Shortstop. Ah yes, good 'ole Shortstop. Has to be one of the least fun positions in all of fantasy baseball. Year-in and year-out, the only thing you can count on out of your SS, with few exceptions, is consistent across-the-board yawn-inducing stats. After you get past the first nine or ten, the options always start to look plain putrid. However in 2013, there is something unique about SS. It has, finally, passed the “most putrid position” torch to... 2B. Not that this says anything about the quality of shortstops available for drafting (they are still pretty “meh”)-- it really just means that between injuries and guys falling off the planet, second base has sunk to lows previously unseen by any position but catchers!
But I digress. Before we get into the tiers, let’s talk a bit about SS strategy. It’s a tricky position to draft: a productive SS can be fantasy gold if you don’t need to pay much on draft day, but a bottom-of-the-barrel SS is almost worse than having no one there at all! I’m exaggerating a little, but you get the picture.
Consider the end-of-season ranks of the top 14 SSs last year: 45, 60, 52, 59, 67, 85, 102, 124, 131, 188, 212, 216, 241, 357. After the first handful, that’s a very steep slope, at the bottom of which you encounter a sheer cliff. The bad ones are borderline horrific fantasy players, so owning them will put you at a serious disadvantage compared to other managers' better options. It's enough to make you think you should grab a top guy, right? But investing big-time draft capital on these guys means you’re passing on much better overall OF and CI players.
So what to do? The answer is simple and comes in two parts. First, recognize that you can only predict so much, especially with players as all over the map as the 2013 crop of shortstops is. Don’t get too crazy about your SS projections-- it’s not gonna make or break your league. Second, grab a solid middle-of-the-road shortstop, hold on, and hope for the best. Oh, and if they end up crapping the bed in the first month you shouldn't feel so bad about it since you didn’t pay too much-- just grab a hot waiver-wire commodity! Anyone who drafted Jeter, Desmond, or Rollins in 2012 followed this strategy. Anyone who picked up Marco Scutaro followed this strategy. All those folks managed to get high-end production from their SS position without paying much, if anything. And THAT is always what you want to look for: guys who will outperform their draft position.
SS is also a position where you can find cheap SB / BA / R guys later in the draft, if you’ve already filled out your other positions with productive guys. Think Eric Aybar or Alcides Escobar. It’s another option to consider, but usually requires some planning to identify guys you want to target in the later rounds. Remember, you don’t want to get stuck with that completely scrubby SS. With all that said, let’s get into the tiers and current ADPs, and we’ll help you identify some of the best values, sleepers and biggest potential busts at shortstop. Here are the RotoBaller rankings for SS:
Tier 1: I’ll be straightforward: unless these guys fall to the fourth round, I will not own them, anywhere, ever, no chance. It’s just not worth the high price tag. I’d rather own a Josh Hamilton or an Evan Longoria or a David Wright than Tulo, Reyes or Hanley. And those guys are being taken in the same ballpark on draft day. Hypothetically, if all these guys play reasonably well and stay reasonably healthy, any one of them could finish first in the SS ranks. But all of them could easily finish where they did last year: ranked 52, 67, and 847 (although Tulo is probably a good bet to beat that performance!).
Tier 2: Usually, we have to get to tier 3 or 4 to start seeing some nice bargains, but since shortstop is so shallow, we can find some in tier 2. Starlin Castro is definitely NOT a bargain at pick #37, and while he does have the chance to bring his game to a new level and beat that ADP, it’s hard to justify taking him here. In this tier, Rollins and Desmond are where it’s at. Both can be prone to the extended slump, which can be frustrating, but you’re looking at two guys who almost went 25-25 last year, and can definitely come just as close this year. They’re being drafted in the 8th and 9th rounds on average and that’s a good value for solid SS production. Considering they produced 4th-5th round value last year, there is nice potential for return here. Zobrist is another guy in this tier who can get you nice production, and while his current ADP makes him less desirable than Rollins or Desmond, his 2B/SS/OF eligibility makes him a very solid pick as well.
Tier 3: I’m a Yankee fan, so I've gotta start with Jeter. It seems like every year people are predicting his demise, and every year he is proving them wrong. Last year he was the second-best shortstop in fantasy baseball, ranked 50th overall. He’s turning 39 this year, but the correct response to that is: “Who cares?” Jeter isn’t being drafted until the 12th / 13th round on average, but I think you can draft him in the 9th or 10th with confidence. Frankly, all the guys in this tier are going fairly late, and they could all provide nice return. I don’t see any of them completely flopping. Aybar could be a real sneaky pick if he gets off to a hot start: hitting behind Trout and in front of Hamilton and Pujols could be the best lineup spot in all of baseball. Escobar broke out last year very nicely, and if he continues on an upward trend he could find himself in tier 2 by mid-year. Read RotoBaller’s deeper analysis on Alcides Escobar for more on what to expect from him this year.
Tier 4: Bringing up the rear is tier 4. It's similar to tier 3 in that all these guys are going extremely low, but different from tier 3 in that many of these guys might do the fantasy baseball equivalent of a 50-foot belly-flop. Rutledge has BIG sleeper potential. Scutaro could be solid again, but could just as easily stink it up. Cabrera will be good for cheap steals which is never a bad thing from your SS. Same with Segura, but Cabrera is the preferred choice at RotoBaller. Ramirez always seems to benefit from some name-brand value, but don’t bother with him. J.J. Hardy can give you some cheap power and Cozart can give you a whole lotta “meh” with a nice side of “Why the F did I draft this guy?" Rounding out the tier is Andrelton Simmons who's slated to bat leadoff for a very solid Braves offense. If he gets off to a hot start, a line of 280-10-60-80-20 could be within reach. Think Starlin Castro light, at a fraction of the cost.
All in all, be careful when picking your shortstop: pay too much for a top guy, and you may sacrifice other top players at 1B or OF whose gaudy numbers you can bank on. Don’t pay enough for a SS, and you’re stuck with fantasy trash. So that middle tier is where all of the draft-day value lies. I would try to get a solid tier-2 or -3 guy, and stay away from the tier-1 pricey studs and tier-4 junky players. Good luck and let us know what you think!
*Note, this post was updated 3.21 in light of injury news about Hanley Ramirez. Ramirez was downgraded from 3rd to 7th.
And if you've missed them, be sure to also check out RotoBaller.com's other pre-season 2013 fantasy baseball positional rankings for more in-depth analysis: