Posts tagged ‘JJ Hardy’

Friday: 02.8.2013

Top 10 Shortstops Right Now

Tonight MLB Network will continue the 2013 iteration of their “Top 10 Right Now” series at each position capped off with a “Top 100 Overall”. They will air both the third base and shortstop shows on Friday evening. I always enjoy this series and generally look forward to it after the New Year since I eat up just about any fresh baseball content I can as we wait for pitchers & catchers to report. Instead of putting up my lists after they air their selections, I’ll post mine ahead of time and then compare notes after the shows air.

Note: This is my last “Right Now” list. Next week they are doing Managers and starting the top 100, I’m not participating in either of those.

This is not a fantasy list!!

Shortstop wasn’t easy due in large part to the fact that the position is THIN. There were only eight shortstops who posted a wRC+ over 100 and you could squeeze a ninth in if you dropped the PA requirement to 300. I had trouble with some of the glove-only guys who are so good in the field, but just so bad at the dish. J.J. Hardy and Brendan Ryan can pick it like no other, but they give back the value at the plate, especially Ryan. Meanwhile, bat-only guys were much easier to justify, but still tough (looking at you, DJ).

THE LIST

10. Derek Jeter (NYY) – He is slated to be ready for Opening Day after his ugly injury in the playoffs so he definitely has to make the list, but I can’t ignore the fact that he is just NOT a good shortstop and really never has been. He’s going to be top 3 on every list on the show and I’ll vomit each time. Bill James will have him first.

9. Andrelton Simmons (ATL) – With only 49 games of major league experience, it’s hard to place him much higher than this and some will lose their minds at him over Jeter, but his defense is amazing and we’re talking about right now. It’s not hard to envision Simmons out WAR’ing Jeter in 2013 given his defensive edge.

8. Asdrubal Cabrera (CLE) – His being an offensive stalwart at the position by comparison to his peers definitely helped. The metrics don’t like his defense, but highlight shows do because he seemingly gives a gift nightly.

7. Starlin Castro (CHC) – I’m not sure the metrics can measure this defense. The precocious Castro seems to just be scratching the surface of his talent and three straight seasons of just above average work at the dish before age 23 portends upcoming greatness.

6. Ian Desmond (WAS) – I wish he’d walk more, but the rest of his game is pretty strong. He had a breakout year at the plate and he’s just entering his prime so it’s not out of bounds to expect more of the same. The metrics don’t love his defense, but I don’t feel like it’s ever been atrocious and last year it graded out well.

5. Hanley Ramirez (LAD) – There is some projection in this ranking because Desmond was better across the board last year, but I think Ramirez is going to have a nice year with Dodgers. His defense has never special, but his bat has been often.

4. Elvis Andrus (TEX) – The walk rate is going the wrong way, especially for a guy who brings zero power. He’s a great defender, but not even league average with the bat. That said, he’s 24 so I doubt we’ve seen his offensive peak.

3. Jose Reyes (TOR) – If Miami thought they were buying the 2011 version of Reyes, they are dumber than we all thought. Last year he topped 133 games for the first time in four years and played quite well, but he’ll be adjusting to a new team again in 2013 after being traded to the Jays. Still one of the best.

2. Jimmy Rollins (PHI) – He’s not quite the MVP-level Rollins, but still a really good player and I think he is somewhat underrated at this point. I’ll be very interested to see where the MLBN lists have him. On one hand, he has name value which they seem to lean toward, but on the other, there is a perception that he’s faded.

1. Troy Tulowitzki (COL) – Yes, he is coming off of a 47-game season, but he is just so good in every facet of the game that a full season of his game will lap the field. His best season is his 122-game 2010 so even if he doesn’t make it thought 2013 unscathed, he can still easily be the best SS in the game.

What do you think? Any major misses?

Wednesday: 06.29.2011

Keeper League Building Blocks: Shortstop

For the past couple of years, shortstop has been universally regarded as the thinnest position on the diamond in terms of fantasy baseball talent.  The star power is there at the top, but things thin out quickly only adding to the value of someone like Troy Tulowitzki or Hanley Ramirez (this year’s performance notwithstanding, of course).

