by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Ranking players on what they have done so far isn’t too much help for fantasy owners, is it? While it’s great to know what someone has done, what we care about more is where we think they are heading. While these rankings do take a players performance to date into account, where we think they are going is weighted much more into the equation.
While shortstop was never a particularly deep position, injuries and struggles have left the position unbelievably thin. There could be some brighter days ahead, however. Let’s take a look at who fantasy owners should be targeting:
1) Troy Tulowitzki – Colorado Rockies (2)
Will he be able to avoid time on the DL? That’s the only risk about owning him, with 500+ AB only twice between 2008 and 2012. While he may not be able to maintain his early season power surge (22.9% HR/FB, a career high), we all know how good he is. Assuming he’ll stay healthy is a leap of faith, but one worth taking.
2) Ian Desmond – Washington Nationals (5)
He hasn’t been spectacular thus far, hitting .277 with 8 HR, 28 RBI, 25 R and 5 SB, though that’s only because his numbers last season were so impressive. That said, the underlying numbers indicate better days ahead, including an improved line drive rate (22.3%), back-to-back 20+ SB seasons and the potential to improve on his HR/FB (11.6% vs. 18.2% in ’12). Considering the issues with some of the other top options, his upside drives him towards the top.
3) Jean Segura – Milwaukee Brewers (NR)
If this was based solely on his 2013 campaign he would be sitting atop the rankings. However, there is plenty of reason to believe that he will slow down. He’s not going to continue hitting for power, considering his 23.3% fly ball rate (and 17.6% HR/FB) and the average should fall as well (.360 BABIP, 18.3% line drive rate). Slowing down does not mean that he’s not going to produce, however, making him one of the better options moving forward.
4) Ben Zobrist – Tampa Bay Rays (4)
Another disappointment, thus far, with 4 HR and 4 SB. However, consistency is a virtue and at the end of the year we should know what Zobrist is going to produce. His HR/FB, which currently stands at 5.5%, has been at least 12.4% in four of the previous five seasons. Don’t be too upset over the slow start, he should be close to 20/20 by the end of the season.
5) Starlin Castro – Chicago Cubs (3)
To call the season a bitter disappointment, thus far, would be an understatement. His power was supposed to continue developing, yet he’s taken a step backwards (4.3% HR/FB). His speed has all but disappeared (3 SB). His average, which was always his strength, sits at .240 (strikeouts are up to 16.9% and line drive rate is down to 18.9%). To make matters worse, the Cubs have dropped him down towards the bottom of the batting order. That said, he has a long enough track record that we have to believe that there are better days ahead.
6) Jimmy Rollins – Philadelphia Phillies (6)
We all keep waiting for Rollins’ age to give us a reason to ignore him, but he just keeps on producing. Are the numbers blowing us away at the moment? No, but he’s still showing power (4 HR) and speed (6 SB). Even the average is up, given his 21.7% line drive rate, and he should continue to be a steady option moving forward.
7) Hanley Ramirez – Los Angeles Dodgers (7)
If he could actually stay healthy he would find himself significantly higher up on this list. However he’s already made two trips to the DL and is now hoping to avoid a third. If healthy he’d likely be among the Top 2 or 3 options, so keep that in mind.
8) Alcides Escobar – Kansas City Royals (10)
After an impressive 2012 Escobar has disappointed thus far. A lot of his problems are tied to a low average (.248), and that is due to some poor luck (.260 BABIP) and too many fly balls (31.7%). Even if he doesn’t correct the latter, you would think the luck would come around. With his speed and the likelihood of being pushed back up the order, there is a lot to like (especially since he has the potential to produce in at least AVG/SB/R).
9) Everth Cabrera – San Diego Padres (NR)
His potential involvement in the Biogenesis mess is hanging over him, but it is hard to argue with his performance thus far. He’s hitting .294 courtesy of an improved strikeout rate (16.3%) and line drive rate (23.2%) and we all know the speed is for real (29 SB). Unfortunately he may not provide much in HR/RBI/R, especially in the San Diego lineup, so he needs to maintain the average in order to be successful. Given his history that is far from a lock.
10) Elvis Andrus – Texas Rangers (11)
He’s benefiting from seeing time in the leadoff spot, but when Ian Kinsler returns will that really continue? Couple that with the question of if he is capable of maintaining his SB production throughout an entire season and it is easy to understand why he may be overrated by many.
11) J.J. Hardy – Baltimore Orioles (15)
We are getting the powerful J.J. Hardy, and that is a good thing. Since arriving in Baltimore he has proven to be a 22-27 type HR hitter, so there is no reason to doubt that now. The question is if the average will be there (.260 for his career).
12) Zack Cozart – Cincinnati Reds (NR)
He’s only hitting .244, but he has produced 6 HR and has shown a lot more average potential since a dreadful 7.8% line drive rate in April (21.0% in May, 20.7% in June). In other words the upside potential is there playing in a loaded Cincinnati lineup, especially since he often hits in the #2 spot.
13) Andrelton Simmons – Atlanta Braves (NR)
He’s hitting .254 with 5 HR and 2 SB… Does he have potential to heat up? Absolutely, and that why he’s even on this list (9.0% strikeout rate, .261 BABIP). That said, he needs to show a lot more to be anything but a low-end option.
14) Alexei Ramirez – Chicago White Sox (14)
The question is what has happened to Ramirez’ power? He hit 9 last year he has just 1 this season. He is stealing bases at a much better clip than in previous seasons and also is hitting the ball hard (23.0%). That said it is easy to magine the speed slowing down, so unless he rediscovers his power stroke (and with a 29.2% fly ball rate that will be difficult), he’s a risky option.
15) Didi Gregorius – Arizona Diamondbacks (NR)
He’s hitting over .300, though part of that is due to a .358 BABIP (22.2% line drive rate). Of course, he has shown just a little bit of power (4 HR) and no speed (0 SB). Considering he also isn’t a lock to hit at the top of the order, there is plenty of reason for skepticism.
Injured but not forgotten:
Jose Reyes – Toronto Blue Jays (1)
Asdrubal Cabrera – Cleveland Indians (8)
Make sure to check out our previous Rest of Season rankings: