You know how many people say “If player X can stay healthy, he’ll be incredible”?
Well, that’s a brief summary of the shortstop position in fantasy baseball this season.
So much talent, so much uncertainty and potential injury risk. Gone are the days of 30 home runs for the position, but runs and stolen bases can certainly be had. But in all reality, even the stolen bases are declining, as just seven shortstops swiped 20 or more bags this year, while 29 outfielders accomplished that feat. So, where am I going with this? Don’t stress if you don’t land one of the top tier players at the position.
When healthy, Troy Tulowitzki isn’t only the most valuable fantasy asset at his position, but one of the biggest in all of baseball. On a per-162 game basis, the guy rakes, averaging 29 homers, 103 RBI and 101 runs. However, of course, the guy has found himself on the DL far too often, including five times during the last seven seasons. That has accounted for 25.6 missed Rockies games, according to ESPN, which often makes him a serious headache for fantasy owners. However, it’s always hard to get away from him, no matter the risk. Playing in Colorado is always great for a guy with 30-home run power, as Coors Field has finished top-10 in home runs per game every season since all the way back in 2001. That’s pretty intriguing. If he stays healthy (yes, another if), he will flirt with a top-10 overall finis, but because he only has two seasons of at least 150 games played, he isn’t the number one shortstop in fantasy heading into 2014.
No, that would belong to Hanley Ramirez.
Hanley somewhat teased fantasy owners last season, as he only played 86 games, but showcased his immense talent in limited action. He set personal bests in batting average (.345), slugging percentage (.638) and posted his second-best on-base percentage (.402). The guy is going to get on base very often, and when you look at the Dodgers stacked lineup, there’s no question he should score 100 runs, but should drive in plenty of runs, too. He showed his power last year, belting 20 home runs in just 86 games, which was top-five at his position. That power should stay, as he boosted his HR/FB ratio to a strong 21.1 percent, via FanGraphs. Of course, there’s injury risk with Hanley, too, seeing as 150 games over the last three seasons, but I believe his potential payoff is larger than Tulo’s, assuming both (somehow) stay healthy. The lineup alone makes me excited, honestly.
The Very Good
Oh, look. More injuries.
The combination of aging and injuries has Reyes as another risk/reward player at the position, but I’m not giving up on him. His injury last season occurred on a freak accident on an awkward slide to second base, and he was on a nice pace of 17 home runs and 25 steals. Anyone who flirts with 20/20 numbers is on my fantasy radar, for sure. Reyes should be one of the candidates to lead the league in runs, seeing as he’s eclipsed 100 runs in four seasons. Batting at the top of a very formidable Jays lineup, as well as sporting a very good contact rate, he should get on base quite often (career OBP of .342), allowing guys like Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista to drive him home.
An overlooked fantasy asset is Ian Desmond of the Nationals. The guy has accomplished back-to-back 20/20 seasons, which is a rather rare feat for a shortstop, especially after talking about how steals are somewhat fading at the position. He does strikeout a bit, sitting down 145 times last season, which hurts his value a bit in points leagues, but anyone that is capable of 20 steals and is seeing increased power has plenty of fantasy upside. To put his upside into perspective, only nine players posted 20/20 seasons last year. Desmond, meanwhile, was the only non-shortstop to do so.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.