Position Primer: Shortstop

More primers: First Base | Second Base | Outfield | Starting pitcher

More SS analysis: Yahoo! SS ranks | Spin Doctors: Andrus vs. Desmond

If you think this roster spot is tough to fill in mixed leagues — and it definitely is — just consider the dilemma faced by A.L.-only fantasy owners. The top four shortstops in the Yahoo! preseason ranks all happen to be employed by National League teams. Thus, in a fantasy format that relies exclusively on American League players, your draft board at shortstop will look something like this:

1) Derek Jeter(notes)
2) Alexei Ramirez(notes)
3) Elvis Andrus(notes)
4) *PANIC*

OK, so maybe No. 4 is actually Mike Aviles(notes) or Asdrubal Cabrera(notes) or some other flawed, low-impact player. But the point is, there really aren’t many A.L. shortstops you can feel good about. Even Jeter figures to be exceptional in only one category (runs) at this stage of his career; if you draft him, you’re hoping he can recover 30-40 points of batting average in his age-37 season, and maybe steal 15 bases.

So yeah, this position is a minor tragedy in AL-only, and it’s no picnic in shallow mixed leagues, either. After the elite options are gone — there are but two: Hanley and Tulo — the drop-off in talent is severe. You’ll notice that we’ve left the second tier empty below, so as to emphasize the difference between the five-category fantasy assets at the top of the board, and the two-category players that follow.* In the 2010 Yahoo! end-of-season fantasy ranks, Hanley Ramirez(notes) and Troy Tulowitzki(notes) both finished in the overall top-25. No other shortstop managed to crack the top-80, and only two — Jeter and Alexei Ramirez — ranked inside the top-100.

* Yeah, I’m once again choosing to ignore the five-star rating system, just like we did in the First Base Primer. Feel free to reassign stars in comments as needed. Tiers are the priority here, not stars.

Jose Reyes(notes) is perhaps the only shortstop in the player pool who has a realistic chance to join Ramirez and Tulowitzki at the top of 2012 fantasy drafts. (That is, unless Starlin Castro(notes) makes an unexpected leap at age 21, or Andrus manages to have a 110-run, 50-steal season at 23). Reyes is entering a contract year, for those who care about such things, and he gave us four consecutive useful, healthy seasons from 2005-08. During that stretch, Reyes averaged 113 runs and 65 steals per year. He’s been an elite player before, and he certainly doesn’t lack motivation right now. Early drafters seem to be paying an expectant price for Reyes (ADP 27.2 at Yahoo!, 28.6 at MDC), but of course that cost is also affected by the scarcity of talent at this miserable position.

In the end, the best advice we can give you is … well, do whatever is necessary to secure a top-three pick, so as to avoid the lower tiers at shortstop. Failing that, make sure not to pay too great a price for mediocrity at the draft table. If you’re going to have to settle for a 10-10-.275 shortstop — or a 5-20-.275 shortstop, or something similar — at least shop the bargain bin.

Position averages, top 20 shortstops in year-end Yahoo! rank
2010 – 75.3 R, 13.1 HR, 64.2 RBI, 13.8 SB, .274 AVG
2009 – 85.0 R, 14.1 HR, 69.5 RBI, 16.9 SB, .291 AVG

(Note: Auction values are from the 2011 Yahoo!/PFW Draft Guide, with minor tweaks).

Shortstop – Tiers
   Hanley Ramirez, $49 Troy Tulowitzki, $45


   Jose Reyes, $32 Jimmy Rollins(notes), $25 Derek Jeter, $24 Alexei Ramirez, $20 Elvis Andrus, $15

   Stephen Drew(notes), $11 Ian Desmond(notes), $10 Rafael Furcal(notes), $10 Starlin Castro, $6 Asdrubal Cabrera, $3 Mike Aviles, $3 Yunel Escobar(notes), $3 Tsuyoshi Nishioka(notes), $3 Juan Uribe(notes), $3

   Alcides Escobar(notes), $2 Eric Aybar, $2 Reid Brignac(notes), $2 Omar Infante(notes), $2 Ryan Theriot(notes), $2 Miguel Tejada(notes), $1 J.J. Hardy(notes), $1 Jason Bartlett(notes), $1 Jhonny Peralta(notes), $1 Cliff Pennington(notes), $1 Marco Scutaro(notes), $1 Alex Gonzalez(notes), $1 Yuniesky Betancourt(notes), $1 Maicer Izturis(notes), $1 Alexi Casilla(notes), $1

   Edgar Renteria(notes), $0 Clint Barmes(notes), $0 Orlando Cabrera(notes), $0 Jeff Keppinger(notes), $0 Jamey Carroll(notes), $0 Ronny Cedeno(notes), $0 Brendan Ryan(notes), $0 Omar Vizquel(notes), $0 Emilio Bonifacio(notes), $0 Adam Rosales(notes), $0 Ramon Santiago(notes), $0 Jed Lowrie(notes), $0 Mike Fontenot(notes), $0 Jason Donald(notes), $0 Everth Cabrera(notes), $0 Brandon Wood(notes), $0 Dee Gordon(notes), $0

