2009 Fantasy MLB Position Preview: Shortstops | Sharapova's Thigh

In years past, the shortstop position was one where you had to hope and pray to get offense from. Now, the position has undergone a radical facelift with some premium fantasy talent available, more so than second base (and maybe ever third this year). Below are the top 5 fantasy shortstops of 2009, including a late round sleeper.

1) Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins - 2008 - .301/.400/.540; 33 HR, 67 RBI, 125 R, 35 SB

A breakout power year for Ramirez in 2008 vaults him ahead of Jose Reyes on my board. Hanley's chase percentage fell from 24.1% in 2007 to 18.3% in 2008, a good sign as pitchers are going to start pitching him more carefully as the main component of the Marlins' offense. Hanley saw a jump in his walk rate from 7.5% to 13.5%, but also a major jump in his strikeouts (14.9% to 20.7%). Florida's lineup is a concern, but Hanley should be able to still get his homers and steals (especially if the Marlins are getting blown out and there's no reason to avoid him). It was rumored that they were considering moving Ramirez from the leadoff spot to the middle of the order. If that happens, I'd expect his runs to fall but his RBI opportunities to increase. This is the place to go for power at the SS position. If you're searching speed, go to...

2) Jose Reyes, New York Mets - 2008 - .297/.358/.475; 16 HR, 68 RBI, 113 R, 56 SB

You won't get the same power as from Ramirez, but Reyes has stolen at least 56 bases in each of the last four years. Reyes also had a relatively unlucky year last year with a batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of .319 with a 23.4 line drive percentage. Reyes, like Ramirez, may be dropped in the lineup which could really hurt his run production as well as not providing him many RBI opportunities if the Mets do, indeed, use Mr. Luis Castillo in the leadoff spot. Jose Reyes had a chase percentage of 24.7 last year, but he made more contact than Hanley on pitches in the zone (92.8%).

3) Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia Phillies - 2008 - .277/.349/.437; 11 HR, 59 RBI, 76 R, 47 SB

The slash stats are nice, but he's not in the same league as Ramirez or Reyes. He will also be 31 years old this year which has to be a concern. He does play in a good lineup with Howard and Utley and Ibanez and a park that doesn't do him any disservice, all positives for looking at Mr. Rollins. He's stolen at least 36 bases in each of the last four years, but again - age. Is this the year the speed starts to falter? Rollins saw a three point jump in walk rate from 2007 to 2008 (6.4% to 9.4%) and a two point drop in strikeout rate (11.9% to 9.9%), which is definitely a positive. He also hit in extreme bad luck last year with a .292 BABIP after featuring a line drive percentage of 24% He may not be Reyes or Ramirez, but he's as good a consolation prize as you'll get.

4) Stephen Drew, Arizona Diamondbacks - 2008 - .291/.333/.502; 21 HR, 67 RBI, 91 R, 3 SB

Drew should be entering into his prime, so he may have the biggest upside of anyone on this list. However, he does have his warts. His chase percentage went from 21.8 in 2007 to 28.2 in 2008 while his zone swings went down from 67.9% to 64.9%. He saw a marked increase in sliders in 2008, seeing the pitch 16.4% of the time in 2008, up from 11.7 in 2007. One must wonder whether this is something Drew can adjust to or if a hole has been found in his swing that he cannot cope with.

The bad stated, there is a lot to like about Drew. He plays in an offensive ball park and has a nice, line drive generating swing. He had an isolated power of .211 last year and hit 91.4% of the pitches he swung at in the zone. He also made contact on 82.6% of his total swings. This is a guy you want to jump on if you can get him at value.

5) Jhonny Peralta, Cleveland Indians - 2008 - .276/.331/.473; 23 HR, 89 RBI, 104 R, 3 SB

I had much trepidation with putting him here as his chase percentages have increased in each of the last four years, reaching 28% last year. He swings at 73% of the pitches he sees in the zone. He only makes contact on 86.1% of his zone swings and 78.5% of his total swings. He remains a power source, however, and should have an opportunity to drive in runs in a lineup that has Grady Sizemore, Mark DeRosa, and Victor Martinez. Peralta remains in his prime and none of his numbers last year are out of whack with his peripherals (that I saw), so you can expect 23-25 HRs out of him at shortstop, which is nothing to sneeze at.

Late(r) Round Sleeper - Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies - 2008 - .263/.332/.401; 8 HR, 46 RBI, 48 R, 1 SB

Tulowitzki had an off year last year after his 24 homerun rookie campaign. This should affect his draft value and allow him to be snatched up a lot later than he should be. His numbers last year were affected by a .291 BABIP, inspite of his 20.3% line drive percentage. His chase percentage stayed the same from 2007 to 2008 (23.6% to 23.7%) and his contact percentage went up (86.9% in 2007 on pitches in the zone to 89.2% in 2008; 82.1% in 2007 to 85.1% in 2008 on total swings). He also, inexplicably, hit worse at Coors last year than on the road (704 OPS at home, 758 on the road). In the second half, he featured slash stats of .327/.389/.468. Tulowizki is a guy that probably will fall based on last year, but is an absolute steal and well worth taking if he's there in the mid-to-late rounds.

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