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Jimmy Rollins - Phillies - 620-.270-13-100-50-36 - .330-.410 - $25 - NL 1st - ML 5th
Rollinsí sophomore season was a disaster offensively. He led the National League in at-bats and hit first or second in the Philadelphia lineup for all but a handful of games, but he scored just 82 runs. Unless he improves this April, manager Larry Bowa shouldnít think twice about moving him down to the eighth spot in the lineup. It probably wonít come to that, though. Expect Rollins to go back to producing like he did as a rookie. That doesnít make him a great player, but because of the steals, he again heads into the season as the No. 1 shortstop in NL-only leagues.
Edgar Renteria - Cardinals - 550-.295-13-85-75-20 - .355-.430 - $24 - NL 2nd - ML 6th
Renteria finally took a step forward in 2002. The former Marlin had been rather disappointing since his strong rookie season in 1996. He added power a few years ago, but he never really improved as a player until posting an 803 OPS last season. Although I donít project continued improvement from Renteria, I think heís a fine pick this year, especially since heíll likely spend a lot of time batting second. His all-around game makes him a safer choice than Rollins.
Jose Hernandez - Rockies - 550-.270-30-80-100-3 - .335-.485 - $23 - NL 3rd - ML 7th
Had he ended up anywhere other than Coors Field, Hernandez would have been someone to avoid. Last yearís power numbers were in line with his career norms, but his .288 average was a fluke. Although going to Colorado should prevent him from falling back into the .250 range, I still see him coming up short of last yearís figure. Hernandez, who likely will play third base this season, should be good for 30 homers and 100 RBI, but I think Preston Wilson is the better pick among the new Rockies.
Rafael Furcal - Braves - 560-.285-7-92-45-30 - .355-.380 - $21 - NL 4th - ML 9th
Will we ever again see the Rafael Furcal who took home Rookie of the Year honors in 2000? Because the former phenom is three years older than originally believed, his minor league numbers donít look as great as they once did. However, this is a player who hit .295 with a .394 OBP and 40 steals in his first major league season, and thatís impressive whether he was 19, 22 or 32. Furcal should at least approach those totals again, but maybe not until 2004 or 2005. Heíll go for $20 or more in most leagues, so heís a risky pick.
Rich Aurilia - Giants - 560-.280-23-78-90-1 - .330-.455 - $20 - NL 5th - ML 10th
If you think Auriliaís elbow injury caused the vast majority of his drop off in production last year, then feel free to draft him. Heíll definitely go for less than he did last spring, and as long as he bats higher than fifth in the San Francisco lineup, heís in a pretty good situation. However, I see Aurilia coming a lot closer to his 1999 and 2000 totals than his great 2001 or poor 2002.
Tony Womack - Diamondbacks - 550-.270-4-85-50-30 - .330-.350 - $17 - NL 6th - ML 13th
Rafael Furcal without the upside. Womack is no longer a candidate to lead the league in stolen bases, but he has to continue to do quite a bit of running, because the moment he stops, every team in baseball is going to realize that heís just about worthless. Heís a safe pick at $16-$17.
Orlando Cabrera - Expos - 560-.270-11-68-68-20 - .330-.405 - $16 - NL 7th - ML 14th
Cabrera raised expectations too high with his 96-RBI season in 2001. He returned to normal last year, but upped his stolen-base total to 25, ensuring that he wouldnít be looked at as too much of a disappointment in fantasy leagues. Expect a slightly better offensive performance this year. Cabreraís salary has made him the subject of a few offseason trade rumors, but the only way the Expos could move him is if they receive another young shortstop in return. Heíll probably stay put.
Juan Uribe - Rockies - 500-.280-11-75-65-9 - .325-.410 - $14 - NL 8th - ML 16th
Uribe was one of the worst regulars in baseball last season, managing just a 627 OPS despite playing half his games in Coors Field. He enters spring training as the leading candidate to start at shortstop for Colorado, but heíll need to get off to a good start. Otherwise, the Rockies will replace him with Jose Hernandez. Uribe has the ability to amass decent numbers in every category and will come a lot cheaper than he did last year, so heís a pretty good risk.
