Position Primer: Shortstop

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It would be fair to say that this position is a little top-heavy. Three shortstops are taken in the first round of a typical draft, and they all deserve their ADPs. Hanley Ramirez is a five-category terror, Jose Reyes is serviceable in three stats and ridiculous in two, and Jimmy Rollins is just one year removed from a 30/40 season.

But when those three players are gone, there might not be another shortstop selected within the next 40 picks – and that fourth guy isn't exactly a lock to earn his draft position.

Nothing against Alexei Ramirez (ADP 48.5) or Rafael Furcal (63.4) specifically. Those two players just happen to be at the leading edge of a large group of similarly ownable shortstops, all of whom have questions attached – age, infirmity, peripherals – or clear category weaknesses. In that group you'll find projectable, useful veterans like Michael Young (79.1) and Derek Jeter (99.6), as well as young talent like Stephen Drew (89.7) and Troy Tulowitzki (104.8). But the likely difference in value between those players and, say, Jhonny Peralta (106.9), J.J. Hardy (116.9) or Orlando Cabrera (152.9) isn't terribly significant.

If you don't walk away from the early rounds with one of the top-tier names, you shouldn't get antsy. Wait for the bargain, whoever it is. In mixed leagues, there are at least a dozen more shortstops who can help you. The gap between the No. 3 player and the No. 4 is substantial; the gap between No. 4 and No. 14 is not.

Those of you competing in AL- or NL-only formats should take note of the strange imbalance between leagues at shortstop. All of the elite names are in the senior circuit. In fact, the top five shortstops in the Yahoo! composite rankings hail from the NL. Only seven of the top 20 play in the AL. This is an issue.

It means that if you're involved in a 12-team AL-only setup, you'll have a tricky decision to make with respect to the position, and you'll probably need to make it in the early rounds. Jeter and Young are going to be expensive – arguably too expensive, considering their power and speed ceilings. But Ramirez, Peralta, Cabrera and Mike Aviles won't come cheap, either. And after those guys are gone, well … good luck. Maybe the winner of the position battle in Boston will become relevant in fantasy leagues, or maybe 20-year-old Texas prospect Elvis Andrus will tread water (and steal bases) as a rookie. Or perhaps Yuniesky Betancourt will defy everything we believe to be true about him.

It's tough to overcome the presence of a five-stat liability in the lineup, though, particularly when the free agent pool is thin. If your intention is to stretch a bit for a brand-name shortstop in an AL-only league, we're willing to look the other way. But if you do it in a smallish mixed league – and the brand-name isn't Hanley, Reyes or Rollins – then you're open to ridicule.

Top 5 Shortstop – Overall

Brandon Funston

Andy Behrens

Brad Evans

Scott Pianowski

1. Hanley Ramirez – Prime-aged 30/30 clubber with .900+ OPS past 2 seasons

1. Hanley Ramirez – A five-category player with 40/40 upside

1. Hanley Ramirez – Unrivaled top pick a multi-cat fantasy god; SB downturn surprising but .310-35-75-125-40 season on deck

1. Hanley Ramirez – A can't-miss overlord, but how many steals does he keep?

2. Jose Reyes – At 25, has already knocked on 20/60 club door twice in his young career

2. Jose Reyes – A two-category player, but with 20/80 upside

2. Jose Reyes – Two long-balls already in spring training could be sign he finally eclipses 20 homers

2. Jose Reyes – In my mind, he's a defendable pick at any slot

3. Jimmy Rollins – Expect 15, not 30, home runs, but likely to tack on 40 SB, 100 R

3. Jimmy Rollins – Might not reach 30 HR again, but the steals and runs will be there

3. Jimmy Rollins – Rough '08 hasn't decreased price-tag but based on 1.48 GB/FB, decline in aggressiveness, 25 HR days in the past

3. Jimmy Rollins – Last year was better in the crannies; consider his SB success and BB/K rate

4. Rafael Furcal – .300, 30 SB, 100 R threat if he can maintain health

4. Rafael Furcal – If healthy, he can deliver a nice Rollins impression

4. Rafael Furcal – Always an injury risk but prior to extended DL stint last year was on pace for career year; Manny's signing means happy days ahead

4. Rafael Furcal – Three uniquely odd years in LA, but he'll produce plenty when he's on the field

5. Troy Tulowitzki – Too young to read too much into injury/slow start issues

5. Derek Jeter – Extremely reliable source for R and AVG; finally slipping in ADP

5. Alexei Ramirez – Nourishing environment and projected growth point to near repeat of '08; gotta love multi-position eligibility

5. Troy Tulowitzki – He's healthy, the air's still thin. Priced for tidy profit

Top 5 Shortstop – Undervalued

Brandon Funston

Andy Behrens

Brad Evans

Scott Pianowski

1. Troy Tulowitzki – A Coors-based SS capable of .290, 25, 100 is a bargain given ADP

1. J.J. Hardy – He's hit 50 HR over two seasons, but barely a top-12 shortstop in ADP

1. Derek Jeter – Skills eroding but .300-12-70-110-15 line achievable

1. Jhonny Peralta – Coming off a sneaky little career year, it's his Age 27 season, why is he so affordable?

2. Khalil Greene – Free at last: Hit .228 at PETCO for career.

2. Jhonny Peralta – Same story as Hardy, and nearly the same recent numbers

2. Troy Tulowitzki – Substantial rebound expected after .327-5-30-31 Post-All Star tally

2. Orlando Cabrera – His sneaky skill set has been undervalued for most of the decade

3. Mike Aviles – Professional track record backs up his .300+, 15/15 debut pace

3. Khalil Greene – He has a devastating home/away split, but he's finally free of PETCO

3. J.J. Hardy – Contact numbers dropped off slightly but managed to climb above .280 with impressive 24 bombs, second-most at position

