05/11/10 10:00 AM ET
Votebook: Plenty of sticks at shortstop
Productive hitters on ballot with incumbents Jeter, Ramirez
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
The American League and National League lineups featured the Yankees' Derek Jeter and the Marlins' Hanley Ramirez at shortstop each of the past two years.
As balloting continues to select the starting players for the July 13 Midsummer Classic at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, there are plenty of players at that position -- some of whom are putting up pleasantly surprising numbers -- who could give Ramirez and Jeter a good run in the fan voting in their respective leagues.
But talent and track record says it starts with those two. And, as expected, both are off to solid starts.
Ramirez finished the month of April by going 6-for-31 with one RBI in the final nine games. At that point, his batting average sat at .279 and questions were being raised about his early struggles at the plate, to which a bewildered Ramirez responded: "Don't worry about me. Just worry about the team. I'll be fine."
Ramirez knew better.
Heading into Tuesday's action, the back-to-back Silver Slugger Award winner sported a .298 batting average while leading the way at his position in homers (seven), RBIs (19) and on-base percentage (.386).
"When you get a talent like that, there's never a panic button," Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco said recently.
"He's going to go through some dry spells, and I'm sure he will through the rest of this year, but, I mean, he's proven that we don't need to worry about him, and he's going to get the job done. Obviously, he's just doing what he does best, and being Hanley."
And Jeter is just being Jeter.
The Yankee captain -- now ranked second in franchise history in games played after passing Lou Gehrig recently -- ranks third among AL shortstops in batting average (.286), homers (four), RBIs (22) and fielding percentage (.982).
In typical Jeter fashion, he's batting .438 in situations with two outs and a runner in scoring position for the defending World Series champions.
"He's the man," Yankees starter Andy Pettitte said. "If you need a big hit out of somebody, you want him up there. He loves it. You can see it in his eyes."
But everyone knows about Jeter and Ramirez.
Here's something that everyone may not be aware of: Alex Gonzalez has some power.
The Blue Jays' slick-fielding shortstop has equaled his average per season over the previous three years in just 33 games, as he currently sits tied for second in the AL with 10 homers -- at least six ahead of everybody else at his position.
Gonzalez also ranks second in the AL in doubles with 13 -- one behind his teammate, Vernon Wells -- and leads all shortstops in RBIs with 27.
"I just look at him and shake my head sometimes," Wells said recently. "It's been fun to watch. He's about as professional as professional can get. He's always working and always trying to get better."
A relative surprise in the NL has been the D-backs' Stephen Drew, who sports a .304 batting average and .375 on-base percentage after hitting just .261 in 135 games last year. Meanwhile, the Cubs' Ryan Theriot ranks seventh in the NL with a .331 batting average and is on the ballot at shortstop despite moving to second base after Starlin Castro's promotion last week.
And don't forget about Troy Tulowitzki.
The Rockies slugger is coming off a career year and has been one of the top shortstops in the NL since his first full season in 2007, but he's never made an All-Star team. Tulowitzki is batting .311 -- second among NL shortstops -- with a .381 on-base percentage, 14 RBIs and a .988 fielding percentage that's the best in the league at his position.
The 25-year-old -- a career .224 hitter in April -- is usually a slow starter, but he's reversed that trend so far. Still, though, he's not happy.
"I don't feel like I'm struggling," Tulowitzki said recently, "but I don't think I'm where everybody expects me to be."
Then there's Elvis Andrus.
The Venezuelan shortstop burst onto the scene last year and wowed all who watched with his stellar defense. This season, he's also doing it with the bat, as he's currently leading AL shortstops in batting average (.298), on-base percentage (.416) and stolen bases (13).
"He's a great ballplayer," Rangers manager Ron Washington said after Andrus hit a walk-off single against the Tigers on April 23. "This kid can play and much does not faze him."
Keep your eyes on the NL disabled list, too.
The Phillies' Jimmy Rollins, a three-time All-Star, is nursing a strained right calf that is expected to keep him on the shelf until about mid-May.
The Braves' Yunel Escobar, who's hit .301 with a .375 on-base percentage over the past three years, is out until late May with a left adductor strain. The Giants' Edgar Renteria, who started the year batting .316 with 10 RBIs in his first 20 games, will be out until late May with a strained right groin. And late May could also be the return date for the Dodgers' Rafael Furcal, who's nursing a tight left hamstring after batting .309 in his first 19 games.
In the struggling department, there's the Rays' Jason Bartlett, who's off to a .246 start after sporting a .320 batting average last season.
And then there's Jose Reyes.
The two-time All-Star is coming off October right-leg surgery and is batting just .237 with no homers in 37 games. But the Mets shortstop has three multi-hit games in his past six contests, and manager Jerry Manuel believes he's on the verge of breaking out.
"He's really starting to take off now," Manuel said. "I think he's found his groove, found his rhythm. I think he's really starting to relish that third spot."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.