2012 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit: Shortstop Rankings
Will taking his talents to South Beach alter the value of Jose Reyes?
By Tim McLeod and RotoRob
The 2012 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit rages on today with the release of another Fantasy baseball cheat sheet. So while you wonder how the A’s managed to scoop Yoenis Cespedes away from the many other teams that were wooing the Cuban outfielder, let’s turn our attention to the left side of the infield as we rank the top 57 shortstops for the 2012 Fantasy baseball season.
The shortstop position is dominated by the big three. Troy Tulowitzki, Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez will all disappear off the draft board by the middle of the second round. The players in the next tier, which includes Starlin Castro, Elvis Andrus, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jimmy Rollins, provide solid value relative to their draft slots, but after that it’s slim pickings. Shortstop is arguably the shortest category in terms of overall talent in 2012.
However, do not despair; there is still opportunity. If you don’t manage to secure the services of the top tier talent at this position, there is stolen base value in Dee Gordon, Erick Aybar, Ian Desmond and Alcides Escobar in the mid-to-latter rounds. One sleeper candidate that should be on everyone’s radar is Zack Cozart of the Reds. If his surgically-repaired elbow proves to be solid (and all indications are it is) the power-speed potential from a player like this in the latter rounds is very intriguing. If you don’t fill this position early the best option is to look at securing stolen bases and filling that need from the numerous options later on in the draft.
Last year’s rankings are in parentheses.
1. Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies (2): After a season in which he picked up his second Silver Slugger, Tulowitzki can no longer be denied the top spot on this list. And because it’s so hard to find a stud shortstop, he’s easily a top 10 pick in all formats. In fact, he’ll likely go in the top five of almost every draft. Thirty dingers, 100 RBI and a .300 BA out of your shortstop? Sign me up for some of that. I’m also very bullish on the batting eye improvements Tulowitzki made last year. The Rox will have another fine offensive lineup this year, and Tulo will be a huge reason why.
2. Hanley Ramirez, Miami Marlins (1): Injuries pretty much destroyed Ramirez’s campaign last year. He missed 70 games, crushing his value in counting cats, and for the third straight season, his power dipped. Ramirez also struggled on the basepaths (20-for-30), but if healthy he remains one of the top power-speed dudes in the game. With Jose Reyes coming to South Florida, Ramirez will shift over to third, so keeper league owners need to be aware that this is it for his shortstop eligibility. With H-Ram having missed significant time in each of the past two seasons, there is reason to worry that he’s becoming injury-prone, but he’s still young and in his power prime, so betting on a rebound – assuming the position change doesn’t distract him or piss him off – is a smart play.
3. Jose Reyes, Miami Marlins (3): Reyes’ arrival in Miami – and the subsequent effect on his value – is something we recently discussed in the debut of our Podcast, RotoRob’s Fantasy Baseball 365. Shorn of his dreadlocks, will Reyes live up to his six-year, $106-million deal? In his final year with the Mets, he was unable to stay healthy – there’s a shocker, eh? – yet still managed to win the batting title thanks to dramatically improved strike zone judgment. Reyes is coming off arguably his best season yet, but he’s a constant injury risk, and that’s something you need to think about when he’s sitting on the draft board.
4. Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs (13): As we acknowledged in August, Castro took a huge step last year, and it’s reflected in his ascension to the top five. There are still questions about his maturity level and that whole sexual assault allegation thingy, but last year he flashed emerging power, a trend I expect to continue as he matures (at least physically, that is). The decline in his walk rate, however, was less encouraging, but it didn’t prohibit his BA from rising. Castro has emerged as the top hitter on the Cubs and could assume the two-hole spot this year, a slot he spent a fair amount of time in last season. This would be a bit of a boon for his RBI count, so when you get to the fourth round of your draft this season, you better take a long hard look at this promising youngster.
5. Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers (6): Andrus and the Rangers recently agreed to a multi-year deal (three years for $14.4 million), so we no longer have to worry that he could be headed to arbitration, and the possible negative effect a loss could have had on his play. As it was, he made nice progress last year, staying moderately healthy and experiencing a bit of a power recovery, although that’s still not a big part of his game. Andrus enjoyed a productive campaign and really improved his base stealing work, while most of his peripherals headed north. One of the keys of the Mark Teixiera deal, Andrus definitely has room to grow into a more complete player, but at his age (he won’t be 24 until late in the season), he has time to do so.
6. Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland Indians (15): A career year propelled Cabrera to his first Silver Slugger award, and it would have been really interesting to see how the All-Star’s arbitration case would have played out if the two sides didn’t come to an agreement last week. His BA slipped for the second straight year, but Fantasy owners happily accepted that considering his power surge, an exciting prospect with him not yet at his power prime. Cabrera also bounced back on the basepaths, flirting with a 25-20 season to round out one of the most pleasantly surprising seasons in all of Fantasy baseball last year. Asking for a repeat, however, may be a tad optimistic. Aim for 15-15 and consider anything else gravy. Oh god, I love gravy.
7. Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia Phillies (5): When Rollins couldn’t get the five-year deal he was seeking in free agency this winter, he came slinking back to the Phils for three years. Still, the charitable-minded shortstop has been good to the community, so Philly is pleased to have him back. Last year, Rollins bounced back after a miserable 2010, especially from a speed perspective, as he swiped 30 bases for the ninth time. He’s getting a bit long in the tooth, and while remains a solid top 10 player at shortstop, we’ve clearly seen his best and the regression that’s already started will continue this year.
8. J.J. Hardy, Baltimore Orioles (27): Hardy’s recovery last year was among the best in the game, earning him considering as the 2011 RotoRob Fantasy Comeback Player of the Year. He reached 30 big flies for the first time and matched his personal best with 80 RBI. Without his power (which had gone AWOL for a couple of years), Hardy doesn’t offer much, as he’s never had speed and provides middling batting averages. He also struggles to get on base, limiting his potential to help you in runs. But let’s face it, shortstops with 25+ homer power don’t grow on trees. It sure would be nice to see him take more walks, but if Hardy can play like he did in June (nine homers, 18 RBI, .362) and August (eight homers, 20 RBI, .297), then who cares? The move to B-More definitely helped him revitalize his career, and he’s now entrenched himself as a top 10 shortstop for the foreseeable future.
9. Jhonny Peralta, Detroit Tigers (18): After qualifying at both SS and 3B last year, Peralta only qualifies here, but he really bounced back in a big way in 2011. He set a new personal best by batting .299 and his pop recovered (21 dingers). Peralta’s been pretty durable for a middle infielder and it was real nice to see his isolated power bounce back to its highest level since 2008. He’s another one of those shortstops whose value is very much tied to his power. Peralta doesn’t walk much (although that didn’t hurt his BA last year) and he rarely steals a bag, so if he’s not mashing high teens, low 20s long balls, he’s a pretty empty Fantasy asset. Someone to target around Round 11, consider Peralta a third-tier shortstop, just a tick below the tier two boys.
10. Alexei Ramirez, Chicago White Sox (4): As we discussed in our 2011 Chicago White Sox Team Review, Ramirez just hasn’t been able to really build on his fine rookie season. He remains a solid No. 1 shortstop, but his overall numbers dipped last year. I’m just not seeing any real growth at the plate, and given that he was already 26 when he came to the bigs, there just isn’t any upside here. From a Fantasy perspective, the fact that Ramirez’s stolen base total dipped quite a bit last year was also annoying. This Cuban has made a pretty successful transition to the majors, but he’s no star, that’s for sure.
11. Erick Aybar, Los Angeles Angels (21): Early last season, we were impressed with Aybar’s work at the top of the Angel batting order. Unfortunately, he struggled to get on base after that (June through August OBPs of .267, .311 and .219) before recovering in September. As a result, he had to be lowered in the batting order, and until he can consistently put up an OBP of at least .350, he’s going to be a liability at leadoff. The Angels are trying to lock up their Gold Glove shortstop (because, apparently, they haven’t spent enough money this winter) after a pretty decent recovery last season. He reached double digit home runs for the first time while also enjoying his first 30-steal campaign. But considering the Angels’ leadoff men collectively scored just 79 runs last year (worst in the AL), a shake up is in order, because if the top of the order can’t set the table, what was the point in signing Albert Pujols? Peter Bourjas is likely the long-term answer but may not be ready to take that step this year. In the meantime, Aybar will probably get another shot, but I’m not sure he’s going to be able to replicate what he accomplished last year, and if he can’t hold the leadoff job, his value will dip significantly.
