Shortstop Bottom of the Barrel

All week you’ve read our shortstop coverage. You know things are bad when Will Emerson advises you to think about drafting Erick Aybar. Shortstop is thin; anorexic if you will. Some of those in standard leagues will play musical shortstops to start the season in hopes that one of their upside youngsters pan out or that risky pick pays them dividends. In deeper leagues things will be worse; those that use a MI slot will have it tougher, but at least second base is deep enough to fill that void. The ones that play in AL and NL only leagues will have it rough.

Our 2015 shortstop rankings are split down the middle, 12 players for the NL and 13 for the AL. To complicate the matter, guys like Xander Bogaerts, Ben Zobrist, Asdrubal Cabrera, Danny Santana, Hanley Ramirez and Javier Baez qualify for other positions which could thin the herd out even more. So what are owners to do in this situation; when the best options are gone, the secondary choices are taken and the last resorts have all been squirreled away? It’s time to stick your head down deep into the barrel and see what’s left. You may catch lightning in a bottle, but more than likely you’ll just end up with a bunch of splinters.

 

Brad Miller: Admit it; you thought Brad Miller was going to take a big step forward in 2015. I’ll admit it, I bought in hook line and sinker and advised a number of you to either draft him or keep him. My apologies, I screwed the pooch on that one along with a number of my colleagues. His real team is more forgiving than fantasy owners; while we may not buy him as a top 25 or even a top 12 in AL only leagues, there is a chance he could still turn a profit in 2015. Let’s not forget why we were all so high on Miller going into 2014.

  AB  2B  HR  RBI  SB  BA  OBP
NCAA  685  232  36  173  16  135  46  .339 .452
53  22 4 .415 .458
A+ 410  139  33  89  11  56  19  .339 .412
AA 300  92  14  48  10  37  .307 .392
AAA  104  37  26  28  .356  .426

There is still the potential to hit 10+ home runs, still the potential to steal 10+ bases and still the potential he turns into a .300 hitter (or close to it). Yes, Miller stumbled out of the gates, but so do a number of prospects in their first and second year. He has protection in the lineup, enough so that he does not have to push to succeed. In mixed leagues you can probably ignore him on draft day, but add him to your watch list and monitor him closely. In AL only leagues, this could be the post hype sleeper you were looking for. Streamer has him down for a .241 average and just 6 home runs, but that is for only 81 games. I can see an average in the .260 range at least; then again, I said that last year. Oh the fun of trying to predict the future.

Francisco Lindor: Speaking of the future, many thought when Asdrubal Cabrera was traded that it was only a matter of time before we saw Lindor. Jose Ramirez found a way to delay his arrival. Ramirez should start the year at short which is why he got one of the bottom spots in the top 25, but his hold on the position is tenuous.  Now I know there is some hype behind Lindor, but most of that hype is for long-term leagues. For 2015, it’s better to temper your expectations.

Odds are with Ramirez on board we won’t see Lindor until sometime after June first. Lindor averaged .280 during his time in AA and .273 during his call up to AAA. Expecting an average like this or even higher is possible but unrealistic. He may come up and be hot for a month which is nice if you can grab him and take advantage early, but once pitchers catch up with him like George Springer that shine could quickly fade. Springer had his hot streak but ended the season with a .231 average. The difference between Springer and Lindor is power, and those 20 home runs helped pad his overall value. Lindor won’t have that option. He’s a speed guy and if his average comes crashing down – or doesn’t even get off the launching pad, all that speed isn’t going to matter because you can’t steal first.

AL only owners with a weak option for short should consider stashing him, but in the same breath they should be looking to move him as well to a over-anxious rookie oriented owner who will give you a viable useable option for short. You can rethink that if Lindor hits the ground running and has a hot start in AAA, maybe you’ll get lucky. Deeper mixed leagues can probably avoid him. There are a number of shortstops who can give you stolen bases with a mediocre average. Granted not many of them have the upside of Lindor, but they are safer. Given the depth at second base, Lindor isn’t even an option to stash for your MI slot unless you have very deep rosters. One day he will be good, but like I said earlier; temper your expectations this year.

