Top 15 Keeper Rankings: Shortstop

July 29, 2010: San Francisco,CA. Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez  in action, during the game between the Florida Marlins and the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park in San Francisco,California. The Marlins shutout the Giants 5-0. Jeff Trouette/CSM.

There are a ton of question marks with regard to the long-term keeper value at the shortstop position. Even the number one ranked keeper has major questions marks. Will the youngsters step up? Will the veterans regress?

Note: These are NOT rankings for 2010. The focus is on long-term keeper values, looking first toward the next 4-5 years and then some prospects that could be moving up this charts during those seasons.

 

1. Hanley Ramirez l Age: 26

Believe it or not, I actually struggled with this ranking. Yes, Hanley has had a down year for his standards, but he is still ranked as the number one fantasy shortstop this season. Still, there are two main factors that worry me. The first is his declining speed. Hanley is getting bigger (more muscular) by the season. As he fills out, his speed slows and so to does his stolen base potential.

 

Season

SB

CS

SB%

2006

51

15

77.3%

2007

51

14

78.5%

2008

35

12

74.5%

2009

27

8

77.1%

2010

22

7

75.9%

 

It’s not that Hanley is getting caught more often; he’s just not making as many attempts.

 

The other worry I have is his ability to stick at shortstop long term. Joe Sheehan wrote an article for Sports Illustrated about the worst defensive players in the game. Hanley easily made the list. A move to third base wouldn’t be as bad (he still has David Wright type 30/30 potential), but the outfield has been floated around as a potential future position.

 

The Marlins have allowed him to stay at short despite regression in his defense. Will they continue to do so?
 

2. Troy Tulowitzki l Age: 25

An unfortunate wrist injury cut into Tulow’s season, which was shaping up to be another extremely productive one. Wrist injuries and power don’t like each other and it is evident that, while Tulow is still hitting for AVG, his ability to drive the ball out of the park has been affected (One home run since his return). Hopefully this doesn’t linger into 2011, but there is a chance it might. Either way, once Tulow is fully recovered he should continue to be a monster fantasy shortstop for years to come. I came this close to ranking him above Hanley for the long term.

 

3. Jose Reyes l Age: 27

There were a ton of question marks heading into this season about the health of Jose Reyes, but he was declared good to go just weeks into the season. He faced a pulled muscle in July that forced him to miss time, but there have no major issues to account for his under-performance. Simply put, Reyes has been way to anxious at the plate this season. He has chased at pitches outside the strike-zone over 31 percent of the time, which would stand to be a career high. When he swings at those bad pitches, often times he makes contact (77.6 percent O-CT%), but that has resulted in a lot of weakly hit balls in play.

 

These issues, though bad for 2010, are not in line with his career production and should be easily fixable as he heads into his late 20’s.

 

4. Elvis Andrus l Age: 21

Andrus has faded big time this post all-star break hitting .263 since then. He only has five steals since July fist and has been hitting the ball on the ground over 60 percent of the time since June 1st. On a very positive note, Andrus has shown advancements in his plate discipline, which should only help him as the years go by. He’s only 21 right now, so the future for .280-.290 with 40-plus stolen bases is well within sight.

 

5. Jimmy Rollins l Age: 31

If it’s not one thing it’s the next with Rollins. Last season it was losing his swing after a red hot WBC. This season it has been injuries that have led to only 55 games played to date. Rollins’ approach at the plate hasn’t changed much. He still is hitting a fair amount of line drives and making very good contact, but a .259 BABIP is hindering his overall numbers. No matter what the issues have been, Rollins is far removed from his 2007 MVP season. Still, a healthy Rollins should be able to provide a .275-.280 AVG with 15-plus home runs and 20-plus steals for the next few seasons. Through it’s more or less the lack of better options that keeps him ranked this high.
 

6. Starlin Castro l Age: 20

As exciting as Castro has been to watch this season, we have to take a step back before crowning him a future fantasy superstar. Before this season, there was a lot of debate on just how Castro would develop. Some saw the potential for 20-plus home run power as he matured. Others thought his swing, while excellent for line drives, was not conducive for power projection. Either way, most agreed on projections that his speed would slip as his body filled out and he wasn’t an elite stolen base threat anyway. If he doesn’t develop power, we have a shortstop probably capable of hitting .300 with 10-plus home runs and 20 or so stolen bases in his prime. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it wouldn’t make him an elite fantasy shortstop.

 

7. Alexei Ramirez l Age: 28

Hitters often “are who they are”, especially ones with little plate discipline. It’s not necessarily that Alexei has improved in that area (his walk rate has actually regressed), but he’s not swinging for the fences as much and in turn hitting more line drives while increasing his contact rate. However, one has to wonder whether this is really a good thing. His future AVG’s may still fluctuate due to his free swinging ways and he’s nothing more than a 12-15 stolen base threat. So if .290/15/15 is his ceiling with his new approach, wouldn’t you rather have the potential for .275/25/15?

