With one day in the books, you’ve already got one prediction right when it comes to the shortstop position: Yes, Jose Reyes will get hurt at some point this season. On the first at bat of the season, to be precise.
While Reyes’ injury history was surely priced into his ranking and projections already, his opening-day-uhh-why-did-he-play-on-the-weekend-at-less-than-100-percent injury serves as a reminder that things can change quickly. Chris Owings is a full-time starter, Alex Gonzalez surely earned himself some additional early PAs, and Hanley Ramirez is the bustiest bust to ever bust.
Slow start aside for Ramirez, he and Tulowitzki are the best shortstops going until they’re not. Ramirez was an absolute monster on a per-game basis last season, and while Tulo brings with him a likely DL stint, if everything breaks right he could make a crazy person look smart.
Speed rules in the second tier, and while some had Segura pegged as a top-three option, I’m a little less optimistic about the pop in the bat. Cabrera is a steals horse when he can get on base, but the downside with him is obviously power and average. Desmond brings a nice blend of everything, and even if you don’t think he can repeat 20-20 for the third straight season, 15-15 carries just fine at this position.
This isn’t meant to be reactionary after opening day; I had Reyes ranked sixth among shortstops anyway. He’s just such a huge injury risk in year two playing on concrete, and with the average less likely to settle in at .300 than in the past, the group above offer a safer floor. Andrus can’t even hit for pop in Arlington but the high BABIP and relatively low K-rate make him a safe average play, and it now looks like his down 2012 on the basepaths was a fluke. Miller offers a nice power-speed combo, a Desmond-light of sorts. Zobrist may not qualify, but I know at least on Yahoo he is 2B/SS/OF, giving him value even if the homers and steals fall a level below Desmond and even Miller.
Now that Owings has a job, he becomes somewhat intriguing. In 2013, he hit 12 home runs with 20 stolen bases in under 600 Triple-A plate appearances, and his BABIP in the minors has been consistently high. The double-digit pop probably isn’t a realistic expectation, but 15 steals are a good bet if he hangs on to the job for the season. His average won’t hurt, either, though his miniscule minor league walk rate makes him a bit of a real-life concern for the D-Backs.
This tier plays out based on what you need, really – Aybar is a safe average play and should pile up runs, Rollins offers a power-speed upside the others don’t, and Gordon and Villar are strictly around for stolen bases. Both of the latter could steal 50 if their OBPs afford them the opportunities, but if ifs were fifths, right? Rollins could probably be a tier higher, maybe should, but the declining contact rate and the poor lineup around him give me pause for runs, RBI and average.
Drew isn’t a blow-away fantasy commodity when he plays, but in deeper leagues, a .250-15-5 shortstop is relevant. If he lands in a favorable environment, he’s going to be worth an add, but obviously deeper teams need help in the interim, too. That’s where this group comes in, offering either a single stat or the promise of some runs and RBI. Plus, Jeter brings plenty of joke potential in head-to-head formats, and you can’t put a price on unoriginal comedy.
Blake Murphy is a freelance sportswriter based out of Toronto. Formerly of the Score, he's the managing editor at Raptors Republic and frequently pops up at Sportsnet, Vice, and around here. Follow him on Twitter @BlakeMurphyODC.