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Short and sweet

Hanley Ramirez is the most valuable fantasy player
because of his speed, power and the position he plays.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - At the shortstop position, there is the "Big-Three" and then there is a huge drop off to everybody else....or is there?

Most experts will list Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins head and shoulders above the rest, but if you look at the numbers Stephen Drew posted in the second half of the year or Jhonny Peralta's power or the fact that before his back injury Rafael Furcal was having a better year than anyone, maybe it's time to change that thinking. Sure the "Big Three" are still the best, but the margin isn't as big as in previous years.

Hanley Ramirez, Florida - Ramirez (2008 ADP - 2.8) is the most valuable fantasy player because of the combination of speed and power and because of the position he plays. At 24-years-old he's already got a "30-30" year on his resume. He'll likely bat third in the lineup this year which will add RBIs to his repertoire without a big hit on his stolen base total. I'm expecting a 35-35 season with 90+ RBIs.

Jose Reyes, New York Mets - Reyes is certainly the position's best stolen base threat and will give you 100+ runs, but his limited upside in the power categories and the fact that he can't get his batting average over .300 means you will be paying an awful lot, too much in my opinion, for his speed (2008 ADP - 4.4).

Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia - Rollins missed some time last year because of a ankle injury, but he still set a career-high for stolen bases. However, his power numbers dropped from his MVP season and I don't expect him to hit 25-30 HR this season either. He's a very good ballplayer, but not a first-round pick without the power.

Stephen Drew, Arizona - Drew hit .326 (slugging percentage - .556) after the All-Star break and at 26-years-old will only get better. I expect him to finish second among shortstops in HRs and if he adds a little speed to his game could overtake Rollins in value.

Jhonny Peralta, Cleveland - Peralta set a Cleveland shortstop record for most extra base hits in 2008 with 69, 23 of which were home runs. His average has risen in each of the last two years and he cracked the 100 runs scored mark for the first time last season making him a solid fantasy shortstop.

JJ Hardy, Milwaukee - Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun get all the publicity in Milwaukee, but J.J. Hardy is a very good hitting shortstop. In 2008 he hit 24 homers, knocked in 74 runs while batting a respectable .283. In the Brewer's home run-friendly stadium, if he stays healthy, a 30 HR season is possible.

Rafael Furcal, Los Angeles Dodgers - Had Furcal played an entire season like he played the first 36 games, he would have posted 141 runs scored, 21 HRs, 67 RBI, 33 SB and hit .357. That would have made him the No.2 man at shortstop. Alas, a back injury sidelined him in May and he didn't return until late September. All indications are that he is completely healthy.

Derek Jeter, New York Yankees - Jeter is a great team player, but in the fantasy world he is usually overpriced. His 2008 ADP of 33.3 was too much to spend on an 88 runs scored, 11 HR, 69 RBI, 11 SB season. He'll be 35 in June and there is no doubt his skills are diminishing. Still, he does enough of everything to squeeze into the top-five at the position for one last season.

Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado - As great as he was in 2007, is how disappointing he was to fantasy owners in 2008. His 104 runs scored, 24 HR, 99 RBI rookie season and corresponding 2008 ADP of 42.6 turned into 48 runs, 8 HR, 46 RBI and a .263 batting average last year. He's still got talent and if he stays healthy he'll be good again. He could be the best bargain at the position if he returns to his rookie season levels.

Miguel Tejada, Baltimore - Tejada's number are in decline and he is no longer the player we knew in Baltimore. Home runs have decreased from 24 in 2006 to 18 in 2007 to 13 last season. Likewise, RBIs (100-81-66) and average (.330-.296-.283) have dropped too. As with Jeter, his best days are in the past.

Mike Aviles, Kansas City - Aviles finished fourth in the 2008 AL Rookie of the year voting because of a .325 batting average with respectable power numbers for a shortstop. Given a full season, he could hit 13-15 HRs, score 75 runs and knock in 60-65. That would be at the bottom end of your league's starters, but you could do worse.

Yunel Escobar, Atlanta - Escobar isn't a power hitter, but at shortstop his 10 HR, 60 RBI season won't kill you. Though he couldn't keep the batting average at the .326 level he produced in 2007 (355 plate appearances), he still hit a respectable .288. He'll likely bat second in front of Chipper Jones and Brian McCann which means he is going to see a lot of good pitches.

Top-12 Shortstop Projections
Player Team AB H R HR RBI SB AVE SLG
Hanley Ramirez FLA 590 184 118 35 98 37 0.312 0.55
Jose Reyes NYM 660 197 127 16 67 67 0.299 0.449
Jimmy Rollins PHI 600 174 104 17 71 39 0.29 0.46
Stephen Drew AZ 585 172 89 22 82 7 0.295 0.48
Jhonny Peralta CLE 610 171 90 25 88 3 0.28 0.47
JJ Hardy MIL 560 163 84 27 81 1 0.292 0.485
Rafael Furcal LAD 600 185 95 10 48 24 0.309 0.435
Derek Jeter NYY 575 167 83 11 71 16 0.291 0.41
Troy Tulowitzki COL 550 153 77 20 73 1 0.278 0.465
Miguel Tejada BAL 540 148 60 12 64 4 0.274 0.42
Mike Aviles KC 570 171 62 11 58 9 0.3 0.405
Yunel Escobar ATL 580 167 74 9 55 6 0.288 0.4


Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.

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