2014 Outlook: While his propensity for injury might be here to stay -- he has missed 150 team games combined the past three seasons -- Ramirez's bat showed signs of rebirth in 2013, as he set new personal bests with a .345 batting average, .638 slugging percentage and .435 weighted on-base average (wOBA). On the surface, the gains coincided with Yasiel Puig's ascension to the majors in June, but the truth is they were skills-based: He managed a more-than-100-point wOBA gain against breaking balls (curves and sliders), and returned to his early-career form on pitches outside the strike zone. Puig's arrival, not to mention the mid-2012 acquisitions of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, did help Ramirez's runs/RBI case, though, and should continue to do so in 2014. There's as much risk here as with any top-shelf talent, but the potential payoff is massive.
2014 Outlook: On a per-game basis, and comparing his numbers to the rest of the shortstop pool, Tulowitzki is one of the most valuable assets in fantasy baseball. In his seven-year career, he has .295/.367/.509 lifetime rates and has averaged 29 home runs, 103 RBIs, 10 stolen bases and 101 runs scored per 162 games played; shortstops as a whole had .254/.308/.372 numbers and averaged 12-60-14-69 numbers per 162 in 2013 alone. That said, during those same seven seasons, Tulowitzki has missed 290 games, or 25.6 percent of his Colorado Rockies' scheduled contests, and made five trips to the DL. If not for his position, he might be regarded more of a headache, but numbers like this are rare from a shortstop. Understand that Tulowitzki is one of the riskiest assets in the game, but he's also one with a potentially high reward. Stephania Bell: Finally recovered from the core muscle surgery of 2012, Tulowitzki showed last year he could return to form. He's still somewhat vulnerable to injury, due to both his history and his position, but the calf bruise this spring isn't his fault (hit by pitch), nor does it appear especially serious.
2014 Outlook: Desmond is riding back-to-back 20/20 seasons, a rare feat for a shortstop, illustrated best by the fact that only three shortstops in history -- Hanley Ramirez (4), Jimmy Rollins (4) and Alex Rodriguez (3) -- have had more in their careers. Always a capable base stealer, Desmond picked up the power pace in 2012, utilizing a more aggressive approach in which he improved by leaps and bounds covering the inner third of the plate. He's a bit more strikeout-prone than a points-league owner might prefer, but preferences should be cast aside for a player aged 28 with his recent track record of success. This is an early-round pick, well worth building around in any format.
2014 Outlook: Injuries, his advancing age (he'll turn 31 in June) and the perils of the turf in Toronto threaten to keep Reyes in the high-risk bin of fantasy players. That said, despite his lengthy absence in 2013 -- that a product of an awkward slide on a stolen-base attempt in April -- Reyes managed .296/.353/.427 rates and full-season paces of 17 home runs and 25 stolen bases. This is a player with substantial reward, so long as he recaptures the aggressiveness on the basepaths that he showed during the first 10 seasons of his career; much of that is tied to his confidence in the ankle he hurt last summer. Consider Reyes one of the first shortstops to target in any fantasy league, especially points-based formats, in which his high contact rate and top-of-the-lineup role carry added value.
2014 Outlook: One of these things is not like the others: 33, 32, 37, 21, 42. Have you figured it out yet? That's right, it's Andrus' career-low 21 steals of 2012, which now appear an outlier after he managed 10 baserunning WAR in 2013, best in the majors; he has the third-most baserunning WAR the past five seasons combined (24). Andrus is a speedster, though unfortunately that is all that he is, relegating him to rotisserie-league building block but one much less useful in points leagues. That said, he might score the No. 2 spot in the Texas Rangers' lineup, wedged comfortably between Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder. Andrus could be a two-category rotisserie performer, adding runs scored to his steals prowess, meaning a repeat or increase in value from his 2013 is within reach.
2014 Outlook: Zobrist is a fantasy darling for a variety of reasons: Most obvious is that he qualifies at three different positions in leagues with a 20-game requirement, including the critical middle-infield spots (second base and shortstop) to go along with the outfield. But he's also a category filler with additional value in walks and on-base percentage leagues; he is the only player in baseball to have at least 75 home runs, 75 stolen bases and 400 walks in the past five seasons combined, with his annual averages tallying 18/17 with 86 walks and a .366 on-base percentage during that time. Despite his declining homer and steal numbers in 2013, he is one of the more attractive early-to-mid rounders based upon the flexibility alone.
2014 Outlook: Few players disappointed their fantasy owners as much as Castro in 2013; this No. 38 overall pick in terms of ADP (third among shortstops) suffered a 38-point drop in batting average, an 83-point drop in slugging percentage and a 14-steal decline comparative to his 2012 numbers. Nevertheless, we're not giving up hope of a rebound in 2014. He's 24 years old, with many productive years in his future, he spent considerable time this winter in the Dominican Republic working with a Chicago Cubs strength coach to improve his speed and agility, and he had underlying 2013 numbers that suggested he was making adjustments, not merely struggling to succeed. To wit: He put 7 percent more balls in play to the opposite field, many of those hard-contact results. Castro remains the potential .300-hitting, 15/20 candidate that he always was, so long as he remains focused on the field. With a new manager aboard, might this be the year he finally breaks through? Stephania Bell: Castro suffered what was described as a mild hamstring strain in early March, but he is still in recovery mode as of late March. The good news is that he is running the bases and is seeing some minor league action and the team believes he will be ready for Opening Day. The problem is the only way to feel confident about his health is if he survives the first few weeks without a setback.
