Ray started this fun topic on Saturday with his early look at the Top 20 Outfielders for the 2013 and continued it yesterday with his First Base rankings. So I decided to keep the trend going and take an initial shot at ranking the SS position for the upcoming season. Remember that these ranks are for the 2013 season ONLY.
The first thing I noticed when I went through the eligible players is that SS is a little deeper than I thought it was going to be. Don't get me wrong, it's still a total minefield, but the list looks less scary that was anticipated a month and a half ago. Since mid-July, Hanley has reclaimed his SS eligibility (which it looked like he was going to lose in Miami) and Ben Zobrist has regained the SS designation that has eluded him since 2009. Every bit helps. On top of that, what depth there is filled with low average speedsters -- which means power and average will be prized commodities.
Once the season is over, we will begin our annual review of our Preseason Position Rankings. Once those are complete, we will post our Position Rankings with detailed commentary on each player ranked. Yes, the offseason will be busy for us, but it is a long offseason, and it helps us get through the offseason just a little bit quicker.
In addition to our MLB Position Rankings, we will also be ranking our annual Prospect Position Rankings, which will be loads of fun.
So here is my way-too-early look at the Top 20 Shortstops in 2013:
1. Hanley Ramirez, LAD
2. Starlin Castro, CHC
3. Jose Reyes, MIA
4. Troy Tulowitzki, COL
5. Ben Zobrist, TB
6. Ian Desmond, WSH
7. Elvis Andrus, TEX
8. Derek Jeter, NYY
9. Jimmy Rollins, PHI
10. Danny Espinosa, WSH
11. Asdrubal Cabrera, CLE
12. Alcides Escobar, KC
13. Josh Rutledge, COL
14. Jurickson Profar, TEX
15. Manny Machado, BAL*
16. Alexei Ramirez, CHW
17. Jed Lowrie, HOU
18. Dee Gordon, LAD
19. Marco Scutaro, SF
20. Jhonny Peralta, DET
* In some leagues, Machado may be 3B only.
For those of you still waiting for Starlin Castro to "break out", you're missing the point. He's increased his HR total (3, 10, 12), his SB total (10, 22, 23) and ISO (.108, .125, .145) over his first three seasons. So far in 2012, that's been good enough to make him the #4 SS on the ESPN Player Rater and a legitimate 5-category contributor. And he did all that with the worst BABIP he's put up in his three major league seasons (.313 vs. career .335). It will be very difficult to get both batting average and power out of the SS position in 2013, which makes Castro all the more valuable.
Look, Troy Tulowitzki is awesome when he's playing. But his list of soft tissue injuries are starting to really pile up - and those are the types of injuries that have a much higher recurrence rate. If you could guarantee me that Tulowitzki would play at least 130 games in 2013, I'd have him #1 on this list; however, he's only done that in two of the last five seasons. And if you're the Tulo owner from 2012, how did trying to find a passable replacement on the waiver wire work out for you? The shallower the position, the more the injury history matters.
If you had told me before the 2012 season that the Nationals would have two top-10 fantasy shortstops, I wouldn't have believed you. But Ian Desmond (#3) and Danny Espinosa (#9) are both outperforming expectations and are big parts of the Nats success (they've combined for 8.4 WAR - also known as "almost a Mike Trout"). But they each have their issues for 2013. Desmond will not repeat his 18% HR/FB rate, as his career rate is less than 11%. This means I would not count on more than 15 HR from him next year. And then there's Espinosa and his .341 BABIP - expect him to hit back around his .236 average from 2011 again next year (or possibly even lower, since he's posting the highest K% of his career this year).
The Jurickson Profar ranking is a total hedge depending on what happens this off-season with the Rangers. If they trade Andrus or move Kinsler off 2B, I'd move Profar all the way up to #10 (just barely ahead of Danny Espinosa). If he starts the year in the minors, I'd move him below Dee Gordon. He's extremely young, but his poise and approach can lend itself to early success for Profar, if given the opportunity.
I've now said my piece, so have at it. Let me know what you think.