You can find my Draft This, Not That Catchers, First Basemen, Second Basemen, and Third Basemen at any of those links. With the roll out of the shortstop position this week, Draft This, Not That has now made it through the infield. Shortstop is the official armpit of fantasy baseball at the moment. There’s not enough Right Guard to cover up the scent this position wafts in the general direction of our fantasy rosters. We have come a long way from the days of ARod, Jeter, and Garciaparra playing up the middle.
In these Draft This, Not That write ups I am bestowing upon you with each position we roll out at Fantasy Assembly, I think it is important to clarify something about ADP differences. If I tell you to pass on player-A who is going off the board at an ADP of 90, and target player-B who is going off the board at an ADP of 200, you have to be willing to go a full round earlier in order to make sure you get the player who is a better value later on. Therefore, if you are in a 15-team league, you need to plan on getting player-B at around 185 to make sure you get the similar stat line you passed on at 90.
Draft JJ Hardy, Not Xander Bogaerts
There seems to be some fear of missing out on a young, high-pedigree player’s breakout. Most of us playing this game have been afflicted by this at one time or another. I completely understand it and fall victim to it as well. This is something I refer to a Troutitis. Mike Trout has completely changed the chemistry of our brains when it comes to drafting fantasy baseball teams.
As mentioned above, I fall victim to Troutitis as well. I just drafted a roster in a 15-team league that features Mookie Betts, Jorge Soler, Joc Pederson, and Arismendy Alcantara. That is a bad case of Troutitis!
My defense for those picks is that each one of those players showed at least a flash of their otherworldly fantasy potential. What in the world has Xander Bogaerts done so far that someone would pick him over a guy in JJ Hardy who has averaged 71 runs, 69 RBI, 22 HR, and a .259 batting average the past four seasons? Not only are drafters picking Bogaerts over Hardy, they are taking him over 80 picks earlier in drafts.
You cannot tell me this is a, “What have you done for me lately,” thing and point to Hardy’s 2014 struggles. Bogaerts just went 60/12/46/2/.240 in 2014. Sure, Hardy was not much better at 56/9/52/0/.268 but at least he has produced at the major league level before and done so consistently from 2011 to 2013.
I think Bogaerts has the chance to become a fantastic fantasy contributor eventually. At just 22 years old, playing the demanding position of shortstop, while hitting at the bottom of his team’s lineup, I think I am going to wait for him to show me he is ready to be the player he is destined to become before I overpay for his upside. Instead, I will wait well beyond pick 200 to select JJ Hardy and bank on 2014 being an outlier season for him as he gets back on track. The way I see it, I’m taking Hardy who has shown me three times in recent years that he has the ability to produce the type of slash line I desire from him. Bogaerts hasn’t shown that ability yet and even worse he honestly looks a little overmatched so far.
Draft Alcides Escobar, Not Alexei Ramirez
I am going back to the well on this one, having made the same call a year ago. Early indication is that we are looking at over a 70-pick difference between Alcides Escobar and Alexei Ramirez in 2015 drafts. Last year these two had an ADP difference of 115 picks. A look at ESPN’s Player Rater from 2014 shows Ramirez as the 4th most productive shortstop for fantasy purposes with Escobar close behind as the 5th most productive shortstop.
So what has changed in year? For me, the most appealing change involving these two hitters is that Alcides Escobar should now be entrenched as Kansas City’s leadoff hitter. Going into last season, Escobar was slated to hit 9th in the Royals’ projected lineup. In the end, just 133 of Escobar’s 620 plate appearances in 2014 were spent hitting first or second in the KC lineup as he spent a majority of his time hitting in the bottom third of the lineup.
With Melky Cabrera now in black and white, I would have to think Alexei Ramirez will lose some at bats moving down the order. Ramirez spent a third of his time hitting near the top of the ChiSox lineup in 2014. After hitting just 15 home runs in 2012 and 2013 combined, his 15 home runs his last year were a bit of a surprise. Alexei Ramirez may reach double-digit home runs again in 2015 and that is something I feel certain that you will not get out of Alcides Escobar. In terms of hitting for power and driving in runs, the advantage here obviously goes to Alexei Ramirez.
Where I feel Escobar will make up ground is in his ability to swipe a bag and score runs. Last year he was successful in 31 of 37 base stealing attempts. The year before Escobar was caught zero times in 22 tries. This is an elite skill for the 28-year-old Escobar and one that is matched by few in the game today. Additional at bats near the top of the run-happy Royals’ lineup should only pad Escobar’s stolen base total in 2015 as he makes a run at somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 thefts. The base stealing skill is a strong one for Alexei Ramirez as well, having been caught just 4 times in 25 attempts last season. Speed is not generally a skill that ages well and Alexei Ramirez will check in at 33 years old when the 2015 season begins. Because of his success rate in 2014, I would guess something in the neighborhood of 18-22 stolen bases should be expected once again. With the younger Escobar slated for the top of the lineup and Ramirez likely spending most of his time in the 6-hole, it is the Kansas City shortstop who has the edge in the runs and stolen bases categories.
With Escobar pegged to be more of a solid run scorer and base stealing threat and Ramirez looking capable of producing the more well-rounded stat line, this comparison likely comes down to batting average as the tie breaker. Unfortunately, it appears that both should finish in the .260-.290 range and neither really has the advantage. Escobar has been a little up and down with batting averages of .254, .293, .234, and .285 the past four seasons. Ramirez has been more consistent over the same time frame with batting averages of .269, .265, .284, and .273. I cannot call either one of these shortstops a favorite in the batting average category.
In a vacuum I would select Alexei Ramirez ahead of Alcides Escobar but there is no reason they should be separated by over 70 picks in 2015 drafts. My preference would be to lock up a power hitting corner or outfield bat at the time Alexei Ramirez goes off the board and simply wait to select Alcides Escobar quite a bit later. Here are some draft pairings to consider:
- SS/OF Combo: Alexei Ramirez/Melky Cabrera or Kole Calhoun/Alcides Escobar
- SS/(1B-OF) Combo: Alexei Ramirez/Brandon Moss or Mark Trumbo/Alcides Escobar
- SS/2B Combo: Alexei Ramirez/Howie Kendrick or Kolten Wong/Alcides Escobar
- SS/SP Combo: Alexei Ramirez/Michael Pineda or Gerrit Cole/Alcides Escobar
In each of the draft combos above I feel you are getting a player with a much higher ceiling to pair up with Alcides Escobar. The Mark Trumbo/Alcides Escobar pairing may be the most appealing to me as a combo. In terms of pure upside, a pairing of Kolten Wong and Alcides Escobar could provide north of 40% of the SB total you need to compete in the category for standard 5×5 Roto formats.