12. Dee Gordon, Los Angeles Dodgers (NR): Looking for a sleeper? Gordon is your man, and we identified him as such very shortly after last season ended. He came in and nailed down the Dodger shortstop job, a gig he may hold for a very long time. Gordon won’t provide any pop (even in the hitter-friendly PCL he barely slugged .400), but he’s an offensive instigator on the basepaths, swiping 24 bases in just 56 games in LA last year. He’ll need to improve his on-base skills to take the next step, but judging by a .373 mark at Triple-A, he’s capable. Just 23, Gordon gave us a glimpse into how dynamic he can be when he hit .373 in September to take home NL Rookie of the Month honours. Some project him as a top 10 shortstop, but we’re taking a slightly more cautious approach. However, it wouldn’t shock us at all if he broke into that group by this time a year from now.
13. Derek Jeter, New York Yankees (7): Jeter looked like he was pretty much toast in the first half, and his usually lofty batting average had dropped to .256 a couple of days before he landed on the DL in June. After returning in early-July, Jeter looked like a different player, batting .292 for the month and then following that up with a .387 mark in August and .303 in September. Overall, his OBP bounced back after a down year in 2010, and while some still consider him a top 10 shortstop, the fact that his power dried up and his speed continues to wane prompted us to drop him several notches. Is he done? No. But is he still a star? Not a chance.
14. Emilio Bonifacio, Miami Marlins (NR): As we discussed in our 2011 Florida Marlins Season Review, Bonifacio got a lot more PT than expected last year because of Hanley Ramirez’s injury. Given more burn than he’s ever had before, he responded with a career year, perfectly timed with him headed to arbitration (a case which he won over the Marlins). Bonifacio has never had much pop, but he flashed more extra-base prowess last year while burning up the basepaths to the tune of 40 steals. He upped his walk rate and became a very viable leadoff man, but he’ll cede that slot to newcomer Reyes this year. Even if he’s moved down the lineup, Bonifacio has a chance to score a lot more runs this season in a much-improved Marlin offense. Bonifacio is also listed in our Third Base and Outfield Rankings, both coming shortly.
15. Ian Desmond, Washington Nationals (9): The Nats are banking on another year of development from Desmond as they look to move into playoff contention. Last year, there were some positives, but overall he regressed somewhat after a fine rookie effort in 2010. Desmond scored more runs, but his extra-base pop slipped. He improved his walk rate and stole more bases, but wasn’t as successful on the basepaths (just 25-for-35 after going 17-for-22 as a rook). Desmond’s batting eye – already in desperate need for an upgrade – also regressed slightly. He’s 26 now, so it’s time for him to prove he’s a useful No. 1 Fantasy shortstop, meaning this will a huge season in terms of owners finding out if he’s the real deal or not.
16. Yunel Escobar, Toronto Blue Jays (14): Acquired in a five-player deal with Atlanta midway through 2010, Escobar’s first full season in Toronto was a mixed bag. He dealt with several minor ailments and then an elbow injury that caused him to shut it down early. In between, he enjoyed a fine bounce back season, especially in the BA department. Escobar struck out a bit more often, but his pop rallied, making it worthwhile. He generally won’t do any one thing very well, but he won’t kill you in anything, and as a result, Escobar is one of the better backup Fantasy shortstops you can have on your team.
17. Stephen Drew, Arizona Diamondbacks (8): Drew broke his ankle in July and it’s still unclear if he’ll be ready to go on Opening Day, so if you draft him, you better handcuff him with a dependable alternative. The busted ankle ended what was shaping up as a disappointing season for Drew after he had a pretty nice year in 2010. His power faded considerably and obviously his counting stats suffered badly with the injury. Drew’s walk rate dropped, and he performed very poorly on the basepaths. To make matters worse, he looked very vulnerable against lefties (671 OPS). Drew is not that old, but it’s looking pretty clear that he’s following in his older brother’s footsteps of not fulfilling his promise.
18. Jed Lowrie, Houston Astros (28): Lowrie has flashed Fantasy value when given the chance to play because of injuries to starters, like last year when Kevin Youkilis went down. Last year, he saw more action than ever before, and set career highs in several counting cats, but he wasn’t nearly as effective as he had been in 2010. Boston peddled him away in the Mark Melancon trade and now Lowrie will get a chance to play everyday. But unless he makes better contact, he may struggle to be a useful asset. Long considered the shortstop of the future in Boston, let’s see if he can live up that billing in Houston. We have our doubts. Lowrie is also listed in our Third Base Rankings.
