2011 Fantasy Baseball Player Rankings- Shortstops
The Mullet of Fantasy Baseball- Short on Top, but Longer as You Go!
The superstar quality at shortstop is thin this year, as only three shortstops are real difference-makers. If you don’t get one of those three, don’t worry too much- there are plenty of shortstops who are virtually interchangeable after that, and enough of them to give you at least one decent player at the position. Let’s check them out…
(Again, these rankings were made before the season opened. I’ll include updated comments in the player recaps…)
Top Tier Starters– If you are going to invest quality money/picks at shortstop, it had better be on one of these guys, especially the top three.
1. Hanley Ramirez (.320, 22 HR, 78 RBI, 97 Runs, 29 SB)
Still the best at the position, but does come with a wider variance of potential performance than the number two shortstop. The Marlins did lose some punch in the off-season, so there is a chance that Hanley will be pitched around even more than usual and won’t see anywhere near as good a selection of pitches has he has the past couple of seasons. That being said, he’s still Hanley Ramirez, just beginning his prime years, and will still put up outstanding numbers at a thin position. He probably cost a boatload of auction cash to his owner, and what you would have to give up in trade most likely will not make dealing for Ramirez a bargain, so if you don’t already have him , he won’t be worth what you would lose in getting him.
2. Troy Tulowitzki (.308. 34 HR, 106 RBI, 94 Runs, 17 SB)
One could make a very good argument that Tulo should be ranked at the top of the shortstop position. You know what he brings to the table- a .300 average, 30+ bombs, excellent RBI and Run totals, and double-digit speed. There is something else he brings as well- a propensity for getting hurt, which could cost you a decent number of games this season. This injury risk is what puts Tulowitzki behind Hanley Ramirez. If you have faith in him staying healthy this year, then make Tulowitzki number one. Much as with Hanley, Tulo will cost you an arm and a leg (and an internal organ or two) in trade, so be happy if you have him and forget about him if you don’t.
3. Jose Reyes (.287, 13 HR, 64 RBI, 105 Runs, 46 SB)
The last of the elite shortstops, Reyes combines the worst of Ramirez and Tulowitzki. The Mets offense is going to be weak, and Reyes is a hamstring pull away from missing two months. But he can win you steals by himself, has a pretty solid bat, and, with health, has shown he can post some impressive stat lines. Another guy would cost too much in trade but, if you own him, I would recommend you at least consider shopping him and seeing what you are offered. If someone give you a king’s ransom (which includes another shortstop), pull the trigger. You can replace everything except the steals.
4. Elvis Andrus (.278, 3 HR, 47 RBI, 97 Runs, 38 SB)
As Paul Harvey used to say, “Now, for the rest of the story”. The next dozen shortstops all have the potential to wind up the fourth-best or the fifteenth-best shortstop, and the production spread won’t be significant. So why put Elvis at #4? The upside- he’s got 40 SB potential, will score a slew of runs in that Texas lineup, will only get better, and shouldn’t break your budget. If I had Jose Reyes, and someone offered me Andrus, a top 25 outfielder, and a top 30 SP, I would do that deal in a heartbeat.
5. Alexei Ramirez (.280, 22 HR, 78 RBI, 81 Runs, 15 SB)
Alexei is settling down to a consistent level of performance, and it isn’t a bad level at all. He will help you with pop, steal enough to contribute, and be solid everywhere else. If Andrus is Reyes-lite, then Ramirez is the same for Tulowitzki at half of the price. If his owner gets all starry-eyed over some one-category superstar shortstop, fleece him and take Alexei off of his hands. You’ll be thanking me come playoff time…
6. Jimmy Rollins (.273, 16 HR, 74 RBI, 98 Runs, 32 SB)
Falling a bit as he gets older, Rollins can still be a force- if he’s healthy. J-Roll is now 32, an age at which speed players start to slow down a tick. He will still have good speed stats, though, as Philly will need Rollins to do more with his legs now that Werth is gone and Utley is hurt. Would I trade for Rollins? No, there is too much downside to him now, and not a high enough ceiling to get me excited. But he is a fine player to have if you already have him.
