Forgot Log-in or  Password? |  Help  Not a member, Register Now!
      
Fantasy Football Today
Fantasy Football Today Blog
Gameday Inactives
2014 Draft Prep Guide
Downloadable Draft Kit
Mock Drafts
Get Your Draft Board
Player News
Stats
Players
Depth Charts
Roster Trends
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Scores
Fantasy Games
Playoff Challenge
Commissioner
Prize Leagues
Free
Office Pool Manager
Game Pick'em
Player Challenge
Fantasy Baseball Today
Fantasy Baseball Today Blog
Downloadable Draft Kit
Mock Drafts
Player News
Stats
Players
Depth Charts
Roster Trends
Columns
Injury Report
Rankings
Projections
Schedules
Probable Pitchers
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injuries
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Message Boards
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Mock Drafts
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
Downloadable Draft Kit
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Mock Drafts
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
No Fantasy Teams Found
 
 
 

Reality Check: Early look at shortstop

Senior Fantasy Writer
  •  

Shortstop. Grrrah ... shortstop!

Check out our Fantasy Baseball podcast!
Stay a step ahead of your competition in 2014 by checking out our popular Fantasy Baseball Today podcasts. Adam Aizer, Scott White and Al Melchior will entertain you and help you dominate all season.
Latest episode | Subscribe!

What a whole pitiful bunch of nothing.

Every year it turns out this way. I thought 2013 would be different, that the position had built up enough depth to sustain a 12-team league. But then came the underachievers. Starlin Castro, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jimmy Rollins, Alcides Escobar -- they made sure shortstop stayed in the pits.

It's like it's cursed or something.

Using controlled sensory deprivation to invoke the full extent of my brain power, I've managed to uncover 13 shortstops I'd be OK with slotting into my starting lineup to begin 2014 ... if I had to.

But after that? Oy.

Top 10 shortstops for 2014:
1. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies
2. Hanley Ramirez, SS, Dodgers
3. Jose Reyes, SS, Blue Jays
4. Jean Segura, SS, Brewers
5. Ian Desmond, SS, Nationals
6. Ben Zobrist, 2B/SS/OF, Rays
7. Elvis Andrus, SS, Rangers
8. Everth Cabrera, SS, Padres
9. Jed Lowrie, 2B/SS, Athletics
10. Andrelton Simmons, SS, Braves

My main takeaway from this first list is that I have two tiers to lock up my shortstop before having to settle at the position. The first is the familiar Tulowitzki-Ramirez tier. We could quibble over the order, but now that Ramirez is back playing up to his potential, presumably because he's in an environment where he can actually enjoy the game, it all comes down to health.

Both players are perpetual injury risks. I feel like Ramirez is more likely to relive his injuries -- a base-stealer with hamstring issues is nothing we haven't seen before -- but even if you disagree, I don't know that it makes a difference. I have Tulowitzki projected to go 12th overall and Ramirez projected to go 14th overall, so unless you have a swing pick, you probably won't have the luxury of choosing. Of course, given their injury histories you may wonder why you'd target either that early, but just look at the rest of the position. A truly elite shortstop is still the most valuable commodity in Fantasy, provided he's able to take the field.

At times in his career, Reyes has been a third wheel in that tier, but I don't think he belongs anymore, not coming off an injury-plagued season in which he couldn't even scrape out 20 steals. I don't why he couldn't. It's like the Blue Jays acquired him and Emilio Bonifacio just so they could keep them from doing what they do best. Basically, the only player they trust to steal bases with any regularity is Rajai Davis. It's annoying, but I don't think we can assume it'll fix itself next year, especially with Reyes turning 31. For a shortstop, he's past his prime.

Frankly, I wouldn't have a problem with anyone taking Segura or Desmond over him, and I don't think Zobrist, Andrus and Cabrera are too far behind. Together, they comprise the second tier. Again, we could quibble over the order without coming to any real consensus (which is precisely how to identify a tier), but I imagine my choice of Segura over Desmond will draw the most ire. After a blistering start to the season, Segura hit only .241 with a .583 OPS in the second half. That stinks.

