When you look at something like the Empire State Building from afar it’s hard to get a full appreciation of just what you’re seeing. You understand it’s a big building, and hey, that’s cool, but it isn’t until you take a closer look that you can really stand back and say “Wow”. The same can be said of shortstops not named Hanley Ramirez or Troy Tulowitzki this season, just in an opposite sense.
The “Wow” refers to just how bad the position is.
Long gone are the days of A-Rod, Jeter, Nomar, and Tejada making shortstop one of the stronger positions in fantasy. How many shortstops not named Ramirez or Tulowitzki hit 15 or more home runs last season? Seven. How many did it while hitting above .280? One – Alexei Ramirez. What about with an OBP over .315? That one also be one – Stephen Drew. Using our rankings here at Rotographs, the top 10 shortstops after Ramirez and Tulo produced an average triple slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG) of .274/.334/.394 last season. That’s actually more than I expected, but still rates very poorly. In fact, in 2010 the OPS of all shortstops was .693, the lowest of any position.
So, how should you go about drafting this position if you miss out on Ramirez and Tulo? Do you grab the next best thing early on (Jose Reyes?), hoping to get steady, but not spectacular, production over a number of categories? Or do you wait until the later rounds and snag a player who does one or two things well, hoping to get maximum value? My vote tends to learn toward the latter option in that scenario.
Personally I’d rather gamble on someone like Yunel Escobar. He will likely improve upon his 2010 numbers now that he’s spending a full season in Toronto, and is going later than he probably should be in most drafts. He’s shown in the past he has 15 HR and .280-.290 AVG ability, and a full season in Toronto will no doubt help him show it once again. Even someone like J.J. Hardy, who you can get for $1 in most leagues, won’t hurt you too badly. He’ll provide some pop now that he’s in hitter friendly Camden Yards, just don’t expect him to return to the days when he hit 26 and 24 home runs. His average should also be better than normal for the position, floating somewhere in the .270-.280 range.
Another possible 15HR, .280 AVG shortstop for little-to-no money? Yes, please. The value, and money saved, in taking a risk on a shortstop this late outweighs the security you’ll feel in landing Hanley Ramirez or Troy Tulowitzki for $40.
Erik writes for DraysBay and has also written for Bloomberg Sports. Follow him on Twitter @ehahmann.