Here are our individual player commentaries for NL SS, in order of rankings.
Troy Tulowitzki (COL)- Tulowitzki is rock solid at the plate, aside from his annoying habit of getting hurt. There is no way you can draft another SS ahead of him, but it says here that he will not be the number one SS by yearâ€™s end. His HR/FB and FB% are on multi-year declines.
Hanley Ramirez (LAD) â€“ On the good side we correctly predicted Ramirezâ€™ cratering in 2011, given his power numbers. Despite increasing his HR total in 2012, the 2011 season established a new level of performance. Any erosion of his stolen base numbers will drop him a few spots. Though he merits the #2 ranking among NL SS, there is a good chance he will end up outside of the top ten shortstops overall. Handle with great care.
Starlin Castro (CHC)- It is tempting to see a perennial All-Star here, but his hacking ways need to change or we will be perennially disappointed. 2012 was actually a better season than 2011 in many ways; Castro held his skill set, and improved his overall numbers despite seeing regression in his BABIP. We give into temptation; he is close to a perennial All-Star as it is, and only needs some slight improvement to challenge Tulowitzki for the number one spot.
Ian Desmond (WAS)- If Lenny Melnick is right that as the team goes, so goes the player, then it should be a banner year for Desmond. Like Castro, though, his hacktastic ways make it tough to have great faith in a high ranking; players like this are prone to big swings due to random variations. He is already 27, so perhaps 2012 represents a new plateau of performance, but if his HR/FB regresses he will give you a big loss.
Jimmy Rollins (PHI)- Rollins just keeps plugging away, and is at the point where we begin to wonder if he is a legitimate Hall of Fame candidate. He has always had below average BABIPs, which is surprising for a player like him, and which keeps his BA low. But even at age 34 there are no actual signs of skill erosion, so it looks like he should keep on chugging away.
Danny Espinosa (WAS)- We are going out on a limb here, but Espinosa looks like the goods to me. His ability to make contact stinks, but he takes enough walks that his BB/K ratio is similar to Castro and Desmond. He may be a far better fantasy player than real baseball player, since he has 30-30 potential, but that is all that matters to us. On the bad side, he tore his non-throwing rotator cuff last year and played through it, so he may be damaged goods and we will have to keep an eye on him.
Josh Rutledge (COL)- Here is a legitimate sleeper that might end up as one of the top three or four fantasy SSâ€™s this year, and that is not wishcasting. Obviously he needs to take more walks (do you see a theme here) but given the park, his minor league performance and the quality of his MLB debut, you have a potential 20-20 guy that most fantasy players do not know about. Go grab him.
Marco Scutaro (SFG)- Scutaro has strong BA skills; he walked more than he struck out in two of the last four years, and has gotten his contact rate over 90% two years running. But he needs to make it three years on both counts or he has little fantasy value. His BB% is on a four year slide, and is well below average, so the .300 hitter of the past two years is unlikely to continue in 2013, unless his approach changes. Whether it will is anyoneâ€™s guess. We wouldnâ€™t go out of our way to draft him, but he makes a decent backup plan.
Everth Cabrera (SDP)- Lesson #198 in why you do not draft one category players early in your drafts. Cabreraâ€™s cheap speed skills, which were evident for all to see, resulted in 44 SB last year. And every single one of us could have gotten him for nothing. This year we will see if he continues, but he will cost a lot more. He gets so many GB that he should have no problem batting .250, and he has no real competition for a starting job, so 60 SB is not out of the question.
Cliff Pennington (AZ) â€“The difference between Cabrera and Pennington is like falling off of a cliffâ€¦.sorry. But there is a huge gap between Cabreraâ€™s cheap speed and Penningtonâ€™s. His BABIP last year was a fluke, so we do not expect a sub .220 BA, and the park should play better for him. We will be surprised if he does not return to his 2011 form, and for the price you can do a lot worse, as you can see by reading below.
Andrelton Simmons (ATL)-His glove may be ready, but his bat isnâ€™t, not by a long shot. He makes good contact but that is about it, and without speed there is not much to recommend him other than the possibility of at-bats. There is a big gap between Pennington and Simmons. We will likely be more pessimistic than most on Simmonsâ€™ prospects.
Rafael Furcal (StL)- You can stick a fork in him if you have not done so already. He may get the odd steal here and there, but given the injury history, his age and two straight years of a sub .700 OPS, we may be too generous with this ranking.
Alex Gonzalez (MIL)- Jean Segura fans gnashed their teeth when Milwaukee brought in a retread like Gonzalez. He has had one good fantasy season, in 2010, and thatâ€™s it. It says a lot about Segura that a non-contender like Milwaukee did not want to give him the job. You can ignore Gonzalez in all but the deepest leagues.
Ruben Tejada (NYM)- The Mets appear to be sold on giving him the starting job. Tejada is similar in some ways to Andre Simmons; he looks like a player that can make contact but with no power or speed. He has hit over .280 in the last two seasons, over 800 at-bats, so it looks like he wonâ€™t be overmatched and there is room for improvement. If you need end-game batting average with hope for more, he may be your man.
Zack Cozart (CIN)- Why do we have a 15-homer potential power source ranked so low, you ask? The Reds are still talking with Scott Rolen, Cozart has no idea how to control the strike zone, and despite the 15 home runs he slugged less than .400. We will believe it when we see it.
Jean Segura (MIL)- He may get more playing time than we expect as of this writing, simply because Alex Gonzalez is worthless, and it may not take long for them to figure it out. Seguraâ€™s made a creditable debut, slaps the ball on the ground like Juan Pierre and has good speed. Not much to dislike about his approach and he can take a walk. If Everth Cabrera can get 60 SB then Segura can get 30, if you like to speculate in this manner. We like Segura a lot from a fantasy perspective, and we hope Milwaukee sees the light.
Brandon Crawford (SFG)-Crawford is the nominal starter, but he is a defense-first starter who has no redeeming features with the bat. Last year may be his offensive â€œpeak,â€ a sad state of affairs indeed.
Jonathan Herrera (COL)- Another â€œanyone in Coloradoâ€ ranking, Herrera, in theory, warrants a look on the chance that Rutledge flops. But that chance is very small in our view. If you look really closely, you see a guy that might be a 25th man. But you may need an electron microscope to look that closely.
Tyler Pastornicky (ATL)- We did not like him last year, although he had some buzz about him leading up to drafts. And, after last year we like him even less. Simmons is a good enough defender that he will hold the job even if he doesnâ€™t hit like an All-Star, and Pastornicky simply cannot hit with any authority. He would lose a home run hitting contest to Juan Pierre.
Jason Donald (CIN)-Donald looked decent in 2011 but looked as bad as is humanly possible last year. He put up a 4% BB rate, a .515 OPS and barely hit .200. And there are far better players ahead of him on the roster. He merits a ranking only because you may need someone in desperation, and his 2011 provides the slimmest glimmers of hope.
Dee Gordon (LAD)- It is always said you cannot steal first base. In Gordonâ€™s case, he cannot steal his way to half of first base. His best case for fantasy relevance is a Herb Washington-type season with zero at-bats but a bunch of steals as a pinch runner. Unless a safe falls on Hanley Ramirez, it is hard to see how he even gets 100 AB, but if he does he might reach base 20 times and get 15 steals.