Shortstop is a deep position this year. If you have already drafted, you have probably realized that you can miss out on Michael Young or Miguel Tejada in the first three or so rounds, and still land quite a nice pick for the upcoming season. If you are in a keeper league, it’s even better as many of these emerging talents are young and indicating considerable upside. One player that will be overlooked in 90% of this year’s drafts but may provide a little help for the upcoming season is JJ Hardy.
Milwaukee’s minor league talent pool has arrived with Rickie Weeks, Prince Fielder, and Hardy all slated to start the season at their respective positions. Hardy is one player that those in deeper leagues, and particularly keeper leagues, may want to keep an eye on.
In 2004 Hardy dislocated his shoulder and sat out the rest of the year. In 2005, he entered spring training as a candidate for the starting shortstop position for the Brewers, a role he shared throughout the season with Bill Hall. It’s not Hardy’s overall stats that suggest he may have sleeper value, but his split stats. Take a look at Hardy’s pre-All-Star-break line:
There was speculation that perhaps Hardy’s shoulder was still troubling him. Maybe he was getting adjusted to big league pitching. Whatever the reason, Hardy exploded during the second half, showing just what he is capable of:
For those of you scoring at home, that’s an OPS of .866 after the break. That stat line resembles that of an upper echelon shortstop, granted in a somewhat limited but nevertheless relevant sample size.
Another point to note is that in 2005, Hardy’s ground ball to fly ball ratio (number of ground ball outs divided by number of fly ball outs) was 0.97. This suggests that he has the type of swing that produces a lot of fly balls, and in a stadium like Miller Park where the ball tends to travel easily, many of these fly balls could translate to home runs. To give you some comparisons, Brian Giles and Manny Ramirez both have ground ball to fly ball ratios of 0.97. Derek Lee and Cliff Floyd have scores of 0.98, and Richie Sexson is at 0.99. The list of players with ground ball to fly ball ratios under 1.10 is littered with home run hitters.
Still not sold? Would it help convince you if I told you that in Hardy’s last three years in the minors, his slugging percentage improved incrementally, demonstrating an ability to adjust to the level of pitching? How about that during those same seasons in the minors, he posted roughly a walk for every strikeout, indicating command of the strike zone? That trait was also on display during 2005 with the Brewers (44 walks, 48 strike outs).
However you look at it, Hardy is the type of guy that will get overlooked and go undrafted in most leagues, based purely on his final 2005 stats. Dig deeper however, and you see the makings of an incredible sleeper, one that you may be able to lock up for future years to come and who you may be able to get in the final rounds of your draft.
Ryan Thwaites roots for the A’s from down under: Australia. You can also find him in the Cafe’s forums, where he posts as Rynman.
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