As you are no doubt aware, a venerable group of fantasy baseball
zealots enthusiasts participated recently in the self-titled Ridiculously Early Mock Draft, selecting a range of players to both laud and lambaste by you all. We presented you with the first five rounds last week, and I subsequently looked at the potential for third baseman among (and omitted from) that group. Now that we have rounds six through ten, I’ll present to you a similar analysis of their swifter counterparts to the left, the shortstops.
But first, the official list:
I was about to type that there’s no disputing Troy Tulowitzki as the #1 overall shortstop, but as soon as I did I remember a rather fierce conversation among a good number of you who are going to avoid him, even using a cute little “TMT” nickname for “Two Month Tulo.” But, whatever, you either believe or you don’t. We can move on from that chat.
Looking back on average draft position a season ago, Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez basically don’t move at all, and I find that pretty interesting. Reyes delivered an awfully fine season — fine like wine, not like, say, a Ford Focus. No, he didn’t steal 78 bases, but he stayed (relatively) healthy and met almost every optimistic projection for him in 2012. A move to a much friendlier home park and hitting in of a group of bats that should give him every opportunity to score 100+ runs seems like it might move the needle a little bit on him. But over a Mock Draft Central, he’s going 31st overall, although I don’t know I trust that as far as I can throw it. And being a website, I can’t even really grab it… so, yeah.
Hanley Ramirez had by most accounts a disappointing season, although it seems to have hurt his value not at all. Most appear to be expecting his BABIP to regress resulting in a little better batting average, but instead of 30-30, it looks like most projection systems are thinking more of a 20-20 lock with some potential for more. Starlin Castro jumps about 10 picks from 2012 and seems to represent the old Derek Jeter — a safety pick at a premium position where you can reasonably expect a .300 batting average, double digit home runs, 20+ SB, and solid contributions across runs and RBI.
Here’s where I think things get kind of wacky. I like Ben Zobrist, Ian Desmond, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Jimmy Rollins to varying degrees and wouldn’t mind having any of them as my starting shortstop. I recognize that not all projection systems are created equal, but since we have access to all the Bill James projections (and since he seems almost universally optimistic), let’s take a look at what James thinks about the four headed into 2013:
I understand that Zobrist has some allure because of the multi-positional thing, and who knows it could be that he was drafted as a second baseman here (though unlikely). But taken as a whole, these projections put all four of these guys pretty much in the same classification. Maybe they represent the meat of the second tier of shortstops, and that’s fine — but the point is that there were 27 picks in between them. You might have misgivings about Rollins’ health and you might be bullish on Desmond’s power potential, which is completely fine by me. But this is just to say that if someone grabs Zobrist ahead of you, don’t go kicking your Bichon Frisé across the room, there’s still help available.
And in fact, you don’t need to squint very hard to find help much further down the draft. I’m going to something wholly irritating here, which is to invoke the “MYSTERY PLAYER PROJECTION” in an attempt to illustrate a point. Again, projection system warning here and you don’t need to break out the pitchforks and torches or anything — it’s just a scenario for you to consider. Here are James’ projections for the next four shortstops selected followed by a couple wildcards:
Let’s take Jeter really quickly. Jeter projected out at an ADP of roughly 120 or so last season and he went 84 overall here. His Mock Draft Central ADP puts him at 116, and since the SS seem prevailingly low there, it’s reasonable to think his value is higher coming into 2013. But aside from a handful of runs and a sparkling batting average, you can do better in HR, SB, and RBI elsewhere and in standard 5×5 roto. An argument could be made that you’re better off with Profar, who went 34 picks later — although Profar has no guarantee of a starting job quite yet.
Our mystery players are Josh Rutledge and Alexei Ramirez, both of whom come with a degree of risk, but if you put any stock at all in the projections they hang out in this tier comfortably and yet you could probably have one of them somewhere between the 15th and 18th rounds.
Obviously, there’s a great degree of risk with both as we’ve yet to see what either are capable of over the course of a full season (or even half a season). But there’s a lot to like in both players, and frankly, given where they’re projected to be selected in typical snake drafts — if I’m shut out of one of the top four shortstops, I may just punt until the Rutledge, Segura, Simmons region, which would be damn near the end of most drafts. Bang for your buck, you’ll probably net better counting stats at other positions in those 6th-8th rounds than you will taking a shortstop, and you won’t be facing the kind of black hole at the position that we’ve seen in the past.
I obviously haven’t covered all the SS options, I just wanted to compare and contrast some of what might be available past the first ten rounds. There are other players like Erick Aybar, Mike Aviles, and JJ Hardy that a case could be made for, among others. Come up with a grand plan at shortstop with projections that you’re reasonably comfortable with and you should be able to navigate the draft without panic, because there’s deeper talent here than a cursory glance reveals.