The first thing you need to realize about this position is that there's speed – elite, blistering speed – in every tier. In all likelihood, the 2010 stolen base leaderboard will be cluttered with shortstops. It's like 1977 all over again.
Last season the average top-20 fantasy shortstop finished with 16.9 stolen bases, a number that only hints at the position's potential. (Recall that Jose Reyes appeared in just 36 games last year, swiping 11 bags. He averaged 66 steals per season from 2006 to 2008). In each of the six tiers below, you'll find at least one player who has a 50-steal season to his credit at some level of professional baseball. It would hardly be surprising to see as many as four different shortstops swipe 40 bases in 2010. Three of the strongest candidates to reach that threshold – Elvis Andrus(notes), Alcides Escobar(notes) and Everth Cabrera(notes) – have ADPs beyond pick No. 150, so fantasy managers aren't required to spend early selections on steals.
In fact, speed is so common at shortstop that if you happen to fill the position with one of the few non-burners – like Stephen Drew(notes), Miguel Tejada(notes) or Yunel Escobar(notes) – then you'll need to recognize the deficit mid-draft and address it elsewhere. (Or to put it in 1977 terms, if you failed to get Patek, let's hope you targeted LeFlore). This situation is basically the reverse of the Figgins-at-third dilemma, where Chone offers no power at a position that typically provides 20-25 homers. Obviously you don't need to acquire specific stats from specific positions, but if you're drafting straight from your player ranks without considering end-of-year projections, then positional non-conformists will cause problems.
Of course if you fill shortstop near the top of the draft, then you're going to get a multi-category fantasy asset and stolen bases will be on the résumé. In an average mixed league, four shortstops will be taken within the first two rounds; none of those four will be Derek Jeter(notes), the guy who finished at No. 15 in the overall Yahoo! ranks in 2009. Jeter didn't establish (or even approach) a personal high in any category last season, yet Hanley Ramirez(notes) was the only shortstop who delivered a more useful line. The fantasy community doesn't generally think of him as a high-end fantasy option at this stage of his career, but his setup is ideal. He's a top-of-the-order hitter for baseball's highest-scoring team, and he'll play his home games in an outrageously friendly park – one that clearly suits his tendencies.
We're not advocating that you actually draft Jeter at last year's rank, just to be clear. He's 35 and he's batting average-dependent. But Jeter's current ADP (45.8) makes him a bargain relative to Jimmy Rollins(notes) (21.4), a player he decisively outperformed in 2009.
There's another thing you should note about the four shortstops atop the Yahoo! ranks: they all play for National League teams. This is a messy position for AL-only owners. Jeter is going to be selected much earlier than you're comfortable taking any aging middle infielder, and he'll be followed by a series of potential one-hit wonders: Ben Zobrist(notes), Jason Bartlett(notes), Alexei Ramirez(notes), Asdrubal Cabrera(notes), Marco Scutaro(notes), et al. And two of those guys could very well be owned as second basemen (Zobrist, Cabrera).
In AL-only, your first goal is to avoid the Izturises. In other formats, you can set the bar much higher.
Position averages, top 20 shortstops in year-end Yahoo! rank
2009 – 85.0 R, 14.1 HR, 69.5 RBI, 16.9 SB, .291 AVG
2008 – 80.1 R, 13.0 HR, 61.0 RBI, 14.3 SB, .291 AVG
|Shortstop – Tiers|
|Hanley Ramirez, $49 |
|Jose Reyes, $36; Troy Tulowitzki(notes), $33; Jimmy Rollins, $32; Derek Jeter, $25 |
|Ben Zobrist, $25; Alexei Ramirez, $15; Jason Bartlett, $11; Stephen Drew, $8; Elvis Andrus, $7 |
|Rafael Furcal(notes), $8; Yunel Escobar, $5; Asdrubal Cabrera, $4; Miguel Tejada, $3; Alcides Escobar, $2 |
|Marco Scutaro, $2; Everth Cabrera, $2; Jhonny Peralta(notes), $2; Erick Aybar(notes), $2; J.J. Hardy(notes), $2; Orlando Cabrera(notes), $1; Ryan Theriot(notes), $1; Clint Barmes(notes), $0 |
|Maicer Izturis(notes), $1; Luis Valbuena(notes), $0; Edgar Renteria(notes), $0; Cristian Guzman(notes), $0; Ian Desmond(notes), $0; Juan Uribe(notes), $0; Mike Aviles(notes), $0; Cliff Pennington(notes), $0; Julio Lugo(notes), $0; Reid Brignac(notes), $0; Brendan Ryan(notes), $0; Jack Wilson(notes), $0; Jed Lowrie(notes), $0; Emilio Bonifacio(notes), $0; Starlin Castro(notes), $0|
|Five Shortstop I Love|
|1. Derek Jeter – Like Mariano Rivera(notes) at closer, you know exactly what you'll get for the price.||1. Jose Reyes – If it's possible to love a player and not his hamstrings, then that's how I feel. This year, Reyes' ADP works (23.0).||1. Jason Bartlett – He's off a career year but we're not being taxed for it. Bulking up brought the power, and line-drive rate supports the average.|
