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News-Herald Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Kleps doesn’t just write headlines and stories. He also checks on his fantasy sports teams. A lot. See if the moves and news from the world of sports affect your fantasy teams.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Fantasy baseball: Early 2012 rankings -- shortstops

This might be the position at which there is the biggest drop between the top two players -- Troy Tulowitzki and Jose Reyes -- and the rest of the field.

With Hanley Ramirez playing third base now that Reyes is with the Marlins, our No. 3 shortstop is the Tribe's Asdrubal Cabrera. On the surface, Cabrera's numbers were pretty darn good last season -- 25 homers, 92 RBI, 17 steals and 87 runs. Keep in mind, however, that, after posting a .293 average and .836 OPS in the first half of 2011, Cabrera batted .244 with a .729 OPS in the second half.

Throw in the fact that Cabrera's previous career highs were six homers and 68 RBI, and there is cause for concern.

Will Cabrera be productive again this season? Probably. But we don't expect him to be nearly as good as Tulowitzki (.302, 30 homers, 105 RBI and nine steals in 2011) and Reyes (101 runs, 39 steals and a .337 average last year).

Our top five shortstops are solid, as you would expect, but after that, it gets dicey. The No. 6 player at the position (at least in my mind), the Rangers' Elvis Andrus, scored 96 runs and had 37 steals, but he hit .279 last year and has no power. No. 7 J.J. Hardy had 30 homers and 80 RBI in 2011, but he had a combined 17 homers and 85 RBI in 2009 and '10.

On to the top 20 ...

Note: All players are ranked at the positions at which they are expected to spend the most time in 2012, not all positions at which they are eligible. ... Stats are from 2011.

Rank, player, team R-HR-RBI-SB-Avg.
1. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies 81-30-105-9-.302
2. Jose Reyes, Marlins 101-7-44-39-.337
3. Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians 87-25-92-17-.273
4. Jimmy Rollins, Phillies 87-16-63-30-.268
5. Starlin Castro, Cubs 91-10-66-22-.307
6. Elvis Andrus, Rangers 96-5-60-37-.279
7. J.J. Hardy, Orioles 76-30-80-0-.269
8. Derek Jeter, Yankees 84-6-61-16-.297
9. Jhonny Peralta, Tigers 68-21-86-0-.299
10. Erick Aybar, Angels 71-10-59-30-.279
11. Alexei Ramirez, White Sox 81-15-70-7-.269
12. Dee Gordon, Dodgers 34-0-11-24-.304
13. Yunel Escobar, Blue Jays 77-11-48-3-.290
14. Ian Desmond, Nationals 65-8-49-25-.253
15. Rafael Furcal, Cardinals 44-8-28-9-.231
16. Stephen Drew, Diamondbacks 44-5-45-4-.252
17. Alcides Escobar, Royals 69-4-46-26-.254
18. Jed Lowrie, Astros 40-6-36-1-.252
19. Alex Gonzalez, Brewers 59-15-56-2-.241
20. Zack Cozart, Reds 6-2-3-0-.324

Last three out: Cliff Pennington, Athletics; Jason Bartlett, Padres; Ruben Tejada, Mets.

Eligibility notes: We have the Marlins' Ramirez ranked as our No. 2 third baseman, but he will be eligible at shortstop. ... Marco Scutaro was traded from Boston to Colorado, where he will move from shortstop to second base. ... Another Marlin, Emilio Bonifacio, is ranked at second base on many sites, but he is an outfielder.

Key stats: The only concern with Tulowitzki is injury. The last four seasons, he has had 377, 543, 470 and 537 at-bats. That's an average of 482 at-bats. He missed 14 of the Rockies' last 19 games in 2011.

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