Now that Alexei Ramirez has shifted to the left side of the infield, he heads the list of tier two shortstops.
By Tim McLeod and RotoRob
We’ve got a little bit of time this afternoon before March Madness starts again, so we’ve hammered out more of the 2009 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit. We’re back with another cheat sheet, and this time it’s our Shortstop Rankings.
Remember the old Holy Trinity of shortstops (Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez)? Well, now there’s a new Holy Trinity, and it consists solely of shortstops playing for NL East teams. And then there’s everyone else.
Note that Michael Young, who would normally slide in between J.J. Hardy and Derek Jeter, is not included on this list as he’s expected to man the hot corner in Texas all season.
Garciaparra was omitted from this list as we expect him to mostly occupy the hot corner. Had he been on this list, he’d be No. 34.
1. Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins: One of the best, if not the best multi-dimensional player in the game, HanRam matched his career high in runs last season, thanks mostly to a huge improvement in his patience. His power was up slightly, but he didn’t get as many hits and his steals were down, so his overall value slipped ever so slightly from 2007. At 25, there’s room for improvement here, as scary as that sounds. Ramirez dealt with some shoulder tendinitis this spring, but is fine now, so draft him without worry.
2. Jose Reyes, New York Mets: Reyes remains very successful on the basepaths, and he enjoyed a bounce back season after sliding somewhat in 2008. However, his struggles in September mirrored the Mets’ woes down the stretch. Thankfully, any worry that his stolen base totals would plummet are gone now that talk of him being shifted out of the lead-off slot has ended. Reyes, who combines with David Wright to form probably the top left side of the infield in the game, is obviously a high first round pick, perhaps as high as No. 2 overall with A-Rod slipping out of the top round.
3. Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia Phillies: The normally super durable Rollins missed 25 games last season, so he wasn’t able to come close to duplicating his 2007 MVP effort, although he was a bit better in the second half. However, I like the fact that he cut his strikeout rate, and judging by his superb performance at the WBC, Rollins seems driven to enjoy a huge bounce back season in 2009.
4. Alexei Ramirez, Chicago White Sox: Okay, it’s true – Ramirez doesn’t actually qualify as a shortstop (although he came close with 16 games last season) heading into 2009; in fact, he only qualifies at second base. But he’ll be the SS for the ChiSox this year, so we opted to put him on this list instead of our second base rankings. Got a problem with that? Sue us. At any rate, Ramirez put up a tremendous rookie season once he shifted from super sub to everyday second baseman, showing power, decent speed and the ability to hit for average. I could see him swiping 20 bags this year, and there’s some definite upside power-wise here as well, but the fact is, there’s a large drop off at this position from the Big Three to Ramirez, and the Cuban’s strike zone judgment is a major concern. Can he build on his 2008 with that kind of batting eye? I definitely want to see some improvement in this area from this severely overhyped player.
5. Stephen Drew, Arizona Diamondbacks: The abdominal strain he’s dealing with this spring scares me, because that’s a lingering type of injury, but reports suggest he’s getting better, so let’s not make more of it than necessary. Drew enjoyed a huge comeback season last year after the massive disappointment of 2007. He’s expected to bat third against righties, meaning Drew could easily see his RBI count soar to 85 or more, and I expect him to bash about 25 long balls this year. This is a shortstop on the rise.
6. Jhonny Peralta, Cleveland Indians: Peralta has been getting a bit more durable every season, cracking 600 at bats for the first time last year. Better yet, he’s also become a more dependable offensive player in each of the last two seasons. Note that Peralta hit .295 after the break, but sacrificed some of his pop for average. He’s a keeper in most leagues, and judging by the way he is hitting the ball this spring (leading the team in ribbies in the process), Peralta is poised to take another step forward. I could see him batting .280 or better while approaching 30 homers and 100 RBI as he enters his power prime years this season.
7. Rafael Furcal, Los Angeles Dodgers: Injuries made for a lost season for Furcal, a real shame because he was off to an incredible start. Despite some competition for his attentions, the Dodgers were able to bring him back. Furcal is likely the last shortstop in the second tier; after him there’s a bit of dropoff to the eight to 10 slots.
8. J.J. Hardy, Milwaukee Brewers: Hardy has shown good offensively progress the past couple of years and with him entering him prime power years, could 30 homers be possible? Hardy better continue the development, because with top prospect Alcides Escobar breathing down his back, any backsliding on the part of Hardy could be catastrophic for his long-term outlook. Hardy seems to have answered the call, hitting like a man possessed this spring. Then again, Alcides is also hitting the cover off the ball.
