StrategyJanuary 24, 2008

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Two Up, Two Down ’08: Shortstop

By Kazuya Kurokawa

Even just a few years ago, shortstop was one of the shallowest positions in fantasy baseball. However, thanks to the recent emergence of young shortstops, the position looks very deep going into 2008. In this large field of talent, are there players you should target? Are there players you should avoid? I’m here to share my opinion on four players; two players who might be under the radar and two others who I feel are going (or will go) too high in many drafts.


Rafael Furcal, Dodgers

Many people had high expectations for Furcal in 2007, as he was ranked as the seventh best shortstop by the Cafe. However, he went on to disappoint many fantasy owners by posting very poor numbers across the board.

One of the things Furcal really struggled with last season was stealing bases. He only stole 25 bases last year which tied his career low (not counting his injured season in 2001). The reason why he struggled to steal bases was due to an ankle injury he suffered in spring training. As he got healthier, he was be able to steal more bases. To prove this, he went on to steal 12 bases in the last month of the season without getting caught a single time.

Also, Dodgers made many off-season changes which will help improve Furcal’s numbers. The hiring of manager Joe Torre should only help Furcal as Torre is fairly aggressive on the bases. The addition of Andruw Jones in the clean up spot will help Furcal score more runs. Remember, the Dodgers had Nomar Garciaparra hitting behind Furcal in most games last year. Overall, I see Furcal going back to his old self, hitting around .280 while stealing 30-plus bases and scoring plenty of runs.

Michael Young, Rangers

Michael Young quietly had another solid season in 2007, but he’s falling in many mock drafts, while guys like Troy Tulowitzki and Miguel Tejada get taken several rounds ahead. While Young isn’t an exciting player, I think he’s a great value if you can pick him up in the later rounds (rounds 8-10). As said earlier, he’s one of the most consistent players in the league, guaranteeing you 200-plus hits.

Because he’s going to be 31-years-old, I wouldn’t expect a great rebound in his power/speed numbers. However, you should see a slight increase in runs and runs batted in because of an improved lineup. He’ll have a healthy Hank Blalock batting behind him and Ian Kinsler should bat leadoff for the entire season.


Edgar Renteria, Tigers

Despite only playing in 124 games, Renteria had a solid season, hitting at .332 while scoring 87 runs. In many mock drafts, he has been taken in the middle rounds, along with guys like Rafael Furcal and Michael Young. Here are several reasons why you shouldn’t take him that early.

First of all, there is a very slim chance that he hits over .300, let alone .332 this coming season. In 2007, his BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) was .375, which was much higher then his past BABIP. What does this mean? This means that he was lucky last season and that he won’t likely repeat that kind of production.

Another bad thing for Renteria was the move to Detroit. Now you might be wondering why a move to a better offense would be bad for him. The reason is his batting spot. One of the biggest reasons why Renteria has been a good fantasy shortstop was because he was hitting at the top of the lineup, where he’s able to generate a lot of runs and decent amount of RBIs. With the move to Detroit, he’s locked into the bottom of the order, where he’ll likely see less chance to score or drive in runs. With these factors, I expect an average around .285 with mediocre run and RBI totals from Renteria this season.

Hanley Ramirez, Marlins

Before you read any further, I want to clarify that I’m not saying Hanley Ramirez is a bad player. I agree that he’s one of the best fantasy players out there and should be taken in the first round. The question is how early should you draft Ramirez? From looking at many mock drafts, the consensus seems to be that Ramirez is a top five pick, most of the times top three, and I even saw a mock where he went first overall. I have no problem with taking Ramirez in the first round, but I believe that by taking him real early, you may be taking a huge risk.

So what’s the risk? The biggest is the loss of Miguel Cabrera. With no Cabrera, the Marlins’ lineup becomes a lot weaker, decreasing Ramirez’s chances to score. Last year, Cabrera drove Ramirez home 29 times. That may not look like a whole a lot, but when you consider the fact that Dan Uggla (who batted right behind Ramirez in the majority of the games) only drove him in 17 times shows you that Cabrera’s production was essential to Ramirez’s scoring.

With the loss of Miguel Cabrera comes the question about the batting order. With his departure, the Florida batting order seems to be wide open to speculation. In one report, there was talk that manager Fredi Gonzalez would bat Cameron Maybin (who was acquired in the Miguel Cabrera trade) leadoff. The reason why this should concern Ramirez owners is because this could potentially decrease Ramirez’s number of stolen bases. If he is indeed asked to hit in the middle of the lineup, he will be less likely to steal bases, especially with a slow Dan Uggla batting ahead of him.

Kazuya Kurokawa is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Kazuya in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of Another Blown Save.
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