Ben Zobrist Slips Down the Rankings

Ben Zobrist has been pretty freaking awesome over the last five seasons, putting up over 29 WAR and playing all over the field for the Tampa Bay Rays. Heading into the 2013 season, Zobrist was pretty consistently one of the best fantasy second baseman when receiving full-time ABs.

To wit, Zobrist’s stats from 2009-2012, including his average line and his 2013 results.

Zobrist

Despite his batting average hitting its highest mark since his 2009 explosion onto the baseball scene, 2013 was not a studly year for the 32-year-old. Zobrist hit fewer homers than he had the past two seasons, as well as stole the fewest bases in his full-time career. Zobrist even lost 11 runs scored and a few RBI compared to 2012, making his overall line more than a bit disappointing.

Coming in at 12th in the second base rankings, Zobrist was not a treasure, but still someone you had to start every week. As someone who owned Zobrist for the 2013 campaign, I can confirm that even with a decent overall stat line, it never felt great to constantly plug him into the lineup despite a lack of available options.

Was Zobrist’s decline a factor of his age? A slight blip on the radar? Was it real life, or just fantasy? Well, we really don’t know for sure, but at least we can provide some sort of hypothesis: a little bit of both.

Zobrist is past the typical physical prime for athletes, so it’s not a surprise to see him slow down a little and hit fewer spheres out of the yard, but dropping about 80 ISO points in his early-30s is a bit more than just a typical decline.

Perhaps Zobrist’s SB drop can be explained away, as well. Zobrist only stole 14 bags on 23 tries in 2012, so the Rays may have opted to keep him from running as often in 2013. Plus, with James Loney hitting well, Evan Longoria in the lineup, and Wil Myers added to the squad, the team may have decided that running as often wasn’t worth the risk.

In any case, it feels likely that Zobrist will still be a worthwhile fantasy option next year. Steamer’s early projections put him at .268/16/12 with 77 runs and 71 RBI, which should continue to make him a starter in most leagues, and a definite starter in OBP formats.

With Wil Myers now in the fold, Zobrist is going to be doing much of his work in the middle infield, but there’s still a chance that injuries and platoons will merit the switch-hitter continuing to maintain outfield eligibility for the next few seasons.



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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.



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Matt
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Matt

In a lot of leagues he will also be eligible at SS, which makes him much more valuable.

Whydidilose
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Whydidilose

I could be wrong, but I think SS are going to be easier to find than the same player at 2B.

There look to be a lot of quality SS and not as many 2B.

Flip Side
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Flip Side

I think that gives even more value to Zobrist. With him, you can swing a trade or keen waiver wire pick-up at either middle infield positions, which are notoriously difficult to fill with anyone worthwhile mid-season.

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