9. Derek Jeter, New York Yankees: Jeter missed a bit more time last season, a trend we can probably expect to continue as he gets on in years. Of greater concern is that his extra-base pop keeps sliding. Sure, Jeter didn’t strike out as often, but if he’s been reduced to a .300 hitter without much speed or pop, his overall fantasy outlook is going to take a hit. Normally the two-hole hitter in the Yankee lineup, Jeter will flip spots with lead-off man Johnny Damon to start the season. That should mean less RBI but more runs for The Captain.
10. Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies: Tulowitzki is dealing with some back issues this spring, but it’s nothing like the injury problems he had last year that caused him to have a simply awful sophomore season. He was a bad keeper league choice last season, but don’t forget he did hit .327 after the break. Throw in the fact that he’s enjoying a nice spring, and you’ve got yourself a serious bounce back candidate here with plenty of upside.
11. Mike Aviles, 2B, Kansas City Royals: Aviles enjoyed a great rookie effort in 2008, batting .325 with pop. There’s not a ton of upside here, but he makes for a fine 12th round pick. Expected to bat second in the Royal lineup, Aviles has been scorching this spring. Throw in the fact that he also qualifies at second base for this season, and you’ve got a very nice fantasy option on your hands.
12. Miguel Tejada, Houston Astros: Tejada’s power has been in decline for several years now as his overall value continues to drop. He made the headlines all offseason for lying to the feds, but as we expected, he got off without jail time. That’s a shame, because Tejada looked great in orange during his B-More days. Instead, he gets off with a slap on the wrist: a $5,000 fine that he can pay with loose change from his couch, one year’s probation, and 100 hours of community service, in which he can talk to “normal” people about why it’s so dangerous to lie under oath, unless, of course, you’re a star athlete who can walk away from almost anything unscathed. At any rate, Tejada’s value is shrinking as fast as his balls were when he was juicing.
13. Orlando Cabrera, Oakland Athletics: Cabrera slipped somewhat last season, and at the age of 34, you have to wonder how much he’s capable of rebounding, especially now that he’s left one of the best hitting parks in the majors and landed in one of the worst ones. Having said that, O-Cab was better in the second half, batting almost .300, so he’s probably worth around a 16th round pick. While it’s fantasy irrelevant, it’s interesting to note how well Cabrera’s real life teams have done. Even if he’s in decline and rubs a lot of people the wrong way (just ask Grant Balfour how he feels about O-Cab), he’s a winner.
14. Khalil Greene, St. Louis Cardinals: Greene was hurt last season, and when he was in the lineup, he was never worse. His extra-base pop was unacceptably poor; he struck out almost a quarter of the time; he got on base just 26 per cent of the time. Okay, I’ll say something nice: Greene matched his career high with five swipes. But that’s not why you ever drafted the long time Padre. He’s gone from the West Coast now, tabbed by the Cardinals to replace the departed Cesar Izturis and Greene is a major sleeper as a result. Not only does he move from the worst hitter’s park in the majors to a slightly better one (although still not very good), but he’s healthy and is absolutely crushing the ball this spring. Just 29, Greene has a lot left to prove and I could very well see him topping out at .260-25-90 on the Cards this season.
15. Ryan Theriot, Chicago Cubs: Taking over as the full-time shortstop last season, Theriot set a career high in runs, enjoying a better year than he did in 2007. However, there’s not much, if any, upside here: Theriot struggled in the second half last year, and he’s expected to drop from the two-hole to the bottom of the order, a move that will make matching that run total extremely difficult. He’s hitting the cover off the ball this spring, and is too good an OBP man to bat eighth, so there’s hope he’ll be moved back up, but as of this moment, I’m not overly bullish on his prospects.
16. Edgar Renteria, San Francisco Giants: In his second try at the American League, Renteria’s pop slipped, he wasn’t overly productive, and his BA plummeted after his strong season in Atlanta in 2007. This is a trend I’ve been calling for a while – Renteria simply is not a junior circuit kind of guy. But how big a recovery can we expect now that he’s back in his beloved NL? Well, Renteria’s play at shortstop is getting worse as he gets a bit chunkier, and he’s moving from a good hitter’s park in Detroit to a middling one in San Francisco. He’s also not exactly a kid anymore (he’ll turn 34 shortly after the break). None of this bodes well for a massive recovery, but if his freaky NL vs. AL thing continues, I’m looking at a season of around .280, 10 homers and maybe 60 RBI – hardly a big time recovery.
