Asdrubal Cabrera was a popular regression candidate around these parts entering last season. Prior to 2011, Cabrera was a middle-of-the-road fantasy shortstop. He hit for a decent average, popped a handful of home runs and stole a fair amount of bases. He wasn’t going to kill you at the position, but if you ended up with Cabrera, it was obvious you waited to draft a shortstop. His 25 home run breakout altered that perception. With that, of course, came questions of whether it was a fluke. And though Cabrera did see some regression in the home run category, a fair amount of the strides he made in 2011 stuck.
Even the more powerful Cabrera struggled in the shortstop ranks. Cabrera was the 14 best shortstop last season using Zach Sanders’ ottoneu ranks. His outlook for next season looks rosier, but it’s not based on his power. Six players ahead of Cabrera are likely to lose shortstop eligibility next season, at least in some leagues. Hanley Ramirez, Ben Zobrist, Kyle Seager, Martin Prado, Marco Scutaro and Danny Espinosa all predominantly played a position other than short last year. If we’re really ranking shortstops for next season, that puts Cabrera as a the eighth best option.
That’s hardly a big upgrade based on where Cabrera has been drafted in the past. Even with his power increase, he was still a back-end shortstop in shallow leagues. And, again, he’s probably likely to be a guy that won’t kill you at the position.
At the same time, Cabrera’s ability to hit home runs does give him a leg up on some of his competition. If we remove the six players that won’t qualify at short next year, only four shortstops were able to hit as many home runs as Cabrera last year. The good thing for Cabrera’s value is that all of those players could struggle next season. Jimmy Rollins remained the top option at short last season, but he’s clearly trending down. He’ll be entering his age-34 season next year, and may not be able to keep up this level of play much longer. Ian Desmond actually led all shortstops with 25 home runs, but, like Cabrera, there’s some question as to whether he can retain those gains. JJ Hardy and Jed Lowrie provide power, but fail to contribute in any other category. Those concerns actually make Cabrera one of the more well-rounded power hitting shortstops.
The problem here, is that Cabrera isn’t actually getting better, he’s just winning a war of attrition. Shortstop is a weak fantasy position, and there are few players capable of contributing in every category. Cabrera’s ability to provide power at an otherwise weak position is useful, but it probably doesn’t change the way fantasy owners should value him going forward. But given the state of the position, Cabrera’s skill set is still useful in shallow leagues. He’ll likely enter next season ranked as the 8-10 best option at his position. That really doesn’t alter his outlook all that much. If you want a source of cheap power at an otherwise weak position, Cabrera could be your guy. His skills may have changed, but his outlook has not. There’s no need to overpay for average production at a position.