Keeper Rankings: Shortstop

Over the offseason, we’ll update the rankings with a slant on the best keepers. This means an obvious tick up for youth, and a tick down for veterans, but it also been stability and consistency will be slightly more valued. One strong season doesn’t make you a top-flight keeper in other words. Here were the second base keeper rankings, and now here are the shortstops:

The Top Targets
Hanley Ramirez, Florida (27 yrs old, .300 BA, 21 HR, 92 R, 76 RBI, 32 SB, .373 wOBA)
Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado (26 yrs old, .315 BA, 27 HR, 89 R, 95 RBI, 11 SB, .408 wOBA)

In terms of multi-category goodness at the position, these are the guys. Tulo’s stolen base success percentage probably means that he won’t steal double-digit bases too often going forward, but a healthy year has him hitting different benchmarks (30 HR, 100 RBI) that would make him an elite option anyway. After three straight seasons with an ISO over .200, the bet here is that Hanley’s power returns next year. Unfortunately, his fielding is sub-par and could still mean an eventual move off of the position, but that’s no reason to trade the star at what should be a low point in his value.

Still Strong And (Mostly) Young:
Jose Reyes, New York NL (27 yrs old, .282 BA, 11 HR, 83 R, 54 RBI, 30 SB, .329 wOBA)
Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia (32 yrs old, .243 BA, 8 HR, 48 R, 41 RBI, 17 SB, .317 wOBA)
Starlin Castro, Chicago (21 yrs old, .300 BA, 3 HR, 53 R, 41 RBI, 10 SB, .325 wOBA)
Elvis Andrus, Texas (22 yrs old, .265 BA, 0 HR, 88 R, 35 RBI, 32 SB, .298 wOBA)

This might be slightly controversial. Jose Reyes is often thought of as an elite shortstop, but even though he’s still a solid keeper, his last season highlighted too many of his flaws to put him in the top tier. His old problems garnering walks returned (5.1% BB%), and with so much of his value tied up in stolen bases, a low total in that category, or another injury to his hamstrings, and he’s pretty much a liability. Selling now would be selling low, but a nice half-season might be all you need to move him along. Ditto Rollins, actually, who is no longer a spring chicken and has flaws of his own (declining speed and injury concerns). Andrus has flaws, but he’s still young enough that there’s hope that he ups the average a bit and fills out for some (still probably marginal) power. In real life, Castro is the better hitter than Andrus, but he’s also more likely to move off the position eventually, and he probably won’t rack up ‘counting stats’ on the same level of Andrus’ stolen bases. In roto leagues, though, Castro’s all-around excellence is preferable.

Veterans That Are Still Useful In Deeper Keeper Leagues
Derek Jeter, New York AL (36 yrs old, .270 BA, 10 HR, 111 R, 67 RBI, 18 SB, .320 wOBA)
Alexei Ramirez, Chicago AL (29 yrs old, .282 BA, 18 HR, 83 R, 70 RBI, 13 SB, .322 wOBA)
Rafael Furcal, Los Angeles NL (33 yrs old, .300 BA, 8 HR, 66 R, 43 RBI, 22 SB, .366 wOBA)

In terms of present value, most of these guys outrank Andrus, most likely. But they’re all older than you might think, and none is currently so amazing that they need to be kept over the Ranger shortstop. Maybe Jeter has another good year left in him, maybe Furcal can stay healthy for a year. Maybe Ramirez has another good power year before his poor efficiency on the basepaths (64.5% success) costs him his stolen bases. But each of these possibilities is much less likely than improvement from the 22-year-old Andrus. Admittedly, it’s a fault line, and some may come down on the other side, but the long-term view, valid in more established keeper leagues, says Andrus and Castro are in a different tier.

Will They Get Better?
Stephen Drew, Arizona (28 yrs old, .278 BA, 15 HR, 83 R, 61 RBI, 10 SB, .354 wOBA)
Ian Desmond, Washington (25 yrs old, .269 BA, 10 HR, 59 R, 65 RBI, 17 SB, .308 wOBA)
Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland (25 yrs old, .276, 3 HR, 39 R, 29 RB, 6 SB, .301 wOBA)
Cliff Pennington, Oakland (26 yrs old, .250 BA, 6 HR, 64 R, 46 RBI, 29 SB, .315 wOBA)
Alcides Escobar, Milwaukee (24 yrs old, .235 BA, 4 HR, 57 R, 41 RBI, 10 SB, .270 wOBA)

Each of these shortstops probably deserves a more in-depth look over the offseason, but suffice it to say that they’ve each shown glimpses of possible mixed-league value while also displaying real flaws that make them deep-league dynasty league keepers if anything. Drew and Desmond are borderline keepers if your league keeps enough players, but we now have 2700+ plate appearances for Drew and 2010 was his best year, so we probably know who he is – and Desmond’s line last year was way too similar to his minor league line (mediocre as it was) to hope for much more either. Desmond is also a poor defender, which may factor in sooner or later. These are all flawed players – but they are young for the most part.

