Fantasy Baseball Preview: Shortstop
Remember the days when Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Nomar Garciaparra formed the three-headed fantasy shortstop monster? While you’ll still find Jeter in our star category, A-Rod and Nomar don’t even qualify as shortstops anymore. Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez and Jimmy Rollins are the new shortstop trio, and based on how much production you get in all categories from these NL East superstars, they're each first- or early second-round picks.
After the deadly trio, 2007 Rookie of the Year runner up Troy Tulowitzki offers great power, average, run and RBI potential, while Jeter and Miguel Tejada are still quality options. Edgar Renteria, J.J. Hardy and comeback candidate Rafael Furcal will offer solid production, if you choose to wait until the middle rounds to snag your shortstop.
After the top 10, you’ll find guys who contribute in one or two categories, but who may hurt you in others. Michael Young is good for a .300 average and possibly 100 RBI, but he’s likely to top out at 10 home runs. Jhonny Peralta and Khalil Greene have great power potential, but they’ll also whiff and provide low averages. Much like Young, Orlando Cabrera does just enough in all categories to make him a decent fantasy shortstop, but forget home runs and RBI production.After giving this list a rundown, you’ll note that if you don’t snag a top 10 or 12 shortstop, you could be left with a black hole at the position. So don’t wait too long.
*NOTE: All analysis based on standard 5x5 roto leagues
Jose Reyes, New York Mets
.281, 12 HR, 57 RBI, 119 runs, 78 SB, 78 K, 77 BB, 681 AB
The good: Reyes is going to steal loads of bases and score runs in bunches. The not so good: His average and power numbers dipped last year. The reality: At 24, Reyes still has room to grow and with the virtual guarantee of 60-plus stolen bases and 100-plus runs, he’s still our top shortstop, even if he doesn’t hit .300 or crank out 20 dingers like he did in ‘06. But heed this: Hanley Ramirez is breathing down his neck and may own this spot next season.
Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins
.332, 29 HR, 81 RBI, 125 runs, 51 SB, 95 K, 52 BB, 639 AB
What’s amazing about Ramirez is that at just 24 years old, he probably hasn’t even reached his full potential yet. That’s a scary thought. His batting average, home runs, RBI and run totals were all higher than Reyes’ and he still stole a very above-average 51 bases. So why is he ranked behind Reyes? We're a little concerned that he may have trouble duplicating last season's success with Miguel Cabrera now in Detroit. Not concerned enough to let Ramirez slip out of the first round, though.
Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia Phillies
.296, 30 HR, 94 RBI, 139 runs, 41 SB, 85 K, 49 BB, 716 AB
Like fine wine, Rollins gets better with age. Since busting out at age 27, he’s averaged .296 with 22 home runs and 77 RBI. And actually, his power numbers the past two seasons have been better than those in previous years, so make sure you value you him accordingly. He also plays in a hitter’s park and has fantastic speed, resulting in plenty of stolen bases. Don’t rank him higher than Reyes or Ramirez, but he’s still without a doubt a fantasy stud.
Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies
.291, 24 HR, 99 RBI, 104 runs, 7 SB, 130 K, 57 BB, 609 AB
Welcome to the fantasy party, Troy. After a slow start to 2007, Tulowitzki exploded in the second half, slugging .531 and cranking out 15 long balls. His fantasy value has shot through the roof and while he doesn’t offer much in the stolen base department, he could match (or even exceed) his average and power numbers. Plus, if the Rockies leave him in the two-hole, he'll score plenty of runs.
Derek Jeter, New York Yankees
.322, 12 HR, 73 RBI, 102 runs, 15 SB, 100 K, 56 BB, 639 AB
While Jeter’s power numbers have come down significantly since he turned 30, you’re getting consistency when you draft the Bronx Bomber. He’s going to hit .300, score 100 runs and stay relatively healthy, too. He’s also going to chip in some stolen bases and home runs, although those numbers have definitely dipped over the years. His star is fading, but it certainly hasn’t burned out. Take him over Tulowitzki if you want a more proven player.
.296, 18 HR, 81 RBI, 72 runs, 2 SB, 55 K, 41 BB, 514 AB
Tejada isn’t the fantasy player he once was, but if he's going to rebound, it'll be in Houston's bandbox with guys like Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence hitting around him. But will his offseason issues and a change of venue cause another dip in his production? He could hit around .300 with 20 home runs and 85-plus RBI, but that's far from a guarantee.
.332, 12 HR, 57 RBI, 87 runs, 11 SB, 77 K, 46 BB, 494 AB
Renteria joins a fantastic lineup in Detroit, but there’s a caveat: he also goes back to the AL, where he struggled in 2005. In the past three seasons, Renteria has averaged .298-12-57 and he hit .332 in 124 games with the Braves last year, but he’s also aging. He’s a solid option with the chance to be very good batting deep in the Tigers’ order.
Rafael Furcal, LA Dodgers
.270, 6 HR, 47 RBI, 87 runs, 25 SB, 68 K, 55 BB, 581 AB
Okay, so Furcal may never approach the 15-home run mark again, but he’s primed for a bounce back season after a disappointing second year in Los Angeles. His batting average is sure to improve, and we think he’ll steal more bags than the respectable 25 he swiped last year. Don’t overvalue him, but don’t reach on another shortstop thinking Furcal’s better days are behind him.
