“Precision Tayloring” Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: Top 25 Fantasy Shortstops. 2014
Some players come along every decade and their play on the field speaks for itself. Derek Jeter was easily one of those players who became an icon at the position, and you don’t have to be a Yankee fan to appreciate what he has done while playing the game for what will be his 20th season. He brought highlight reel defensive prowess to the diamond everyday as well as being a constant offensive threat from atop of the Yankee lineup for the 2 decades he has been with the team. It has been a pleasure the watch him play the game of baseball all of these years and he deserves the kind of send off Mariano Rivera got last season.
- Hanley Ramirez- He missed time last season with right thumb and left thigh injuries which limited him to just 86 games last year, but the time he did spend in the Dodger line-up he took full advantage of hitting around some pretty good hitters and lit up pitchers hitting .345/.402/.638 with 20 home runs and 10 steals. He may not be the 50 steal kind of guy like he was when he first came up with the Marlins, but he can still move and has well above average power to drive the ball out to all fields. We are looking at a 25-30 home run guy with 15-20 steals that hits for elite average and draws enough walks to make the pitcher throw to him though he can get aggressive in his approach at stretches at a time. From the middle infield position you won’t find too many players that bring you the elite offensive upside for all of the categories that Hanley brings.
- Troy Tulowitzki- Tulo’s fantasy stock was a lot more attractive a few years ago when he was still stealing a handful of bases, but even if at this point he only gets you somewhere in the single digits for steals he is still an elite offensive shortstop who plays at one of the most hitter friendly parks in the league (located in one of the 2 states to legalize marijuana for recreational use). The fans are as mile high as the balls that Tulowitzki can send flying into the upper deck at Coors Field, and doesn’t suffer too much of a home/road split when it comes to his power numbers for his career (he has hit 85 home runs at home and 70 on the road). Prepare yourself for the annual DL trip as he has only played in more than 150 games in a season twice in his career, but 130-140 games of having Tulowitzki is a lot better than some 150 from some of the other players at the position.
- Jose Reyes- Injuries hit the position hard last season as Reyes missed 66 games with a left ankle sprain, but still managed to be plenty useful in the 93 games he started when he came back from the injury in June. Reyes is still the perfect lead off hitter that knows how to work a count to get on base and steal a base, although he may not have to same type of game breaking speed he had back when he was a Met. He is still an elite player at the position and someone who could have .300 or better averages with 30+ steals. He isn’t going to have anywhere near the same amount of power as Tulowitzki or Hanley, but he will an elite source of speed and runs are going to come in bunches with the Toronto sluggers that are hitting behind him.
- Jed Lowrie- Lowrie had a very nice 1st season with the Athletics slugging 15 home runs and racking up career highs in RBI (75) and Runs (80). His batting average checked in at a career best .290 mostly due to the fact that he cut down on his K% down to 13.7%. He is going to hit in the middle of a very good Athletics offense (ranked 4th in runs last season) so I would bet for him to post new career highs in the counting stats for 2014.
- Jean Segura- He burst onto the scene last season to steal 44 bases while hitting a respectable .294 at the top of the Brewer order. He is a high contact hitter who is always going to post higher than league average BABIP numbers just based on his speed out of the batters box alone. The starting shortstop gig is all his so even though he was prone to being aggressive at the plate and being too much of a free swinger (34.5% O-swing%) instead of working the counts and getting on base to really let his speed play. If he can figure that part of the game out he has the speed to push his stolen base totals into the 50’s and 60’s.
- Ian Desmond- Desmond was part of the 20/20 club for the 2nd straight season in a row while also setting a career high in RBI at 80. He has the power/speed combo to give him top 3 upside he just needs to work on cutting down on the strikeouts and the Nationals offense bouncing back to the normal levels we would expect out of them.
- Elvis Andrus- It was a tale of 2 halves for Andrus as he hit just .242 in the first half of the season followed up by a .313 mark after the all-star break. His real ability is somewhere around .290 and around 45 steals as he has the speed to play on the base paths and the rangers have shown that they aren’t afraid to let him run. With Prince Fielder in town now to drive in the runs you can bet that Andrus will continue to be a healthy supply of runs for your fantasy team as well.
