The Ugly Truth: Shortstops After Ramirez and Tulowitzki

When you look at something like the Empire State Building from afar it’s hard to get a full appreciation of just what you’re seeing. You understand it’s a big building, and hey, that’s cool, but it isn’t until you take a closer look that you can really stand back and say “Wow”. The same can be said of shortstops not named Hanley Ramirez or Troy Tulowitzki this season, just in an opposite sense.

The “Wow” refers to just how bad the position is.

Long gone are the days of A-Rod, Jeter, Nomar, and Tejada making shortstop one of the stronger positions in fantasy. How many shortstops not named Ramirez or Tulowitzki hit 15 or more home runs last season? Seven. How many did it while hitting above .280? One – Alexei Ramirez. What about with an OBP over .315? That one also be one – Stephen Drew. Using our rankings here at Rotographs, the top 10 shortstops after Ramirez and Tulo produced an average triple slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG) of .274/.334/.394 last season. That’s actually more than I expected, but still rates very poorly. In fact, in 2010 the OPS of all shortstops was .693, the lowest of any position.

So, how should you go about drafting this position if you miss out on Ramirez and Tulo? Do you grab the next best thing early on (Jose Reyes?), hoping to get steady, but not spectacular, production over a number of categories? Or do you wait until the later rounds and snag a player who does one or two things well, hoping to get maximum value? My vote tends to learn toward the latter option in that scenario.

Personally I’d rather gamble on someone like Yunel Escobar. He will likely improve upon his 2010 numbers now that he’s spending a full season in Toronto, and is going later than he probably should be in most drafts. He’s shown in the past he has 15 HR and .280-.290 AVG ability, and a full season in Toronto will no doubt help him show it once again. Even someone like J.J. Hardy, who you can get for $1 in most leagues, won’t hurt you too badly. He’ll provide some pop now that he’s in hitter friendly Camden Yards, just don’t expect him to return to the days when he hit 26 and 24 home runs. His average should also be better than normal for the position, floating somewhere in the .270-.280 range.

Another possible 15HR, .280 AVG shortstop for little-to-no money? Yes, please.  The value, and money saved, in taking a risk on a shortstop this late outweighs the security you’ll feel in landing Hanley Ramirez or Troy Tulowitzki for $40.




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Erik writes for DraysBay and has also written for Bloomberg Sports. Follow him on Twitter @ehahmann.

41 Responses to “The Ugly Truth: Shortstops After Ramirez and Tulowitzki”

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  1. Scott says:

    I’m surprised Starlin Castro gets no mention in this article.

    Isn’t he as good a bet for .280 and 10+ homers as Escobar?

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    • Erik Hahmann says:

      He is, but I feel like he’s a more well known that Escobar. Wasn’t a slight toward Starlin. Though his .340+ BABIP does scare me a bit.

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      • AA says:

        Young, fast and a quick line drive bat mean that BABIP shouldn’t scare you TOO much.

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      • Kool says:

        I think that was last year, this year it’s currently at .389. I think that’s a fine number to fear for regression.

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  2. bsally says:

    It’s pretty funny that your best bet for a decent MIF is now a second baseman. I’m quite pleased with the Cano/Uggla/Drew trifecta I managed to snag to be honest.

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  3. JohnnyComeLately says:

    Yeah, I’d wait. Those mid-level shortstops are going way too early for the stats they’ll put up. Personally, I’m targeting Erick Aybar late. He seems like a nice bounce back candidate.

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    • Erik Hahmann says:

      Agreed on Aybar. He was just outside of our top 12.

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      • AA says:

        I like Aybar as a sleeper as well. If he puts it together, .300/15 is attainable. 30 steals, 5-10 triples and 40 doubles (if your league does doubles) are also targets to look at for him.

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  4. Ted says:

    I’m in a 14 team draft league with the 4th pick of the draft. Shying away from Tulo in favor of Votto/Braun/Cabrera (not Asdrubal)

    I’m contemplating targeting Drew in the 6th round (81st pick), Castro in the 9th(116) or 10th (137), with a backup plan of Escobar, Uribe or Nishioka

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    • batpig says:

      I think if you have the opportunity, you have to take one of the two big stud shortstops. The gap between their production and the rest of the position is so huge. With your second pick you can get a 1B / OF stud that is only a small tier down from Braun or Votto, but the same cannot be said for SS.

