2013 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit: Shortstop Rankings
Alcides Escobar could soar up the charts more this year.
By Tim McLeod and RotoRob
Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! To show how much we love our readers, by popular demand we’re releasing another component of the 2013 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit today. So while you wonder if Josh Hamilton will be able to survive in the den of decadence that is La-La Land, we offer you another cheat sheet as we count down the top 56 shortstops in Fantasy baseball.
At shortstop for 2013, you’ve got the big three at the top, followed by a solid middle core. And unlike second base, there are some deeper options, most of whom should provide speed. Guys like Alcides Escobar and Erick Aybar fit the bill or, if you want to gamble on youth, try Jean Segura, who should have a great future in Milwaukee.
Because there’s more depth than at second base, your middle infield slot will likely be a shortstop, so build your team with the goal of acquiring cheap speed at MI.
Some questions at shortstop heading into the season include: Can Troy Tulowitzki finally stay healthy? Can Ian Desmond repeat his breakout? Can Hanley Ramirez hold up at shortstop defensively? And can Starlin Castro grow up and become the player many think he’s capable of being?
Last year’s rankings are in parentheses.
1. Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies (1): Yet another injury-prone season from Tulowitzki opened the door for Josh Rutledge to put himself on the Fantasy map. During the brief time he was healthy, Tulo’s OBP dropped again and his groin woe will keep him out of the WBC. He’d like to participate, but insurance issues related to his health have nixed that plan. The good news is he feels good after his surgery, so should be good to go for Spring Training. Now, the question is can Tulowitzki bounce back to being a 6.0 WAR or better player? Judging by how stoked new Rox Manager Walt Weiss is about Tulo’s health, we think there’s a good chance.
2. Jose Reyes, Toronto Blue Jays (3): Part of a major makeover this offseason by the Blue Jays, Reyes will finally address a long-time issue in Toronto, namely, finding a dependable option at the top of the order. He stayed healthy last year, reaching 160 games for just the third time and that helped him rack up a fifth 40-steal season. Overall, he wasn’t as good as he was in his final season with the Mets, but the move to the Rogers Centre should help. Reyes had dealt with injuries in each of the previous three seasons, so if he’s truly back to good health, it’s a major bonus for the Jays, but he’s not so far removed from health woes that prospective owners shouldn’t be a tad wary. Now, if he can get his wOBA back closer to .350, he’ll be a real difference maker. Still, a proven leadoff man is just what the doctor ordered in Toronto and with Brett Lawrie, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion hitting behind him, Reyes has a chance to score a shitload of runs.
3. Hanley Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers (2): When Ramirez was traded to the Dodgers in July, we expected him to bring some pop to their lineup. Well, his extra-base pop wasn’t quite as good as it was in Miami, but he definitely did bring power to the west coast. Ramirez was having a decent comeback effort with the Fish, but his run total surprisingly went down after joining what was a more stacked Dodger lineup – at least on paper. Overall, he did hit better last year, but he’s still nowhere near the player he was from 2006 to 2010. Ramirez went to the Dominican Winter League, and while a shoulder woe kept him at DH and 3B, he did hit well. The Dodgers, however, wanted him to play more shortstop in anticipation of the upcoming season. To make matters worse, the solid work did not carry over to the Caribbean Series, making him a bit of a risk pending a clear health report. The fact that he also hurt his knee in the final Carribbean Series game is another worry, although it was reportedly not serious. You get the point, though: H-Ram is a tad fragile of late. And while Ramirez’s extra-base power recovered somewhat last season, a shoulder issue would make it difficult for him to return to his days of a .200+ ISO. Ramirez is also listed in our Third Base Rankings, coming shortly.
4. Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs (4): In early July, we talked about the disappointing first half that Castro had last year. Well, he continued to scuffle along until finishing with a big September to somewhat salvage the season. Castro, who has been prone to mental lapses on defense that have raised the ire of the organization, struck out more than ever last year. He also continued to improve his basestealing numbers (at least from volume perspective, certainly not from a success standpoint). Castro’s slugging dipped despite better extra-base pop and perhaps it’s good news that he’s going to skip the WBC. It’s time for this youngster to mature into a better player and fully concentrating on his big league duties is a good start. He won’t be 23 until next month, so there’s supposedly still tons of upside, but if it doesn’t emerge this year, we’re giving up on the idea that he can get much better. Castro’s BABIP normalized somewhat last year, bringing his BA down, but we believe he is capable of returning to a .300 average. He’s truly poised to break out this season, but as we mentioned, if he flops, we may have to give up on him, even if he proved he could hit .300 at the age of 20.
5. Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays (7 at 2B): For Zobrist’s profile, see our Second Base Rankings. He is also listed in our Outfield Rankings.
