Is Ben Zobrist Still Underrated?

One of 2009’s biggest surprises, Ben Zobrist was an afterthought and hardly drafted before the year began. Now, he is in everyone’s mind and has moved up the rankings fast. Most players that breakout the year before and are underrated become overrated almost overnight. Using ADP data provided by Mock Draft Central, we can easily take a look at where Zobrist is going, and whether he is over/under/correctly valued going into 2010.

At the time that I am writing this, on average, Zobrist is currently the 8th second baseman off the board and is being drafted at around pick number 60. The second baseman being drafted before him (Aaron Hill) is taken 12 picks ahead of Zobrist, and the second baseman after him (Dan Uggla) goes a whopping 27 picks later.

Because he was a utility man in 2009, Zobrist should also be available as an outfielder in all leagues. Currently, he is the 16th outfielder off the board, sandwiched between Curtis Granderson (56) and teammate B.J. Upton (60). Even better, Zobrist started 6 games at shortstop and played a total of 13 games at that position, giving him extra eligibility in some leagues (like Yahoo!) that may carry over into the 2010 season. If that is the case, Zobrist would be the sixth SS off the board, after Derek Jeter (51) and teammate Jason Bartlett (104).

It’s hard to put a price on a player’s ability to play two, and possibly three positions and provide a solid offensive return. Because we are talking about Zobrist, and this is FanGraphs, I suppose we need to talk some stats. Fine. Below are Zobrist’s stats from 2008 and 2009, along with the Fan Projections for 2010.

2008: .253/.339/.505, 12 HR, 3 SB, 32 R, 30 RBI, .255 BABIP, .311 xBABIP
2009: .297/.405/.543, 27 HR, 17 SB, 91 R, 91 RBI, .330 BABIP, .327 xBABIP
2010: .282/.378/.470, 22 HR, 14 SB, 94 R, 107 RBI

Fans are expecting a drop-off in power and steals, and a decrease in batting average. Not good. However, those numbers still aren’t terrible, and better than most second baseman on the market. For a shortstop, I like a little more speed and a higher average, but you can always compensate at other positions. As an outfielder, the numbers aren’t great. The RBI’s and runs are very good, but I’d rather play him at an infield position.

Overall, I’d be willing to take Zobrist in the middle round six, a little after where he is projected to go. For once, a breakout player doesn’t seem to be too overvalued going into drafts. Zobrist isn’t underrated anymore, and you’ll have to pay market value for his services on your fantasy team.

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Zach is the creator and co-author of RotoGraphs' Roto Riteup series, and RotoGraphs' second-longest tenured writer. You can follow him on twitter.

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Great read, Zach!

Personally, I was lucky to have been able to acquire Zobrist’s services early on in the season, but unfortunately dealt him away during the playoff push for Kinsler.