      The problem with the strategy (and the point of the article) is that the horrible scarcity at SS makes you end up thinking along the lines you are — taking Drew in the 6th round! You end up overpaying for mediocre production at a weak position because you are afraid of having nothing, when the reality is that the middle-tier guys like Drew are not that far above “replacement level”. I think if Drew is there in the 7th/8th that’s a bit better, but the 81st pick seems high to me.

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      • Ted says:

        batpig — I get everything you’re saying, and I’m still grappling with the decision. Tulo’s injury history makes me nervous, since I need my 1st round pick to produce. I’m not sure if my fear is rational since two of his injuries were freak events (temper tantrum in 08, HBP in 10).

        Yeah, I’m not sold on Drew in the 6th myself, but Castro in the 9th/10th feels better.

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      • Erik Hahmann says:

        I also wouldn’t take Drew that early. There are plenty of guys who will be taken later that will put up solid numbers for much cheaper.

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      • Jimbo says:

        I think you have to get the best stats available.

        Tulo hasn’t ever driven in 100 rbi.

        Cabrera hasn’t ever driven in less than 100 rbi.

        I understand the upside of Tulo and how much separation he can give vs other SS…but will there really be as much of a gap from him to Jeter as there will be from Votto or Cabrera to, say, Billy Butler?

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      • JW says:

        Wow Jimbo’s stat pick is very misleading.
        Tulo’s had 99, 92, 95 RBI seasons in ’07, ’09, ’10 resp.

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      • Jimbo says:

        I’d agree that was a bit of spin IF cabrera was coming in at 101 rbi, but he far exceeds that regularly so if anything I was understating his consistent studliness while overstating Tulo’s “deficiency.”

        Ok, I’ll put it differently…who would you place more confidence in as the lowest risk, highest contribution potential:

        Player A – has averaged 95 rbi in is 3 best seasons (46 rbi in the other). Career .290 hitter.

        Player B – has averaged 117 rbi over his entire career as a starter (7 seasons). Career .313 hitter.

        Some are perfectly willing to draft Tulo based on a projected career year. I’m of the mindset (with first picks) to find the intersection of biggest stats with highest degree of likelihood.

        If you think Tulo will outproduce Cabrera straight up, go for it. I just don’t like the idea that “you have to get one of those SS” simply because they’re SS.

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      • Chad says:

        Jimbo, you are cherrypicking stats worse than you are letting on. Dropping from Cabrera to Butler is a lot further drop in most people’s rankings than from Tulo to Jeter. It is possible that one ends up with Tulo/Howard or Tulo/Fielder instead of Cabrera/Jeter or Cabrera/Drew, etc. I’ve even seen Texeira fall to where that 2nd pick would be. You are looking at raw stats and not considering that after Tulo, the next leading SS in RBI’s is highly unlikely to top 75 RBI’s and very few SS’s after him are likely to hit 70 of them and most are going to have warts in multiple categories. Drew had 61 RBI’s last year in far more AB’s than Tulo. Talk about a drop. No matter how you slice it, you have to compromise and take lesser production at some positions unless you hit on some breakout performers later in the draft and no position drops off the map from multi-category studs to unidimensional question marks like the SS position.

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    • Jimbo says:

      I have 5th overall pick, so I’m dealing with the same sort of decision. I also chose to pass on Tulo for a 1B. I looked at similar ADP SS and 1B to combine with my first pick.

      Drew and Huff are close according to ESPN. Although if you pay an earlier premium on Drew then he might be comparable to Butler or Konerko.

      Using Fan projections:

      Tulo + Huff (hr / rbi / runs / sb / avg)
      52 / 208 / 179 / 19 / .291

      Cabrera + Drew
      56 / 219 / 215 / 12 / .299

      Don’t know about batpig, but I’ll give up a few steals to raise expectations in the other 4 categories!

