Fantasy Baseball Focus: AL shortstops
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Editor’s Note: Fantasy Baseball Focus is a breakdown of each league, position by position. Each team receives a fantasy analysis on the starter, backup and future prospect if there is one. In case you’re wondering, is there a schedule? Why, yes! Thanks for asking. On the right hand side of the page (your other right), look for the Fantasy Baseball Focus headline. Jamie Shoemaker will analyze the National League, while Dan Kirby handles the American League. Good luck in your fantasy leagues!
Like second base, the shortstop position in the American League has some very good players at the top, some solid contributors in the middle and then it falls off immensely. If you don’t take one of the top guys early, you might as well wait until the late rounds to grab one, or work out a trade. There are some exciting prospects in the minors, including the Orioles’ Manny Machado and the Rangers’ Jurickson Profar, but both are at least two years away from being fantasy options. Here is what is available right now, along with a handy guide to help you at the draft.
For-sure pick – It means you’ll get consistency, nothing less, nothing more.
Sleeper – Underrated in drafts; can get in later rounds but might produce above-average stats.
Overrated – Might not produce at the hype he’s supposed to produce at.
Long-term value – Might not be the best bet for this year but excellent for keeper leagues.
Top five American League shortstops
1. Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians — 2011 stats: 87 R, 25 HR, 92 RBI, 17 SB, .273/.332/.460
2. Elvis Andrus, Rangers — 2011 stats: 96 R, 5 HR, 60 RBI, 37 SB, .279/.347/.361
3. Alexei Ramirez, White Sox — 2011 stats: 81 R, 15 HR, 70 RBI, 7 SB, .269/.328/.399
4. J.J. Hardy, Orioles — 2011 stats: 76 R, 30 HR, 80 RBI, 0 SB, .269/.310/.491
5. Erick Aybar, Angels — 2011 stats: 71 R, 10 HR, 59 RBI, 30 SB, .279/.322/.421
Baltimore Orioles — J.J. Hardy, Robert Andino
Starter: Hardy enjoyed a career year in 2011, setting high marks in home runs (30) and RBI (80) while playing in only 129 games. He is an excellent defender, so he is always good for 140+ games based on that. Another 30-homer season isn’t out of the question if he stays healthy, something he hasn’t been able to do over the last three seasons. Still, even a 120 game season from Hardy should yield 20+ home runs, 70 RBI with a decent average, which is more value than a full season from most players on this list. Take him with confidence, but keep an eye on the DL list.
Backup: Andino qualifies all over the infield and is a good source for cheap steals. Over 129 games for the O’s in 2011, he hit .263 with five home runs, 36 RBI and 13 stolen bases. He will get playing time and is a nice late-round steal for the production he will give you.
Starter: Much like Andino above, Aviles is a solid option for steals and some occasional power. Over 91 games in 2011, he hit .255 with seven home runs, 39 RBI and 14 stolen bases. He is a .288 career hitter over 339 games so he gives you a nice bump in that category, as well. He should get around 400 at bats this season with solid numbers across the board for a shortstop.
Backup/ Prospect: Iglesias is a superb defender but not much of a fantasy player. The 22-year-old from Havana, Cuba, hasn’t shown any power or the ability to hit for a high average. He can steal some bases, but not enough to balance out the lack of production in other areas.
Chicago White Sox — Alexei Ramirez, Eduardo Escobar
Starter: You can write down a .275 batting average with 18 home runs, 70 RBI and 10 stolen bases at the beginning of each season for Ramirez and feel very confident about those numbers. He has averaged 154 games over the past three seasons, and at age 30, still has some of his best years ahead of him. He is a for-sure pick based on his consistent, solid numbers over his career.
Backup: Escobar is more of a defensive specialist who has some speed and won’t kill your average but should only be considered in very-deep leagues as he won’t get much playing time with Ramirez locked in at shortstop.
Cleveland Indians — Asdrubal Cabrera, Jason Donald
Starter: Cabrera had a monster breakout season in 2011, hitting .273 with 25 home runs, 92 RBI and 17 stolen bases. He only had 18 career home runs over 1,415 at bats coming into the season, so the power outburst came out of nowhere. Can he do it again? I say yes, as he just turned 26 years old, an age when most players start to come into their own. He swings the ball well from both sides of the plate, and at 6’-1”, 190 lbs, has the size to be a consistent power threat. He had at least three home runs and 11 RBI in every month, so there wasn’t anything fluky about it either. Expect the same, if not better in 2012. A for-sure pick in my eyes.
Backup: With enough playing time, Donald can get you 10 HR/10 SB with a good batting average. Without any guarantees, however, he should only be drafted in deep leagues, and watched more closely in standard leagues if an injury to Cabrera occurs.
Starter: Peralta flies under the radar at most fantasy drafts. He is durable, averaging 150 games over the last six seasons, and he is consistent at the plate. He hit .299 with 21 home runs, 86 RBI and an .824 OPS in 2011, arguably his best year yet. He is still just 29 years old, and with the addition of Prince Fielder to the lineup, could improve on his RBI totals this season. He isn’t going to steal any bases, but should be good for another 20 home runs and 85 RBI with a good batting average. Great value for where he will get drafted in most drafts.
Backup: Even with sufficient playing time, something he might not get, Worth won’t give you any fantasy production worthy of a spot in standard leagues. In deeper leagues, he could be a cheap source of steals, but that is about it. Over 159 major-league plate appearances, he has two home runs, 11 RBI, one stolen base and a .259 batting average.
Starter: Escobar is a defensive whiz but also has fantasy value. Over 158 games last season for the Royals, he hit .254 with four home runs, 46 RBI and 26 stolen bases. He doesn’t take a lot of walks, just 25 in 2011, but he is also difficult to strikeout, 73 whiffs over 598 plate appearances. His steals jumped from 10 to 26 over the last two seasons, and at age 25, he could go for 35+ this season as he continues to learn the art of base stealing. He was a .293 hitter over 647 minor-league games, and I expect him to hit closer to that this season. A sleeper pick based on a potential .290, 8 HR, 50 RBI and 35 SB season with about 85 runs.
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