Joseph Pytleski

Since our projections at rotobanter.com are now official for 2014 I’m continuing a series on looking at each position in more depth. Today we’re going to focus on shortshop, one of the more shallow positions in fantasy this season, as last year there were only 5 who logged a qualified number of plate appearances AND produced above-average wOBA. Shortshop is an offensive wasteland, so some of what I say below should be taken with a grain of salt. There’s no way we can all field teams with 20/20 players at each position. Sometimes at SS, you just need some kind of production as opposed to guys that kill you in certain categories. However, these are players whom I feel will perform above or below our projections this year.

As always, feel free to opine below as there are always counter-arguments to be made for any player…well maybe not Alcides Escobar, but I digress.

Here are three guys I like more than our projections, along with a bold prediction for each one:

Hanley Ramirez, SS-LAD

Ok, so Hanley Ramirez had a other-worldly half season last year and I don’t expect him to post another .293 ISO and .363 BABIP. Considering he’s never had a HR/FB rate over 20% in his career until last year, I expect that to regress as well. However, you’re also talking about a guy who has a career .332 BABIP, career .205 ISO, with career above average BB% and K%. I’m also talking about a guy who was injured last season (along with half his team), who ideally will get back into a healthy lineup this year that includes, Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and…Juan Uribe! (Ok, so the last name doesn’t really belong). Even before last year’s #7 overall showing in batted-ball distance, he was #69 before that in 2012, somewhat impressive for a shortstop, no? His LD% and FB% have trended upward the past three years, while his GB% has decreased, so I see no reason to believe that a fully-motivated Hanley won’t be awesome this year. Our projections only have him down for 498 PAs, and STEAMER is a little more optimistic at 564. We cannot predict injuries of course, although last year’s injuries don’t bode well for his future at SS. However, if he does get to 600 PAs, there’s no question in my mind that he could go 20/20 easily.

(Current Projection: 5, My Rank: 1. Bold Prediction—Hanley will be the #1 SS in baseball, and another disappointing Troy Tulowitzki, injury-riddled campaign will ensure that it’s not even close).

 

Jed Lowrie, SS-OAK

Ok, Jed Lowrie is injury prone. Jed Lowrie plays in a bad hitter’s park. Jed Lowrie…is good. In his first taste of non-injury-ness last year (662 PAs), do you know what he did? Just this (w/ qualified PAs): top 5 SS in (BB%, ISO, Runs, RBI, BA, OBP, SLG, wOBA, and LD%). He was tops at the position in hitting the fewest amount of ground balls, and hit more fly balls than anyone too (while posting a 5% IFFB rate…again, best at the position! Shall I go on? Ok. Top 6 in Contact% at 86%, top 10 in swinging-strike rate (6.8%), and top 5 in O-Swing% (the rate at which he offers at pitches outside the zone, 28.5%). The kicker? Nothing that I’ve told you about so far is way out of line with his career norms. Did I also mention that he plays for a severely underrated offense (#4 overall in runs scored in 2013)? I’m not saying that 600 PAs is more than a 50/50 proposition given his history, I’m just saying that if you look at the glass just right, this guy is money(ball).

(Current Projection: 10, My Rank: 6. Bold Prediction—Based on 600+ more PAs, Jed Lowrie proves his doubters wrong and outperforms the whole tier ahead of him, including Starlin Castro, Andrelton Simmons, and Everth Cabrera.)

 

J.J. Hardy, SS-BAL

Is there any shortstop more criminally underappreciated? Let’s take a quiz:

Q:             Who’s hit more HR (77) than anyone at the position in the last three years?

A:              J.J. Hardy

Q:             Who’s the only SS who’s come in the top 5 at the position in both runs (5th) and RBI (1st) since 2011?

A:              James Jerry Hardy

Ok, that’s only two questions. When looking at his career rates since 2005, J.J. Hardy has been one of the most consistent performers at his position and most durable (top 5 in plate appearances). On his own, he’s an average performer—he does not steal bases, his OBP and AVG are subpar, and he’s a league average wOBA and wRC+ performer. However, with a great supporting cast around him like the one in Baltimore, and you’ve got one of the best power options at a position devoid of it. There’s no reason to believe he cannot outperform expectations again next year and prove everyone he’s mid-round gold again.

(Current Projection: 16, My Rank: 12. Bold Prediction—While everyone is drooling over Aruba-native Xander Bogaerts, J.J. will, very quietly, be just as good).