|2. Ben Zobrist – Don't expect much of a dropoff from breakout season, and three-positon eligibility is golden.||2. Derek Jeter – What's his floor? Maybe 100-12-60-15-.300? Not a bad worst-case scenario.||2. Everth Cabrera – One of the many reasons why you don't have to chase speed early this year. Cabrera has the eye to bat leadoff and the legs to push 50-60 steals.|
|3. Yunel Escobar – A career .300 hitter with legit 15/80/80 potential – not sure why others would value Drew over that.||3. Asdrubal Cabrera – Last year's average and steals were in line with his minor league numbers, and he'll leadoff in '09.||3. J.J. Hardy – You'll get him for peanuts, and go look at those 2007-08 stats again. Hardy gets a change of scenery at right time.|
|4. Miguel Tejada – Feel free to predict his demise. I've been burned by that game one too many times – good chance he'll bat cleanup for O's||4. Elvis Andrus – With an ADP of 153.1, Andrus offers 50-steal potential at a reasonable price. Love the Texas lineup, one through nine.||4. Ryan Theriot – Strictly a value play here. The power didn't last in the second half, but you know what you're getting in the other categories, and it's mixed-league worthy.|
|5. Erick Aybar – In Figgy's old spot atop the LAA order, is .280-.290 BA, 90-100 R and 25-30 SB really that far-fetched?||5. Stephen Drew – He's entering his age-27 season just one year removed from a 91-21-67-.291 line.||5. Ian Desmond – I'll guarantee you this – if the Nats find a starting gig for this guy, I'll rank him as a Top 20 option at the position.|
|Five Shortstop I Hate|
|1. Jason Bartlett – He's 30 years old and coming off a BABIP anomaly – I won't be buying high.||1. Jimmy Rollins – Following last year's dip in steals and the three-year decline in AVG and SLG, I've bounced him from my top-30.||1. Cristian Guzman – Injury-prone, and he'll only help you in one category, average. Get out of Desmond's way, already.|
|2. Stephen Drew – What is it about those Drew's that they end up leaving you wanting when the dust settles.||2. Rafael Furcal – His disappointing '09 looked a lot like his disappointing '07. Furcal has entered his Orlando Cabrera phase.||2. Miguel Tejada – Power left a while ago, cliff season can't be far off at his age.|
|3. Everth Cabrera – Some owners are putting a lot of faith in a total of 110 games above Single-A – glorified one-trick pony in '10.||3. Ryan Theriot – If the Cubs ever realize he gets caught stealing way too much, they'll put the brakes on – and then he'd be worthless.||3. Alcides Escobar – I'm not going all-in until I'm sure he's not hitting at the bottom of the order.|
|4. Marco Scutaro – 34 years old and coming off, by far, a career year – There's a decent chance he won't produce one above-average roto stat for his position.||4. Clint Barmes – Away from Coors, he's a career .222/.262/.351 hitter. Eric Young is a constant threat to his job, too.||4. Rafael Furcal – I need to rank him lower; after the last three messy years, I hate him about as much as most Dodgers fans do.|
|5. Clint Barmes – You don't want to own this guy, you just pick him up when that inevitable one hot month starts kicking in and then you discard and move on.||5. Jhonny Peralta – He's a bounce back candidate, obviously. This particular "hate" is just leftover anger from 2009.||5. Edgar Renteria – Bat speed declining, wheels just about shot. A terrible signing by the Giants a year ago.|
|Top 5 Shortstop Prospects|
|1. Alcides Escobar – Has better roto potential than Everth Cabrera, and he'll most likely cost less.||1. Alcides Escobar – He still qualifies as a rookie, so he's a layup here – 42 steals at Triple-A in '09.||1. Starlin Castro – Electric talent will be the Cubs starter before he's of legal drinking age.|
|2. Starlin Castro – Has a name that looks like it belongs in the game, and his bat/leg skills pass the eye test, too.||2. Starlin Castro – Given the team's recent history with prospect development (Patterson, Pie, Choi, Dopirak, et al), perhaps the Cubs should deal him now.||2. Alcides Escobar – Needs more patience at the plate, and some pop would be nice. Defense, wheels are outstanding.|
|3. Ian Desmond – Has to show that '09 BA breakout is here to stay, but only Escobar has a better chance to open in the majors among SS prospects.||3. Ian Desmond – If he can squeeze his way into the Nats lineup, he can be a 10-20-.270 player this year.||3. Dee Gordon – Baby Flash will mercifully end the Rafael Furcal era in 2011. Line-drive bat, outstanding speed.|
|4. Reid Brignac – At the point where if TB is not going to use him, it needs to trade him to someone who will.||4. Grant Green – Drafted by the A's at pick No. 13 in the '09 draft, the USC product has a clear route to the majors.||4. Grant Green – No guarantee to be at shortstop when he arrives in a couple of years. Late signing washed out most of first pro season.|
|5. Jason Donald(notes) – He's in post-hype territory now, and there are plenty of more highly regarded SS prospects (Dee Gordon, Grant Green, etc), but at least he has a legit chance at MLB time in '10.||5. Reid Brignac – At 24, there's not much left to prove in the minors. He's battling Sean Rodriguez(notes) for playing time.||5. Tim Beckham – First overall pick from 2008 might be headed to a different position.|