Ramirez still tops ratings at short
Fantasy owners who have been monitoring Spring Training reports from Los Angeles have no doubt heard about Hanley Ramirez's rediscovered happiness now that he is back at his natural position, shortstop. Supposedly, Ramirez struggled during the first half of 2012, playing third base for Miami, before a trade sent him to the Dodgers. The story goes that, following the trade, Ramirez regained his ability and is invigorated, due for an impressive campaign in Chavez Ravine.
The one problem with this narrative is that Ramirez's numbers in Los Angeles were not demonstrably superior to his production in Miami. He did hit 25 points higher with the Dodgers than with the Marlins, but his on-base percentage was just two points better, and he slugged a modest 22 points higher on the West Coast.
Ramirez hit home runs at almost the exact same rate for both teams and stole bases less frequently in L.A. He also scored runs more often in Miami. Those who are expecting Ramirez to do much better than last year are probably going to be mistaken; fortunately, for the fantasy owners who draft him, Ramirez does not need to increase his output to be atop the shortstop rankings.
Combined in his two locations last season, Ramirez hit 24 home runs with 92 RBIs, 79 runs scored and 21 stolen bases. His batting average is troubling, however. He entered 2011 with a .313 career clip, yet he has hit a paltry .252 over the last two years. That is the one category that owners hope he is able to improve upon with the Dodgers.
Troy Tulowitzki has had a nice stat line for most of his career despite continually battling injuries. For his career, he averages a meager 120 games per season. In those 120 games, he hits 21 home runs, drives in 75 runs and scores 75 more. If he stays on the field for 160 games, he will have no trouble hitting 30 homers with 100 RBIs.
The best thing for owners who draft Tulowitzki to do is to snag Josh Rutledge, who filled in well for Tulo in 2012. Rutledge will be playing second base this year in Colorado, although he is likely to start the season with fantasy eligibility solely at shortstop. He may hang around until the latter rounds and is a good insurance policy for the fragile Tulowitzki.
Jose Reyes has a reputation for not being healthy or trying hard, but he had a quietly great season in 2012. His 40 steals, 63 walks, 57 RBIs and 60 extra-base hits were all his highest since 2008. With Toronto, he'll be at the top of a potent lineup and should score plenty of runs.
Ian Desmond and Jimmy Rollins were the lone primary shortstops to gain entrance into the 20/20 club in 2012. Desmond is seven years younger than Rollins and hit .292 to Rollins' .250 last season. Desmond does not have the cachet of other star shortstops, so owners might be able to grab him as late as the fifth or sixth round. With the exception of some erosion to his batting average, Rollins has been steadily consistent recently, his injury-plagued 2010 notwithstanding.
Whereas Desmond and Rollins are slightly underrated, Elvis Andrus and Starlin Castro suffer from the opposite affliction. Even though Castro had the most RBIs of anyone who played over half his games at shortstop in 2012, he does not do anything else outstandingly. He succeeded in merely 66 percent of his steal attempts last season, and his 14 homers ranked eighth among shortstops. His .283 average was not stellar and his .336 career on-base percentage keeps his steals and runs lower than they could be. Turning only 23 this month and not at peak, Castro is still one of the players who will be chosen too early in nearly every fantasy draft.
Andrus, meanwhile, is not all that reliable in any one category. He stole 21 bases last season, and he has no power. His .286 average in 2012 was fair, but Erick Aybar and Alcides Escobar are lower-rated shortstops who will provide owners with similar numbers to Andrus. Aybar hit .290 with 20 steals last year, and Escobar rapped .293 with 35 swipes.
My fantasy shortstop rankings for 2013:
1. Hanley Ramirez, Dodgers; 2. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies; 3. Jose Reyes, Blue Jays; 4. Ian Desmond, Nationals; 5. Jimmy Rollins, Phillies; 6. Starlin Castro, Cubs; 7. Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians; 8. Elvis Andrus, Rangers; 9. Erick Aybar, Angels; 10. J.J. Hardy, Orioles.
11. Derek Jeter, Yankees; 12. Alexei Ramirez, White Sox; 13. Alcides Escobar, Royals; 14. Zack Cozart, Reds; 15. Jhonny Peralta, Tigers; 16. Jean Segura, Brewers; 17. Tyler Greene, Astros; 18. Stephen Drew, Red Sox; 19. Rafael Furcal, Cardinals; 20. Yunel Escobar, Rays.