Julio Lugo - Astros - 450-.275-10-70-50-14 - .340-.405 - $12 - NL 9th - ML 17th
It was rather surprising that the Astros didnít attempt to upgrade at shortstop in the offseason. Lugo has never had a good defensive reputation and heís been a pretty lousy hitter the last two years. If the Astros didnít decide to lock up both Jose Vizcaino and Orlando Merced last season, they could have made a real run at Jose Hernandez. Instead, theyíre left hoping that Lugo bounces back to his 2000 level of production. Heís certainly capable of doing so, but Iím not certain heís motivated. The fact that he plays for the Astros makes him a decent pick. If he was a member of the Brewers, heíd probably come in at half this price.
Alex Gonzalez - Cubs - 500-.255-15-62-62-8 - .320-.420 - $10 - NL 10th - ML 19th
Not including his very abbreviated 1999, Gonzalez had the best OPS of his career last season. However, he was only a fantasy asset in one category, hitting 18 home runs. He batted just .248 and stole five bases, 13 fewer than his total from his final season in Toronto. Expect Gonzalez to be a little more productive this year. Although heís not much better than Ramon Martinez, his contract should keep him in the starting lineup unless he goes into a really terrible slump.
Barry Larkin - Reds - 425-.275-8-72-42-11 - .355-.385 - $9 - NL 11th - ML 20th
Larkin has always been injury prone, but at least the Reds used to know that heíd be productive when healthy. That changed last year, as Larkin batted .245 with a 672 OPS in 145 games. Since heíll turn 39 in April, itís unclear how much Larkin has left in the tank. I can see him having one more good year before he wraps up what should be a Hall of Fame career, but the injury possibilities make him a poor option as a No. 1 shortstop.
Craig Counsell - Diamondbacks - 475-.280-4-72-52-7 - .350-.350 - $8 - NL 12th - ML 22nd
The neck surgery Counsell underwent last season leaves him questionable for Opening Day. Once healthy, heís expected to take over as Arizonaís regular third baseman. Counsell doesnít do anything well enough to make him someone to target in fantasy leagues. However, since he will qualify at shortstop this year, heís a decent selection for those who miss out on the bigger names.
Ramon Vazquez - Padres - 475-.270-7-68-52-9 - .350-.380 - $8 - NL 13th - ML 23rd
After a very slow start, Vazquez was a solid player for San Diego last season, batting .301 over the final four months. Unfortunately, that still didnít amount to much fantasy value. Vazquez doesnít show much power or speed, and since he was surrounded by weak hitters, he ended up with just 50 runs scored and 32 RBI in 423 AB last year. Heís sure to have better fantasy numbers in 2003, but his upside is quite limited.
Royce Clayton - Brewers - 500-.250-10-60-55-10 - .300-.360 - $6 - NL 14th - ML 26th
Clayton canít hit, but neither can any of Milwaukeeís alternatives at shortstop. The 32-year-old still has the speed and power to separate him from the bottom-of-the-barrel shortstops. Heíll play regularly, so heís a nice inexpensive option at the middle-infield spot. If the past is any kind of indication, heíll get off to a slow start and improve after the All-Star break.
Jack Wilson - Pirates - 500-.260-6-62-52-5 - .315-.345 - $4 - NL 15th - ML 28th
Wilson turned out to be a nice bargain last year, but that was only because he moved into the No. 2 spot in the Pirates lineup once Pokey Reese crashed and burned. Wilson isnít close to being good enough to justify batting anywhere other than the eighth spot. He should return there this year, so donít expect much.
Felipe Lopez - Reds - 300-.260-10-40-40-8 - .320-.410 - $3 - NL 16th - ML 30th
The Reds have pretty much taken away any chance Lopez has of earning a starting job at the beginning of this season, but the former Blue Jay should get plenty of playing time once Barry Larkin gets hurt. Thereís absolutely no reason to consider Lopez a disappointment right now. Expect decent results in limited action this year and a breakthrough season in 2004. By 2006, he should be one of the National Leagueís top shortstops.
