While second base has become an increasingly deep fantasy position in years past, shortstop has only become shallower as more teams have emphasized defense over offense at the position. While many players have 20-steal or 20-homerun potential, few have both, and it’s important to draft a shortstop that won’t be a drain on your fantasy squad in 2011.
All rankings are based on a standard 5×5 category, 10-team rotisserie league scoring system.
1. Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins
A perennial Top 5 overall selection, Ramirez had a down year by his standards in 2010, hitting .327-21-76 with 32 stolen bases and 92 runs scored. That such an impressive line can be considered sub-par for Ramirez says all you need to know about his upside and reliability, and his five-category production plus shortstop eligibility means he shouldn’t be drafted behind anyone except for Albert Pujols.
2. Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies
Tulowitzki fits better as option "1.a" than "2" on this list, and should also be under consideration for a Top 5 selection in any draft. Tulo’s ability to hit .300-30-100 from the shortstop position makes him an exceedingly valuable fantasy asset, but his lack of durability and top-notch speed means he falls slightly behind Ramirez in these rankings.
3. Jose Reyes, New York Mets
One of the riskiest selections in fantasy baseball, Reyes has tantalized owners with his 50-plus steal and 20-plus homer potential for over a half-decade. He’s been hampered by injuries for the past two seasons, however, and hasn’t played in over 135 games since 2008. Since Reyes is capable of hitting .300-15-70 with 50 swipes he should be off the board by round four, but make sure to handcuff him with a capable backup.
4. Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia Phillies
Rollins has five-category fantasy potential like Reyes, but has been nagged by injuries in two of the past three seasons and is clearly no longer in the prime of his career. Rollins’ days of hitting north of .290 with 40-plus steals are over, but he’s still capable of hitting .275-20-75 with 25 swipes if healthy, and remains a Top 5 fantasy shortstop.
5. Derek Jeter, New York Yankees
Jeter is certainly in decline and is no longer an elite fantasy option, but remains one of the better fantasy shortstops because of how shallow the position is. Don’t expect Jeter to reach 15 homers or 25 steals again, but he’s a lock to score 100 runs and swipe 15-plus bases, and his average should rebound back closer to .290. Just be sure not to overdraft Jeter based on name value.
6. Alexei Ramirez, Chicago White Sox
It’s not hard to make the argument that Ramirez is a better option than Jeter, as the quietly consistent Cuban is likely to out-produce the Yankees’ star in homers and RBI. If he adds a little more pop, a .285-20-75 line with 15 steals is within his reach, and I’d be comfortable taking Ramirez from the seventh round on in non-OBP leagues.
7. Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers
Andrus is largely devoid of power, but should put up very solid run and stolen base totals, and will slightly improve his batting average as he matures as a player. Andrus is currently being drafted a little too high in non-keeper leagues, but you could do worse than to have someone with a .275 average, 40 stolen bases, and 90 runs scored as your starting shortstop.
8. Stephen Drew, Arizona Diamondbacks
Drew hasn’t developed into the big star many thought he would, and because of that, he’s somewhat underrated as a fantasy option. Drew doesn’t provide great value in any one category but instead produces solid numbers in four of them, and his batting average won’t kill you either. Expect double-digit homers and steals with solid run and RBI totals and don’t let Drew fall past round 10.
9. Rafael Furcal, Los Angeles Dodgers
Furcal has been a fantasy staple at shortstop for over a decade now, but he’s lost some speed and durability as he’s aged. He’d likely still hit .300-10-60 with 30 stolen bases if he received 600 at-bats next season, but the odds of him taking the field that frequently are slim. Expect him to receive closer to 400 at-bats and adjust his numbers accordingly.
10. Ian Desmond, Washington Nationals
Desmond is a rare shortstop commodity in that he’s capable of providing double-digit homers and steals, and has a shot at 70 runs and RBI in an improving Nationals lineup. He’s worthy of drafting in all leagues, but keeper league owners should beware that his poor defense means he’ll likely move off of shortstop within a season or two.
11. Erick Aybar, Los Angeles Angels
Aybar was a popular sleeper headed into 2010 drafts, and while his numbers last season were solid, he didn’t quite break out the way many hoped he would. Still, fantasy owners shouldn’t be discouraged. Aybar is just entering his prime at 27, and should bat atop an improved Angel’s lineup. A .290-5-60 line with 30 stolen bases is within his reach, and in some ways he’s a safer option than Furcal.
