Archive for October, 2010

And Jed Lowrie?

Another interesting name came up in the comments section when we did the shortstop keeper rankings last week. The Red Sox have a young shortstop from Stanford that had a good season, what’s his name again?

Right. Jed Lowrie. He of the nice walk rate (12.7% last year), booming ISO (.240 last year), and somewhat surprising 2010 slash line (.287/.381/.526), perhaps he should have been included? Perhaps.

But even before we get to his ability to repeat that performance, there is the fact that the Red Sox have an incumbent shortstop that may complicate issues. Marco Scutaro was just decent, but he’s predictable – he’s topped 2.1 WAR for three straight seasons now. Then again, Scutaro’s defense, now accrued in over 1400 plays, is below scratch (-3.5 UZR/150 career at SS). And he’s never shown a slugging percentage over .409, let alone over .500. If Lowrie can repeat his 2010 performance, Scutaro can easily settle into a super utility role… and there’s still the open job at third.

We can agree that Lowrie has more upside than Scutaro, and with 23 games at short under his belt, he’ll be eligible there – so now we can get to his ability to put up another OPS over .800. The variability in his possible 2011 performance kept him off the list at first, but perhaps it shouldn’t in deeper leagues. If Lowrie is to be an asset in fantasy baseball, he’s going to do it with his batting average and his power, so let’s unpack those portions of his game.

There’s no magic formula for a nice batting average. Lowrie, in his rookie season, showed a .258 batting average despite a strong .328 BABIP – and his strikeout rate was probably at fault (26.2%). In his lost 2009, Lowrie put up an eyesore of a .147 batting average by combining a terrible BABIP (.118) with lots of whiffs (29.4%). Lo and behold, once he ironed those two stats out last year (14.6% K%, .292 BABIP) and spawned this discussion most likely. That’s a lot of variance in his strikeout rate. Lowrie put up a 17.9% strikeout rate in the minor leagues (and over 20% in Triple-A), so it’s reasonable to expect him to strike out a little more next year. If he does, the batting average will most likely drop. This also meshes with his history well – even if you take out his lost 2009, he oscillated from .262 to .328 in the category down on the farm. Don’t pencil him in for a .280+ batting average.

Then again, plenty of players show value with poor batting averages, and a .500+ slugging percentage from a shortstop would paper over other flaws. He had a .161 ISO in the minor leagues, and his .172 major league ISO just barely topped the threshold for reliability (579 plate appearances). Since those plate appearances came over multiple years, it’s hard to say if even the .172 ISO is a repeatable skill for him. Looking over his minor league career, however, you will notice that he topped a .200 ISO in 2007 in Double- and Triple-A, and of course did so again last year. Only one qualifying shortstop last year topped a .200 ISO (Troy Tulowitzki), so this is no meaningless discussion.

Lowrie was a flyball hitter in the minor leagues – once he hit Triple-A, he never hit more than 33% of his balls on the ground – so at least he’s doing that part right. Sometimes players can have trouble with the line drive when they have so much loft in their swings, and even in his decent year last year, Lowrie showed a poor line drive rate (16.4%). There’s actually some upside left in him even if his strikeout rate returns. He could pair a strong line drive rate with all those flyballs and manage a decent batting average despite a worse strikeout rate – and of course his power stats would be happy with that combo.

Deep dynasty leaguers and AL-only keeper leaguers should find space on the end of their bench for Lowrie’s kind of upside. Because of the high level of variability in his possible outcomes, though, everyone else should probably just keep an eye on him in next year’s drafts.

RotoGraphs Chat – 10/29/10

2010 FIP Challenge Results Part II

Earlier today, in Part I of the series, I published a chart of 38 pitchers who had a difference of 0.50 or greater between their FIP and xFIP at the All-Star break and their 2nd half ERAs. Here I want to go into more detail rather than just giving a raw score for the two metrics.

In rating the two systems, I considered the metrics to recommend keeping a pitcher if at the All-Star break they were at 3.50 or lower, to listen to a trade if they were between 3.51 and 4.00, to actively look to sell the player if they were between 4.01 and 4.50 and to either sell or cut a pitcher if they were above 4.51.

Of course, we also have to consider what the pitcher’s actual ERA was at the break, too. A pitcher could still be a sell candidate if one of the metrics was significantly higher than his ERA. For these extreme cases, I considered a difference between 50-75 points to be a “listen” candidate, while above 75 to be a “sell high” guy.