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Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.

14 Responses to “Keeper Rankings: Shortstop”

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  1. theonemephisto says:

    What do you think about Jed Lowrie? Considering you almost certainly (unless it’s a very deep league) got him at a very low cost, if he gets a starting job he could be a phenomenal value.

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    • Brandon T says:

      If I had to guess, I’d say that Lowrie is a reasonable sleeper pick-up in a league without many Red Sox fans. He has a long injury history AND he might not get much time at SS, considering Scutaro’s presence and Iglesias’ impending arrival. I might be the only one, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he opened with the big league club next year, or come up in May anyway (stupid rule), with Lowrie sliding to 3rd to replace Beltre. Of course, dual eligibility might actually be a bonus in Fantasyland…

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      • theonemephisto says:

        I don’t think Lowrie’s injury history is particularly troublesome. He had a bad wrist injury that he has entirely recovered from based on the end of this season, and he had mono which isn’t exactly a chronic thing. He should have the starting SS (or 3B) role over Scutaro next year, as he’s earned it by his play this year. And he’ll probably be SS/2B eligible, which is very useful flexibility.

        Unless he takes huge strides forward, Iglesias won’t be up for at least another year (besides maybe a september call-up), he has good contact skills, but his pitch recognition needs serious work to be able to handle major league pitching. I’m betting he starts the year in AA with a possible move up to AAA.

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      • Jake R says:

        Theonemephisto covered most of the relevant points about Lowrie’s injury history (nowhere near the concern most are considering it to be) and Iglesias’ time table. Iglesias is not playing for the Red Sox next year unless injuries force him onto the roster or as a possible September call up. His bat is not major league ready.

        As for Lowrie, while I agree that he is more a sleeper than a keeper, it has much more to do with his being almost universally underrated than it does with how he should actually be expected to perform next year. From a performance expectation standpoint, even considering that he doesn’t give you steals, I’d much prefer him to Starlin Castro or Elvis Andrus.

        If you assume Lowrie gets everyday at bats, which he should, he really can’t rank lower than the second tier here. Being in the Red Sox lineup with his OBP and solid power, he should dominate most of this list on a R/RBI level while posting a solid BA, great OBP (for OBP leagues) and above average HR totals.

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  2. BWOzar says:

    If Danny Espinosa maintains SS eligibility in your league, where would he fall on this list?

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  3. jss says:

    Maybe these rankings work in standard roto, but in real life or any sim/scoresheet type league, Drew is way too low. His .350 wOBA is fourth best in baseball and the guys behind him are a big drop off.

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    • Tim says:

      Agreed. I’m in a points league that I thought was fairly similar to 5X5 roto in terms of valuation, but Drew was the 4th leading SS scorer in our system. I think he’s underrated here.

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      • Eno Sarris says:

        Definitely looked at him for a while, and definitely he is better in non-standard leagues. He was the 6th-best shortstop in my Yahoo Roto league according to their end-of-year rankings and he’s tenth here.

        I think Desmond pulled him down – their counting stats look so similar despite Desmond being a much worse real-life shortstop. If I pull Drew up to the Andrus/Castro level, that seems too far, and Desmond shouldn’t be two tiers away.

        Would it be better if I moved Drew to the veterans, maybe right behind Jeter?

        He’s hard to rank. He seems to have more promise than he does, and he seems to be a better real-life player than roto. In keeper leagues, you want to see promise. I’m not sure I see that with Drew, this is who he is.

        I might move him up a tier, even if Desmond is somewhat similar in fantasy.

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  4. bigups says:

    Yunel Escobar?????

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  5. Mike says:

    I’d say Drew brings a little more risk than the veteran bunch. He’s had two largely useless seasons. But, he’s had two pretty good ones.

    He seems to have pretty solid skills, and usually gets a nice spot in the order, so you could do worse.

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  6. tdotsports1 says:

    Hanley Ramirez has been a near league average SS so not quite a ‘poor defender’ IMO and Ian Desmond was a rookie who flashed WELL above average range but was a bit error prone, not unusual for a first year player (no matter his age).

    I wouldn’t consider either to be a total liability at SS though and both will be here (SS) for 2011 and likely well beyond so not sure what factor it plays in this type of analysis?

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    • tdotsports1 says:

      -12.4 UZR in 2010 obviously noted… I think 2011 will be a telling year defensively after posting decent UZR numbers the two years prior..

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      • R M says:

        UZR needs 3 seasons to become useful. WHY is it still used on a season to season basis?

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      • Eno Sarris says:

        I think the subjective reports on Desmond are out in front of his UZR (which, as RM notes, needs more information), and he doesn’t look great out there. Hanley’s had three poor seasons at SS, three scratch seasons. You’re right that they will probably stick at the position in the short term, but it’s worth noting in the long term considering we are talking about keepers.

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