numberFire’s 2014 Shortstop Rankings: Is Tulo Worth the Risk?

With injury concerns, do numberFire algorithms like Troy Tulowitzki as the top fantasy shortstop this year?

Like second base, the shortstop position is a shallow one in fantasy baseball. The top of the shortstop list can bring some value (when healthy) to your fake baseball squad, especially in the stolen base department, but in general, this isn’t the same position it was with Nomar and Jeter back in the day.

The rankings below result from projections and what we call our “numberFire score”. The score, from a high level, takes a player’s contributions across all relevant scoring categories (5X5 league) and adjusts for position scarcity. It’s all placed in one fine, cute number, but the amount of math that goes behind it is significant. After all, that’s what we love – we love math.

Without further ado, here’s who the algorithms like this season at shortstop.

1. Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies


There’s obvious risk in drafting Tulo: the last time he played 150-plus games was in 2009, and he’s barely played a full season over his last two. But when he’s healthy, he’s the best player at the position. In 126 games (512 plate appearances) last season, Tulowitzski knocked in 82 runs, scored 72 runs, hit 25 long balls and batted .312. He did have a higher BABIP than he’s traditionally seen, but even a slight regression makes him valuable. Don’t reach for him in your drafts because of his risk, but if everyone else is risk-averse, you could find yourself with a nice value on draft day with Tulo.

2. Hanley Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers


Ramirez had his fair share of trouble with injuries last season, too, but hasn’t necessarily had the same misfortunate as Tulo over the years. When he played in 2013, however, there was no better shortstop. Ramirez finished with a .345/.402/.638 slash, including a .442 wOBA. His ISO was at a career high too, as he hit 20 home runs in just 86 games (his previous season high was 33 back in 2008). To expect him to continue at this pace wouldn’t be wise, especially when you look at his sub-.260 average over the two years prior. However, Hanley’s got a lot of upside.

3. Jose Reyes, Toronto Blue Jays


Let’s continue with the “can’t play a full season” trend and move on to Toronto’s shortstop, Jose Reyes. We know he has the speed to steal bases, as he reached the 40 mark just two seasons ago. But he’s not going to give you a lot of power, resulting in fewer home runs and RBI compared to the aforementioned guys. If you need steals, perhaps he’s your man to target, but we’d rather go for Hanley or Tulo, almost easily.

4. Ian Desmond, Washington Nationals


Desmond saw a slight drop in power last year, resulting in five fewer home runs when compared to 2012. But the good news is that his numbers stayed fairly close to his 2012 breakout season, and his RBI and run totals actually increased. Desmond should be able to produce in every relevant fantasy category, and could be a target for folks who don’t want to take risks on the players above.

5. Jean Segura, Milwaukee Brewers


Segura was sitting pretty at last year’s All-Star break, batting .325 with 27 stolen bases and 11 home runs. And then he forgot hot to play baseball. Segura’s second half was completely different, hitting .241 with just one single home run. He also saw just 20 runs scored after crossing the plate 54 times over the first half, and had 13 RBI versus 36 before the break. Part of this drop had to do with a significant dip in line drive rate over this time. Sure, you could get the first-half Segura, but we’re most definitely not going to bank on that. Stolen bases will be there, but don’t be overly optimistic about his bat.

6. Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers


Once again, if you’re looking for steals, you should be looking at the shortstop position. Andrus stole 42 bags last year, which was fifth-most in the bigs. However, of those five players, he by far had the worst ISO number (0.060), as he’s never hit more than six dingers in a single season. While his batting metrics are fairly average, it should be noted that he Andrus hit .313 over the second half of 2013, where he saw all four of his homer runs. Perhaps that production can continue into 2014.

7. Alexei Ramirez, Chicago White Sox


You know what you’re going to get with Ramirez for the most part, as he’s hit between .265 and .290 in his six years with the White Sox, usually has a low walk rate, and strikes out a little less than 12 percent of the time he gets to the plate. He has speed, and we think he’ll see somewhere between his 2012 and 2013 stolen base totals this year. However, don’t expect the power he brought to the plate when he first entered the big leagues: once a .185 ISO hitter, this number has dropped to below .100 over the last two seasons. He’s solid, I suppose, but nothing to write home about.

8. Everth Cabrera, San Diego Padres


I give Cabrera props for stepping up and apologizing for using PEDs, and before his suspension, he was hitting pretty well. It wouldn’t be overly shocking if he ended up with 50 stolen bases this year given his pace from a season ago, but the algorithms have him pegged for 40, which is probably more accurate. Like many of the shortstops, he won’t hit for power. And we should expect his .283 average pre-suspension to drop to somewhere under .260 this season, where he’s typically been.

9. Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs


Everything got worse for Castro in 2013 compared to 2012, as his average dropped below the .250 mark (.283 in 2012) thanks to a BABIP that fell 25 points. His batted ball profile wasn’t a whole lot different between the two seasons, so a BABIP bump should help his average. His stolen base totals dropped from 25 to 9 last year though, too, which is a bit of a concern given the positions’ premier base-running talent. Like a lot of players with such dramatic changes in production from one year to the next, we like the middle ground this year.

10. Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia Phillies


Jimmy Rollins must have stopped going to the gym last year, as his ISO dropped a ridiculous 80 points from the season prior, dropping below .100 for the first time since he was a rookie. In turn, his home run total went from 23 to 6, and he drove in just 57% of the runs he did in 2012. As a result, his offensive WAR was far below expectation. To make matters worse, he may not be the base stealer he once was – hitting 30 stolen bases probably won’t happen again for the veteran. He’s had a great career, but it’s certainly on the decline.

Click here for the rest of the shortstop rankings.