02/10/11 12:00 PM EST
Fantasy draft tiers: Shortstop
Few reliable options at fantasy's shallowest position
By Matt Chaprales / MLB.com
As Derek Jeter, Jimmy Rollins and other stud shortstops reach their career twilights, fantasy depth at the position has thinned considerably.
Case in point: From 2005-07, big league shortstops produced a total of 16 100-plus run seasons and eight 40-plus steal seasons. From 2008-10, those numbers dipped to nine and two, respectively.
Even more telling is the fact that no shortstop has swiped more than 33 bases since 2008 -- Jose Reyes' last fully healthy campaign.
With that in mind, owners should make sure to lock up a shortstop early on draft day or risk a marked disadvantage up the middle.
Due to scarcity at the position, owners fortunate enough to draw a Top 3 pick should give some serious thought to grabbing one of these superstars and immediately shoring up a potential roster hole. Despite a slightly subpar 2010 by his supreme standards, Ramirez has a case for being the top overall pick in any draft. Tulowitzki isn't quite on Hanley's level just yet, but he's one of the game's truly elite talents and has shown a propensity for furious finishes.
Tier 2: Jose Reyes
The wild card at the shortstop spot, Reyes gets a tier to himself because A) his injury problems over the last two seasons preclude him from Tier 1 status, and B) when healthy in 2010, he was close to the electric player owners knew and loved from 2005-08. If Reyes is able to stay on the field, nabbing him in the second round will qualify as grand theft fantasy.
Owners should circle this tier on their cheat sheets, as the shortstop pickings become a good deal slimmer after the above quartet is off the board. Andrus, one of the most exciting young players in the game, may be worth slightly overpaying for because of his 50-steal upside. Owners looking for one more great campaign out of a fading star should gamble on Jeter or Rollins, while Ramirez presents the safest choice and a nice power/speed combo.
It's not often that a fourth tier includes so many players with question marks. But along with higher risk comes the chance for higher reward. Furcal is getting up there in age and has played only one full season in the last three. Desmond is sure to be a trendy sleeper this spring, but his defensive struggles could result in reduced playing time. Castro was phenomenal as a rookie but offers very little power and only moderate speed. Aviles and Cabrera have both been well acquainted with the DL in recent past, while Peralta has underwhelmed since a promising first few seasons.
The going gets tough for owners who fail to secure a shortstop before the beginning of the double-digit rounds. None of these players stand out as legitimate everyday performers in standard mixed leagues. Theriot is probably the best option because he's swiped at least 20 bases in each of the last four seasons, and speed is a crucial asset up the middle. Infante hits for average and is one of the most versatile players in the game. Hardy's power could make him an asset in Baltimore, but he may struggle to hit .260.
Since most owners have acquired a starting shortstop at this juncture, refocusing on individual team needs becomes the name of the game. Owners who perceive a speed shortcoming on their roster should waste no time scooping up Bartlett or Aybar. Lowrie, Betancourt and Gonzalez sport solid power strokes.
Because nobody on this list will find themselves in an everyday role in standard mixed leagues, those with the most versatility are the most appealing. Lopez can move all around the infield and is just one year removed from a rock-solid '09. Hairston also provides multi-position eligibility and some pop.
Matt Chaprales is a fantasy writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.