Midseason position look: Shortstops

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Shortstop was shallow, and we knew it, and it has been. Let's look back at what we got right and what we got wrong.

In Monday's look back at our preseason catcher rankings, I noted that catcher is a really shallow position despite what we might have thought at the start of the season. Today, it's a look at shortstops, which is the same in that it's shallow, but is different in that we, you know, sort of knew it would be.

It's natural that the players we rank highly will, by and large, come in below those rankings, if only because there aren't many places higher for them to go to. That makes sense. But even knowing that, this boggled my mind:

Of the top 13 shortstops in our preseason consensus rankings (here and here), 12 of them currently sit below our projection in ESPN's player rater. Seriously. The only shortstop who has done better than we as a group guessed is Troy Tulowitzki, who the consensus had at second, but has been the No. 1 (and not by a narrow margin). After Tulo, you have to go all the way down to 14th on our list - Asdrubal Cabrera - to find a guy who has lived up to what we as a group thought he would do.

Part of that is because of Dee Gordon, who got precisely three points in our consensus rankings, the fewest of any shortstop who actually got a vote. He sits at second at the position (in both ESPN's Player Rater and the June roundup of Equivalent Fantasy Average), putting up easily the best year of his career. He's cooled off a bit after his hot start, but still sits at .292/.344/.398 on the season, with 43 stolen bases. He hasn't actually played shortstop all season, but whatever, dude qualifies. He's playing shortstop for me in a league.

But even without Gordon, guys have jumped up. Alexei Ramirez, who was our (and my) No. 15 shortstop before the season, sits at third in both ranking systems. Alcides Escobar, who hit only .234/.259/.300 in 2013, has rebounded to a fairly shocking .283/.320/.386 this year. We ranked him 22nd; he sits at eighth in ESPN, seventh in EFA.

Four shortstops in our preseason rankings haven't even been fantasy relevant: Stephen Drew (20th consensus, 17th mine) didn't sign until later than we all expected, and hasn't been worth playing since he has been out there. In about the same playing time, Pedro Florimon (29th, 27th) wishes he could be as good as Stephen Drew. Jose Iglesias (27th, 28th) got hurt between our rankings being published and the season starting, so shucks to that. And Didi Gregorius (30th, and I didn't even bother) didn't have a big-league job until Chris Owings got hurt a few weeks ago.

Anyway, what follows is a look back at our preseason rankings, and figuring out why we thought what we thought:

We thought they'd be great

  • The group at large liked Hanley Ramirez first overall, with six of the eight rankers slotting him No. 1. Jason and I had him at No. 2, but I wasn't adamant about it, especially after he hit .345/.402/.638 in 2013; the question about Ramirez is and has been whether he'd be able to stay healthy, right? Of course, as of the All-Star break, he has exactly as many plate appearances this year as he did last year, and his OPS is 204 points lower than it was then. Even then, Ramirez's .836 OPS of 2014 is his second-highest since 2010; he was in the .700s in both 2011 and 2012. His last season that was both healthy and super-productive was 2009. I like him, and he is still ranked fourth in both ESPN and EFA, but that Tulo/Hanley battle has been decided.
  • The little bolds and italics on a player's baseball-reference.com page that signify league leadership are fun, especially if you're looking at a Barry Bonds or a Tony Gwynn. But bring up Troy Tulowitzki's page right now, and you'll see he's leading the way in every rate stat, as well as runs and homers. He's been the best fantasy player in baseball so far, let alone shortstop, and he and Mike Trout are pulling away from the field as overall baseball players. We had him second, but as I noted above, it was a toss-up between him and Tulo.
  • Ian Desmond put up back-to-back 20-20 seasons in 2012 and 2013, hitting at least .280 both times. It was enough for our consensus ranks (and my own personal ones) to have him as the No. 3 shortstop before the season, though he was as low as seventh in individual rankings. This year, he's well on pace for the 20 homers again (he sits at 16 right now), but, with only 10 steals, he's looking at not-quite-20 steals. More damningly, though, is the fact that his batting average has plummeted to .243, and his runs scored aren't on pace with previous years, either. He sits at ninth in ESPN rankings, fifth in EFA, so it's not bad, just a bit disappointing.
  • Okay, listen, there are a lot of baseball players, you guys, and you can't keep track of all of them. I say that because I had no idea, prior to working on this, what kind of season Jose Reyes was having. He hasn't been in the news at all. Anyway, we ranked him fourth, and I had him fifth. He's not stealing the bases he used to (only 17 so far), and he's never been particularly powerful. There's no particular thing that this version of Reyes does well, but he's still hitting .273, still has 51 runs. Seventeen steals isn't a bad total, it's just not what he used to do. So he's seventh in ESPN, ninth in EFA. I'm sticking by it: Unremarkable.
  • Jean Segura. Oh, Jean Segura. We ranked him fifth. I ranked him ninth, and, as I said to Kantecki in a piece I have now linked to a billion-and-seven times, I actually thought he'd do worse than that. I'm not going to rehash the whole thing again, but I'll say that Segura's line (.232/.266/.315, four homers) isn't a shock to me, and neither is the fact that he ranks only 15th in ESPN, 13th in EFA.

