I love Hanley Ramirez and fully admit he was a better fantasy player than Jose Reyes last season. But, the foundation for '08 drafts isn't set entirely upon what happened last season. That kind of logic was the reason Alex Rodriguez often fell outside the top four on draft day in '07.
The reasons I'm giving the slight edge to Reyes in '08 are three-fold.
First, Ramirez loses Miguel Cabrera to Detroit. Without Cabrera, well … perhaps Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said it best, simply stating, "There's going to be a big hole in that lineup …" With so little protection, Ramirez is probably better off staying at leadoff, which brings me to my second point …
Han-Ram is likely to slide into the middle of the batting order. Based on how much he ran last year batting leadoff (41 SBs in 470 ABs) compared to when he hit No. 3 (10 SBs in 165 ABs), it's fair to speculate that he could drop from 51 SBs a year ago to 30-35 this season. Leading off for one of the top offenses in baseball, Reyes could see his steals advantage over Ramirez land in the 35-40 range.
Finally, it may not be a huge deal, but Ramirez is coming off arthroscopic shoulder surgery. When trying to justify taking one of these two premier shortstops over the other one, you can't ignore offseason surgery, even if it's not deemed to be that serious.
If we're evaluating these 24-year-old shortstops on the basis of recent performance, Ramirez wins easily. End of discussion. He mauled Reyes in three of the five standard categories last season. Ramirez hit 17 more HR, collected 24 more RBI, and his average was 52 points higher. He also scored six more runs.
Arguments on behalf of Reyes need to assert that he'll be better this year, and Ramirez will be worse – perhaps significantly worse.
In his age-23 season, Ramirez hit .332, scored 125 runs, homered 29 times, reduced his strikeout rate, doubled 48 times and, of course, ran with impunity. Many forecasters predicted a decline for Ramirez following his .344 BABIP in 2006. Instead, he managed a .353 BABIP in 2007. Ramirez is unusually skilled and exceptionally fast; it's not just luck.
Be careful not to overstate the impact of the Cabrera trade. Last season Ramirez had 470 at bats in the leadoff spot for Florida, while Cabrera hit either third or fourth. They were typically separated by at least one hitter, and often two, so there are no protection issues here. Ramirez basically lives in scoring position – he had 83 extra-base hits and 51 steals last year – and it's not like Cabrera will be replaced by an automatic out. Ramirez will still reach base and he'll still score.
If he bats near the heart of the order for Florida in 2008, he'll be great in every hitting category. Not good, but great. Reyes just doesn't offer the same five-category potential.