It proved to be paradoxical year for Ben Zobrist, who has been exceedingly popular in fantasy leagues in recent years due to his under-the-radar skills and positional flexibility. The 32-year-old experienced his worst offensive performance (.334 wOBA) since 2010, yet his fantasy value was arguably higher this season than it was a year ago, in which he posted a .365 wOBA.
This strange improvement wasn’t due to an unexpected increase in stolen bases or RBI, which would be similarly absent from his wOBA. Instead, Zobrist proved more valuable this year in fantasy circles than in 2012 because the overall production from shortstop experienced a sharp decline. He was the tenth-ranked shortstop in ESPN leagues in 2012, but the ninth-ranked shortstop this year. While his overall numbers took a nosedive, his relational value amongst shortstops actually increased, which is an overarching statement that’s interesting on its own.
Now, part of that was due to the injuries to guys like Jose Reyes and Derek Jeter, as well as an albatross season by Starlin Castro, so perhaps fantasy owners should expect the overall performance from shortstops to increase next season. However, the real object of inquiry in this article seeks to determine why Ben Zobrist experienced such a sharp decline in production and whether that decrease can be expected to carry into the 2014 season. Owners should keep in mind that Reyes and Jeter will return — and will likely demand a lot of attention on draft day — but Zobrist could be a sly under-the-radar pickup if he can reasonably be expected to rebound from his uncharacteristic season.
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