I had Jose Reyes with those two as the clear stars at the position with a huge gap down to the next tier (as did most, though Reyes’ ranking fluctuated a bit with some putting him closer to Jimmy Rollins than whomever was second between Ramirez & Tulow) and if you didn’t get one of those, you might as well just wait because the next tier or two was going to be overvalued just because they played shortstop and you could get better talent at other positions in those rounds and then take a shot on any number of like-valued shortstops.

How do things shape up for the next crop of talent at the position?  That is what we will look at today continuing the Keeper Building Block series.  While second base was a good position in the preseason position with enough depth to go around for the most part, it came up lame with keeper potential.  Shortstop is a bit better as many were worried about how they would fill the position during their drafts and auctions, but now three months in we see some names emerging as cheap pieces worth keeping.

Catchers

First Base

Second Base, Addendum

Elvis Andrus (TEX, 22) – Andrus is a great example of how young players to don’t necessarily develop linearly.  After his strong rookie campaign as a 20-year old, he was a bit overrated as many expected him to simply build on his .267, 6 HR, 33 SB season.  Instead he regressed a bit.  His average dipped a bit to .265 while he hit exactly 0 home runs.  He lost just one stolen base on his total, but his caught stealing total rose from six to 15 showing a significant decline in base running skill.  Overall, his wOBA (think of it on OBP scale & click the link for more) dropped from .322 to .298.

Many fantasy baseball owners saw a .002 batting average drop, two stolen base drop and a loss of six home runs that you weren’t expecting out of this player at a non-power position and combined it with the scarcity of shortstop to actually upgrade Andrus’ stock.  His average draft position essentially cut in half from 151 in 2010 to 71 this year.  Fantasy owners have to happy with the early returns.  He is hitting a career-best .278 with three home runs and 22 stolen bases putting him on pace for six and 44 as we near the halfway point.

His age, position and excellence in a key category make him a prime fantasy asset.  But his age also means we could see another dip in performance in 2012 as he will still just be all of 23 years old.  If 2010 is a floor, though, he is still fantasy viable in most league formats, especially standard ones as he was an easy top 10 shortstop last year.  In a lot of leagues, he still has at least one more year on a cheap contract making him my top shortstop building block.

Asdrubal Cabrera (CLE, 25) – I have discussed (whined) more than once how I am often a year early on guys.  I’ll get amped about a sleeper, secure him on every team I can and watch him deliver underwhelming numbers or worse, flop entirely.  Cabrera is the latest addition to the list as I couldn’t wait to roster him as a late round, low dollar SS/2B last year.  Injuries limited him to just 97 games and left me needing a replacement for 65 games.  Now I won’t pretend I saw this coming from Cabrera last year, this year or any year.  I had him down for 13-16 home runs and 20-24 stolen bases which would have been pretty significant gains on his 2009 totals of six home runs and 17 stolen bases.

He has had an impressive power surge this year without sacrificing any speed putting him on pace for 27 home runs and 25 stolen bases with a shiny .296 batting average, too.  Coming off of an injury-riddled season, he had an average draft position around 200 and cost of just a few bucks making him a prime keeper target for non-contenders looking toward 2012.

I don’t necessarily see him becoming a perennial high-20s home run hitter (of course we have to see him do it once, first), but a high-teens, low-20s home run hitter with 20+ stolen bases and batting average to go with it (career .285 hitter) is an incredible commodity.  He is a bit over his head, but not wildly so and even if he “only” went 15-15, that’d be great at shortstop especially at the low cost you would have invested.

Starlin Castro (CHI, 21) – Like Andrus, Castro is insanely young making him an elite commodity in fantasy baseball, especially in dynasty leagues.  But I will reiterate with him that just because we have seen growth (so far) from season one to season two (.325 to .353 wOBA) doesn’t mean it will happen again in 2012 for this 22-year old (regardless of where he finishes 2011).  He has proven a little less patient this year dropping his walk rate from 6% to 4%, but he has also brought his strikeout rate down in concert from 15% to 11% so he isn’t just blindly hacking away at everything, either.

His batting average might be a bit BABIP-inflated (which sits at .351), but he managed a .346 mark in 506 plate appearances last year so perhaps he is setting his level a bit higher than the average.  Batters don’t regress toward a league average as much as pitchers, instead setting their own over time with speedsters generally trending higher (Ichiro has a career .354 mark).  He has the speed to add to his BABIP and he needs to keep hitting .300+ or else his fantasy value takes a significant hit as the power isn’t there yet and might not be for a year or two (if ever).