7. Derek Jeter (.275, 11 HR, 76 RBI, 109 Runs, 16 SB)
Age is creeping up on Jeter, but he should still have one more decent season left. While his ability to produce numbers on talent alone has dropped, his experience (and home park) are masking that decline somewhat. Jeter can still get on base which, with that Yankee lineup, guarantees runs scored. He is a smart baserunner who hits in a bandbox, so double-digit HR’s and SB’s are still there. He started off the season slow, which isn’t unusual for Jeter, and he will make the adjustments. Consider him a safe starter for at least the 2011 campaign.
8. Stephen Drew (.273, 15 HR, 66 RBI, 77 Runs, 8 SB)
Why is it that so many people get excited about these Drew brothers? What exactly has either done to warrant such interest? The truth about J.D. is that he’s what he’s always been- a third or fourth fantasy outfielder, and the same can be said of his little brother. Stephan is still a mid-range starter at short, one who will give you mid-teens in homers, around 10 SB, and neither help nor hurt you anywhere else. Don’t waste time and effort chasing him- he’s not worth it. But if you own him, don’t be afraid to see what he will bring. If you can get, say Asdrubal Cabrera and a decent SP back in a deal centered around Drew, do it. Cabrera and Drew’s stats will be about even this year, and you wind up with an extra decent SP.
Bottom Tier Starters- If you miss out on any of the shortstops listed above, here is where you save your money/picks. Take any of these guys- they are all likely to give you similar numbers, so bet on the best upside.
9. Starlin Castro (.289, 7 HR, 52 RBI, 88 Runs, 27 SB)
Yup, he’s young- and he’s going to be very good. I expect a slight regression in the batting average this year from Castro, but upticks everywhere else. If you are in a keeper league, keep an eye on him all year long. If you have a top three shortstop- say, Jose Reyes- and you fall out of the hunt, check with Castro’s owner about a trade. If I were to fall out of the race, I would much rather have Castro’s future than Reyes’ present, and would do what I could to make that happen.
10. Ian Desmond (.272, 11 HR, 70 RBI, 66 Runs, 21 SB)
Another youngster with upside, Desmond’s 2011 season lacks the ceiling of Castro’s, but he should be OK. His defense is weak, so questions still linger as to whether Desmond will remain at SS. So long as he does, he’s a worthy gamble if you can get him cheap.
11. Asdrubal Cabrera (.283, 9 HR, 64 RBI, 77 Runs, 20 SB)
People will forget about Cabrera after all of the injuries last year. Don’t you be one of them. He’s got low-teens HR/low 20’s SB potential, he is still young, and he has a year of good performance already under his belt- the classic sleeper resume. (In my experts auction, it quickly became apparent that the shine had came off of Cabrera, as other owners were looking at him as a backup-level SS. When I saw this, I immediately targeted him to go along with another starter-level SS that wouldn’t cost $30+, figuring that A) I would get solid production from one of those two players, and B) this would save some auction dollars to invest elsewhere, such as starting pitching. When the dust had settled, I wound up with Cabrera, Alexei Ramirez, Trevor Cahill, and Clayton Richard, for less than what it would have cost me for Troy Tulowitzki. I’ll take that- Tulo’s owner is scouring the free agent wire for guys like Kyle Davies and Jo-Jo Reyes for starting pitching. It’s finds like mine which wins you championships…)
12. Alcides Escobar (.266, 6 HR, 51 RBI, 72 Runs, 18 SB)
Yes, he’s just a kid, and his stat line last year was pretty ugly. But two years ago he was a top prospect who burst into the league with some impressive numbers. Another great post-hype sleeper, there are two things you know you’ll get here- 1) lots of AB’s, as the Royals are rebuilding and Escobar’s defense will keep him in the lineup as he learns to hit better, and 2) lots of steals, as the Royals like to run and Escobar can swipe bags. The prediction above may be a tad conservative. If you need some help with speed, pick this kid up- he won’t cost you much.