17. Yunel Escobar, Atlanta Braves: Escobar’s power slipped last season, but he was a bit more productive, as he spent most of the season in the two-hole as opposed to batting leadoff. His stolen base skills are atrocious, but I like the fact that he made great strides with his batting eye. That suggests to me that there’s upside here and was one of the reasons we recommended him as a mid-season pick up. Escobar proved us right with a nice August and a huge September before a hamstring injury caused him to miss time over the last couple of weeks of the season. He’s going to hit second again this year, and judging by his Spring Training performance, Escobar is poised to take a big step forward. I see his upside this year as .300 or better with 15 homers and 75 RBI.
18. Cristian Guzman, Washington Nationals: Guzman, one of the few Nat regular who stayed (somewhat) healthy last season, put up a career best 35 doubles, although his OBP dipped a bit. How did he hit .316 with such poor strike zone judgment? You can be sure he’ll still be there in the 12th round, about the time the shortstop ranks tend to thin out, but there’s no reason you can’t wait until the last two rounds to pick him up the Nats’ two-hole hitter.
19. Julio Lugo, Boston Red Sox: Lugo missed about half the season last year, losing his job to Jed Lowrie in the process. When he was healthy, Lugo certainly did better than he had in his first season in Boston. He’s a good OBP man, but that weird power spike he had with the Rays in 2006 was obviously a fluke. Unfortunately, injury has struck Lugo again, and he’ll miss the next three or four weeks while recovering from an operation to repair torn cartilage in his right knee. In the meantime, Lowrie will get the chance to start, and if he can build on his nice rookie campaign, Lugo may be in trouble.
20. Yuniesky Betancourt, Seattle Mariners: Betancourt is limited by his crappy on-base skills – he has yet to top an OBP of .310 in four big league seasons. That’s why he spent most of last season batting ninth and is again near the bottom of the order, expected to bat eighth this year. However, perhaps the addition of Ronny Cedeno is lighting a fire underneath Betancourt, as he’s had a hit in every Spring Training game so far. Is this the season he approaches .300 and become a 12 to 15 homer threat?
21. Erick Aybar, Los Angeles Angels: Aybar showed developing extra-base pop last year, a great sign considering he also did a much better job of making contact. He’s got some upside, but still may not have a job. At this point, Aybar will either be a top utility player, or the starting SS, a job he’s trying to win over Maicer Izturis. So far this spring, Aybar is smacking the ball around like he means it; unfortunately, so is Izturis. I like Aybar’s SB potential if he gets the job. I could see him pitching in with upwards of 20 swipes.
22. Jason Bartlett, Tampa Bay Rays: Bartlett had a decent BA last year despite his impatient approach. He smacked a career high 25 doubles and has good speed, but I just don’t see a lot of upside here. He’s a great defender, but batting ninth in the Tampa Bay order, he is limited offensively.
23. Marco Scutaro, Toronto Blue Jays: Scutaro, who qualifies at second and third base as well, is the projected lead-off hitter for the Jays. Explain to me again why the Jays can’t make headway in the AL East? Having said that, Scutaro set career highs in games played and RBI last year, but he struck out a bit more often. John McDonald will also see plenty of time at short for the Jays, but for now, the job is Scutaro’s.
24. Cesar Izturis, Baltimore Orioles: Izturis stayed somewhat healthier last year, bouncing back to an extent. But his extra-base pop is pathetic. In fact, the only real value Izturis supplies is that he’ll swipe you some bags. He was at the WBC for Team Venezuela and is now back with the Orioles, where he will provide an answer to the revolving door of shortstops B-More dealt with last season. However, while Izturis may help the fantasy value of Oriole pitchers, he won’t do much for his owners.
25. Emmanuel Burriss, SS, San Francisco Giants: He’s listed here because he spent most of his time manning short in his rookie season, but Burriss also qualifies at second base, where he is currently fighting for the starting job in San Francisco with Kevin Frandsen, a competition he appears to be winning, but one expected to go right down to the last possible moment. Burriss enjoyed an impressive rookie campaign, and with his great stolen base potential, I love his upside.
Other to Consider
26. Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers
27. Jed Lowrie, Boston Red Sox (also qualifies at 3B)
28. Alex Gonzalez, Cincinnati Reds
29. Nick Punto, Minnesota Twins (also qualifies at 2B)
30. David Eckstein, San Diego Padres (also qualifies at 2B)
31. Jerry Hairston, Cincinnati Reds (Hairston played more in the outfield than at shortstop last season, but he wouldn’t make our OF list and he qualifies here)
32. Adam Everett, Detroit Tigers
33. Jack Wilson, Pittsburgh Pirates
34. Luis Rodriguez, San Diego Padres
35. Maicer Izturis, Los Angeles Angels (also qualifies at 2B)
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