Andy Fox - Marlins - 300-.245-4-40-30-15 - .330-.335 - $2 - NL 17th - ML 31st
Fox will compete with Alex Gonzalez for the right to be Floridaís starting shortstop this year. I expect Gonzalez to get the job if healthy, but Foxís speed still makes him the more valuable player. That said, heís not going to be worth nearly as much as he was last year.
Jose Reyes - Mets - 225-.255-3-30-25-11 - .310-.380 - $2 - NL 18th - ML 32nd
Itís only a matter of time until Reyes becomes the Metsí starting shortstop. When Rey Ordonez was the alternative, it looked like a pretty good idea to go to Reyes this year. Now that Rey Sanchez is in town, the Mets should probably keep Reyes in Triple-A for the majority of the season. Whether or not it happens might depend on the teamís place in the standings. Reyesí speed makes him worth considering at the end of NL-only league drafts, but he probably wonít be a big factor this year.
Alex Gonzalez - Marlins - 400-.250-8-45-42-6 - .310-.365 - $1 - NL 19th - ML 33rd
Gonzalez missed most of last season with a dislocated shoulder and itís uncertain whether heíll enter this season at 100 percent. There are better cheap shortstops to invest in.
Cesar Izturis - Dodgers - 400-.245-3-42-32-14 - .275-.335 - $1 - NL 20th - ML 34th
The possibility that Izturis would hit second in the Dodger lineup made him rather intriguing last year, but he ended up hitting even worse than expected and losing his job to Alex Cora. Heíll be given every opportunity to take back the starting spot this season, but heíll bat eighth if he wins it. Although he has 20-steal potential, heís nothing more than a $1 pick.
Ramon Martinez - Cubs - 225-.275-5-32-28-1 - .340-.415 - $0 - NL 21st - ML 37th
Martinez is one of the gameís top utility players, but the Giants cut him loose and went with Neifi Perez in that role. The Cubs will benefit from that decision, getting a very good backup at shortstop and third base. Martinez wonít have much fantasy value, but he is a better $1 pick than Mark Grudzielanek.
Alex Cora - Dodgers - 225-.260-4-28-22-4 - .335-.385 - $0 - NL 22nd - ML 38th
Cora was surprisingly productive last season, batting .291 with an 805 OPS in 258 AB. A repeat performance doesnít seem likely, especially since the Dodgers are hoping that Izturis steps up and wins the starting job at shortstop. If Cora overtakes Izturis this spring, heíd be a decent option at $2.
Neifi Perez - Giants - 250-.250-2-32-25-5 - .275-.340 - $0 - NL 23rd - ML 41st
Fortunately, the Jose Cruz Jr. signing eliminated any chance Perez had of opening the season as a regular. Perez could have been a truly spectacular maker of outs for the Giants. As is, heíll probably be limited to putting up terrible numbers in 250 AB.
Jose Vizcaino - Astros - 225-.275-2-30-20-2 - .320-.360 - $0 - NL 24th - ML 42nd
Vizcaino, not Adam Everett, is Houstonís alternative to Julio Lugo at shortstop. With the way the 34-year-old utilityman played last year, the Astros were actually better off after Lugo went down with a fractured forearm. However, Vizcaino should go back to being his usual mediocre self this year.
Wilson Betemit - Braves - 150-.280-4-20-18-4 - .330-.390 - $0 - NL 25th - ML 43rd
Betemit could become one of Atlantaís starting infielders in the second half of the year, but heíll need to play better in Triple-A in order to receive consideration for a callup. Keep an eye on him. Heís more likely to be a productive player than Jose Reyes is this year.
Khalil Greene - Padres - $0 - NL 26th - ML 46th
Greene, San Diegoís first-round pick last year, is a polished product who could be ready for the majors in the second half of the season. Still, the better bet is that heíll have to wait until next year to take over a job.
Joe McEwing - Mets - 150-.260-3-20-18-5 - .315-.400 - $0 - NL 27th - ML 48th
McEwing really struggled last year and goes into this season without much of a role. If he has a good spring and the Mets donít acquire a real third baseman, then itís possible heíll be worth a $1 bid.