.315, 9 HR, 94 RBI, 80 runs, 13 SB, 107 K, 47 BB, 639 AB
Young certainly used to be a more reliable fantasy option, but that doesn't mean he’s not a bad one these days. He’ll hit better than .300, and batting third in the Rangers’ order will produce plenty of RBI and run opportunities. However, his power stroke has all but disappeared, and without Mark Teixeira to take the focus off, he’ll probably go through some rough stretches this season. Draft him for solid production in four categories.
.277, 26 HR, 80 RBI, 89 runs, 2 SB, 73 K, 40 BB, 592 AB
Were Hardy’s power numbers a bit of a fluke last year? Probably, especially considering 18 of his 26 long balls came in the first half of the season. But he does have good power potential and at only 25, there’s room for growth. If he can stay healthy, he should provide more than adequate RBI and run production. Be cautious assuming he’ll match his home run total from a season ago, but he’s solid otherwise.
Jhonny Peralta, Cleveland Indians
.270, 21 HR, 72 RBI, 87 runs, 4 SB, 146 K, 61 BB, 574 AB
The good and bad on Peralta is pretty black and white. While he offers above-average power potential and will score a fair amount of runs, he also strikes out more times than your buddy hitting on that attractive bartender. With all those strikeouts come sizeable slumps, and therefore his batting average often hovers around .270. However, he’s 25 and has room to grow, so it’s not unthinkable that once he gets the strikeouts under control, his average will rise.
Khalil Greene, San Diego Padres
.254, 27 HR, 97 RBI, 89 runs, 4 SB, 128 K, 32 BB, 611 AB
Yeah, Greene’s average sucks, but look at those power numbers. Any shortstop who belts 25-plus home runs and drives in close to 100 runs is worth taking a hit in the average department – especially since he’s going to last until later rounds. We wouldn’t take him over Peralta, but he’s a safe choice late in the draft.
.301, 8 HR, 72 RBI, 101 runs, 20 SB, 64 K, 44 BB, 638 AB
When reviewing fallback shortstops, it seems that each one offers something intriguing, while also killing you in another category. Cabrera is no exception. While his average, runs and stolen base production is above average, he’s lacking in the power department and struggled in the second half last year. He doesn’t blow you away in any one category, but he’s just solid enough in everything else that he’s worth having as your No. 1 shortstop if you don’t grab somebody better earlier in the draft.
Stephen Drew, Arizona Diamondbacks
.238, 12 HR, 60 RBI, 60 runs, 9 SB, 100 K, 60 BB, 543 AB
Drew fell well short of people’s expectations last year – fantasy or otherwise – but his improvement throughout the season should be noted. He hit .387 with two homers in the playoffs and finished with a respectable 12 long balls during the season. He’s got sleeper written all over him.
.245, 9 HR, 50 RBI, 70 runs, 24 SB, 109 K, 53 BB, 603 AB
Just based on the numbers alone, Lopez looks like a great candidate to pass on to some other schmuck. However, he’ll play in a more hitter-friendly park next year, which should help his home run totals, plus he’ll steal a decent number of bases. He also qualifies as a second basemen, upping his value even more. Now, if he could only get his average north of .250.
Julio Lugo, Boston Red Sox
.237, 8 HR, 73 RBI, 71 runs, 33 SB, 82 K, 48 BB, 570 AB
Most fantasy owners don’t want to even see Lugo’s name mentioned with how he bombed last year, but give him credit – he did hit .280 in the second half of the season. He’ll also get you a fair amount of steals and he’s probably not going to bottom out at .237 again. You could do worse late in the draft.
Yunel Escobar, Atlanta Braves
.326, 5 HR, 28 RBI, 54 runs, 5 SB, 44 K, 27 BB, 319 AB
Escobar is a great value pick if you already snagged a shortstop in early rounds and are looking to fill out your roster late. He enters his first full season in the bigs, and just based on what he did last year he looks like a breakout candidate. He could potentially be a .300 hitter who hits 10 home runs and scores close to 100 runs in a solid Braves’ lineup. Plus, he likely qualifies at several different positions in your league.
Jason Bartlett, Tampa Bay Rays
.265, 5 HR, 43 RBI, 75 runs, 23 SB, 73 K, 50 BB, 510 AB
Bartlett’s not going to offer much in terms of power, but he’s a nice option if you’re dying for stolen base production late in the draft. He offers better average and run production than Bobby Crosby and hits in a better lineup, but he also might be at his ceiling.
Bobby Crosby, Oakland A’s
.226, 8 HR, 31 RBI, 40 runs, 10 SB, 62 K, 23 BB, 349 AB
If you think Crosby’s power potential is still on the way, then snag him. But the truth of the matter is, he’s injury prone and his average is weak. Hopefully you’re still not looking for a starting shortstop when Crosby’s available, but maybe he’ll turn out to be a late-round surprise.
Yuniesky Betancourt, Seattle Mariners
.289, 9 HR, 67 RBI, 72 runs, 5 SB, 48 K, 15 BB, 536 AB
After the All-Star break last season, Betancourt hit .311 and slugged .481, which was a dramatic improvement from the first half. He doesn’t offer much in power production and won’t steal as many bases as Bartlett or Crosby, but he has a better average and bigger upside at only 26.