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Position Profiles: Shortstop

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As enamored as I am with this year’s crop of second basemen, the exact opposite is true for shortstops. Don’t let anyone tell you catcher is the thinnest position in fantasy baseball. It’s shortstop. The position is more top-heavy than an orange on a toothpick. Last year I owned Hanley Ramirez in one league and Troy Tulowitzki the other two. So, yeah, I make it a priority to reach for the all-out studs. If you miss out on those big sticks, you might as well focus on getting a ton of speed, because most of the other shortstops are one- or two-trick ponies. Here’s the long and short of the shortstop position…

1. Hanley Ramirez, FLA, SS – He should be a top-5 pick in every type of league, based on his position alone. That written, Han-Ram still has some chinks in the armor. He was more dinged up than a demolition derby jalopy and he got benched for a lack of hustle. Not what you want to see from your top pick. But the skills are undeniable and Ramirez is just entering his prime. If you have the chance to grab him, do it…and hope he doesn’t check out if that very young Marlins roster starts to stink like, well, fish.

2. Troy Tulowitzki, COL, SS – One of my favorite players to own. Not due to his durability. Tulo manages to miss double-digit games every season. When he gets hot, though, he can single-handedly carry your team. Doesn’t look like his 20 stolen bases in 2009 will happen again, but you can’t complain with a line somewhere in the neighborhood of .300/30/100/90/10.

3. Jose Reyes, NYM, SS – It was nice to see Reyes stay healthy after coming into last season with major question marks. He wasn’t quite his usual self, going .283/11/54/83/30. This season, I’m expecting a similar batting average with a small spike in the other counting stats and a shot at 50 steals.

4. Derek Jeter, NYY, SS – So is “The Captain” starting to decline or was it just a down year? Hard to tell. He’s 36 years of age, which isn’t as old as it used to be in baseball circles. With some strategically placed days off, I believe Jeter will get his average back up around .300 and he’ll continue to be a run-scoring machine.

5. Jimmy Rollins, PHI, SS – Was Rollins’ 2010 season a bust? Yes. Yet, a close look at the numbers shows decent production when he managed to get on the field. Prorate his stats to 600 at bats and J-Roll would’ve delivered 14 dingers, 70 RBI, 82 runs and 29 steals. Not too shabby for a shortstop. Of course, that little exercise doesn’t help his .243 batting average from a year ago. If I’m counting on Jeter to rebound at 36, I’m also going to predict a turnaround for the 32-year-old Phillies shortstop. Health is going to be the key.

6. Alexei Ramirez, CWS, SS – The South side’s “A-Ram” is a nice little player. I did think he’d be more than that when I saw from him as a rookie. Looked a lot like Alfonso Soriano to me. Alexei hasn’t taken off Soriano-style, but there’s nothing wrong with 18 HR and 13 SB from your shortstop. Because I’m a little stubborn, I continue to think he’s capable of 20-20 if everything clicks. If not, he’s still a guy who won’t hurt you in any of the main offensive categories.

7. Stephen Drew, ARI, SS – Drew’s 2010 campaign looked very similar to the aforementioned Ramirez’s. Like Alexei, I believe Drew is capable of making a small statistical jump. He gives you a little of everything, which, at this razor-thin position, makes him a top 10 shortstop. You could do worse, but don’t strain your shoulder reach for this guy.

8. Ian Desmond, SS, WAS – Here’s another player who is poised to take a step forward. I’m not sold on Desmond’s power, but he did hit double digits in HR and SB, so the second-year shortstop is worthy of your attention. Desmond managed a respectable .269 average, despite whiffing 109 times. If he learns to be more selective, you could benefit from a .280 BA, 12 homers and up to 20 steals.

9. Rafael Furcal, SS, LAD – He should change his name to “Rafael Fragile,” after missing chunks of the previous two seasons due to injury. Owning Furcal is like betting “0” and “00” on the roulette wheel. Chances are you’re wasting your money on him…but if he can hit (and stay healthy), he’ll hit big. If you’re a play-it-safe type, you probably want to invest elsewhere.

10. Starlin Castro, CHC, SS – You can’t spell “Starlin” without “Star,” right? Well, many owners scooped up Castro midseason, hoping he’d live up to the prospect hype. Y’know, he wasn’t half-bad. Yeah, he wasn’t a huge help to owners in the power department last year. He did, however, show plenty of promise, hitting .300. Pretty solid a guy who can’t legally grab a drink on Rush Street yet. This star may be about to shine.