Through his first 856 plate appearances, he appears to be a hit collecting machine with good speed which has plenty of value in our game.  He is on pace for 88 runs scored and 74 driven in, both of which are pretty good given how inept the Cubs as a team.  I rated him behind Andrus and Cabrera because so much of his value is tied to the batting average which can bounce around wildly from year-to-year even without a skills change.

Stephen Drew (ARI, 28) – This is one totally league-dependent as he won’t be at a keeper-price in all leagues, but from what I saw this preseason, he was in a lot of leagues.  He doesn’t have a single-digit price necessarily, but I like his skills profile enough that I would keep him at a mid-to-high teens cost, especially if my league was prone to significant inflation.  He doesn’t overwhelm with his numbers.  In fact, in comparison to his skill level, he is somewhat underwhelming in the fantasy categories, but he is bankable and that has a role.  Let his cost in your league be the guide on him.

Ian Desmond (WAS, 24) – Right now, Desmond is a speed-only asset, pacing toward 40 stolen bases, but that is literally it so far this year.  His average is .224 and his wOBA is a woeful .271. He showed some pop in the first 607 at-bats of his career with 14 home runs, but that has evaporated this year with a .089 ISO and a six home run pace in 562 at-bats.  There is some upside here, though, given his age and the fact that he is likely a single-digit cost in every league.  He wouldn’t be my first choice at this position or anything close to a centerpiece for my best trade assets, but he isn’t a horrible option as one of your last keepers.

Dee Gordon (LAD, 23) – Gordon is an unproven speed asset with the chance to be a speed-batting average asset as he develops and gets experience.  His runs scored will depend on the Dodger offense and his spot in the lineup.  Do not bet on any power now or in the future.  He hit seven home runs in 1544 minor league at-bats which is as clear a sign as you need to know the power isn’t coming.  And if for some reason that wasn’t enough, one look at his 5’11/150 lb. frame oughta do the trick.

Alcides Escobar (KC, 24) – Escobar is a more advanced version of Gordon so while I’d take Escobar for the rest of ’11, I’d take Gordon in a keeper scenario.  He is still a speed-only asset right now, but with 1000 plate appearances under his belt, he has more experience and thus is closer to becoming someone who could reasonably offer some batting average upside along with the speed.  Conversely, with 1000 PAs under is belt, the sample is getting large enough to where we might not see much growth on his career .249 aveage.  He is hitting .245 this year after a huge hot streak so that tells you just how poorly he was hitting before the streak.

JJ Hardy (BAL, 28) – Not everyone is going to trust Hardy regardless of how he finishes the year.  After back-to-back 20+ HR seasons, he hasn’t lasted more than 115 games in the last two years totaling just 17 home runs in 754 at-bats.  He is finally completely healthy and performing like the 2007-2008 version that averaged 25 bombs a season.  He is on pace for 26 home runs this year along with a .303 batting average that doesn’t appear to be a pure fluke. Crazy how well guys can perform when they are healthy.  He can’t be more than a few bucks in just about every league and he is still on the right side of 30, so I would take a shot on him in a lot of league formats.  I am generally more risk-averse than not, but I have a soft spot for Hardy (no pun intended), I guess.

Wednesday: 03.23.2011

2011 Bold Predictions-Part 1

One of the more exciting things to think about as the season approaches is which players are going to have the break through seasons?  Who are going to be this year’s Carlos Gonzalez, Joey Votto and Jose Bautista or David Price, Jaime Garcia and Ubaldo Jimenez?  For the past few years I have tried to answer that question with “Bold Prediction” columns over at Fanball.  I could’ve sworn I posted at least the 2009 iteration here, too, but I can’t seem to find after an extensive search.

I’m hardly the only one undertaking this task as Ron Shandler and crew have their Longshot Caucus over at BaseballHQ.com and Matthew Berry has his You Heard Me! piece over at his page on ESPN.  I believe he will be releasing that soon and it’s always a fun read.  Both are, in fact.  Hopefully I am able to deliver to that end as well.