We thought they'd be good

  • One of these years, Elvis Andrus' numbers are going to move significantly in some direction. He's 25, in his sixth season, and still hitting like he always has. It's actually kind of crazy. Anyway, we had him sixth in consensus, and I had him fourth. I think we all expected some development. Instead, he's doing basically what he does, and that has him 11th in both ranking systems.
  • J.J. Hardy has to be a prime candidate for "most baffling" of the season. He averaged more than 25 homers a year in his last three, then didn't hit even his first homer of the season until June 21. He's never been an on-base monster, and he can't run at all, so if he isn't hitting for power, he isn't worthwhile. We ranked Hardy seventh, I had him 10th. But he's sitting at 23rd in ESPN, 26th in EFA. I dropped him a while back.
  • No one knew what to expect out of Starlin Castro this year. He hit .307 as a 21-year-old, .283 as a 22-year-old, then only .245 as a 23-year-old. There were questions about his commitment, his desire, his talent, whatever. We had him eighth, I had him 11th. We were actually fairly right, as he sits at 10th in ESPN, sixth in EFA. It's been a nice bounce-back season for Castro, but I'm still not positive about him long-term.
  • Ben Zobrist was our No. 9 shortstop, my No. 7. When he's been healthy, he's actually been okay this year, but he missed a handful of games to injury, which leaves him at No. 14 in ESPN, No. 17 in EFA.
  • Nope, no idea what happened to Everth Cabrera. I don't think it was Biogenesis. But he was our No. 10 shortstop, my No. 8. His batting average is 65 points below last year's, his stolen-base totals are in the tank. He's already struck out more times this year than he did all of last year. It's gibberish, and he's sitting at No. 29 in ESPN, 24 in EFA.

Other notables

  • Jhonny Peralta was a divisive shortstop on Fake Teams. He was ranked as low as 20th and as high as sixth (my ranking), coming in at 16th overall. He was my shortstop to target. He's No. 3 at the position in homers (14) and hitting in many ways exactly as well as he did a year ago. His lack of steals and middling batting average keep his fantasy value in check, and he ranks 13th in ESPN, 15th in EFA, but I think he's more likely to rise than fall.
  • Xander Bogaerts got so, so much love before the season. He was ranked as high as sixth, as low as 14th (me), plus he went unranked by one ranker who wasn't sold on his shortstop eligibility. It's been an disaster of a rookie season, though, with Bogaerts' struggles coinciding largely with his move to third base for Stephen Drew. He's hitting .235/.311/.348, and he ranks at 28th in ESPN, 20th in EFA. I've been hearing AAA rumors.
  • Look, Jimmy Rollins is 35, and has only had one above-average offensive season since 2008 before this year. So when we ranked him 17th, and I had him 24th, it made a lot of sense. Of course, he's stealing bases at a greater clip than he has since '08, and his power is back up some, and none of it makes any sense. He's fifth in ESPN's rankings, and that's not something I ever would have guessed.

Here's a full rundown of our consensus ranks, my personal preseason ranks, and the ESPN and EFA results:

Rank Site preseason rank My preseason rank Current ESPN rank June EFA rank
1 Hanley Ramirez Troy Tulowitzki Troy Tulowitzki Troy Tulowitzki
2 Troy Tulowitzki Hanley Ramirez Dee Gordon Dee Gordon
3 Ian Desmond Ian Desmond Alexei Ramirez Alexei Ramirez
4 Jose Reyes Elvis Andrus Hanley Ramirez Hanley Ramirez
5 Jean Segura Jose Reyes Jimmy Rollins Ian Desmond
6 Elvis Andrus Jhonny Peralta Erick Aybar Starlin Castro
7 J.J. Hardy Ben Zobrist Jose Reyes Alcides Escobar
8 Starlin Castro Everth Cabrera Alcides Escobar Erick Aybar
9 Ben Zobrist Jean Segura Ian Desmond Jose Reyes
10 Everth Cabrera J.J. Hardy Starlin Castro Jimmy Rollins
11 Jed Lowrie Starlin Castro Elvis Andrus Elvis Andrus
12 Xander Bogaerts Jed Lowrie Asdrubal Cabrera Asdrubal Cabrera
13 Andrelton Simmons Asdrubal Cabrera Jhonny Peralta Jean Segura
14 Asdrubal Cabrera Xander Bogaerts Ben Zobrist Brandon Crawford
15 Alexei Ramirez Alexei Ramirez Jean Segura Jhonny Peralta
16 Jhonny Peralta Andrelton Simmons Chris Owings Chris Owings
17 Jimmy Rollins Stephen Drew Andrelton Simmons Ben Zobrist
18 Erick Aybar Brad Miller Derek Jeter Yangervis Solarte *
19 Brad Miller Erick Aybar Brandon Crawford Jonathan Villar
20 Stephen Drew Jonathan Villar Mike Aviles Xander Bogaerts
21 Zack Cozart Zack Cozart Jonathan Villar Jed Lowrie
22 Alcides Escobar Alcides Escobar Danny Santana Justin Turner *
23 Jonathan Villar Yunel Escobar J.J. Hardy Mike Aviles
24 Yunel Escobar Jimmy Rollins Jed Lowrie Everth Cabrera
25 Derek Jeter Mike Aviles Jordy Mercer Derek Jeter
26 Chris Owings Brandon Crawford Adeiny Hechavarria J.J. Hardy
27 Jose Iglesias Pedro Florimon Eduardo Escobar Brad Miller
28 Brandon Crawford Jose Iglesias Xander Bogaerts Jordy Mercer
29 Pedro Florimon Jordy Mercer Everth Cabrera Eduardo Escobar
30 Didi Gregorius Derek Jeter Brad Miller Adeiny Hechavarria

* EFA lists players by Yahoo! position eligibility, which is more generous than ESPN's. Solarte and Turner qualify at shortstop in Yahoo!, but not in ESPN.

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