Moving through the infield, we will look at the shortstop rankings. Shortstop is easily the worst position-the number of one-star players is depressing-but there is plenty of production to be found if you are willing to select it early or spend the auction money on it. As for the previous rankings in the series, check out first basemen, second basemen and third basemen. Now, here are the changes to this year’s ranking system:

  • Players are no longer ranked by number (the 1-20 system). Instead, I am implementing a tiered system using stars (five stars is the best, one is the lesser of your options). These stars are equal across positions to make comparisons between them easier-for example, there are three five-star first basemen, but there may be more or fewer than that at other positions-if it comes to it, the first player at a position may be a four-star option. You can derive positional scarcity from the number of four- and five-star players available and make decisions from there. Players are loosely ordered within tiers, with my first preference to my last.
  • I am no longer just covering 20 players per position-each list may be a bit different in length, but this list of shortstop is 49 players long. This should let players in AL- or NL-only league be as prepared as those in mixed leagues. There are two things I did to make this happen. First, I used the depth charts as my guide (this is also where the projections listed come from) and picked the starting player for every team at the position, giving me a minimum of 30 guaranteed choices. Second, for players with multiple position eligibility, I included them in the list for each position. It is possible they will have different star ratings at different positions, though, so make sure you reference the correct set of rankings. Victor Martinez is a three-star first baseman-it’s a very crowded position, and his numbers are very average for it-but at catcher, where the talent pool is shallower, Martinez is worth more. This allows me to show you at which position a player is most valuable. If there is anyone I missed that you want to know about, please ask me about them via e-mail or in the comments, and I’ll get back to you with my thoughts.

Five Stars
Player            PA   AVG/OBP/SLG    R HR RBI SB
Hanley Ramirez   646 .329/.417/.572 105 29  80 27
Troy Tulowitzki  630 .301/.385/.536  97 26  88 10

Two shortstops stand tall above the rest, with Ramirez-much like Albert Pujols– worthy of his own special Five-Stars-Plus One tier, while Tulowitzki fits snugly underneath. Ramirez’s RBI total strikes me as a bit low, but it’s most likely due to his low 2008 total (67). Last year he crossed the 100 RBI line-much of this obviously depends on the offense around him, but 80 seems low. He’s a five-category player, which makes him five-stars no matter where he plays, but he’s also five-cats at the worst position in the game. Tulowitzki isn’t quite as good as Ramirez, but he’s the only shortstop on the same planet-partially from Coors Field, partially his own talent-despite the lower steal total. Just don’t get sucked into paying nearly Ramirez prices for Tulowitzki at auction just because you missed out.

Four Stars
Player            PA   AVG/OBP/SLG    R HR RBI SB
Jose Reyes       638 .299/.367/.471  87 13  52 42
Jimmy Rollins    638 .286/.345/.475  87 18  67 28
Asdrubal Cabrera 623 .297/.366/.444  85 12  74 15
Derek Jeter      598 .298/.374/.433  72 14  57 14
Jason Bartlett   678 .282/.351/.407  83 11  58 26
Yunel Escobar    563 .307/.383/.448  77 12  62  4
J.J. Hardy       599 .274/.334/.460  74 22  73  1

PECOTA is expecting 2008 all over again from Reyes, which makes sense given that, prior to his injury-shortened 2009 campaign, PECOTA was expecting 2008 all over again from Reyes. If you could guarantee another 60-plus stolen base season, I would pop him into five-stars, but he had 56 in 2008 and hurt his leg last year-maybe I’ll feel differently by the end of spring training, but he’s the No. 3 guy either way.

I’ll trust this projection on Rollins entirely because of his second half. Sure, his OBP was just .306, which was a bit odd for the normally patient Rollins, but he did slug .495. I will say, though, that I don’t think his slugging will be as high as indicated here-there’s still a little too much 2007 in his forecast for my tastes. Being in that Phillies lineup and swiping 25-plus bags will boost his value plenty to merit this spot, though. PECOTA sees Cabrera having a season very similar to 2009, but with twice as many homers. That would be nice for his counting stats, especially since he’s good for 15-20 steals.

This seems like a massive decline for Jeter, but it’s still higher than his 2008 line and 2009 forecast-really, all that’s happened is the points of BABIP PECOTA thinks were extra were regressed out of his line. Bartlett won’t have the MVP-esque line of 2009 again, but somewhere between his past and his second half doesn’t seem too far-fetched, and that’s what PECOTA is suggesting. The 26 steals are delicious if he can keep his batting average and R total up.

Escobar isn’t stealing bases like everyone above him, but he’s good for a well above-average batting average, and he’ll pick up solid numbers of R, RBI and HR. Hardy is the same way, but with homers to replace the batting average. His 2009 will most likely decrease his value significantly in many leagues, but whoever picks him up will be happy with his rebound campaign. If you’re a bit iffy on him still, remember what kind of players are at shortstop after Hardy-even a meh edition of James Hardy is going to be as good or better than most of your alternatives.

Three Stars
Player            PA   AVG/OBP/SLG    R HR RBI SB
Stephen Drew     678 .271/.336/.444  80 16  69  4
Erick Aybar      638 .287/.334/.410  74  9  57 12
Marco Scutaro    638 .278/.367/.399  83 12  60  9
Ryan Theriot     678 .291/.360/.378  89  5  48 18
Jhonny Peralta   664 .268/.337/.425  72 18  80  2
Miguel Tejada    458 .301/.340/.451  65 14  61  4
Alexei Ramirez   598 .283/.335/.461  75 24  79 10
Rafael Furcal    598 .282/.347/.398  81  9  42 13

I know you’re going to kill me for this, but the order in this tier doesn’t matter that much. It has a lot more to do with your personal preference-do you want power out of your shortstop? Drew, Peralta, Ramirez and Tejada are solid fits. Do you want stolen bases? Aybar, Theriot, Ramirez and Furcal are your best bets. Players like Scutaro and Aybar are well-balanced, with a little bit of power, a lot of runs, and some help on the base paths. None of these players do everything very well, but for the most part they do one thing very well or a few things well enough, so your personal rank, based on what your plan is with the rest of your roster, means more than whatever order I put them in.