13. Jason Bartlett (.270, 3 HR, 56 RBI, 75 Runs, 17 SB)
We all knew Bartlett wasn’t as good as his best seasons, and we should know that he’s not as bad as he showed last year. Pencil him in for a slight uptick in his numbers this season, but don’t chase him. There are a bunch of guys who will give you what Bartlett will this year.
14. Rafael Furcal (.277, 8 HR, 45 RBI, 87 Runs, 16 SB)
On the downhill side of his career, Furcal could have been a shortstop who wouldn’t hurt you, and helped a little, if he had stayed healthy. But he’s hurt again, and talking retirement. If you have him, dump him, and pick up someone who should be available, like Cliff Pennington, who will give you what Furcal could have.
15. Yunel Escobar (.272, 11 HR, 68 RBI, 78 Runs, 6 SB)
Your stereotypical “won’t hurt, won’t help” shortstop to get if you have punted the position and are investing heavily elsewhere.
16. Erick Aybar (.263, 5 HR, 40 RBI, 71 Runs, 18 SB)
The same as Yunel Escobar, except what little help Aybar gives you is on the bases. You want a little more pop, go with Yunel. Need a few more steals, go with Aybar.
Top Tier Backups– If you wind up with a bottom-tier starter, spend an extra dollar and go for lightning-in-a-bottle with one of these players, especially those with multi-position eligibility.
17. Juan Uribe (.251, 17 HR, 58 RBI, 53 Runs, 2 SB)
You know what you’ll get from our guy Uribe- low batting average, surprisingly good HR numbers, some RBI, and no steals or runs, since his on-base percentage is only slightly better than that of a fire hydrant. He will probably qualify at multiple positions soon in 2011, depending on your league rules, and he is actually kinda fun to watch and root for, so go get Juan Uribe as your backup shortstop. If you are going to have a backup shortstop, it might as well be someone as likeable as Juan Uribe!
18. 17. Jhonny Peralta (.258, 14 HR, 78 RBI, 63 Runs, 1 SB)
I know it seems like Peralta has been around forever, but he is only 29, and has somewhat of a track record of production. His days when his numbers would be acceptable at third base are gone (if they were ever here in the first place), but you can do a lot worse than having a mid-teens power hitter as your backup shortstop who also qualifies at third. (Note- I’ve been watching Peralta closely so far this year, as he is on my hometown Detroit Tigers, and he is swinging the bat pretty darn well. Good bat speed, the ball shows good jump off his bat. If you can get him for a song, start singing- he will help you out.)
19.Miguel Tejada (.257, 12 HR, 64 RBI, 62 Runs, 0 SB)
The end is near, and none too soon for this ‘roidhead. But he does qualify at two spots, and should hit over ten bombs, so he’s worth having as a backup SS. Just don’t expect me to lament his absence when he’s gone…
20. Cliff Pennington (.255, 7 HR, 51 RBI, 72 Runs, 32 SB)
He will run…and run…and run some more, which is the only reason you want him on your roster. Since Pennington will only cost you pennies (and not a ton of them, regardless of what his name says), he is a fine source of cheap steals if you need them.
21. Reid Brignac (.262, 13 HR, 56 RBI, 61 Runs, 9 SB)
Starting in Tampa Bay, we will finally see if the minor league success will transfer to the bigs. The Rays have a good history of their prospects helping at the big league level, so Brignac is a fine low-risk play to make, especially since he qualifies at both 2B and SS in most leagues.
22. Orlando Cabrera (.258, 4 HR, 47 RBI, 58 Runs, 7 SB)
The days of Cabrera being a decent fantasy starter at short are over, and the days of him having any fantasy relevance at all are nigh. But he is still useful for this season as a backup, primarily because he will be playing 2B in Cleveland, which will make him a dual position backup and free up some cash/roster space for you to stash away a top prospect.
23. Marco Scutaro (.264, 8 HR, 54 RBI, 77 Runs, 3 SB)
He’s 35, coming off of a mediocre year, and really never was as good as the Red Sox thought he was when they signed him. If he keeps his starting gig in Boston, he’ll be OK on your bench. Do not plan on him starting at short for you, unless you really don’t care if you win your league.