Felipe Paulino – pitched in just 5.2 innings after the break. Officially a win for xFIP, but one we should probably dismiss due to a lack of playing time.

Francisco Liriano – His second half ERA was better than his first half mark, but both metrics thought he was outstanding before the All-Star break. This is a clear win for xFIP.

Anibal Sanchez – His 2nd half ERA (3.44) was a near-perfect match for his first half FIP (3.46).

Clay Buchholz – Both systems thought Buchholz was not nearly as good as he was in the first half. FIP had his as a keep while xFIP said he was an active sell. Since Buchholz did even better in the second half of the season than the first, this was a clear victory for FIP.

Josh Johnson – Both systems had Johnson as a keeper, but xFIP did a better job predicting his 3.50 post All-Star break mark.

Daisuke Matsuzaka – After allowing 4 HR in 71 IP in the first half, Matsuzaka served up 9 HR in 82.2 IP after the break. Big win for xFIP.

Johan Santana – His 3.00 ERA in the second half almost identical to his first half mark of 2.98. xFIP had Santana as a cut, so an easy win for FIP.

Jason Vargas – Eight of his 14 starts after the break came on the road and he allowed eight of his 10 second half HR away from Safeco. Big win for xFIP.

Justin Verlander – In the last three years, Verlander has posted an ERA over 5.50 in the month of April. He was terrific from May 1st through the end of the season again in 2010. Easy win for FIP.

Barry Zito – A lousy second half of the season made Zito a spectator for the Giants in the post-season. xFIP did an outstanding job predicting Zito’s collapse.

Ubaldo Jimenez – Just like with Zito, xFIP was just about perfect predicting Jimenez in the second half.

Tom Gorzelanny – Both systems saw Gorzelanny as a pretty good pitcher, but xFIP came closer to his second-half collapse.

John Danks – Again, the crystal ball for xFIP was right on target for Danks.

Tommy Hanson – In both seasons in the majors, Hanson has outperformed his xFIP. He turned it up a notch in the second half of 2010, thanks as much to his .233 BABIP as his 7 HR in 100.1 IP.

Matt Cain – Another pitcher with a history of outperforming his peripherals, Cain beat his FIP by nearly a run and his xFIP by nearly two runs in the second half of 2010.

Clayton Kershaw – Just as good in the second half of the season as he was in the first.

Cliff Lee – Many people wanted to eliminate Lee from this study last year, as he went from a pitcher’s park to a hitter’s park. But Lee outpitched his xFIP after the break in 2009. No such luck for Lee this year while following a similar story line of moving to a tougher park for pitchers.

C.J. Wilson – Like Kershaw, he was remarkable consistent between halves and ended up as a win for FIP.

Livan Hernandez – Those of us who kept predicting the bottom to fall out for Hernandez in 2010 are still waiting. Meanwhile, his second half ERA of 4.02 was a perfect match for his first half FIP.

Doug Fister – I imagine even the staunchest FIP supporters were shopping Fister every chance they could.

Fausto Carmona – After back-to-back seasons with a BB/9 over 5.00, Carmona allowed just 29 BB in 94.0 IP after the break last year. That had more to do with it than HR rate (10 HR in 94 IP) for why FIP was a clear winner.

Gavin Floyd – Fantasy owners did not know start from start what to expect from Floyd, but xFIP did a nice job of predicting his second half ERA.

Mark Buehrle – Like Wilson and Kershaw, Buehrle was a model of consistency with his ERA between halves this year. However, I worry about his K/9 rate and would be shocked if he was on any of my teams next year.

Brandon Morrow – With the Blue Jays out of the race, they decided to shut down a healthy Morrow after his first September start, which limited him to 46.1 IP after the break. A polar opposite to Buehrle, Morrow posted a 10.95 K/9, up from 8.14 a season ago.

Johnny Cueto – Cueto’s second half ERA was in the range predicted by his first half FIP and xFIP. But it was just 0.05 away from his FIP.

John Lackey – His second half ERA of 3.97 was a nice match for his 3.89 career mark but I doubt that makes too many Red Sox fans happy about his season and the team’s remaining obligation to him.