 

8. Ian Desmond l Age: 24

Despite not having much impact in a 12-team mixed league this season, Ian Desmond has done just fine in his first full major league season. Depending on how much he runs down the stretch, he could approach 20 steals. The potential for around 12-15 home runs is there as well. He’ll need to take big strides in his plate discipline if he’s ever going to make an impact in the AVG category, something he didn’t do much of in the minor leagues.
 

9. Erick Aybar l Age: 26

Aybar is a free swinger, but one that has good contact skills. Since he doesn’t feature much gap power, his AVG could fluctuate from year to year as it has from 2009 to 2010. At least we’ve seen him become more comfortable with stealing bases. His stolen base success rate has improved a little and the potential for him to have a 30 stolen base season should hang around for the next few years.

 

10. Stephen Drew l Age: 27

For most of the 2010 season, Drew has been the definition of mediocrity (in terms of fantasy value). His .264/.347/.416 line is nothing to write home about and the eight home runs, six steals and low R/RBI totals leave much to be desired. At his age, Drew should be getting better, but he seems to have hit a plateau. I’ll probably still take a late round flier on him in 2011, but his keeper value is held back unless he can show some sights of progression next season.

 

11. Jason Bartlett l Age: 30

Anyone who thought that Bartlett would come close to his 2009 numbers was probably hanging out with Steve Phillips too much anyway. However, injuries have absolutely killed any fantasy relevance whatsoever this season. Even the lowest preseason projections had Bartlett hitting in the .280’s with around 20 steals. He’ll be 31 at the beginning of 2011, so we shouldn’t completely write him off just yet. Though his 12-team mixed league value would mostly be in using him at a middle infield spot and not as your starting shortstop.
 
12. Asdrubal Cabrera l Age: 24

A broken forearm basically ended any relevance to Cabrera’s 2010 numbers. What we have to go on now is the progress he made in 2009 and how that affected projections going into this season. Those projections mostly called for 8-10 home runs, 18-22 steals and an AVG in the .290 range. That’s good production for deeper mixed leagues and even as a rosterd player in 12-teamers. Cabrera will head into his age 25 season in 2011, so there is some room for improvement, but his skill level doesn’t scream breakout next year or any year after.

 

13. Alcides Escobar l Age: 23

I’ll make this short and sweet. Though I can’t argue with Ken Macha’s style, a player like Escobar, who’s fantasy value is all tied into stolen bases, is not the best fit (for fantasy owners at least). At least Escobar is still quite young. The 30-40 stolen base potential hasn’t gone anywhere.

 

14. Derek Jeter l Age: 36

While Jeter is having a good, not great season, there is not much optimism in projecting his future production. Let’s face it, he is getting older and his skills are declining, which hurts his keeper value. Only a lack of better options keeps him in the top 15.

 

15. Rafael Furcal l Age: 32

Furcal was having a great comeback season but his back injury has, well, come back. When I hear back injury with regards to any player’s injury history, I see a big red flag. While Furcal was a great value in 2010, he may be overpriced because of it for 2011 and beyond. He’ll be 33 to begin next season with back-to-back seasons of missing time due to his back.

 

Others of Note

  

Yunel Escobar l Age: 27

Much like Bobby Cox, I’ve never been a big Yunel Escobar fan. It’s not that (other than this season) he’s done anything wrong production wise, but he’s just not anything more than a good fantasy shortstop. His power potential is limited due to very high ground ball rates, so his lineup spot holds the key to most of his value. The trade to Toronto should boost his value slightly for 2011, but there is nothing here to suggest that he will breakout in any way.

 

Cliff Pennington l Age: 26

I am very intrigued by the future of Cliff Pennington. I drafted him as a deep sleeper for 20-plus stolen bases in some deeper leagues this year and he looks like he’ll deliver in that category. Still, it’s hard to roll with a guy who’s value is basically in that one category alone unless he steals 40-plus. Pennington has shown some improvement, albeit small, in his BB/K rate. He makes solid line drive contact and is able to hold his own defensively. Though my projections won’t likely show it, I just have this feeling that Pennington is going to put together a .295/25 stolen base season someday and be 12-team mixed league worthy because of it.

 

Everth Cabrera l Age: 23

With 648 career pate appearances in the big leagues, Everth Cabrera has put up a line of .237/.321/.335 with 33 stolen bases. He simply strikes out way too much for a player of his skill set. The stolen base threat will always be there, but until Cabrera makes huge strides in cutting down his strikeout rate, his AVG will continue to hinder fantasy owners.

 

J.J. Hardy l Age: 27

All things considered, Hardy has not put up horrible numbers when healthy in 2010. I’m just very concerned about the way his injuries have affected him for the past two seasons and how they will affect him in the future. Because Hardy is not likely to hit much over .260 and he possesses no stolen base potential, he’d have to get back to his 20-plus home runs days as a Brewer to hold value. Unfortunately, problems with his wrist don’t exactly bode well for hitters who’s value is based on power.