2014 Outlook: Go ahead and ask it: After a sensational 2013 campaign that saw him earn the No. 16 overall spot on our Player Rater, how could Segura earn a ranking more than 50 spots lower for 2014? It's simple: He's coming off one of the most disappointing second halves of any player, as he batted .241/.268/.315 with one home run, and his tendency to chase pitches when behind in the count showed that he still has adjustments to make. Segura isn't the natural power hitter he seemed when he hit 11 homers during the first half of 2013; bear in mind that he has averaged only 10 homers per 162 games played as a pro. He's an attractive source of steals and runs who shouldn't hurt your batting average, but we're concerned that his 2014 ceiling merely isn't as high as his 2013 numbers.
2014 Outlook: The 50-game suspension that ended Cabrera's 2013 prematurely might tarnish the true value of his statistics; understand that he was a top-five shortstop and top-40 player overall on our Player Rater at the time the penalty was announced. Cabrera did this thanks to two skills that shouldn't change in 2014, regardless of your opinion on the influence of PEDs: He draws walks, with a 9.5 percent career rate and a .355 on-base percentage in 2013; and he steals bases, with the third-most stolen bases the past two seasons combined (81, behind only Rajai Davis' 91 and Mike Trout's 82). Cabrera will be back as the San Diego Padres' regular shortstop and leadoff hitter, and while he'll never be mistaken for a power hitter, he'll be quite valuable due to his position even if he's a mere one-category rotisserie performer. Besides, he might be more: He makes enough contact to not hurt in batting average, he's underrated in on-base percentage leagues and his ability in the latter could drive his runs scored total.
2014 Outlook: This once-fragile shortstop has missed only seven games total the past two seasons. Still, it's best to hedge a bit on health and allow for one stint on the disabled list as you break down the numbers. Hardy's usefulness lies in above-average power for a middle infielder, while a low line-drive rate suppresses his batting average and he doesn't run. If you can make up the speed and cover his low average, Hardy is often a cheap source of power, as his injury past and lack of speed drop his market price lower than they should.
2014 Outlook: When Ramirez first came over to the States, the expectation was for considerably more speed than power, but he surprised by displaying more pop than expected while not running very much. In other words, last season was supposed to be the norm for the Cuban Missile. The thing is, it's rare that a stolen-base spike at age 32 is sustained, so the safe play is to expect pullback. On the other hand, a return to double-digit homers would not be shocking, so, at the end of the day, Ramirez is what he always has been: an extremely durable and reliable middle-infield option for those who don't draft for scarcity early on.
2014 Outlook: A career-worst strikeout rate in tandem with his lowest-ever batting average on balls in play harpooned Cabrera's usually consistent batting average downward 30 points, though it should be noted he hit into some bad luck, as his line drive rate was identical to 2012. His home runs per fly ball dropped for a second straight season, though an influx of fly balls helped maintain a teens home run total. It seems like he's older, but at just 28 years of age, chances are 2013 was just a down year for Cabrera, especially since he had to fight through assorted back, wrist and leg woes. The 25 bombs Cabrera smacked in 2011 are a distant memory, but a total in the mid-to-high teens is plausible, as are double-digit steals. If you don't chase scarcity, Cabrera is a nice consolation prize.
2014 Outlook: Though he faced an uphill battle in his attempt to crack the Boston Red Sox's lineup last season, Bogaerts eventually succeeded: He moved off his natural shortstop position to third base, emerging in mid-August as an effective utility player, and then elevated himself to the team's hot-corner starter by the World Series. And as spring training dawned, 2013 starting shortstop Stephen Drew remained a free agent; Bogaerts appeared ticketed for regular duty there in 2014. As one of the most polished hitters in the minors -- he was Keith Law's No. 5 prospect overall entering last year -- Bogaerts could thrive in terms of batting average and on-base percentage, and, with a committed role, could also add significant runs, RBIs and a hint of pop. He's an initial third-base-eligible player who should quickly restore shortstop to his list, the dual eligibility another trait to boost his bargain-bet appeal. Don't let Bogaerts slip too far in redraft; plus, he's potentially one of the best youngsters to get in dynasty/keeper leagues.
2014 Outlook: Simmons' fantasy owners are probably the very ones who have spent his year-plus in the big leagues lobbying their commissioners to begin rewarding for defensive excellence; he is widely regarded as the game's best defensive shortstop and one of the five best defenders overall in baseball. Though those contributions are overlooked in the vast majority of formats, they do fuel his playing time, which is important for a player with the kind of blossoming power he showed in 2013. Simmons hit 11 of his 17 home runs from July 1 forward; combined with his boost in doubles and triples, that hints at legit growth. He might be a couple steps away from garnering the kind of offensive reputation to match that of his defense, especially since his walk rate detracts from his value in sabermetrically-oriented scoring, but some growth should be expected in 2014.
2014 Outlook: The most alarming number in Lowrie's 2013 stat line is the 662 plate appearances. This was by far a career high and, in fact, only 66 fewer trips to the dish than he amassed the previous two seasons combined. That said, 15 homers was a disappointment considering he swatted 16 the previous campaign in far fewer chances. On the other hand, a drop in strikeout rate in concert with a bump in hit rate helped Lowrie set a career high in average. Lowrie enters 2014 as the Athletics' regular shortstop, but the safe play is to account for some missed time. It's also best to anticipate some regression in terms of batting average on balls in play. Even with the warnings, dual eligibility (second base and shortstop) renders Lowrie a viable candidate to man middle infield assuming you have speed elsewhere.