Diamond Depth: Fantasy Baseball Shortstop Preview

Perennially one of the thinnest positions in fantasy, this year the shortstop depth is no different. The top-tier here is perhaps one of the biggest risk-reward investments with a pair of guys capable of returning top-5 value… or missing 105 games. Tier two is another solid group, but the talent falls off of a cliff afterwards, making it imperative that you grab one the top-9 options. Digging deeper J.J. Hardy, Danny Espinosa and Derek Jeter represent the best of the rest, but relying on a guy like that in a standard mixer could be playing with fire.

Tier One

1. Troy Tulowitzki

Trusting Tulo is not for the faint of heart. He’s average just 104 games played per season over the past three years, but the production on the field is just too much to shy away from. Since 2009, Tulowitzki has average an elite .302-107-34-112-15 line per 162-games. Is there a bigger upside play in the league?

2. Jose Reyes

Reyes takes his elite wheels north of the border to the always entertaining AL East. Jose will be looking for a bounce-back season in Toronto after watching his batting average and runs scored dip in 2012. He did flex a bit more power but the basepaths is where Jose makes his hay. Don’t expect 60+ steals like we saw in his Mets’ days, but 35+ swipes, 100+ runs and a solid batting average are all but guaranteed so long as his legs can hold up on the Rogers’ Center’s Turf.

Tier Two

3. Ben Zobrist


Is Starlin Castro ready to take the next step?

4. Starlin Castro

Entering his age-23 season, it’s a mystery just which Starlin Castro we are going to see on opening day, The hot-and-cold shortstop batted .350 with an impressive .462 slugging percentage during the first 29 games of 2012. Over the balance of the season, however, Castro batted a pretty regular .268/.314/.423, leaving some scratching their heads. He  did step up the power a bit and swiped a career high 25 bases—albeit with a poor 65% success rate—which are certainly enticing developments for prospective fantasy owners. Still, entering his age-23 season, Castro must continue to build on the strides he made early in 2012 and leave the second half of last season as nothing more than an extended slump.

5. Asdrubal Cabrera

Cabrera’s 2012 season registered as a disappointment for fantasy owners as he regress in each and every 5×5 category. Health has also been a concern for the Indians’ shortstop who has player more than 150 games just once over his six year career. Still, As-Cab has averaged a respectable .282-86-16-80-16 line per 162 games over the past four seasons and is capable of providing a nice mix of power and speed at a painfully weak position.

6. Jimmy Rollins

J-Roll enjoyed a bounce back season in 2012 clubbing 23 home runs to go along with 102 runs scored and 68 RBI. Since his MVP season in 2007, Rollins has taken a slight step back and struggled from injuries, averaging just 136 games played per season over his last five campaigns. Still, the production as a top-end shortstop has been there. Per 162 games since 2008, Jimmy has averaged 99 runs scored and 74 RBI to go along with 19 home runs 38 steals. Though the .258 average isn’t helping you all that much, the veteran remains a juicy option for your middle infield.

7. Ian Desmond

8. Erick Aybar

Like the majority of the Angels last season, Erick Aybar stumbled out of the gates, batting below .200 for the first month-plus of the season. The veteran shortstop turned it on after that however, and punched his way to a solid .323/.359/.474 with 59 runs scored and 18 stolen bases in 390 at bats over the last 105 games of the season. Aybar represents an excellent value pick in the 10th round or later if you miss out on the elite tier.

9. Hanley Ramirez

A tale of two season put Hanley’s final line at an ordinary .257/.322/.437, a bit disappointing from a consensus top-30 player. A closer look reveals a guy who turned up his game with a change of scenery and a chance to play for a contender. Following the mid-season trade to LA, Ramirez belted 10 home runs and drove in 44 RBI over 251 at-bats. If we stretch that production over a full season, we are looking at a .271-26-112 player with 18 steals and a solid run total. While those numbers are certainly not a given, that 20 homer/20 steal floor plays very nicely at third base or shortstop… Of course, that was all before the torn ligament in his thumb that will sideline Hanley for the first couple of months of the season. Still, with the drop in talent in the next tier, we’d still take a shot at Haley as a DL-stash to get a potentially dynamic second half.

Tier Three

10. Alcides Escobar

In his second season in KC, Escobar finally lived up to the promise he flashed during his rookie season in Milwaukee. Escobar put up a solid .293 average while swiping 35 bags in 40 attempts. With not much power to speak of, Escobar’s impact is limited to three categories, but he remains a solid bet to provide plenty of speed with a decent average and run totals at a weak position.

11. J.J. Hardy

Over the past three seasons, J.J. Hardy’s 58 home runs rank second only to Troy Tulowitzki at the shortstop position. Like Tulo, Hardy has struggle dot stay on the field, but when healthy he has proven to be a premiere power option at a think—and typically light-hitting position. The batting average is never a given, but Hardy has plenty of opportunity to return a profit on his current 16th round ADP.

12. Elvis Andrus

For a guy who had his third straight year of an upward trend in both batting average and  on-base percentage its tough to swallow such a steep drop in stolen bases for Rangers shortstop Elvis Andres. He swiped 21 in 2012 after stealing 37 bags in 2011, a 43% drop in the category and his first professional season with less than 30 steals despite a career high in game played. Andrus represents a two, maybe three category player (SB, AVG, RBI) on his good days but last season was truly a disappointment. Beyond the lackluster stolen base totals in 2012, Elvis’ 85 runs scored are a bit pedestrian for a speedster on a loaded lineup with the likes of Marco Scutaro, Alex Gordon, Shin-Soo Choo and even Dan Uggla besting him in the category. Do yourself a favor and let Elvis fall to you opponents as you sit around and wait on Alcides Escobar or Erik Aybar.

13. Andrelton Simmons

14. Derek Jeter

15. Danny Espinosa

After averaging 21 home runs and 18 steals per 162 games over his first three season, Espinosa made his way onto our “Fantasy Wildcard” team. The skills are there for Espinosa to be a top-level contributor, but risk is also high with the free-swinging Nat.

16. Zack Cozart

17. Josh Rutledge

18. Alexei Ramirez

Tier Four

19. Jhonny Peralta

Peralta is coming off of a brutal .239/.305/.384 slash line in 2012 and it shows in his ADP this spring. Still, we see a guy who has average 18 home runs and 78 RBI per year since 2005 with a passable .267 average. Peralta is worth a flier at the end of your draft.

20. Marco Scutaro

21. Everth Cabrera

22. Stephen Drew

Just a few short years ago, a rising Stephen Drew was one of the hottest sleepers in fantasy baseball circles. He mashed career high 21 home runs in 2008 to go along with a .291/.333/.502 slash line. After failing to live up to the hype for a couple of seasons, Drew suffered a catastrophic ankle-injury that put an end to his 2011 campaign and significantly hampered his production last season, as well. Stephen now heads to Boston with a chance to resuscitate his career in a loaded lineup, much in the way his older brother, J.D., was able to do as he finished out his career in Beantown. Unlike his elder borther, Stephen has never boasted particularly strong on-base skills, but he does offer 15-home run power and double-digit speed at a weak position. Drew represents a hail-mary flier in mixed league in the hopes that a change of scenery can restore his stock and AL only owner are certainly encourage to take a shot on the younger Drew’s move to Boston.

23. Jurickson Profar

24. Jed Lowrie

25. Mike Aviles

26. Ruben Tejada

27. Jean Segura

28. Dee Gordon

29. Maicer Izturis

30. Tyler Greene


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