Shortstop is a tough fantasy position. While the guys at the top are top notch (Tulo, Han-Ram), the guys in the middle leave lots of questions (I mean, have you ever drafted Jimmy Rollins? Immensely frustrating), and the guys at the bottom leave much to be desired (think Felipe Lopez). So while every kid dreams of being a SS and many play the position, few make it to be of fantasy relevance. That’s where I come in. With my silly knowledge of all things baseball, here I provide you with a cheat sheet of guys to look out for in the middle-to-late rounds when you don’t get Troy Tulowitzki. Notice Jed Lowrie, though he is in the above video, is not mentioned. This is because I am fighting my extreme Red Sox bias. Lowrie belongs in the ‘Inception play’ category and could be a late round steal if you like him. Anyway, enough chit chat. Swing it round the horn and here we go, shortstops I like going into 2011:
What a guy. My team was abysmal last year, but one of the bright spots was my genius pickup of Castro when he first started getting playing time. A good hitter right off the bat, one could worry about a sophomore slump for Starlin. Not me. And not Bill James, who’s a heckuva lot smarter than I. Castro proved to be a great gap hitter, smashing 31 doubles and 5 triples in just 125 games (506 plate appearances). Both Mr. James and I think he will maintain that type of hitting this upcoming year. James has him as a .310 hitter, which I could see as being a bit high, with 39 doubles and 8 triples. Couple that with a decent BB:K ratio (he does neither particularly often), and Castro should prove to be a very useful fantasy player at a position owners are generally stretched pretty thin for. For both a starting SS and a MI position, you should be able to grab Castro much later than some of the bigger names and lose very little in production.
Hard to miss this guy. I way overdrafted him in an early draft pretty much because I couldn’t believe how fast he was in watching the Playoffs this past season. With some minor growing pains, Andrus put up good months and bad months, all leading to a respectable .265 average (.342 OBP). Settling into his role this year, Bill James (whose word, if you haven’t guessed, I take as near-gospel) has Andrus with a .274 average and a .344 OBP. As he is wont to do, this is a conservative estimate. But even with those numbers, James has him (again, conservatively) swiping 34 bags. He is easily capable of stealing more, and I think he will both find his way on base more often than James does and will therefore cause more havoc on the bases. Either way, Andrus figures to be a contributor to some important fantasy categories (read: runs and steals) that are invaluable coming from the SS position. With that lineup, James’ 82 run prediction is woefully low. I think Andrus is poised to have a great year in a stellar lineup. But even if Bill James’ line is closer to reality, he’s a SS you want on your team if you miss out on the likes of Tulo and Han-Ram.
Remember in 2009 when he had 42 doubles and 68 RBI? I do, because he seriously helped my playoff push with a monster August, hitting .370 and being a general MI monster. He was limited to 381 AB’s in 2010 with that freak leg injury so his numbers are kinda irrelevant to my discussion here. Available at both 2B and SS, Asdrubal is useful player even on a bad Indians team. He is more than capable of hitting .285-.300, with 35+ doubles, 50+ RBI, and a handful of steals (by that I mean around 10). Does this not convince you? Back to Lord James… who has Cabrera at a .292 average, .354 OBP, 33 doubles, 78 runs, 59 RBI, and 13 steals. I’m not saying Asdrubal Cabrera is a fantasy superstar, but it is guys like him who are the difference between winning and losing a fantasy championship. When you’re at the end of a draft and need a MI, or when you’ve punted SS in an effort to sure up other positions, you could do a hell of a lot worse than Asdrubal.
The Inception Play
Oh to be young and in Kansas City… er… or something. I would have included Alcides here regardless of what team he was playing for but on the young Royals, I now know he’ll get starter at bats, so it’s a no brainer. Let’s just be clear: this is the ‘Inception play,’ the deep, deep, oh-crap-I-went-all-25-rounds-without-a-middle-infielder situation. Alcides Escobar is not going to carry your team. This is strictly a value proposition here- you can get him late, later than his production will be valued at when the year ends, says I. He has 20+ steal potential, and any projection you look at has him around 20 steals- before he went to the lowly Royals, where he figures to be able to run freely. James has him hitting .272- very nice. If he hits around .275, he’ll hit around 20 doubles, and 5 triples, with those 20+ steals, don’t you think he’s worth a last round flyer? I do. He’s on my watch list in case he really starts running wild in KC, but I doubt he’ll be drafted in many leagues. Keep him in mind if you’re stuck with a mediocre SS in your draft and are looking for a buy low candidate.
That’s it, my guys for 2011 who play the much coveted SS position. As I said, I’m mancrushing on Andrus and drafted him waaaay early but I made this list so you don’t have to. Be patient, let someone else take Jimmy Rollins and you’ll be just fine in your middle infield as long as you listen to this. Again, watch out for super-sleeper-sub Lowrie, I’m done, enjoy the Tron Legacy soundtrack, it’s spectacular.