This post is the fifth in a series of position rankings catered specifically to fantasy baseball head-to-head points leagues.
All hitters in this post and future points league rankings are based on these scoring values:
(1B x 1) + (2B x 2) + (3B x 3) + (HR x 4) + (R x 1) + (RBI x 1) + (BB x 1) + (SB x 2) + (SO x -1) = Total
For my thoughts on draft strategies and stats to track in H2H points leagues, consult the top of the catcher's rankings post here.
Notes on Shortstop:
Depth - Or, I should say, "lack of depth." There is little to be excited about in terms of upside at the position once you pass the first four or five (really only Dee Gordon and Stephen Drew come to mind). And, it's not as if any of the top choices are slam dunks as Troy Tulowitzki, Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez all carry significant injury concerns.
Stolen Bases - A lot of SS offer a majority of their points via stolen bases, but, if your league penalizes for caught stealing, you'll want to make sure that the player's success rate is worth the end result.
Rankings after the jump:
2012 Fantasy Baseball H2H Points League Shortstop Rankings:
1) Troy Tulowitzki, COL
2011 Points Scored: 476
Troy Tulowitzki's 2011 stats pretty much speak for themselves and his 2012's could be even better. He is without a doubt the top SS in my mind, but perhaps what's best about him in a H2H points league are his splits between the first/second half. In his six-year career, Tulo has a second half slash line of .321/.389/.555 (.944 OPS) with 68 HR, 261 RBI and 231 runs scored compared to a .264/.339/.456 (.794 OPS) with 54 HR, 182 RBI and 207 runs scored (he also has more 2B, 3B in the second half, while his SB and BB are slightly less). As Dick Vitale would say, "He's a PTPer, Baby!" (Prime Time Player).
2) Jose Reyes, MIA
2011 Points Scored: 490
It's the final AB of Reyes' season that's received the most discussion this offseason, when the other 536 were a lot more impressive. Reyes finished 2011 with a .337/.384/.493 (.877 OPS) slash line, 7 HR, 44 RBI, 39 SB, 101 runs scored and the NL Batting Crown in only 586 PA. Now he is headed to Miami where a better lineup should offer more opportunity for runs and an aggressive manager should let him run wild on the base paths. Injuries will always be the concern, so let's assume he misses games in 2012 and his .353 BABIP declines, he still won't hurt you with strike outs (career 10.5%) and he's proved that a short season from him is better than a full season from almost any other shortstop.
3) Hanley Ramirez, MIA
2011 Points Scored: 246
In fantasy baseball it's all about "what have you done for me lately," and lately, Han-Ram hasn't been so hot. Ramirez is playing in less and less games with each passing season while his SO%, GB% and CS% increase each year. It sounds bleak, but, he is still only 28 years old and has as much potential as any player in the game. Even in an injury-shortened, 92-game season, Ramirez still scored enough points to crack the Top 20 SS in 2011. It's also unknown just how much his shoulder bothered him all year when he was in the lineup. It's been suggested that Adrian Gonzalez's power was sapped due to shoulder problems in '11, so why not Ramirez? Worst case he repeats his 2010 season and scores around 320 points, best case, well ... what other SS can provide a 30/30 season with a .300 AVG and 100 RBI and runs scored? None that I can think of. (Rumor is Hanley Ramirez will play third base for the Marlins in 2011. Read where he ranks at third base here.)
4) Starlin Castro, CHC
2011 Points Scored: 431
There's a lot to like about Starlin Castro. And even more when you realize he is only 21 years old. In his second MLB season, Castro posted a .307/.341/.432 (.773 OPS) with 10 HR, 66 RBI, 22 SB and 91 runs scored atop the Cubs lineup. He hit 36 doubles and 9 triples, so even if he isn't currently knocking balls out of the park, he is displaying power that could potentially develop into HR down the line (remember, he's only 21 years old). Combine those XBH with 22 SBs, a .300 AVG and a SO% 5 points below the MLB average and there's a surefire recipe for points for years to come. Did I mention he's only 21?
5) Asdrubal Cabrera, CLE
2011 Points Scored: 416
Sometime around the start of May in my keeper league last season, an owner traded Carl Crawford /CC Sabathia for Hanley Ramirez and threw in Cabrera as an afterthought. Sure enough, Cabrera would go on to outscore both Ramirez and Crawford by over 120 points. You just never know. So, can he do it again? A lot will depend on the health of all three, but there's plenty to suggest that Asdrubal Cabrera (or as I like to call him, "The Drubes,") can put up another big year in 2012. His 60 XBH were the second most at the position and his 25 HR were only behind Tulo and Hardy, meaning he offers power that's rare at the position, power that doesn't come at the cost of AVG or speed as he was the closest SS to a 20/20 season (17 SB). His 119 strikeouts are of some concern, but his 17.9 SO% isn't exactly horrible. Add to that that his .302 BABIP was 20 points below his career average and there's reason to believe The Drubes will provide owners a lot of points at a lot less cost than Tulo, Reyes or Ramirez.
