“Things turn out best for people who make the best out of the way things turn out.” John Wooden
As I researched the Shortstop position, this quote stood out to me. There are going to be wide disparities in how people view Shortstop. It will be a position open to debate all pre-season. The best two players at the position are huge health risks and every player after them has question marks. I feel that if a player you like falls to you, pounce. But reaching for a sure thing just doesn’t feel right at Shortstop this year.
My Top 12
1. Troy Tulowitzki – Colorado Rockies –Here are his at bats since 2009: 543, 470, 537, 203. It’s hard to trust him enough to take him in the first round. But he is the only SS that can offer 25 or more home runs, 80 or more RBI, hit for an average near .300, steal double digit bases, score 90 runs and be that true five category fantasy performer. He fell to the second round in the recent FSTA draft and if healthy could be a steal there.
2. Jose Reyes – Toronto Blue Jays – Jose has remained relatively healthy the last 3 years averaging 547 at bats. Extrapolate his second half of 2012 of 49 runs, 9 home runs, 38 RBI and 22 stolen bases with a .301 batting average, and he could easily challenge Troy for the top spot this year, particularly in that deep Blue Jays lineup. The only question will be: can his legs hold up on the turf?
3. Hanley Ramirez – Los Angeles Dodgers – Hanley will carry nice duel eligibility for 2013 with SS and 3B. He seemed to thrive in LA with a nice second half of 39 runs, 13 HR, 51 RBI, and 11 SB but only hit .254. He could definitely make a run at another 20/20 season. And his xBA (expected Batting Average) in the second half last year was .262 leaving room for growth, although not all that much.
4. Ian Desmond – Washington Nationals – If the case can be made to reach for Bryce Harper in the second round, why not Desmond ranked at 4? I understand his second half from last year of 33 runs, 12 HR’s, 30 RBI, 13 SB and an average of .320 is tough to repeat. He outperformed his xPX (expected Power Index) and his xBA (expected batting average). He is 27, but can he keep the gains of last year including the average?
5. Starlin Castro – Chicago Cubs – It’s hard to believe this guy is only 23. He had second half numbers of 42 runs, 8 HR, 38 RBI, 9 SB and hit .269 but his xBA was .275. The key number here is the xPX which rose to 100 in the second half. If he can increase his home runs and still steal 25 bases, his value will keep rising as he develops.
6. Ben Zobrist – Tampa Bay Rays – He was covered in the 2B rankings and also has eligibility in the OF. His versatile eligibility and 5-category ability propelled him to a 3rd round selection in the FSTA mock on Monday. That may be early, but he won’t return less than fifth or sixth round value at worst. There’s few safer than Zobrist.
7. Jimmy Rollins – Philadelphia Phillies – Jimmy will provide help in all 4 counting categories, but he comes with big batting average risk. His second half of 57 Runs, 15 HR, 41 RBI and 16 SB are great. But his .237 average and xBA of .270 is in line with his 2010 year in which he hit .243 with an xBA of .276. As he gets older and slower, look for his xBA to continue to be higher than his actual average.
8. Elvis Andrus – Texas Rangers – Elvis is only 24 years old and is still growing as a player. His 85 runs, 3 HR, 62 RBI and 21 SB all have room to grow. Andrus also hit .286 so he should not be a drain on your average. With a shift in Texas’ offense this year he should be provided with more opportunities to run.Don’t forget, he had 37 SB’s in 2011, and should be a threat for 30+ every year.
9. Asdrubal Cabrera – Cleveland Indians – Let’s focus on his first half since the wrist injury hugely affected his second half. In the first half Asdrubal had 40 runs, 11 HR, 40 RBI and 2 SB to go with a .298 average. I think we can all agree that we will take 20+ home runs and 80 RBI from our SS this year.
10. Derek Jeter – New York Yankees – After spending the offseason in a walking boot, the Captain will look to hang on in the top 10 for one more year. I respect him, but I have questions. His HR/FB% (Home runs per fly ball rate) more than doubled from 2011 and his xPX dropped 19 points. His batting average was .316 and his xBA was .290 while he lost 7 stolen bases from 2011. He will be a year older, coming off an injury and I do not see his 2012 gains being sustainable. Yes he will score runs and get hits, but the counting stats may not be worth his price tag in the slightly depleted and aging Yankees lineup.
