Shortstop can be one of the toughest positions to fill in fantasy baseball as the talent level drops off a cliff mighty quickly. As Michael Kropman showed in our 2 Up, 2 Down: Second Basemen article, even the shortstop’s double-play partner has a smorgasbord of options. That means that shortstop only beats out catcher in terms of positional depth, and with the young talent that’s been steadily emerging behind the plate, even that may be a stretch. Luckily, there are still a few value picks to be had here. Let’s take a look
Welcome back to the Cafe’s annual “2 Up, 2 Down” series, where Cafe members highlight two players per position expected to outperform projected draft slot, as well as two players that should not be drafted at their typical rank.
Alexei Ramirez, White Sox
I’m a believer. Ramirez enjoyed a great debut season in 2008, swatting 21 homers and stealing 13 bases while posting an above average .290 all in 480 at-bats. Could it be that the shortstop position had its next star? After a small regression across the board in 2009, Ramirez proved to have draft value for those that believed in him heading into 2010. He came through with 18 homers, 13 stolen bases and a solid .282 average, not quite 2008 numbers but definitely better than what we saw in 2009.
It gets better. After a slow start last year, Ramirez hit 11 HRs and stole 11 SBs in the second half of the season while posting 52 runs and hitting .286. Nothing in his underlying stats suggests that line was a fluke — Ramirez’s above-average power and speed are the real deal.
Even though the White Sox shortstop has serious 20/20 potential and can contribute in five categories, we still see him drafted about 20 picks after Derek Jeter and a full round later than Elvis Andrus. Those guys may have name value, but trust me — Alexei is a much sexier pick. Grab him after those two guys come off the board and you’ll have a top-five shortstop at a discounted price.
Ian Desmond, Nationals
For his first full season, Desmond held up very well. He hit just .255 with four homers and six steals in 255 first-half at bats before finishing the season strong, hitting .281 with six homers and 11 steals. Add it up and you get a 10/17 line with a pedestrian .269 average.
Desmond does have a little bit of batting average downside, as he had a slightly high hit rate over the second half of the season. In fact, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see him hit around .260 over an entire season if the light doesn’t come on in 2011.
But honestly, with 10/20 potential he’s not that different from Jeter himself, unless you think The Captain can re-capture some modicum of power. With Desmond available about 110 picks after Jeter, he’s the very definition of value. I’d look at him as a solid MI in standard leagues with the potential to grow and become a top 10 SS.
Derek Jeter, Yankees
Since I spent the entire “2 Up” section picking on Jeter, it only makes sense to have him lead off down here. The Captain is used to it — I featured him in the 2 Up, 2 Down shortstop article back in 2009. He took umbrage to my remarking that “in order to fulfill his draft position, Jeter is going to need to rebound in a big way,” hitting .334 with 18 homers and 30 SBs. Yowza.
So why am I confident Jeter belongs in this section? For starters, he’s now 36. Secondly, he’s shown signs of breaking down, with his sky-high hit rate finally descending to mortal ranks last season (31 percent) and the power he regained in 2009 vanishing into thin air. In fact, Jeter hit just two HRs in 325 at-bats over the second half of the season. He also posted a very un-Jeter-like .258 average in the second half, leaving him with only a .270 mark at the end of the year. Yes, 64 points lower than the previous year’s mark. That’s not a good sign for any player, and especially not for someone entering his age-36 season.
Even with a putrid 2010 line on his record, fantasy owners have still been willing to draft Jeter in the first five rounds of 12-team leagues. With players like Hunter Pence, Alex, Kendry Morales and Paul Konerko find their way onto teams at the same point of the draft, taking Jeter around pick 60 seems absurd. Other fifth-round picks include Andrew McCutchen, Jason Heyward and David Price. You have options — use them.
Elvis Andrus, Rangers
Is it the name? I can’t find any other reason to make Andrus a top-75 pick in fantasy drafts, which is where MDP suggests he’s being selected on average. Sure, he plays in a very good Rangers lineup, which gives him solid run totals, and he had above average speed. And that’s about all the good things I can say about him as a fantasy commodity.
When a player gets 588 at-bats, there are certain things you expect from him. For instance, you’d like to see at least 50 RBIs. Andrus had 38. A handful of HRs would be nice, especially playing half his games in Texas. Andrus had none. No homers! In Texas! Is his speed that great? He had 32 SBs in 2010, certainly not in the fantasy elite.
If you really feel you need speed, save a 12th round pick and an outfield slot for Juan Pierre. Or wait a few weeks into the season — there are always speed demons to be had in free agency in most standard sized leagues. There’s really no excuse for taking such a light-hitting shortstop where players like Alexei Ramirez, Matt Cain, Shane Victorino and many others are still available.
R.J. White is a fantasy blogger at the sports site FanHouse. Check out his work both here and there, and feel free to talk to him in the forums, where he posts under the name daullaz.
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