6) Elvis Andrus, TEX
2011 Points Scored: 424
Elvis Andrus' 2011 season looked quite a lot like his 2009 and 2010 seasons, but, with a little extra power. While he still didn't smash a ton of balls over the fence (5 HR), he did hit 27 doubles, 10 more than his career best. Add that to a 3% decrease in SO% and all of the sudden Andrus is trending in the right direction. His speed is still his best asset (37 SB) and when added to an increase in OPS, a solid .260-.280 AVG and spot atop the Rangers' lineup, points are going to rack up fast.
7) Jimmy Rollins, PHI
2011 Points Scored: 435
J-Roll never really got on a roll last season, but still managed to provide the third most points amongst SS in an injury-shortened season. Rollins finished the year with a .268/.338/.399 (.736 OPS), 16 HR, 63 RBI, 87 runs scored and an impressive 30 SB (considering his age). Health is becoming a concern now as Rollins has failed to reach 700 PA in three of his last four seasons, after doing it four consecutive seasons earlier in his career. But, like Reyes, he showed in '11 that his "less" can provide much more than most at SS. If able to reach a similar amount of plate appearances in 2012, owners should see similar results from Rollins as none of his ratios were out of line with his career averages.
8) Alexei Ramirez, CWS
2011 Points Scored: 377
There's nothing sexy about Alexei (unless the lady readers disagree?), but year in and year out he continues to post good point totals for his fantasy owners thanks to a fairly balanced stat line. In 2011, Ramirez finished with a .269/.328/.399 (.727 OPS) slash line, 15 HR, 70 RBI, 7 SB and 81 runs scored. Not to mention that he won't hurt owners as his 12.1 SO% is over 7% less than the MLB average and his BB% is a solid 7.5. He could be in line for a slight increase in HR as his HR/FB and ISO were both below his career average, but at 30 years old, what you see is likely what you get with Ramirez and what you get ain't all that bad.
9) Erick Aybar, ANA
2011 Points Scored: 387
Erick Aybar doubled his previous career-high in HR in 2011 with 10 due to an ISO 40 points higher than his average and a HR/FB rate almost 2% higher. Therefore, I wouldn't bet on double digit HR again. It would be nice to see an improvement in his 5.1 BB% as you want base stealers on first base as often as possible, but if not, at least he doesn't hurt you much with strikeouts (11.2%). With the addition of King Albert, I like the chances of Aybar's counting stats increasing assuming another healthy season atop the Halos' lineup.
10) Dee Gordon, LAD
2011 Points Scored: 154 (minor leagues)
Flash Gordon lived up to his name in 2011 with 24 SB in only 56 games. Therefore, owners should expect about 78 SB from Dee Gordon in 2012. OK. OK. OK. That might be a little optimistic, but 50 seem extremely possible if not likely. Other than that, Gordon should provide an AVG somewhere between .280-.300, 30 RBI, 90 R, 30 BB, 25 XBH (0 HR) and, yeah, that's about it. Doesn't sound like much, but considering his relatively low 11.6 SO%, it quickly adds up to close to 360 points.
11) Jhonny Peralta, DET
2011 Points Scored: 350
Jhonny "Silent H" Peralta made a lot of noise in his first full season with the Detroit Tigers when he posted a career-best .299/.345/.478 (.824 OPS) slash line along with 21 HR, 86 RBI and 68 runs scored. At the same time, his SO% continued to drop (unfortunately so did his BB%) as did his GB/FB ratio (0.58 compared to a 0.80 career average), while his BABIP and LD% both stabilized . Really, the key will be whether he continues to hit the ball in the air as often. If so, expect similar power and a solid AVG. If not, well, as his 0 SB might indicate, he doesn't have a lot of speed to run out many infield hits.
12) Stephen Drew, ARZ
2011 Points Scored: 180 (injured)
In the three seasons prior to 2011, Stephen Drew averaged 630 PA and 370 points scored. Before his ankle injury, he was on pace for around 320 points in '11 likely due to decrease in his HR/FB as well as a 3% increase in strikeouts. If he returns to his career averages in those categories and reaches 600 plate appearances again it's likely he could score anywhere from 340 to 400 points. It's obviously not a very specific projection, but it does show he has as much upside if not more than any other SS eligible player at this point in the draft.
13) JJ Hardy, BAL
2011 Points Scored: 354
After forgettable 2009 and 2010 seasons, JJ Hardy bounced back in a big way in his first year with Baltimore. Hardy hit a career-best 30 HR with a .269/.310/.491 (.801 OPS) slash line, 80 RBI and 76 runs scored in 2011 and earned himself a three-year contract extension in the process (which means I should never have to see another 40 year old man wearing a "JJ Makes Me Hardy" shirt in Milwaukee again). Don't expect 30 HR again (25 seems more likely) as his ISO was 50 points higher than his previous best and health is still a concern since he missed 33 games last year. But, considering the depth at the position, Hardy is worth a shot as few others offer his power or run production.