12. Jhonny Peralta, Detroit Tigers
This is higher than many will rank Peralta, but as written in the third base rankings, he’s a solid candidate to improve on his 2010 numbers and provides above-average pop at shortstop. Peralta figures to hit fifth or sixth in Detroit’s lineup, and a .280-20-85 line is within his reach. He’s currently being drafted very late and provides good value past round 16 in non-OBP leagues.
13. Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs
As a highly touted prospect in one of the biggest baseball markets in the country, Castro finds himself a little overrated in the fantasy world headed into his sophomore season. He’s still worthy of being a starting middle infielder in most leagues though, and can hit .300-7-50 with 20 steals. Feel free to take Castro from the 15th round on, just don’t reach for him.
14. Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland Indians
Another popular sleeper pick headed into the 2010 season, Cabrera broke his wrist a little over one month into the season and struggled when he returned. Now fully healthy and entering his prime, Cabrera has a chance to hit 10 homers while swiping 20 bases and providing a solid average. He also has a shot at scoring 90 runs batting from the top third of the Indians’ order.
15. Alcides Escobar, Kansas City Royals
Escobar had a disappointing rookie campaign last season, hitting just .235-4-41 with 10 steals and reaching base at less than a .300 clip. He was a victim of horrible luck, though, and has enough speed to steal well over 20 bases as well. In short, Escobar is an excellent late-round flier who could surprise with a .300 average, 70 runs and 30 steals.
16. Yunel Escobar, Toronto Blue Jays
Escobar has teased fantasy owners with his power for years, but we have a large enough sample of at-bats from him now to know what to expect. The Blue Jays’ lineup should be above-average, meanings a good amount of runs scored and RBI for Escobar, and he can hit around .290 with 15 homers as well. He’s not a budding star, but he’s a solid second-tier option.
17. Juan Uribe, Los Angeles Dodgers
Uribe was one of several Giants veterans to have surprisingly good seasons in 2010, and the portly middle infielder hit .248-24-85 while spending time at second, third and shortstop. Uribe’s value is entirely tied up in his versatility and power, and while he shouldn’t be drafted as a starter at any position, he’s an excellent bench option.
18. J.J. Hardy, Baltimore Orioles
Hardy was once considered the next big thing at shortstop, but has suffered through injuries and ineffectiveness for much of the past two seasons. He’s worthy of fantasy consideration because of his 25-homer potential, but won’t help you much in average and doesn’t steal bases either. In short, expect Uribe-like numbers but without the new Dodgers’ versatility.
19. Ryan Theriot, St. Louis Cardinals
Theriot is a much more useful fantasy player than major leaguer, but while the Cardinals may come to regret allowing him to start at short, fantasy owners should take advantage of his speed and ability to hit for a solid average. Theriot’s a safe bet to hit .285-3-50 with 20 steals, and could score 90 runs in a solid Cardinals’ lineup. He has second-base eligibility as well.
20. Reid Brignac, Tampa Bay Rays
Once considered one of the Rays’ top prospects, Brignac isn’t destined for stardom but offers 15-homer pop with the ability to nab over 60 RBI and runs scored. Add in his second-base eligibility and likelihood to swipe 5-10 bases, and Brignac contributes enough to warrant a pick as a solid bench option in deep leagues.
Three Prospects To Watch For 2011
1. Dee Gordon, Los Angeles Dodgers
Gordon needs to get physically stronger before he projects as a major leaguer, but once he reaches the big show, he’s likely to be a Top 10 fantasy shortstop for years to come. Gordon’s plus-speed should allow him to swipe 40-plus bags a season, and he can hit for high averages as well. Look for him to become Jose Reyes but with less power.
2. Grant Green, Oakland Athletics
Green is very unlikely to make the A’s roster this season as he’s yet to play above High-A ball, but there’s a lack of shortstop prospects in the upper minors and Green at least has an outside shot to see major league time this September. He profiles as a future .290 hitter with 20-homer power, but may have to move off the position to third base.
3. Jose Iglesias, Boston Red Sox
Iglesias doesn’t profile as much of a fantasy factor, but could see major league time as soon as July and will score a ton of runs in Boston’s potent offense. His ceiling is as a .275-7-50 hitter with 10 stolen bases, but he’s one of the few shortstops who are nearly ready to make it to the majors.