StrategyJanuary 12, 2007


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Two Up, Two Down – Shortstop Edition
A look at two who I think will rise and two who I think will fall at the shortstop position for 2007.

By Chris Routledge

In the Cafe Rankings for 2005, the top eight shortstops were Miguel Tejada, Derek Jeter, Michael Young, Nomar Garciaparra, Jimmy Rollins, Edgar Renteria, Rafael Furcal, and Carlos Guillen. Two years later, the early Cafe Rankings look remarkably similar, the only changes being Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez replacing Nomar (no longer SS-eligible) and Renteria (who has slipped, but only to #10). Are shortstops this consistent? Can anyone else break into the top echelon this year? Will any of the big names prove less than good value? In this edition of Two Up, Two Down, I offer you two guys who I expect to outperform their draft position, and two more who may prove to be somewhat overpriced.

UP

Stephen Drew – Diamondbacks

His should already be a familiar name to anyone who frequents the Cafe, as Drew was highly-touted as a prospect before debuting in the Majors last season. Anyone who picked him up enjoyed more than satisfactory numbers, as he hit .316 in 209 AB, with 23 RBI, 5 HR and 20 extra base hits (including 7 triples).

With a full-time job heading into 2007, the outlook is rosy for Drew, who is being touted as a future All-Star. The power is already evident, and few would disagree that he is more talented than his brother JD. Nevertheless, you can expect to see him ranked outside the top twelve in virtually every SS ranking list right now, meaning he is available cheaply. If Drew is available in Round 14 or 15 (of a standard 12-team league), grab him as a back-up to your starting SS, and don’t be surprised if he finishes ranked in the top ten or even the top eight by the end of the year.

JJ Hardy – Brewers

This guy will almost certainly be left undrafted (except in your 20-team league, which starts two at every position). Many people touted Hardy as a sleeper going into 2006, but a sprained ankle sustained sliding into home ended his season after only 35 games. Those same people will likely have forgotten about him as we enter 2007.

The reasons he was a sleeper then remain the same twelve months later. I will not repeat them here, as Rynman outlined them all in a great article last year, which you can find in the Sleeper Archive section, found here: JJ Hardy – Sleeper. Hardy is expected to begin the season batting eighth, but keep an eye on his situation. If your starting SS ends up on the DL, Hardy could be an ideal short-term replacement.

DOWN

Hanley Ramirez – Marlins

Well, this could be controversial! No one would dispute that Hanley had a great season in 2006, and few would dispute that he deserved to be named Rookie of the Year. Compiling 119 R, 17 HR, 51 SB, with an average of .292, is not to be sneezed at.

I know for sure that Hanley will not be on any of my teams this year. The reason is that the hype surrounding him has, to my mind, elevated his value beyond his worth. It will be very difficult for him to repeat those numbers (particularly in HR – he never hit more than eight in the minors). Early drafts have seen a tendency for him to be drafted at the beginning of the third round, as the third or fourth SS to go off the board. Sure, he may produce that value, but I would like to see him produce it for more than one year before I draft him over the likes of Rollins, Jeter or Tejada. You may get better value by drafting a more proven player in round three, and taking someone like Furcal or Guillen as your SS a little later.

Orlando Cabrera – Angels

You’re in a 12-team league, the top ten SS are already off the board, and you don’t have one yet. Scanning the available names, you notice Orlando Cabrera. Is he worth drafting as your starting SS? You check his numbers from last year: 95 R, 72 RBI and 27 SB. Looks pretty good? You guide the cursor over to click the button marked ‘Draft Player’… STOP!

Those 2006 numbers represent Cabrera’s best season with the bat since 2003. In between, however, were two pretty mediocre seasons. The question then arises: is this a permanent bounce-back or a temporary aberration?

I am more inclined to think the latter. Cabrera is batting in what is, Vlad aside, a very ordinary-looking line-up, hardly strengthened by the arrival of Gary Matthews Jr. Cabrera’s OBP is nothing to shout about (15th of all SS who played at least 100 games last year) and that again was his best mark since 2003. Personally, I expect a return to numbers around 80 R, 60 RBI and 20 SB in 2007. Most preseason rankings have him around eleventh or twelfth for SS – a few places above Stephen Drew – whom I project to outdo Cabrera in R, HR and BA, and be similar in RBI. So hold off on that ‘Draft Player’ button, because I would much rather have the 23-year-old for whom the sky is the limit than the 32-year-old who has surely reached his peak.

There you have it – two players to look for late in your draft, and two more to avoid. Good luck to you all, and check back for more Two Up, Two Downs.

 
Chris Routledge is one of a growing number of Brits infiltrating the Cafe, and is the two-time reigning champion of the H2H World Series (much to the chagrin of wrveres, the token Cafe Padre fan). Catch up with him in the Cafe under the username chris8.
 
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