Every season there are a couple positions in fantasy baseball where the lack of depth is apparent. It forces owners to decide between using an early pick to secure a top option or wait and hope to hit on a sleeper later in the draft.
In 2013, shortstop is atop that list of weak positions. Owners who aren't able to grab one of the handful of solid options will be forced to take a chance on an aging veteran like Derek Jeter or an unproven commodity such as Andrelton Simmons.
It's a chance some owners may be willing to take in order to build a strong roster in other areas, but it would definitely be a risk. With that in mind, let's examine the top three options at the position about one month from Opening Day.
1. Troy Tulowitzki
At this time last year, Tulowitzki was considered a surefire first-round pick and even received some consideration for the top overall spot because of his monster numbers at a weak position. Now, he can often be taken in Round 2.
The slide is due to a groin injury that forced him to miss the final four months of last season. A long-term injury is always going to worry owners, but he's reported no setbacks during the early portion of spring training and should be ready to roll on Opening Day.
Tulowitzki averaged nearly 140 games played and 30 home runs during the previous three seasons. He also chipped in solid numbers in the other key categories, including stolen bases. When healthy, no other shortstop can match him and owners should draft with that confidence.
2. Jose Reyes
Reyes spent one season with the Miami Marlins and now joins a revamped Toronto Blue Jays lineup that should help the team make some noise in the AL East. The dynamic shortstop, who ranked first at the position in fantasy last year, is a major reason why.
What makes that ranking even more impressive is the fact it was an average, mundane campaign for Reyes. He was close to his career mark in every category, and still took the top spot among shortstops. So it leaves plenty of room for an even better 2013.
Reyes is always going to help a fantasy team in two categories: stolen bases and runs. He's also going to post a solid average and won't be a total drain in the power areas. It's that type of across-the-board production and consistency that makes him a terrific option.
3. Hanley Ramirez
Based on his peak numbers from early in his career, Ramirez is coming off a down season. Luckily for fantasy owners, that still amounted to 24 home runs and 21 stolen bases. If that's the worst possible outcome (barring injury), the Los Angeles Dodgers star is a great fantasy asset.
It all comes down to expectations. People remember when Ramirez was hitting 30 homers and swiping 50 bases for the Marlins, and are still wanting that type of production from him. While it's possible, it certainly isn't likely.
Fantasy owners who can accept Ramirez for what he is right now, somebody who can go for 25 homers and 25 steals if he stays healthy, will benefit from taking him early. He will also give them a nice advantage at shortstop in most weeks.