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Shortstops: Surprises and Disappointments

Let’s take a look at some early season surprises and disappointments at the shortstop position:

Surprises:

Derek Jeter

Anyone that had Jeter hitting .411 through 16 games raise your hand. Now put your hand down because you’re a liar. After two “down” seasons he’s hitting like its 1999 again. He has nine multi-hit games He already has four home runs. He hit six all of last year. It’s not likely he’ll be able to keep up this good of a pace considering his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is currently over .400. He’s swinging at more pitches inside and outside of the zone but making the same amount of contact he always has. According to Mock Draft Central he was the eighth shortstop taken on average. If he can maintain anything close to this line, say .310/.360/.400 with 15 homers and 15 steals for the season he’ll easily eclipse that pre-season ranking.

Emilio Bonifacio

Bonifacio’s good production isn’t really a surprise. He showed last year that he was capable of having a productive season, but the acquisition of Jose Reyes lead to uncertainty about the amount of playing time he’d receive. With shortstop, third and second base filled he was pushed to the outfield where he’s won the starting centerfield position, at least for now. He already has nine steals in 16 games, but no extra base hits. He’ll never have much of a slugging percentage, but to see his Isolated Slugging (ISO) at .000 is amusing to look at. Like last season he’s been able to maintain a good average thanks to a high (.386) BABIP. He’s been keeping the ball out of the air again (21.1% FB rate), allowing him to maximize his speed. With consistent playing time he should be able to steal 35+ bases again unless his bat completely disappears.

Disappointment:

Alexei Ramirez

Having a career high strikeout rate and career low walk rate are great things for a pitcher. They’re far less great when you’re a hitter. That’s what Ramirez has done so far this season. He’s normally a lock for ~15 home runs, ~70 runs batted in and ~75 runs scored, and still may very well reach those totals. So far, though, he’s been awful. His one home run and four RBI seem out of place for someone that plays his games in hitter friendly US Cellular Field. That’s not out of the ordinary for him, though. His career wOBA for March/April is .254. The lowest it is in any other month is .315.  His issues look to stem from a lack of patience. He’s swinging at more pitches outside the zone (39.0%) and more pitches period (53.2) than at any point since his rookie season. That’s something to keep an eye on going forward.

Jhonny Peralta

Coming off a 21 home run season, a bit more was expected of the pudgy shortstop. Through 15 games he has zero home runs and five runs batted in, though he does have seven doubles. His BABIP is .326 but his OBP is .298 thanks to a 5.3% walk rate. He’s a better hitter than that. Even in his worst year his walk rate was above seven percent. He’ll need his power to return, though, if he’s going to have much fantasy value. He doesn’t steal bases so he relies heavily on extra base hits to keep his head afloat. A 15 homer, 75 RBI campaign may be more realistic than the 21/86 he put up last season. If he struggles a little while longer he could turn into a nice buy-low candidate if a frustrated owner makes a rash decision.