By Scott Barzilla

If you have been following the Total Run Index series, you will know that shortstop was a pretty weak position in 2012. When we evaluate fantasy players we go back at least three years and as many as five years. So, the master fantasy list will look far different beginning on top. Perhaps, the most important lesson for any fantasy player is not to get too wrapped up over what happened last year.

1) Troy Tulowitzky– +21.0

The biggest question with Tulow is whether he will give you a whole season. In the past five seasons he has one season above 150 games and one year above 140 games. That leaves three of five season with at least 25 games on the shelf. So, before you commit a late first rounder to Tulow just keep that in mind.

2) Jose Reyes– +19.7

Reyes has turned in two consecutive strong seasons, so his health concerns seem to be behind him. Moreover, he is moving to a lineup that should take advantage of his skills. He should be a lot stronger in the run scoring department, but the AL is normally a subdued base stealing league, so his steals might be down through no fault of his own.

3) Asdrubal Cabrera– +7.3

You can see the drop off between number two and three. If those first two guys are off the board you’ll be okay waiting on a shortstop. The next four or five guys are pretty bunched up. Cabrera is normally good for 20+ home runs and some decent run producing numbers, but his other numbers are on the ordinary side.

4) Hanley Ramirez– +7.0

Is Hanley Ramirez capable of getting back to the Ramirez from 2010 and before? I suppose we can argue that he should be energized by being on a contender and back at his original position. Yet, with every season we are removed from those salad days we have to assume that those salad days are behind him.

5) Jimmy Rollins– +5.0

There are certain players that are better fantasy performers than they are regular performers. Jimmy Rollins is one of those guys. He produced 20+ home runs and steals last season. That’s top notch performance no matter what else is produced. It remains to be seen how long he will continue to be a speed threat, but as long as he is he belongs in the top five at the position.

6) Jed Lowrie– +4.7

Lowrie nearly led the Astros in home runs and he missed nearly half the season. I wish I could tell you what he is capable of if he stays healthy an entire season, but he has never finished a season completely healthy. If you can match him with a capable backup he might be worthy of this selection, but otherwise I would steer clear.

7) Starlin Castro– +3.7

We get back to the Jimmy Rollins category of fantasy players. If you play in a standard 5×5 league then you might bump him up a few slots. He gives you enough power, speed, and AVG to make it worth your while. When you start adding in walks and OBP you will have to bump him back down to this slot.

8) Erick Aybar– +3.7

Aybar will not elevate up the list like Castro because he is pretty consistent across the board. His one saving grace is the addition of Josh Hamilton to an already potent lineup. That would seem to indicate an increase in runs and that has a way of making a player like him a little more valuable.

9) Derek Jeter– +3.7

How long will it take Jeter to recover from his ankle injury. Thousands have lost because they have been too willing to gamble against Jeter. His defense is weak, but defense has nothing to do with fantasy. The question is whether he will slip from the 200 hit Jeter that has dominated the last two decades.

10) Rafael Furcal– +3.5

Danger Will Robinson. Danger. Furcal faded big time down the stretch and might miss the beginning of the season with what is being characterized as an elbow injury. It might as well be labeled “unexplained suck” as Pete Kozma showed he is perfectly capable of holding down the job. If you make him your starting shortstop you better have a good insurance policy.

11) Stephen Drew– +1.9

Drew was signed to a big contract by the Red Sox. Even if it was only for one year it was a huge risk for a player that has rarely produced to his potential. The Red Sox are gambling that a deep lineup and less pressure will release him from his mediocrity. Proceed at your own risk.

12) Andrelton Simmons– +1.8

Injuries derailed what could have been a solid Rookie of the Year campaign. Simmons will get every opportunity to be the guy from day one this year and that might be enough to make him a top five fantasy shortstop when it’s all said and done. Getting the early break on guys like this is what turns good fantasy teams into great ones.

13) Yunel Escobar– +1.2 

Escobar is one of those guys that teams have both coveted and been leery of. He has the skills to be one of the best all-around shortstops in the game, but there have been whispers about him being difficult to work with. The Rays are taking a chance and if he is in the right environment he could become a top ten shortstop.

14) Hiroyuki Nakajima– 0.0

When we get to number fourteen and are already at zero there is a huge problem. Nakajima has a power hitting pedigree from Japan, but we’ve seen others come in with similar pedigrees. Will he be the next Kaz Matsui or the next Hideki Matsui? Yoenis Cespedes overcame the odds and produced in his first year, so that might give us reason for optimism.

15) Ian Desmond– -1.2

Remember that these rankings are based on three year and five year norms. I happen to think Desmond will outproduce this, but I wouldn’t bet on him being a top five fantasy shortstop. He likely is right around the bottom of the fantasy starter list (assuming 10 or 12 team leagues). Last year may have been a flash in the pan.

16) Alexei Ramirez– -1.9

I’m actually surprised that his numbers came out this bad, but it shows you how shortstops compare to other players in the ML universe. Like Desmond, Ramirez might be a decent bottom of the barrel fantasy starter in a twelve team league or he could be one of the best bench players on your team.

17) Jhonny Peralta– -1.9

If there is any saving grace for Peralta it is that the Tigers are poised to add Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez to their regular lineup. When the water rises all boats rise with the tide. That means more run scoring and RBI opportunities for everyone in that lineup. I wouldn’t want him being my starting shortstop, but as a middle infielder or backup he would be fine.

18) Elvis Andrus– -2.1

Remember, Andrus plays half of his games in the second best hitter’s park in baseball, so notions of value are relative to the environment where they taking place. Andrus will give your team plenty of runs scored and stolen bases, so he might be worth a starter’s slot in some instances. I hate sacrificing too much for one or two categories, but to each his/her own.

19) J.J. Hardy– -2.3

I like Hardy a lot even though he wound up this low, but I tend to be more sabermetrically minded than fantasy baseball demands. He walks quite a bit and in most leagues that is not an additional category. If your league counts walks then he might even be starting quality. Otherwise, he should be on your bench.

20) Ruben Tejada– -2.3

Tejada is an underrated player and would make a solid bench player for any fantasy player. You cannot go through an entire season without even some nagging injuries, so it is good to have guys capable of playing for even just a few days at a time. If Tejada is going to be in the lineup for more than that you are in trouble.

Scott Barzilla

Scott Barzilla is the editor in chief at hardballchat.com. He is also the author of four books, including The Hall of Fame Index. The Hall of Fame Index was nominated for the Sporting News Award for statistical innovation in 2011.

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