Fantasy Midseason Rankings: Shortstop

Continuing my series of rankings updates, it’s time to look back at my preseason shortstop rankings and update them for the rest of the season. Keep in mind that this is a list of who I think will be the best shortstops for the rest of the season, not who I think have been the best shortstops so far this season. (Preseason ranking in parentheses.)

1. Alex Rodriguez, Yankees (1): Rodriguez is still far and away the best fantasy shortstop around, but he’s doing things a little differently this season. The home runs (22), runs (61) and RBIs (58) are all right around where you might expect him to be, but the other two categories are not.

Over the last four seasons, Rodriguez’s lowest batting average was .298 and his highest stolen base total was 18. This year, the average is down to .270, but he already has 18 steals. I’d expect the average to climb a bit the rest of the way and I think he’ll ease up on the basepaths a bit, but either way he’s going to be the best shortstop.

2. Nomar Garciaparra, Red Sox (2): Not too long ago, there wouldn’t have been much chance of Garciaparra retaining his No. 2 position for these rankings. He missed the first two months of the season and then his just .235 in June. However, he seems to be fully healthy now and he’s been ripping the cover off the ball in July.

For the season, he’s hitting .327 with four homers, two steals, 16 runs and 16 RBIs in 26 games. If he can play around 70 of Boston’s 76 remaining games, he could very well provide you with a .315-.330 average, 12-15 home runs, a handful of steals, 45-50 runs and 50-60 RBIs.

3. Miguel Tejada, Orioles (3): Before the season, I said moving to Camden Yards wouldn’t help Tejada’s numbers that much and I was right, sort of. Tejada’s hitting .299 with eight homers at home and .325 with seven homers on the road so far this season. But it seems that the rest of the Orioles really prefer it at home, as Tejada has 52 RBIs in Baltimore and just 23 elsewhere.

However you want to break it down, Tejada’s having an excellent season and there’s no reason to think it won’t continue. I don’t think he’ll knock in more than 140 runs, but he could certainly hit .300-.310 with 30 homers, 85-90 runs and 120-130 RBIs. The only negative to Tejada’s season is that he hasn’t stolen a base, but I think he’ll nab a few before the year ends.

4. Derek Jeter, Yankees (5): Jeter’s struggles to start the season were very well documented, but he almost entirely erased that slow start with an amazing June. For the season, he’s now hitting .277 with 13 homers, 10 steals, 52 runs and 48 RBIs. If you don’t think he’s going to have a good second half, think again.

I’d expect him to hit around .300 the rest of the way with 10-12 homers, approximately 10 steals, 50-60 runs and 40-45 RBIs. I don’t know what was wrong at the beginning of the year, but it’s no longer a factor.

5. Carlos Guillen, Tigers (19): I think the best way to put Guillen’s stellar season into perspective is to point out that he’s already set or tied career highs in doubles (24), triples (7), home runs (13), RBIs (65) and steals (7). He’s raised his career batting average 10 points (from .264 to .274) by hitting .324 so far.

As nice as his story is, however, I don’t expect it to continue. I don’t think he’ll go back to hitting like he did in Seattle, but I’d only expect a .290-.300 average, six or seven home runs, a handful of steals, 40-45 runs and 40-45 RBIs.

6. Jose Valentin, White Sox (11): Abandoning switch-hitting hasn’t helped Valentin’s monumental struggles against left-handed pitching, but he can still be productive even when he contribute nothing at all against southpaws. He’s only hitting .194 with two homers in 72 at-bats against lefties, but he’s at .278 with 16 homers in 180 at-bats against righties.

I don’t know that he’ll stay this hot all year, but he should at least finish with a .250 average, 30 homers, 8-10 steals, 85-90 runs and 85-90 RBIs. If you have the ability to start a different shortstop when the White Sox are facing a left-hander, that’s even better.

7. Edgar Renteria, Cardinals (4): Renteria struggled to start the season, but he’s been turning his season around and is hitting .283 with six homers, 10 steals, 51 runs and 40 RBIs right now. He’s in his prime and coming off two good years, so there’s not much reason to expect him to struggle.

If you look for him to finish the season with a .290-.295 average, 10-12 homers, 20-25 steals, 100-110 runs and 75-80 RBIs, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

8. Rafael Furcal, Braves (6): Furcal missed a bunch of time earlier this season with injuries, but he’s played quite well when he’s been healthy. Most importantly, he’s shown that last year’s power surge wasn’t a fluke, as he already has 10 longballs.

Over the rest of the season, I’d expect Furcal to hit .275-.280 with 8-10 homers, 10-12 steals, 50-60 runs and 30-35 RBIs. He should benefit from Marcus Giles’ return to the lineup.

9. Royce Clayton, Rockies (NR): There’s only one thing I like about Clayton, and that’s the park he calls home. Even with the aid of Coors Field (he’s hitting .355 in Colorado), Clayton’s only hitting .298 with six homers and six steals. However, he’s hitting second ahead of Todd Helton, and that’s helped him score 64 runs thus far.

If Clayton can keep playing well enough to stay in the two-hole almost every day, he’ll continue to be a very useful fantasy option. If you have a decent backup shortstop you can use when the Rockies are on the road, you’ll even be able to maximize what you get from Clayton.

10. Julio Lugo, Devil Rays (18): I didn’t rank Lugo higher before the season because, while he had established himself as somebody who can reach double digits in homers and steals, I thought playing for the Devil Rays would hurt his runs and RBIs. Instead, he’s hitting .286 with six homers and 11 steals and he’s on pace for 86 runs and 93 RBIs.

The Tampa Bay offense has been better than I thought it would be, and Lugo has been both a reason for and a beneficiary of that. I see no reason why he can’t hit .280-.285 with 10-12 homers, 18-20 steals, 80-90 runs and 90-100 RBIs this season.

Fell from top 10

Kaz Matsui, Mets (7): I didn’t know what to expect from Matsui, so I just kind of threw him in after the half-dozen shortstops I felt confident in. I said a conservative estimate for him would be a .280 average, 15 homers and 10 steals, which wouldn’t make him worth the No. 7 ranking.

Right now, he’s hitting .269 and is on pace for 13 homers and 22 steals. So, he’s hitting a little worse than my conservative estimate, but he’s stealing a lot more bases. He could pick it up in the second half and he certainly could outperform Clayton or Lugo, but I’m not all that excited about what I’ve seen from the second Matsui.

Orlando Cabrera, Expos (8): Talk about falling off a cliff. Before the season, I said you could expect a .290 average, 15 homers, 20 steals, 90 runs and 80 RBIs from him. He could get the steals, but he won’t come close on anything else as he’s hitting .237 and is on pace for just seven homers, 67 runs and 43 RBIs.

After establishing himself as a decent-if-overrated shortstop over the last few years, he’s completely fallen apart this season and he’s grumbling about the team he plays for. I wouldn’t bet the bank on a big second half recovery.

Jose Reyes, Mets (9): A promising season was derailed before it even began when (to steal a joke from Bill Simmons) Reyes purchased Juan Gonzalez’s hamstring on eBay. Finally back in the lineup, Reyes may still not really be healthy as he’s hitting just .216 with a couple homers and a few steals. He could certainly still become the player many people expected after last season, but it doesn’t look like it’ll happen this year.

Angel Berroa, Royals (10): A classic Sophomore Slump. After hitting .287 with 17 homers, 21 steals, 92 runs and 73 RBI in his Rookie of the Year campaign, Berroa is struggling along at .239 with five homers, seven steals, 35 runs and 28 RBIs so far. Just one of the many reasons for Kansas City’s huge disappointment of a season.

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