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Clint Barmes Walks The Plank

One of the stranger deals of the off-season was signed a few days ago as Clint Barmes inked a two year, $10.5 million contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates. As a young team with limited financial resources it looks like a bad allocation of funds. To make room for Barmes they declined a $3 million option on Ronny Cedeno, who should put up similar offensive production for far less risk. Despite his obvious shortcomings, Barmes has real fantasy value, which illustrates just how bereft of talent the shortstop position is.

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Aaron Hill: Desert Mirage?

The word “strange” doesn’t quite cut it when speaking of the off-season the Arizona Diamondbacks have had. When you’ve cornered the market on scrappy infielders (John McDonald, Willie Bloomquist and Aaron Hill) with a combined lifetime on base percentage (OBP) below .320 you’re practically begging for cyber ridicule. The signings of McDonald and Bloomquist should be inconsequential, as they shouldn’t see major playing time barring injury. However, Hill is slotted as the starting second basemen and that’s where things get interesting.

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Hanley Ramirez: Keeper Conundrum

Those following the shortstop keeper posts have noticed Hanley Ramirez’s absence. Excluding Ramirez was intentional, as his ranking process deserves its own post.

From 2007-2010 he dominated the shortstop position, and fantasy baseball as a whole. Ramirez hit .319/.394/.532 and averaged 26 home runs, 82 runs batted in, and 36 stolen bases. Entering 2011, Ramirez’s production had made him a no-doubt top tier choice year in and out. Exiting 2011, Ramirez is something of a question mark. In addition to a .712 OPS, Ramirez missed the final two months after having surgery to repair his right shoulder—the same shoulder that was operated on after the 2007 season. Ramirez reportedly injured the shoulder diving for a ball in early August, but missed 15 games in June with sciatica and numbness issues. Seemingly healthy, Ramirez looked like his old self in abusing the month of July to the tune of an .896 OPS, providing no answers to whether the sciatica issue relented, or if something else contributed to his poor first three months.

Ramirez did improve each month, although, it’s hard not to when you put up a .558 OPS in April and .666 in May with his talent level. Concerning is Ramirez’s continued decline in power. His isolated power dipped from .239 in 2008 to .175 in 2010, with a .201 offering in 2009. Reports suggest Ramirez is hale and hearty, but it’s hard to be optimistic that a player with two shoulder surgeries and a steady decline in power output is going to bounce back to form.

So, where does that leave Ramirez? If you think he rebounds to an MVP caliber level once again you’d obviously put him in the first tier. What if, like me, you have reservations? I’m inclined to believe he belongs in the second tier with Asdrubal Cabrera, Starlin Castro, Elvis Andrus and Jimmy Rollins. There are some pessimists out there; would placing him in tier three along with Emilio Bonifacio, J.J. Hardy and Jhonny Peralta make sense? A reasonable argument can be made for each scenario, and that means Ramirez, who is a polarizing figure in the real world, is now the subject of much debate in fantasy, too.

2012 Shortstop Keeper Rankings: Tier Four

I know a lot of you have been asking about Hanley Ramirez’s whereabouts in these tiers. I’ve purposely excluded him simply because I honestly don’t know where to include him. I’ll have a whole discussion on his rank come Friday. You can hurl your insults at me then. For now, on to Tier Four.

Alexei Ramirez $9

There may not be a more consistently mediocre hitter than Ramirez. Over the last three seasons his wOBA’s are .319, .322 and .319. He’s hit 15, 18 and 15 home runs. He’s driven in 68, 70 and 70 runs. His stolen base total was cut in half this past season, but from 2008-2010 it was 13, 14 and 13. It’s safe to say he likes duplicates. His plate discipline and batted ball numbers have been steady as well. He’s not a star and really doesn’t have the potential to be one. What is he? He’s an average shortstop who benefits from playing in a hitter friendly park. There will be no surprises one way or another in keeping Ramirez.

Yunel Escobar $5

Speaking of average shortstops, Escobar fits that bill nicely. Where Alexei Ramirez is lacking in average and on-base-percentage, those are areas Escobar does well. I’m overlooking his 2010 season for a number of reasons. Excluding that year he’s never hit below .288 nor had an on-base-percentage under .366. His career 54.9 percent ground ball rate takes away any power potential he may possess. He was greatly helped by the Rogers Centre in 2011, hitting .321/.416/.480 there; a .226 point difference in OPS from his road games. Escobar was a pleasant surprise in 2011, flying under the radar and going later than he probably should have in most drafts due to his rocky 2010. He’s the last of the shortstops you should consider keeping.

Alcides Escobar $4

The only asset Escobar possesses on the offensive side of things is his speed. He stole 26 bases last season and has stolen as many as 42 at the Triple-A level. He had some hot streaks last season, posting a .357 wOBA in June and a .372 in September. In the other four months he failed to muster anything higher than a .278. If you’ve drafted properly Escobar shouldn’t be starting over any other shortstop you have in a standard league. Unless you’re desperate for steals, he’s more of a bench player and profiles to a fringe starter in deeper leagues.

Ian Desmond $4

Being a slightly better version of Alcides Escobar isn’t a compliment. They each cannot hit for average or take a walk, but Desmond hits for more power, granted he’s not exactly Tulowitzki-like in that category. Unlike Escobar he failed to have any exceedingly good months, peaking with a wOBA of .348, otherwise riding along in the sea of obscurity. He has a minor league track record of hitting success, but in his two full MLB seasons that has yet to translate. There’s double digit home run potential and he’ll steal you ~20 bases, but he’s below par in runs, runs batted in, average and on-base-percentage.

