Hanley Ramirez is far above all other competition in the shortstop category. Troy Tulowitzki is the only other shortstop that should go in the first round. After these two, the competition falls back on some solid veterans and guys like Marco Scutaro, Jason Bartlett, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Erick Aybar who are looking to prove that 2009 wasn’t just a fluke.
- Hanley Ramirez FLA- Hanley played in 150 games for the 4th consecutive year and had a .400 OBP for the 2nd consecutive year. He’s an all-around player who got to 100 RBIs for the first time in ’09 as he thrived in the 3 spot of the lineup.
- Troy Tulowitzki COL- Besides Hanley, Tulo may be the only shortstop to have 100 runs and 100 RBIs in 2010. Tulowitzki had a career high 32 homers last season along with career highs in triples and steals.
- Derek Jeter NYY- This guy is the model of consistency as he continues to put up All-Star numbers. If he can play like last season (107 runs, 18 HR, 30 steals, .406 OBP, etc.), he could be more valuable to fantasy owners than Tulowitzki. Also, Jeter is playing in a contract year which could motivate him even more.
In the running: Rafael Furcal LAD, Yunel Escobar ATL, Jason Bartlett TB
- J.J. Hardy MIN- After being demoted to AAA by the Brewers last season, Hardy enters 2010 with something to prove. Hardy also moves into a great lineup which will benefit his run production. Hardy has the ability to hit 25 home runs.
- Alexei Ramirez CHW- Alexei had a down year after very rough start to ’09. He eventually came out of that slump but his power numbers were way down from his rookie year. The good news is that he still increased his OBP and is being mentored by Omar Vizquel this spring.
- Elvis Andrus TEX- Andrus won the 2009 AL ROY honors after playing a steady shortstop in Texas. His numbers weren’t astounding but they were better than expected. Andrus is worth taking a chance on with a late pick as his speed leads to runs and steals.
- Jose Reyes NYM- Reyes was recently sent back to New York to have a possible thyroid condition checked out. He is also coming back from leg injuries. Reyes’ needs to prove his health before fantasy owners should risk an early pick on him.
- Ryan Theriot CHC- Theriot is consistent (but not great) as far as batting average, runs, and steals. Fantasy owners should not expect a repeat of his power numbers from 2009. Theriot’s production could be hindered by a transition to second base if shortstop prospect Starlin Castro proves to be Major League ready early in the season.
- Edgar Renteria SF- Renteria displayed rather steady production between 1999 and 2007 before taking a step backwards in 2008 and hitting a wall in 2009. In 460 at-bats in ’09, Renteria only managed 5 HR and a career-low .250 AVG.
The first player to sign a major league contract with a new team this off-season was Omar Vizquel. He leaves the Rangers and heads to the Southside of Chicago, joining a White Sox infield in a state of flux.
Last year Vizquel was able to hook on with Texas as the primary mentor to rookie shortstop Elvis Andrus. It was Andrus’ job to lose early in spring training, and for good reason. He was a highly touted prospect in the minors; known as a great defender with an improving bat. Vizquel’s presence helped him adjust to the Bigs and fine tune his game.
In Chicago, Vizquel will have a much similar role. He will also be the fourth natural shortstop on Ozzie Guillen’s (a shortstop during his days, ironically) roster. These shortstops have all had very different paths to the Show, however.
Alexei Ramirez is the starter after spending the ’08 season at second while Orlando Cabrera manned the spot. Gordon Beckham displayed his ability to play short during his college career but adjusted to third as a rookie this year. His offense was so good that he replaced Ramirez in the 2 hole of the batting order and was in the race for AL Rookie of the Year. Brent Lillibridge was added in the trade that sent Javier Vazquez to Atlanta last off-season. He was able to be a speedy utility player off the bench and added centerfield to his resume last year.
So with so many shortstops on the roster, why sign Vizquel? Omar has displayed un-paralleled defense throughout his career and a willingness to adapt to a new role as a mentor. The ability to adapt is important for Chicago. Next year will be Ramirez’s second year at short in the pros and he will soak up tons of knowledge from the former 11-time Gold Glover. Beckham has moved from short to third and now to second. The newly acquired Mark Teahen will play third but has also spent time at first, second, left and right in the past few years and will benefit from the learning experience Vizquel offers. Vizquel is a shortstop by trade but his 21 seasons, and counting, have given him a good understanding of the infield.
Omar is an inexpensive, switch-hitting, Gold Glove, veteran backup willing to mentor a young infield on a one year deal. This is a no-risk move that will undoubtedly provide a long-lasting impact on some young careers.