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Jhonny Peralta and Second Tier SS

The shortstop position in fantasy baseball as we head towards the 2009 season has three players in the top tier and around 10 players fighting for position in the second tier. One of the interesting players is Indians shortstop Jhonny Peralta. In three of the past four years, Peralta has delivered good numbers in home runs, runs and RBIs. Last year he led all shortstops in RBIs and finished third in both runs and HRs. Unfortunately, he contributes nothing in steals and his average has not been a plus since 2005.

Last year, Peralta’s numbers benefited by him putting more balls in play. Both his BB% and SO% decreased as he set career highs in five plate discipline metrics. He had 17 more plate appearances than 2007 but 51 more balls where he made contact. Peralta’s BABIP was his lowest since becoming a full-time player in 2005 but he posted his second-best fantasy season, going .276-23-89-104-3.

A switch in the batting order also helped Peralta’s 2008 numbers. Last year he spent much of the year in the cleanup spot after hitting fifth, sixth or seventh most of the year in 2007. As the Indians did not add a slugger in the off-season, Peralta still figures to hit in the heart of the order, which should keep his RBI numbers high.

Peralta should be a pretty good bet to match last year’s numbers. What is harder to say is where fantasy owners should target him. One ADP report has him at #83, which is at the end of the seventh round. Another report has him at #117, which is in the middle of the 10th round. This is a pretty big discrepancy, but perfectly reasonable given how bunched up the second tier of shortstops actually are.

One of the keys to being a successful fantasy player is understanding the ebb and flow of your draft. Even if you rank Peralta as the fourth-best shortstop in fantasy, is there any reason to draft him in the seventh round if J.J. Hardy, Troy Tulowitzki, Michael Young, Stephen Drew and Derek Jeter are all still available?

Peralta should put up good fantasy numbers once again in 2009. But he is just one of many middle-class options at shortstop. You should feel good if you wind up with Peralta as your starting shortstop. Just remember not to reach or overpay for the privilege.