Usually one of the shallower positions in fantasy, shortstop has added some much needed depth with players like Ben Zobrist and Martin Prado joining the fun. Let’s take a look at the tiers based on our Rotographs consensus rankings.
Castro is extremely durable and hasn’t even reached his peak seasons yet, what’s not to love? The 23-year-old’s average dipped below .300 last year (.283) but he increased his home runs, steals, and RBIs. He’s a safe bet to at least match last season’s totals which is why he’s number one in our rankings. Reyes can easily grab the top spot in this tier if he hits like he did in the second half of last season when his line was .312/.361/.495 with 20 stolen bases. He’s leading off for what should be an impressive Toronto lineup so he’ll have ample run scoring opportunities as well.
If healthy the top spot would belong to Troy Tulowitzki without question. No one provides the type of overall production at the position like the seventh year man out of Long Beach State. He looks to be recovered from the groin injury that cut his 2012 season short. If other owners are wary you may be able to pick up him at a discount on draft day.
As I mentioned in the into, the shortstop position is as deep as it has been in a long time thanks to players like Ben Zobrist and Martin Prado. The two won’t be playing shortstop in 2013, but they racked up enough appearances last season to qualify at the position which is a huge boon for owners everywhere. The two are similar players in that they contribute all over the board, though Prado has a higher average Zobrist has more power.
Hanley has gone from a great offensive player to a good one in the past two seasons in the real world, where his lower batting average and on base percentage hinder his overall performance. In the fantasy world, which is all we care about in this space, he remained a very valuable player last season with 24 HR, 21 SB, and 92 RBI. It’d be nice if those numbers were accompanied by a .300+ average, but it looks as though those days are long gone.
Ian Desmond, 27, broke though in a big way last season, belting 25 home runs which was seven more than he hit in 2010 and 2011 combined. He showed power to center and right field last season, so he wasn’t just pull happy, and clubbed more doubles. It’s hard to expect him to hit 25+ home runs again, but if he can put up another 20/20 season he’ll keep inching his way up toward the first tier.
As for Elvis Andrus, his value lies heavily in his legs and they failed him last season. He stole just 21 bases, the lowest total of his career, and was caught 10 times. He doesn’t have the power to climb into the top tier but should remain in the second tier as long as his legs allow.
Even though this is the third tier there are still plenty of good players to be had. There may not have been a more inconsistent player last season than Rollins, as both Dave Cameron and I pointed out last year. He accumulated most of his season totals in June and September, while in the other months he was pretty useless. He’ll provide value as long as he can keep his contact rate up and steal bases, but entering his age 34 season I’m not so optimistic.
The rest of this tier is filled with pretty average players. Some, like Escobar with stolen bases, derive their value by doing one thing especially well. Others like Jeter, Cabrera, Aybar and Rutledge contribute all over the board. Rutledge filled in for the injured Troy Tulowitzki last season and hit eight home runs and stole seven bases in just 73 games. He has a low walk rate, but if he can get on base even ~.31% of the time he’ll have value.
Personally, I’d have Cabrera, the NL stolen base leader, ranked in the third tier. If he can get on base at a good enough clip again this season he should be able to steal 30+ bases easily. Simmons has a chance to contribute with his batting average and steal 15-20 bases. J.J. Hardy has little else going for him outside of his 20 home run power. These players are worth a late round flier and won’t start in all but the deepest of mixed leagues or league specific formats.
The most interesting names here are Billy Hamilton and Jurickson Profar. Hamilton, who set the professional baseball single season steals mark with 165 last year, will be playing centerfield for Triple-A Louisville to start the season. A shortstop for much of his career, his path to the majors is blocked by Zack Cozart, so center provides him the fastest track to the big leagues. He likely won’t see an inning at shortstop for the rest of his career.
Look at any prospect ranking you wish and you’ll see Profar’s name at or near the top. Thanks to Elvis Andrus, the 20-year-old doesn’t have a position at the Major League level yet. There’s a possibility Ian Kinsler shifts over to first base and Profar takes over at second, but so far that idea has been shot down. He’s going to cost you a pretty penny in keeper leagues but his arrival date in 2013 may not come for a while.
Erik writes for DraysBay and has also written for Bloomberg Sports. Follow him on Twitter @ehahmann.