Tuesday, March 22, 2011

2011 Fantasy Baseball Over and Undervalued: Shortstops

Now that my draft is over and my rankings are no longer a state secret from those who would use them against me, it's time to share the, um, knowledge. Or, at least, try to get something out of all of the work that I did in draft prep. Use in good health.

Overvalued

1) Elvis Andrus, Rangers
. OK, he's one of the few guys that answer to the description of young and coming at the position, and you have to like the potential of any everyday player in Texas. But how are you supposed to break into the big time of steals when you get thrown out so much? So far in his career, Not Fast Enough Elvis is 65 for 86 in two years, with last years' 32-for-47 being particularly egregious. For a guy with a .650 OPS in a bandbox with a great offense, that's not nearly good enough... and he dropped nearly one hundred points of that OPS after the All-Star Break last year. (And seriously, a .650 OPS in Texas? That's Jason Kendall-esque.)

Even worse, he only stole 9 of the 32 bags after the break to boot. And the other big problem for Andrus is his utter and complete lack of power: he didn't go yard at all last year, and has only 6 in nearly 300 games now. Those steals will come cheaper in the outfield, and that power gap isn't going to be terribly easy to make up.

There is, of course, still hope: he's still really young (22 to start the year), and fields the position well enough to give him time to figure out the stick. But right now, he's not delivering nearly enough to justify a premium. Come back in a couple of years, when he's got the base-stealing technique down and has hit the weight room enough to get to 5 to 10 bombs a year, and you'll have a post-hype value. For now, stay away, unless you really think his .270 / 2 / 45 / 25 SBs is that valuable.

2) Ian Desmond, Nationals. Another young guy with some indicators, Desmond came on at the end of last year and showed some power/speed potential, ending his year with .269 / 10 / 65 with 17 steals out of 22 attempts. With Jayson Werth on board, he should touch home plate more often, right? Well, sure... but the trouble with Dez is that he just makes a ton of mistakes both on the field (34 errors, enough general shakiness to get him pulled for defense in late innings) and at the plate (109 whiffs adding up to just a .308 OBA), and it winds up sapping at-bats from him (just 525 last year in 154 games played). He's also not all that young, starting this year at 25, and his park is still big. He also struggled with the glove in the minors, and the Nationals have other options here, along with the need to coddle their young starting pitchers to avoid the need for 4-5 outs per inning.

Normally a National doesn't get overvalued, and if you are getting him late, especially in an NL-only draft, that's fine. I just don't see him doing more than .275 / 12 / 70 with 15 bags this year, and that is the absolute upside. It's not a given that he keeps the job all year, really.

3) Ryan Theriot, Cardinals. The Riot is 31 and coming off a year where he turned journeyman, going from the Cubs and Dodgers before ending up in St. Louis. Stick wise, he's still the same Eckstein-ish guy, with a .650 OPS of not enough anything, and 20 SBs a year of little value, since he tends to get thrown out a third of the time that he tries it. With a clear starting position and a manager that tends to do well with veteran players, things look good... but my problem is that he's replacing a genuinely good defensive player (Brendan Ryan, who just couldn't hit enough to keep the gig), for a team that saw its realistic playoff chances pop like a balloon when Adam Wainwright hit the DL in spring training. I think the Cards are selling parts by July and playing kids by August, and thinking hard about a defensive upgrade a long time before that, given how Theriot's arm is sub-standard. No bounceback here, unless .245 / 1 / 20 and 12 SBs is your idea of a bounce. And if it is, seek a better dictionary.

Undervalued

1) Jose Reyes, Mets.
OK, serious risk-reward here for a guy that's about as brittle as they come... but the single biggest factor going in his favor this year is that he's playing for a contract, and he's doing it for a team that's going to be in sell mode by July 4. So you've got exceptional motivation, coupled with distance from his latest big injury, and served up with the finishing touches of maybe going to a much better offensive park and lineup at the halfway mark. What's there not to like? Buy in this year, sell before next, and enjoy the clear #3 in fantasy in an actual winning year. .290 / 12 / 70, with triple-digit runs scored and 45 steals.

2) Stephen Drew, Diamondbacks. The path to stardom has not been smooth, but he's still young (turned 28 last week), in a hitters' park, and does enough of everything to make multi-category production a real possibility. I like his chances for .285 / 20 / 70 with 15 steals, which is to say a career year. And well, you get enough guys having career years, you win. Simple game, really.

3) Marco Scutaro, Red Sox. Some clear risk here, as Scoot is getting up there in years and facing a clear challenge from Jed Lowrie, but who's to say that (a) Lowrie doesn't get hurt first, or that (b) Dustin Pedroia won't need some DL time, too? Scoot is a winning defensive player who scored 92 runs with 11 homers and 56 RBIs last year in Boston, while fighting through injuries, for a team that couldn't stay healthy. This year, for an offensive juggernaut that's going to hurt pitchers from top to bottom? Buy in to .280 / 15 / 75, with 10 steals and 100 runs scored, and do it late. (Bonus: you get his wife in the deal, too. As we used to call him in Oakland, Magical Man Elf, indeed...)

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