Last week we kicked off our 2010 keeper league rankings, and Troy Tulowitzki and Jose Reyes were alone in the top tier of shortstops. This week we take a look at a second tier that is filled with the new youth movement at a position that could use a shot in the arm.
Asdrubal Cabrera ($19)
How much you value Cabrera is likely in direct correlation with how much you believe in his power. He hit 25 home runs in 667 plate appearances last season after hitting just 35 home runs since 2006, spanning 2,713 plate appearances in both the majors and minors. Back in June I wrote about how I believed in Cabrera’s new found power, citing an Ohio.com piece, as well as one written by our own Joe Pawlikowski, which noted a change he made in his swing similar to that of Ben Zobrist. My views haven’t changed. He’s going to be 26 on Opening Day and provides 20 home run power to go along with 15-20 stolen base potential. Yes, his OBP and wOBA declined month by month, but if you believe in the power there’s no reason value him lower.
Starlin Castro ($16)
One of the youngest full time position players in the majors, Castro followed up his impressive rookie campaign with an even better sophomore effort. I’m a bit skeptical of the 10 home runs — he’d never hit more than three in any other season – but 21 year-olds filling out and discovering more pop isn’t unheard of. He doesn’t walk, but unless you play in a league that counts on base percentage it’s not a huge concern for fantasy owners. What he does do is swing. He posted percentages higher than league average in every plate discipline category that involves swinging at, and making contact with, the ball. Castro has the most upside of any shortstop in these rankings. Hitting .300+ with 10 home runs, 20+ steals and 90+ runs in your age 21 seasons is extremely impressive. At $16 in our rankings, he has the potential to have enormous value if he continues to mature.
Elvis Andrus ($15)
He’s nearly exclusively because of his speed and the fact that he bats second for the Texas Rangers. He doesn’t hit particularly well – his career high OPS is .708 – and has never had an OBP above .350. When he does get on base, though, he runs, stealing 37 bases. Hitting in front of Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, Mike Napoli, Nelson Cruz and Michael Young helped him score 96 runs this year, second to Jose Reyes among shortstops. Like Cabrera and Castro, age isn’t a factor in the decision to keep the 23-year-old Andrus. The Texas lineup isn’t going to turn into the Mariners over the winter, and Ron Washington isn’t going to move Andrus from the second spot in the order, so unless he breaks both of his legs he’ll continue to rack up the steals and runs.
Jimmy Rollins ($15)
Rollins is a jack of all trades but master of none. He helps you out in a variety of different categories but doesn’t particularly stand out in any way. He has 15-20 home run power now but will still steal roughly 30 bases, and as long as he stays in Philadelphia will rack up the runs scored totals. He’s benefited greatly from playing in Citizen’s Bank Park, posting just a .302 wOBA on the road in 2011. The two questions to be wary about when considering keeping Rollins are his team and his age. He’s a free agent, and while the Phillies have said they’d like to resign him, he wants a five year contract. There’s little chance any time signs him to a five year deal, especially one that is stuck with the long contracts of Howard, Lee and Halladay. His value would decrease if he went to a more pitcher friendly park, like, say, San Fransisco. Also, unlike the youth movement of Cabrera, Casto and Andrus, Rollins will be 33-years-old next season. He’s no longer the player he was in 2007. The fact that he’s even in this tier is a testament to how thin the shortstop position is. Of the six players I’ve previewed thus far Rollins is the one I have the least amount of faith in.
Erik writes for DraysBay and has also written for Bloomberg Sports. Follow him on Twitter @ehahmann.