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top 10 fantasy shortstops

The middle infield is the make you or break you position on a fantasy roster. What I mean by that is, if you don’t come away with a top player or someone you at least can cope with, you will have a highly unsuccessful draft.

What makes shortstop so shallow is the lack of consistent hitters beyond the top two or three guys. We all know Hanley Ramirez and Troy Tulowitzki will make their competitors look bad, but without one of those two does your SS spot look empty?

You don’t have to miss out on getting really good production from your shortstop, as long as you know what you are looking for. After the top three or four guys are gone, you have to start looking for one-category contributors in the later rounds as well as knowing what sleepers to target. First off I’ll briefly take you through my 2011 shortstop rankings.

The top 10 list

1. Hanley Ramirez, Florida marlins- HanRam has been the best player at SS since he became a full time starter with the fish. He’s matured since his outbreak with his team and manager, Fredi Gonzalez, last season and now he looms to improve upon last season’s fantasy disappointment.

2. Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies- Tulo is on the brink of surpassing Hanley for the best shortstop in the league, but his injury history keeps him from doing that. He hit 27 homers in only 122 games last season and nearly cracked the 100 RBI mark. However, he has to remain healthy for a full season to be the top SS everybody can count on.

3. Jose Reyes, New York Mets- For some odd reason people think Reyes is the position player version of Rich Harden. A mega-talent who needs to put together a fully healthy season to reach greatness, but what we all need to realize is that Reyes isn’t an injury risk. He’s played 153 or more games in four of his past six seasons and in 133 or more in five of those seasons. One injury cost him some time between 2008 and 2009, but he still finished with admirable numbers. He’ll settle nicely into the number three SS slot with 200 or so hits, 12-15 HRs, 55-60 RBIs, 45-55 SBs and a solid .285 average.

4. Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia Phillies- I’m making a bold statement here by putting Rollins fourth. Maybe it is because he, sadly, is the next best option, or because I’m a Bay Area guy just like he is. Regardless, he is a season removed from a 21 HR/31 SB campaign and three from a 30/41 year with 94 RBIs and a .296 average and is coming into 2011 healthy. His position is littered with players with risks, he just has the highest reward out of any of them.

5. Derek Jeter, New York Yankees- 2010 was Jeter’s only down year in 16 years. Does that signal an immediate decline? No, not yet. It does tell me one thing though, Jeter will come out and return to his former glory. He might be the only superstar I’ve heard of that had his worst season in a contract year, but he’s got a healthy new contract and remember, he’s Derek Jeter, the most prolific Yankee in the last decade and a half.

6. Alexei Ramirez, Chicago White Sox- Alexei really came on strong in the latter half of the season in 2010. He posted a .290 average after the break with 10 homers, 37 RBIs and 10 steals, pushing his 2010 totals to 18/70/.282/13. Those numbers are right on par with his career and he’s 29 years old and only going to improve. He hit 21 home runs in 2008, so I believe he has more power tucked away somewhere. And in that stacked ChiSox lineup, there’s no reason he can’t improve upon the numbers that made him the no. 4 shortstop on ESPN’s player rater.

7. Stephen Drew, Arizona Diamondbacks- In every full season he has played he has hit 12 or more homers and drove in 61 or more RBIs. His stolen bases and batting average numbers aren’t great, but both are acceptable and he’s just starting to enter his prime. He’s a former first round pick and the younger brother of Red Sox slugger, J.D. Drew, so he has the pedigree for success. What Drew doesn’t have going for him is a good lineup hitting around him. But he’s been very useful in the past so there’s no reason to think he can’t improve as he gets older.

8. Ian Desmond, Washington Nationals- Desmond was a revelation in 2010. Nobody saw this coming out of the capital and quite frankly, I’m thankful for him. He posted great numbers for a 25 year old getting his first taste of consistent big league action and he has improved with time. After the All-Star break, he improved his average from .255 to .283 and kept the same power and speed pace he was on. Finishing with 10 HRs, 65 RBIs, 17 steals, and a .269 batting average he found himself among the best shortstops in baseball.

9. Player A: .250, 64 runs, 6 HRs, 46 RBIs, 29 SBs
Player B: .265, 88 runs, 0 HRs, 35 RBIs, 32 SBs

Which player would you rather have as your SS? For the most part, it is a toss up. Player A lacks where player B doesn’t, A does other things better than B. Player A is Oakland’s Cliff Pennington and player B is Texas’ [Elvis Andrus]((http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/players/stats?playerId=29515 ""). Andrus is our no. 9 SS, but only because he has better potential than Pennington at this point. If Andrus can increase his SB success rate and reach the upper forties in his steals total then he will clearly be the better pick. But until then, there really isn’t much separating ESPN’s no. 6 SS, Andrus, and their no. 27 SS, Pennington.

10. Rafael Furcal, Los Angeles Dodgers- Furcal has a tendency to be overlooked. He isn’t often regarded as one of baseball’s best shortstops, but his year-end numbers prove that he is. In 2010 his 97 game totals were enough to land him the no. 6 spot on the player rater and at 33 years old he has the abilities to repeat. 10+ HRs, 65+ RBIs, 30+ SBs, and a .300 average aren’t out of the question in a healthy season from Furcal.

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