Monday, March 28, 2011

Fantasy Baseball: 2011 Shortstop Rankings

The top two fantasy shortstops are two of the best options in all of fantasy baseball, regardless of position. After Florida's Hanley Ramirez and Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki are gone, however, major question marks exist with many of the rest.

Here are our top 15 fantasy shortstops for 2011:

1. Hanley Ramirez, Marlins: Ramirez has hit .300-plus and 20-plus home runs in each of the past four seasons. In addition, HanRam has stolen 30-plus bases in four of five seasons. The ceiling? A season of .342-125-33-106-51 (BA-R-HR-RBI-SB) would tie all of his career highs.

2. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies: Tulowitzki is one season removed from a 30-20 season. Despite missing one-quarter of last season, Tulo still managed to hit 27 home runs with 95 runs batted in while hitting .315. While he's the second-rated shortstop on our list, Tulowitzki could be one of the top three or four overall players selected in your draft based on average draft position from Mock Draft Central.

3. Jose Reyes, Mets: From 2005 to 2008, Reyes stole 58-plus bases per season while missing only 15 games during that four-year span. Over the last two seasons, Reyes has stolen 41 bases in 169 games. With a new contract on the line, how many steals and games will we see from Reyes in 2011?

4. Jimmy Rollins, Phillies: Over the past three seasons, Rollins has missed 106 games. While he likely won't duplicate his 2009 numbers (21 homers and 31 steals), it wouldn't surprise me to see Rollins finish with 15 home runs and 25 steals (or better).

5. Derek Jeter, Yankees: The good news? Jeter posted double-digit homers and steals for the 15th consecutive season. The bad news? Jeter hit only .270, his lowest average during that 15-year span, and only ten home runs, which ties a low during that span. Jeter will likely score more runs and hit for a higher average than Rollins while Rollins will likely hit more home runs and steal more bases.

6. Alexei Ramirez, White Sox: Through his first three seasons, Ramirez has been remarkably consistent in the five standard categories in 5x5 leagues. Career lows for Ramirez: .277 average, 65 runs, 15 home runs, 68 runs batted in and 13 stolen bases. Career highs: .290 average, 83 runs, 21 home runs, 77 runs batted in and 14 stolen bases.

7. Elvis Andrus, Rangers: In each of his first two seasons, Andrus has stolen 30-plus bases. But hamstring issues slowed him down last year as he had 18 of his 32 steals in the first two months of the season.

8. Stephen Drew, Diamondbacks: At a position with a scarcity of power, Drew is one of a handful of shortstops with 20-homer potential and he had double-digit steals last year. If you're league rewards for triples, Drew has finished in the top three in the category in each of the past three seasons.

9. Rafael Furcal, Dodgers: Over the past three seasons, Furcal has missed a total of 203 games including 65 of them in 2010. On a positive note, Furcal stole 22 bases, which is his highest output since 2007 (25 steals) and he enters a walk year.

10. Starlin Castro, Cubs: As a 20-year-old, Castro hit exactly .300 in his rookie season. Through 20 spring games, Castro is hitting .344 with four home runs and 15 runs batted in. Although he has four homers this spring, he hit only three in 125 games (463 at bats) last season.

11. Ian Desmond, Nationals: In his first full season with the Nationals, Desmond had double-digit home runs and steals with ten and 17, respectively. Desmond hit higher after the All-Star break (.283) than before it (.255) so a season with a .280 average, 15 home runs and 20 steals seems reasonable.

12. Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians: Cabrera failed to play 100 games last season due to a broken forearm, but he's having a great spring, for what it's worth. Through 17 spring games, Cabrera it hitting .385 with three home runs, 12 runs and four steals. He won't help in homers, but when he played 131 games in 2009, he hit .308 with 81 runs scored, 68 runs batted in and 17 steals.

13. Erick Aybar, Angels: Aybar won't help much at all in the power categories, but he stole a career-high 22 bases last year and hit a career-high .312 the year before that. If he hits .300 with 20-plus steals, he's a solid value at this spot.

14. Yunel Escobar, Blue Jays: Escobar entered 2010 as a career .301 hitter while coming off career highs in runs (89), home runs (14) and runs batted in (76). However, last season was mostly a year that Escobar would like to forget as he posted career lows in batting average (.256) and home runs (four) while driving in only 35 runs. Perhaps a higher post-trade average in Toronto (.275) over his average in Atlanta (.238) bodes well for a bounce-back in 2011.

15. Jhonny Peralta, Tigers: Although Peralta is struggling this spring (.206 with no home runs or runs batted in through 21 games), you can do worse than get 15 homers and 81 runs batted in from a late-round shortstop as he put up last season. In addition to shortstop, he's eligible at third base, another talent-scarce position. Since 2005, Peralta has driven in 68-plus runs every season with 81-plus in each of the past three. During that same span, he has belted 20-plus homers three times.

Feel free to send fantasy baseball questions to me via Twitter at @EDSBaseball or post them in our fantasy baseball forum.

Mat Latos to start season on DL

Padres general manager Jed Hoyer confirmed that pitcher Mat Latos will start the season on the disabled list.

He’s turned a corner on this thing,” manager Bud Black said Monday, per Don Norcross of the San Diego Union-Tribune. “Our medical staff feels good about where this is.”

Latos, who last pitched on March 21st and experienced shoulder pain two days later, will go on the DL retroactive to March 22nd, which means he will be eligible to return as early as April 6th.

Per Norcross, Latos said that his shoulder has felt good the past two days and he'll throw tomorrow.

Last year, Latos finished with a 14-10 record and an ERA of 2.92 and 189 strikeouts. However, he lost his last five starts and allowed 20 earned runs in 22 innings during that span.

Previously, the Padres announced that Tim Stauffer would start Opening Day against the Cardinals on Thursday.

Who stole Evan Longoria's AK-47?

With the departure of Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and Jason Bartlett in the off-season, the Tampa Bay Rays lost a lot of (proverbial) firepower.

Apparently, Evan Longoria, the team's biggest star, lost some firepower, literally. Well, technically, he didn't lose it.

It was stolen.

When the house that Longoria, David Price and Reid Brignac were renting was robbed over the weekend, one of the items stolen was Longoria's AK-47.

"It's a personal item," Longoria said, per Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times. "Obviously they're going to say things that are taken. I think everything within the house is personal and we'll just leave it at that."

According to Topkin, the sheriff's department says the rifle is "perfectly legal" so it doesn't appear that Longoria will be in any legal trouble.

Longoria, who is the consensus top third baseman in fantasy baseball, hit .294 with 22 homers, 104 runs batted in and 15 steals in 2010.