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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.

Thank you for reading

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Ben Zobrist qualifies (in most leagues I think--he played 13 games there) at SS... what would his star ranking be?
double-checked my list against CBS Sports so I didn't miss anyone this time, but I guess that failed me too. CBS lists 338 eligible shortstops, not one of which is Zobrist. He did appear in 13 games there though, as you said, so he would be four stars, just like at second base. Their requirements must be higher than 13 (or the fact he didn't start all of those 13 games).
thanks Mark, much appreciated. yeah, my league is 10 games played. i think he only started 6, though.
CBS default leagues require 20 games played in the previous year, but only 5 of the current year to qualify at a position.
No wonder Palmeiro won that gold glove at first base...
I think most leagues use the traditional 20 game rule.

Where would you rank Brignac and or Starlin Castro? From what I read Brignac has a chance to win the second base job.
Brignac has a chance to win the chance to back Zobrist up on the days he plays right field. It's either him or Sean Rodriguez, so I'm not too excited about either of them unless they are playing more often. I do like both players plenty, it's just that it doesn't look like either will pick up enough AB's to do much for you.
Yahoo has a 5/10 starts/games requirement, either/or.
I think Yunel Escobar belongs in the three star tier. As an idea, PECOTA has Miguel Tejada matching Escobar's counting stats production, except Miguel has shown the power potential in the past to do more.

Also, the nice thing about Tulo is you probably don't need to use your first round pick to grab him.
I can see him being three. I like Yunel a lot though, and think his R/RBI are low here, too.
In fantasy terms, I think Yunel is overrated just as Melky Cabrera was overrated. In fantasy baseball terms, there's little difference between Yunel and Mark Grudzielanek except Yunel barely cracks double digits on home runs.

I also never factor R/RBI in my drafting unless a player's projected to surpass 100 in one or the other category. I generally look at HR/SB and maybe BA, just as how I look at WHIP and Ks and maybe ERA for pitchers.
Marc, I know this is going to sound trivial, but can't we get the actual stars like Goldstein does?
What stars?

His are listed Five-Stars, Four-Stars, etc., just like these.
Sorry, I meant like how his are listed on the front page, see here: Also, rivals lists theirs out--not a big deal but it justs an aesthetics thing
Rollins said one of his goals this year is to steal 50 bases. If he gets on base enough, I don't see why not.
Judging by his performance last year, it appears one of his goals was not to get on base.
Rollins goal last year was to hit a lot of homers, so I'm not holding my breath ;-)
He was back-footing every pitch the whole season... like Matt Stairs without the patience. I think that unless his approach has changed, the second half was a fluke. I invite anyone who knows how to sort BABIP stats by month to confirm/rebuke me.
Jimmy Rollins' best tool at this point in his career is his mouth.
I seem to remember that Rollins' BABIP was horrible in the first half when compared to his career norms. (Though I don't have the data right now to back it up.) He should never be a leadoff hitter, especially with the other options the Phillies have. I feel like people judge his performance based on that fact, rather than just his performance. Then again, last year was really, really bad.
yes, I think 20 games is an appropriate cutoff. Unless you're still using Yahoo, Zobrist won't qualify as SS.

This list freaked me out more than my own cheat sheet does. This position is scary to me. I'm worried that the scarcity of talent will drive prices up too high for me. Especially in a keeper league, many teams are likely to hold on to their decent SS. My dilemma is whether to pony up for a 4/3 star SS or just use my money to try to win with other positions.

Can you guess which of these players might be most likely to hit their 90th percentile? (A sleeper, I guess). You started to do this at the end, but even among higher tiers I'd be interested to know who you think the best gambles are given that many of us might be forced to reach for SS in our drafts.

I'm thinking of punting this position to be honest.

Thanks again for the write up!
that explains it... I'm in a Yahoo! league.
I was probably going to punt it and hope Everth/Andrus were available cheap and late,but then I picked up Hanley. Slight change of plans, you could say.
In the Evereth/Elvis comparisons, I noticed that Cabrera seems to be set to lead off for the Padres, where as I know that Elvis will be hitting 9th for the Rangers. This (IMO) is the biggest factor in their huge disparity in plate appearences. But, I wonder how much of a difference the parks and offenses will mitigate that. the Padres have a bad offense in a park which depresses scoring, while the Rangers are projected to have a much better offense in a park which increases scoring. The two shortstops have the same percentage of their teams PA's, so a 200 PA difference seems a bit overstated.

This only matters from a fantasy perspective if you are in a deep league or just need steals really desparately.
The Padres don't have a bad offense. It's league average and in a terrible park. The park obscures it. In 2009, despite players like Brian Giles and Jody Gerut, they finished at exactly .260 for EqA (TAv, I should get used to doing that).

Yes, the park makes them look bad, but it's not like they can't hit on the road. Everth hit .276/.368/.382 on the road last year, for what it's worth.

But, even with that, I did recommend Andrus over Everth if you force it. Just in a neutral context, I prefer Everth.

Good list, Marc. Do you find it hard to squint and see Stephen Drew in the four star category? Last year he cut down on strike outs, upped the walks and contact rate. Seems like health is the only thing holding him back from breaking out? I think I'd have a tough time taking Yunel Escobar over him either way....maybe Hardy too.
I think if things work out for him he could sneak into the four, yes. I'm just getting tired of waiting for things to work out for him for more than 250 PA at a time. I'd rather let someone else earn the benefits for their patience while I look elsewhere, I guess.
Do you put any stock into Alcides Escobar's winter numbers? The kid batted .393 and slugged .491 in 173 AB's in Venezuela.
Not that it matters, but Manzella is a starter and there's really no backup plan. If you're in a league 30 teams deep and the last one to get a shortstop, at least you know he'll be hitting in front of Humberto Quinetero. Hmm...
I think Hanley should be the only 5-star, followed by Tulo, Reyes, and Rollins as the only 4-stars, with the remaining 4-star guys bumped down a notch into 3-starville and a couple 3-star guys bumped to 2-stars (Tejada and maybe Scutaro and Aybar).

