In each of the past four years, Ben Zobrist has hit 20 home runs or stolen 20 bases, but it is rather doubtful that he reaches either of those marks this season. At age 32, it is reasonable to ask whether Ben Zobrist is starting to hit his decline phase, which is important to consider in dynasty and keeper leagues.
He is making more contact than he has in his career thanks to lower walk and strikeout rates, but his BABIP remains .294 which is consistent with his .296 of last season and his ISO has shot down to .114 – on par with his relatively powerless 2010 campaign. The good part about owning Zobrist that year was that he at least stole 24 bags, but he is on pace to steal just over 10 this year and he still only has five home runs.
I expect Zobrist’s home runs to improve in the second half, as his 4.6% HR/FB rate is oddly low. Even so, there is a chance that he is just losing his power as he ages and that it may not return. Getting a late start to a career hurts the longevity of one’s peak, and I am starting to believe that we may be on the tail end of Zobrist’s.
He has long been one of my favorite players for a number of reasons, but ZiPS has him hitting just .260/.356/.423 for the rest of the year with seven homers and seven steals. While you can still plug Zobrist into a number of relatively weak hitting positions and be satisfied with the results, the days of banking on production in most standard categories look like they are in the past.
At this point, the value in Zobrist is that he is contributing in R and RBI and isn’t killing you anywhere else. In the league I have him, which includes SLG, he is really starting to hurt me which I never expected in the beginning of the season. Even though I start him at SS, I am considering trading for an SS and making Zobrist more of a fill in rather than a weekly starter.
The other route is to move Zobrist, as his name value and positional flexibility may carry more weight than his actual performance going forward. It is definitely not certain that this is the case, but if you are hurting at the position you are starting Zobrist it could be wise to capitalize on his name (how did he make the All Star game?) and get some value back. At absolute worst, it seems to be time to start creating some back up plans regarding Zobrist.
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