In our first debate we take a look at the top two shortstops in fantasy baseball as both should be top 10 picks. However, Troy Tulowitzki’s strong finish in 2010 has struck a lot of discussion on whether the 26-year-old should dethrone perennial top-two selection Hanley Ramirez. Bryan and I discuss who you should draft first.
Bryan: Last season, Ramirez had an ADP of 2.4 in ESPN leagues. He was coming off a great 2009 season in which he batted .342/.410/.543 with 24 homers and 23 steals. Florida had finally bumped him back to third in the lineup, and he rewarded the Marlins with 106 RBI. We all expected more of the same in 2010, but Ramirez disappointed with sub-par RBI production. All players, except Albert Pujols, of course, hit speed bumps in their professional careers, and if 2010 is Ramirez’s speed bump—and his career numbers show us no reason to think it was anything other than that—then the most electric shortstop in the game will be the best fantasy option at the position once again.
George: While it’s clear that these two are tops among shortstops, Tulowitzki has one big advantage over his counterpart—home field. In his six-year career, Tulowitzki has batted .312/.383/.544 at Coors Field, and his home/road power splits (.213 ISO/.179 ISO) show that he hits for power no matter where he plays. In a year where a lot of hitters disappointed, Tulowitzki actually exceeded expectation despite missing a month with a broken wrist. And now that he is staying in Colorado through the 2020 season, he should continue to meet them for years to come.
Bryan: I’m with you on one point, George. If you’re fortunate enough to have one of these two shortstops on your roster, you already have a significant advantage over the rest of your league. No other position offers such a gap between the elite and the near-elite, and no matter how much you love Jose Reyes, Alexei Ramirez, Derek Jeter or any other shortstop, you’d be lying if you said anyone else was even in Hanley and Tulo’s class. However, with Tulowitzki’s spotty injury history (122 games last year and just 102 in 2008), I consider it far too big of a risk to go with one of baseball’s newest $100 million men. Give me Ramirez’s average 152 games per season every time.
George: Take a quick look at Tulo’s injury history and you’ll realize that they are fluke injuries that have no ill-effect on how he presently plays. In 2008, he had his worst offensive season as a pro while missing 42 games with a torn tendon in his left quadriceps and then 16 days after he gashed his hand open on a broken bat. He showed no lingering issues in 2009, where he enjoyed his best offensive season. Last year, Tulo fractured his wrist and missed 33 games, but after about a month his power returned and he hit 14 home runs in September. It’s safe to say that Tulo has no lingering injury issues that owners need to worry about come draft day.
Bryan: To say Tulo has no lingering injury issues might be a stretch, but point taken. Still, if consistency is your thing, you’ll be hard-pressed to find more consistently great numbers those put up by Ramirez. In 2007, 2008 and 2009 he had OPSs of .948, .940 and .953, respectively, he’s stolen between 27 and 35 bases in each of the last three seasons, he’s batted at least .300 in four straight seasons, his K:BB ratio has remained stable and his strikeout rate in 2010 was the lowest its been since 2007. Tulo’s torrid September makes him the better choice if you subscribe to the “What have you done for me lately?” school of thought, but I’m a proponent of “What have you consistently done for me over the last few seasons since you’re just entering your prime?” It would probably be more popular if it had a better name.
George: If it’s the last couple of seasons you want to look at, then we can talk about Ramirez’s declining ISO (from .239 to .175) over the last three years. When it comes to shortstops, power is where these two players really separate themselves from the rest of the group as only four hit more than 20 home runs last season. The only season Ramirez hit over 30 home runs, his 19.2 HR/FB% was much higher than his career average (13.4%), which suggests that he was lucky. If Ramirez’s power doesn’t return to a near-30 form, there is no major difference between him and Tulowitzki. I would rather take the player who excels more in home runs, rather than the one who will win out in steals. Also, in keeper leagues it should be noted that while Tulo is a perennial gold glove threat at shortstop, Ramirez is an average fielder at best and could be moved to the outfield and lose his position eligibility.