By: Chris Dommermuth
The position breakdowns continue on as we get closer and closer to Spring Training. I can feel the excitement. The shortstop position has a lot more questions marks this season then it has in the past. There are a handful of top players who are coming back from injuries, and a few veterans that had career years. How will the position fair during this 2012 season? Lets find out.
Tulo is hands down my top SS, and not even because of my man crush. He’s the only player on this list without any question marks. I know your probably thinking injury, but that doesn’t concern me in the least bit. He’s made 3 trips to the DL over his 5 year career. Over his last three seasons he’s averaged 30 HR’s, 97 RBI’s, and a .304 batting average. If you want this guy, you better take him in the first round.
Hanley had a difficult 2011 season. He battled a shoulder injury that limited him to just 92 games, he had a much publicized benching, and struggled statistically when he was in the lineup. Hanley finished the season hitting .243 with 10 HR’s, 45 RBI’s, and 20 stolen bases. It’s been reported that he came into camp over weight and many feel that effected his ability to hit. The move to third should also be tough for him, but I think he’ll have a bounce-back season. He could be a great value in the second round. Hanley’s too good of a pure hitter not to produce.
Yes, Jimmy Rollins has battled injuries over the last few seasons, but the extent at which he has, has been way over-blown. Over his 11-yr. career he has played less than 140 games just twice and has led the league in at-bats 4 times. If he does enjoy a healthy season, he’ll hit you 20 HR’s and steal you 30 bases. Only Hanley Ramirez is a threat to do the same at their position.
Gone are the days of leading the league in steals like he did three times from 2005-2007. His hamstring have slowed him down a little, and made the Mets in the past cautious with letting him run. He’ll still swipe about 35 bags a season, and is a very good hitter who’ll likely finish the season around .300. I worry about his power numbers. He has just 18 HR’s over the last two seasons. Be cautious with Reyes, he’s an injury concern and will have to adjust to playing in a new home on a new team.
Starlin took a big step last season in his progression. He showed more power (10) and stole bases at a much higher rate (22). Oh yeah, and he’s still just going into his age-22 season. Castro is a near lock to hit .300 and will be the next great shortstop. The question is, when will he become great. I think he takes another step this season and goes for a line of about .310/15/70/25. He reminds me of what Robinson Cano was as a young player but with speed.
OK, as an Indians fan, I’d love to try and convince you that Asdrubal Cabrera’s 2011 HR output wasn’t a fluke. However, I’m not sure my bias thinking can even believe that. He hit 25 HR’s last season after having just 18 career home runs in his first 1610 plate appearances coming into the season. I do believe he’ll hit about 15 HR’s and his average will rise. He seemed to be swinging for the fences late in the season. Look for a .290/15/80/15 line from him.
What a difference one season can make. Before last season, J.J. Hardy wasn’t on anyone’s fantasy radar. Career highs in both HR’s (30) and RBI’s (80) later, he’s looked at as a top ten option. He has some past injury concerns that worry me and he’ll likely regress from last season a little, but if healthy, he should have a line of about .270/25/70.
There’s something to be said for the consistency that Ramirez brings to the table. At the age of 30, he is what he is. He doesn’t have the potential that other players have, but he is also less likely to disappoint. Over his four major league seasons, Ramirez averaged 17 HR’s, 71 RBI’s, 12 SB’s, and hits .279. Those are the numbers you can expect from him this upcoming season.
Although I think he’ll eventually be a top-5 fantasy shortstop, I’m not sold right now on Andrus. I’ve seen many rankings with Andrus ranked 4th-5th. That’s way too high for me. Elvis Andrus is still a guy who has just 11 career HR’s in 1880 plate appearances. He scores runs and steals bases but not enough to warrant a top-5 rankings. Going into his age-23 season, he’ll get better, the time to take him just isn’t now.
