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.

12 Responses to “Is Ben Zobrist Still Underrated?”

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  1. scarpgarph says:

    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.

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  2. Dan says:

    FWIW (nothing), I’m using his 2008 card in the online Strat-o-matic game, and he’s killing me.

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  3. Dingo says:

    It seems a bit premature to be using the fan projections to predict the value of players, since we don’t yet know how well they perform relative to other projection systems. For Zobrist, the fans expect him to post a .322 BABIP, not much lower than his .330 BABIP last year, and well above his career BABIP of .284. Granted, Zobrist does seem to have taken a big step forward in his offensive abilities, so one shouldn’t rely heavily on his career stats to predict future performance. Nevertheless, I still think it’s best to start with Chone’s more conservative projection of .268/.368/.463, 18 HR, 10 SB, 68 R, 60 RBI (or, if you pro-rate the counting stats to 600 PA: 21 HR, 12 SB, 81 R, 71 RBI). That’s about on par with what Scutaro produced last year.

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    • I agree. What are the fan projections doing on this page. You could have at least used CHONE.

      However, I’d say that either is meaningless at this point since Zobrist’s career path took such a severe turn in 2008. Clearly he figured something out when he decided to just start swinging harder. Something is different about that guy in the last two years and statistical regression isn’t going to take that into account.

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  4. Jimbo says:

    “It seems a bit premature to be using the fan projections to predict the value of players, since we don’t yet know how well they perform relative to other projection systems.”

    Almost all the posts regarding fan projections use proper context IMO. This IS the site they originate from, so it isn’t like Yahoo player rankings are passing them off as ultimate truth.

    The alternative people seem to be suggesting is to project all these players, which is a good amount of work, then set them aside until the end of the season. But even one season isn’t going to be definitive is it? ;-)

    I can get plenty of projections elsewhere, yet I come here *because of* the fan involvement. I don’t see anything wrong with a 2010 assessment of Zobrist coming from fan projections…it is new and fun and, in the end, just a game.

    People can use them a lot, a little, or not at all. But anyone that thinks they’re being touted as anything close to established is seeing something I don’t.

    Nice post Zach.

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    • Dingo says:

      I was just saying that if one is trying to figure out where to draft a player in 2010, one should try to sample a range of projections and especially be cautious about using the most optimistic ones. I didn’t realize that the CHONE projections weren’t posted on fangraphs until after Zach wrote this piece, but my point still stands — the fan projections, while interesting and unique, currently appear to be more optimistic than projection systems with a more proven track record.

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      • Jimbo says:

        And I was just saying that if your position on fan projections is completely accurate, people still should be aware of their newness and can accept or reject them. But having them cited here, where the readers are part of the equation, seems perfectly reasonable to me.

        The only risk you point out that I’d agree with is IF people come here ignorant of what the fan projections are and then base their draft on them. Anyone who’d do that though isn’t very bright and I don’t think the authors should alter their approach solely to protect such individuals.

        Sorry, I’m sounding like a douchebag and didn’t intend to pick a fight. It just bothers me at times when people nitpick here when the information, insight, and data is completely free. ;-)

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      • Dingo says:

        Thanks for clarifying your position. What you interpreted as nitpicking I meant to be contributing to the debate. My mistake was only in assuming that Zach chose the more optimistic fan projections rather than CHONE projections, when in fact CHONE hadn’t been posted yet.

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  5. MDS says:

    doesnt Chone use the past 4 years to project the next seasons stats? because of the work Zobrist did on his swing, his 3 years before last shouldnt have much weight. I love me some Zobrist

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  6. BTV says:

    Watching him play 19 games in the AL East shows me that Zobrist is going to hit 30 Home Runs..

    How many ABs did he have last year?…

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    • BTV says:

      ..550 or so abs..and I not flying to Atlantic City to Double Down on my prediction of 30…but the bat is quick through the zone..hopefully we have stats on that soon…(and if we do please link)

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  7. Chuck says:

    First things first. Ben Zobrist “only” had 501 ABs not including the 97 BBs. His .400+ OBP is not something you teach, you either have it or you don”t. Plate discipline tells me alot about a players’ ability to see pitches and understand hitting. He rotated thru numerous positions last year, this year he’ll have 2B all to himself. Hopefully, stability in his day to day prep should help. He hits in a pretty good D’Ray offensive lineup. The Trop seems like a fairly neutral hitters park. At this point in my draft prep I’m anticipating keeping him in favor of other such stars as Reynolds, Hamilton, BJ & Werth. Position scarcity counts for something in my book. I’ll go out on a limb and call him my “poor man’s Chase Utley”

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