2/5/2014 10:00 A.M. ET
Hanley, Tulo headline top fantasy shortstops
By Adam Berry / MLB.com
The top-of-the-line talent will certainly draw your attention, with four bona fide stars in Hanley Ramirez, Troy Tulowitzki, Ian Desmond and Jose Reyes. Go ahead and make it five if Jean Segura can put together a full season like his first half in 2013.
But there's a fair amount of depth at one of baseball's most demanding defensive positions. Down the list, you'll find players like Baltimore's J.J. Hardy, a 2013 Silver Slugger and Gold Glove Award winner, free agent Stephen Drew and Yankees captain Derek Jeter, whose last healthy season ended with a .316 average, 216 hits and 15 homers.
Here's a look at the most intriguing options atop the shortstop rankings.
TIER 1: Ramirez, Tulowitzki
These two are more or less the definition of high-risk/high-reward. If they stay healthy and play up to their potential, they're the best in the Majors at what they do. If not, you're looking at a less valuable asset still capable of producing some strong numbers. Ramirez played only 86 games in 2013, but he hit an outstanding .345/.402/.638, with 20 homers in 336 plate appearances. He had a career-high .363 average on balls in play last year, though, and from 2011-12, he posted a less impressive .252/.326/.416 batting line.
Tulowitzki, meanwhile, hit .312/.391/.540 with 25 homers and 82 RBIs in 2013. But he hasn't played in 150 games since 2009, and he was limited to only 203 plate appearances in '12. Last year, however, Tulowitzki showed off why he's so valuable when healthy, making the National League All-Star team and receiving NL MVP Award votes at the end of the year. Unlike Ramirez, Tulowitzki is consistent when healthy; four of the last five seasons, he's posted an OPS between .916 and .949.
TIER 2: Desmond, Reyes
Reyes comes along with a similar warning as the shortstops in Tier 1: He's great when healthy, but he's a serious injury candidate. Reyes missed more than two months last season with an ankle injury, the fourth year out of the last five he's hit the disabled list and put together an incomplete season. Still, in 93 games, he hit .296/.353/.427, with 10 homers and 15 stolen bases -- solid numbers, even if the latter is a far cry from his 40 steals in '13.
Desmond, on the other hand, is a more consistent option. He's played in 154 games or more in three of the past four seasons, having also played 130 in 2012, and he's been a solid 20-homer, 20-steal option each of the past two years. Desmond has hit .286/.333/.480 over the past two seasons, with 25 homers and 21 steals in 2012 followed by 20 homers and 21 steals in '13. If you're looking for a solid 20-20 bet at shortstop in the early rounds, Desmond might be your man.
TIER 3: Segura, Elvis Andrus, Everth Cabrera
These three should be solid mid-round options in a 12-team mixed-league draft. As noted early, Segura had a monster first half last season, hitting .325/.363/.487 with 11 homers before coming back to earth down the stretch. Still, he finished the year with a .294/.329/.423 batting line, 12 homers, 49 RBIs and 44 steals.
Andrus has proven to be highly durable over the past five years, and he doubled his stolen-base total in 2013 with 42. He'll hit for a solid average and should get on base at a decent clip, but his slugging percentage fell to just .331 last season, resulting in only four homers in 156 games and a pedestrian .659 OPS. Regardless, Andrus is going to be a regular presence in the Rangers' lineup, and he's a career .274 hitter.
You're looking for stolen bases and runs scored out of Cabrera, and he's proven capable of putting up both in limited time. He's only played 210 games since 2012, as he received a 50-game ban in 2013 for his link to the Biogenesis scandal, but he's also stolen 81 bases during that stretch -- third in the Majors behind Rajai Davis and Mike Trout.
TIER 4: Brad Miller, Starlin Castro, Alcides Escobar, Alexei Ramirez, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jimmy Rollins
These shortstops are all viable late-round options who offer a little bit of everything. Miller flashed a strong combination of power, speed and defensive versatility in his rookie campaign, and he should be batting alongside an upgraded Mariners lineup in 2014. Castro wildly underperformed in 2013 considering the expectations placed upon him, but he has plenty of talent and a fairly impressive track record.
Escobar's numbers also took a dive last year, but he's still a legitimate stolen-base threat who should post an average well above his .234 mark in 2013. Ramirez has seen his power numbers sag each of the past three seasons, but he somewhat offset a career-low 48 RBIs in 2013 with a career-high 30 steals.
Cabrera struggled badly against left-handers and once again saw his numbers decline last season. He's still capable of putting together double-digit homers and steals, and he's not that far off an outstanding 2011 season that included a .273/.332/.460 line, 25 homers, 92 RBIs and 17 steals. Rollins, meanwhile, finished 2013 with career lows in homers (six), slugging percentage (.348) and OPS (.667). He remained healthy enough to tally 600 at-bats, but he only scored 65 runs, the second-lowest total of his career. The good news is Rollins still managed 22 steals and a .252 average.