Kevin Correia – The first player on our list to have a big discrepancy between his FIP and xFIP due to a high HR rate, Correia did not show much regression in the second half of the year. Those who thought he would rebound, especially considering his home park, were disappointed. Correia allowed 13 HR in 82.1 IP in Petco this year.

Cole Hamels – Just like in 2009, one pitcher from the high HR rate side completely turned things around to become one of the best pitchers in the second half. Hopefully, Hamels has more luck in 2011 than 2009’s entry did. Rich Harden had a 5.58 ERA in 20 games with the Rangers this year after having a tremendous post-break performance (2.55 ERA) in 2009.

Nick Blackburn – Both systems would have advised cutting Blackburn, who responded with a 3.94 ERA in the second half, as he showed a big across-the-board improvement, including a microscopic 1.83 BB/9.

Kevin Millwood – Most of the players with a high HR/FB rate come back as not worth the risk by both systems. But xFIP said Millwood was significantly better than he showed in the first half and did an excellent job projecting his post-break ERA.

Jeff Karstens – An sore shoulder led to just one appearance in September. I regret the pain suffered by Mr. Karstens but it’s probably just as well that it played out that way.

Zach Duke – Hard to believe he made the All-Star team in 2009. Since then he is 11-23 with a 5.52 ERA.

James Shields – Both systems predicted a big bounce-back performance in the second half by Shields but that never materialized. He continued to give up HR by the basket, saw his K/BB ratio drop by over a full point and saw his BABIP increase to .362 after the break.

Brian Bannister – Limited to 25.2 IP in the second half due to rotator cuff tendinitis.

Randy Wolf – Both systems saw Wolf as waiver wire fodder but he had a 2.67 ERA in his final 13 starts, which was right after I placed him on waivers in a dynasty league.

Doug Davis – Elbow tendinitis kept Davis from pitching after the All-Star break.

Ricky Nolasco – FIP was nearly perfect with its Nolasco forecast, a marked departure in recent history, as he has generally underperformed his peripherals the past two seasons. Of course, Nolasco pitched just 47 innings after the break due to knee surgery.

Ian Kennedy – Neither system thought much of Kennedy going into the break but xFIP had a brighter outlook. Meanwhile, Kennedy put it altogether after the All-Star game, with Quality Starts in seven of his last nine outings. He finally started pitching well in his home park. In his last three games in Chase Field, Kennedy allowed 4 ER (0 HR) in 19 IP.


When I started this comparison in 2009, my belief was that you would be just as well off using either system. After last year, there was a definite raw advantage for xFIP but now with two years worth of data, the two systems are basically even. Overall, there have been 72 pitchers who’ve had a 0.50 or greater difference between their FIP and xFIP at the All-Star break. Here’s how they did if you used their first half FIP or xFIP to project their second half ERA:

xFIP – 37
FIP – 34
Push – 1

Both systems have strengths and weaknesses. Generally speaking, xFIP does a better job with non-elite pitchers with low HR rates while FIP does a better job with elite hurlers. So, if a Tom Gorzelanny is cruising along with a sub-7.0 HR/FB rate, it appears you should look to sell high. But if it’s Justin Verlander, perhaps you should hold onto him.

We know that over the long haul that xFIP is the better metric to use for most pitchers. The issue here is that for one season (or one partial season) there may not be enough time for regression to fully kick in. Let’s look at Tim Lincecum. In the first half of 2009, he had a 3.9 HR/FB rate. In the second half of the season he had a 7.5 HR/9. This year he had a 9.9 HR/FB ratio. He has been regressing towards a normal HR/FB rate since the first half of 2009. But it did not all come in the same season.

Readers have suggested using first half ERA, or a mid-point between first half FIP and xFIP or an average of all three to see which one best predicted second half ERA. I think these are worthwhile suggestions and perhaps ones that we can use in the future (going back retroactively, too) as our sample size increases. We can also eliminate pitchers who did not pitch substantial innings and look for other trends and anomalies as our population gets bigger.

This started with a claim by my friend and colleague Derek Carty that FIP was basically useless for fantasy purposes with other metrics like xFIP available. Right now it appears FIP is making a case not to be tossed into the trash can by fantasy players.

2010 FIP Challenge Results Part I

In 2009, I did a column at the All-Star break to see if FIP or xFIP would be more helpful for fantasy players in making trades. This year I did the same thing. You can see the results below

Should Fantasy Owners Use FIP?
FIP Challenge Results Part I
FIP Challenge Results Part II
FIP Challenge 2010

Here is the table from the 2010 article, along with an additional column, the pitcher’s ERA in the second half of the season.

