Shortstop is no longer a position where the 3 R’s (Reyes, Rollins, Ramirez) dominate as Troy Tulowitzki is the clear top pick today and perhaps the top pick in the game. But, if you look closely, you will be able to find some diamonds in the rough at the shortstop position.
Here are our 2012 fantasy baseball sleepers at the shortstop position.
1. Dee Gordon, Los Angeles Dodgers — Stolen bases are over-rated in the fantasy game when compared to the real game of baseball. And, Dee Gordon, son of ex-Major League reliever Flash Gordon, will light up the stolen base charts in 2012. In just 224 at bats and 56 games last year, Gordon swiped 24 bases and was caught on 7 occasions. If he plays in 156 games instead of 56 in 2012, that projects to 67 stolen bases and a possible league lead. Coupled with a .304 average last year, Gordon, 23, offers exciting fantasy baseball potential for 2012.
2. Zack Cozart, Cincinnati Reds — The 26-year-old Zack Cozart got the call to the Majors last year, but suffered two injuries. He had Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing arm in August and had an ankle operation in September. Since ’06, the Reds have paired 21 different shortstops with Brandon Phillips, but Dusty Baker thinks Cozart may be the keeper and he won’t get pushed a lot as Wilson Valdez and Paul Janish are behind him. In the minors: 2010, 17 homers and 30 steals in 610 plate appearances; in 2011, 7 homers, 9 steals and a .310 average in only 350 plate appearances. Cozart hit 2 dingers in just 37 at bats last year for the Reds so he can bring some power to your lineup. We project Cozart at 15 homers, 20 stolen bases, and a .260 average for 2012.
3. Eduardo Nunez, New York Yankees — It isn’t often that we have a guy on the sleeper list who is definitely going to be a back-up, but when you are the primary substitute for Cano, Jeter, and A-Rod, you have to think that you’ll get some time on the field. Nunez did just that last year with the Yankees as he appeared in 112 games with a .265 average, 5 homers, 30 RBI, and an eye opening 22 stolen bases. The trade of Jesus Montero means that A-Rod and Jeter will spend more time in the DH role, thus opening up an infield spot for Nunez. Nunez in the infield with A-Rod as DH is a better option than Andruw Jones at DH. If you think these aging superstars will spend some down time in 2012, Nunez is a solid sleeper pick.
4. Taylor Pastornicky, Atlanta Braves — The Braves are not afraid to throw a young player with no experience into the fire and Taylor Pastornicky seems to be the Freddie Freeman of 2012 in Atlanta. Pastornicky hit .314 with seven home runs and a .773 OPS in 117 combined games with Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett last year. He struck out just 45 times in 512 plate appearances so he’s going to put the ball in play. At age 22, and with just 27 games at Triple-A, it would be logical that the Braves would rather see somebody else at SS in 2012 and keep Pastornicky down for another season, but at this point, Atlanta has not made any moves other than to pick up Jack Wilson to mentor Pastornicky. This is one to watch in Spring Training. If Pastornicky wins the job, anticipate a .250 season with 5 homeruns and 15 stolen bases.
5. Mike Aviles, Boston Red Sox — Mike Aviles has been on our sleeper list before with the Royals. He’s never racked up the kind of AB’s, however, that he will in Boston this season. Aviles line last year in just 91 games and 286 AB’s, was .255/7/39/14. Rookie Jose Iglesias, who hit just .235 at Pawtucket last year, is behind him. If Aviles can put up 500 AB’s, he can have a line of .290/10/60/25 in 2012.
6. Trevor Plouffe, Minnesota Twins — With the acquisition of Jamey Carroll to play shortstop, Trevor Plouffe is penciled in as the Twins primary DH for 2012, but having played 45 games at shortstop last year, he will qualify in all leagues as a shortstop. We like the idea of a guy with DH power being listed as a shortstop. Plouffe hit 8 homers in limited time last season (286 AB’s), but he added 15 homers in just 220 AB’s at Rochester. Plouffe will likely be the primary DH in Minnesota and can end up with 15+ homeruns. Get his pronunciation right at your draft: “Ploof.”
7. Jed Lowrie, Houston Astros — Jed Lowrie moves to the Astros in the deal that sent Mark Melancon to Boston. Lowrie doesn’t do anything really well fantasy baseball-wise, but he’s going to get a chance to play every day in Houston and that will up his 309 at bats he received in 2011. Lowrie won’t hurt your team batting average at .260 and can pop 10 homers for you, but don’t expect him to help your stolen base totals.
8. Emilio Bonifacio, Miami Marlins — Coming off of a 40 stolen base season, Bonifacio is not going to be a surprise to anybody. But, if all you do to prepare for your draft is read those out of date magazines on the newstand, you may miss the fact that Bonifacio spent 67 games at shortstop. He’s also eligible at third base and in the outfield, thus making Bonifacio a speed demon with speed for 2012. Plus, its fun to say his name.
9. Kyle Seager, Seattle Mariners — If 10 is your league’s magic number for position eligibility, Kyle Seager will be eligible as a shortstop this year for you. That’s good, because the Brendan Ryan will be the Mariners’ starting shortstop with Seager moving to third base. Seager hit .333 at Double-A and Triple-A last year and popped 7 homers while swiping 11. In 53 games in the Bigs, he hit .258 with 3 homers and 3 steals. Seager doesn’t have the power to pop many out of Safeco, but he has gap power and will hit doubles and help your team batting average. He’s a solid late round pick in most leagues for 2012.