Below are my early look at the 2012 shortstop rankings, along with profiles of each player. I have included players based on Yahoo's rules, which are either 10 games at the position, or 5 starts, but have made mention of those who may not qualify in your league depending on your rules.
1. Troy Tulowitzki (COL)
Tulowitzki finished with 30 home runs, 105 runs batted in, a .302 batting average, and 9 stolen bases. Looking at some of his peripherals, the numbers don't really stand out as a fluke, and given his previous performance in 2009 and 2010, there's no reason to think he can't repeat that performance in 2012. The only concern for Tulo remains the injury bug, which he tends to miss at least a few games as a result of every season. Realistically, you are probably going to have to draft him in the first round of your draft to get him, but I think the risk is worth it based on the production and how the rest of the position looks.2. Jose Reyes (FA)
Reyes missed just over 30 games last year, but still stole 39 bases and scored 101 runs with a .337 batting average. He's going to make a boatload of money this offseason, and I feel like he has a lot of upside here. He's not likely to hit .337 again, as he also posted a career high BABIP of .353. I can still easily see him hitting .285-.290 with 50+ stolen bases, 110+ runs scored, and 10+ home runs IF he plays 150+ games. Just remember that this is still a player who has missed significant time in each of the last 3 seasons with injuries.
3. Hanley Ramirez (FLA)
A top-5 pick at worst coming into 2011, I'm a bit wary on Hanley Ramirez. He missed over 60 games due to injuries last year, including practically all of August and September. Even in his shortened season, he still hit 10 home runs, stole 20 bases, scored 55 runs and drove in 45. Unfortunately, he also hit .243, but his BABIP was way down from his career numbers (.275 vs. 339 career). I'm not ecstatic about the trend in his batted ball rates or his strikeout rates:
While not necessarily a cause for major alarm, I'm not sure I like it either. Hanley will still most likely be either a first round or a second round pick, and for me I'm not sure I take him there.
4. Asdrubal Cabrera (CLE)
Cabrera really emerged as a top-tier shortstop last year, clubbing 25 home runs and stealing 17 bases for the Indians. Some of his peripherals are a bit concerning though, as his fly ball rate spiked from 31% to 38% last year, and his HR/FB% jumped from 3% to nearly 14%. We could see some regression in his home run total as a result, but I think that he should still be good for 15-20 homeruns this year. Add in that he's likely to give you 80+ runs and 80+ RBI, and I think he will remain a top-tier option.
5. Jimmy Rollins (FA)
Rollins hit 16 home runs and stole 30 bases, and had 87 runs scored and 63 RBI last year in Philadelphia. He's a free agent though, and it will be interesting to see where he will land for 2012. Rollins' peripheral numbers seem to tell me that he's a player with his best years behind him. His OPS has trended downward since his 2007 season, and while it was slightly higher in 2011 than 2009, the trend concerns me. I still think he can provide double-digit home runs and 20-25 steals regardless of where he lands, and should be a solid provider of runs and RBIs potentially as well. Just remember that there is a pretty consistent injury risk with Rollins.
6. Starlin Castro (CHC)
Castro managed to increase both his home run totals (10) and stolen base totals (22) in 2011, while maintaining his .300 batting average for a second straight season. Castro honestly could be right near the top of these rankings by 2013, as we could see his power continue to rise. The only real concerns I have involve his low walk rate (5% both years), and how his strikeout rate could affect him (14%) long term, but he really looks like he should have little problem posting the same numbers or better in 2012.
7. J.J. Hardy (BAL)
Hardy played for his 3rd team in as many seasons, but will be in Baltimore long-term after signing a 3 year extension. He posted a career-high 30 home runs in 2011, but also posted career highs in FB% (43.4%) and HR/FB% (15.7%). While there could be a bit of regression, he should still provide 20-25 home runs if he stays healthy. I do think that with power seeming to be a bit less plentiful than speed, I'm inclined to take the risk here with Hardy.
8. Elvis Andrus (TEX)
Andrus showed some more pop in 2011, adding 5 homers and driving in a career high 60 RBI to go with his 37 stolen bases. Looking at the numbers, there's no reason to think that he can't provide the same in 2012, and possibly even some more power than he did in 2011. I could honestly see a season from Andrus where he steals 40 bases, scored 100 runs, drives in 50, and hit between 7-10 home runs.
9. Alexei Ramirez (CHW)
Ramirez seems to year after year post solid, but not spectacular numbers. He has hit at least 15 home runs, scored 65 runs, driven in 68, stolen 7 bases, and hit .269 every season of his career. He seems a lock to have at least those numbers again, and could very well post 85+ runs and RBI as well. There's just not a lot of upside above what he has shown in the past here, and that's what keeps him lower for me.
