Please note that these rankings are EXTREMELY early and there is a whole offseason worth of projections and analysis ahead.
1. Troy Tulowitzki – Proving to be the most consistent fantasy SS of the bunch.
2. Hanley Ramirez – 2011 was an injury plagued year for Hanley. He did have a scorching hot stretch in July where he hit .293/.391/.505 with 5 HR and 5 SB. This ranking is, as noted, extremely preliminary. We’ll have to follow his progress this winter as he recovers from shoulder surgery.
3. Jose Reyes – Reyes had an outstanding season, but he also missed time due to injury, which has been a part of his past. He also held a career high BABIP (.348). If that regresses and he continues to miss time due to injury, he could be a bit less of a value in 2012.
4. Asdrubal Cabrera – Talk about a breakout year: 25 HR, 17 SB, 95 RBI and 86 R! His second half dive is a bit concerning to me. Is it because he was playing over his head in the first half, because he wore down in the second half or because opposing teams adjusted to him and he couldn’t adjust back? Maybe a combination of all of that, but either way, he should be a solid pick next season as long as his draft stock doesn’t push him above round three.
5. Starlin Castro – .307/.343/.434 with 10 HR and 21 SB…and he’s only 21 years old. I believe that Castro will continue to develop power as his body matures, meaning 20-plus HR seasons may be in his future. However, I think that power will come at the expense of some speed. I could see a .300, 15/20 season for 2012.
6. Elvis Andrus – While the AVG might never be a strength, the SB and R numbers should continue to hit up in that potent Texas lineup.
7. J.J. Hardy – Health. That’s been the key for Hardy in his career. He hadn’t been healthy since 2008. Power is a premium stat from shortstops, so a healthy Hardy should continue to shine, albeit with a so-so AVG.
8. Jimmy Rollins - Clearly, Rollins is well removed from his MVP days, but he provided a nice little bounce-back in 2011, nearly posting a 15/30 season with a handful of games left on the schedule.
9. Alexei Ramirez – Alexei just turned 30, according to his birth certificate. However, having come from Cuba one could question the validity of his listed birth date. His stolen base totals fell off this season as did his speed score, but he continues to show great range at shortstop, so I’m not convinced that he’s in any sort of decline. More likely, it was just a down year — as seemed to be the case for a lot of White Sox hitters this season — and there is a chance for a small bounce back in 2012.
I like Erick Aybar’s SB potential, but his AVG will always carry risk due to his free swinging ways… Derek Jeter’s production really picked up after he returned from the DL, but then again, he’s not getting any younger, so the risk for a complete fall-off is always there.