11. Erick Aybar – Los Angeles Angels – Aybar started the year slowly and really broke through in the second half with 44 runs, 7 HR, 25 RBI, 15 SB and a .328 average. His 2nd half xBA of .303 suggests some regression but if he can put up a season of those stats times two with the xBA, he will still be a steal.
12. Alcides Escobar – Kansas City Royals – This is the Escobar at SS I prefer. Unlike Yunel, Alcides puts up double digit stats at SB and provides more fantasy goodness. The only warning sign I can see is his H% (Hit percentage) has improved the last two years, but it went up 5% from 2011 so his .293 average from last year may ebb back towards his xBA of .271. This still allows for value, especially if he can raise his steal totals. But plan on .280 not .300
Thrift Shop – My sleepers
Josh Rutledge – Colorado Rockies – He was profiled in my 2B preview and has SS eligibility as well.
Zach Cozart – Cincinnati Reds – Zach did not reach the .250 level last season but his xBA of .254 shows some hope. He enters his age 27 season in 2013, and if he can keep the 15 home runs while adding stolen bases (he had 22 in AAA) there may be some value here.
Jean Segura – Milwaukee Brewers – Not a bad debut, hit .258 in 151 at bats with 14 RBI and 7 stolen bases. Heading into his first full season a handful of home runs can be expected (3-5) to go with 25 or more stolen bases. Where he hits in the lineup may effect his runs scored, but he can be good value late.
Jed Lowrie – Houston Astros – What if? In 340 at bats last season Jed was able to put up 16 HR, 42 RBI to go with 43 runs and 2 steals. He only hit .244 but his xBA was .253, and we are more interested in the home runs anyways. If he could get 500 at bats, it seems within reason he could get 25 home runs. Is this the year?
Alexei Ramirez – Chicago White Sox – It almost seems like his consistency hurts him. He struggled early last season but his second half of 31 runs, 7 HR, 36 RBI, 11 SB and hit .280. Plan on the xBA of .267, he went in the 14th round of the FSTA draft and a double-double is possible.
JJ Hardy – Baltimore Orioles – His at bats increased and so in turn did his runs. But what we really wanted out of Hardy was power (30 HR’s in 2011) and he did provide 22. However, his PX and xPX both dropped last year and it feels like 2011’s production is far in the rearview mirror. If you want to wait for power and hope for a rebound in batting average (his xBA was 11 points over his average), JJ is your guy. Just temper your expectations to 20 home runs to avoid being disappointed.
Everth Cabrera – San Diego Padres – If you are looking for cheap steals at your MI late in the draft, then this Cabrera is for you. In 398 at bats in San Diego he put up 44 steals. In a daily league against right handed pitchers he will be cheap speed. But I’d definitely bench him against lefties, against whom he hit .195.
Stephen Drew – Boston Red Sox – We are drafting him late and hoping 2010 can repeat itself. As he comes back from that gruesome ankle injury he can provide double digit home runs and shouldn’t kill your average late.
Jhonny Peralta – Detroit Tigers – Peralta had a drop in his home runs but the xPX suggests it isn’t all lost. Although he hit .299 in 2011 his xBA was .257 and is a good predictor for this year to come. He can rebound to 15 home runs and should be able to get his average above .250 if you care to find out.
Andrelton Simmons – Atlanta Braves – Simmons was able to hit .289 in 166 at bats with 3 home runs and 19 RBI. The Braves handle young talent well and he may be able to provide Yunel Escobar stats but with the chance to reach double digits in home runs.
Going Deeper – Minor Leagues
Dee Gordon – Los Angeles Dodgers – Two scenarios here: he could slide to second base for Mark Ellis (he is basically just a faster Mark Ellis) or he could be traded. Gordon stole 32 bases in only 303 at bats with an xBA of a more respectable .246. So if he can find time on the field, he will be a source of cheap steals.
Jurickson Profar – Texas Rangers – He is the flavor of the year, a guy stuck in the minors who can win me a league. Well, that may be a bit much and I know he is already on most fantasy owner’s radars. Profar was drafted in the 18th round of the FSTA mock and ahead of such veterans as Furcal, Cozart, Simmons, Lowrie and Drew.
Nick Franklin – Seattle Mariners – He was on the 2B list as well but how long can Seattle send Brendan Ryan out there?
Greg Jewett is a new contributor to RotoAnalysis. Look for his work all season long on RotoAnalysis.com and follow him on Twitter @GJewett9!
Photo Credit: http://thezimmermanntelegram.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/ian-desmond2.jpg