10. Jhonny Peralta (DET)
Peralta hit 21 home runs and gave an excellent .299 batting average, but there's a bit of concern in his numbers. His fly ball rate has skyrocketed over the last 2 seasons (43%, 44%) is a huge spike from his previous career rate of 36%, and I'm wondering how much longer he can keep up his home run rate if that drops. He should still be good for about 15 home runs, and at least a decent batting average.
11. Stephen Drew (ARI)
Drew missed a major portion of 2011 with an ankle injury, and also had surgery to fix a sports hernia in October. As a result, this is based on the hope that his injuries will have passed, and he will be back to normal in 2012. He has the potential to hit 15+ home runs, score 80+ runs, drive in 50, and steal 6-10 bags with a solid batting average. There's a lot of upside here in my opinion, and he could very easily end up in the top 10 by the end of the season.
12. Dee Gordon (LAD)
Gordon made his debut in 2011, and went completely nuts on the basepaths, stealing 24 bases in just 56 games. We knew that the speed existed, as he had stolen as many as 73 in a minor league season previously. Just remember that with Gordon, the speed is likely to be fairly empty, providing only runs, and possibly batting average as well. But there's a lot of speed to be had here, potentially as many as 50 SB.
13. Erick Aybar (LAA)
Very quietly, Erick Aybar hit 10 home runs and stole 30 bases last year for the Angels, and I know that I missed that during the season. That said, I find it interesting that his home run total went up in a season where his fly ball rate actually went down (31% vs. 36% in 2010). I don't think he's likely to get to 10 home runs again, but I think he could still give you 7-8 with the same speed and a .270+ batting average.
14. Derek Jeter (NYY)
Jeter spent the start of the year frustrating his owners, but he may have carried the ones who held onto him through the rest of the season, as he managed to finish with a .297 batting average and 16 stolen bases. Unfortunately, he's not providing a lot of value besides the batting average and most likely runs scored at this point, and for me, the risk isn't worth it except in deeper leagues.
15. Emilio Bonifacio (FLA)
Bonifacio got full-time playing time for the first time in his career, and continue to show his speed with 40 stolen bases. He even provided a high batting average for the first time with a .296 mark in 2011, but his BABIP (.372) leads me to believe that he will not be able to sustain that in 2012. But if he gets full-time playing time, either at 3B or in CF, he should be good for 30-35 stolen bases with around a .250 batting average.
16. Yunel Escobar (TOR)
Yunel provides batting average, and a very good one, usually around .290. He will give you a little bit of pop (around double digits), and provide generally decent numbers in a lot of the other categories. Unfortunately, this is what he is, and there's almost no upside for Escobar owners.
17. Ian Desmond (WAS)
Desmond's batting average probably killed you last year if you owned him, but he was still able to provide both a little bit of power, and some solid speed numbers. He got a bit unlucky on the batting average, as he posted identical BABIPS in 2010 and 2011 (.317), but dropped 16 points in batting average. I think that he has the upside to give you double digit homers and 20+ stolen bases again, but the risk is that his batting average could go anywhere between .240 and .280.
18. Alcides Escobar (KC)
Escobar has basically shown himself to be a stolen-base and runs only option at this point, as he hit just .254 with 26 stolen bases last year for Kansas City. That said, his defense is definitely going to keep him on the field, and with that come at bats and those stolen bases. He's really just a deep league play at this point, or if you have to have the speed he provides. Otherwise, I'd avoid him like the plague.
19. Zack Cozart (CIN)
Cozart played in just 11 games at the Major League level last year, but I like the upside he has overall. In his last full season (2010), he hit 17 home runs with 30 stolen bases in the minors, but with a .255 batting average. He reminds me a lot in terms of his numbers of Drew Stubbs, a player who has the potential to offer you both solid power and solid speed, but at a cost of a poor batting average. But he has the additional bonus of being a shortstop, and likely to be the starter in Cincinnati next year. I think honestly he could give you 10+ homers and 20+ steals next year, along with a .250 batting average.
20. Jason Bartlett (SD)
Bartlett's power numbers from 2009 are long gone, as he hit just 2 home runs in 2011. Petco seems to have sapped the power he did have, and his batting average suffered as well with it. There have been rumors of him being available via trade, which could definitely help his value. He's probably going to give around 20 stolen bases, and will most likely hold down a starting job all season long.