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Ramirez, Rollins, Tulowitzki, ReyesThe National League has four shortstops that can be considered elite fantasy players, and one, Hanley Ramirez, who is battling Albert Pujols for the title of best fantasy player in the National League. (Here are links to C, 1B, and 2B rankings)
Player AB R HR RBI SB AVG OBP SLG $
Ramirez, H - FLA 585 111 26 89 28 .321 .393 .530 37
Rollins, J - PHI 643 102 18 73 35 .266 .326 .435 28
Tulowitzki, T-COL 561 91 22 81 13 .282 .354 .469 26
Reyes, J - NYM 571 86 8 54 44 .287 .351 .431 26
Hanley Ramirez is one player who helps in every fantasy baseball category, and does it while playing the position of shortstop. Ramirez has hit over .300 for three consecutive seasons, including a league leading .342 in 2009. He has scored over 100 runs for four straight years, leading the league in 2008. Over the last four years, he has averaged 26 HR and 41 SB, and even drove in 106 runs last year. Ramirez should be the top fantasy SS in the National League once again. Jimmy Rollins slumped to a .250 average in 2009, after batting at least .277 every year from 2004-2008. But even in a down year, Rollins still contributed 100 runs, 21 HR, 77 RBI, and 31 SB.  I think the batting average will edge back up, while the other stats should stay around the same level.  Troy Tulowitzki rebounded from a 8 HR season in 2008 to slug 32 HR in 2009, along with a career high 20 SB.  Tulowitzki's fly ball rate was virtually the same over the last three seasons (38.3%, 37.3%, 39.8%) but last year 18.5% of his fly balls turned into home runs, while only 6.7% did in 2008. I expect his home run rate to return closer to his career rate of 13%, which will bring his HR total back in the low-to-mid 20s. Jose Reyes is definitely a wild card in 2010. Reyes only played 39 games in 2009 because of a hamstring injury. This year, the hamstring appears OK, but Reyes has been sidelined with a thyroid condition. Fortunately, doctors say that the condition is easily treatable, so Reyes should be back on the field soon. If he's back, Reyes should lead all SS in stolen bases.  The Mets were also talking batting Reyes in the #3 slot while Carlos Beltran is out, so he may see a bump in his RBI numbers as well.
Player AB R HR RBI SB AVG OBP SLG $
Escobar, Y - ATL 555 88 15 77 4 .301 .374 .440 21
Theriot, R - CHC 570 83 7 53 20 .286 .349 .375 18
Drew, S - ARI 603 84 15 62 4 .274 .338 .438 18
Cabrera, E - SD 538 73 3 36 37 .243 .301 .346 16
Escobar, A - MIL 522 70 4 45 24 .264 .312 .349 15
Cabrera, O - CIN 561 71 8 61 11 .282 .331 .390 15
Furcal, R - LA 513 82 6 44 11 .269 .342 .366 12
Yunel Escobar leads the next group of NL shortstops. Escobar showed nice improvement across the board in 2009, and should make another small step forward in 2010. Escobar doesn't have the speed or power to reach the Top 4 group, but should be a solid #5. Ryan Theriot has scored at least 80 runs with 20+ SB for three straight years, and should continue that in 2010. Stephen Drew has seen his batting average fluctuate greatly from year to year - .316, .238, .291, .261.  His slugging percentage has fluctuated in a similar way, and his on-base percentage has been disappointing low.  What to expect in 2010? Drew should be batting leadoff this year, and I think we'll see a little more patience this year. He'll be 27 in 2010, and I think he'll start putting it all together this year. As a Rule 5 pick for the Padres, Everth Cabrera had a surprising season in 2009, showing outstanding speed and a decent walk rate.  I think he played a little over his head last year, and might struggle with the bat in 2010. But he will still steal a lot of bases. Alcides Escobar is another SS who can steal some bases, but like ECabrera, he needs to improve his on-base skills.  His solid defense should keep him in the lineup as the Brewers work to improve his plate discipline.  Orlando Cabrera should continue what he has done for the last several years - decent batting average, good number of runs, and double figures in stolen bases. At the age of 32, Rafael Furcal is no longer a 30+ SB threat, but he should be an everyday player for the Dodgers near the top of the lineup.
Player AB R HR RBI SB AVG OBP SLG $$
Renteria, E - SF 504 63 7 49 4 .264 .319 .357 8
Ryan, B - STL 375 52 2 36 13 .285 .340 .395 7
Guzman, C - WAS 463 65 4 36 5 .276 .311 .361 5
Cedeno, R - PIT 414 48 9 47 5 .256 .314 .374 4
Uribe, J - SF 295 35 10 36 2 .261 .308 .424 4
Desmond, I - WAS 256 26 7 25 10 .242 .300 .410 4
Hairston, J - SD 300 45 4 33 7 .257 .320 .373 3
Lugo, J - STL 221 31 4 28 2 .249 .317 .385 2
Bonifacio, E - FLA 179 21 0 11 8 .235 .297 .307 2
Crosby, B - PIT 176 18 4 20 1 .233 .293 .364 1
Counsell, C - MIL 211 26 1 19 2 .270 .353 .355 1
Cora, A - NYM 165 17 1 12 3 .242 .306 .339 1
Manzella, T - HOU 401 34 4 28 6 .239 .281 .332 1
The last group of shortstops includes many players who will need to battle for playing time. One whose job is probably safe is Edgar Renteria, although his offense really fell off in the 2nd Half (.233/.290/.331) and he has struggled to hit in San Francisco (.238/.307/.308 at Home). But the Giants don't have any other options at SS with Emmanuel Burris injured, so Renteria should play. As discussed in the 2B section, Brendan Ryan should be the regular SS for the Cards, but they do have Felipe Lopez and Julio Lugo battling for playing time. In Washington, Cristian Guzman is expected to get the starting job over Ian Desmond, but Desmond should provide more pop and speed, and may take over by the end of the season. Ronny Cedeno should be the starting SS in Pittsburgh, and has certainly shown flashes on both offense and defense. But he needs to keep the batting average and OBP respectable to hold off Bobby Crosby. In Houston, Tommy Manzella is the current starter, and should be solid defensively, but might not hit well enough to keep the job. His only competition right now is Jeff Keppinger and Geoff Blum. Juan Uribe and Jerry Hairston should all be utility players this year with a small chance of becoming starters, while Emilio Bonifacio, Alex Cora,and Craig Counsell should be nothing more than backups this year.