Top 5 shortstops

Brandon Funston

Brad Evans

Scott Pianowski
  1. Hanley Ramirez – Given scarcity, in top-pick argument   1. Hanley Ramirez– Unquestioned king of shorstops   1. Hanley Ramirez – Safe place for big check
  2. Troy Tulowitzki – Healthy Tulo in Han-Ram’s class   2. Troy Tulowitzki– Return to ’09 very possible   2. Troy Tulowitzki – Scarcity justifies top 5 slot
  3. Jose Reyes – Willing to take top 25 plunge   3. Jose Reyes– Hard to forget injury past   3. Jose ReyesCurse of the calico cat
  4. Jimmy Rollins – Rebound pays handsomely in Philly   4. Jimmy Rollins– Regression underway but still solid   4. Derek Jeter – Location, location, location
  5. Derek Jeter – Rebound pays handsomely with Yankees   5. Derek Jeter– Buy all day on the bear   5. Jimmy Rollins – Maybe yoga can fix him

Top 5 shortstops you’ll reach for

Brandon Funston

Brad Evans

Scott Pianowski
  1. Derek Jeter – Don’t stick fork in him   1. Alexei Ramirez– Cliff after Alexei is frightening   1. Juan Uribe – Late power no easy find
  2. Alexei Ramirez – After top 5, eagerly take .280/15/75/75/15   2. Ian Desmond– Hidden 20/20 gem   2. Stephen Drew – Despite the sucker-play feel
  3. Yunel Escobar – Middle-class version of Alexei   3. Stephen Drew– Expect speed uptick under Gibson   3. Tsuyoshi Nishioka – Dual-position grab is appreciated
  4. Miguel Tejada – Fading, but durable, acceptable floor   4. Starlin Castro– Dictator good for AVG, R   4. Derek Jeter – Regression is not always linear
  5. Juan Uribe – Can count on near 20 HRs   5. Alcides Escobar– Cheap speed, runs source   5. Yunel Escobar – Pay for solid ’08-’09 level

Top 5 shortstops you’ll shy away from

Brandon Funston

Brad Evans

Scott Pianowski
  1.Elvis Andrus – Not paying the hype tax   1. Elvis Andrus– Leaving the building too early   1. Elvis Andrus – Might be a two-category player
  2. Jason Bartlett – You’re welcome to him, Pianowman   2. Jose Reyes– Wrestling grizzlies less risky   2. Starlin Castro – Where is the category juice?
  3. Troy Tulowitzki – Injury history tough that early   3. Miguel Tejada– Needs to start roiding again   3. Alcides Escobar – I don’t understand expectant ADP
  4. J.J. Hardy – Power return only viability prayer   4. Jason Bartlett– Petco cave is dark, dank   4. Marco Scutaro – Concerns: health, age, competition
  5. Ian Desmond – Sleeper buzz overinflating value   5. Asdrubal Cabrera– Won’t be 12th-best SS   5. Erick Aybar(notes) – Only trust in one category

Top 5 last-round first base lottery tickets

Brandon Funston

Brad Evans

Scott Pianowski
  1. Mike Aviles – .300/15/15 is nice late treat   1. Juan Uribe– What’s with the dissing?   1. J.J. Hardy – Health and a homer park
  2. Reid Brignac – Well seasoned for a breakout   2. Tsuyoshi Nishioka&ndash Useful in AVG, SBs   2. Jason Bartlett – Split ’09-’10 difference, make profit
  3. Alex Gonzalez – Can do decent Uribe impersonation   3. Reid Brignac– 20 HR potential for nothing   3. Omar Infante – Handy for the position grab
  4. Jhonny Peralta – Three straight 80 RBI campaigns   4. Cliff Pennington– Two years removed from .300-11-73-79   4. Jhonny Peralta – The AL version of Uribe
  5. Omar Infante – BA, Runs ahead of Han-Ram   5. Mike Aviles– Sound across the board   5. Jed Lowrie – Eventually he’ll beat out Scutaro

Top 5 rookie shortstops for ’11

Brandon Funston

Brad Evans

Scott Pianowski
  1. Tshuyoshi NishiokaGaby Sanchez(notes) value for cheaper   1. Tshuyoshi Nishioka– Love imports with high CT%   1. Tsuyoshi Nishioka – Possible: 12 HR, 25 SB
  2. Dee Gordon – In crazy event Furcal injured   2. Grant Green(notes)– .318-20-87 at High-A   2. Dee Gordon – Baby Flash not far away
  3. Grant Green – ’11 premature, but talented enough   3. Nick Franklin– Young but very powerful   3. Grant Green – Better fit at third base?
  4. Billy Hamilton – Remotely possible September steals boost   4. Dee Gordon– Swiped 126 bags since ’09   4. Pedro Ciriaco(notes) – Maybe some cheap steals
  5. Jose Iglesias(notes) – Boston a nice stat pick-me-up   5. Christian Colon– Will likely shift to 2B   5. Manny Machado – Teenage target for dynasty players