But one thing that didn't change was often he made contact. While Desmond's whiffs put a cap on his batting average, Segura's hint of him being a consistent .300 hitter, as does his minor-league track record. The Brewers have repeatedly blamed fatigue for Segura's second-half struggles, and while that could just be a convenient excuse, it's also perfectly feasible for a 23-year-old in his first full big-league. Desmond is what he is, and what he is is great, but if 2013 is just the tip of the iceberg for Segura, I'm thrilled to see what comes next. If nothing else, I know the steals will be there.

Speaking of steals, I could see how the PED skeptic would drop Cabrera behind Lowrie and Simmons in his first year back from suspension, but the bottom line is, on a per-game basis, he was the fourth-best shortstop in Head-to-Head leagues in 2013. And nothing about his performance was unsustainable. The batting average was reasonable. The power numbers were down to earth. The steals were on par with what he did in 2012. I'm willing to buy it, particularly since none of the choices after him are particularly safe.

One last note before jumping to next 10 at the position: If shortstop has an ace in the hole, it's Xander Bogaerts, who's in line to take over there for the Red Sox in 2013. For Fantasy purposes, he'll have to regain eligibility at the position after playing mostly third base down the stretch this year, but I'm mentally ranking him ninth here for when he eventually does. Even as a 21-year-old rookie, I wouldn't be surprised to see him finish just behind Tulowitzki and Ramirez in terms of Head-to-Head points per game.

Next 10 shortstops for 2014:
11. Starlin Castro, SS, Cubs
12. Brad Miller, SS, Mariners
13. J.J. Hardy, SS, Orioles
14. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS, Indians
15. Alexei Ramirez, SS, White Sox
16. Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies
17. Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees
18. Jonathan Villar, SS, Astros
19. Jhonny Peralta, SS, Tigers
20. Javier Baez, SS, Cubs

You thought you could dump Castro on the corner and never look back, didn't you? Heh, not by a long shot.

I'm as surprised as anybody he wound up back in my top 12. It's probably the greatest testament to the lack of quality at shortstop. The only justification for ranking him that high is ... well, that's how high he used to rank. Granted, he didn't show any signs of recapturing that form over the course of 2013, actually losing points on his OPS in the second half, but, well, he's only 23 and, you know ... pedigree.

That's it. That's all I have. Encouraged? Neither am I. So you can bet I'm doing what I can to fill my shortstop spot before the draft reaches that point.

Fortunately, I do have one fallback option in Miller, who I might actually take ahead of Castro, believing him capable of Lowrie-like production already. But I think Castro deserves to go first, if that makes sense. Hey, I have to save some players for the sleepers column.

Miller still has something to prove at the major-league level and, for some owners, doesn't have a high enough ceiling to justify the gamble. But he has that Matt Carpenter-Martin Prado type of skill set that I find ever so appealing -- a decent batting eye, enough power to keep people interested and, more than anything, crazy bat-on-ball ability. My one fear -- and it's far more rational than it sounds -- is that he'll disappear into whatever black hole sucks up every other Mariners hitting prospect, leaving me to wail Dustin Ackley's name in a pool of my own tears.

I imagine some Rotisserie league owners will prioritize Hardy just for the novelty of having a shortstop who consistently hits 20-plus homers, but that's all he does. I prefer not to invest in a one-trick pony if I can help it. That one trick goes south for him, and he's useless. It's not like his Head-to-Head production is all that special anyway.

But at least it's adequate, which is more than I can say for any of the players after him. I could see Cabrera bouncing back at age 28, but because I don't know what went wrong for him in the first place, I wouldn't necessarily expect it. Ramirez only ranked where he did in 2013 because of his career-high 30 steals -- an outlier that I wouldn't trust a 32-year-old middle infielder to repeat. I don't have any faith in Rollins or Jeter anymore and halfway wonder if I included them just for nostalgia's sake. Villar should steal some bases, but I don't know that he'll hit enough to keep his job, and Peralta still has to find a job to justify his ranking.