2012 Shortstop Keeper Rankings: Tier Three

Last week we went over our second tier of shortstop keepers. This week we delve into the third tier where we run into a few players coming off bounce-back seasons.

Emilio Bonifacio ($12)

Bonifacio was a jack-of-all-trades last season, spending time at second and third base, each outfield spot, and most importantly shortstop. Bonifacio’s game is predicated on speed, swiping 40 bags in 51 attempts last season while also hitting seven triples. Playing a full season for the first time, he shined for the Marlins, hitting .296/.360/.393 in 641 plate appearances. He possessed the fifth-lowest flyball rate in baseball, slapping the ball all over the field and making the most out of his blazing speed. It’s that speed that doesn’t make me too nervous about his .372 BABIP. If he keeps the ball out of the air that number should steadily be above league-average. He’ll be 27 next season and may have finally found his comfort zone in Florida. Keep an eye out for the Marlins’ free agent shopping, since Bonifacio’s playing time depends on them standing pat or focusing their money on non-third base positions.

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2012 Shortstop Keeper Rankings: Second Tier

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 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.

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2012 Shortstop Keeper Rankings: First Tier

As you’ve seen, we’ve started to roll out our 2012 keeper rankings. Today we look at the top tier of shortstops, which includes two unsurprising names.

Troy Tulowitzki ($22)

It comes as no surprise that Tulowitzki is in the first tier. Over the past three seasons he has the eighth highest wOBA in baseball, behind only Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto, Albert Pujols, Jose Bautista, Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Kevin Youkilis. No shortstop comes within .20 points of Tulowitzki’s mark of .396. We’re talking keeper rankings, though, so what he did three years ago may not be relevant for 2012. Let’s take a look at last season. The 27-year old had another excellent season, hitting 30 home runs while driving in 105 runs. He doesn’t steal bases anymore, going from 20 in ’09 to nine in ’11, but when you have the power he does it’s a non issue. His strikeout rate was down while the walk rate ticked up. He reverted back to hitting more line drives and fewer ground balls, seeing his LD% jump from 15 to 19.

If patience is a virtue then Tulowitzki is one of the most virtuous players in the game. His Swing, O-Swing and Z-Swing percentages are all well below league average while his Contact, O-Contact and Z-Contact percentages are all above league average. When he sees a pitch he likes, he hits it. It truly is hard to find any flaw in his game. The only time he’s seemed human was May of this year when he put up a .196 BABIP and .278 wOBA. Take out that month and his seasonal wOBA jumps from the ~.380’s to .440. He finished the season as the 28th ranked player according to Yahoo!, which isn’t too far off from his 23rd place finish in 2010. I actually think our values have him ranked a tad low at 25th overall and $22. He’s just starting the prime seasons of his career and plays a premium position in a great hitter’s park. He’s going to remain in this top tier for the foreseeable future.

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Jose Reyes: A Look to Next Year

After a sub-par 2010 and an injury riddled 2009, Jose Reyes burst back onto the scene in a big way this season. The 28-year-old had his best season per wOBA, finishing with a mark of .386, 20 points above his previous career high. He was great in the fantasy world as well, ending the season as the 29th rated player according to Yahoo! after coming in 103rd in 2010. The season likely wasn’t as good compared with his 2006-2008 years when he finished with more home runs, RBI, runs, hits and steals, but relative to league average it was a fine effort. When trying to predict what he’ll do in 2012 there are a few factors you need to consider.

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Surprises and Disappointments: Shortstops

The season is over and that makes us all sad uncontrollably sad. As always, some players really stepped up and surprised everyone while a few pre-season hopefuls failed to live up to expectations. Today we’re going to focus on some shortstops on each side of the spectrum.


Emilio Bonifacio

This was Bonifacio’s best season in every way offensively, setting career highs in every single category. In 2009, his only previous season with 500 plate appearances, he was 39 percent below average offensively. This season he was 13 percent above. The speedster even hit for a little power adding five home runs to his 40 stolen bases. His line of .296/.360/.393 was likely aided a bit by a .372 BABIP, but it’s not astronomically higher than his career mark of .339. He finished the season ranked as the eighth best shortstop according to Yahoo!. Not bad for a guy who was projected to have a sub .300 wOBA by Bill James, Marcel and ZiPS

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Shoppach and Peralta: Pick Six Values

There’s a pretty good schedule of games tonight, let’s take a look at some of the better value plays for your daily Pick Six

Kelly Shoppach ($0.50)

Much of the ire Rays fans have toward Kelly Shoppach was greatly diminished in game one of the ALDS when the pudgy backstop hit two home runs and drove in five against C.J. Wilson. To the astute viewer it shouldn’t come as that big of a surprise, however. Despite his poor overall numbers – .176/.268/.339 – he hit well against left handed pitching, something he’s done over his whole career. His .788 OPS and .349 wOBA against southpaws this season were the lowest figures of his career, and they’re still above average. Today he’ll face Matt Harrison, another lefty. Harrison has a pretty pronounced platoon split for his career (4.56 FIP vs RHB, 3.98 vs LHB) but the number against right handed batters have improved dramatically this season (3.57 FIP). With a K/9 under 7 and a GB% of 47 he doesn’t have overpowering stuff. He’ll work low in the zone to try and induce weak contact and Shoppach will try to take advantage of any mistakes Harrison happens to make. For the low, low cost of $0.50 the reward outweighs the risk.

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