3. Felipe Lopez – Still not 30 yet and could have fun as Arizona leadoff man

4. J.J. Hardy – He can be a roller-coaster ride, but his .280-ish, 25 HR line still a bargain outside top 100

4. Mike Aviles – The ADP is shameful after a terrific debut

4. Mike Aviles – Y! fantasy team infatuation a flexible option at a discount price; low K%, high contact numbers says .300-plus BA very real

4. Mike Aviles – Adopted Yahoo! son doesn't get full respect elsewhere; he'll keep most of 2008's haul

5. Yunel Escobar – Can't argue the price (Y! 219 ADP) for a .300-capable SS with upside to improve in the other cats

5. Orlando Cabrera – Largely forgotten in drafts, but should score 90 runs and steal 20 bases

5. Khalil Greene – Pastures with Pujols definitely greener; BA should rebound to .250 range with 15-20 homers, 75-plus runs, RBIs

5. Cristian Guzman – Sorry calc-heads, some guys really can hit .300 without plate discipline

Top 5 Shortstop – Overvalued

Brandon Funston

Andy Behrens

Brad Evans

Scott Pianowski

1. Jimmy Rollins – Pretty volatile for a Y! ADP of 10 – Only once ('07) have his numbers justified current price tag

1. Rafael Furcal – Yeah, I know I've ranked him No. 4, but not much separates him from shortstops who go 90 picks later

1. Michael Young – Numbers no longer justify him going so far ahead of guys like Hardy, Peralta, Aviles

1. Michael Young – Counting numbers are still good (not great), and the power has left the building

2. Migual Tejada – Still a top 12 SS in the mind of many owners, soon-to-be 35-year-old Miggy hit 3 HR in final 86 games of '08

2. Alexei RamirezWe've already had this discussion. I like the player, but not the ADP

2. Miguel Tejada – Since the needle was removed from backside, HR/FB percentage has declined rapidly

2. Miguel Tejada – Thirteen homers and a .415 slugging? There's nothing to see here, folks

3. Jed Lowrie – Going in top 200, ahead of established SS, despite no starting guarantee and meager power/speed upside

3. Michael Young – Steady vet in a great lineup, but speed and power are mostly gone and the ADP is still high (79.2)

3. Orlando Cabrera – Change of address from friendly Cell to spacious Coliseum saps already poor power numbers – he's Theriot plus 25 RBI

3. Edgar Renteria – Bat speed is declining, speed is almost gone too

4. Edgar Renteria – At the point where it looks like he'll struggle to reach 10 HR/SB

4. Miguel Tejada – De-juiced, he shouldn't be drafted so close to Tulowitzki, Peralta and Hardy

4. Stephen Drew – Significant across-the-board growth commendable, but Peralta is equally as desirable some 20 picks later

4. Julio Lugo – I'll be flabbergasted if he beats out Jed Lowrie

5. Yuniesky Betancourt – He may have some untapped upside but, until he figures out how to ignore bad pitches, he's stuck where he is, which was good for No. 335 in Y! game in '08

5. Bucky Dent – Dude made an all-star team hitting .238. He was no Dave Concepcion, that's for sure

5. Jimmy Rollins – Y! curse strangled former MVP last year but sub 20-HR regression probably here to stay

5. Jason Bartlett – Nice little player, but how could the local BBWAA name him Rays MVP?

Top 5 Shortstop – Prospects

Brandon Funston

Andy Behrens

Brad Evans

Scott Pianowski

1. Jason Donald – As I've indicated in other primers, his ample plate skills should find an opportunity somewhere with the Phils this season

1. Elvis Andrus – Stole 54 bases at Double-A at 19, and likely to open season with Rangers

1. Elvis Andrus – Shifted Young paves way for everyday gig; value solely rooted in 20-25 steals, 60-70 runs potential

1. Elvis Andrus – Be patient now; eventually he's a leadoff man and a baserunning dynamo

2. Elvis Andrus – Potential runneth over, but Vizquel could be his '09 buzz-kill

2. Alcides Escobar – He's ready defensively, no doubt. Hit .328 with 34 steals in the Southern League

2. Alcides Escobar – Move of Hardy around the diamond or trade could open door for electric Escobar – future .300-10-60-90-30 stud

2. Tim Beckham – At least Tampa Bay is done picking No. 1 for a while

3. Alcides Escobar – Good enough that Hardy is going to have to move positions or locales very soon

3. Gordon Beckham – His path to the majors is relatively clean at second, so we may not see Beckham at short in Chicago

3. Reid Brignac – Launched 15-plus homers in three different minor league seasons, but will likely have to be dealt to earn regular at-bats

3. Gordon Beckham – Position switch might be in the offing but his bat will get him to The Show

4. Gordon Beckham – Whether he lands at SS or 2B, his potent bat will land him in Chicago by no later than 2010

4. Jason Donald – Funston mentions him in every Primer, regardless of position. We currently call him a 2B/SS

4. Jason Donald – Multi-tooled infielder Utley insurance - .314 BA, 15 HR, 67 RBI, 15 SB at Double-A last year

4. Alcides Escobar – Glove might force something this spring; team isn't tied to J.J. Hardy (or Rickie Weeks) long-term

5. Cale Iorg – MLB bloodlines, 20/20 club potential and a fairly clear path to Detroit

5. Tim Beckham – Toolsy top draft pick won't be a factor anytime soon, but the ceiling is very high

5. Todd Frazier – Topped Hawaii Winter League in slugging with .547 mark; could shift to left or third but eventual 15-20 HR, .280-plus BA mainstay

5. Wilmer Flores – Teenage bomber eventually projects as a third-sacker

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