In my estimation, there are nine shortstops worthy of double-digit bids in 2006. The dropoff is pretty drastic from the ninth to 10th spot, so be mindful of that.
1. Derek Jeter: The Yankees’ beloved shortstop tops my rankings this year. With Jeter, you can count on a .310 average, 120 runs, 75 RBIs and something close to a 20/20 season. He provides a reliable five-category boost, so the reputation is justified. Despite this, I would definitely not go past $30 for him in an auction league. He should fall somewhere in the middle of the second round of a draft. He’s not substantially better than Mike Young in my projections, so consider Young for your top-tier shortstop if and when the Jeter bidding gets out of hand.
2. Michael Young: Texas’s shortstop is nipping on Jeter’s heels for the top spot. He’ll match or exceed Jeter in average, runs, RBIs and homers, but he stole only five bases last season. If he can get that back up in the 12-13 range, I’d have to call this a tie.
3. Jose Reyes: The young Mets shortstop will shoot for 70 steals in 2006, and his owners will thank him for it. He doesn’t offer much in the power department, but shouldn’t have any problem scoring 100 runs. I would be surprised if he got his average past .280, but you never know. Probably a $20 guy in a 5×5 mixed keeper league.
4. Jimmy Rollins: Rollins adds some pop to the typical runs/steals benefit of a speedster. I expect his batting average and steals to slip somewhat from ’05 levels, but he’s still a reliable pick.
5. Julio Lugo: I’ve ranked Lugo higher than most forecasters, no doubt. A dramatic improvement in his contact rate last season may portend his first .300 average, and only an August slowdown stopped him from swiping 40 bases. Rafael Furcal was motivated to get to 40 steals in his contract year; let’s see if Lugo has a similar mindset.
6. Miguel Tejada: He’s slipped pretty far here, but I see a batting average decline on the way. A lifelong free-swinger with a frightening power decline in the second half of 2005, Tejada is unlikely to meet your draft day expectations. His numbers, .285/27/102, are damn good for a shortstop, but the market will force you to overpay. He’s still a $15-17 player.
7. Felipe Lopez: I don’t doubt that he can mostly maintain his ’05 breakout numbers. I think his average will slip, but he’ll tack on a few more steals. Snap him up if he’s not getting proper respect in your league.
8. Jhonny Peralta: Peralta took his place among upper echelon shortstops in 2005, and he’ll get more at-bats in 2006. Look for more of the same; his only flaw is a lack of steals.
9. Rafael Furcal: Furcal will be a poor man’s Rollins in 2006. Great runs and steals totals, acceptable in the other categories. I think he’ll drop under 30 steals given his new contract security.
10. Bobby Crosby: At this point, the value drops dramatically. That’s not a knock on Crosby, but Furcal is worth a lot more. Crosby can probably hit nearly 25 home runs in 2006 but won’t hit better than .270. If he manages to hit .280 and knock in 90, he’d move up several spots.
11. Carlos Guillen: Put a red flag by Guillen’s health, as he’s only had 500 at-bats once. Still, he’s likely a .310 hitter with decent pop. Don’t look for another ’04, but Guillen should be helpful in ’06.
12. Nomar Garciaparra: This is expected to be Nomar’s last year of shortstop eligibility, so take advantage. If you think he can hit .300 again, move up into the top 10. I think the new Dodger first baseman will stay healthy and hit .285-22-74 with 83 runs scored. It’s good value, but don’t let past glory cloud your judgment.
13. B.J. Upton: I’d be surprised if the Rays don’t manage to clear the way for Upton by the time the season starts. Even in 450 at-bats, the young future star can hit .280 with 15 home runs and 25 steals. And that’s a conservative estimate. Now is the time to lock Upton up in keeper leagues.
14. Clint Barmes: Barmes is going pretty high in some leagues so far this year, and I’d proceed with caution. He’ll steal some bags, knock 15 home runs, and hit .280, but he’s far from a star shortstop. He had a pretty nasty second half (.216/.256/.288 in 125 ABs).
15. Khalil Greene: If you’re looking for possible 20-home-run pop on the cheap, Greene is your guy. He’d need to hit .280 instead of .250 to find his way into the top 10. Plus, you won’t get double-digit steals from Greene.
16. Angel Berroa: He can’t draw a walk to save his life, but Berroa has a little bit of speed and power. He won’t hurt your team.
17. Orlando Cabrera: Twenty steals may give O-Cab a little bit of value, though you’ll have to cross your fingers and hope he can hit .270.
18. Ryan Zimmerman: PECOTA has him hitting 13 home runs, but my projection is just eight. No doubt he’ll hit near .290, but you probably won’t get much else. Should be a much better pick for 2007.
19. David Eckstein: A projected drop in batting average pushes Eckstein down on this list; he can steal 15 bags and score 90. A boring but acceptable selection late in the game.
20. Juan Uribe: Hard to say whether Uribe will hit .250 or .280. I lean towards the former. Still, he’s good for 20 homers and a solid RBI total.
Just missed: Adam Everett, Edgar Renteria, Russ Adams, Ronny Cedeno