Name HR/FB ERA FIP xFIP 2nd Half ERA
Paulino 1.9 4.40 3.25 4.60 15.88
Liriano 2.5 3.86 2.18 2.97 3.31
A. Sanchez 3.4 3.66 3.46 4.52 3.44
Buchholz 3.6 2.45 3.45 4.26 2.20
J. Johnson 3.8 1.70 2.31 3.06 3.50
Matsuzaka 4.1 4.56 3.83 4.98 4.79
J. Santana 4.5 2.98 3.62 4.69 3.00
Vargas 4.7 3.09 3.62 4.84 4.66
Verlander 5.3 3.82 3.11 3.89 2.89
Zito 5.3 3.76 3.91 4.79 2.89
Jimenez 5.4 2.20 3.13 3.71 3.80
Gorzelanny 5.4 3.16 3.26 3.92 5.20
Danks 5.6 3.29 3.41 4.13 4.19
Hanson 5.6 4.13 3.26 4.02 2.51
Cain 5.7 3.34 3.82 4.72 2.91
Kershaw 5.7 2.96 3.11 3.79 2.84
C. Lee 5.8 2.64 2.58 3.34 3.79
Wilson 6.1 3.35 4.14 4.71 3.36
L. Hernandez 6.2 3.37 4.02 4.71 4.02
Fister 6.3 3.09 3.75 4.38 5.06
Carmona 6.3 3.64 4.08 4.61 3.93
Floyd 6.5 4.20 3.28 3.78 3.91
Buehrle 6.6 4.24 4.16 4.85 4.32
Morrow 6.7 4.86 3.42 3.93 3.69
Cueto 6.9 3.42 3.91 4.45 3.96
Lackey 6.9 4.78 4.39 4.98 3.97
Correia 15.7 5.26 4.82 4.22 5.64
Hamels 15.2 3.78 4.53 3.85 2.23
Blackburn 14.8 6.40 5.89 5.14 3.93
Millwood 14.8 5.77 5.03 4.32 4.23
Karstens 14.5 5.42 4.88 5.50 5.00
Duke 14.5 5.49 4.89 4.36 7.00
Shields 14.3 4.87 4.11 3.55 5.59
Bannister 14.0 5.56 5.26 4.69 9.47
Wolf 13.9 4.56 5.81 5.24 4.11
Davis 13.7 4.69 5.69 5.10 DNP
Nolasco 13.7 4.55 4.39 3.84 4.40
Kennedy 13.7 4.12 4.83 4.31 3.38

There are 38 pitchers in the above chart. On a raw scale, the two systems were almost identical, with the FIP metric did a better job of predicting 2nd half ERA in 20 cases while xFIP did better 17 times. Furthermore, FIP did a better job of forecasting 14 of the 26 players with low HR/FB rates and both systems got five of the 11 pitchers (Davis being a wash) with high HR/FB rates.

In 2009, xFIP did better on a raw scale, as it did a better job predicting 20 of the 34 pitchers in the sample.

Similar to 2009, most of the pitchers fell outside the range predicted by FIP and xFIP. For example, Liriano’s FIP was 2.18 while his xFIP was 2.97. But he had a 3.31 second half ERA. Only seven of the 37 players listed above had a second half ERA between their first half FIP and xFIP. The two systems were close on this, too, with FIP being better on four of these seven pitchers. In 2009, 28 of the 34 pitchers had second half ERAs outside the range of their first half FIP and xFIP numbers.

Later today I will post a breakdown of all 38 pitchers in this survey.

Your 2010 Replacement Players

While we use replacement level freely on the other side of FanGraphs, the idea of replacement level hasn’t exactly forced itself into fantasy baseball yet. I’m not sure why, because I’ve been using it successfully for a while. In fact, we all have, whether we realize it or not. If we didn’t use replacement levels, catchers, shortstops and second baseman would rarely be taken before the third round, yet we see them scattered amongst the top ranked players most years. To give you a better idea of the different strengths at each position, here are the players were valued at replacement level this year by my z-score rankings.