It seems as if Jhonny Peralta has finally put things together. Along with his first All-Star appearance, Peralta hit .299 with 21 HR’s, and 86 RBI’s. In fact, Peralta has at least 81 RBI’s over the last 4 seasons. No other SS can say the same. I do see some regression from last year, but not too much. He’ll be in a very good lineup where he’ll get plenty of RBI opportunities. Don’t sleep on Jhonny Peralta.
Derek Jeter may be the most overrated player in the league. Don’t get me started on his defense. Five-time Gold Glover? What a joke. He’s a solid fantasy play, but the Jeter mystique will likely have him drafted too early. Jeter hasn’t had more then 69 RBI’s over a season in 4 years. He has stolen more then 18 bases just once of the last 5 seasons. At this point in Jeter’s career, he’s a one category player.
Erick Aybar had a very nice season for the Angels last year, and besides the batting average, had similar numbers to Starlin Castro. He’ll likely lead off for the Angels, who I dont know if you heard added a pretty decent bat to their lineup. There’s potential here for Aybar to score a ton of runs at the top of the Angels’ lineup.
The former first round pick has been more of a disappointment for fantasy owners over last three seasons. At the age of 25, Drew hit 21 HR’s while hitting .291. He hasn’t hit over .278 or had more then 15 HR’s since. Last season he played in just 86 games because of a fractured ankle. Drew should have a bounce-back season, but at the age of 29, it’s unlikely we’ll see some of that unpolished potential we’ve been waiting to see.
Speaking of one-category players, Dee Gordon is exactly that. He’ll steal a ton of bases for you, but don’t expect him to hit over .300, as he did in 56 games last season. The numbers say he was a little lucky last year. He wont hit HR’s and hit for any power, that’s evident by his 7 career minor league HR’s. There’s potential for him to steal 50 bases this year, so as a late pick he does provide some value.
Yes, I’m talking about that Marco Scutaro. He wont steal many bases but other then that, he’ll be solid at every category. I think playing in Coors Field will certainly improve his stats, and not having the constant pressures of playing for the Red Sox will also be a positive for him. He could be a top-10 option by seasons end, and is being drafted very late in most drafts.
Yunel Escobar is a player that has the talent to be a top-10 shortstop, he just doesn’t seem to be able to put it together. He lacks the concentration it takes to be a consistent hitter game in and game out. Escobar last season hit .290 with 11 HR’s and 48 RBI’s. His stats will be better this year, but not by too much. I think he’ll put up about 15 HR’s and 60 RBI’s
Emilio Bonafocio was a complete stud over the last 4 months of the season. He’ll have to be a utility guy with the addition of Jose Reyes, but the Marlins will find this guy at-bats somewhere. That opens up a possibility of even more positions he’s eligible at. By the end of the season he could be eligible everywhere except catcher and first base. Bonafacio is definitely a guy to target towards the end of the draft.
I’m not really sure how Ian Desmond has kept his starting job for as long as he has. He’s a bad defender at a position where defense is key and he doesn’t really hit either. Desmond manged to have an OBP that was lower then .300, while hitting just 5 HR’s. He did provide steals (25), but that has to do with where he hits in the lineup. He’ll likely be moved down to the 8 hole this season, meaning bye bye SB’s and runs. I wouldn’t draft this guy no matter what.
The biggest question about Sean Rodriguez is whether or not he’ll get enough playing time to be a relevant fantasy option. We all know how much Rays Manager, Joe Maddon loves to mix and match his lineups. He had 436 plate appearances last season and was unable to take control of the starting job. Rodriguez will battle for the starting job in Spring Training with Jeff Keppinger and Reid Brignac. He’s more of a waiver wire pickup, avoid drafting him.
Alcides Escobar took a step in the right direction during his first season with the Royals. He improved his stolen base totals from just 10 in 2010 to 26 last season. Although he’s becoming a better hitter, he’s really just a one category player at best. I wouldn’t expect him to make a big enough step from last season to this to be relevant as a fantasy option.
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