For a position filled with so many question marks and so reliant on speed, there really are no safe picks. Will Tulo stay healthy long enough to contribute? Does Hanley’s thumb injury linger? Will Espinosa drop below the Mendoza line? Can Elvis regain his foot-speed on the base paths? So many questions, let us answer them for you:
1. Troy Tulowitzki, 28, Rockies
Hill Says: (1) There is a significant injury concern with Tulo, but when healthy he is undeniably the top SS in fantasy. No other SS can give you the power, average and run production combination Tulo can offer.
Culp Says: (1) When healthy, Tulo puts up top 10 fantasy production, regardless of position. Add in the scarce shortstop position and he is a stud…when healthy.
2. Starlin Castro, 23, Cubs
Hill Says: (4) It was close for me between Castro and Reyes, but you could be very happy with either. He has decent wheels and has hit for average his whole career. Last year he started to develop a little more though in the power department and that adds a new dimension to his value.
Culp Says: (2) Castro is so young and has a pocket full of potential. Even if he doesn’t improve this year he is still a top five shortstop. The Cubs offense has to improve from last year, right? The improved offense should help Castro boost his run and RBI numbers. Plus, he is just 23 years old. This is his year to shine.
3. Jose Reyes, 29, Blue Jays
Hill Says: (3) Reyes has been pretty consistent for someone who gets pegged as injury prone by some owners. He gets the nod from me at #3 though after his move to Toronto where his speed should play well and his power might take a slight jump. He’s also got plenty of producers behind him to push him well past 100 runs this year.
Culp Says: (3) The move to a powerful Toronto offense should really be fun for Reyes but he’s not a young man anymore. Speedsters have a tendency to decline at an early age. If you take Reyes you better hope this isn’t the case. Last year was Reyes’ lowest Fangraphs Speed Score since 2009 (when he was injured). Might be a sign of the impending speed decline.
4. Hanley Ramirez, 29, Dodgers
Hill Says: (2) Ramirez however is about as close as you can get to Tulo’s production. HanRam should give you solid production across the board with a bit better average than where he ended up last year. I’m looking for a .275-.280/85/25/90/25 line this year which is very useful. You can also use him at 3b if you need to.
Culp Says: (5) Hanley drops in my book due to thumb surgery that is set to keep him out of action until late May. Injuries come packaged with setbacks which is a dirty word to fantasy owners.
5. Ben Zobrist, 31, Rays
Hill Says: – (6) As you might know from our 2b preview, Zobrist has been very consistent over his 4 years as a utility starter for the Rays. That should continue this year.
Culp Says: – (4) From a three year point-of-view, Zobrist is right up their with Reyes and Hanley. Zobrist is a safe pick, has multiple position eligibility and is generally cheaper than the other shortstops mentioned.
6. Ian Desmond, 27, Nationals
Hill Says: (5) The man compared to Derek Jeter early on in his career took major strides last year in average and power. I think the improvements were legit and owners can look for the results to continue. The power might come down a bit, but being healthy for a full season might offset that.
Culp Says: (6) Desmond’s first three MLB seasons: 1302 Plate Appearances, 22 HR. Desmond in 2012: 547 Plate Apperances, 25 HR. It was a nice breakout season but I want to see him follow it up in 2013 before we start penciling him in for 20/20 every year.
7. Jimmy Rollins, 34, Phillies
Hill Says: (8) Rollins enjoyed a mini-resurgence last season in the power department. However, I think this might be one of the riskier picks in the top 10, which is why I have him at 8. His average won’t be great, and I get the feeling that sometime in the next few seasons we could see a dip in his production. The only question is will that be this year? I’m staying away unless I’m desperate.
Culp Says: (7) Posting a line of 102/23/68/30 is really impressive regardless of age. Doing it again at the age of 34? That would be even more impressive. Count me a little skeptical.
8. Elvis Andrus, 24, Rangers
Hill Says: (9) The dip in SB last year is a bit concerning for me since Andrus won’t bring much in the power department. His game is the average/speed combo so if he can bring the SBs up this year he could finish higher than 9th. He also is only 24 so there is room for growth.
Culp Says: (10) It’s no secret that Elvis isn’t a great hitter. He’s never finished with a wRC+ higher than 95 and he may not be as fast as we initally thought. His rookie season speed score was 8.1 which is up there with Jose Reyes, Michael Bourn, Coco Crisp. Since then, he has hovered around 6.0 for his FanGraphs speed score. 30 stolen bases is nice, but it doesn’t really make up for a poor average and no power.
9. Asdrubal Cabrera, 27, Indians
Hill Says: (7) Cabrera proved last year that his power development from the year before was no fluke. The Indians offense should be much improved this year which can only help his counting stats and improve his end of season ranking from last year’s 15th place finish in ESPN’s player rater.
Culp Says: (12) The development of power is nice from Asdrubal, especially at the shortstop position but don’t expect another 25 HR season like we saw in 2011. 15-20 HR’s is more his range moving forward.
10. Martin Prado, 29, Diamondbacks
Hill Says: (16)Prado is a reliable option if he qualifies at SS in your league. He will hit for high average, and being in Arizona should only help his counting stats.
Culp Says: (9) Prado has a career 111 wRC+ and has at least 10 home runs in each of the last four seasons. Anything less than a .290 average would be unlucky or unusual. Prado has big shoes to fill, coming over in the Justin Upton trade, which should guarantee him a high spot in the lineup all year. Look for 90/15/90/10 with a .300 average while being eligible at nearly every position.
11. Josh Rutledge, 23, Rockies
Hill Says: (15) Rutledge will be playing 2b this year, but filled in well for Tulo last year and has deceptive power/speed abilities. He won’t wow you, but with an average in the .260-.270 range, 12-15 HRs and 15-18 SBs he should be service-able.
Culp Says: (11) Rutledge was a pleasant surprise last year putting up 8 home runs and 7 stolen bases in 291 plate appearances. Quick! Grab your TI-83 and multiply those numbers by two and that’s a reasonable expectation for Rutledge.
12. Danny Espinosa, 25, Nationals
Hill Says: (11) Espinosa’s batting average is a legitimate concern, but if your team is solid elsewhere in the batting average he will give you a good helping of both power and speed.
Culp Says: (15) If you can stomach the average, ESPN could be a nice value pick late in the draft.
JJ Hardy, 30, Orioles – Okay, I admit this might be a bit of a reach. If this were a dynasty list you can bet I would have someone else here. However, at this point the pickings are looking pretty slim. Everyone has flaws and if you’re looking for somewhere where your SS can stand out from others I think Hardy has the best case in his power. His average should come up with at least 20-25 HRs.
Jean Segura, 23, Brewers – Segura is gonna be my boy this year in Daily Fantasy lineups. Segura has minor league numbers comparable to the likes of Starlin Castro, Hanley Ramirez, and Jose Altuve. Segura is no sure-thing but I wouldn’t put 10 Home Runs, 30 Stolen Bases out of the equation, either. The power may not be there quite yet but I’m a believer.
Marco Scutaro, 37, Giants – Scutaro is one of those players who you won’t notice much. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. While he won’t make a huge difference in a great way, you also won’t notice him hurting you anywhere either which can be just as valuable.
Derek Jeter, 38, Yankees – I was tempted to drop Jeter even further down the list. His ankle injury and age really worry me and his speed finally looks to be fading. Still, if he can get healthy he enjoyed a resurgence of power last year and should hit for decent average.
Zack Cozart, 27, Reds – Cozart is a popular sleeper this year and rightfully so. He could really be useful if he can bump his average back up to the promise his cup of coffee in 2011 showcased to go along with his power/speed combination.