19. Rafael Furcal, St. Louis Cardinals (11): It was the trade of Furcal from the Dodgers to St. Louis that opened the door for Gordon. Furcal will reprise his role as the leadoff man for the Cards, but last year was pretty ugly all around for him. He missed almost half the season with a variety of injuries and he managed a mere 15 runs in 37 games with LA before getting moved. He was better in St. Louis, averaging a hit per game, but overall Furcal’s extra-base pop dropped dramatically and he didn’t even look like much of a base-stealing threat. The Cards obviously think he has something left, re-signing him for two years and $14 million, but you have to go way back to his first season with the Dodgers in 2006 to find the last time he (a) stayed healthy; and (b) was a dynamic force. He seems to have aged very, very rapidly and not entirely gracefully.
20. Alcides Escobar, Kansas City Royals (12): Back in June, Escobar was struggling, but he turned things around – briefly. He then slumped again for a couple of months before finishing with a flourish. The Royals have brought back the man they traded to get Escobar – Yusniesky Betancourt – so now he’ll have stiffer competition and maybe that will push him to enjoy the breakthrough many believe he’s capable of. It wasn’t all bad news for Escobar last year as he did make some progress. Unfortunately, his walk rate regressed, and that’s blowing his chance at becoming a leadoff hitter. On the plus side, Escobar’s long-awaited speed game finally emerged as he swiped 26 bags. If he can learn to get on base at a semi-respectable rate, we could be looking at a 40-steal dude, which would seriously jack up his Fantasy value. The Venezuelan’s defense has far outshined his work at the plate so far. If that doesn’t change substantially this year, his days as a full-time player could be numbered.
21. Alex Gonzalez, Milwaukee Brewers (17): Back in May, we recommended Gonzalez as an NL-only league pickup, and he proved us right by hitting .305 with 16 runs, eight RBI and a steal that month. Unfortunately, he then went into a three-month slumber before finishing extremely strong (.367 with 12 RBI in September). All told it was a dismal year for Gonzalez, as his power waned and he struggled even more than usual to get on base. The Braves had seen enough and let him walk to Milwaukee to open up space for rookie Tyler Pastornicky. Gonzalez will turn 35 Wednesday, so we don’t expect his decline to magically reverse itself.
22. Zack Cozart, Cincinnati Reds (NR): Cozart is another player we identified as a sleeper very early this offseason. After reconstructive surgery on his non-throwing elbow, he’s flying ever further under the radar, but he’ll be back this spring, and has the inside track on the starting job in Cincy. In his brief MLB debut, Cozart sure didn’t looked overmatched, batting a robust .324 with pop. He’s already 26, so there is not a huge amount of upside here, but Cozart has a chance to be the first impact shortstop the Reds have had since Barry Larkin retired. He could hit leadoff for the Reds this year, which would mean a crapload of runs with the likes of Joey Votto and Jay Bruce batting behind him.
23. Tyler Pastornicky, Atlanta Braves (NR): it’s not often you see a youngster handed an everyday job – especially one as important as shortstop – without having seen a single inning of the majors, but that’s what the Braves are doing with Pastornicky after letting Gonzalez leave as a free agent. He’s unlikely to hold value in mixed leagues as a freshman, but Pastornicky might make an interesting in-season addition should build on what he did in the minors last year. In 90 games at Double-A, he scored plenty of runs, flashed developing extra-base power, stole lots of bases, exhibited a nice batting eye and hit nearly .300 with solid on-base skills (.345 OBP). Moved up to Triple-A for the final month of the season, Pastornicky was even better, hitting .365 with an OPS of 820 over 104 at-bats. The Braves have never been shy about bringing in youngsters to play key roles, and they have an incredible track record of players successfully making the jump, so don’t bet against this kid.