Catcher: Jason Kendall
Without the 12 stolen bases, Kendall wouldn’t even be close to replacement level. But, we do count those stats, and someone who could use an extra handful of steals wouldn’t mind having him hang around on their roster. The better example of replacement level is Ryan Doumit, who did it without relying on stolen bases.
Three Below: Yorvit Torrealba, Ryan Doumit, Ramon Hernandez

First Base: Ike Davis
Davis didn’t even get the chance to play a full season, yet turned out to be a somewhat useful player. A .265 average and about twenty homers with run and RBI counts around 70 do a very good job of illustrating how powerful this position can be.
Four Below: Buster Posey, Carlos Pena, Mike Napoli, Lyle Overbay

Second Base: Ryan Theriot
You couldn’t pick a better example of a replacement level second baseman, which is why I know the formula works. He did a decent job of scoring runs and stealing bases, but he’s not giving you anything else.
Three Below: Aaron Hill, Orlando Hudson, Freddy Sanchez

Third Base: Pablo Sandoval
Pablo had a pretty poor year, yet third base was so weak that he turned out to be a replacement level player.
Three Below: Jhonny Peralta, Chris Johnson, Alberto Callaspo

Shortstop: Starlin Castro
Castro makes sense, right? High average, but not a whole lot of counting stats. He was a very safe option, but nothing to get excited about.
Two Below: Erick Aybar, Jason Bartlett

Outfield: Ryan Raburn
Raburn hit some dingers, had a solid average, but didn’t contribute to the other counting stats. I’m surprised he’s this low, and if he stole another three or four bases, he’d be ranked five spots higher.
Three Below: Tyler Colvin, Jose Tabata, Josh Willingham

Starting Pitcher: Jonathan Niese
A WHIP above 1.4 killed Niese’s value, which was otherwise solid.
Three Below: Not Jason Hammel, Chris Volstad, Daisuke Matsuzaka

You’ll notice that relief pitchers aren’t listed, because it’s very hard to evaluate them. Do we include only players who recorded a save, or use a standard innings limit? Feel free to weigh in on that point below.

What About Yunel Escobar

We did the shortstop keeper rankings last week, and one of the questions was succinct: “Yunel Escobar?”

If only the answer could be as short as the question in this case. Of course, if you are in a shallow league or contemplating even ten keepers in a mixed league, the answer probably is: No. Even if he has the upside to become a top-ten option at his position, after the season he just put together, he could easily be drafted cheaply in the re-stocking proceedings next year.

But let’s talk more fringe-y. Maybe you are in an AL-only league and spent your FAAB budget on your new shortstop and you’d like to know if he’ll return to grace and is worth keeping. Once again, we’ll have to assume you are not in an OBP league because then the answer is again probably easy: Yes. Before last year, his OBP was over .366 every year and his walk rate survived even his bad 2010 to hover near 10%. He’s an asset there.

The “problem” with Escobar has always been discerning a skill beyond the ability to get on base. He isn’t really speedy – his speed scores have always been below average despite his 18 career stolen bases. His batting averages have been good, but last year it was bad (.256) despite only a mediocre BABIP (.282). Even then, a one-category guy isn’t one to keep.

So it comes down to if his power will grow – an interesting thing for a man with a career seasonal high of 14 home runs. The answer to this question is not as easily parsed as the last two questions, however: Maybe. Because as bad as last year looked, there was a progression in his numbers that might give his owners some hope.

Here are his isolated slugging percentages, starting with his rookie year, and not including last year: .125, .113, .136. And his flyball percentages: 22.9%, 24.7%, 30.0%. And his groundball percentages: 56%, 58.2%, 50%. And his HR/FB: 7.9%, 9.1%, 10.1%. If only last year’s .062 ISO, 28.4% flyballs, 53.6% groundballs and 3.3% HR/FB didn’t spoil the fun, you could say that his batted ball profile was trending towards more power. More flyballs mean more power on a basic level, and that slowly increasing HR/FB was a great sign that more of those flyballs could turn into the home runs that we fantasy managers covet.

The good news is that he’s only 28 and that trends like this can regain traction even after a poor year. It’s possible that he’s older than his birth certificate says – and that would change the diagnosis slightly and make it possible that we’ve seen his best – but he’s been here a while and there’s been little speculation about his age so far. If he’s on the right side of thirty, he’s in the right place for a power resurgence and a career year. Perhaps the “Grip it and rip it” hitting philosophy in Toronto will make for a career year in 2011. Right place, right time?

