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Shortstop shake-ups throw fantasy owners for loop

The shortstop position often gives fantasy owners fits.

It’s normally one of the thinnest, mostly because the stereotypical slick-fielding, light-hitting guys that have traditionally manned short in the big leagues don’t put up the big offensive numbers fantasy players crave.

This season, it’s been particularly hard to figure out, because it seems like the shortstop universe has been turned upside down. Check it out:

n Derek Jeter, supposedly on the decline at age 34 and no longer a power guy, is tied for the lead in home runs among shortstops with four (he hit 11 all of last year). That doesn’t mean he’ll hit 25 this year, though; any power you get from the New York Yankees’ captain is a bonus to go with a respectable .300 average, double-digit steals and, if all goes well, 100 runs scored.

n Marco Scutaro has been one of the hottest hitting shortstops so far (four homers, 12 RBIs) for the surprisingly potent Toronto Blue Jays. However, the guy’s never hit more than nine jacks in a major league season (or 11 in the minors) and he offers little help in the way of speed or average, which makes him a sell-high candidate if I ever saw one.

n Jimmy Rollins, one of the position’s premier players, had yet to swipe a base through Saturday (47 last year) and is hitting below .200. Be patient — batting at the top of a Philadelphia Phillies lineup that may be better than last year’s championship-winning club, J-Roll will be rolling soon.

n The Cleveland Indians’ Jhonny Peralta has yet to hit one out this season. He’s reached the 20-homer plateau in three of his first four years as a full-timer, so you have to figure he’ll take one deep any day now.

n Miguel Tejada hasn’t homered yet either, but that doesn’t surprise me much. Miggy’s HR totals have declined in each of the past five seasons, bottoming out at 13 in 2008. If you need more power from your shortstop, I might try dealing Tejada while he’s hitting a robust .319.

Some of the leading hitters among everyday shortstops: Jason Bartlett (.365 through Saturday/career .280 hitter), Brendan Harris (.355/.272) and David Eckstein (.317/.285). Expect those averages to begin their descent toward normalcy any day now.

Meanwhile, Troy Tulowitzki, JJ Hardy and Alexei Ramirez were trying to push their averages up to .200.

I like all of those guys as buy-low candidates right now, particularly Tulowitzki. Now recovered from last year’s injuries, the Colorado Rockies’ young star should return to his 2007 form, which would make him a top-five fantasy shortstop.

The Kansas City Royals’ Mike Aviles, one of last year’s biggest breakthrough performers, appears a little lost at the plate (.169, no homers, four RBIs).

A big problem is plate discipline: He’d walked just one time and struck out 14 times through Saturday. Hopefully you can afford to bench him until he straightens out.

The Los Angeles Angels’ Brandon Wood, one of the organization’s top prospects for a while now, got his first call-up of 2009 last week but doesn’t figure to receive much playing time, at least in the near future. That’s a shame, considering the last-place Halos — who’ve resorted to using Maicer Izturis (career .380 slugging percentage) as their DH — could use some of Wood’s pop in their lineup. He hit 31 homers in Triple-A last year (plus five more in the big leagues) and is definitely worth holding onto as a reserve if you have room.

Jason Bartolone, can be reached at 745-7016.

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