11. Elvis Andrus, TEX, SS – Last season, Andrus hit as many home runs as Elvis Presley. Not good. The Geek doesn’t get very geeked about weak-hitting middle infielders. That’s not to say Andrus doesn’t serve a purpose. The only way I’d take a long look at him is if I powered up big time in the early parts of my draft or auction. Then, it’s okay to go for speed—and little else—at shortstop. Bottom line: Andrus is overrated. I’d rather take Cliff Pennington a good deal later if I’m just going to make a play for steals only.

12. Erick Aybar, LAA, SS – The Angels handed Aybar the starting shortstop gig in 2010, and he hit like he had just come from the bar. If Mike Scioscia sticks with him, he should be rewarded. Aybar proved to be a solid hitter in the minors and he should enjoy more success, now that he’s used to manning the shortstop position full time. I expect a .280 average and a sneaky 25 steals.

13. Reid Brignac, TB, 2B/SS – Give Brignac 600 ABs, and he’ll be worth owning. Look for mid-teens in home runs with around 8 stolen bases. Could be a solid sleeper.

14. Yunel Escobar, SS, TOR – Speaking of sleepers, I pegged Yunel as one last season. Let’s just say I was less than correct. A little bit of a work ethic would go a long way here. If Escobar realizes he’s much more talented than his 2010 season, he could be a great buy-low. If he doesn’t put his skills to good use, he’ll be deadwood again.

15. Cliff Pennington, OAK, SS – Cliff just needs to climb up a bit in batting average to be a real steal in your draft. I have Pennington ranked higher than most because I think his 2010 stats are the baseline for what he can do this season.

16. Alexi Casilla, MIN, SS – The Twins let Orlando Hudson walk (good move) handing the shortstop position over to Casilla (also a good move). Casilla has stolen as many as 47 bases in the minors, so he could get the green light early and often, making him a very nice fantasy value.

17. Alcides Escobar, SS, MIL – I’m sad to say I put plenty of eggs in the Escobar basket last season, between Alcides and Yunel. I thought, if nothing else, he’d be Elvis Andrus. I still feel ripped off. I mean, Alcides swiped at least 20 bags every season of his minor-league career. Then, he only has 10 steals in “The Show?” He’s ranked here because that seems like an anomaly. Though, he’s going to have to hit more to help you in the SB category, because, as they say, you can’t steal first base.

18. Juan Uribe, SS/2B/3B – Two things to like about Uribe: 1) 24 homers in 2010, and 2) that great position eligibility. He’s got pop. Now in Los Angeles, he’ll need it to get ‘em out of Dodger Stadium.

19. Jhonny Peralta, DET, SS/3B – I like to call him “Jhonny Dyslexia” because it should be spelled “Johnny,” shouldn’t it? If you’re the kind of owner who looks for power production out of your shortstop instead of speed, Peralta is worth consideration. He’ll get you at least in the mid-teens in home runs with some nice RBI to boot. Just don’t expect much else.

20. Marco Scutaro, BOS, SS – By this point, we know what Scutaro is. A dozen long balls, a half-dozen swipes, decent runs scored. Basically, he’s a hole plugger.

21. Miguel Tejada, SF, SS/3B – I’ll give Tejada credit. He knows how to keep himself in the lineup. That’s a valuable skill for fantasy owners. If he can keep his Iron Man act going again this year, Tejada will be worth owning.

22. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS, CLE – If you’re a generous owner, you’ll give Cabrera a do-over for 2010. He missed much of the season with a broken forearm. I’m kinda cheap, so I still consider what Asdrubal did in the 97 games he did play. I see a “blah” player here. Maybe 8 home runs, probably 12 stolen bases, an average average. Does that excite you? (I just yawned.)

23. Ryan Theriot, STL, 2B/SS – There’s a little buzz surrounding Theriot because he’ll probably hit in front of Pujols, Holiday and company in St. Louis. Okay, I guess the buzz is worthy. Just know that I’m not much of a fan here. Theriot will give you a decent average, 20 steals (while getting caught at least 10 times) and about 85 runs. For this far down at shortstop, that’s a bargain. But I still can’t move him up any higher.

24. Alex Gonzalez, ATL, SS – No one ever really liked owning Gonzalez…until last season. He was crazy productive, clubbing 23 home runs and knocking in 88. The power’s always been there. Unfortunately, so is an ugly batting average.

25. JJ Hardy, BAL, SS – Boom or bust. If Hardy can stay healthy, 20 HR is not out of the question. If he’s dinged up, Hardy is hardly worth rostering.

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