I will say, though, Ramirez’s forecast seems weird to me. Despite the fact that he has changed his approach (he’s more patient and draws walks, but struggled to hit for power last year, a problem that caused even more trouble in the second half) he’s slated to hit with as much pop as in 2008. That’s why, despite his forecast, he’s ranked low within the tier.

Two Stars
Player            PA   AVG/OBP/SLG    R HR RBI SB
Elvis Andrus     550 .269/.329/.400  67  8  51 34
Everth Cabrera   678 .249/.337/.364  78  7  45 34
Alcides Escobar  548 .286/.327/.387  66  6  46 20
Maicer Izturis   382 .286/.355/.427  49  8  45 10
Cliff Pennington 518 .245/.329/.345  56  6  38 17
Clint Barmes     540 .263/.314/.432  59  9  51 11
Jerry Hairston   498 .259/.329/.386  62 11  48 11
Luis Valbuena    576 .260/.329/.400  69 13  52  8
Orlando Cabrera  584 .276/.328/.385  66  8  60 12
Jeff Keppinger   539 .301/.364/.430  59  9  51  2
Cristian Guzman  506 .296/.326/.418  65  7  43  4

Andrus and Everth Cabrera are very similar, but Andrus gets the edge because of his home park. In a neutral context, I would take Cabrera. Escobar is also along the same lines, but projected to have significantly fewer steals. Izturis would be a three-star shortstop if he was an everyday player, but he’s going to bounce around the diamond and, sadly, not acquire a full season’s worth of at-bats.

Things get a bit uglier from here, as we lose dominance of any one category. PECOTA seems to be a bit harsh on Pennington-his BABIP was a little high last year, but even adjusting for that should have him a little higher than this. He’s not much to look at, but if he can steal 20 bases and not embarrass you from a batting average perspective, then he’s worth a two-star rank. Barmes may pick up a few homers and a few steals for you, but otherwise there isn’t much to love here, just like at second. Hairston has some value as long as he plays a majority of the time, like Izturis, but isn’t quite as valuable thanks to Petco Park. Valbuena looks a little better here than at second, but that isn’t saying much-he’s still on the lower end of the two-star because of a low average, low OBP and not enough speed to push him any higher.

PECOTA thinks Orlando Cabrera will replicate 2009 with the Reds. The switch to the NL should offset any further decline in his game. Guzman’s batting average and maybe his runs are reason to select him late, but that’s all he brings to the table. Keppinger, just like at third and second, would be a better pick with a guarantee of everyday play somewhere on the diamond, though the depth charts seem to think that’s what will happen given his projection of 539 plate appearances.

One Star
Player                 PA   AVG/OBP/SLG    R HR RBI SB
Juan Uribe            401  .259/.305/.427 41 12  42  2
Brendan Harris        325  .276/.340/.412 35  6  28  1
Brendan Ryan          466  .268/.322/.372 60  6  30 13
Emilio Bonifacio      495  .267/.326/.353 62  3  31 18
Cesar Izturis         453  .277/.322/.360 47  2  28 10
Julio Lugo            402  .247/.329/.347 40  5  35 11
Ronny Cedeno          399  .255/.311/.394 46 10  44  4
Yuniesky Betancourt   548  .288/.315/.417 58  9  60  4
Jack Wilson           518  .279/.326/.395 51  8  51  3
Edgar Renteria        466  .285/.339/.401 60  8  42  7
Tommy Manzella        445  .243/.289/.344 41  5  36  4
Omar Infante          377  .294/.352/.406 44  5  42  3
Ian Desmond           360  .244/.309/.400 35  9  32  9
Alex Gonzalez         356  .250/.305/.419 38 13  40  1
Ramon Santiago        333  .255/.319/.382 36  6  31  1
Craig Counsell        297  .263/.360/.387 33  3  23  2
Mike Aviles           246  .285/.315/.445 30  6  26  2
Adam Everett          356  .248/.307/.374 38  6  41  3
Willie Bloomquist     218  .267/.326/.358 28  2  14  7
Bobby Crosby          199  .246/.318/.380  21 4  20  3

The worst fantasy players at the worst position in fantasy baseball-boy, I’ve been looking forward to writing this section. If you get stuck with one of these guys as your starting shortstop, you are in trouble unless one of them pulls what will now be referred to as “A Bartlett.” I don’t see any Bartlett candidates here-Aviles maybe, just because he’s stuck behind Betancourt and anything that hurts the feelings of Royals‘ fans is possible. Otherwise though, this is just ugly.

Uribe may be the most appealing, but he doesn’t have a starting job thanks to the Freddy Sanchez trade. Harris doesn’t do anything well, but he doesn’t actively offend you either. The next four guys don’t do much, but may pick up double digits in steals, so at least that’s something. Cedeno may be the last tolerable option I can offer. After that, we’re looking at more like the 0.5-Star tier. Betancourt is slated to have a better season than he has had in a few years. Pass. Wilson is a solid shortstop when you take his defense into account, so unless you’re in one of those leagues you can ignore him. Renteria’s forecast has too much power in it (which is sad). The rest of these guys are back-up players that may take a starting job down the road, but there’s no guarantee and therefore no reason to waste anything but a late, late pick on them-except for Gonzalez. He’s starting and is just that bad.