As a way to both identify sleepers and help prepare owners in case they miss a player they were targeting, this is another new series of articles that I am going to be doing on the site. Let me know what you think; if you have any suggestions let me know either here or via e-mail.

With that, let’s get going.

Shortstop is one of the thinner positions for fantasy owners to try and fill in 2011.  There are two premier options then a series of question marks.  One of the mid-level players owners may target is Alexei Ramirez, who has proven that despite a consistent slow start in April, by year’s end his numbers will be more than usable.

For a more in depth look at my thoughts on Ramirez, click here for an article I previously wrote.

The bottom line with Ramirez is while he has shown 20/20 potential, he isn’t quite up to that level.  At 29-years-old (he’ll turn 30 in September), there is a good chance that what we’ve seen is exactly what we are going to get:

  • He seems to be about a 20 HR hitter, though there is room for potentially a few more
  • He has the potential to score runs, as he’s improved in all three seasons in the Major Leagues and could potentially find a spot in the No. 2 hole of the White Sox lineup (though, a better walk rate would certainly help)
  • He doesn’t appear to have great potential on the base paths, as he has been successful on just 40 of 62 attempts over his Major League career
  • He is a solid average hitter with a good eye at the plate, but he’s not likely to be a .300 plus hitter

There’s no arguing that, given the lack of true top tier fantasy options, Ramirez is going to be a solid option in all formats.  However, are you willing to use a fifth, sixth or seventh round pick on someone who appears to be around a .280, 20 HR, 15 SB option?

If not, the answer for you is to wait until significantly later in your draft, where a potential steal sits in the Nationals’ Ian Desmond.  In his first full Major League season, he hit .269 with 10 HR, 65 RBI, 59 runs and 17 SB in 525 AB.

At 25-years-old, however, there is certainly room for growth in these numbers.

He’s never shown elite power, so it’s hard to imagine him developing into a 18-24 HR hitter, much like Ramirez currently is.  Still, he hit 10 last season with a HR/FB of 7.7 percent.  In 2008 at Double-A he hit 12 HR in 323 AB, so maybe, just maybe, he can add a few more HR as he gets older and stronger. 

Basically, he’s probably a 13-16 HR hitter, which is close enough to Ramirez.  If he could improve on a 52.7 percent groundball rate, more power would certainly come, but at this point it’s hard to expect that.

The speed is something he has already shown, and he does have the potential to reach 20 plus.  He’s had as many as 33 in a season (back in 2005) and had 22 in 2009 between Double-A, Triple-A and the Majors. 

He spent a lot of time at the bottom of the Nationals order, but they also gave him 184 AB hitting second (.326, four HR, 19 RBI, nine SB).  They clearly are going to let him run, but if the Nationals opt to hit him second, I would say 20 SB is a given.

The average is a slight concern, hitting .269 despite posting a BABIP of .317.  Last season he posted a strikeout rate of 20.8 percent, which when coupled with the lack of excessive power, is a problem. 

Over his minor league career he posted a strikeout rate of 21.9 percent, though in 2009 between Double and Triple-A he did post a 20.4 percent mark.  It is possible that, at his age, he continues to improve there, but it would appear that .280 may be his upside.

Obviously, the comparison is not perfect.  If Desmond hits his highs, it looks like he could match Ramirez, but let’s not consider Ramirez a lock to replicate his 2010 success either.  Remember, in 2009 he hit .277 with 15 HR and 14 SB.

Let’s look at it statistic-by-statistic:

  • Average: Ramirez has more upside, though it wouldn’t be surprising if both hit around .275
  • Home Runs: Ramirez definitely has the advantage, with his floor (probably around 16) around Desmond’s apparent ceiling.  Still, Ramirez at 20 and Desmond at 15 is not a drastic difference, especially from a position where many of your competitors won’t get much power.
  • RBI: Ramirez has never had more then 77 in a season, so there’s no reason to think that he’ll surpass 85 in 2010; Desmond had 65 in his rookie season and could easily be in the 70-75 range depending on where he hits
  • Runs: For both Ramirez and Desmond, their team’s offseason moves and where they ultimately hit in the lineup will go a long way in determining this, but like the RBI the two should be pretty close
  • Stolen Bases: This is the area that Desmond has the advantage, as he could be in the 20-25 range while Ramirez will be around 15

Ramirez certainly has the higher upside overall, but there is a fairly good chance that at the end of 2011 the two could be virtually even in value.  Ramirez is going to have a little more power, Desmond a little more speed.

Would I rather have Ramirez?  Absolutely, as displayed by my initial shortstop rankings (click here to view), but if that doesn’t work out I wouldn’t be upset grabbing Desmond and pairing him with someone like Stephen Drew or Rafael Furcal (or, if you are really lucky, Starlin Castro).  Basically, another high upside gamble and hope that one of them pays off.

What about you?  Is Desmond someone you wouldn’t mind as a fallback option?  Why or why not?

Make sure to check out our early 2011 rankings:


Read more MLB news on