6. Ian Desmond, Washington Nationals (15): Desmond enjoyed a sweet breakthrough, a fact we chronicled in depth when we released his season review in mid-November. Hell, only Zobrist had a higher WAR among players that qualified at short. Crazy! If Desmond can stay healthy this year, he has a chance to build on what he did and perhaps even threaten 30-30. He avoided arbitration this winter with a new $3.8 million deal – a figure that could really explode if he duplicates or improves his 2012. Desmond surprised the hell out of most experts last year. Now, the question is can he do it again and perhaps morph into a 75-RBI man?
7. Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers (5): As we discussed in our Texas Rangers Top 23 Prospects, there are plenty of internal options to replace Andrus, but for now he remains the man at short for Texas. He’ll be a free agent in two years, and it will be very surprising if the Rangers don’t allow him to hit the open market. Last season was arguably his finest campaign, although his run total dipped somewhat. He set a career high in hits, but his work on the basepaths wasn’t as good as it was in 2011. There are some that don’t think Andrus is a top 10 shortstop, but we don’t agree. Having said that, if his walk rate keeps dipping, so will his ranking. Still, Andrus is a two-time All-Star that won’t turn 25 until late in the season, and that’s impressive anyway you look at it.
8. Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland Indians (6): Early on last season it didn’t look like Cabrera was going to be a bust as we had predicted. Sure enough, he struggled badly in July and August to help fulfill our call. The two-time All-Star will be a free agent after the 2014 season, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out. Last year, Cabrera didn’t stay quite as healthy and that hurt his counting cats. A few of his dingers became doubles and his BA continued its slide over the past few seasons. We’d say a drop in WAR from 4.6 to 3.0 qualifies as at least a serious disappointment if not an outright bust. If the Indians are smart, they will lock up Cabrera, who may still have some upside. Instead, they gave Mike Aviles a multi-year deal. Uh… okay. We’d like to see Cabrera’s baserunning work bounce back before committing to him long term, but the fact that he reported to camp lighter and in better shape will hopefully translate into a bounce back — especially if he can avoid another second half swoon.
9. Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia Phillies (7): Headed to the WBC next month, Rollins bounced back somewhat last season, flashing his best extra-base pop since 2007 and doing superb work on the basepaths with a 10th 30-swipe campaign against a mere five times caught. Rollins’ BA slipped, but his BABIP should bounce back somewhat this year — perhaps not enough to make a big difference in that department, however. One other worry: after Rollins participated in the 2009 WBC, he struggled in the regular season, and it’s not as if at the age of 34 he’s a spring chicken anymore.
10. Alcides Escobar, Kansas City Royals (20): In mid-July, we wondered when Escobar would get a chance to bat near the top of the order. Sure enough, he did wind up spending most of the season in the two-hole and at the age of 26, he remains young enough to take another step forward this year after his significant jump in 2012. Escobar has remained fairly healthy the past few seasons and last year earned more at-bats than ever. His extra-base pop was improved and while the increase in strikeouts wasn’t a good sign, we love the fact that he keeps becoming a better and better basestealer — and not just from a volume perspective, but also from a success standpoint. If Escobar’s pop continues to emerge, he will make that Zack Greinke deal look even better for KC. Assuming Escobar hits near the top of the order all year, his run total is poised to increase this season as well. And we haven’t even mentioned all he does with the glove; for more on that, simply watch any highlight reel — Escobar is bound to make an appearance with some kind of web gem.
11. Derek Jeter, New York Yankees (13): In a recent Podcast, we wondered about Jeter’s ability to survive 2013 healthy after his recent injuries began to pile up. He’s coming off a wonderful season in which he led all of baseball in hits and launched his most homers since 2009. However, Jeter’s walk rate has been in decline for several seasons and while he also struck out less often last year, the ankle injury remains a concern. It’s doubtful he’ll be playing Spring Training games right away, but all reports suggest he’ll be ready to go on Opening Day. Jeter has always enjoyed high BABIPs, but we expect that to start regressing this season, and it’s likely to bring his BA down to earth. His calming influence on the Yankees remains a key attribute, but intangibles won’t win you Fantasy titles.
12. Danny Espinosa, Washington Nationals (NR): For Espinosa’s profile, see our Second Base Rankings.
13. Erick Aybar, Los Angeles Angels (11): In July, we recommended Aybar as a waiver wire pickup, and it wound up being a great pick as he played well in limited PT in July, picked up his extra-base sock in August and then hit even better in September. Unfortunately, a quad injury cost him the final series of the season, and Aybar’s overall work at the plate slipped slightly. His extra-base power was down and he wasn’t as productive. And while Aybar’s stolen base total dipped, his BA bounced back and that helped take the sting out of his year for his Fantasy owners. He’s always been a solid bunter, but his sacrifices have dipped in each of the last three seasons. We’re also not too pleased with a walk rate that’s declined in back-to-back seasons. If Aybar hits in the two-hole this year, his value will be immense behind Mike Trout and in front of Albert Pujols and Hamilton. However, if Hamilton bats second — an interesting idea that’s been bandied about — the speedy Aybar will be relegated to the bottom of the order. Watch this situation in Spring Training closely.