14) Derek Jeter, NYY
2011 Points Scored: 354
"El Capitan" can still offer fantasy owners hits, runs and RBI, in large part due to his surrounding lineup, but Father Time has completely stolen Derek Jeter's power. His SLG% has been below .400 the last two seasons and at least 60 points below his career average while his line drive rate has now sat steady at 16% since 2010 (5% lower than his average). And, in terms of HR, well, Jeter hit 6 last season (all be it one for the record books), the first time in his career he failed to reach double digits. There are still points to be had, likely a similar total to 2011, and possibly an increase with more PA, just don't expect the power to return.
15) Yunel Escobar, TOR
2011 Points Scored: 334
In his first full season with Toronto, Yunel Escobar did, well, pretty much exactly what he did in all his full seasons with Atlanta. His .290/.369/.413 (.782 OPS) slash line was almost a carbon copy of his .289/.366/.401 (.766) 5-year average and everything else pretty much followed suit. Now 29 years old, Escobar is in the middle of his prime and has shown no signs of breaking out, be it in HR, SB or anything really which means a repeat of 2011 and his averages is as much of a sure thing as you could hope for in fantasy baseball. If there is such a thing.
16) Emilio Bonifacio, MIA
2011 Points Scored: 346
Read my Emilio Bonifacio profile here. Depending on your league, Bonifacio should qualify at 3B/SS/OF in 2012. And, if you own him, you'll get to say his name a lot, which is kind of fun.
17) Alcides Escobar, KC
2011 Points Scored: 307
To this point, Alcides Escobar hasn't translated his minor league potential into MLB success. However, he still is only 25 years old and there are some encouraging signs. For one, he strikes out 5.6% less than the MLB average, he also has had limited BABIP luck with a .284 career average. While that's not extremely lower than league average, someone with his speed has the potential to be anywhere from .300-.320 on a regular basis. Also, his 33 XBH were close to similar speedsters such as Elvis Andrus (35) and Emilio Bonfiacio (38). There are signs that a breakout season could be on the horizon while he continues to provide 25-30 SB potential in the meantime.
18) Rafael Furcal, STL
2011 Points Scored: 195 (injured)
In his last five seasons, Rafael Furcal has appeared in over 140 games only once and over 100 only twice. If youíre never on the field, it makes it really hard to score points. With that being said, he should be batting leadoff for what was the top scoring NL offense in 2011, there's the possibility of a 15/15 season, he doesn't strike out much and his '11 BABIP was 70 points less than his career average. That all adds up to points ... if Furcal is on the field. But, that's a big if. An "if" so big it deserves a "yo mamma" joke.
19) Ian Desmond, WAS
2011 Points Scored: 269
Ian Desmond drives his fantasy owners almost as crazy as he drives the Washington Nationals. Fortunately for fantasy owners, his horrible fielding is a non-issue in most leagues. What is an issue in a H2H points league are his strikeouts. Desmond has developed into the Mark Reynolds of shortstops and his 139 were 10 more than anyone else at the position, meaning there are some nights where you'd be better leaving the spot in your rotation empty. In fact, you may want to in a series where he faces the Phillies' pitching staff. But, Desmond is still young and there could be the possibility of a 15/30 type season not too far off. It's a risk you probably can afford this late in the draft, but if you're in a competitive league where every point counts, stay away from Desmond. Far away.
20) Jed Lowrie, HOU
2011 Points Scored: 159 (injured)
Jed Lowrie came out of the gates strong in Beantown last year with a .368/.389/.575 (.962 OPS) slash line, 3 HR, 12 RBI and 9 runs in March/April before a shoulder injury completely derailed his season. He never returned to that kind of production, not that you'd have expected him to, but it wasn't even close. Now he'll be the starting shortstop for the Houston Astros with every day at bats in a hitter-friendly ballpark. With Lowrie, there's upside in 2012 which is what you want this late with a chance at double-digit HR and a solid AVG.
Marco Scutaro, Alex Gonzalez, Robert Andino, Jason Bartlett
Zack Cozart, CIN
2011 Points Scored: Minor Leagues
All indications are that Zack Cozart should win the starting shortstop job for the Cincinnati Reds in spring training. However, at this point we haven't seen anywhere near enough of him at the MLB level (38 PA) to know what he might due in a full season. Not to mention he is recovering from Tommy John surgery to the elbow of his non-throwing arm. Maybe that doesn't impact his throw, but does it affect his swing at all? I'd wait a week or two into the season to see how many starts Baker is giving him, where he bats in the lineup and, obviously, how well he is performing before I worry about having him on my team.
Is there a shortstop you're excited about that didn't make the Top 20? Feel free to comment on these rankings or submit any fantasy baseball questions below.
Check back on Monday 1/16 for the start of my 2012 H2H Points League Outfield Rankings.