24. Cliff Pennington, Oakland Athletics (19): Pennington was our choice as the best AL waiver wire pick from the shortstop position, but even so, we’re still talking about a dude that spent most of his time batting last in 2011 and probably will do so again this season in one of the worst hitting lineups in the majors. Pennington got more at-bats than ever last year, and while he was slightly better, we’re still waiting to see him build on his rookie effort from 2009. Last year, his walk rate regressed and his batting eye was unacceptable. And what happened to the dude that stole almost 30 bases in 2010? Just 14 thefts from a guy with very little pop and middling batting averages ain’t gunna cut it. He’s a veteran on a very young A’s team, but he’s not necessarily leading by example. Wacky Pennington stat: he faced strike one over 60 per cent of the time last year, yet hit .385 with an 0-1 count. Considering he hit .455 when swinging on the first pitch, imagine how much higher his average would be if he hacked at the opening offering more often?
25. Clint Barmes, Pittsburgh Pirates (29): Barmes’ lack of productivity last year opened the door for Jeff Keppinger in Houston. Yet somehow, Barmes busted through a crowded shortstop market this winter to earn a multi-year deal with the Pirates. Despite missing the first month of the last season because of a broken hand, his extra-base pop bounced back, but his speed seems to have dried up like deer jerky, and his batting average has been substandard for several years. I’m still trying to wrap my head around why the Pirates would give a multi-year contract to a middling, injury-prone middle infielder that will be 33 next month, but I’m sure they know what they’re doing, as evidenced by their recent track record of winning baseball.
Others to Consider
26. Marco Scutaro, Colorado Rockies (24): Scutaro is also listed in our Second Base Rankings.
27. Jason Bartlett, San Diego Padres (23)
28. Sean Rodriguez, Tampa Bay Rays (NR): For Rodriguez’s profile, see our Second Base Rankings. He is also listed in our Third Base Rankings.
29. Ruben Tejada, New York Mets (NR): Tejada is also listed in our Second Base Rankings.
30. Willie Bloomquist, Arizona Diamondbacks (NR): Bloomquist is also listed in our Outfield Rankings.
31. Ramon Santiago, Detroit Tigers (NR): Santiago is also listed in our Second Base Rankings.
32. Eduardo Nunez, New York Yankees (NR): Nunez is also listed in our Third Base Rankings.
33. Robert Andino, Baltimore Orioles (NR): Andino is also listed in our Second Base and Third Base Rankings.
34. Wilson Valdez, Cincinnati Reds (39): Valdez is also listed in our Second Base and Third Base Rankings.
35. Yuniesky Betancourt, Kansas City Royals (22)
36. Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants (NR)
37. Ryan Theriot, San Francisco Giants (20): Theriot is also listed in our Second Base Rankings.
38. Jamey Carroll, Minnesota Twins (45): Carroll is also listed in our Second Base Rankings.
39. Alexi Casilla, Minnesota Twins (35): Casilla is also listed in our Second Base Rankings.
40. Brendan Ryan, Seattle Mariners (41)
41. Ronny Cedeno, New York Mets (40)
42. Trevor Plouffe, Minnesota Twins (NR)
43. Munenori Kawasaki, Seattle Mariners (NR)
44. Mike Fontenot, San Francisco Giants (NR): Fontenot is also listed in our Second Base Rankings.
45. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Minnesota Twins (25)
46. Paul Janish, Cincinnati Reds (32)
47. Jonathan Herrera, Colorado Rockies (NR): Herrera is also listed in our Second Base Rankings.
48. Reid Brignac, Tampa Bay Rays (26)
49. Edgar Renteria, Free agent (33)
50. Miguel Tejada, Free Agent (10): Tejada is also listed in our Third Base Rankings.
51. Angel Sanchez, Houston Astros (NR)
52. Tyler Greene, St. Louis Cardinals (34): Greene is also listed in our Second Base Rankings.
53. Justin Sellers, Los Angeles Dodgers (NR): Note that Sellers did not play 20 games at any position in the majors last year, but spent most of his time at shortstop in the minors (and also played quite a bit at 2B), so it’s unclear where he will qualify as per the major stat providers.
54. Cesar Izturis, Milwaukee Brewers (37): Note that Izturtis did not play 20 games at shortstop last year, but he has historically qualified here, so we expect that to happen again this year.
55. John McDonald, Arizona Diamondbacks (NR): McDonald is also listed in our Second Base and Third Base Rankings.
56. Everth Cabrera, San Diego Padres (36)
57. Elliot Johnson, Tampa Bay Rays (NR)
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