Given that heaping helping of mediocrity, you can understand why I'm willing to extend myself for Baez late in drafts. No, I don't really expect him to contribute right away. He has yet to turn 21, and I doubt the Cubs believe they're close enough to contending to force the issue. But he hit 37 homers between Class A and Double-A in 2013 as a shortstop. What if he blows everyone away in spring training, forcing the Cubs' hand? Crazier things have happened. Nobody saw Jose Fernandez coming this time a year ago. The possibility makes Baez worth a flier over Erick Aybar, Stephen Drew, Zack Cozart or whatever other dime-a-doze option you could pluck off waivers down the line.

I might even go for the Diamonbacks' Chris Owings over that underwhelming trio. He doesn't have near Baez's pedigree and showed deplorable plate discipline in the minors, but I'll admit he looked better than I thought he would during his brief stint in the majors. And unlike Baez, he has the inside track on a job. Whether it's a full-time job or a split role with Didi Gregorious will determine if he remains in the discussion.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott White at @CBSScottWhite . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

Get player news notifications, manage your team and check scores
- all updated in real time. Download the CBS Fantasy App.

  •  
 
CBSSports Facebook Google Plus
COMMENTS
Conversation powered by Livefyre
 
 
Player News
A-Rod will not play in Yankees' spring opener Tuesday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:51 am ET) Yankees DH Alex Rodriguez will not play in the team's spring opener Tuesday against the Phillies. His name was not highlighted on the roster of players selected to travel to Clearwater, Fla., per NJ.com.

Rodriguez, however, was scheduled to DH and bat fourth in Monday's intrasquad game. There is no word yet if he will play in Wednesday's spring game against the Phillies.


Mets' Matt Harvey faces batters for the second time this spring
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:45 am ET) Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey (elbow) faced batters Monday for the second time this spring. He threw 26 pitches, while pitching to David Wright and Curtis Granderson, per NJ.com.

Harvey, who will make his spring debut March 6, has not pitched in a major-league game since Aug. 2013.


Yankees' Brendan Ryan 'progressing nicely'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11:45 am ET) Yankees infielder Brendan Ryan said Monday that his recovery from a mid-back muscle strain is "progressing nicely," the Star-Ledger reports.

Ryan, who hurt his back doing bicep curls, said he's targeting a late-week return from the issue. He also missed much of last year's spring training with an unrelated back injury.


Phillies' Chase Utley misses Monday workout
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11:40 am ET) Phillies second baseman Chase Utley didn't work out Monday as he continues to recover from an ankle issue, MLB.com reports.

Utley won't play in the spring opener and said Monday that he'll miss this week's slate of games entirely, the Philadelphia Daily News reports. The second baseman that while his ankle has improved in the last week, it's still pretty swollen and he has yet to begin running.

Utley suffered the ankle injury in January after stepping on a baseball.


Mariners' Rickie Weeks will also play at first base this spring
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:38 am ET) Rickie Weeks has primarily been working in the outfield since arriving for spring training, but Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said Monday that Weeks will also work at first base later this spring, per MLB.com.

“He will be that backup first baseman in case something happens,” said McClendon, noting he’s leaning more toward Weeks than fellow utility man Willie Bloomquist as a backup first baseman.


Mariners DH Nelson Cruz to see time in right field 'on occasion'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11:35 am ET) Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz will see time in right field "on occasion" in order to let the team stream players through the designated-hiter slot, MLB.com reports.

"He’ll play out there in the season on occasion, because it’s nice to be able to rotate him out of that DH spot and give somebody else a day off and get him back on his feet," manager Lloyd McClendon said. "How much he’ll play in the spring, I’m not sure. But it would be safe to say he’ll play his share of games during the season in right field."

Cruz will primarly serve as a designated hitter by the Mariners but has played 744 games in right field in his career and 833 games in the outfield overall. While he's not on defense, the team is expected to use Seth Smith against most righties and Justin Ruggiano against most southpaws.


Viola: Mets' prospect Leathersich is a poor man's Sid Fernandez
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:33 am ET) Mets relief prospect Jack Leathersich has made a name for himself in the minors as a strikeout artist, as over his four-year career he is striking out 15.2 batters per nine innings. The left-hander is only 24 years old, meaning he could have a long and bright future with the Mets.