      Yes. SS is weak and 1B is deep. But the difference between Cabrera and Tulo’s stats puts a lot of pressure on that “fill-in” 1B to produce pretty healthy numbers. Generally, Cabrera (or Votto, or Adrian) will carry a team’s offense more than Tulo.

      And with the 4th/25th overall pick, can you really be sure of a studly 1B being available at your SECOND pick?? First AND second tier could be gone by then.

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      • adohaj says:

        I tried explaining this durring a 10 team draft at espn where I snagged Votto, Cabrera, and Fielder with my 1,2,3 picks(1B, 1B/3B, UTL). The guy I was arguing with took 3 middle infielders with his first 3 picks. How I managed Votto and Cabrera at 9 and 12 is beyond me. Getting that much HR, R, RBI, AVG with 3 picks is crazy. Sure I had to draft a MI later but who cares my studs more than make up the difference.

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      • fothead says:

        I agree people tend to overvalue positional scarcity. I will say though, your statement depends on what league you’re in.

        Sure if you are in a 14-team league where your first two picks are 4th and 25th. You are right IMO. What’s getting back to you as far as a top bat is probably slim, though you run a decent chance at Howard.

        In a 10 or even 12 team league, you should easily be able to get a 1B from the top two tiers to pair with Tulo.

        I personally look at Tulo as having more “upside” at his draft position then any other first rounder. If he can manage to avoid the DL (again the freak injury thing) and post 575-600 AB, a line of .300-35-110-100-15 is a perfectly reasonable expectation.

        And lastly, looking at your aggregate stats for Tulo/Huff vs Cabrera/Drew, they don’t seem all that different to me other than runs. If the projections are that close (fan projections keep in mind) I’ll take my chances finding a 1B over the course of the season then a SS.

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  5. Dave says:

    No mention of Jed Lowrie? I know he’s not assured of full-time play, but the Sox are probably splitting shortstop between him and Scutaro, plus he’ll backup Pedroia and spell Adrian at first. He had an OPS comparable to Tulo last year, and he’s a trade/injury away from a full-time gig.

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    • Erik Hahmann says:

      I was trying to cover guys who have full time gigs right this moment. I’m actually a big Lowrie fan this year and wrote about it in when we put out the rankings I believe.

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    • Brad Johnson says:

      If you have the roster flexibility to grab both Scutaro and Lowrie you’re going to end up pretty happy. Both are going very late in the draft and will probably combine to perform somewhere above Jeter but below Ramirez (fyi I disagree with the rankings here, my tier two is reyes, ramirez, drew. My tier 3 is Andrus, jeter, rollins, etc).

      There are of course, potentially better ways to use that roster spot, but it’s something to consider if you want to roll a Cabrera/and SS scrubs strategy.

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  6. SicwitIt says:

    I have 1st pick in upcomig draft. Going to take Pujols, and pray Reyes is there at 24. If so, I’m taking him.

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  7. sanderson13 says:

    Ian Desmond?

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    • Brad Johnson says:

      Not looking like a value pick at the time. Similar projection to Escobar but going much early (at least that’s what I’ve observed).

      I’ve also observed that Escobar is turning into a common sleeper pick at SS. It’s not yet to the point where he’s not likely a value, but if you’re in a good league, you won’t be getting as nice a steal as the article suggests.

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  8. SteveTuttle says:

    In non-OBP leagues, Alexei Ramirez is a pretty nice choice. I took a composite of a bunch of projection systems and looked for players projected to hit at least 15 home runs, steal at least 10 bases and hit at least .280. There are only 16 total:

    Pujols, Albert
    Ramirez, Hanley
    Holliday, Matt
    Braun, Ryan
    Gonzalez, Carlos
    Crawford, Carl
    Tulowitzki, Troy
    Choo, Shin-Soo
    Wright, David
    Cruz, Nelson
    Longoria, Evan
    McCutchen, Andrew
    Utley, Chase
    Heyward, Jason
    Kinsler, Ian
    Ramirez, Alexei

    …and you might be able to scratch Utley. That’s some pretty good company. Ramirez is one of those guys who’s value is hard to measure because he’s pretty balanced, but given how thin shortstop is, he’s worth a long look. I’ve found he sometimes slips into the late 6th round or later because the MI punters are looking elsewhere and the position scarcity guys don’t consider him in a must have tier.