Carlos Correa: Take everything I said about Lindor and apply it here. Correa may look to have an advanced bat, but we have not seen what he can do above A+. He will probably start the year off in AA and if all goes well, he may get a cup of coffee in September. The Astros brought in Jed Lowrie as a stopgap, but he will not hold Correa back from the majors; the Astros will though. If they are not winning, a June call up is out of the question. If they don’t look like they have a chance at a wildcard berth come August, a September call up is all you can hope for here. Correa is talented, is a terrific long-term solution at shortstop for keeper and dynasty league owners; even better than Lindor. For 2015 though, I would pass on him in all formats come draft day. If you want to pick Correa up in July for a late season stash, nobody will blame you or bat an eye when you do it. Like I stated with Lindor, if you do grab him and another owner makes you a reasonable offer, take it. Correa is a future top 10 shortstop, just not this year.

Josh Rutledge: I spoke about Rutledge in my second base bottom of the barrel article. Feel free to read that in your leisure time.

Didi Gregorius: The heir apparent to Derek Jeter; those are some large shoes to fill. Didi’s average in the minors was fairly consistent, falling between the .273 in A ball and .287 at AAA. He has limited power but enough to reach double digits. Overall, a solidly average shortstop with a little pop but with limited success in the majors. You could blame the home park; he did bat .291 on the road in 2013. You could even blame last year on a sophomore slump or his inability to adjust as he was exposed more to pitchers. Whatever the reason, Didi couldn’t cut it in Arizona but now gets a fresh start with the Yankees.

There may be a good hitter in there, but odds are we won’t see him in 2015 so deeper mixed leagues should pass (put aside your pride and loyalty Yankee fans). AL only leagues are the only place for this guy. If Gregorius hits .250 with 10 home runs consider it a win, but don’t expect more than that.

Brock Holt: Before free agency signing, this would have been a popular choice. Holt had 8 games at first base and left field along with 10 or more at every other position except shortstop. In Yahoo leagues where eligibility is a light he qualifies everywhere, the perfect Band-Aid for any team. Unfortunately for Holt the Sox went and signed Sandoval and Hanley, brought in Castillo before the end of the season, plan to start Betts in centerfield and still have a slew of other OF options. Unlike 2014, Holt will not be forcing anyone off the field and will have to wait for an injury (or trade) before he gets any regular playing time.

Deep leagues can just hit the ignore button. AL only leagues may want use a final pick on him in case someone in Boston goes down. Holt has the ability to hit for average, can reach double-digit steals with enough at bats and will score runs depending on his place in the batting order. All he needs is a place to play; that is the dilemma and the only thing standing in Holt’s way of fantasy relevance.

Adeiny Hechavarria: Hechavarria’s highest home run total for a season is 8, between AA and AAA in 2011 and again in 2012 between AAA and the majors. He has 4 home runs total for 2013 and 2014. The Marlins had him hitting between 7th and 8th in the lineup. If he moves up you could see a slight increase in RBIs but overall don’t expect more than 50. The same goes for runs since there will be nobody of relevance to bring him home. Batting average? He hit .248 or lower before he got to AAA so don’t put much stock in that .327 PCL driven average. Hechavarria did well in 2014 batting .276, but given his track record expect him to give some of that back. I could bring up his 42 stolen bases in the minors in 62 attempts, but that average success rate hasn’t found its way to the majors. With 18 steals in 33 attempts, something tells me Miami will give him the yellow light and run him sparingly.

So what does Hechavarria bring to the table in 2015? Well, he turns 26 in April so he has age on his side. Other than that, I can’t find a reason to like the man. He’s a non-option for mixed league and an emergency fill in for NL only leagues. There is not much upside here. If he can hit for a decent average he may be a quick fix if you lose your starter, but nobody I would want on my team and he is not someone to draft. Just take him off your draft board if you haven’t already.

Everth Cabrera: I had Cabrera as the 14th best shortstop last season and stated I was taking a leap of faith his average would improve and his speed would carry his value. Cabrera did manage to steal 18 bags and hit .289 in April; unfortunately those are the only positive things I can say. Cabrera is now in search of a home and hoping to avoid jail time. Cabrera was arrested by the California Highway Patrol on Sept. 3 on suspicion of driving under the influence of marijuana. He was later charged with resisting arrest. The new trial date is set for April 13th. If convicted, Cabrera could face up to a year in jail. Add on the PED scandal from the previous year and it’s no wonder major league teams aren’t knocking on his door. That should tell you something right there.