 

And here are three more who I feel will underperform their projections, along with my bold prediction:

Jean Segura, SS-MIL

So, anyone know when the last (and only) time Segura went double-digit round-trippin’? Yeah, that would be 2010 in A ball when he hit 10 HRs. Power has not been, and probably never will be a big part of his game–his ceiling is probably about 10. Did you know that 9 of his home runs were “just enoughs” according to ESPN’s home run tracker? Yeah, so, while he might-could (that’s what they say in Texas sometimes) hit double-digit HRs again, I wouldn’t hold my breath. Ok, well if he has single-digit homers than he’ll make up for it elsewhere, right? Well, the walk rate went down to an abysmal 5% in 2013 so don’t count on any OBP help, although he has the speed to beat out 59% ground ball rate he posted last year. However, he doesn’t strike out much and steals lots of bases, so there’s that. However, look at these month by month numbers:

 

BB%

K%

BB/K

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS

ISO

BABIP

wRC

wRAA

wOBA

wRC+

Mar/Apr

7.10%

12.20%

0.58

0.367

0.418

0.567

0.985

0.2

0.4

19.2

8.5

0.424

173

May

3.20%

13.50%

0.24

0.345

0.373

0.538

0.911

0.193

0.367

21.7

7.9

0.394

152

Jun

1.70%

11.30%

0.15

0.277

0.296

0.429

0.724

0.152

0.292

12.7

0.1

0.315

97

Jul

4.80%

15.40%

0.31

0.281

0.327

0.354

0.681

0.073

0.325

10.6

-0.8

0.304

89

Aug

2.50%

16.00%

0.16

0.252

0.271

0.313

0.584

0.061

0.302

7.9

-5.2

0.258

57

Sept/Oct

6.60%

11.50%

0.57

0.214

0.267

0.286

0.552

0.071

0.245

3.6

-3.1

0.248

51

1st Half

4.30%

12.10%

0.35

0.325

0.363

0.487

0.849

0.161

0.349

60.7

17.2

0.369

135

2nd Half

3.50%

15.90%

0.22

0.241

0.268

0.315

0.583

0.074

0.285

14.9

-9.9

0.258

57

 

Is there anything that inspires confidence here? I didn’t think so. Listen, I’m not saying Segura is a bad player, but he’s going to get overdrafted based on his overall body of work. Just don’t let it be you that goes off and does that now that I’ve warned you.

(Current Projection: 4, My Rank: 8-9. Bold Prediction—Segura comes back to earth, and hopefully you haven’t already seen his peak year. However he still merits a top-10 finish based on his SBs and Runs.) 

 

Elvis Andrus, SS-TEX

There’s evidence to suggest that at such an offensively-challenged position, Elvis Andrus has value. I agree, to an extent. I’ve written about Elvis a lot this offseason, and there’s a possibility that after a great second half last year he will take the next step forward. However, I’m skeptical. The BB% is trending downward four years running, as is the power and OBP. He has a career 70% success rate on the bases (meh), so expect a return to more like 30 SBs. I am making a giant speculation that sometime this year Profar and his bad OBP and underwhelming wRC+ rate will merit a demotion down the order (replaced with a thriving Jurickson Profar), and thus his fantasy value will take a hit. Don’t quote me on this, but at the end of the season you will know that I can see the future. For your money, you can probably wait and snag Everth Cabrera later in the draft and get somewhat similar production.

(Current Projection: 6, My Rank: 10. Bold Prediction—The Rangers’ brass realize that they should have sold Elvis and his big contract while they had a chance, and two years of sub-.300 OBP will not get it done in the two-hole. With a demotion to the bottom of the order, Elvis drops out of the top 10). 

 

Andrelton Simmon, SS-ATL

There is no doubt that Simmons is the long-term solution at SS for the Braves. His defensive (no one was even close to his 24.6 UZR last year) prowess are phenomenal, but that won’t help you in fantasy. I could go on about his suprising power numbers, but the data I’ve looked at can be found here in succinct form. Over half his HRs last year were the “just enough” and “lucky” variety. It’s not that he doesn’t have power—his scouting reports suggest that there’s double-digit potential there, but that’s about it. His spray charts indicate that he’s a dead pull hitter, as all his homers went to left field, and check out his PitchF/X data:

simmons

After 700 or so plate appearances, the book has gotten around and pitchers are going to start keeping stuff up and in against him, as he’s obviously down and away (all the way). Look for the homers to regress mightily. If he can utilize his above-average speed (if Freddy Gonzalez finally gives the green light to his lighting-quick roster instead of just going for the long-ball) he could recoup some value but Simmons will remind people this year that he’s a glove first SS. Most of your league-mates will still pay for what they saw last year though, thinking that he’s gonna top 20 HR this year. I’ll pass…and so should you.

(Current Projection: 8, My Rank: 14. Bold Prediction—He’ll win another Gold Glove there’s no question, but he’ll only go .260/.310/.400 with 10 HR and 10 SB. Seems like you can get that from Erick Aybar or Jimmy Rollins way later according to our projections).

 

 

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