24. Jed Lowrie (.259, 11 HR, 43 RBI, 41 Runs, 3 SB)
If he gets the starting spot ahead of Scutaro (not an impossibility at all), move him up near the top of your backup SS lists. (Note: Guess it wasn’t impossible, as Lowrie has taken over the starting shortstop role in Boston. If the other owners haven’t noticed this, go for Lowrie- he’s got some potential.)
Bottom Tier Backups- Not much to be found here. If you are forced into $1 land and got to have a backup at short, grab any of these guys, then cut them in favor of a top minor league prospect. They will still be available for you if you need them should injury strike, trust me…
25. J.J. Hardy (.261, 8 HR, 41 RBI, 48 Runs, 1 SB)
Hardy is hoping to resurrect his career in Baltimore. The Orioles made signing him a priority. Considering the wisdom the O’s front office has shown in free agent signings over the past decade, I would bet that Hardy’s hopes will be dashed. He’s still a great gloveman, nothing more.
26. Ronny Cedeno (.254, 7 HR, 42 RBI, 46 Runs, 8 SB)
He will steal a couple of bases, but he is in the bigs because A) he can field, and B) Pittsburgh isn’t close enough to winning to justify spending more than the minimum on a shortstop. If the Pirates ever get close to good again (not unthinkable- they do have some interesting young players), Cedeno will be gone faster than you can say “Gene Alley”.
27.Alex Gonzales (.242, 8 HR, 45 RBI, 46 Runs, 0 SB)
What happened to the days when the Braves’ front office was the envy of baseball? Why anyone would trade anything for Alex Gonzales- let alone Yunel Escobar, who had to have been able to fetch more than Sea Bass here- is beyond me. I would rather have got the other Alex Gonzales, who has been retired since 2006. than this one.
28. Yuniesky Betancourt (.244, 7 HR, 38 RBI, 52 Runs, 2 SB)
The only reason I include Betancourt here is that at least he will get some AB’s, which isn’t certain in the following four cases. If some owner in your league spent more than a buck or a last-round pick on this joker, call him right now and raid his roster, because he doesn’t know a thing about any sort of baseball. It’s OK- I give you permission…
29. Clint Barmes (.238, 12 HR, 54 RBI, 41 Runs, 5 SB)
These numbers are his absolute ceiling- Barmes very easily could flame right out of professional baseball. He qualifies at two positions, which means he’s twice as valuable free agent fodder than, say Yuniesky Betancourt. That’s a nice way of saying Barmes is a stiff…
30. Jason Donald (.257, 7 HR, 47 RBI, 41 Runs. 8 SB)
It is a total shot in the dark as to what Donald will provide this year. He might give you something, he might not see the field. Either way, he is just a placeholder for you until someone better rises up.
31. Alexi Casilla (.238, 2 HR, 33 RBI, 41 Runs, 9 SB)
Someone in the Twins’ front office must have thought that Casilla was going to turn into something five years ago. That someone must have be married to the owners’ daughter or something, because that is the only reason I can see why they keep this guy on the roster. They say they are going to start Casilla at short- they would be better served by sticking a cardboard cutout of one-time Twin MVP shortstop Zoilo Versailles out there.
32. Everth Cabrera (.227, 1 HR, 18 RBI, 24 Runs, 13 SB)
He qualifies at short, but his position is really “pinch-runner”. Only roster if he’s in the majors and you are playing in a league where everyone’s stats count- then the pinch steals might help.
That wraps things up for the shortstops. Third baseman are coming next. Also on the agenda is an article on sports cards sets from baseball, basketball, football, and hockey, covering the years 1966 through 1989, which is the period of my collection. For those of you with more of a historical interest in sports, there is my new ebook, “Who Da Man? The Quintessential History of the NBA Draft 1947-2010”, now available for purchase at Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, and soon to be at the Sony Reader Store and Apple IBookstore. It is 492 pages of stats, stories, and rankings, of every NBA draft since 1947. Please feel free to let me know your thoughts on the book or my articles- I love to hear from you!