Clearing The Bases
The position of shortstop is traditionally weak, and this year is no exception. The first 3-4 players are studs, next two I wouldn’t mind having, then everyone else is pretty much a dartboard throw, hoping they help me more than they hurt me. What I mean by that is that if I take someone like Hardy, he better hit 25+ HRs, because I know his average won’t help me, Aybar or Al. Escobar better steal bases because I know they won’t provide any power. So you have to be careful if you can’t get one of the better bets at short, last thing you want is to draft someone like Jeter, you know going in he won’t provide any power, and then because of the ankle injury, doesn’t supply speed either, and then because age finally catches up with him, doesn’t hit for a high average, which is why you drafted him in the first place.
1. Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies: Health is always the main concern when it comes to Tulo as he has missed 174 games over the past three seasons including most of last year with a groin injury. If healthy a SS that can hit 30 HRs, drive in 100 RBIs, and bat around .300, will certainly help a fantasy team or two. Question will be do you have the nerve to take him with your 1st round pick? Because if you want him, you will more than likely have to use that pick.
2. Jose Reyes, Toronto Blue Jays: Reyes is part of a revamped Jays offense that could be one of the best in MLB. They have plenty of power with Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and company, play in a ballpark conducive to the HR, and for Reyes, play on artificial turf which should make him only faster. Now, there is a worry. Reyes has had leg problems in the past and playing on that surface in Toronto could lead to some problems down the line, but if he stays healthy he could also have a career season.
3. Hanley Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers: Now some pundits have HRam ranked ahead of Reyes, but I just can’t do it. Maybe it’s because I’m not a fan of someone with his attitude. Someone who has been known not to give it his all night in and night out. That being said I can’t deny that he is almost a lock for 20+ HRs, 90+ RBIs, and 20+ SBs. There is even some upside that could see these numbers go higher. These stats do however come with a declining AVG, he has only hit only .243 and .257 the past two seasons.
4. Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs: All Castro needs to vault into the top tier of fantasy shortstops is to develop his power potential, and that should come. Will it be this season? His rookie season he hit 10 long balls, 14 last year. Another 40% jump would put him at 20, which is where he would need to be to justify taking him in the first three rounds of a draft. We already know he will steal at least 25 bases and should hit at least .280. Runs could be a problem as the Cubs offense is a work in progress to put it nicely.
5. Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays: Zobrist was also my number five at 2B. I love that he is eligible at either middle infield position, not to mention outfield also, just increases his value. He will most certainly be a 20/20 player this season and is even someone I would think about reaching for maybe a round earlier than normal. Yes, I’m a fan.
6. Ian Desmond, Washington Nationals: I think it’s safe to say manager Davey Johnson’s advice to Desmond last season “don’t worry about swinging and missing, just hit the ball hard”, paid off nicely. Question with Desmond now is can he do it again. He hit more HRs last year, 25, than the three years prior combined. His AVG was also a career high, .292. Not sure it’s fair to ask him to do any better, but if he can sustain these numbers, along with stealing 20+ bases, and next year he will find himself in the top tier of shortstops, possibly even ahead of Castro.
7. Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia Phillies: Rollins, like many Phillies offensive players, doesn’t seem to be getting any love from fantasy owners. Granted his AVG has been .250 or below in three of the past four seasons but he has also stolen 30 or more bases in that same time span and provides a good amount of pop. What’s even better is that outside of 2010 when he only played 88 games, Rollins has never played less than 137 games. As a fantasy owner, one of the most important talents is to be in the lineup.
8. Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers: I know some really like Andrus, but I just don’t see the love. I have him at eight and though about dropping him a few more places. He has little to no power, 14 HRs in the past four seasons. You draft him for his speed and an AVG that should help you, but last year he only stole 21 bases, perhaps he will run more now that the team lost Josh Hamilton, but if he isn’t running, his value is extremely limited, extremely.
9. Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland Indians: Cabrera is pretty much the reason that I don’t like putting stock into a player who has one big season. In 2011 Cabrera hit 25 HRs, drove in 92 RBIs, stole 17 bases, hit .273, and scored 87 runs. Last year, 16 HRs, 68 RBIs, 9 SBs, 70 runs, and a .270 AVG. That’s a pretty steep drop. That being said I would still take him over Andrus.
10. Danny Espinosa, Washington Nationals: Espinosa, like Zobrist is valuable because of eligibility at both SS and 2B. If he was completely healthy, shoulder, he’d be up at least two spots on this list. This injury already caused him to pull out of the WBC. Now he is going to try and play through the injury and may very well be able to do so, but I’m not banking and kind of high draft pick or high dollar amount on it. Let someone else take that risk. If he does fall to me however and I feel like I can live with a sub .250 AVG, he does have 20/20 potential.
11. J.J. Hardy, Baltimore Orioles: What are you going to get with Hardy? Pretty simple, you’re going to get a SS who could hit 25+ HRs, but also one who could be a drain on your AVG. Still, late in a draft, it may be worth it. Two things to remember. First, he may bat in the bottom third of the order this season. Second, top prospect Manny Machado (who is currently playing 3B), is a natural SS, sooner or later they are going to move him to his natural position. Hardy could be traded should a deal arise that Baltimore believes fits their needs.
12. Erick Aybar, Los Angeles Angels: Aybar is certainly more suited for a MI than a starting SS but he can be had on the cheap, will supply steals along with an average that won’t hurt you. He started off slowly last season before turning it on in the second half so take that into account when looking at his numbers. If he were to bat 2nd in the lineup, behind Mike Trout and in front of Albert Pujols, he will see nothing but fastballs. One negative about this positioning though is that he may get the red light as the Angels won’t want to see him thrown out on the bases in front of Pujols and Josh Hamilton.
13. Alcides Escobar, Kansas City Royals: Escobar is almost a carbon copy of Aybar. Average that will help you and a great source for stolen bases. He is a sleeper at this position as his numbers are trending upward. He is yet another young Royals hitter to watch.
14. Jed Lowrie, Oakland Athletics: Not sure why Lowrie isn’t getting more love. He is another player that could be available at multiple positions depending upon your league rules. He is a good hitter. The 16 HRs last season were partially a product of playing in Houston, so I would expect a regression there, but would also expect a higher batting AVG with Oakland. A nice MI if you can get him late.
15. Derek Jeter, New York Yankees: Not really sure what to make of Jeter this season. His numbers were terrific last season, but his BABIP (batting average on balls in play), will tell you that he was pretty lucky. Now, I’m not someone who is a stat geek, but they are useful tools. One thing I am however is a NYY fan, and watching Jeter night in and night out I can tell you with absolute certainly that he was lucky last season. He was one of the league leaders in infield hits and couldn’t place balls better in the outfield if he had thrown them from home plate. Not sure that will happen again. He has limited power and the ankle may prevent him from stealing many bases this year.
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