Pod’s Picks June Update: Shortstop

Today we continue to move along with my updated Pod’s Picks, comparing my rank versus the other three RotoGraphers. We’re now up to the shortstops, of which the consensus rankings published two weeks ago can be found here. I’ll generally only consider those shortstops that I ranked within the top 20 for the bullish category and those the rest of the crew ranked in the top 20 for the bearish category.


Stephen Drew

My Rank: 16 | Their Rank: 25

Frankly, this one surprises me. I am no Stephen Drew fan and never was for fantasy purposes. I’m not sure what the reasoning behind such a poor ranking was by the rest of the crew, but perhaps it’s a playing time thing. With Xander Bogaerts, Brock Holt and an eventually returning Will Middlebrooks, the Red Sox have enough depth on the left side of the infield to bury Drew if he doesn’t hit. We know that for the time being he’s strictly a platoon player against right-handers. That’s the pessimistic view I presume.

But the team didn’t sign him just to overreact to a tiny sample and bench him after a slow start. He’s got some power and is hitting in a strong lineup, while he’s willing to steal the odd base or two. The escalating strikeout rate is obviously a concern, but he’s not actually swinging and missing more frequently. He’s simply not swinging as often in the first place, which did boost his walk rate the last two seasons. There’s not a whole lot of upside or excitement here, but I think he’s basically replacement level in 12-team mixed leagues, which is precisely what a rank of 16 reflects.

J.J. Hardy

My Rank: 12 | Their Rank: 16

Obviously, Hardy’s surprising complete lack of power in the early going has caused my fellow rankers to become less optimistic about his rest of season performance. And the concern is legitimate as his batted ball distance has fallen to just about 269 feet, after sitting above 280 feet for the past three seasons. But still, we’re less than halfway through the season and power takes a while to stabilize. There have been no whispers of an injury, so I’m betting that his long history of excellent power production means more than a couple of months with just a lone homer. I should also note that Hardy is on pace for a career high in doubles, so it’s not as if he’s just hitting a bunch of weak singles.


Alcides Escobar

My Rank: 21 | Their Rank: 12

Escobar’s stolen base attempts are back up again after he swiped just 22 last year, even though he wasn’t caught once. That’s the good news. But, it’s hard to believe he’s anymore than a one-category contributor. His BABIP has jumped all over the place throughout his career and his current .326 mark would represent the second highest of his career. One the one hand, it’s earned given his 25% line drive rate. But, that’s basically canceled out by his inflated 15% pop-up rate. I don’t think he’ll continue to be an asset in batting average. And since he hits at the bottom of a mediocre Royals lineup, he’ll barely contribute any value in the runs and RBI categories.

Erick Aybar

My Rank: 19 | Their Rank: 14

After swiping 20+ bases for three straight seasons, not only has Aybar stopped making as many attempts, but he has gotten pretty poor at actually making it to second base safely. Though his power is up, which is backed by a surge in batted ball distance, that merely means the possibility of 10-12 homers, rather than 6-8. Woohoo! Despite leading baseball in IFFB%, he should continue to contribute positively in batting average given his excellent strikeout rate. But he, too, hits in the bottom half of the lineup which will cut into his plate appearances and opportunities to score runs and bat them in. He’s hit better with men on base this year, which would explain his respectable RBI total so far, but it would be silly to assume he’ll continue to remain this clutch all season.

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Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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Man Pod, you sure bombed on your SS rankings this year. Do you see any major flaws you need to correct for next year?