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Cullen: Questions surround even best options at shortstop

Scott Cullen
3/25/2014 4:12:38 PM
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There was a time, not so long ago, when shortstop was a glamour position in the majors, but it's not quite in that spot right now. Even the best options comes with some question marks.

The Dodgers' Hanley Ramirez may be the best option, though he's played fewer than 100 games twice in the past three seasons. Even with durability questions, and the likelihood that he won't match last year's .345 batting average, Ramirez offers five-category potential if he's healthy.

In the same vein, Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki has led all shortstops in home runs (122), RBI (401) and batting average (.304) over the past five seasons, but he comes with injury concerns, having missed 210 games in the past four seasons. A healthy Tulowitzki might be just as dangerous as Ramirez, offering more power but less speed; it's just a matter of whether he will play more than 140 games -- something he's done twice in the past six seasons.

Injuries have also plagued Toronto's Jose Reyes but, when healthy, his average and stolen base numbers are impressive. Trouble for Reyes is that, over the past five years, he's missed 262 games, so it requires a leap of faith to make him your starting shortstop, knowing that he's had such trouble staying healthy.

If the top guys are injury risks, they still offer a track record that isn't present with some of the younger options at shortstop.

Washington's Ian Desmond, Milwaukee's Jean Segura, Texas' Elvis Andrus and Oakland's Jed Lowrie may be the best of that group.

Desmond is coming off back-to-back 20-20 (HR-SB) seasons, while hitting .286 and, given his relative health, he might be more appealing than some of the more experienced shortstops.

Segura had a terrific season as a first-time starter and, at 24, ought to be on his career ascent, but temper some of the enthusiasm from last year when he hit .325 with an .849 OPS before the All-Star break and .241 with a .583 OPS after the break. He also had 44 steals, and that speed shouldn't go away, but beware the bat (at least a little).

Andrus offers no power, but hitting at the top of the Rangers' order has helped him scored 432 runs and steal 165 bases, both totals leading shortstops over the past five seasons.

Lowrie, who turns 30 in April, was a full-time starter for the first time last season and he had a productive year (15 HR, 75 RBI, .290 AVG, 80 R), but that's a 30-year-old with a limited track record as an everyday player, so he might slide somewhat on draft day.

If you want to play for potential, Red Sox rookie Xander Bogaerts would be the most interesting name. He was fine in 50 plate appearances late last season, but he's a premium prospect who had an .862 OPS in four minor-league seasons.

Seattle's Brad Miller played half of last season in the bigs, showing some power and speed and, after a .925 OPS in three minor-league seasons, Miller comes with expectations that he will provide offence.

If you're late to the shortstop game, Asdrubal Cabrera, J.J. Hardy, and Alexei Ramirez aren't glamourous options, but they are adequate and the Cubs' Starlin Castro could be a value play coming off a terrible season. Castro has led the league in at-bats for three years running, so he can be a major difference-maker, provided he hits better than last year's .245 mark.

Among other young shortstops to consider, Atlanta's Andrelton Simmons showed some pop last year, with 17 homers. San Diego's Everth Cabrera and Houston's Jonathan Villar are both outstanding stolen base threats, though Cabrera is coming off a PED suspension and Villar still has to show that he can hit enough to contribute more than just 40-plus steals.

Finally, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter is playing in his final season and, as terrific as Jeter has been throughout his career, he's no better than a middle-infield option in most leagues at this point. If he turns back the clock, like he did in 2012 when he hit .316 and scored 99 runs, then Jeter could be more valuable, but it's not the most likely outcome for a 40-year-old who missed nearly all of last season due to injury.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.




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