Now things are finally starting to look up. The difference between SS and 2B positionally is pretty eye-opening once you start including prospects, as 2B only has one top-40 prospect and SS has six. It really makes me think twice about ranking the dual eligibility guys on the SS list – although if I did it in reverse, the SS crop would look much weaker. However, when you look at just the values for 2013, the positions look closer to equal in value.
As with its middle infield counterpart, SS has a clear tier at the top and backs it up with prospect firepower. And I’ll start on that subject by answering an obvious question. I did rank Jurickson Profar at SS because that is his natural position and one which he will be playing in short order in the majors, despite the fact that he has 2B eligibility only in most leagues heading into 2013. So the exciting part is that although the position is gradually improving, there’s a lot more help coming – and we may not be too far away from another fantasy golden age at the position.
However, clearly we’re not there yet. In 2012, there was not a single shortstop to hit more than 25 HR and Derek Jeter was the only shortstop that hit over .300. There was only one triple-digit total in any counting stat at the entire position, and that was Jimmy Rollins’ 102 runs scored. This lack of high-end production is what allowed guys like Martin Prado and Marco Scutaro to be top-10 shortstops in 2012. This is going to change over the next couple of years and it’s going to be led by the first name on this list.
And now your top 50 dynasty league shortstops, with commentary:
#1 – Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs
If you’re starting a dynasty league team and can start it with one guy at this position, there’s no better choice. In the history of baseball, only 19 players have more hits through the age of 22 than Castro does (529). He’s gradually developing power, which could get to the 25-30 range in time. He’s always going to be a threat to hit for high average, and seeing as though he doesn’t walk much and plays all of the time, his batting average will be more heavily weighted than his counterparts (he’s led the NL in at bats both of the last two seasons). On top of that, he steals bases and hits in a prominent spot in the Cubs lineup. What else do you want, people?
#2 – Hanley Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers
#3 – Jose Reyes, Toronto Blue Jays
These two have to be grouped together, although you could debate their orders until the cows come home. The point is, if you have one of them, you’re pretty well set. With Hanley, it comes down to what the second act of his career is going to look like – if it’s a .260-.270 hitter who can also go 20/20, that’s still very valuable. And if it’s closer to the old Hanley, even better. The risk is that he’ll end up at 3B eventually (though it appears that he’ll keep the eligibility at least through 2014). With Reyes, it’s a matter of how long he’ll maintain his speed. The next couple of years in Toronto could be special – especially if Rogers Centre helps his underrated power – but if he becomes a 20 SB guy in time, then he becomes late career Jeter-esque. Again, valuable, but not a stud.
#4 – Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies
If Tulo didn’t have his injury concerns, he’d likely be #1 on this list. Unfortunately, you can’t separate the horse from the carriage. In fact, even while I’m typing this right now, I want to move him higher. I really want to. The man has hit 30 HR twice in the last four years. He’s hit at least .287 each year since 2008. He put up a career low K-rate of 9.4% in his injury-shortened 2012. But this has nothing to do with his performance on the field. In a long-term league, you need studs you can rely on, and for as good as he can look at times, Tulowitzki is just not reliable.
#5 – Jurickson Profar, Texas Rangers
#6 – Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays
It always helps when you add another top option from another position, and Zobrist’s 47 games at shortstop helps his value tremendously (not to mention his 2B/OF eligibility as well). Over the last four years, since Zobrist has become the player we all know and love, he’s third among all middle infielders in counting stats (runs + RBI), behind only Robinson Cano and Dan Uggla. And for good measure, he’s also been tied for fourth among middle infielders in combined HR and SB, with Jose Reyes. In other words, he’s good.
#7 – Xander Bogaerts, SS, Boston Red Sox
#8 – Elvis Andrus, SS, Texas Rangers
Andrus may have had a down fantasy season in 2012, but he should be very reliable going forward. Each part of his slash line has gone up each season he’s been in the majors, and I believe his ability to hit for average will continue to improve until he’s more or less a .300 hitter. Add 30 steals and 90 runs to the equation and you get a steady, valuable asset.
