Opening Day is less than three weeks away, meaning the fantasy baseball season is quickly approaching. Drafts are going across the country, and probably the globe, and Athlon Sports' annual Baseball Preview magazine is available on newsstands everywhere.
Besides providing our comprehensive Fantasy Baseball Big Board, we also have our positional rankings, courtesy of Bruce Herman, straight from our magazine for you to peruse, utilize and scrutinize as we get ever so closer to hear those beloved words, "Play ball!"
A: FRANCHISE PLAYER — You need one to compete, two to win, three to dominate.
B: CAREER YEAR — Veteran with a strong possibility of delivering his best season.
C: SLEEPER — Could be a great acquisition at a price or draft slot below his true value.
D: ROADBLOCKED — Rank has been lowered because there is no current opportunity to play regularly.
E: DECLINER — Expect moderately to significantly worse stats than in 2012.
F: INJURY RISK — Has had a recent injury that could affect performance.
G: INVESTOR’S SPECIAL — Top prospect whose immediate impact may be minimal.
Batting stats are expressed AVG-HR-RBI-R-SB
Athlon Sports' 2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Shortstop
1. Jose Reyes, Blue Jays(A)
Reyes avoided multi-week injuries for the first time since 2008, and despite his 50-point AVG dip to .287, he seemed to be a little stronger and more selective. The relocation to Rogers Centre and a heartier supporting cast will only help, so — beyond the fact that he’s a 40-, not 60-base thief at this stage — there’s every reason to believe this can be a vintage year.
2. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies(A,F)
Unless any red flags are unfurled in spring, Tulo should be past the obstinate groin injury that is the only reason we’re rating him below Reyes. He was in such a class of his own between April 2009 and May 2012 (when he shut it down), that his .923 OPS as a shortstop was followed distantly on the list by .861, .779, .774 and .763.
3. Starlin Castro, Cubs
Castro led the league in outs made (again), errors (again) and caught stealing (“improved” from 10th). Despite his Cub in a china shop approach to the game, he’s the only player since A-Rod to amass 500 hits before his 23rd birthday, and he’s potentially a .300-30-100-100-30 player. Advice for keeper leagues: Draft him, take two Dramamines and call me in 2015.
4. Hanley Ramirez, Dodgers
Whether it be increasing body mass or increasing bank account, Ramirez resembles the player he was from 2006-10 only in bursts. Nevertheless, he went 20-20 again and remains the solitary player with 150 homers and 200 steals the last seven years. Unfortunately, Ramirez sustained a thumb injury on March 19 in the championship game of the World Baseball Classic while playing for the Dominican Republic. Ramirez will undergo surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb, which is expected to sideline him for eight weeks, meaning he will be out until at least the latter part of May.
5. Elvis Andrus, Rangers
Among active players, only A-Rod and Miguel Cabrera had more hits by their age-23 seasons than Andrus, and just Carl Crawford and Reyes stole more bases. Had but five of the latter after last year’s All-Star break for some reason.
6. Ian Desmond, Nationals
Commensurate with a swap to uniform No. 20 as a tribute to Frank Robinson, Desmond went from a two-year OPS of .677 to a Silver Slugger-worthy and MLB shortstop-leading .845. Too much of a wild swinger to assume that this is perennially attainable, but he’s clearly taken a stride.
7. Alexei Ramirez, White Sox
If Reyes and Tulo are the supermodel shortstops, Ramirez is the cutie next door with the winning personality. In at least four of his five seasons, his ranges have been .269-to-.290 for AVG, 15-to-21 for HRs, 70-to-77 for RBIs, 65-to-83 for runs and 13-to-20 for SBs. More of a go-to guy than a go-get guy.
8. Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians
No. 1 RBI and No. 2 HR operative among AL shortstops the past two years. Regressed a notch in 2012 as concerns about fitness hinted that he may be trending all Jhonny Peralta on us. Good player who, though just 27, has maxed out at “good.”
9. Jimmy Rollins, Phillies(E)
Rollins is on the cusp of being the 10th player in history with 200 homers and 400 steals, and last season he was the oldest (33) shortstop ever with 20 of one and 30 of the other. Weak hitter for average, and common sense augurs against a rerun of 2012.
10. Alcides Escobar, Royals
At Kauffman Stadium, you’d think Elvis was in the building. Escobar is a similar player to Andrus, busting out with a .293 AVG and 35 SBs. He’s two years older, though, and may never develop an authentic mastery of the strike zone.
11. J.J. Hardy, Orioles
One of the top four power-oriented shortstops. Has batted better than .270 twice in eight seasons, and has thieved one base in four years.
12. Derek Jeter, Yankees(E,F)
Buzzkill alert. No 39-year-old shortstop has ever hit 10 homers, and none has whacked .300 since the 1940s. Jeter’s done a lot of stuff others haven’t, but prudence and ankle surgery must drive the probabilities.
13. Erick Aybar, Angels
A target for the steal-starved — fifth at the position since 2010. Run-scoring inhibited by low slots in batting order.
14. Jean Segura, Brewers(C)
23-year-old neophyte who’s being rushed a little. Hit .198 in his first 23 games, then .329 in his last 22. Liable to scuffle with the bat for awhile, but has a shot to steal 25 or more sacks.
15. Stephen Drew, Red Sox
A three-year-average stretch of .277-16-64-82 (2008-10) remains a siren song, but we’re pretty sure that ship has sailed. Nothing’s real sure where a Drew is involved.
16. Jed Lowrie, Astros
17. Zack Cozart, Reds
18. Jhonny Peralta, Tigers
19. Andrelton Simmons, Braves (C)
20. Eduardo Nunez, Yankees (B,C,D)
21. Yunel Escobar, Rays
22. Everth Cabrera, Padres
23. Rafael Furcal, Cardinals (F)
24. Brandon Crawford, Giants
25. Hiroyuki Nakajima, Athletics
26. Jurickson Profar, Rangers (D,G)
27. Cliff Pennington, Athletics
28. Adeiny Hechavarria, Marlins
29. Ruben Tejada, Mets
30. Dee Gordon, Dodgers (D,G)
31. Mike Aviles, Indians (E)
32. Clint Barmes, Pirates
33. Brendan Ryan, Mariners
34. Pedro Florimon, Twins
35. Marwin Gonzalez, Astros
36. Didi Gregorius, Diamondbacks (G)
37. Pete Kozma, Cardinals
38. Hak-Ju Lee, Rays (G)
39. Alex Gonzalez, Milwaukee (F)
40. Ronny Cedeno, St. Louis Cardinals
2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Big Board
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Infield
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Outfield
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Starting Pitcher
2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Relief Pitcher
2013 Fantasy Baseball: Closer Grid
2013 Fantasy Baseball Deep Sleepers
Fantasy Baseball Studs to Avoid in 2013