Han-Ram tops deep list of stud shortstops
1. Hanley Ramirez, Marlins
It's funny how a .342 batting average and 38 percent uptick in RBIs can make up for noticeable dips in homers, runs and steals. That explains why Ramirez is still the redoubtable choice for No. 2 overall (behind Albert Pujols, of course). Oh sure, there are factions of people who support Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley or even Tim Lincecum (pitching-heavy league) at the 2-hole in fantasyland, but pound-for-pound, HanRam is the sensible move here despite a reasonably deep corps of shortstops. Projections: 27 HRs, 106 RBIs, 117 runs, 34 steals, .330 average.
2. Jose Reyes, Mets
From a pure 2009 numbers standpoint, Troy Tulowitzki deserves to own the second slot in this countdown. But we're still committed to a healthy Reyes for the time being since he's the only shortstop (Ramirez included) with a fantasy ceiling of 115 runs, 70-plus steals, 15 HRs and .290-plus batting average. Of course, if you should hear any dire news about Reyes and his recurring hamstring injury during spring training, feel free to abandon any thoughts of Reyes in Rounds 1, 2, 3 and maybe 4. Projections: 14 HRs, 69 RBIs, 115 runs, 66 steals, .284 average.
3. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies
No one is comparing Tulowitzki to Bret Saberhagen just yet -- in terms of being a dynamo in odd-numbered years and mediocre in even-numbered years -- but that doesn't mean Tulo is an automatic for 35 HRs, 100 RBI and 25 steals, either. And at age 25, he still has plenty of ups and downs in his future. That said, he'd make a superb pick in Round 2. Projections: 28 HRs, 96 RBIs, 105 runs, 13 steals, .294 average.
4. Jimmy Rollins, Phillies
Rollins may be the most difficult superstar to project in all of fantasy baseball this season. At one end, you want to assume that he'll hit around .300 again, while easily clearing 20 homers and 100 runs again. On the other side, owners should expect approximately 80 RBIs and 40 steals from the leadoff hitter of baseball's greatest offensive machine. Put it all together and we're (somewhat) ready to predict the following: Projections: 22 HRs, 81 RBIs, 107 runs, 42 steals, .268 average.
5. Jason Bartlett, Rays
Tampa Bay arguably has the greatest collection of twentysomething studs in all of baseball (and that doesn't even include soon-to-be-immortals Desmond Jennings and Jeremy Hellickson), but Bartlett no longer applies to this grouping. At 30, Bartlett must now confront the fantasy conundrum of, "Is he a classic late bloomer or was his monstrous 2009 a fluke?" Well, if he's ranked ahead of Derek Jeter here, it's obvious to tell which way we're going on that one. Projections: 13 HRs, 70 RBIs, 107 runs, 28 steals, .313 average.
6. Derek Jeter, Yankees
If Jeter should approach 107 runs and a .334 batting average again this year, that alone may be enough to outperform Bartlett. But it's impossible to ignore that Jeter, at age 35, is more susceptible to nagging injuries than the other studs preceding him on the list. That's not to say we're predicting gloom and doom here for 2010 -- just a simple market correction: Projections: 14 HRs, 65 RBIs, 106 runs, 17 steals and .297 average.
7. Alexei Ramirez, White Sox
Perhaps Al-Ram earns this high ranking based on potential more than actual production. But at the very least, we're prepared to guarantee 20 steals and 85 RBIs within the White Sox' sneaky-good lineup. After that, it's anyone's guess for how it'll end for the 28-year-old shortstop. Projections: 18 HRs, 76 runs and .282 average.
8. Miguel Tejada, Orioles
After a two-year sabbatical away from Camden Yards, the 35-year-old stud is back to reclaim his lofty perch amongst the fantasy elite. And he'll certainly do that upon repeating his 2009 production (14 HRs, 86 RBIs, 83 runs, 5 steals, .313 average). Projections: 16 HRs, 74 RBIs, 79 runs, 3 steals, .304 average.
9. Yunel Escobar, Braves
The 27-year-old Escobar has improved in three or more categories every season, and yet, he barely cracks our top-10 listing of shortstops. Is this some kind of reverse hometown bias (SI.com is partially based in Atlanta) ... or the work of an analyst who feels Escobar has reached his invisible fantasy ceiling? Frankly, we're not sure; but at least he's a stronger play than Stephen Drew. Projections: 15 HRs, 82 RBIs, 85 runs, 7 steals, .294 average.
10. Elvis Andrus, Rangers
With the lightning-fast Julio Borbon in the Rangers' lineup, it's difficult for us to imagine Andrus eclipsing 40 steals this season. On the flip side, it's hard to fathom only six homers from the 21-year-old wunderkind. Put it all together, and Andrus should finish in the neighborhood of: 9 HRs, 48 RBIs, 87 runs, 34 steals and .274 average.
11. Stephen Drew, Diamondbacks
Last year at this time, we pooh-poohed Drew's chances of duplicating a near-brilliant 2008 season (21 HRs, 67 RBIs, 91 runs, .291 BA); and now, we're highly skeptical that Drew will repeat the mediocre feats of 2009. The best remedy for this when making projections? How about splitting the figures down the middle? Projections: 16 HRs, 66 RBIs, 81 runs, 4 steals, .276 average.
12. Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians
Color us crazy, but Cabrera has sneaky-good potential for 30 steals in the very-near future -- perhaps as early as 2010. Throw in a flirtation with 90 runs and it's easy to see why Cabrera will likely yield great production for a low-round draft pick. Projections: 9 HRs, 66 RBIs, 86 runs, 24 steals, .301 average.
13. Rafael Furcal, Dodgers
The days of 25-plus steals and .330-plus hitting our probably behind the 32-year-old Furcal, but that doesn't mean the fight has completely left the old dog. Assuming he posts 575 at-bats for the presumptive favorites in the NL West, Furcal is a reasonable lock for 10 HRs, 54 RBIs, 91 runs, 13 steals and .275 average.
14. Jhonny Peralta, Indians
Peralta's partly production in 2009 (11 HRs, .254 BA) was probably just a fluke and nothing more. Of course, this mediocre ranking would seemingly suggest otherwise. Projections: 20 HRs, 65 RBIs, 71 runs, 3 steals, .283 average.
15. Marco Scutaro, Red Sox
If Scutaro is a lock to repeat any one category from last season's out-of-nowhere breakout with Toronto (12 HRs, 60 RBIs, 100 runs, 14 steals, .282 average) ... it'll be runs with his new team, Boston. Pencil him in for 100-plus runs in the Red Sox lineup -- but expect a dropoff (possibly substantial) in homers and steals.
16. Alcides Escobar, Brewers
In some circles, Escobar is being touted as the Elvis Andrus of the National League. If that's the case, mark him down for 30-plus steals, 65-plus runs and a season-long flirtation with .290. Not bad for a 23-year-old rookie, eh? Of course, if you're desperately seeking homers and RBIs at the bottom of an NL-only or mixed-league draft, you might want to take a flier on the guy Escobar replaces in Milwaukee.
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