Jose Reyes will be hard pressed to swipe 40 bags after his ankle woes last year. (Nextimpulsesports.com)
By Josh Johnson, Jake Watroba, RotoRob and Tim McLeod
The 2014 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit is back today with yet another cheat sheet. So while you wonder how the Dodgers will deal with their already grumbling crowded outfield, let’s review the top 55 shortstops for Fantasy baseball in 2014.
Now that the glory days of Cal Ripken Jr., Nomar Garciaparra, Alex Rodriguez and even Derek Jeter are behind us, we search for legitimate top notch shortstops. Sure, we have Troy Tulowitzki, Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez, but all three (especially Tulo) love the DL like it’s their high school sweetheart. Ian Desmond seemed to be the most promising, although he regressed slightly.
The ugly truth about shortstops when it comes to Fantasy is that they are defense-first players. Hence the reason Brendan Ryan made our list. All shortstops with a starting gig should garner some attention because the opportunity will be there. And, unfortunately we all need a shortstop to fill out our lineups. So the key is getting a shortstop that will not kill your overall team batting average. Maybe, if you’re lucky, he might even swipe a dozen bags. The good news is the position is a bit deeper this year than it has been in some time. — JJ
Last year’s rankings are in parentheses.
1. Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies (1): Tulowitzki is easily the most dangerous hitting shortstop in the game today. Despite the Coors Field stigma (which is somewhat true) Tulo is better than the field. His major issue is health. If you have owned him in the past, you know what we are saying. If Tulowitzki can actually stay on the field, 30 homers and 100 RBI are easily within his grasp. (Take a look at his mechanics in the video below to get an idea of his power.) His career OPS of 877 should be higher but health issues over the years has likely put a dent in it. While we don’t have the foresight to see that he will appear in 150+ games, we do know that if he does you will be a proud and contending owner. Tulowitzki is annually a slow starter but don’t lose faith because remember you drafted him high. After all, this dude’s career BABIP and OBP numbers would be great for a first baseman — never mind a middle infielder. Gamblers roll the dice and they don’t fear what hasn’t already happened. — JJ
2. Hanley Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers (3): Ramirez’s return from injury last year was one of the biggest factors in Dodgers turning their season around. He enjoyed his finest season at the plate (from a pure hitting perspective), flashing monster extra base power — 25 doubles and 20 homers in barely over a half a season. Wow! H-Ram is still a threat to flirt with 20 steals, too, however, that career best .345 BA is probably unsustainable. Ramirez, a pending free agent after the season, is already rumoured as one of the best bets to be Jeter’s replacement in 2015, although the Dodgers have been talking to him about a long-term extension. All told, it was a major resurgence in 2013 for Ramirez, and while he may never be a 30-30 man again, he sure looks like a 30-20 guy. His walk rate dipped slightly last year, but it’s obviously not a worry. Ramirez is back to being a first round pick, going around seventh. Some prefer Joey Votto or Bryce Harper at that slot, but H-Ram is also a great bet here. — RR
3. Jose Reyes, Toronto Blue Jays (2): After being traded to the Blue Jays in a typical Marlins fire-sale-like fashion, Reyes was expected by most to post numbers like he did in 2011 with the Mets. However, that wasn’t the case as he only managed to play in 93 games last season. Reyes more than likely would’ve had higher numbers in runs, RBI, home runs, and probably average too if it wasn’t for an ankle injury that kept out from mid-April to late-June. Still, the Dominican is still a premium talent at the position and we expect him to bounce back. While we wouldn’t expect to see him steal 40 bags coming off a season were he battled an ankle injury, owners can still expect a high average, upwards of 100 runs and a ton of extra base hits. — JW