In case you don’t remember from previous versions over at Fanball, the bold predictions column isn’t a bunch of aimless predictions, but rather it looks at a player’s whole profile, in the pros and minors, and tries to project out some best case scenarios for them.  These aren’t surefire bets, they are longshots that need a myriad of factors to go right if they are to happen.  You should reasonably expect between 15% and 20% of them to come to fruition.  The point is to get you thinking outside of the box(score) and not focus so much on what we’ve seen, rather entertain what we could see.

I am not going to have the Brady Anderson 50 home run season-type prediction in here because nothing in his profile would’ve told me that was possible so I wouldn’t project it.  Some of these may be “duhs” to you which simply means you’re already looking at possible outcomes beyond what we’ve seen to date.  In the end if there is a prediction you agree with and it causes you to go the extra buck on a guy and outperforms his cost, but doesn’t necessarily meet the exact figure in the prediction, it’s still a win (i.e. I had Gio Gonzalez projected for 175 Ks last year coming off of a season in which he had a near-6.00 ERA.  He finished with 171 and a 3.23 ERA.  If you bought in, you certainly profited significantly).

Some of the other calls from last year include:

  • Shaun Marcum will pick up right where 2008 left off
  • Luis Valbuena will hit 18 HR and steal 18 bases
  • Juan Pierre will steal 70 bases
  • Kelly Johnson will hit 21 HR and .300
  • Manny Ramirez will hit 40 HR
  • Nate Schierholtz will hit .320 with 15 HR
  • Ubaldo Jimenez wins 20 games
  • Billy Wagner will save 40 games (“And might very well be the league’s best closer.”)
  • Mike Stanton will hit 17 HR
  • Mike Jacobs will hit 35 HR
  • Lastings Milledge will hit 20 HR, steal 20 bases
  • Joey Votto will hit 35 HR, drive in 120 runs

That’s a decent sample of wins and losses.  As you can see, some were incredibly far off the mark by October, but you could have envisioned a scenario where they came true and you wouldn’t have have been utterly baffled as to how like you probably were after Ben Zobrist’s 2009 line of .297, 27 HR, 91 RBI, 91 R and 17 SB.  Yes, I highlighted some of the big wins there.  I definitely did not have a 58% success rate as this sample of 12 might lead you to believe.  In fact, I went 18-for-73 yielding a 25% success rate.  Let’s see if we can top that for 2011:

AL East

Baltimore Orioles:

J.J. Hardy hits a career-high 33 home runs – A bum wrist (and other various bumps & bruises) have sapped his power the last two years after a pair of mid-20s home run seasons in Milwaukee back in 2007 and 2008.  He moves to a very hitter-friendly ballpark and he is reportedly finally 100% healthy and clear of the wrist issues.  He is in the midst of his prime and I’m buying the clean bill of health.  He is going very late in fantasy drafts at the most scarce position on the diamond.  If you out on the “studs” at short in an AL-Only, wait on Hardy.

Zach Britton pitches 120+ quality innings at the big leagues – His absurd sinker and devastating slider are major league ready while his changeup is catching up quickly.  He will almost certainly start the season in AAA, but he shouldn’t be there long.  The O’s rotation is hardly stable as it currently stands so once the Super 2 Deadline passes, he should be inserted into the big league rotation where I think he will be an instant success.  “Quality innings” is a bit vague so to clarify, I’m thinking he can net a 3.50ish ERA (give or take .15 for random variance) with 6.5 K/9 and 2.0+ K/BB.  The strikeouts will rise as he gains experience, but he will utilize that sinker to induce a ton of groundballs as he gains his feel for the big leagues.

Nick Markakis finally has the .300-30-100 season – I made this one last year and I’m headed to the well again.  I was only off by 18 home runs and 40 RBIs last year!  Joking aside, he is just too good of a player to be hitting 12 home runs in a season.  A 30-home run season would be seven higher than his previous career high and 10 more than his last three seasons.  He is still at the front end of his prime so don’t rule out an explosion that would shock the narrow-minded.

Jake Fox’s regular season home run total won’t match his Spring Training total… – … because he’s not good.  He has eight as of this writing and even if he doesn’t hit another one this spring, he still won’t top that figure in the 2011 regular season.  Don’t waste your money.

Boston Red Sox:

Jacoby Ellsbury hits .320 with 16 HR – The speed will be there, too, but with a career high of 70 there is nothing that would be all that bold.  If he met this projection, he would be a Carl Crawford-lite.

