It's the shortstop breakdown this week. In my mind, this isn't a great position for sleepers this year; I'd recommend spending for a good one, particularly in AL- or NL-only leagues. My second 10 of the rankings is filled with guys I see as being overpriced, such as Everth Cabrera, Ben Zobrist, Jhonny Peralta, Jimmy Rollins and J.J. Hardy. The four guys I have in the underrated list are all in my top eight, which isn't how it typically works out, but I don't see a bunch of potential bargains below that.
For my complete rankings at every position, check out the online draft guide. It includes an overall top 300, top 250s for both AL- and NL-only leagues, 1,000 player profiles, 1,500 player projections, keeper rankings and much more.
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Hanley Ramirez - Dodgers - It was just 86 games due to injuries, but the Hanley of old was back last year. Actually, he was better than ever, slugging a remarkable .638 in his 304 at-bats. No one this side of Miguel Cabrera made hard contact more frequently than Ramirez did, and given that this is a guy with three previous .940 OPS seasons under his belt, it hardly looks like a fluke. Obviously, Ramirez needs to stay healthier this season, but durability was never an issue for him previously; he averaged 144 games and topped 150 five times in his first seven seasons. I rate him as the NL's top position player and No. 3 overall behind Mike Trout and Cabrera. Ideally, he'll make a run at his second batting title, hit 30 homers and steal 15 bases along the way.
Elvis Andrus - Rangers - I'd feel better about having Andrus as my No. 4 shortstop if he weren't going to be asked to waste 20 at-bats with sac bunts again this year, but even so, fourth he is. Last year, only two shortstops in either league cleared 80 runs scored and 60 RBI: Andrus and Jed Lowrie. In 2012, Andrus was one of five to do it. In 2011, he was one of eight. A lot of that is a function of batting second in a strong Texas lineup, but since manager Ron Washington loves him there, that isn't changing. The truth is that Andrus hasn't had a really good offensive season yet. However, he has hit as high as .286 (2012) and stolen as many as 42 bases (2013). He's just 25 years old, and a mini-breakout is still quite realistic.
Andrelton Simmons - Braves - The timetable for Simmons becoming a really good fantasy shortstop was moved up when he collected 27 doubles, six triples and 17 homers in his first full season last year. It did come with a subpar .248 average, but given that he struck out in just 8.4 percent of his plate appearances (the league average was 20 percent), it's easy to imagine that number climbing significantly this season. What does hurt Simmons is that he'll likely hit eighth in the Braves lineup initially. I think that's the right call -- I really like what Fredi Gonzalez is doing with Jason Heyward and Justin Upton in the top two spots -- but if the Braves get off to a slow start, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Simmons get a look as either the leadoff man or No. 2 hitter.
Brad Miller - Mariners - I'm far from sold on Miller as a shortstop, but his bat is awfully interesting. As a rookie last year, he came in at .265/.318/.418 in 76 games. He had excellent walk rates in the minors, so he looks like the Mariners' best option in the leadoff spot ahead of Kyle Seager and Robinson Cano, which would give him an extra at-bat a game and make him a big threat in runs scored. I have him down for 19 homers and 12 steals in his first full season, making him my No. 8 fantasy shortstop.
Jean Segura - Brewers - Downward trends rarely line up quite so nicely as Segura's did last year. His OPSs by month: .985, .911, .724, .681, .584 and .552. In the first three months, Segura had 11 homers and was 24-for-26 stealing bases. In the last three months, Segura had one homer and was 20-for-30 stealing bases. The Brewers have little choice but to make Segura their leadoff hitter this year with Norichika Aoki gone, and I do think he'll be a top-10 shortstop with his 40-steal ability. However, he's currently going in front of Andrus and Ian Desmond in Yahoo drafts and I can't get behind that.
Ben Zobrist - Rays - Zobrist hit .270 for the third straight season in 2013, but all of his other numbers were down, particularly his homers (20 in 2011 and '12, 12 last season) and runs scored (99 in 2011, 88 in 2012, 77 in 2013), and given that he's turning 33 in May, he's at an age where continued decline is more likely than a rebound. His ability to play shortstop, second base and outfield gives him extra value in fantasy leagues beyond his numbers, but I just don't have him excelling in any category.
Jonathan Villar - Astros - Villar has some experts excited about the possibility of 40 or maybe even 50 steals. He had 18 in the majors after collecting 31 in the minors last season, and the Astros appear more than happy to allow him to continue to run wild. I'm just not very optimistic about the bat, though. Villar has no real power, but that didn't stop him from striking out 71 times in 241 plate appearances last season. Also, while he mostly got to hit leadoff following his initial callup, he figures to bat ninth this year following the Dexter Fowler acquisition. As a cheap speed guy, Villar would be just fine. As a guy who went for $15 in the AL LABR auction over the weekend, I'd recommend staying far away.
Xander Bogaerts - Red Sox - After just 44 regular-season at-bats, Bogaerts became the Red Sox's starting third baseman in the World Series last year. This spring, he's moving back to shortstop to replace Stephen Drew. He has the swing to be a fantasy monster in time, even as a single-digit steals guy. But as a 21-year-old rookie, expectations should obviously be milder. Right now, I have him 13th at third base and 11th at shortstop in leagues in which he already qualifies. I don't see him reaching 20 homers right away, but I like his chances of hitting for a .270-.280 average and finishing with nice run and RBI numbers in one of the game's highest-scoring lineups.
Chris Owings - Diamondbacks - Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers has anointed incumbent Didi Gregorius the favorite to start the season at shortstop, but Owings looks like the better choice after hitting .330/.359/.482 in Triple-A last year. He's certainly more interesting for fantasy purposes; while Gregorius would be nothing more than a $1-$2 pick if he gets the job, Owings is a candidate to be worth $10-$12, even though he'd likely open the season hitting eighth. He'd be a threat to hit 10-12 homers and steal 10-20 bases.
Dee Gordon - Dodgers - It's easy enough to simply stick Gordon here every year, because while he isn't very good, he is very fast; he's swiped 66 bases in 181 games and 621 at-bats as a major leaguer. Ideally, Cuban defector Alexander Guerrero would emerge as the Dodgers' second baseman, allowing the team to use Gordon as a utilityman. Gordon, though, is getting a long look at second base this spring in case Guerrero isn't ready. If Gordon gets the job, he could well lead the NL in steals for the first month or two at least.
Aledmys Diaz - free agent - Diaz, a 23-year-old Cuban defector, is expected to sign with a major league team sometime this spring. He'll probably open up in the minors, and he may be a second baseman, not a shortstop, when he arrives in the majors, but his bat is interesting. Before defecting in 2012, he hit .315/.419/.500 with 12 homers in 270 at-bats as a 21-year-old in the Serie Nacional. He could be a factor in fantasy leagues come June or July.