Fantasy Baseball 2008: Shortstops

Kenny MendesCorrespondent IFebruary 21, 2008

Fantasy Baseball Radio Recap (Episode Five): Shortstops

Listen to the Original Episode

There seems to be a divide among fantasy baseball analysts when it comes to declaring the top shortstop in 2008.

I look at it this way—when someone asks me whom I like more, Hayden Panettiere or Rachel McAdams, I respond by saying, “That’s like asking me to pick between David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez!”

Based on last year’s performances, Alex Rodriguez is clearly better, but there’s nothing too shabby about David Ortiz, either. Perhaps I’d be better off substituting Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes instead of A-Rod and Big Papi in that debate, but that’s what the shortstop story comes down to this year—two very good players.

However, Hanley’s performance last year established one unheralded aspect of his repertoire—a limitless ceiling.

In his best year in the minors, he hit eight home runs through 422 at-bats, but in his first year with the Marlins, he shocked everyone by hitting 17.

There was a long line of skeptics saying that was a fluke and he likely wouldn’t reach that mark again. Yet last year, he mashed 29 home runs while stealing 51 bases for the second consecutive season and totaling 81 RBI from the leadoff spot.

So what’s Hanley going to do next year? 35 home runs? 40? If—make that when—he drops lower in the lineup, is he going to rake in even more RBI while still stealing bases?

This is what I mean by his limitless ceiling and why I argue that he has the clear-cut edge over Jose Reyes as the number one shortstop in 2008 fantasy drafts.

It comes as no surprise that he’s being drafted second overall in many expert drafts.

If you’ve got a chance to take Hanley in the first round and Alex Rodriguez is already taken, don’t think twice. No one really knows what Hanley will do next year, but we all say that he likely won’t disappoint.

Now what if Hanley and Reyes have both been taken?

Well, add Jimmy Rollins to the mix, as he swings it as well as those two and puts up stellar numbers in all categories.

Unfortunately, after those three, the wow-effect of shortstops disappears.

The second tier of elite shortstops includes Troy Tulowitzki and Derek Jeter, with Tulowitzki having much more upside between the two. Jeter’s power numbers have declined the last four years, and though he still is a solid fantasy contributor, his price likely exceeds his value in most drafts.

Expect big years from Carlos Guillen and Miguel Tejada in 2008.

Guillen has an All-Star lineup around him and should rake in triple digits in runs and home runs while posting 20-25 home runs and a solid batting average.

Tejada has a good chance of doing the same due his relocation to Houston, and though he is starting to show signs of decline, he’s a durable player who should play every day next year.

Year after year, Michael Young is consistently undervalued in fantasy drafts, and 2008 is no different.

He experienced a slight dip in power last year and some of his other numbers declined, but use this to your advantage. He will produce in 2008 and you can get him at a great price. Just don’t expect 20 home runs.

Stephen Drew is another undervalued shortstop that fell short of everybody’s expectations in 2007 but could post solid numbers this year and will not cost a high draft pick either.

Julio Lugo may also come with a low price tag in most drafts due to his extremely low batting average last year, but it should climb in 2008 and he puts up a good balance of all-around numbers hitting in Boston’s lineup. Think of him as a poor-man’s—a very, very poor man’s—Jose Reyes.

Interesting gambles this year include Edgar Renteria, who could post big numbers thanks to a great Detroit lineup, and Khalil Greene, who had a power surge in 2007 and should put up similar numbers this year.

If you find yourself up against a wall in this year’s draft and don’t have a shortstop late in the draft, consider the following players: Asdrubal Cabrera, Jason Bartlett, Brendan Harris and Ryan Theriot. All have low price tags and should post solid, though not great, numbers this year.

Players to stay clear of in the draft include Rafael Furcal, who battled a bum ankle 2008 and is not worth the risk this year, J.J. Hardy, who may never return to his first-half form, and David Eckstein, who gets a lot of love, never puts up great numbers, and is an injury risk in 2008. I’m not very high on Orlando Cabrera either, who posted unusually high numbers last year and is unlikely to repeat.


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