Dominate Your 2011 Fantasy Baseball Draft with These Sleeper Shortstops

John ZaktanskyCorrespondent IMarch 5, 2011

While not a true "sleeper," Alexei Ramirez is a great example of a none-name-brand player that will quietly produce just as good (if not better) stats as numerous players taken before him.
While not a true "sleeper," Alexei Ramirez is a great example of a none-name-brand player that will quietly produce just as good (if not better) stats as numerous players taken before him.Norm Hall/Getty Images

In one box is 12.3 ounces of a healthy breakfast cereal. We’ll call this cereal A. In the second is 12.5 ounces of cereal B. At first glance, which would you pay more for?

Faster than you can say Honey Nut Ichiros, it becomes obvious. You get more of cereal B. Except that the first exhibit is Honey Nut Cheerios. The second? A generic brand of the same thing.

The real kicker is that box A costs nearly a dollar more than the second cereal.

We’re a society that pays more for name brands, even though the generic version is just as good and much cheaper. Don’t be fooled into the same pattern on draft day.

And to help, here are my value shortstops for 2011:

Alexei Ramirez, CWS. The perfect example of Cheerios production at a generic price, Ramirez lacks the brand name of a Reyes, Jeter or Rollins, but could produce very similar (and perhaps even better) numbers at a much lower price.

He hits with a more than adequate average (.283 over three seasons), hits upwards of 20 homers, 15 stolen bases and netted 83 runs scored and 70 RBI last year.

This season, the White Sox have an even better lineup around him with the addition of Adam Dunn. Ramirez will help a lot of owners do very well this season out of a very shallow position.

Starlin Castro, CHC. You’ll find Castro cheap on draft day, something surprising at a position as shallow as shortstop this season. Much of the concern with the 20-year-old phenom revolves around the inevitable growing pains he’ll face in what should be his first full season with the Cubs.

But it is hard not to like the partial season sample size he offered us last year. In 463 at-bats, he hit .300 with double-digit steals. While his power numbers weren’t overly impressive, Castro has shown the ability to hit the long ball earlier in his career, and the power swing should develop as he matures as a major league hitter. In fact, he went deep earlier this week in spring training, adding an RBI double, as well. He should easily hit double digit homers with continued double-digit speed to boot.

The Cubs have said they’ll bat him second in their lineup, and, again, considering how shallow the shortstop position is this year, Castro could be a saving grace for you on draft day. Just be cautious if your league penalizes for errors.

Ian Desmond, WAS. Another young player who quietly had an impressive 2010 season, Desmond was mentioned in numerous trades this offseason as other teams acknowledged that the shortstop has talent.

In 525 at-bats during the 2010 campaign, Desmond hit 10 homers, stole 17 bases and hit .269. None of these numbers will make you jump out of your seat, but taken in context and factoring in his age and growing curve, Desmond should be on track for an even nicer 2011, something that will automatically give him value in leagues where he is nearly forgotten on draft day. He did hit .326 with four homers, nine stolen bases and 19 RBIs from the month of August on, and if he can carry over some of that momentum into 2011, watch out.

Beware the errors, though. He committed the most of anyone in the National League last year.

Asdrubal Cabrera, CLE. Injuries derailed Cabrera each time he started to hit a groove the past year, and one would be silly not to expect a turnaround if Cabrera can string together enough playing time in 2011.

Cabrera is the kind of player who won’t do anything to necessarily lose you games, but he also won’t provide so many stats to elevate you to the next level. He can hit near .300 when healthy, steal upwards of 20 bases and sprinkle in a few homers to boot.

I would take him after the other two on this list so far based on their upside versus his.

Alcides Escobar, KC. One of the more disappointing prospects to swing a bat last year, Escobar struggled in major league action to the tune of a .235 batting average and just 10 steals and four home runs over 506 at-bats.

Escobar switched leagues since last year’s growing pains, winding up on a Royals squad that should value his speed a little more than the Brewers did last year. Escobar stole 176 bases in the minors and had been a highly touted prospect for quite some time.

Considering his skill set, I’m willing to write off last year as a fluke and expect better things from him moving forward. Just don’t pay more than a late, late-round price.

For more on each shortstop and my overall rankings at the position with analysis, go here.

Be sure to check out my recent rankings (C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP), our position-by-position sleepers and value players (C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP) and our ADP rankings discussion (Top 10 | 20 || C1B | 2B | 3B).

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