- FanGraphs Fantasy Baseball - http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy -

Shortstop Risers and Fallers: Lowrie, Izturis, Rollins, Jeter

Going into the season I noted just how shallow the shortstop position was. Behind Tulowitzki and Ramirez, the cupboard was barely stocked with anything useful.  Over the past two weeks we’ve seen some surprise players start to hit far above expectations and make a name for themselves. Is their success sustainable? Probably not in most cases, but in the fantasy world we ride hot streaks as far as we can. At the same time there have been more heralded shortstops who have struggled to get things going. For the first time this season lets take a look at the Risers and Fallers at shortstop

Risers

Jed Lowrie 

Lowrie was everyone’s favorite sleeper coming into the season due to his excellent second half of 2010 and the fact that Marco Scutaro just isn’t that good. It was expected Lowrie would start stealing at bats at some point, and that has come sooner rather than later. He’s currently the 9th ranked player in Yahoo! leagues and is somehow owned in only 54% of leagues. His numbers over the past two weeks can be matched by only Troy Tulowitzki: .531 AVG, 3 HR, 11 RBI, 9 R. Is he going to maintain his 1.231 OPS for the season? Of course not. Could he keep it above .800? Only three shortstops had an OPS above .800 last season. That could be doable for Lowrie

Maicer Izturis

Izturis has played in the majors for parts of eight seasons now, but has seen action in more than 100 games only three times, and never more than 114. In those seasons he’s hit .293, .389, .300 and gotten on base at above a .350 clip while playing above average defense. He doesn’t have a serious platoon split either. With Brandon Wood being let go the door should be wide open for Izturis to get regular playing time. He’s already hit two home runs and stolen three bases, and at this rate is on pace to crush his three home runs and seven steals in 238 plate appearances last season. Over the past two weeks he’s hitting .409 with 1 HR, 6 RBI, 1SB and 6 R. Our ZiPS projections for the rest of the season have him hitting .305 with 7 HR, 50 RBI and 12 SB in 400 PA. That’s good production for very little cost, especially from a shallow position.

Fallers

Jimmy Rollins

The Philadelphia offense is struggling as a whole without Chase Utley, but Rollins has been one of the worst offenders of late. In his last 50 at bats he has 11 hits and has no homers, and only one run batted in on the season. We look at his season so far as a disappointment, but that was based off of the notion that he was fully recovered from an injury that limited him to just 88 games last year. His current .261/.320/.319 line isn’t far off his .243/.320/.374 line from last season. His FB% is at 25%, lower than it’s ever been, while his GB% is at 53.3% – it’s highest. Those two numbers need to correct themselves if he’s going to regain his MVP form.

Derek Jeter 

Cap’n Jeets was ranked in our second tier of shortstops at the outset, but has continued the poor play of last season that caused such the kerfuffle. He’s obviously not as bad as his triple slash of .219/.282/.234 would suggest, but in 71 plate appearances he’s smacked just one extra base hit. His contact rate is right around his career average and his K% is way down, but he has a GB/GB ratio of 5.38 (!), which is nearly double his career average. Jeter has never been one to hit many fly balls, but when you’re hitting nearly 73% of pitches on the ground, that’s a problem that not even the fastest hitters in baseball could overcome. He still plays in a good lineup located in a good hitter’s park, but so far he’s been slightly more valuable than 0% owned Luis Rodriguez. Not good.