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  9. sanderson13 says:

    Also, what about Furcal? Even if he gets hurt, he gives you really good numbers you can pair with someone off the waiver wire when he goes down.

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    • Jimbo says:

      I’ll consider replacement stats for when Nelson Cruz gets drafted, but at SS I wouldn’t take Furcal unless the league had bench spots…where I could troll the waiver guys to secure his backup.

      Replacement SS can get pretty ugly imo.

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  10. Matty Brown says:

    i am a huge Drew fan for SS.

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  11. DonCoburleone says:

    I was gonna mention Furcal as well.. Yes he’s old and yes he’ll probably get hurt but since he’s been with the Dodgers when he is completely healthy the guy still produces. AND this is a contract year. I think if you can get him in the 10th round or later he’ll be a steal.

    The other guy who I think deserves mention is Reid Brignac. If you’re in an OBP league he may not be ideal but over the last 2 seasons for the Rays he’s had around 400AB’s with a .265 average, 9HR’s and 5 steals. And back in AA in 2007 he had 600AB’s and had 17HR’s and 15SB’s. I mean, is he really that far off Sean Rodriguez in terms of upside? And yet he’s getting picked 8 rounds later despite having SS eligibility.

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    • AA says:

      Its actually an option year. If he gets 600 PAs, the 2012 is guaranteed at $12m.

      Of course, if Furcal gets 600 PAs, he can easily be a .300/15 guy with 30+ SB.

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  12. jake says:

    How many shortstops not named Ramirez or Tulowitzki hit 15 or more home runs last season? Seven. How many did it while hitting above .280? One – Alexei Ramirez.

    Actually, the right answers are six, and zero. Alexei Ramirez IS named Ramirez

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  13. R M says:

    Elvis Andrus? Seems like you can get him around pick 70-80, and he and Reyes are actually pretty similar players at this point, Reyes maybe hitting a few more homers. Alcides Escobar also deserves a lot more credit than he is getting I think. He could easily hit .280 with 30 steals this year.

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  14. Hanley will cost you $50. Tulo will cost you $40-45.

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  15. fothead says:

    I like Alcides Escobar as a late round flier. Makes good contact and has tons of speed. One of the better “junk” SS options out there IMO.

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  16. Adam says:

    In my 10-team draft I had the 6th pick and Tulo was still available … I didn’t hesitate to pick him. I managed to get Teixeira on the way back, too. Then I grabbed Mauer in the next round. I was quite happy to get two studs at the two weakest positions, and still end up with a solid 1B!

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  17. Rob says:

    Gotta pick between Yunel Escobar and Asdrubal Cabrera. Who do you like better? Escobar the higher ceiling as a sleeper, perhaps, but Asdrubal is consistent as long as he’s not hurt (which is, of course, a risk).

    who should I take in my league that counts OPS? Both on the WW.

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  18. OzzieGuillen says:

    Is Y.Escobar appreciably better than M.Tejada, A.Cabrera, J.Peralta, etc.? None of the shortstops after the top 10 really stand out from the pack. Instead of reaching for any of them in the mid-rounds, I would wait until the final pick to take whoever is left. I’d rather have the exact pitchers I want than attempt to pick the best value out of this hopeless group of shortstops.

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    • kab21 says:

      I’m not sure who said take YEscobar in the mid rounds. Here is where I took him in two drafts so he’s lasting until pretty late. But I do agree that you can just wait and grab any of 6 or 7 and get the same solid and unspectacular production if someone reaches for Yunel.

      rd 19 of a 14 tm draft right after Scutaro, Pennington and Uribe were drafted
      rd 22 of a 12 tm draft

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  19. Rob says:

    Yeah, it’s tough. I really do think it’s between the two Escobars and Asdrubal. I’m gonna keep a close eye on Cabrera to see how he starts the season.

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