes out of nowhere.
- Derek Jeter, Yankees: Jeter came into last season certainly looking like a player who was declining, and declining quickly. He started off last season not exactly changing anyone’s opinion, then he missed almost a month with a calf injury, and looked like the Jeter of old in the second half. His power numbers won’t help you, but he did end up batting .297, scoring 84 runs, and stealing 16 bases, not to bad either. The Yankees will be sure to rest him this season to keep him fresh all year long, that may be the key to his success, so prepare for no more than 140 games from Derek.
- Elvis Andrus, Texas: Not much to really say about Andrus. If you’re drafting him, you want the 35+ stolen bases and 90+ runs scored, hey at shortstop this late in the draft, that’s valuable. You know he has no power, even in Texas, so don’t expect anything more than a handful of long balls.
- JJ Hardy, Baltimore: Hardy certainly enjoyed his first year in the American League as he hit a career high 30 HRs to go along with 80 RBIs, not bad for a SS in which the jury was out on prior to last season. Now he has zero speed and proved by swiping zero bases last year and his average was a pedestrian .269 but the long balls out of the SS position are valuable, and if you need them, then he should be a couple of rungs higher on this list.
- Jhonny Peralta, Detroit: Peralta had his best season since 2008 last year with 21 bombs, 86 RBIs, .299 AVG and .823 OPS, impressive numbers in Comerica Field. Now we know the Tigers are going to have a strong lineup this season with the addition of Prince Fielder so Peralta certainly won’t be the focal point of any team’s pitching staff. He looks to be a safe play, no speed, not as much power as Hardy, but a better AVG, just depends which way you want to go.
- Marco Scutaro, Colorado: These next four player are pretty much all draft and hope types, definitely players you would rather have at MI than your starting SS. Scutaro is an interesting play however. He batted a career high .299 last season but his power numbers fell off, which is a concern seeing as though he was playing his home games in Fenway. Now he gets the humidor in Colorado, which may play better for his skills, hitting the ball in the gaps. Batting in the top of the lineup is a plus also.
- Dee Gordon, Dodgers: Like Andrus, there is only one reason to draft Gordon, stolen bases. He stole 24 bases in 56 games last season, he could win you that category all by himself at that pace. The question is playing time, the jury is still out if he will indeed be the Dodgers starting SS all season.
- Yunel Escobar, Toronto: The Braves couldn’t wait to get rid of Escobar, but he has seemed to have found a home in Toronto. His upside to say the least is limited, but he can hit double digit home runs, so can just about anyone else who calls Toronto home. His average can approach .300 and his OPS .800, we’re still waiting for his breakout season, wouldn’t really shock me if this was it, but I’m not baking on it.
- Zach Cozart, Cincinnati: Cozart only made it through 11 games in his rookie season, but did show some promise. His upside is double digit home runs and stolen bases but he is not a big believer in the base on balls so his average could suffer.