Adam Everett - Astros - 150-.255-3-20-15-4 - .320-.365 - $0 - NL 28th - ML 50th
Everett canít hit and it doesnít look like heís ever going to learn. Still, a few teams kind of like him, so a trade is a possibility.
Abraham Nunez - Pirates - 200-.250-1-22-18-5 - .330-.325 - $0 - NL 29th - ML 52nd
Luis Lopez - Rockies - $0 - NL 30th - ML 53rd
Bill Hall - Brewers - $0 - NL 31st - ML 56th
Nick Punto - Phillies - $0 - NL 32nd - ML 57th
Cody Ransom - Giants - $0 - NL 33rd - ML 61st
Mike Mordecai - Marlins - 150-.260-2-20-15-2 - .320-.360 - $0 - NL 34th - ML 62nd
Juan Castro - Reds - $0 - NL 35th - ML 64th
Jorge Velandia - Mets - $0 - NL 36th - ML 66th
Travis Dawkins - Reds - $0 - NL 37th - ML 67th
Wilson Delgado - Cardinals - $0 - NL 38th - ML 70th
Alex Rodriguez - Rangers - 590-.310-60-135-138-10 - .410-.660 - $46 - AL 1st - ML 1st
Rodriguezís power numbers keep increasing, but he really hasnít had a career year yet. Heís had OPSs of 1021 and 1015 in his two years in Texas, which is a tad disappointing, considering that he had a 1026 OPS in his final year in Seattle and going from Safeco to The Ballpark should have helped him out. Of course, it does hurt that he no longer gets to face Rangers pitching. Even though Rodriguez no longer steals many bases, heís the clear No. 1 choice in any AL-only or mixed league. I can see him having the best season of his career in 2003.
Nomar Garciaparra - Red Sox - 570-.335-27-115-110-6 - .385-.560 - $35 - AL 2nd - ML 2nd
Garciaparra is the risky pick among the top-four shortstops, but since he made it through last season without reinjuring his wrist, he reclaims the No. 2 spot in this yearís rankings. Nomar wasnít quite his usual self offensively in 2002, but he was good enough to bat .310 with 24 HR and 120 RBI. Look for him to get his average back up to the .330-.340 range this season. If he stays healthy, heís a top-10 overall player. However, the wrist isnít the only problem Garciaparra has had in his career. Iím only projecting him to play in about 145 games.
Derek Jeter - Yankees - 620-.315-20-120-78-28 - .385-.470 - $34 - AL 3rd - ML 3rd
Jeterís offensive decline continued last year. Heís trying to make up for it by stealing more bases, but at some point his legs are no longer going to be able to counter his bat. I see Jeter rebounding to his 2001 level of production this year. Amazingly, for all the attention he gets, Jeter is becoming an underrated fantasy shortstop. There just arenít many players who contributes in every category like he does.
Miguel Tejada - Athletics - 610-.290-33-105-120-8 - .350-.490 - $32 - AL 4th - ML 4th
Tejada didnít really take a big step forward in his MVP campaign. He just hit more singles and was put in a lineup spot where more of those singles would drive in runs. OK, that isnít entirely fair, as Tejada did bat .375 with runners in scoring position. Still, the fact remains that his OBP and SLG increased by less than his batting average did. My guess is that Tejada isnít going to hit .308 again. He will continue to be very productive, but Nomar and Jeter are better bets.
David Eckstein - Angels - 570-.285-7-100-65-23 - .365-.380 - $20 - AL 5th - ML 8th
How quickly can a player go from being underrated to being overrated? Eckstein is pretty good right now, but it would be nice to see him go back to walking as much as he did in the minors. As is, he canít afford to hit below .280 or he stops being a productive player. I donít see any major changes in store for 2003. Heís fine to draft this year, but I have the feeling heís going to be someone to avoid in 2004.
Cristian Guzman - Twins - 560-.285-10-80-60-24 - .315-.405 - $18 - AL 6th - ML 11th
Injuries made Guzman a terrible player last year, but the Dominican native does have more upside than Eckstein. The Twins plan to continue using Guzman at or near the top of the lineup, and that leaves open the possibility that Guzman will score 100 runs and steal 30 bases. However, he has a long way to bounce back after last yearís showing. At $16-$17, heís a good risk. The Twins arenít going to turn to Chris Gomez unless Guzman gives them no other choice.