There’s a chance that in the right league of the right depth, Yunel Escobar a keeper. Not quite the one-word answer for the two-word question, but it’s honest.

An Open Letter to Jim Tracy

Dear Mr. Tracy,

Thank you for taking time out of your day to read my pathetic ramblings on baseball. I don’t usually do this sort of thing, so pardon me if it is lacking a certain “je ne sais quoi.”

While I’m sure the Rockies’ upper management is a fan of yours, fans love you dearly for 2009’s run, and your players respect you, I have a lot of problems with the way you ran your team during the 2010 season. Let me list a couple of them for you:

1. Miguel Olivo and the Catcher position
I mean, hey, no one can blame you for playing Olivo during his super hot first half, or sending Iannetta down to get him regular playing time, but it never should have gotten that far to begin with.

First, I’m sure you hate strikeouts. Did you know that Miguel struck out more often than Chris did? Yeah, it sort of surprised me, too. Did you know that Chris also walked more and is a better power hitter? Because I sure did. And yeah, Olivo probably did a better job of handling your pitching staff, but can that really make up for his offensive short comings? Come on Jimmy (can I call you Jimmy? I’m going to call you Jimmy), I think you know better.

2. Eric Young, Jr.
EY Jr. is one fast dude, isn’t he? I’m not going to sit here and list off various metrics for you Jimmy, I’m just going to try to plant an idea in your brain: Think how scary a lineup that included EY, Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler would be! Opposing catchers wouldn’t be able to do a darn thing against your barrage of “the quickness.”

In Conclusion
All of these problems are correctable, Jimmy T, so I’d really appreciate it if you’d take my suggestions under advisement and make the necessary changes to your approach next year. Rockies fans, and baseball fans everywhere, would love you for it.

Thanks a boatload,

Zach Sanders

Ted Lilly in Dodger Blue

As you’ve undoubtedly heard, Ted Lilly has decided to remain with the Dodgers for the next three seasons, signing a deal worth a reported $33 million. While the Dodgers roster may see some changes this winter, we can get a pretty good idea of how Lilly’s value has been impacted by his decision to stay in Los Angeles.

After being dealt from Chicago to L.A., Lilly performed extremely well and did his best to keep the Dodgers in the playoff picture. He struck out over a batter an inning while donning Dodger Blue (or white, or gray, or whatever) and did a great job of limiting free passes. Yet, his FIP was barely below 4.00 due to Lilly’s love for home runs.

Lilly’s always been a fly ball pitcher, never posting a GB% north of 38%. Last year in L.A. (and Chicago), his ground ball rate reached an all-time low, coming in below 30%, easily the worst mark in the league. Even though Dodger Stadium can be a pitching heaven at times, Lilly’s lack of ground balls allow his HR/FB rate to be fairly normal while giving up around 1.5 homers every nine innings.

As far as the Dodgers’ defense behind him, Los Angeles had the worst outfield defense in baseball last year, according to UZR. Some of those problems will go away with Manny out of town, but it’s clear the Dodgers’ defense isn’t going to do Lilly any favors. Maybe he knew what he was doing, going for more strikeouts and all that jazz?

Teddy will be 35 before next season begins, so he’s no spring chicken who’s looking to make strides and improve on his numbers. As a starter who’s going to give you a K/9 around 8.0 and limit walks, Lilly will have value in all leagues. He’s not going to be anything special thanks to an ERA that will likely be lackluster, but if he can rack up 13+ wins, he’s worthy of being your third starter.

RotoGraphs Chat – 10/22/10

Keeper Rankings: Shortstop

Over the offseason, we’ll update the rankings with a slant on the best keepers. This means an obvious tick up for youth, and a tick down for veterans, but it also been stability and consistency will be slightly more valued. One strong season doesn’t make you a top-flight keeper in other words. Here were the second base keeper rankings, and now here are the shortstops:

The Top Targets
Hanley Ramirez, Florida (27 yrs old, .300 BA, 21 HR, 92 R, 76 RBI, 32 SB, .373 wOBA)
Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado (26 yrs old, .315 BA, 27 HR, 89 R, 95 RBI, 11 SB, .408 wOBA)

In terms of multi-category goodness at the position, these are the guys. Tulo’s stolen base success percentage probably means that he won’t steal double-digit bases too often going forward, but a healthy year has him hitting different benchmarks (30 HR, 100 RBI) that would make him an elite option anyway. After three straight seasons with an ISO over .200, the bet here is that Hanley’s power returns next year. Unfortunately, his fielding is sub-par and could still mean an eventual move off of the position, but that’s no reason to trade the star at what should be a low point in his value.