Jon Lester posts a 2.50-2.75 ERA with 24 wins en route to an AL Cy Young – I had too many wins-based predictions for pitchers last year which was dumb because I’m always beating the “skill doesn’t always translate to wins” drum so I was leaving the projection in the hands of the offenses, defenses and bullpens when I was really trying to comment on the pitcher’s skill.  I included the 24-win mark in Lester’s prediction because I think he has the appropriate backing of offense, defense and bullpen to reward his increasingly excellent skill.

New York Yankees:

Alex Rodriguez hits 52 home runs – It’s hard to really predict anything that can reasonably be considered bold with A-Rod, but he’s 35 years old and has back-to-back 30 home run seasons leading many to believe he is firmly into his decline phase.  There is some skill erosion, but the decline is much smoother with transcendent players like A-Rod and I think he has at least one more MVP-type season in him.  He is a bona fide bargain at a very thin position as he goes mid-to-late second round in many leagues.  The best part about A-Rod, other than the fact that he’s finally healthy again, is that there’s a very high floor so why not invest?

Nick Swisher hits 38 home runs – He’s actually getting better the deeper he goes into his prime and though he hasn’t topped 29 in the last four seasons and 38 would be a career-high, the potential is there especially in that park.  He’s another guy with a high floor having played 150+ games each of the last five seasons.  The batting average isn’t quite the risk that many make it out to be as his .219 season in 2008 is now the clear outlier of his career.

Tampa Bay Rays:

Evan Longoria hits .324-41-133 – No, I’m not among those freaking out about his 11 homer  drop from 2009 to 2010.  After all, his OPS dropped a whopping .010 to .879.  This guy is a superstar and as such he will have some truly excellent seasons in his career.  I am looking at his age 25 in 2011 as the first such season.  All three figures would be career highs and while it wouldn’t necessarily come out of nowhere as he’s a clear first round pick, it would definitely be a profit-laden season.  Some outlets have questioned his mid-first round status, but I think it’s justified even if he “just” repeats 2010 because third base is so lame after the star cut.

James Shields posts a 3.25 ERA – His base skills actually showed significant improvement in 2010 yet his surface stats were the worst of his career because of an atrocious 1.5 home run rate.  He’s not a flyball-heavy pitcher, in fact he’s had a sub-40% flyball rate each of the last three years, yet when someone got a hold of one it was gone.  His skills are just too damn good for a 5.18 ERA or even the 4.14 ERA from 2009. I’m seeing a major course correction.

Toronto Blue Jays:

Ricky Romero shaves nearly a full walk off of his control rate and takes his ERA below 3.00 – I could see the strikeouts rising up above eight per game, but I’m not betting on it just yet as he seems to understand that inducing groundballs is the more efficient way of pitching.  I love that he has the groundball and strikeout in his arsenal.

Travis Snider completes his Adam Lind Path to Stardom – I hope he doesn’t take every step Adam Lind has after Lind’s 2010.  Both had a strong call up, then regressed in their true rookie season and bounced back to average in another half season of play.  Lind followed it up with an explosive 2009 hitting .305 with 35 HR and 114 RBIs.  I’m not sure Snider will hit .305, but he could also top the 35 homers that Lind hit.  I think a big season is in the offing and he’s two years younger than Lind was during his ascension.  Put Snider down for .270 and 38 bombs.  His RBIs will be determined by batting order.

Brandon Morrow improves his walk rate and cuts over a run off of his ERA – With his incredibly electric stuff, Morrow could accelerate his progression with improved command.  Regardless of how much he can improve his walk rate, I think there is a legitimate ceiling on Morrow’s 2011 because the Jays will cap his innings.  I could see the cap ending up somewhere around 175.  In a surprise announcement today, he will start the season on the disabled list with elbow inflammation.  Hopefully this curbs his value a few days before one of the biggest draft/auction weekends of the season.  As I mentioned re: Kevin Slowey yesterday, don’t draft for April.  If anything, take advantage of any inherent discount brought on by his missing a start or maybe two.

Next Up: AL Central

The goal is to put these up throughout the day tomorrow.  I didn’t realize how lengthy they were going to get as I originally intended to go AL/NL in a two-parter.  That would’ve been too long (that’s what she said) so I’m breaking it up by division.  I will also have my Middle Reliever Guide out this week.  I was hoping for today, but again this project expanded a bit more than I expected.