4. Ian Desmond, Washington Nationals (6): Desmond backed up his breakout 2012 season with another solid campaign last year. While his average and power numbers were down, his runs scored and RBI totals were up. Desmond spent a good majority of last season hitting in the middle of the Nations batting order which could be the reason why we saw an increase in his RBI numbers. Stealing bases is also part of the 27-year-old’s game. He figures to steal 20-to-25 bags, making him a potential 20-20 guy annually. With players like Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth around him, Desmond has the protection in the lineup to make him one of the upper echelon shortstops in the game. — JW
5. Jean Segura, Milwaukee Brewers (18): What a season this guy had for the Brew Crew. Segura was one of the main focal points in the Brewers offense once Ryan Braun was suspended for the season. In his first full season in the bigs, Segura managed to be named to the NL All-Star team and rightfully so. The former Angel top prospect displayed his ability to hit for average, pop, and also showed he’s a threat on the base paths. With Carlos Gomez, Aramis Ramirez, Jonathan Lucroy, and Braun all in the lineup, Segura will have more than enough protection to build on his stellar 2013 season. The Dominican youngster showed that he’ll likely be one of the game’s premier shortstops for the next decade or so. — JW
6. Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers (7): Andrus quietly put together a solid season last year. We saw a decline with the stick as his average slipped some, but 42 steals made up for that. Along with his steals, Andrus was able to crossed the plate 91 times last season. The loss of Nelson Cruz hurts, but if Andrus is able to do a better job at getting on base this season, 50 stolen bases and 100 runs aren’t out of the question for him. — JW
7. Everth Cabrera, San Diego Padres (17): During the course of Cabrera’s career he has used his amazing wheels to run from scandal to scandal. Will he now finally keep things on the straight and narrow? Cabrera does have some major speed: 118 stolen bases in just 391 career games while being caught just 30 times. Thanks to PED use (he’s coming off his Biogenesis-related suspension) and for other various reasons, Cabrera has never played a full seasons in the bigs. How good will he be as an ostensibly now clean player is a question a lot of Fantasy owners will be facing. At least Cabrera has youth on his side. — JJ
8. Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs (4): Many were ready to knight Castro as the next Ernie Banks after his encouraging rookie year. Then he thwarted pitchers even further by slapping a league leading 207 hits in his second season. That, of course, caused Castro to be burdened with that pesky “best ever” tab. He has regressed down to earth since; in fact he dropped in our rankings from being ranked fourth last year to barely being a top 10 player at the position. There is hope that Castro will rise again and he’s still a kid who is learning and the Cubs seem set that he has potential. — JJ
9. Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays (5): For Zobrist’s profile, please see our Second Base Rankings. He is also listed in our Outfield Rankings, coming shortly.
10. Alexei Ramirez, Chicago White Sox (15): To some fan bases of rival teams, Ramirez is known as the “Shiny Demon” given his ultra clean appearance and his sinister eyes. To Pale Hose fans he is the “Cuban Missile.” When Ramirez first defected he was a Fantasy utility dream with 20-20 potential. Now he has settle into a respectable shortstop. The power has regressed significantly, but the speed has been nice with 50 steals over the last two seasons. He has been very solid vs. LHP in his career (.299/.341/.441). He is also a .296/.338/.437 career hitter RISP and for a shortstop who lacks power that’s very nice as it’ll translate into RBI. Ramirez remains a decent starting shortstop option you should look at after the bigs boys are gone… but not to soon after. — JJ
11. J.J. Hardy, Baltimore Orioles (16): Hardy is a power hitter (158 career homers and a .428 slugging percentage) and free swinger who has struck out 652 times in 4,597 career plate appearances. A fairly neutral platoon splits dude, he spent 89 games hitting seventh in the order last season, so a lack pressure did him some good. At his core, Hardy is 31 and probably on the downside of his career. — JJ
