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Draft Strategy: Mixed League - Shortstop
| Monday February 8th, 2010
Sticking to your guns on draft day
Sticking to your guns on draft day
Hanley Ramirez
If you miss Han-Ram in your draft, don't worry (AP)

It's a challenge to find ten players even worthy of a roster spot at the shortstop position in a mixed league this year. If you don't grab one early, you're liable to be debating between such fantasy luminaries as Erick Aybar, J.J. Hardy, Elvis Andrus, and Jhonny Peralta during the latter half of your draft.

So what should you do? First, if you can, take Hanley Ramirez. Outside of 1B Albert Pujols, there isn't a player I'd rather have this season. I'd gladly take him ahead of 3B Alex Rodriguez or 2B Chase Utley if I have the second pick.

If that doesn't work out, take Troy Tulowitzki in the second round. His current ADP is 17, but I would seriously consider drafting him ahead of 1B Miguel Cabrera, 3B Evan Longoria, 1B Ryan Howard, 1B Mark Teixeria, C Joe Mauer, and 2B Ian Kinsler, all of whom are currently being drafted (on average) ahead of him. Look for 100 runs, 25-30 homers, 90 RBI, 10 steals, and a .300 batting average from Tulo this season.

Ok, so you missed out on both of those two, now what? The next two shortstops off the board are Jimmy Rollins and Jose Reyes. Both disappointed last year, but look like solid bounce back candidates for 2010. Additionally, after these two, there is a big drop in talent.

Jimmy Rollins had a terrible BABIP last year, and it is universally expected that he'll see a batting average improvement from last year's .250. The question is: how much? If you think he can return to the .280-.285 range, he's a good value at pick 20 because the improved average (and therefore OBP) will put him in a position to steal more bases and score more runs.

To me, Jose Reyes looks like an even better pick than Rollins. He'll likely steal more bases and have a higher batting average, though he won't be able to match Rollins in the other stats, particularly RBI in light of how much better the lower half of the Phillies' lineup is in comparison to the Mets (the lower half of the lineup are the players likely to be on base when Rollins/Reyes come to the plate). That said, Reyes is a huge injury risk after last year, so proceed at your own discretion.

Buyer Beware

Now that you've missed the top four shortstops, you've got to be careful because I think three of the next four guys off the board are going to be big busts this year.

Coming off his best season in recent memory, drafters are taking Derek Jeter in the 4th round. Here are some of Jeter's projected stats for 2010: (AVG/HR/RBI/R/SB) .300/15/60/95/15. These are nice numbers, but there's a chance he's not leading off any more (with Curtis Granderson in town), and the man is not getting any younger. I recognize that he stole 30 bases last year, but he stole 15 or less in 3 of the preceding 4 years. Additionally, he hasn't cracked the 20 homer mark since 2004 and you have to remember that Yankees in general are overrated during drafts due to their high level of exposure.

After Jeter there's a big gap in drafts before Jason Bartlett comes off the board in the 9th round. Like Ben Zobrist, Bartlett was on a lot of fantasy championship-winning squads last year, producing a .320/14/90/66/30 campaign. Unfortunately, I think he takes a step back across the board. Expect something closer to .280/8/50/65/20 for 2010, which is what you can expect from Alcides Escobar, who is going in the 22nd round.

Former bonus baby Stephen Drew is another sure-to-disappoint shortstop. A lot people thought he'd build on 2008's .291 average, 21 homers, and 44 doubles in 2009, but instead Drew only played in 135 games, batting .261 with 12 homers and 29 doubles. While he'll be just 26 on opening day and still has some room to grow, it looks like his power ceiling isn't what scouts foresaw when he was coming out of Florida State. Drew is a very useful real world baseball player, as he's a legitimate shortstop who does a lot of things adequately. Unfortunately, he doesn't do anything exceptionally well, and with his current ADP (110), he looks like a bust to me. Given the choice I'd much rather draft SP Ubaldo Jiminez, SP John Lackey, C Matt Wieters, or SP Ricky Nolasco, all of whom are right around his ADP.

True Value

As I mentioned here, I really like Asdrubal Cabrera this year and think he'll outperform Jeter. They're going to have virtually identical seasons, but one is going in the 4th round, and the other in the 14th. It's smarter to forgo Jeter's star power and the extra runs for the 10 rounds of ADP.

Two other guys who look like good value plays are Alexei Ramirez and Yunel Escobar. After an awful start last season, Ramirez finished the year with a very useful line of .277/15/68/71/14. While he's still a free-swinger, his walk rate improved dramatically last year, which leads me to believe he should hit in the 2-hole behind Juan Pierre and notch more stolen bases and runs in 2010. Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA projection sees a power break out for him, predicting 26 homers and a .463 slugging percentage. You've got to remember that despite being 27, this guy never played a game in the minors (because he defected from Cuba), so he's still figuring out major league pitching. Though I'm not wild about him this year, he's being drafted right in between Jason Bartlett and Stephen Drew, and is likely to out-produce those two in all five categories in 2010.

Fellow Cuban national Yunel Escobar is another great value play this season. Entrenched at short for the Braves, Escobar's solid OBP should put him in the leadoff spot for an Atlanta lineup that looks solid. Getting 100 runs and 80 RBI aren't out of the range of possibilities. He's a career .301 hitter who has settled in as a 10-15 homer guy. As a bonus, he's currently being drafted in the 14th round, right behind Rafael Furcal and Miguel Tejada, neither of whom look like they'll do much this year. Like Asdrubal Cabrera, Escobar is going to wind up on a number of my teams this season.

Looking for some deep league plays? All of these guys have an ADP over 200, and could provide solid value in 2010: Ryan Theriot, Erick Aybar, J.J. Hardy, Alcides Escobar, and Everth Cabrera (steals only). None of these guys will win your league, but you're better off with one of them than Miguel Tejada, Rafael Furcal, or Jhonny Peralta at their current ADPs.

Shortstop is a minefield this year, and positional scarcity is becoming such a well-known idea that its usefulness is starting be overvalued. Don't fall into the trap and feel you have to grab a shortstop early; stick to your guns and find value at the position.