As we further distance ourselves from football, today will mark the beginning of a new feature called The Fantasy Baseball Draft Dilemma which tackles a pressing draft issue and talks about how to proceed through it. Today we begin with the shallowest position in fantasy baseball and that is shortstop. Without a doubt the top dog once again is the Florida Marlins’ Hanley Ramirez and he is followed by a fast closing Troy Tulowitzki of the Colorado Rockies. Those two guys clearly stand above the rest of the pact at the position no matter what anyone says. The problem however is that both guys could be drafted in the first round this season (Hanley for sure and Tulo borderline) or the second round the latest. Unless you are willing to use your first round pick on one of these guys, chances are you are going to be looking elsewhere to fill that annoying shortstop spot. This is where things really get sticky as the remaining fantasy baseball worthy names at SS are full of question marks related to age, injury, and just plain ineffectiveness. So with that being said lets take a look at how you as a fantasy baseball owners should tackle this spot when you likely will be looking outside of the top two guys.
Right from the top, once Hanley and Tulo are off the board, you are only looking at a select few guys who are even worthy of being drafted. Once this tiny group is off the board, than its best to just wait until the last two or three rounds to fill the spot as there will be little difference between a guy you get in the 18th round to the guy you get in the 24th round. With that being said, lets take a look at the candidates to go after Hanley and Tulo are selected.
Jose Reyes: Jose Reyes has seemingly had a tough go of it the last two seasons as he has battled some major injuries and health issues. His 2009 season was pretty much ruined due to lower leg injuries and he began 2010 with a thyroid condition that kept him out all spring training and a quad injury that kept him on the bench during the summer. Despite all this, Reyes was able to amass 563 at-bats and calling him injury prone is not exactly accurate as he had four straight seasons of over 600 at-bats before 2009. Of course is what have you done for me lately in fantasy baseball and that’s what Reyes will be judged on. His stolen bases fell off dramatically in 2010 but I don’t believe that anything more to do than the Mets being cautious with his running after his leg issues of 2009. He wont hit 20 home runs (especially in Citi Field) like some other guys on this list but many forget that Reyes put up top 5 overall fantasy baseball numbers from 2006-2008 and he can certainly get back there due to the fact he is still only 28 years old and is also heading into a contract year.
Jimmy Rollins: Rollins turns 33 this season which is getting up there at the SS position. The wear and tear of the spot was exemplified with the three separate DL stints that Rollins had in 2010 which ultimately ruined his and many fantasy baseball owners’ seasons. Rollins hasn’t come close to the flukish 30 home runs from 2007 but when he stays on the field, hitting between 20-23 dingers is very possible. There are others warts here though as Rollins has seen a drop in stolen bases the last three seasons (he went from 47-31 between 08 and 09 when he had over 100 more at-bats the latter season) and his batting average has been a huge liability the last two seasons. When you consider the average was never exemplary to begin with, its looking more and more like Rollins is fading quick. Although I think he can put up another solid year or two with good health, there are a ton of questions marks here.
Alexei Ramirez: Ramirez did his thing in 2010 and that was hit 18 home runs with 13 stolen bases while hitting .282. If you said to yourself “self that line looks familiar”, you would be right as Ramirez’ 2009 season was almost a carbon copy to a slightly lesser scale. No doubt memories of his surprisingly great debut season are fading by the day and it appears that Ramirez may not take that next step to superstardom that many expected after such an impressive debut. Ramirez is the classic solid but not spectacular fantasy baseball player but at the SS position, he is one of the top guys which is saying a ton about how shallow the spot is.
Starlin Castro: This is the ultimate wild card as Castro opened many eyes with a better than it looked rookie season in 2010. The fact Castro was able to hit .300 at the ripe old age of 20 years old was incredible. Sure he only hit 3 home runs but no doubt Castro will grow into his body very soon and the 10 stolen bases last season were an indication that he has the speed to be a 30 steal plus guy even sooner. The sky really is the limit for Castro and he is the one guy to reach a round or two early for as he can yield tremendous value based on his draft spot.
Derek Jeter: Father Time is calling for Jeter and 2010 showed he might be starting to lose the battle. Jeter’s stats fell off a cliff to the tune of only 10 home runs while hitting only .270. That’s an incredibly far cry from the perennial 3.00-plus, high double digit power, and up to 30-stolen base campaigns he routinely put up as recently as 2009. The Yankees clearly felt the same concern as they held Jeter up in contract negotiations which spoke volumes. Sure the ballpark is great and the lineup is impressive but it is valid to worry about whether more decline is on its way here.
So there you have it. These are the guys I believe should follow the Hanley’s and Tulo’s. If this were my draft, I would without hesitation select Reyes ahead of the others by a very wide margin for the reasons I listed above. After Reyes its get more tricky and again if it were up to me I would wait on SS and grab Castro later on due to the high ceiling he has and the chance to outproduce his draft spot which the others guys wont do. Jeter and Rollins both scare the heck out of me due to age (Jeter and Rollins) and inability to stay healthy (Rollins) and Ramirez is downright boring to own who is steady with little flash. Sure that has value but I want to do better. So there you have it. Let the debate begin.