14. Josh Rutledge, Colorado Rockies (NR): Rutledge was an honourable mention as a Wire Troll All Star at shortstop after he was so impressive in his MLB audition, which grew into nearly a half a season of action thanks to Tulowitzki’s injury. The most amazing part was that Rutledge was making the jump from Double-A. His extra-base pop was nearly as potent as it was at Double-A and he did great work on the basepaths. Rutledge will likely begin this season as the Rockies’ starter at second base and while his lack of track record makes him a bit of a risk, he looks like a solid investment somewhere after the 15th round. He had some seriously high BABIPs in the minors, so a slight bump in the majors this year is reasonable, and that will likely allow him to hit around .280. Rutledge has increased his weight this offseason in the hopes of beating out DJ LeMahieu for the keystone corner gig in Colorado. We like his chances.
15. Alexei Ramirez, Chicago White Sox (10): In a late-July Podcast, we went out on a limb and predicted a better second half for Ramirez and it was a pretty good call as he was excellent in July and August before fading in September. In looking at his overall results, Ramirez really regressed last year, but perhaps that sets him up as a bit of a sleeper this year. You’re certainly going to be able to snag him cheaper than you have in recent seasons. While Ramirez’s power and BA dipped, he did manage to reach 20 steals for the first time. However, despite continued good health, Ramirez’s counting cats took a beating and while his BABIP rose slightly, it actually had a slightly adverse effect on his average. The Cuban Missile is being counted on as more of a leader on the Pale Hose this year. What would really help would be a bounce back season.
16. J.J. Hardy, Baltimore Orioles (8): Now that Manny Machado has moved to third base, Hardy can stop looking over his shoulder — as long as he remains in Baltimore, that is. Despite staying healthy, Hardy did not enjoy nearly as successful a second season with the O’s. Yes, his run total was up, but too many of his homers became doubles or triples. He doesn’t offer any speed, which is something you usually get at least to some extent from your shortstop and considering his WAR dipped 25 per cent last year, that was a major burn for owners. Still, the power-starved Twins sure could have use the 52 homers Hardy has smoked in the two seasons since they dealt him. But if he doesn’t raise his wOBA back well over .300 this year, Hardy will be in danger of sliding well down this list for 2014. The Orioles obviously still believe in Hardy’s ability to rebound, having turned down an offer of Rick Porcello and Jhonny Peralta for Hardy. We’ll find out soon if that faith was justified.
17. Everth Cabrera, San Diego Padres (56): The pick of the litter at shortstop off the waiver wire last year, Cabrera had a nice bounce back year, swiping a career-high 44 bags to earn himself a raise in arbitration from $495,600 to $1.275 million. He saw more action than ever and managed to cut his strikeout rate — although there is still a ton of room for growth there, especially considering his lack of power. Overall, last year was arguably his best season yet, and if you’re looking for cheap speed, Cabrera is currently sitting with an ADP of only around 245. We expect him to see more action this year, so he’ll again be racking up the swipes and given his success (44-for-48), he’s likely to have the green light a lot.
18. Jean Segura, Milwaukee Brewers (NR): In late July, Segura earned a Wire Troll recommendation from us and it wound up paying off if you were patient. He struggled in August, but quickly adjusted and wound up being a very useful player over the season’s final month. Don’t look for power from Segura, but he did flash occasional extra-base pop in his rookie effort in the bigs. In time, he’ll likely be capable of reaching double digits in home runs, but for now it’s all about the speed and, to an extent, the BA. The Brewers re-signed Alex Gonzalez, but don’t sweat it — Segura will be the starter, barring a complete collapse or injury. Moved to the Brewers in the Greinke deal, Segura made his big league debut for the Halos on July 24, just a few days before the trade. Now that he’s got his feet wet, Segura is poised to take a step forward this year, so if you need steals late, he’s a great choice. Don’t be put off by his mediocre debut — this kid has some potential.
19. Jhonny Peralta, Detroit Tigers (9): After an ugly first half, Peralta got hot in July but then he cooled off somewhat in August before completely tanking in September. Making matters worse, he’s been linked to Biogenesis, the clinic that was exposed by the Miami New Times for PED sales. All told, we’re talking about an extremely forgettable season for Peralta. Yes, he stayed healthy, but he struck out more often and he struggled to get on base. Peralta, who denied ever using steroids, has shed a ton of weight this winter in the hopes of bouncing back. However, we doubt that the reduced waistline will help his extra-base pop recover. There’s a reason the Tigers tried to deal him to Baltimore (see Hardy’s profile above for details on that rumour).