Jose Valentin - White Sox - 500-.250-24-85-80-7 - .325-.475 - $17 - AL 7th - ML 12th
Valentin is still a very good hitter for a shortstop, but since heís no longer a candidate for 20 steals, itís more difficult to overlook his subpar batting average. Valentinís fantasy value may be on the decline, but since heíll be surrounded by a lot of quality hitters, heís a fine option this year. The White Sox will continue to sit him down against left-handed pitching.
Omar Vizquel - Indians - 550-.270-9-80-58-16 - .340-.390 - $14 - AL 8th - ML 15th
Vizquel suddenly added power to his game at age 35, establishing new career highs in homers and extra-base hits. Itís pretty obvious that he has bulked up a bit, so expect him to continue to show decent pop. I do expect leg injuries to start to become a factor over the next couple of years. His first trip to the disabled list since 1994 could occur this season.
Carlos Guillen - Mariners - 500-.270-10-70-60-5 - .340-.395 - $11 - AL 9th - ML 18th
Guillen was one of the big surprises of the first two months of last season, batting .306 with 6 HR, 37 runs and 31 RBI in 180 AB. Of course, he didnít come close to maintaining that pace. In fact, he hit just .232 with a 601 OPS after the All-Star break. Guillenís 2003 totals will resemble those from 2002. However, heíll likely be more consistent.
Chris Woodward - Blue Jays - 450-.270-15-55-65-3 - .325-.450 - $10 - AL 10th - ML 21st
Whatever it was that inhabited Guillenís body for the first two months of last season jumped to Woodward in June before moving on to its next host in September. Woodward is probably the most difficult call in the AL shortstop pool this season. He does have legit power, but Iím not convinced heís a long-term option as a starting shortstop. Since heíll bat no higher than seventh in the Toronto lineup, I donít think heís a great risk this year.
Angel Berroa - Royals - 400-.260-11-45-48-11 - .320-.385 - $8 - AL 11th - ML 24th
Another wild card. Thereís no way that Berroa is going to be a decent player for the Royals this year, but he has the speed and power to be a solid fantasy shortstop almost immediately. Despite the fact that his numbers at Triple-A last year were nothing short of awful, the Royals will hand him the starting job at shortstop. Itís better than going with Neifi Perez, but itís probably not great for either Berroaís or the Royalsí future that the 25-year-old wonít have earned his way to the majors. I think thereís a very real chance that the Royals will have no other choice but to send Berroa back to the minors in May or June and give the shortstop job to Desi Relaford. They should do it in March.
Melvin Mora - Orioles - 400-.250-9-65-50-11 - .340-.410 - $7 - AL 12th - ML 25th
Mora faded in the second half of last year, but with 19 homers and 70 walks, he wasnít a bad player for the Orioles. His role for 2003 is uncertain. There doesnít appear to be any room in the outfield for him, and if the Orioles trusted him at shortstop, they wouldnít have signed Deivi Cruz. Nevertheless, Iím still projecting him to get 400 at-bats, many of which will come after regulars start getting hurt.
Desi Relaford - Royals - 350-.275-7-50-40-13 - .350-.395 - $6 - AL 13th - ML 27th
Unless Carlos Febles steps up, Relaford is the closest thing the Royals have to a leadoff hitter, and that should get him at least a few starts per week. Since he has the potential to swipe 15-20 bases, he could be a late-round steal in AL-only leagues.
Deivi Cruz - Orioles - 400-.280-7-42-50-3 - .310-.410 - $3 - AL 14th - ML 29th
Iím not certain why, but the Padres seemed to really like having Cruz around last year. He did play better defensively than he did in his final season with the Tigers, but he wasnít great in the field or impressive with the bat. Things arenít going to change now that heís back in the American League. Feel free to draft him cheap, but donít hesitate to drop him if he begins losing time to Mora.
