The shortstop position is always a flashy one. There are plenty of speed guys and some players with pop, too. Over the last few seasons, however, it’s become a very volatile one. The players at the top have seen their performances rise and fall with each passing season, often leaving the fantasy owner out do dry. Importantly, health is a big concern and finding someone who can last throughout the grind of the season is critically important.
1. Troy Tulowitzki: the Rockies shortstop is a true superstar when he’s healthy, but that’s been the problem. In 2011, he played 143 games, which was a rebound from 2010. While you should expect a stint or two on the DL, Tulo is a great candidate to go .300/30/100 again. He won’t steal many bases (10 looks like his ceiling) but his power is irreplaceable at the position. He powers the Rockies lineup and since he plays half his games at Coors Field, expect the long-ball and plenty of runs scored.
2. Jose Reyes: coming off a freaky-good season, the new Marlin will leadoff in a potent Miami lineup. He’s the antithesis of Tulo: an electric player on the basepaths. Sure he hits for average, hits a ton of extra-base hits and steals bases at an incredible clip, but he won’t hit many homers. Reyes is a player with another long list of injuries and DL stints, so if you take him you have to prepared to find a suitable backup. When he’s in your lineup, however, you won’t be disappointed.
3. Jhonny Peralta: this was a tough choice to rank third, but after Tulo and Reyes, things fall off a bit. Peralta will be part of an explosive lineup in Detroit in 2012 and can’t help but benefit from the acquisition of Prince Fielder. He hits for average and can collect 20+ homeruns while being in a position to drive in runs. Where he hits in the Tigers’ lineup will help determine his value. If he hits second, his value falls a little because he’ll not produce the RBI’s, but if he hits fifth, as projected, he’ll have men on in front of him all season long.
4. Jimmy Rollins: the former NL MVP has been up and down over the past few years. Last year, the Philly had a bit of a resurgence by hitting .273, popping 16 homeruns and stealing 30 bags. The Philadelphia lineup has been tumultuous with injuries to Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, which have negatively influenced Rollins. When everyone is right, they score runs with the best of them. Jimmy’s also been hurt some, so he’s risky in my book. He can be one of the best in the game if it’s all clicking, so he’s worth the gamble, just have an insurance plan.
5. Asdrubal Cabrera: as the Indians begin to turn thins around, look for Asdrubal to be in the thick of things at the plate. After a 2011 that saw him hit 25 homeruns, drive in 92 and steal 17 bases, this shortstop appears to be entering his prime. There’s some fear that he could regress some, given his lack of patience at the plate (18% strikeout rate, 6.5% walk rate) but those power numbers are hard to replicate at the shortstop position. A very durable player, Cabrera is a pretty safe bet on draft day but he doesn’t have as high of a ceiling as others above him.
6. JJ Hardy: shortstops aren’t your typical power hitters, but Hardy fits that bill. A perennial threat to hit 30 bombs, this Oriole is at the heart of the Baltimore lineup. He doesn’t have the flashy average or speed on the bases, but he can put the ball over the fence and drive in 80-90 runs. If you miss at some of the more typical power positions, you can snag Hardy in the middle rounds to compensate.
7. Starlin Castro: the Cubs have a good one in Castro. He’s young, athletic and he can rake (plus the ladies find him particularly attractive). While the power numbers haven’t arrived yet, he can hit for a high average, steal some bases and score a lot of runs from the leadoff spot. If there’s a weakness in his game, it’s that he rarely walks, but the patience should come as he matures at the plate. Starlin is a solid player who contributes, but won’t carry your team.
8. Elvis Andrus: here’s a guy I could see being a little underrated come draft time. Leading off for perhaps the most potent lineup in the league, this Texas shortstop will likely score 100+ runs and steal 40 bases. His average is decent, .275-.280, and his walk and strikeout rates are tolerable. He’s a bargain in the mid to late rounds.
9. Eric Aybar: with the acquisition of Pujols, Aybar should score the Angels a lot of runs. He can hit 10-12 homers and steal 30+ bases in addition to scoring nearly 100 runs. Aybar has been consistent at the plate and is a good mid to late round pickup.
10. Alexei Ramirez: while the White Sox will be down some, don’t look for Alexei to miss a beat. He is what he is, a consistent performer who can hit 15 homers, steal 12 bags, drive in and score 80 runs. Another predictable performer but one that has a relatively low ceiling.
A guy who may be off some radars but could offer big upside is Stephen Drew of the Diamondbacks. A once top-5 player at the position, Drew is coming off a string of injuries. Reports sound as if he feels great, so if he looks good this spring, he could be a bargain. Emilio Bonafacio of the Marlins is a place where you can find cheap steals. He won’t cost you anything but a late-round pick or possibly a waiver claim, but he can offer 40+ steals and a reasonable average. He may have 3B and OF flexibility as well.
While he’s still officially “The Captain,” I’m not wasting a pick on Derek Jeter this year. His time has clearly come and gone as last year demonstrated. There are no points awarded in fantasy baseball for sentiment, so even though you love him, let him go.