Shortstop is one of the thinnest positions out there. Last year's injury to Troy Tulowitzki made the field even thinner and even more of a question mark going into this season. Last year, in a couple of leagues, I drafted Tulo and Hanley Ramirez with my first two picks. My logic was multifactorial (I learned that word from Ben Cherington). I knew Hanley would be gaining eligibility at third base. If I had both Tulo and Hanley, I had far and away the two best shortstops and I had the rest of the league at a disadvantage. Let the other owners struggle with picking the likes of Alexei Ramirez, J.J. Hardy, Yunel Escobar, or Jed Lowrie. Also, if Tulo got injured, as he is prone to do, I had a backup plan so I wouldn't be stuck with an Everth Cabrera for the remainder of the season. It worked out pretty well. I won both leagues despite the fact I kept Tulo as dead weight on my roster from the time he got hurt in May until September when he finally gave up any hopes of playing (couldn't have told me sooner?).
I don't know if I'll go in with the same strategy this year, but if I do, I should be able to do it with my second and third picks instead of my first and second. Tulo will likely slip to the second round in many drafts. Hanley hasn't really returned to his 2006-2010 form which, at the time, had me debating whether he or Albert Pujols deserved to be drafted first overall.
I think players like Starlin Castro, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Ian Desmond are closing the gap.
Here are my tiers with my projections:
1. Troy Tulowitzki (489 AB, 26 HR, 88 RBI, .289 avg., 6 SB)
2. Hanley Ramirez (22 HR, 66 RBI, .266 avg., 22 SB)
Tulo has only played 122 games or more in a season three out of his six full seasons in the majors. Those three seasons were great seasons, though. Just be prepared (like I did) with a backup plan if you draft him. Groin injuries can be tricky. Hanley comes with dual position eligibility (SS/3B), but you'll want to use him at shortstop (unless you draft Tulo also). Both players have seen their stolen base totals drop significantly. It was their power-speed combination which set them apart from everyone else.
3. Ian Desmond (21 HR, 71 RBI, .274 avg., 27 SB)
4. Jose Reyes (9 HR, 54 RBI, .313 avg., 47 SB)
5. Starlin Castro (14 HR, 74 RBI, .301 avg., 24 SB)
6. Jimmy Rollins (16 HR, 64 RBI, .266 avg., 27 SB)
A couple of oldies-but-goodies and some young blood in this tier. It all depends on what's your style. I wouldn't draft Desmond this highly, but hope to steal him a little later. Desmond was the fourth best shortstop last year based on Yahoo! rankings despite having 100 less at-bats than the three shortstops ahead of him. His power-speed combination has the chance of joining Hanley and Tulo. I don't like Castro's immaturity, but his talent as a hitter is all you should care about. He's not as good a base-stealer as you would like (caught 13 times in 38 attempts last year), but he is a .300 hitter and his power is coming. You know what you're getting with Reyes and Rollins.
7. Asdrubal Cabrera (17 HR, 70 RBI, .270 avg., 13 SB)
8. Ben Zobrist (18 HR, 77, RBI, .264 avg., 16 SB)
9. Martin Prado (11 HR, 66 RBI, .297 avg., 9 SB)
10. Danny Espinosa (18 HR, 58 RBI, .239 avg., 23 SB)
It starts going downhill pretty fast after this tier, and this tier isn't even that great. Zobrist (2B,/SS/OF), Prado (2B/SS/3B/OF), and Espinosa (2B/SS) give the added benefit of multi-positional eligibility. Prado is a great guy to have on your roster as a bench guy, but you're not too happy if he is starting for you all season at any position. Cabrera is consistent, but not spectacular. Zobrist hits in a bad lineup which limits his run production. Espinosa strikes out too much.
11. Josh Rutledge (14 HR, 59 RBI, .270 avg., 15 SB)
12. Alexei Ramirez (16 HR, 66 RBI, .266 avg., 13 SB)
13. Elvis Andrus (5 HR, 36 RBI, .288 avg., 33 SB)
14. Alcides Escobar (5 HR, 47 RBI, .271 avg., 36 SB)
15. Erick Aybar (7 HR, 45 RBI, .267 avg., 23 SB)
16. JJ Hardy (19 HR, 64 RBI, .257 avg., 2 SB)
17. Marco Scutaro (7 HR, 58 RBI, .285 avg., 6 SB)
18. Zack Cozart (14 HR, 42 RBI, .248 avg., 5 SB)
19. Jhonny Peralta (14 HR, 56 RBI, .250 avg., 0 SB)
I don't think you're too happy if you have any of these as your starting shortstops. Rutledge did a great job filling in for Tulo in Colorado last year. Hopefully, he wins the starting second base job with the Rockies, but keep an eye on it. Ramirez will give you a little of everything. Andrus, Escobar, and Aybar will only help you in stolen bases.
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