Well we’ve ran the bases for you, and now it’s time to delve into the remaining gigs on the field, and our first stop is the SS. Keep in mind that nearly everyone of these players are also qualified at 3B in various leagues; making all of them very sexy choices—multiple position players are always a good thing to have.
Mike Sholty: (Inventor of Wacky Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man)
Breakout: Elvis Andrus: I’m really high on Elvis Andrus this year. I have a feeling the kid could hit 10 HR and steal 40 bases. They moved Michael Young from shortstop to third base just so Andrus could play last year and he didn’t disappoint. He does need to raise his average but since he’s had a year to get used to the majors, I expect his sophomore campaign to be more along the lines of .280 avg, 10 HR 90 R 60 RBI 40 SB; great production for someone going in the 10th-13th round.
Bust: Derek Jeter: Call me crazy, but I predict a down year for Derek Jeter. Two years ago he had a pretty bad year for his standards and people were low on him during last year’s draft. 2009 was a Renaissance year for him, but not because of Yankee Stadium. He was leading off again and that did wonders for his psyche. This year he will still probably lead off, but I don’t see him getting 30 SB. I see a final stat line along the line of: .305 avg, 12 HR, 90 R 68 RBI, and 19 SB. Great numbers for a SS, but bad numbers for your 4th round pick.
Sleeper: JJ Hardy and Stephen Drew both have the potential to be top 10 fantasy shortstops. You can get either one for a great price, and you can take it to the bank that one of them will be good for your fantasy team. If you miss out on an elite shortstop just draft both of these guys and see which one produces for you.
I really like Jose Reyes going into this year too. I feel like even in the 2nd or 3rd round, he’s a great value. His injuries raise a big concern, but I like how he has responded this spring so far. The fact that the Mets are talking about batting him third gives me the idea that he will be like the Diet Coke version of Hanley.
Hanley used to lead off and they moved him to the third spot in the lineup for the Marlins; look what that did for him. I can see Reyes getting maybe 20 HR and 25 SB with a .300 avg and 100+ RBI. Keep an eye on him during the spring and if the Mets commit to having him bat third, do not let him pass you by in the draft.
Breakout: Alcides Escobar: Escobar will probably never hit double digit homeruns, but he is likely to be a .300 hitter as soon as this year, and he will steal a ton of bases. If Everth Cabrera got you excited last season, Escobar may be too much for you to handle, because he is significantly better.
Bust: Jason Bartlett: Bartlett hit 14 homeruns last season. He had 11 in his previous 5 seasons. Bartlett won’t be terrible, but let someone else pay for double digit homeruns and a .300 plus average.
Sleeper: Orlando Cabrera: Cabrera has always been a scrappy guy and is on the downside of his career, but I really like him in Cincy. It’s a great hitter’s ballpark; he has no one to compete with for at bats, and should bat at the top of a pretty good line-up. Double digit homeruns and steals are pretty good from a SS.
Rustyn Rose: (He actually DID put baby in a corner!)
Breakout: Alexei Ramirez, CHW – Ramirez entered last season as the big SS prospect after his 2008 season, but let his owners down. I expect him to spring back this season, and his price tag will be lower. I also think Yunel Escobar, ATL, who had a decent season last year, could have a career year in 2010.
Bust: Rafael Furcal, LAD and Miguel Tejada, BAL – Furcal is as fragile as they come, he’s over 30, and you mostly count on him for speed. Let someone else take the risk. Tejada is 35, and a nice comeback story last year, but I’m thinking there won’t be a happy ending this time around.
Sleeper: Alcides Escobar, MIL – J.J. Hardy is gone, and it’s time for this kid to step in. He won’t likely dazzle anyone, but I can see him putting up 30+ SBs and a near .300 average. No power yet, but SS’s not usually where we get our power anyway. He’s a late grab who could be a nice utility middle infielder or a serviceable SS, if the big names are all gone.
Tab Bamford: (They say he tipped a cow once…once!)
Breakout: JJ Hardy: Hardy is out of Milwaukee, and can move past the angst that followed his one good season. Hitting in a new park with studs all over the Twins lineup, he could bounce back to his All-Star form and have a good season.
Bust: Asdrubal Cabrera: The Indians keep hitting the reset button on their roster, and every new next-best-thing never seems to get a great shot. There are too many holes in the Indians’ roster, and too many diapers in the clubhouse, for Asdrubal Cabrera to have a consistent season.
Sleeper: Orlando Cabrera: Cincinnati dumped all the excess baggage in Willy Taveras and scooped up some fresh potential in Orlando Cabrera. Cincy is a very hitter friendly park which should add a bit of life into the 35 year old making him a delicious sleeper candidate.
*Honorable Mention for Sleeper AND Bust: Jose Reyes, NYM. If he steals 40 bases, he’s a great pick. But the danger of someone with that much talent/hype is that he doesn’t perform or can’t stay healthy, but somehow gets picked way too early. Tread lightly and draft conservatively, but his ceiling remains high.
Ray Tannock: (Prefers Luvs over Huggies, but likes Kiss the best)
Breakout: Eric Aybar: There is absolutely no question about it, Aybar is set to have his best year yet making him a perfect fit for a breakout season. For the past couple of years, Aybar and Macier Izturis have always bunked together at SS (as well as a 3B qualifier), but he has still been able to produce. Now, he has graduated to the lead-off spot and…well, you can just imagine what that will do for him.
Bust: Jack Wilson: Jack Wilson has been reported as using Yoga to try and regain some of his younger form, but all the Yoga in the world is not going to help him rise back into fantasy dominance. He is injury prone and has been on a serious decline since 2007, don’t expect that to change.
Sleeper: Steven Drew: Drew spent most of last year dreaming of what could have been, while nursing a nagging hamstring issue that just wouldn’t go away, and while most will scoff at the 27 year old that he has never been a true SS option, one has to believe this is the year Drew could open some eyes
Projected Line: .296 AVG, 25 HR, 80 RBI, 98 R, 49 DBLs, 15 Trips, 8 to 10 SB
Final thought: Fantasyknucklehead’s Mike Sholty made mention about Elvis Andrus, and I gotta tell ya Andrus is one of the most intriguing players coming into the 2010 fantasy baseball season. In addition to that, he has a very formidable lineup around him and plays in a very hitter friendly park. Most people are saying his value will take a hit since he is batting so far down in the lineup, but that just isn’t going to fly with me. Sholty is right, Andrus should get heavy consideration from you, and don’t be surprised if he breaks all projected lines this year.