12. Andrelton Simmons, Atlanta Braves (30): In late-August we identified that Simmons had soared up the rankings since the start of last season, and that thinking is borne out with his positioning on this year’s list. The Braves, busy signing their core players, just locked him up to a long-term deal (the largest ever to a player with less than two years of service time), prompted almost exclusively by his supreme defensive skills. In his first full season last year, Simmons did not swing the stick as well as his rookie effort, but still managed a respectable 150 hits. His walk rate regressed slightly, but he also made significantly better contact, and he definitely suffered from some bad luck in looking merely at his BA. Simmons could wind up being an asset with his speed, but he’ll definitely need to pick his spots better. Whether Simmons is worth the seven-year, $58-million deal remains to be seen, but Atlanta is sticking to its plan of locking up its young stars through their prime. If he can get his speed skills back to where they were in Double-A (10 steals in 44 games), this kid will be due for another rise up the rankings. — RR
13. Jed Lowrie, Oakland A’s (25): Lowrie finally played a whole season in the bigs last year. He turned in a solid performance although he hit more homers in 97 games in 2012 (16) than he did in 154 games in 2013 (15). However, that fact that he had more than twice as many doubles tells us he still has plenty of pop. So, with multi-position eligibility and double-digit power, Lowrie should owned in all formats. His career strikeout and walk rates are both slightly better than average, and although Lowrie turns 30 in April, he was a late bloomer, so weren’t not overly concerned with his age yet. He is also listed in our Second Base Rankings. — JJ
14. Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland Indians (8): When we slotted Cabrera eighth in last year’s Shortstop Rankings, we were hoping he’d enjoy a bounce back based on reporting to camp in better shape. Um, ya. So much for that. While his extra-base power recovered slightly, his walk rate fell off the table and now we can’t even recommend him as a starter in standard formats. A free agent after the season, Cabrera has tons of reasons to get his act together this year. For starters, he’s on the list of potential Jeter replacements. More importantly, Cabrera has top prospect Francisco Lindor breathing down his back, so keeping his own job will soon be an issue. Behind Jason Kipnis, there is no more valuable infielder on the Indians than Cabrera, so a recovery this year is very important to this team’s fate. A-Cab is now a below average hitter despite the fact that he’s hitting more line drives. Hoping he’s going to return to his 2009 or 2011 form isn’t the wisest decision. — RR
15. Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox (NR): Boston’s top prospect, Bogaerts burst onto the season last September and held down third base as they marched to their third World Series in a decade. While it’s a small sample size, the 21-year-old was impressive during September and October, showing the ability to hit for some pop, draw some walks, and hit for a decent average. Bogaerts’ true position is shortstop and with Stephen Drew a free agent, the rookie should be eligible here in a hurry (if he isn’t already, based on your league rules). The young Arubian’s minor league track record suggests he should hit for extra base power, draw a bunch of walks, and hover around a .300 BA. Bogaerts is the odds-on-favourite to win AL Rookie of the Year this season. He is also listed in our Third Base Rankings, coming shortly. — JW
16. Alcides Escobar, Kansas City Royals (10): If a player was ever primed for a breakout year, Escobar is. He will surpass 2,400 major league at-bats during the first week of the season and he is also now 26 years old. Escobar had a brilliant 2012, but he regressed last year. He is not the kind of player that can produce a 20-20 seasons, but he is annual 30-steal candidate and with experience under his belt we think 40 steals could be a strong possibility. With a young but developing lineup around him, Escobar could take the lead as a table-setter. — JJ
17. Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia Phillies (9): Rollins took a step back last season in nearly every statistical category. His runs, RBI, homers and steals all dropped, and they were significantly lower than the numbers he had posted in 2012. It appears age (35) may be catching up to J-Roll. When you also consider two out of the three big bats in the Phillies lineup – Chase Utley and Ryan Howard – have historically struggled to stay healthy, it’s not a guarantee that Rollins can score runs at a rate that you’d expect from a top of the order hitter. While he still is a threat to steal, the former MVP’s best days may be behind as he’s now best served as an NL-only option for owners. — JW
