03/23/10 8:00 AM ET
Fantasy draft tiers: Shortstops
Hanley stands out as lone surefire superstar of group
By Matt Chaprales / MLB.com
With Jose Reyes looking to bounce back from injury, Jimmy Rollins coming off a disappointing year and Derek Jeter getting up there in age, there aren't many locks for superstar numbers in this group.
If anything, that only adds to the value of Hanley Ramirez, who will be the No. 1 overall pick in many drafts.
That's not to say it's Hanley or bust. There are more than a handful of rock-solid options to employ up the middle. See for yourself.
Tier 1: Hanley Ramirez
Ramirez is the most dynamic presence in the game, and given that he's just 26, it's possible we haven't seen the best of what he can do. He may not be worthy of the No. 1 overall pick ahead of Albert Pujols, but there's no doubt that building a team around Han-Ram is a surefire strategy for success.
Reyes and Tulowitzki seem to be meeting each other on opposite ends of their respective career arcs. Tulo's stock continues to rise while Jose is trying to recover from an injury-riddled 2009 and spring thyroid scare that should keep him sidelined through Opening Day. Owners who believe '10 will mark the renaissance of Reyes will be rewarded in spades if he can regain his form of yore.
Fresh off a showdown in the Fall Classic, the two elder statesmen of the shortstop crop may both be carrying unrealistic -- albeit polar opposite -- expectations into 2010. Rollins' value has dropped, though it's tough to see him toting a .205 average into July for the second straight season. For Jeter, it's equally unlikely the Yankee captain will submit a repeat of his '09 season, which was arguably his best of the decade. Regardless, these two remain among the prime-time performers up the middle.
Rays of youth define Tier 4. Actually, Rays and youth. Zobrist and Bartlett both enjoyed career years with Tampa Bay in 2009, while Andrus, at just 21, barely missed a beat upon arriving in the big leagues. Of the group, Zobrist is still the most appealing option because he has power and plays everywhere, giving owners who employ him the luxury of plugging him in wherever they see fit.
Escobar is the sleeper of this bunch due to the steady improvements he's made. Given the lack of depth at shortstop and the fact that the guys from Tiers 1-4 likely will be off the board by the 10th round, owners will probably want to secure one of these players before focusing on pitching depth.
Some owners prefer to use the middle rounds to put together a deep stable of arms, which means delaying the drafting of middle infielders. Those who adhere to that philosophy will probably be looking at one of these shortstops. Consistency issues have plagued the members of this tier, though Ramirez and Peralta offer some bounceback potential.
These shortstops will be primarily utilized as utility infielders in standard mixed leagues. Everth Cabrera looks to be the biggest sleeper, while Hardy could be in store for a resurgence with the chance for a fresh start in Minnesota. Drew's stock took a significant hit in 2009, so he should be available on the cheap.
Matt Chaprales is a fantasy writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.