Fantasy Baseball Focus: National League shortstops

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!

Jose Reyes ignited the Mets lineup for years and won the batting crown last year. After a haircut, what else will he do for the Marlins? (AP)

Shortstop is one of the strongest positions in the National League this year. Unlike the first basemen, the top-notch players stayed in the NL. Jose Reyes went across the division to the Marlins and J-Roll re-upped with the Phillies. Most others just moved teams, but for the most part, NL-only leagues won’t have to do much research on new players.

So, without further ado …

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 shortstops

  1. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies — 2011 stats: .302/.372/.544 – 30 HR – 105 RBI – 36 doubles
  2. Starlin Castro, Cubs — 2011 stats: .307/.341/.432 – 10 HR – 22 SB – 36 doubles
  3. Stephen Drew, Diamondbacks — 2011 stats: .252/.317/.396 – 21 doubles – injury shortened year
  4. Jose Reyes, Marlins — 2011 stats: .337/.384/.493 – 16 triples – 31 doubles – 39 SB
  5. Jimmy Rollins, Phillies — 2011 stats: .268/.338/.339 – 16 HR – 30 SB – 63 RBI

Atlanta Braves Tyler Pastornicky, Jack Wilson

Starter: Pastornicky will likely head into spring training as the starter with a job to lose … as most rookies have to win the job. He’s being handed the job (unless he flakes out badly in spring training, but even then, he will probably start) and the Braves seem very confident in him. Why not, though? The Braves have had excellent success with rookies in recent years. Pastornicky is ranked as their #7 prospect in a loaded organization, and some scouts think he can hit 15-plus homers with a decent average (.260-.280) in his first year, while also stealing 30 bases. If he can even come close to those stats, he’s a steal and likely to be drafted in the lower rounds. His plus side? Doesn’t strike out often. He’s a sleeper, for sure.

Backup: Jack is back! Wilson signed back with the Braves. He’ll get a decent amount of playing time, filling in for Chipper and Pastornicky. He’s there to mentor Pastornicky. Not much of a fantasy option at this point.

Miami Marlins — Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez

Starter: Reyes comes into town as the defending batting champion, and he also led the league in triples last year despite playing in less than 130 games. He signed a mega contract with the Marlins in the off-season, and it’s a lot for a guy who hasn’t played 150 games in a season since 2008. That makes him a gamble for your team, as well. He’s riding on a high but don’t expect last year’s numbers for this year. He doesn’t strikeout much, which is a plus, but he’s going to be playing in an unknown ballpark, so there’s no way to tell how it will impact his stats. Either more home runs or he’ll lead the league in triples again. Either way, he’ll be overrated in most leagues and drafted early, and fantasy owners will be lucky to get 150 games out of him.

Option: Wouldn’t it piss people off if I put backup after Hanley? Ha, but seriously, he’s going to have eligibility at the shortstop position even though he’ll be playing third, but we’ll touch on him at the third base option later this week.

New York Mets — Ruben Tejada, Ronny Cedeno

Platoon: Um …

Philidelphia Phillies — Jimmy Rollins

Starter: Rollins has declined in the past couple years, but he is only 32. After playing one full year after his season was cut short in 2010, Rollins should have a bounce-back season this year. Nonetheless, expect at least last years stats, if not more. He’s a solid pick but likely will get drafted in a high slot. He hit .268/.338/.339 last year.

Washington Nationals Ian Desmond

Starter: Desmond will figure to cover shortstop again and looks to lead off for the Nationals. Ian slipped in a few categories for his sophomore year, and judging by a bloom in the strikeout category, he either wasn’t as patient or he was too aggressive. Desmond stole a career-high 25 bases, and one would expect that to rise if he could just increase his on-base percentage. He hovers around an atrocious .300 OBP. For the year, he hit .253/.298/.358.

Chicago Cubs — Starlin Castro

Starter: Castro just seems to be getting better and better. It’s hard to believe that he is only 21. In the minors he had little to zero power and last year he connected on 10 long balls. He notched 200 plus hits last year, nine triples, 20 plus stolen bases, all while striking out less than 100 times. Pretty serious stuff for the youngster. Castro is a five-tool player. He’s the real deal. Long-term value written all over him.

Zack Cosart can be found at the bottom of drafts but could finish in the top-five shortstops. (Bo Hussey)

Cincinnati Reds Zack Cozart, Wilson Valdez

Starter: Cozart figures to get a shot to start the season. I’m a big fan on Cozart and picked him up for some shortstop help last year after injuries derailed my team in a keeper league. Unfortunately, after 11 great games, he went down with an injury that caused him to have Tommy John surgery. It wouldn’t be a stretch to see him hit 20-plus home runs, 30 doubles and steal 30 bases. Majority of fantasy owners probably don’t know who he is (unless they read this), so draft him with confidence and you’ll find him at the bottom of the draft. Sleeper.

Backup: The Reds traded for Valdez as insurance in case Cozart doesn’t come back the player he was primed to be.

Pittsburgh Pirates Clint Barmes

Starter: Barmes is an interesting option. He has some power, gets on base and doesn’t strike out much. He’s a veteran and he drafts late in the rounds. He won’t play anymore than 150 games, though.

St. Louis Cardinals — Rafael Furcal

Starter: The Cardinals re-signed Furcal in the off-season for another two years. He hasn’t played more than 100 games in the past two years. When he’s healthy, he can be a valuable player. Unfortunately, combined with his declining average and injury history, he makes for a very risky draft pick.

Milwaukee Brewers Alex Gonzalez

Starter: Gonzalez offers little to fantasy baseball teams. He hits below .250 on the season and, most likely, strikes out at a higher rate compared to most shortstops in this league. In some years, he’s hit 20 home runs, but it’s basically a gamble at this point. You’ll find him drafted around Furcal.

Houston Astros Angel Sanchez, Jed Lowrie

Platoon: It’s a platoon situation. They are fantasy nightmares. Neither hold much upside at this point.

Arizona Diamondbacks — Stephen Drew

Starter: Those who drafted Drew high last year probably finished at the bottom of their leagues for two reasons. One, you were drunk and drafted him high and two, he had a horrible year. Ah, that’s not fair; injuries played an important part of the declining stats, so let’s just say he struggled. He’s still young and, when healthy, is a top-five shortstop. Look for him to rebound back to normal and around his career line of .270/.330/.442.

Colorado Rockies — Troy Tulowitzki

Starter: Tulowitzki is the number-one shortstop in the NL. If you’re reading this hoping to know who he is for fantasy baseball, you should probably stick to your Olympic swimming fantasy league. He’s this year’s for-sure pick.

Los Angeles Dodgers Dee Gordon

Starter: Gordon got a sample last year and fantasy owners shared that sample. He played in 50 plus games, no power, and struck out 25-plus times. Yeah … that’s enough information.

San Diego Padres — Jason Bartlett

Starter: Bartlett was only good for steals last year and if you are trying to lock that category down, you should read this.

San Francisco Giants — Brandon Crawford

Starter: Stay clear … and you can even pick him up after the draft if you forget to draft a shortstop.

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