"If it all clicks, there's that lefty the Mets have been looking for in the big leagues and he's going to be there for a long time," Mets' Triple-A pitching coach Frank Viola said. "I compare him to a lesser man's Sid Fernandez."

Although, as good as Leathersich has been striking out batters, he has had his issues, particularly with his control. He has walked 4.9 batters per nine innings during his minor-league career.

"We'll give him a chance to see if he can get some left-handed hitters out in spring training," manager Terry Collins said. "You look at his numbers, he strikes people out. You look at his minor-league career, he strikes guys out. This isn't the minor leagues. I can clear that up real fast. This is a little different game. They're not going to swing at some of that stuff up here until you show me you can get them out in certain places, then they'll start to chase. But they're going to make you throw the ball over first. So we'll give him the opportunities."


Cardinals' Wainwright (abdominal) throws off mound Monday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:18 am ET) Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright was back on the mound Monday to throw his first bullpen session since being sidelined last week due to an abdominal strain, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Wainwright threw 30-40 pitches and mixed in his curveball.

Monday marked the first time Wainwright was on the mound since the first official day for pitchers and catchers 10 days ago.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Wainwright will have to face hitters in batting practice before being able to pitch in a game.


Cardinals' Jon Jay 'not far behind,' Bourjos has 'a different swing'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11:18 am ET) Cardinals manager Mike Matheny indicated Sunday that outfielder Peter Bourjos (hip) should be ready for the start of the exhibition season and has shown a noticeable difference in his swing, while outfielder Jon Jay (wrist) is "not far behind," the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

"It’s looking like Peter is moving that direction (of being ready)," Matheny said. "Jon is going to be close. He’s getting stronger and everything is measuring out pretty well. Not far behind. He pushed it a little further."

Bourjos has had trouble keeping his hip flexible the last few seasons after having surgery to remove an impingement in the hip.

“I think right now I feel like I’m in a better position to hit more pitches," Bourjos said. "In the fast few years, I’ve been trying to work around my hip. I didn’t really know it, but I didn’t have that same range of motion."

"It’s very noticeable what he’s worked on," Matheny said of Bourjos. "We can’t get inside his body to know what it feels like, but it’s a different swing for sure. He always has moved well. He moved well last year. He’s driving balls that he couldn’t necessarily drive before."

Jay, who is working his way back from wrist surgery, is continuing to target being ready for opening night April 5. He noted that he'll be able to receive his full complement of spring-training at-bats in the last two weeks of the preseason, if necessary.

"We’re working to where I get 100 percent comfortable and then go from there," Jay said.. "I’m a cage guy. Once I feel good about my swing in the cage, I can take it anywhere. I want to get right inside."


Phillies' Ruf will be under the microscope in left field this spring
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:11 am ET) Phillies outfielder Darin Ruf will be competing with Grady Sizemore, Odubel Herrera and Jordan Danks for playing time -- and potentially the starting job -- in left field this spring. The Phillies hope Ruf will be up to the challenge and make the decision difficult as to who to keep on the roster, per The Philadelphia Daily News.

"It all depends on him," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said of Ruf, who has played parts of the last three seasons with the Phillies. "He's going to get opportunities to play. Sizemore looks very good. The decisions that we make will be based on performance here in spring, whether we think they can help us on a regular basis during the season. And once we break with the team, it's going to be about [manager Ryne Sandberg] trying to put the best team out there to win baseball games."

Ruf is a natural first baseman, but he has been learning to play in left field since 2012. Still, the Phillies have to see if they can trust him on a regular basis playing the position.

"I don't know," Amaro said. "He could. He could. We'll find out. We'll find out a little more about him. He's not an outfielder per se, but he seems to move fine out there and he doesn't seem to make mistakes. It's still a learning process for him . . . You can't lose sight of the defense. And we have to be aware of that. We have to win games playing all phases of the games. Defense and pitching are important. Guys have to be good enough defensively not to be liabilities out there, so they can help us win games."


 
 
 
Rankings