If major league teams want nothing to do with him so close to spring training, why would you. Yes, Cabrera could be a good source of steals, but if he can’t hit for average or draw walks what good is that speed. Without a job he’s worthless. Even with a job I would not touch him. All the talk of potential is a thing of the past. Cabrera will be 28 in April and it’s time to face facts. He is a high risk, low reward player. At best you’ll get some steals and a decent average. Worst case his average sucks the life out of your team and he contributes 20 steals. If you’re in an AL/NL only league with DEEP rosters, he may be worthy of one of your final spots, maybe.

Brandon Crawford: The batting average has not changed in 3 years (.248, .248, .246). He’s not going to score more than 53 runs (his 2 year average). You can’t expect more than 10 home runs (last year’s high). With a little luck you may get higher than normal RBI totals but overall you’re looking at 44 which is his average total from 2012 and 2013. Crawford isn’t completely worthless; those 53 runs put him inside the top 20 for one category, 50 RBI would have him just outside the top 12 in another and 10 home runs lands him in the top 10 in a third.

The problem with Crawford is his inconsistencies. If you catch him on the right month (.365-September, .288-June, .247-April), he is rosterable. It’s those off months when he hits .214 or lower that you are cursing the fact he’s on your team. Given his major and minor league track record, things aren’t going to change any time soon. He is an option for NL only leagues, albeit a low-end option. Mixed leagues; you can find him on waivers so don’t bother drafting him. This list gets uglier the further down we go, but I warned you in the beginning that shortstop was thin.

Jose Iglesias: The Tigers SS missed the season with stress fractures in both legs, originally diagnosed as shin splints in 2013. Maybe he was left off our rankings because people forgot about him. I’ll admit I forgot about him, but looking at his minor league numbers there is a good reason for that. Iglesias hit .244 in AAA over the course of 222 games. 829 at bats is not a small sample size. How many minor league home runs did he hit? Six in 294 games. There is a little speed here with 37 minor league steals, but like I’ve said with a few players on this list, if you can’t hit for average or draw a walk you can’t steal first base. Sure Iglesias is only 25, and sure, some scouts may think he is athletic or a good baseball player, but not all good baseball players make good fantasy players.

As officer Barbrady would say, “Move along people, nothing to see here”.

Eduardo Escobar: Assuming the Twins stick with Danny Santana in centerfield, short belongs to Escobar. He had a minor breakout last year and other than the June swoon, he held his from start to finish. He spent his time hitting in the bottom half of the lineup and I don’t expect that to change. That means minimal run production and even lower RBI totals. There is minimal power here and the speed portion of his game slowly dissipates with each passing year. Escobar’s value lies with his batting average. If he can hit for average, he is good enough to be an injury fill in on an AL only team. Without it, he is of very little use.

In past bottom of the barrel articles there were numerous players to recommend as draft material in some kind of format. With shortstop, all I can do is tell you who to avoid.  So what have we learned here today?  If you play in a mixed league you are better off looking to second base for your MI player.  You should be able to find a playable shortstop without having to dip into this Motley Crew, but in 20 team leagues or those with a really deep bench you might be in trouble if your starter goes down.  Things are even worse for those in AL and NL only leagues.  The term position scarcity comes to mind.  While I don’t endorse reaching for a shortstop, doing so in these formats may become a necessary evil.  If you decide to wait, you better have some big bats to pick up the slack for the black hole you may get stuck with at short. 

I’m going to shower now, I feel dirty for even writing more than 10 words about some of the above players.

Bottom of the Barrel
First Base Second Base Third Base Shortstop – Outfield – Starting Pitcher – Relievers

Jim Finch

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The self proclaimed Grand High Exhausted Mystic Ruler of Fantasy Baseball. While I am not related to Jennie or Sidd Finch, I will attempt to uphold the integrity of the Finch family name as it relates to baseball.