In order of the rankings:
Jose Reyes (TOR) – The only real question for Reyes is whether he is worthy of a first-round pick. He is as sure a bet as almost any player to generate $30 of value, which puts him squarely in the discussion, and with so few SS that are close to sure things, you can make a good case. His .337 from 2011 is a BABIP fluke so he is more of a .290-.300 hitter who is a lock for 40 SB.
Elvis Andrus (TEX) – It is hard to believe he is only 24 years old; you would think that a player with 2,000 AB by age 24 is a potential Hall of Famer. Andrus isn’t that, yet, but who knows what will happen over the next few years? For now, his SB drop from last year is related to taking fewer opportunities. He is an extreme ground ball hitter, which allows him to use his best asset.
Ben Zobrist (TB)—See OF.
Asdrubal Cabrera (CLE)- Cabrera proved that 2011 was not a fluke, so what’s next? His skill set was basically unchanged, and only a few random swings led to a slight decrease in his HR output. His SB total is another matter; his SBO% was almost cut in half and we do not know if that will rebound. But he still has profit potential.
Derek Jeter (NYY) – Reports of his demise were greatly exaggerated, for at least one year anyway. Admittedly, we have been on the wrong side of predicting that demise for the past few years. So, despite even further skills erosion last year, it is tough to say that this is the year he finally falls on his face. But don’t be surprised if it finally happens.
Alexei Ramirez (CHW)- What the heck happened? When you never voluntarily take a walk you are at risk of a bad BA, and a slow start last year doomed him. He has shown far better BA skills in the past, including the BB/K ratio, but let’s face it; he is a Cuban “31” so he might be 40 for all we know. Despite it all, the uptick in SB kept his value relatively consistent, but if they go then so does his value. He looks a lot riskier than many think.
Alcides Escobar (KC) – Another player who came up at a young age, but has not really shown much to justify it other than his wheels. His BABIP spike last year means his BA and SB total may be at risk, but he also might be reaching a sustainable peak. We won’t know until 2014, so is his glass half empty or half full?
Jed Lowrie (HOU)- Is he such a “sleeper” that he ends up overvalued? His 16 HR in 340 AB is an obvious calling card for the masses, especially at SS, and looks a lot like a repeatable skill given his totals from 2010. Injuries are an issue, and you can be forgiven for seeing a 30-35 HR season in the offing. It is Lowrie versus gravity; who wins?
J.J. Hardy (BAL)- Lenny Melnick is fond of saying “as the team goes, so goes the player.” Given the regression we expect from Baltimore, it may be a long year. His skill set is fairly consistent and he is a power source at a scarce position, and he has some BA upside if the BABIP last year was luck-induced and not a skill erosion. He might produce a $2 season or he might produce $20.
Erick Aybar (LAA) – Only once in his career has he cracked the .320 OBP barrier, so in leagues where that matters he gets downgraded a good deal. For the rest of us he seems like a good risk if you need steals and he can be had easily as he flies under the radar. Whether he will get 20 SB or 30 SB is a coin flip.
Stephen Drew (BOS)- How much do injuries mean? With Pedro Ciriaco and Jose Iglesias behind him, we are about to find out. Even before he was hurt he was not a great player, and his family legacy appears to be one of disappointment. His strong September may give reason for confirmation bias if you are a believer.
Jhonny Peralta (DET) – Though it may not seem like it on the surface, Peralta has been consistent over the last few seasons; such is the plight of fantasy players. He has gone back and forth in the stats that count for us, which is why it is so hard to predict what players will do. A return to his 2010 form appears to be the safest bet.
Eduardo Nunez (NYY) – He is going to get a lot more playing time than expected, and that is how big profit sleepers are found. His batting average skills are better than a lot of other similar players and he has speed to burn, so stealing first base should not be a problem. With 400 AB, not a stretch in the current iteration of the Yankees, he should easily get 30 SB.
Yunel Escobar (TB)- Anything is better than having to consider Sean Rodriguez as a potential starter, or Reid Brignac for that matter. Escobar is a bit better than “anything.” We cannot explain what happened last year by looking at the underlying batting skills aside from a walk rate that was cut in half. If that is a fluke, then he will be a nice profit; if it is real then he is a waste of your draft pick. We don’t know and neither does Escobar.
Hiroyuki Nakajima (OAK)- A defense-first type of player, about whom I am scared after being scarred by paying $19 for Tsuyoshi Nishioka in a past auction, a story I have sadly recounted on the Roundtable Show a few times. His MLEs don’t inspire anyone but on the good side you can probably get him in the last round or for less than $5, and for a nominal starter you can’t go too far wrong if you are desperate.
Alexi Casilla (BAL) – Now in Baltimore behind the decrepit Brian Roberts, we like Casilla a good deal, but we have a soft spot for players like this, much to my individual detriment. In auction leagues he is a “15 steals for a buck” player and that is a nice pickup at the end of an AL-only auction. Mixed leaguers of course can stop reading.
Brendan Ryan (SEA)-Whether he got robbed of a Gold Glove doesn’t matter to us; what matters is that he hits like a SS from the 1970s. A 30-year-old SS from the 1970s. While he makes a great Razzball pick because of the potential for at-bats, even AL-only guys can scoff in his general direction.
Mike Aviles (CLE)- The problem with Aviles is not so much him as it is getting at-bats;Cleveland has a solid starter at every infield position. Despite two straight years of sub-.300 OBP’s he at least has gotten 14 SB in all three years. But look at the AB totals; he has the skill to get more than 14. If Lonnie Chisenhall flops then Aviles’ stock rises, but for now he is only worth watching in AL-only leagues.
Brian Dozier (MIN)- His Play of the Year candidate in 2012 would have garnered my vote if I had one; if you did not see it, he hit a nubber that was five feet foul and then made a u-turn and went fair. Dozier is a 25-year-old who, right now, will battle Pedro Florimon Jr. for the Minnesota job. Dozier has a little bit of potential for 2013, and should not be completely overwhelmed at the plate. But a .271 OBP isn’t helping his case. He might get you ten steals on the free agent wire, which makes him a few steals and one buck worse than Alexi Casilla.