Ramon Santiago - Tigers - 325-.250-3-30-35-11 - .305-.350 - $2 - AL 15th - ML 35th
Santiago is probably the favorite to play shortstop for the Tigers this season, but thereís still no reason to believe heís ready to hit in the majors. The 23-year-old got off to a fast start after joining the Tigers last season, but he faded and then got hurt. At this point, his main asset is his speed. If Santiago remains a starter for the entire season, he might steal 20 bases. I think itís more likely that heíll spend additional time in Triple-A at some point.
Rey Ordonez - Devil Rays - 475-.250-2-42-48-3 - .285-.330 - $1 - AL 16th - ML 36th
One of the things Iíll miss most this spring is the annual wave of newspaper articles out of New York claiming that, after a winter spent working out, this is the year Ordonez is ready to become a decent hitter. The Rays know that Ordonez is terrible offensively, but they really donít care. Heíll play everyday and get just enough runs and RBI to make him a decent $1 pick.
Chris Gomez - Twins - 200-.270-5-30-32-2 - .320-.430 - $0 - AL 17th - ML 39th
Gomez is probably baseballís best shortstop without a starting job. Despite some impressive numbers (.275, 47 2B, 18 HR in 650 AB) during his year and a half with the Rays, heís not even a lock to make the Twins out of spring training. It will take an injury to either Cristian Guzman or Luis Rivas to give him any fantasy value.
Shane Halter - Tigers - 225-.260-5-25-25-3 - .325-.410 - $0 - AL 18th - ML 40th
Halter isnít a bad hitter, but the Tigers should realize by now that heís not a realistic option at shortstop. It looks like heíll be the teamís top utility player this year.
Omar Infante - Tigers - 200-.260-2-18-20-6 - .300-.360 - $0 - AL 19th - ML 44th
Infanteís strong September will earn him consideration for the starting jobs at shortstop and second base this spring. He has more offensive upside that Santiago, but heís the weaker defensive shortstop. I think the most likely scenario is that the Tigers send Infante back to Triple-A for three months and then call him up and give him the second-base job over Damion Easley.
Mike Bordick - Blue Jays - 150-.250-3-20-15-3 - .330-.360 - $0 - AL 20th - ML 45th
Bordick and Dave Berg would both be nice $1 picks if the other wasnít around. As is, theyíll steal too much playing time away from one another.
John McDonald - Indians - 200-.245-1-28-18-5 - .285-.320 - $0 - AL 21st - ML 47th
McDonald may be one of the American Leagueís best defensive infielders, but heís a Rey Ordonez-type hitter. The Indians should be hoping that Brandon Phillips beats McDonald out for the second-base job this spring.
John Valentin - Orioles - 150-.255-5-18-20-0 - .345-.385 - $0 - AL 22nd - ML 49th
Heís got a better chance than Jeff Reboulet, but Valentin probably wonít make the Orioles, forcing him to call it a career at age 36.
Denny Hocking - Twins - 175-.245-2-20-18-3 - .310-.330 - $0 - AL 23rd - ML 51st
Hocking hasnít hit at all the last two years. The Twins have brought him back for 2003, but itís very unlikely that theyíll give him as much playing time as they used to.
Hector Luna - Devil Rays - 150-.240-2-15-15-6 - .280-.340 - $0 - AL 24th - ML 54th
Luna, a Rule 5 pick from the Indians, takes over Felix Escalonaís role on the Rays.
Marshall McDougall - Rangers - $0 - AL 25th - ML 55th
McDougall is another Rule 5 pick from the Indians. Heís more ready for the majors than Luna is, but heís not likely to make the Rangers.
Jose Morban - Twins - $0 - AL 26th - ML 58th
Mendy Lopez - Royals - $0 - AL 27th - ML 59th
Tim Hummel - White Sox - $0 - AL 28th - ML 60th
Erick Almonte - Yankees - $0 - AL 29th - ML 63rd
Alfredo Amezaga - Angels - $0 - AL 30th - ML 65th
Jeff Reboulet - Orioles - $0 - AL 31st - ML 68th
Felix Escalona - Devil Rays - $0 - AL 32nd - ML 69th