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For a position that has two guys arguably inside the top five in fantasy circles, things get ugly fast. In reality, it’s Hanley, Tulo or bust.
Sure, Jose Reyes (#3 shortstop, 34 overall) can provide some runs and steals and won’t hurt your batting average – but there doesn’t appear to be anything dynamic attached to that third round price tag. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a decent pick in the third/fourth round, but not an altogether sexy one. As questions abound in the Mets line-up, it’s unclear how many runs Reyes will score. I’m pegging him at around 90, which would put him amongst the top 35 or so hitters. However, if Reyes continues to post OBPs in the .320-.335 range, it’ll be hard for him to accumulate much more than 30 SBs. I’m very confident he’ll be the number three shortstop next season – I just don’t see a case where he can improve upon that much.
That’s about where my confidence ends with the wretched position. I have Alexei Ramirez (4, 60), Derek Jeter (5, 61) and Rafael Furcal (5, 62) in the next bunch – and boy are they bunched.
Ramirez can’t really take a pitch, which limits a lot of his potential upside (runs, OBP/AVG, etc.). Still, he’ll clearly out-homer his two closest ranks and has 20-HR upside – something the others don’t posses. He’ll also add double digit steals (although probably not more than 15), which gives him an added boost. While he could be prone to prolonged slumps (given a sub-6% walk rate and 13+% K-rate), he represents a nice 20-15 player.
While I pray nightly for Derek Jeter to meet his demise, I don’t think we’re there yet. While his K-rate went up a bit last year, the real batting average damage was due to an interesting BABip. For his career, Jeter has a .356 BABip and hasn’t had one lower than .333 (other than last year’s abysmal .307) since 2004. His 2010 line drive percentage was the lowest of his career, so he clearly made worse and less contact last year. However, I think there will be a positive correction there and I see him approaching a .290-.300 AVG again, which would help boost his OBP, which should make him a decent lock for 100 runs. He’ll also out-steal Ramirez. Basically, if you need power take Sexy Alexei; if you need runs/speed go after Jeter.
If Rafael Furcal gets in 130 games, he’ll score at least 80 runs, hit double digits HRs, and swipe 20 bases. If, somehow, he stays healthy, all those numbers go up and he can become the third or fourth best shortstop in the game. You know what you’re getting with Furcal. If you select him, be sure to grab a comparable back-up. While you’re tying up a roster spot, Furcal + SS X production should combine to give you a top performer at the position. Chipper Jones has, for a long while, needed a caddy for your make-believe club, Furcal is no different.
I see Stephen Drew’s (7, 74) name floated as a potential top performer, but I don’t really buy it (even though he’s in my top 10). There is simply no consistency from Drew – I don’t think he has put two solid half seasons together. In fact, he tends to perform better in the second half (when it gets warmer and he gets to face September call-ups): .261/.321/.420 in the first half versus .282/.342/.475. Not surprisingly, his best months are August, September and October. He also plays far better at home. It seems like I’ve gone to great lengths to make my #7 shortstop look real bad. That all being said, he’ll be 28 (in his prime) and should be good for 15+ HRs, and a reasonable batting average (think .270s). It’s not great or anything, but, that’s shortstop for you.
At one point in time, you couldn’t find a person more in love with Elvis Andrus (8, 90). Well, things have certainly changed. While he, thankfully, learned to take a few more pitches (walk rate increased from 7.4% to 9.5%), he continued to strike-out a lot (16.3%) and make weak contact (19.3% LD rate, 61.1% ground ball rate). In short, that really zapped his average and, to a lesser extent, OBP. If Andrus can’t get on base, he has zero value. While I see a slight improvement in average coming as he matures, I’m not sure it will greatly affect his OBP, unless he can take more walks. Until that occurs, I don’t see him stealing much more than 30 bags, which makes him look pretty pedestrian.
Speaking of someone I use to love with all my heart and now wish to die: Jimmy Rollins (10, 113). Things have not gone well for Rollins since his MVP season. His average has dropped from .296 to .277 to .250 to .243 (the last being in only 88 games). During that four-year trek to the dregs, his line drive percentage has tanked, his ground ball percentage has gone up, and his HR/FB rate has gone down. At this point, there is very little AVG/OBP upside. He still could push 15-20 HRs, but will likely rest on the low end of the spectrum. In short, he has become quite a poor man’s Alexei Ramirez.
J.J. Hardy (16, 151): Come on, I had to profile the first viable Orioles shortstop since Miguel Tejada. From 2007-08, Hardy averaged 25 HRs, a .280 average and 84 runs. Over the two years since those seasons, he averaged eight HRs and a .247 AVG and accumulated just 85 RBIs total. He’s been pretty bad the last two year, however he’s still only 28 and he missed some time to injury last season. I think Hardy should be able to push 20 HRs next year, and potentially a .270 AVG. Does he, likely, fall short of those? Yes. But, for his price tag, the chance that he makes those numbers gives him pretty decent value. Depending on how the Orioles perform, he could also score or knock in a bunch of runs.
Jason Bartlett (17, 154): You know what kind of player Petco doesn’t hurt (and somewhat could help)? Bartlett, someone who has no power but will join an offense that needs to get runs by any means. That means, when he gets on base, he should be allowed to steal a good bit. He was just 11/17 last year in the SB department, but the Padres will have to let him run. I also think he’ll get back to his .275 hitting ways, which should make him a decent lock for 20 SBs, with upside to 30+. With the league switch, his numbers could look a lot like Elvis Andrus next year.
Erick Aybar (18, 155): Like Bartlett, Aybar had a season to forget in 2010. However, while his AVG and OBP dropped precipitously, his SB numbers went up by eight. Never one to take a walk (5% BB rate) or hit for power (never more than five HRs), his value comes with runs and SBs. If he can post a reasonable average (say .265+), he should be able to reach 20+ SBs again. For someone barely in the top 20 at the position, he could provide some very cheap speed, and, potentially, some runs scored.
If you have ideas for other columns, post your thoughts in the comments. Also, feel free to share your insights below or at my Twitter (@h2h_corner).