#9 – Jimmy Rollins, SS, Philadelphia Phillies
I’m nearly always of the mind that Rollins is one day away from falling off the face of the Earth. He certainly looked like he had after the first two months of 2012, but came back with a fury to have his best fantasy season since 2007. The concerning part was that his strikeout rate was higher than any season of his since 2003. Rollins is now 34 years old, and while he may still have some high-level performance in him, I just don’t think we’ll see him either hit 20 HR or steal 30 bases again.
#10 – Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs
#11 – Ian Desmond, SS, Washington Nationals
Let’s get this out of the way first, I don’t believe that Desmond’s power is legit. I think it’s fluky, and he’s no more than a 15 HR threat going forward. With that said, despite his strikeout totals, he’s still worth plenty as a .270-15-20 shortstop who’s entering his prime.
#12 – Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros
#13 – Addison Russell, Oakland Athletics
#14 – Jean Segura, SS, Milwaukee Brewers
I am a huge advocate of Segura’s and think he has a shot to be a poor man’s Jose Reyes. He’s got very good contact skills, as shown by his career .313 batting average and 12% strikeout rate in the minors. He’s also got good pop for his size, with the ability to hit 10-15 HR in his prime – especially in Miller Park. But those are nice sideshows. The main attraction with Segura is his speed, which could net him 40+ steals annually. There’s clearly risk here, but he’s a high upside fantasy SS, and could be a difference maker as soon as 2013.
#15 – Alen Hanson, Pittsburgh Pirates
#16 – Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland Indians
#17 – Alcides Escobar, Kansas City Royals
You wouldn’t know it by looking at his fantasy numbers, but Asdrubal was very nearly as good in 2012 as he was in 2011 at the plate. That fluky HR/FB rate from 2011 isn’t coming back, but he has now seemingly gone in the other direction and could be underrated as a sneaky .270-15-15 type. Escobar, on the other hand, is likely to be a bit overrated based on his 2012 season. One of my best pre-season calls, Escobar fulfilled my prediction of hitting over .280 with 30 SB – and while I think he can do that again, it’s the counting stats where he comes up short. As a mostly singles hitter (career .091 ISO) who doesn’t walk very much (career 4.8% BB rate), he’s not going to provide much bang for your buck in either runs scored or RBI.
#18 – Trevor Story, Colorado Rockies
#19 – Derek Jeter, New York Yankees
After a huge comeback season for Jeter, he now faces the prospect of coming back from major ankle surgery. But whatever “it” is, Jeter still has it, even at 38 years old. In 2012, he posted the lowest strikeout rate of his entire career (12.2%) and while a .347 BABIP may be high for some, Jeter’s xBABIP (which takes into account his batted ball profile) was .353 – which means he actually underperformed his expected batting average last season. But this is nothing new for Jeter, whose career BABIP is .354.
#20 – Zack Cozart, Cincinnati Reds
#21 – Josh Rutledge, Colorado Rockies
This section is going to lose me some friends, so let’s start with the positives. I like Cozart’s chances of becoming a .260 hitter with 20 HR and 10 SB, as early as 2013. In fact, I think he can carve out a peak similar to what Stephen Drew was doing in Arizona while people were expecting him to become a star. Which brings me to Josh Rutledge. I know there’s a small army of people who think Rutledge is a no doubt top-10 SS playing in the thin air going forward, he just doesn’t excite me all that much. The potential to hit for average is there, but his plate discipline has been below-average at best in the minors and was brutal in 2012. He walked only 23 times in 661 plate appearances between Double-A and the majors, and he doesn’t complement that with a low strikeout rate. There’s a very real chance that pitchers adjust to him and he isn’t able to make that secondary adjustment in return.
#22 – Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians
#23 – Erick Aybar, Los Angeles Angels
#24 – Alexei Ramirez, Chicago White Sox
Sometimes you just want a guy you can rely on for something, as opposed to putting your faith in a player further down the list that could get you nothing. Aybar and Ramirez are two examples of guys that can be had at reasonable prices, due to a lack of upside, but can deliver plenty to keep your team afloat at a tough position to fill.