20. Zack Cozart, Cincinnati Reds (22): We projected Cozart to be one of the game’s top rookies last year and sure enough, he ranked third among all freshmen last year in doubles, fourth in runs, seventh in hits, tied for sixth in homers and eighth in walks. He spent most of the season batting leadoff or second for the Reds, but given his awful OBP, that wasn’t the best call. Cincy will rectify that this season, moving Brandon Phillips to the two-hole and probably shifting Cozart down near the bottom of the order. Still, Cozart flashed decent power in a productive first season. He’s not a big basestealer, but was successful whenever he tried. This dude had a ton of hype entering 2012, so perhaps his overall performance was a tad disappointing. However, despite his age, he has some upside, and reducing his strikeout rate would be a great way to tap into it. Shortstop used to be an incredibly stable position in Cincy until Barry Larkin retired. It’s been a mess since, but perhaps the Reds have found a long-term solution in Cozart. We’ll know a lot more about his staying power after this season.
21. Yunel Escobar, Tampa Bay Rays (16): After Escobar proved yet again what a douche he is, the Jays dealt him to the Marlins this winter. Yet before he could do something fishy in Miami, he found himself heading up the I-75 in a trade to Tampa for minor league second baseman Derek Dietrich. Ironically, Marlene Dietrich (no relation) once said “It’s the friends you can call up at 4 a.m. that matter” but Escobar likely has no such pals given his overall douchebaggery. Last year, Escobar stayed healthy enough to play in a career high 145 games, but he never looked more inept. His walk rate plummeted and while he slightly cut his strikeout rate and swiped a couple more bases, he got on base at an unacceptably low clip. The disturbing thing is, Escobar is probably an offensive upgrade at shortstop for the Rays, but his wRC+ will need to bounce back closer to or above 100. It speaks more to the woeful state of Tampa Bay’s lineup than his own skill that Escobar is poised to be a key performer both on offense and defense.
Others to Consider
22. Hiroyuki Nakajima, Oakland Athletics (NR)
23. Marco Scutaro, San Francisco Giants (26): For Scutaro’s profile, see our Second Base Rankings.
24. Stephen Drew, Boston Red Sox (17)
25. Jed Lowrie, Oakland A’s (18)
26. Rafael Furcal, St. Louis Cardinals (19)
27. Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants (36)
28. Mike Aviles, Cleveland Indians (31 at 2B)
29. Dee Gordon, Los Angeles Dodgers (12)
30. Andrelton Simmons, Atlanta Braves (NR)
31. Luis Cruz, Los Angeles Dodgers (NR): Cruz is also listed in our Third Base Rankings.
32. Maicer Izturis, Toronto Blue Jays (37 at 2B): Izturis is also listed in our Second Base and Third Base Rankings.
33. Jurickson Profar, Texas Rangers (NR)
34. Clint Barmes, Pittsburgh Pirates (25)
35. Ruben Tejada, New York Mets (29)
36. Alex Gonzalez, Milwaukee Brewers (21)
37. Tyler Greene, Houston Astros (52): Greene is also listed in our Second Base Rankings.
38. Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins (NR)
39. Jamey Carroll, Minnesota Twins (38): Carroll is also listed in our Second Base and Third Base Rankings.
40. Elliot Johnson, Tampa Bay Rays (57)
41. Joaquin Arias, San Francisco Giants (NR): Arias is also listed in our Third Base Rankings.
42. Cliff Pennington, Oakland Athletics (24): Pennington is also listed in our Second Base Rankings.
43. Sean Rodriguez, Tampa Bay Rays (28): For Rodriguez’s profile, see our Second Base Rankings. He is also listed in our Third Base Rankings.
44. Ronny Cedeno, St. Louis Cardinals (41): Cedeno is also listed in our Second Base Rankings.
45. Willie Bloomquist, Arizona Diamondbacks (30)
46. Daniel Descalso, St. Louis Cardinals (47 at 3B): Is also listed in our Second Base and Third Base Rankings.
47. Jose Iglesias, Boston Red Sox (NR)
48. Josh Harrison, Pittsburgh Pirates (NR): Harrison is also listed in our Second Base Rankings.
49. Pete Kozma, St. Louis Cardinals (NR)
50. Cody Ransom, San Diego Padres (NR)
51. Cesar Izturis, Cincinnati Reds (54)
52. Brendan Ryan, Seattle Mariners (40)
53. Nick Franklin, Seattle Mariners (NR)
54. Paul Janish, Atlanta Braves (46)
55. Eduardo Nunez, New York Yankees (32)
56. Jason Bartlett, Free Agent (27)
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