For me you have to be building lots of position scarcity into the rankings to get Tulo to 5-stars (not the most consistent track record, unlikely to steal that many bases again with so many CS). He helped me win an NL-only league with money on the line last year, but I don't think he's all that safe as a 2nd round pick. And he has less upside than what Reyes and Rollins have shown (even though he might be a bit safer at this point). Just me though, maybe I am over-valuing the SB a little.
I think Tulo is a five-star, but he's one of the weaker ones on my list. Tough to see until I publish the all-encompassing one though.

My issues with Tulo in the past had to do with consistency on the road and against RHP. He seems to be over a lot of that, so I have faith he'll do well again.
You don't draft Tulo for the SB, you draft him for the home runs. Now that not everyone in the league is popping 70 home runs, and only three other shortstops (H. Ramirez, A.Ramirez, Hardy) are projected to crack 20, his 30+ home run potential is huge. If he steals a few bases its icing on the cake and if not, you make it up at 2B/3B/OF.

I wouldn't use a second round pick on him, but he'd be a steal as a fourth rounder and good value as a third rounder. Also, don't diss Rollins too much. His OBP sucked but he was a great multicategory producer fantasy-wise. In fact, his poor OBP may depress his value and, like Tulo's injury/inconsistency concerns, make both players better value picks for later rounds.
I like the list Marc. One of my strategies with a category like this, when I don't get a 5 or 4 star guy, is to simply grab a SS that sits at the top of a lineup and will generate a lot of quality ABs.

A guy like Jeff Keppinger sitting at the bottom of the two-star pile is actually very valuable if you can get him really late and have .300 avg with 50+ runs/rbi and hopefully crack 10 homers. I doubt he'll get enough at bats in Houston this year at the top of the lineup, but sometimes injury leads to guys similar to him slotting at the top of the lineup and getting a ton of at bats.

I take the same approach with Catchers. If I can't get Mauer or McCann, I'll grab AJ much later. He's the only other catcher with 500+ ABs, .290+ avg & .400+ slg. While not spectacular, it adds up over the course of the year with that many ABs.

Knowing when to punt is one of the biggest advantages you can get in a draft, especially if everyone else understands player value.
Knowing how to punt is important too. Just because you don't focus on steals, for example, doesn't mean you don't draft any basestealers. In a 5x5, you want at least one stolen base threat who can put your team ahead of the others who had absolutely zero stolen base threats. Similarly, you can punt saves but still draft a closer just to put your team one or two points ahead of the team that completely punted saves.
If it's a counting stats league, such as 4x4 or 5x5 Rotisserie, then drafting for average doesn't help unless its an extreme example like an Ichiro who provides a great batting average and barely walks, maximing the effect his batting average has on your overall team average.

For catchers, if you miss out on someone decent, it's better to ignore average and draft for home runs. Since catchers have reduced playing time anyway, a low batting average won't hurt as bad. Same thing with shortstops though it's easier to target steals with shortstops.

Drafting primarily for batting average, especially an empty batting average, is a losing strategy because batting average has some variance and if the player has a bad year in the BA category, the other categories will also suffer.
Aybar should be moved up a tier. LAA is a confirmed running team, and Aybar is the only guy they have. Locked into leadoff. Groomed to leadoff and run. 35 caught stealing once.

Always had a bad percentage, but LAA is less concerned about that then any other team. Had about the same percentage as Figgins last year. Strong balanced offense should allow RBI and run scoring opportunities.

And Aybar can hack the ball on the ground fairly well, and knows what job is. Has more than incidental power to provoke walks. Rising walk rate. Batting just ahead of OBP, pitch taking Abrue.

Aybar has a very nice pedrigree, with a 300 ba minor league average to support his great average last year, developing gap power, and a glove that locks him into the everyday lineup - switch hitter to boot.


Will get on base, have exceptional running opportunities, and will be strongly encouraged to run.

Get average steals, and those nice counting stats that come with them. Vastly cheaper and potentially better version of coming back from serious leg injury Reyes and his dysfunctional team.

I'll take Reyes, who has come back from this injury before and who is running like crazy in camp.
Just an FYI for those of you who have yet to participate in a mock draft or a real one for that matter.

I have not seen Tulo go before pick 15. I may be drafting with imbeciles, but there is no denying that there is a significant drop off. Personally, I am by no means reaching for him. I am looking for Cabrera or Alexei Ramirez (Still a SS on Yahoo) after 10.
Hey Guys, Looking for some opinions here. I have Jose Reyes in my keeper league and he wwas penciled in as my keeper next to howard/youklis/T. Hanson/S. Choo. If you were me would you keep Jose Reyes as your 5th keeper, or look to make a move? Our draft is in a few weeks, and I already got burned by Reyes last year. Just am afraid at this point to get burned by him again.

Your Thoughts??

I don't really have any other "keeper worthy" players as several guys are coming off contract, and I traded away some talent at the year's end last year. My only possibilities would be D. Lee, R. Martin, AJ Burnett, or Y. Escobar - all are not players I'd want to keep.