#25 – Danny Espinosa, Washington Nationals
There are positives with Espinosa, but like the #25 option on the second base list, the negatives all circle around one number: his terrible strikeout rate. So even though he’s gone 15-15 in both of his full seasons, he’s not a player I want to be investing in going forward, On top of that, with LaRoche and Zimmermann both locked in Washington at least through 2014, Anthony Rendon may actually be a threat to Espinosa’s job and soon (though I still think that would be a bad idea).
#26 – Stephen Drew, Boston Red Sox
I do believe Drew will have a bit of resurgence for the Red Sox in 2013, though I think there’s still a perception out there as to what Drew can be in fantasy that he’s never been able to shake. Like I mentioned in the Cozart write-up, Drew is not a star and is unlikely to ever be one at this point. However, he’s got power and should be able to hit for an improved average in Fenway.
#27 – Andrelton Simmons, Atlanta Braves
#28 – Everth Cabrera, San Diego Padres
The biggest question with Simmons is whether he can steal enough bases to be fantasy relevant in all but deep leagues. He has the speed to steal 20-30 bases, but may not have the quickness or acumen – though the average should be legit due to a high contact rate. And if you want steals without the contact rate (or pretty much anything else) Everth Cabrera could be your guy. A legit threat to steal 40 bases again, this ranking should tell you everything you need to know about the rest of his game, including a 24.5% K-rate in 2012.
#29 – Dorssys Paulino, Cleveland Indians
#30 – Marco Scutaro, San Francisco Giants
#31 – J.J. Hardy, Baltimore Orioles
#32 – Jed Lowrie, Houston Astros
This is where you can really feel the depth of the position versus 2B, when you single out one eligibility per player (the respective 2B at this tier were Ryan Roberts and Mark Ellis). With that said, the flaws in each of these guys are inherent. Scutaro is old and has just about no upside. Hardy is getting older and won’t get less injury prone as he ages. And Lowrie just doesn’t stay healthy. All three are certainly worth fliers in redraft leagues, but in a dynasty format, it’s not worth it.
#33 – Dee Gordon, Los Angeles Dodgers
You’re guess is as good as mine, but it’s tough to steal 30 bases and be less valuable for fantasy purposes than Gordon was in 2012. He still has the potential to move Hanley to third base and be a legit major league shortstop, but he needs to be able to put better wood on the ball.
#34 – Brad Miller, Seattle Mariners
#35 – Adalberto Mondesi, Kansas City Royals
#36 – Yunel Escobar, Tampa Bay Rays
#37 – Eduardo Nunez, New York Yankees
Don’t forget about Nunez, who makes a lot of contact, steals bases and can even park one in the stands every once in a while. With three post-prime left-side infielders on the Yankees, all coming off some sort of injury, in front of him, he could stand to get more playing time than expected.
#38 – Jonathan Villar, Houston Astros
#39 – Hak-Ju Lee, Tampa Bay Rays
#40 – Chris Owings, Arizona Diamondbacks
Yes, Owings (and not Didi Gregorius) is the Diamondbacks SS of the future you want to own for fantasy.
#41 – Jhonny Peralta, Detroit Tigers
#42 – Rafael Furcal, St Louis Cardinals
If this were 2007, these guys would totally be higher on this list.
#43 – Jace Peterson, San Diego Padres
If you want a sleeper for big steals in the minors, Peterson might be one of the best.
#44 – Cliff Pennington, Arizona Diamondbacks
I really liked Pennington as a sleeper before the Gregorius trade made it less likely he’ll get to 400 AB in the desert. Could still be a sleeper in deep leagues.
#45 – Ruben Tejada, New York Mets
#46 – Gavin Cecchini, New York Mets
#47 – Deven Marrero, Boston Red Sox
#48 – Mike Aviles, Cleveland Indians
#49 – Luis Cruz, Los Angeles Dodgers
#50 – Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants
And this is a good place to end things.
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