- J.J. Hardy- Hardy may be my favorite guy in the top 10 that isn’t close to the top of the list based on their draft day value. He always seems to fall in drafts despite the fact that he may be the best bet on the list the hit 30 home runs next season. He has the power to do it and plays in a hitter friendly ball park so the only question seems to be if he will make enough contact and hit enough fly balls (His FB% was 43.4% in 2011 the last season he hit 30 home runs. Last year it was only 38.2%). With power being a scarcity now a days you can take the slight hit in batting average for the home run, run, RBI potential that Hardy will provide.
- Xander Bogaerts- He is going to be the short stop on opening day and has a very strong offensive profile from the scouting community. He is going to be the real deal on offense with plus power and elite bat speed to have high contact rates for those elite batting averages. This is a middle of the order bat and you want to be the team to out front and spearhead this one.
- Starlin Castro- Castro hasn’t always been the most focused player on the field and he is coming off of easily his worst year in the majors, but he is still only 24 and has huge upside going forward as he still possess all the tools to be a .300 hitter with 20/20 power/speed potential. He should get the chance to hit at the top of the cub line up again next year so while he was easily one of the most disappointing fantasy players last season, don’t let the hate go to far.
- Andrelton Simmons- Simmons has long been known as a defensive wizard who makes web gem caliber plays look like a stroll in the park, and we saw hints of his offensive game catching up during the 2nd half of last season. He doesn’t have to be an elite hitter for the braves to roll him out there, but he isn’t going to be a slouch at the plate and can work a count here and there when he needs too (.73 BB/K ratio).
- Asdrubal Cabrera- Just 3 years ago, in 2011, Cabrera had a spectacular season slugging 25 home runs and driving in 92 runs and hitting a respectable .273. Since then though his approach at the plate has severely declined (career high 9.5 swinging strike%) which has made him a liability in regards to your batting average while only being a moderate contributor to the counting stats. If he regains some patience at the plate he has the power to slug 20 home runs annually while driving in lots of runs in the very potent Indians line up. He is still the starting short stop for the Indians for now, but they have a monster waiting in the minors in the likes of Francisco Lindor so a position change a couple of years down the road is looming for Cabrera.
- Alexi Ramirez- He set a career high in steals with 30 last season although the White Sox offense was very pitiful for the better part of all of last season which led to suppressed run and RBI totals. He is an above average contact hitter whom can’t seem to learn how to take a walk which really hinders the usefulness of his speed as if he could get on base more often we could see the same kind of steal totals as say an Elvis Andrus.
- Johnny Peralta- Cardinals paid a chunk of change to bring him in, and it still remains to be seen where exactly he will fit in their line-up. His .374 BABIP from last year is due for some regression so don’t expect the .300 average again although he is still an above average hitter (and a lot better than what the Cardinals were rolling out there last season).
- Jimmy Rollins- Rollins is like that trusty old steed that never falters to get you to your destination. J-roll is going to be 35 years old but he is still truckin’ and hitting at the top of the Phillies line-up most likely 2nd this season behind Ben Revere and in front of Chase Utley. He knows the strike zone and will make a pitcher work and while the speed is in decline he could still steal about 20 or so next year.
- Everth Cabrera- The other Cabrera has posted back to back seasons of at least 35 or more steals hitting atop of the Padres line-up. With all of the PED stuff behind him look for him to be off and running once again this year. 45-50 is my guess for the final number. If he continues to cut down on the strike-out rate he may even get on base enough to really drive up the run total.
- Derek Jeter- At this point in his career the injury bug is always going to be a concern, but if you can get a full season out of him (his last season at that too) then you know you are going to get someone who is an elite hitter when healthy that can slap singles
all around the yard.
- DiDi Gregorius- “Dee Dee stay out of my laboratory!” (Was just absolutely terrible during the 2nd half, favorite to win starting job out of spring.)
- Erick Aybar- Moderate stolen base threat that won’t kill you in batting average, if he bats at the top of the order for the Angels he would see a slight bump in his run output.
- Yunel Escobar- Best asset is knowing how to work the strike zone as he has well below average power and speed on the base paths.
- Zack Cozart- Moderate power threat, shouldn’t be batting 2nd hopefully the new management can figure that out before it’s too late.
- Ruben Tejada- Has been very busy this off-season getting ready as it looks like the Mets have every intention of letting him be their opening day SS.
- Jonathan Villar- Stole 18 bases in 58 games last season for the Lastros. Tagged as their opening day starter for now.
- Brandon Crawford- Someone has to log at bats for the giants at short stop, for right now its going to be him.
- Addison Russell- Supposed to start the year in the minors, but he is a name to watch because he could move fast depending on how he handles himself in the upper minors.