18. Erick Aybar, Los Angeles Angels (13): There always seems to be this certain feeling of optimism surrounding Aybar every Spring Training. This could be his year! In retrospect, it appears that perhaps his ceiling year was 2011 when he stroked 10 homers with 59 RBI and 30 swipes. When you have drafted Aybar you probably thought you deserved at least 20 steals, even though you prayed for 30 and some kind of power surge. He is now 30, so it’s not as if there’s upside, and the Albert Pujols/Josh Hamilton experience doesn’t seem to be helping his cause. At the very least Aybar has job security, right? — JJ
19. Jhonny Peralta, St. Louis Cardinals (19): Does it seem odd to anyone else that the Cardinals are taking on a player post suspension? Of course, they will probably make it work, like they always do. Peralta has had his ups and downs, however, we all know St. Louis doesn’t make too many mistakes. Will he exceed his careers highs? Can he flirt with that illustrious mistress called .300? Like in Detroit, Peralta only has to be the fifth best hitter on the Cardinals to make a difference. A mid to late round steal is once again Peralta’s fate. — JJ
20. Zack Cozart, Cincinnati Reds (20): On the surface, Cozart appears to be your normal run of the mill middle infielder. But what we really like about him is that he has hit double digit homers in each of last two seasons and 2014 will be his third full year in the majors. Cozart isn’t flashy, but he could have a career year given his experience so far. The other good news is that he has only made 28 errors in 299 career games. Plus, his double play partner Brandon Phillips trusts him. The moral here is that Cozart is entrenched as a starter unless he gets injured. NL-only owners should highlight his name. — JJ
21. Jonathan Villar, Houston Astros (NR): In just 58 games last year, Villar swiped 18 bags. While he did whiff 71 times, he managed 24 walks. Villar is an exciting speedster and the brass in Houston seem to be set with him going forward, although his 16 errors last season could make his job security questionable. Spending the whole of Spring Training with the big club should help shore his glove up. Villar has a very real shot at 40, however, like any young hitter, he will suffer through some rough patches. — JJ
Others to Consider
22. Brad Miller, Seattle Mariners (NR)
23. Derek Jeter, New York Yankees (11)
24. Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants (27)
25. Jose Iglesias, Detroit Tigers (47): Iglesias is also listed in our Third Base Rankings.
26. Didi Gregorius, Arizona Diamondbacks (NR): This position battle with Owings (27) could go either way, so we have them ranked right beside each other. The fact that Arizona indicated the job was Gregorius’ to lose is the only reason he slots ahead of Owings. Check the latest news before drafting either.
27. Chris Owings, Arizona Diamondbacks (NR): See note above.
28. Yunel Escobar, Tampa Bay Rays (21)
29. Stephen Drew, Free agent (24)
30. Mike Aviles, Cleveland Indians (28): Aviles is also listed in our Third Base Rankings.
31. Adeiny Hechavarria, Miami Marlins (NR)
32. Pedro Florimon, Minnesota Twins (NR)
33. Jordy Mercer, Pittsburgh Pirates (NR): Mercer is also listed in our Second Base Rankings.
34. Maicer Izturis, Toronto Blue Jays (32): Izturis also qualifies at Second Base and is also listed in our Third Base Rankings.
35. Dee Gordon, Los Angeles Dodgers (29)
36. Rafael Furcal, Miami Marlins (26)
37. Ruben Tejada, New York Mets (35)
38. Clint Barmes, Pittsburgh Pirates (34)
39. Daniel Descalso, St. Louis Cardinals (46): Descalso is also listed in our Second Base and Third Base Rankings.
40. Pete Kozma, St. Louis Cardinals (49)
41. Cliff Pennington, Arizona Diamondbacks (42): Pennington also qualifies at Second Base.
42. Marcus Semien, Chicago White Sox: Semien is also listed in our Second Base and Third Base Rankings.
43. Eduardo Nunez, New York Yankees (55 at SS; 39 at 3B)
44. Omar Quintanilla, New York Mets (NR)
45. Jayson Nix, Tampa Bay Rays (NR)
46. Munenori Kawasaki, Toronto Blue Jays (NR)
47. Brendan Ryan, New York Yankees (52)
48. Marwin Gonzalez, Houston Astros (NR)
49. Willie Bloomquist, Seattle Mariners (45)
50. Ramon Santiago, Cincinnati Reds (47 at 2B): Santiago also qualifies at Second and Third Base.
51. Addison Russell, Oakland A’s (NR)
52. Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians (NR)
53. Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs (NR)
54. Hak-Ju Lee, Tampa Bay Rays (NR)
55. Alen Hanson, Pittsburgh Pirates (NR)
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below whether you agree or disagree with our rankings.
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