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It seems shortstops are growing a pair this season, as you can make the case the position has about 16 attractive options, with a handful of additional decent options (Stephen Drew, Josh Rutledge, Zack Cozart, Jean Segura and others) available later in the drafts. That said, this depth is caused by a preference to play Hanley Ramirez, Ben Zobrist, Martin Prado and Danny Espinosa at short rather the other positions they have eligibility at.
So, while you might look at SS as deep compared to past years, be ready in case someone decides to use one of the multiple positional guys at a position other than short, which would greatly dilute the pool
Last year, Erick Aybar (#88 Hitter, #11 SS) was either amazing (second half) or crappy (first half). When you put your hands together, you have a pretty typical Aybar season, which is solid. You do have to wonder if the decrease in SB attempts had to do with the big bats behind him because those will still be there, which would mean 20+ SBs is not really an option. That said, those bats should secure a 90 run season for Aybar for the first time in his career. He’ll also bat around .280 and chip in the aforementioned steals. He’s not a sexy player, but he should get the job done and is one reason you don’t have to reach for a shortstop early – and another reason you shouldn’t worry about positional scarcity in your drafts.
While it seemed the majority of White Sox were having career years, Alexei Ramirez (#95 Hitter, #13 SS) was busy doing the opposite. That said, he reached 20 SBs for the first time in any season of his career, all the while posting a miserable OBP (.287). Ramirez has never had much plate discipline but it sure went out the window last season as he tried to swing at every single pitch. He did maintain a decent contact rate and hit balls about the same as normal. The one difference was his HR/FB rate, which sunk to 5.1%. It was the second straight decline, but is far below anything he has done previously. The power should come back next season and he’ll bat.265-.272. The SBs are a big wild card. Maybe Ventura ran him more? Maybe Ramirez made up for his power outage by stealing? There is no real way of telling yet, unfortunately, so count on 10 SBs and make everything else gravy. People seem to be writing his obituary, but Ramirez is just 31 and could easily be among the top of the position. Heck, even with his horrible 2012, he is top 10 in HRs, runs and RBIs among other SS since 2010.
Alcides Escobar (#129 Hitter, #17 SS) has gone from hot prospect to forgotten middle infielder pretty quickly. He had a tough run in Milwaukee when he stole no bases batting down in the line-up. Since coming over to the American League, Escobar has swiped 26 and 35 bases. His 35-steal campaign was probably a tad BABIP (.344 versus .303 for his career) aided, but he did hit the ball slightly harder. At this point, Escobar is who he is—a contact guy with little on base skills. As such, his value could have wide variances given how many of his hits fall. Still, he has the speed to make his own luck. While last year was probably the best we’ll see for a while, there’s nothing wrong with a .272 average, 30 SBs and 75+ runs.
Josh Rutledge (#140 Hitter, #20 2B, #19 SS) was covered in the second base preview here.
While there is a lot of publicity about other infield options for the Diamondbacks, Cliff Pennington (#147 Hitter, #23 SS, #22 2B) is flying completely under the radar. In just 125 games last season, Pennington stole 15 bases – of course, he batted.215/.278/.311. Still, that included a really low BABIP (.259 versus .298 for his career) and he was far better earlier in his career. Indeed, among SS since 2010, Pennington has the ninth most stolen bases. In the switch to Arizona, Pennington is in a far better ballpark and easier league. He’s also on a team that supposedly values “grit,” which tends to translate to more SB attempts—Pennington pocketed 29 thefts in 2010. As long as he costs next to nothing, Pennington is a solid get in deeper leagues, he could fire up 8-10 HRs and steal 20+ bases. The batting average might not be anything to write home about, but he could surprise with a .262 mark.
With Curtis Granderson’s injury, some playing time may have opened up for Eduardo Nunez (#184 Hitter, #27 SS, #27 3B). Nunez doesn’t have a glove, but the Yankees seem to like his bat. In addition to Granderson’s health, Derek Jeter is battling back from an injury, Alex Rodriguez is out for a while and Kevin Youkilis is pretty brittle. You don’t have to imagine outlandish scenarios that have Nunez getting near fulltime playing duties. In 180 games since 2010, Nunez has looked like a decent hitter: .272/.318/.384 with 38 SBs. With 140 games, Nunez should steal 25+ bases and score a decent amount of runs. He’ll also hit .275 or so.
Tyler Greene (#231 Hitter, #32 2B, #31 SS) was covered in the second base preview here.