Just a week ago, we were looking at players I ranked differently from others or disagreed with commenters on for the month of June. Well, just like that it’s July, and it’s time for a new batch of shortstop rankings. These ones aren’t any more important than any other month, but they do provide an interesting look because they come right at the mid-way point of the baseball season.
Before we look ahead, however, I want to take a brief moment to look back. Can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been, and all that.
Just as a refresher on how much things can change over half a season – and yes, randomly chosen endpoints at the midway are not mathematically sound, but they matter psychologically for fantasy players – here are the top-15 shortstops before and after July 1 from last season (courtesy BaseballMonster):
|To June 30||Player||AVG||HR||SB||RBI||R||–||From July 1||Player||AVG||HR||SB||RBI||R|
|1||Jean Segura||0.327||11||24||32||46||–||1||Hanley Ramirez||0.332||14||6||39||47|
|2||Troy Tulowitzki||0.347||16||0||51||41||–||2||Elvid Andrus||0.301||4||24||39||48|
|3||Everth Cabrera||0.305||4||31||24||37||–||3||Martin Prado||0.320||8||2||56||38|
|4||Ian Desmond||0.276||15||8||48||36||–||4||Jose Reyes||0.290||8||10||29||49|
|5||Ben Zobrist||0.273||5||5||43||44||–||5||Ian Desmond||0.285||5||13||32||41|
|6||J.J. Hardy||0.266||15||1||46||32||–||6||Brian Dozier||0.255||11||8||40||40|
|7||Jhonny Peralta||0.314||7||2||36||35||–||7||Jed Lowrie||0.272||10||0||41||43|
|8||Jed Lowrie||0.309||5||1||34||37||–||8||Alexei Ramirez||0.288||5||12||31||36|
|9||Elvis Andrus||0.243||17||28||42||–||9||Brad Miller||0.269||8||3||35||40|
|10||Alexei Ramirez||0.280||1||18||17||32||–||10||Andrelton Simmons||0.260||11||1||36||35|
|11||Asrdubal Cabrera||0.268||6||5||26||35||–||11||Stephen Drew||0.278||8||4||36||30|
|12||Zack Cozart||0.244||7||0||31||42||–||12||Ben Zobrist||0.275||7||6||27||33|
|13||Mike Aviles||0.258||5||6||26||33||–||13||J.J. Hardy||0.263||10||1||31||34|
|14||Jimmy Rollins||0.263||4||8||28||31||–||14||Troy Tulowitzki||0.272||9||1||31||31|
|15||Marco Scutaro||0.319||2||0||18||35||–||15||Erick Aybar||0.261||3||8||23||43|
What you’ll notice is that only one name stayed in the top-five, only four stayed in the top-10 and only seven stayed in the top-15. That’s not to say heavy turnover is a certainty, but it does speak to the need to avoid creating mental anchors to performance to date.
For a similar look, here are the top-15 at the position so far and their rest-of-season Steamer projections, which we know to be pretty damn accurate, historically:
|To June 30||Player||AVG||HR||SB||RBI||R||Steamer ROS||AVG||HR||SB||RBI||R|
Let’s dive in, shall we.
“Why do you call me good. No one is good – except Troy Tulowitzki alone.”
I know there are still some who can’t invest in Alexei Ramirez, and that’s fine, I guess. But he’s been a top-11 shortstop in four consecutive half-seasons, little stands out to scream regression beyond what’s still a completely acceptable production level and, for that reason, I’m willing to draw the line beneath him instead of some of the riskier names in the tier below.
Believe in Gordon. Just do it. I said it from the hop this year and continue to stand by the fact that he’s not a sell-high, because nobody is going to pay an expectant price, anyway. He may not finish with 80 steals and hit .300, but the changes to his discipline profile have him on base more and putting more balls in play, which is all he needs to retain value.
I had Jimmy Rollins a tier higher last time around and I figure I should explain the drop (although I also split six tiers into seven, which spreads some names out). Rollins is still having a strong bounce-back season, bumping his wRC+ back to average, where he’s more or less sat in his “good” fantasy years. For whatever reason, though, his walks disappeared in June and his isolated slugging dropped appreciably, thanks in part to a dip in line drive rate that coincided with a decline in HR/FB rate and an upswing in infield fly rate. Using month splits to find a trend is tricky business in one paragraph, but let’s just say his status warrants watching closely.
J.J. Hardy will, I suppose, hit another home run at some point. BREAKING: As I write this, Hardy just went yak. Things are looking up! I wrote about his mysterious drop in power a few weeks back, and he’s since hit two balls out, so maybe if I just keep writing about him, he’ll be great. In reality, projection systems just don’t see his power completely disappearing like it has, and while they’re not privy to possible explanations like an early-season neck issue, they are privy to the effects of aging and variance. The bet here, by me and the systems, is that the early-season outage is at least in part due to variance, and the HR/FB will be higher than two percent in short order.
It’s looking like Danny Santana now has a path to playing time the rest of the way, at least in more than a 50-50 share, which would mean 200-plus plate appearances. That could be enough for him to sniff double-digit steals in the second half, which itself would have value this low, even if his average didn’t project as one that won’t sink you (.265-ish). There’s only mild pop in the bat, and he’s not the 129 wRC+ guy he’s been so far, but he’s a decent speed gamble.
If you’re reaching this far, Rutledge is the obvious play. His playing time is tenuous but he’s easily the most likely of this group or any other shortstop available to hit for power, add steals and make a positive difference. I invested earlier and it hasn’t paid off as I’d hoped, but he does have 32 plate appearances in the past two weeks as the Rockies continue to judge whether Rutledge’s offense or Charlie Culberson’s defense is the better play.
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