Still Strong And (Mostly) Young:
Jose Reyes, New York NL (27 yrs old, .282 BA, 11 HR, 83 R, 54 RBI, 30 SB, .329 wOBA)
Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia (32 yrs old, .243 BA, 8 HR, 48 R, 41 RBI, 17 SB, .317 wOBA)
Starlin Castro, Chicago (21 yrs old, .300 BA, 3 HR, 53 R, 41 RBI, 10 SB, .325 wOBA)
Elvis Andrus, Texas (22 yrs old, .265 BA, 0 HR, 88 R, 35 RBI, 32 SB, .298 wOBA)

This might be slightly controversial. Jose Reyes is often thought of as an elite shortstop, but even though he’s still a solid keeper, his last season highlighted too many of his flaws to put him in the top tier. His old problems garnering walks returned (5.1% BB%), and with so much of his value tied up in stolen bases, a low total in that category, or another injury to his hamstrings, and he’s pretty much a liability. Selling now would be selling low, but a nice half-season might be all you need to move him along. Ditto Rollins, actually, who is no longer a spring chicken and has flaws of his own (declining speed and injury concerns). Andrus has flaws, but he’s still young enough that there’s hope that he ups the average a bit and fills out for some (still probably marginal) power. In real life, Castro is the better hitter than Andrus, but he’s also more likely to move off the position eventually, and he probably won’t rack up ‘counting stats’ on the same level of Andrus’ stolen bases. In roto leagues, though, Castro’s all-around excellence is preferable.

Veterans That Are Still Useful In Deeper Keeper Leagues
Derek Jeter, New York AL (36 yrs old, .270 BA, 10 HR, 111 R, 67 RBI, 18 SB, .320 wOBA)
Alexei Ramirez, Chicago AL (29 yrs old, .282 BA, 18 HR, 83 R, 70 RBI, 13 SB, .322 wOBA)
Rafael Furcal, Los Angeles NL (33 yrs old, .300 BA, 8 HR, 66 R, 43 RBI, 22 SB, .366 wOBA)

In terms of present value, most of these guys outrank Andrus, most likely. But they’re all older than you might think, and none is currently so amazing that they need to be kept over the Ranger shortstop. Maybe Jeter has another good year left in him, maybe Furcal can stay healthy for a year. Maybe Ramirez has another good power year before his poor efficiency on the basepaths (64.5% success) costs him his stolen bases. But each of these possibilities is much less likely than improvement from the 22-year-old Andrus. Admittedly, it’s a fault line, and some may come down on the other side, but the long-term view, valid in more established keeper leagues, says Andrus and Castro are in a different tier.

Will They Get Better?
Stephen Drew, Arizona (28 yrs old, .278 BA, 15 HR, 83 R, 61 RBI, 10 SB, .354 wOBA)
Ian Desmond, Washington (25 yrs old, .269 BA, 10 HR, 59 R, 65 RBI, 17 SB, .308 wOBA)
Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland (25 yrs old, .276, 3 HR, 39 R, 29 RB, 6 SB, .301 wOBA)
Cliff Pennington, Oakland (26 yrs old, .250 BA, 6 HR, 64 R, 46 RBI, 29 SB, .315 wOBA)
Alcides Escobar, Milwaukee (24 yrs old, .235 BA, 4 HR, 57 R, 41 RBI, 10 SB, .270 wOBA)

Each of these shortstops probably deserves a more in-depth look over the offseason, but suffice it to say that they’ve each shown glimpses of possible mixed-league value while also displaying real flaws that make them deep-league dynasty league keepers if anything. Drew and Desmond are borderline keepers if your league keeps enough players, but we now have 2700+ plate appearances for Drew and 2010 was his best year, so we probably know who he is – and Desmond’s line last year was way too similar to his minor league line (mediocre as it was) to hope for much more either. Desmond is also a poor defender, which may factor in sooner or later. These are all flawed players – but they are young for the most part.