Shortstop is a position in which you really want to get a great contact hitter, speed or both. If you get a stud early you could get some big-time power from a scarce position, but that also might hurt your power at the corner spots.
There are a ton of possible gold mines late in drafts at the shortstop position, so I’m waiting this year in my drafts. In fact, my ‘gold mining’ section has probably set a new record for most players in the category (nine).
Now if I could find some real-life gold and not just in fantasy.
Note: As long as I don’t have to over-pay, I am also taking a prospect with high upside over a veteran with a guarantee of average numbers, (ie. Alcides Escobar over Rafael Furcal).
Note Two: I will only ‘rank’ my top 12 players, considering these players would be the only guys I would start immediately in a standard 12-team mixed league. Please use this guide in helping you to determine which shortstops to target, and who to stay away from--and not over-pay for--on draft day.
Guys I Love. (AndGreat Value Picks!)
Based on their ADP (average draft position), these players could be draft day bargains. Get ready to jump.
1 Troy Tulowitzki (Col) The keystone at the position, but don’t over pay. Tulo is as streaky as they come and you might have to bench him here and there the first couple of months.
2 Jose Reyes (Mia) The most exciting player in the game was a triples machine last year. He might not win another batting title, but if he’s healthy, will put up outstanding numbers once again. See how he adjusts to his new team and ballpark.
9 Dee Gordon (LAD) I’m all-in on Dee. He has elite speed and is a good contact hitter. If he plays all-season in 2012, he could get you a .300 average and 60 stolen bags. There is quite a risk here though in that since he’s so young, a slow start could mean a demotion. Watch carefully.
Emilio Bonifacio (Mia) The kid finally broke out in a big way when he was given the green light to run the base paths freely. Had a 26-game hitting streak last year and should get plenty of playing time in the outfield, while still being eligible at third base as well.
Value Is Appropriate
These guys are being drafted close to their value. Feel free to grab at the right time, but do not reach.
3 Hanley Ramirez (Mia) Tread carefully. Although he is still Hanley Ramirez, he’s coming off a disappointing year full of injury and immaturity. Just like Reyes, watch closely to see how he adjusts with his new manager and ballpark. Ramirez could be a great bargain this year, just don’t reach. If things go sour with the position change (he will be playing third base) there could be an early season trade.
4 Starlin Castro (CHC) Another guy that’s fantastic, but wouldn’t over-pay for in drafts. Seeing a trend here? His Average Draft Position is around #54, which is too high for a guy with minimal power and just above average speed. Expect possibly 15 homers, .300 average and 20 steals.
5 Asdrubal Cabrera (Cle) The kid finally broke through last year. All signs say he’s for real, but I’m still a little skeptical. You’re paying for a .280/20/17 season…if you draft him as early as he is ranked, you better hope he gets it.
6 Elvis Andrus (Tex) Only four active players have piled up more hits by their age-22 season. He’s still developing, but by selecting him around pick 62 (his ADP), there’s still some risk.
7 Derek Jeter (NYY) Guess what, Jeter’s not done yet. He had a strong push at the end of last season to finish with a .297 average.
10 Alexei Ramirez (CHW) He’ll be streaky, but he delivers decent power and speed at the position. Will give you a line of .275/17/10.
11 Erick Aybar (LAA) You’re drafting this guy for his speed mostly. He’s increased his stolen base production in each of his six seasons. Is a career .276 hitter. You could do worse.
12 J.J Hardy (Bal) Huge injury risk here, but when he plays, he hits bombs. He hit 30 home runs last year, but I don’t think he’ll ever hit that mark again. Only five shortstops in the history of the game have ever been able to repeat that feat and Hardy only hit 17 home runs in 754 at-bats over the 2009-2010 seasons.
Jhonny Peralta (Det) The guy hit .299 last year and is being picked at #156. Why? He had a .325 BABIP plus 17 infield hits that inflated his .260ish career average. Still, he can get you decent power and RBIs in a stacked lineup.
Ian Desmond (Was) He’s a defensive liability and started the year super slow in 2011, so needless to say he’ll be on a short leash in ’12. He’s also still young enough that he can improve upon his .260/10/50-like line.
Yunel Escobar (Tor) Not too exciting, but he’ll hit close to .290.
Stephen Drew (Ari) Injured most of last season. Is a career .270 hitter.
These guys have solid numbers, but be careful. They’re going much higher in drafts than they should, considering their value.
8 Jimmy Rollins (Phi) His yearly average kept declining up until last season when he hit .268. He’s 33, so he’s not quite done yet. You can still rely on him for some speed (20 stolen bases) and 15-20 home runs. No way I’m paying at pick 68 though.
Jason Barlett (SD) Even with your last pick, don’t waste your time. His 2009 season was an anomaly.
Late Round Gold Mining. AKA Deep Sleepers!
Mike Aviles (Bos) Could make a terrific last round pick. A career .288 hitter, surrounded by a monster lineup, and he’s eligible at second base and third base as well.
Sean Rodriguez (TB) He’s a popular 20/20 break-out candidate. Per ESPN Home Run Tracker, he hit the hardest longball of the year in 2011 (118.4 mph).
Jed Lowrie (Hou) He really cooled off after a torrid start in 2011. The Astros are hoping his first two months of last season were for real (.432 average, three homers and 12 RBIs in his first 44 at-bats). At pick #243, you really have nothing to lose.
Zack Cozart (Cin) Went 12-for-37 in his first 11 games, before a left elbow injury ended his season. Could be a cheap Jimmy Rollins.
Alcides Escobar (KC) I love this guy. He’s still only 25 and could still be waiting for a break-out. Once one of the top prospects with the Brewers, he finally swiped 26 bases after getting the green light in KC last year.
Rafael Furcal (STL) A career .282 hitter could still get it together for your fantasy team if he can stay out of the trainer’s room in real life.
Tyler Pastornicky (Atl) A rookie that is going to start opening day because of his glove more than anything. Still, there could be .275 avg./25 steals type upside.
Kyle Seager (Sea) He quietly went on a tear in August, going 18-for-36 over a nine-game hitting streak, with six doubles and two home runs. His two stops in the Minors were impressive too - a .333 mark, seven homers, 54 RBIs and 11 steals.
Ruben Tejada (NYM) He’s no Jose Reyes, but the front office thinks he’ll fill in just fine. He had a .360 OBP in 2011.
The rest of the league
I wouldn’t bother looking at any of these players unless they’re your back-up in an incredibly deep league. These guys are second-string, at best.
Marco Scutaro – Col
Cliff Pennington – Oak
Jamey Carroll – Min
Maicer Izturis – LAA
Clint Barmes – Pit
Alex Gonzalez – Mil
Eduardo Nunez – NYY (Pick up right away if Jeter or A-Rod get hurt)
Trevor Plouffe – Min
Tyler Greene – STL
Robert Andino – Bal
Yuniesky Betancourt – KC
Willie Bloomquist – Ari
Alexi Casilla – Min
Brendan Ryan – Sea
Everth Cabrera – SD
Reid Brignac – TB
Brandon Crawford - SF
Chase d’Arnaud – Pit
Josh Helmuth is the sports editor and lead baseball writer for CraveOnline and has won ‘The League Of Champions’ fantasy baseball league four out of six years.You can follow him on Twitter @Jhelmuth.