2013 Fantasy Baseball Shortstop Rankings: Low End SS Options
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Here are the shortstops we have ranked 13-19, guys who are good options for AL and NL only players and who might be options for middle infield slots for those of you who play in mixed leagues.
13. Josh Rutledge | SS | COL
The injury to Troy Tulowitzki allowed Rutledge to reach the majors last year and receive a substantial amount of at-bats despite the fact that he hadn’t seen AAA yet. And his sample of 291 major league plate appearances indicates that he didn’t necessarily need to spend time at AAA. Rutledge popped eight homers in that short span and added a respectable .274 average and seven steals.
As I’m want to do, let’s start by analyzing Rutledge’s average potential. Unfortunately, it may be a bit unrealistic to expect him to repeat his .274 average. He drove the ball well in the bigs last year with a 20% line drive rate, but he had mustered just a 16% line drive rate in about 350 plate appearances in AA earlier in the year. His line drive rate has improved at each level, but expecting a jump from 16% to 20% for a young hitter might be a mistake. You have to figure he still has some adjusting left to do, and a healthy line drive rate like that may be too much to expect.
As for plate discipline, Rutledge doesn’t strike out so much that he’s always going to be an average risk, but he drew very few walks last season, both in the minors and majors. Until that skill develops, his average is likely to sit in neighborhood of .260.
As is often the case with players who play their home games at Coors, Rutledge’s power potential is intriguing. He hit 23 between AA and MLB last year. He doesn’t put a ton of balls in the air, but he puts enough up there for 15 or so to fly out of that park. As for the speed, Rutledge has been a very efficient base stealer. He’s attempted 45 steals and taken 38 bases (84%) in his career. So Rutledge is a 15/15 guy who is slated to hit in front of Tulo and Cargo. Throw in the dual eligibility he’s likely to have at 2B and SS and he becomes an excellent option for a middle infield slot.
14. Jed Lowrie | SS | OAK
The trade to Oakland really hurts Lowrie’s value for several reasons, the first of which is the ballpark. Lowrie is a switch hitter who hits for much more power when hitting from the left side of the plate. Unfortunately, the park in Houston plays about 4% above average in favor of the hitter for lefties when it comes to home runs, but the park in Oakland plays about 6% below average. And Lowrie hits a ton of fly balls. His career fly ball rate is just over 50%. To put that in perspective, the highest fly ball rate for a qualified hitter last season was about 49%. Playing in that cavernous park just isn’t going to be good for Lowrie’s value.
The other reason this trade hurts Lowrie is that his playing time is somewhat up in the air. You would assume the A’s didn’t give up some decent assets to acquire Lowrie just so he could play four times a week, but the uncertainty is unsettling. On the other hand, a utility role could get him eligibility all over the infield. But unfortunately Lowrie’s playing time is a big question mark no matter what city he plays in given his injury history. At the end of the day, this is a talented player but one that comes with way too much risk.
15. Andrelton Simmons | SS | ATL
Simmons has good plate discipline and makes good contact. He doesn’t draw a ton of walks so he’s not the ideal leadoff man, but that’s where he is slated to hit for the twenty-thirteen Atlanta Braves. If he stays in that spot, he could rack up 650+ plate appearances with an average somewhere in the .285 range. That would be a huge contribution in the average category for roto players.
Aside from that, Simmons offers a little help in steals and runs. Again, if he stays at the top of a solid order and hits for that kind of average, he’ll get driven in plenty. The potential for 20 or so steals is there given that he stole 54 bases in about two seasons worth of plate appearances in the minors, but he only stole one base in 49 games with the Braves last year, so maybe something in the mid-teens is a more reasonable expectation.
As you’re probably aware, Simmons will offer little pop and won’t drive many runs in, but he’ll be a solid contributor. Think of him as a poor man’s Alcides Escobar or a very poor man’s version of Elvis Andrus. That kind of guy has value as a middle infielder on your fantasy roster.
16. Alexei Ramirez | SS | CHW
When you pull up Ramirez’s Fangraphs page, one stat just jumps off the page from his 2012 season – his 2.6% BB%. Buzz, your girlfriend…woof! Ramirez drew just 16 unintentional walks in 621 plate appearances. His swing percentage jumped significantly, and his swing percentage on balls outside the zone jumped by 6%. Fortunately, Ramirez makes decent contact, so he didn’t strike out too much, and his batting average didn’t completely plummet. But that complete lack of plate discipline is nothing but discouraging.
Ramirez did steal a career-high 20 bases last year, but expect that to return to the low-teens to go along with about ten homers. Throw in 130 runs plus RBI distributed however you think they’ll go and Ramirez isn’t totally without value. But he’s really only an option in deeper leagues because counting stats can be hard to find.
17. Everth Cabrera | SS | SD
At the moment, Cabrera is expected to being the season as the leadoff hitter in San Diego. The question is whether he’ll be able to maintain that role. Because if he does, he’ll have some legitimate fantasy value. But before we get to why that is, let’s decide whether he can get on base enough to stay at the top of the order.
Cabrera just can’t hit for average. He has a .246 career average despite a solid .310 BABIP. However, if his contact rate improves a little, his average could get up around .260 thanks to his speed. But as it stands, he strikes out too much. However, Cabrera does know how to take a walk. He walked in almost 10% of his 449 plate appearances last year, which helped him to an OBP of .324. That’s still a bit below average, but other leadoff hitters like Ian Kinsler and Jimmy Rollins have similar OBPs. Given, those guys do other things. But then again, so does Cabrera.
And this is where we get to his fantasy value. Cabrera’s other thing is stealing bases. He stole 44 bases in just 449 plate appearances last year and was caught only four times. If Cabrera can reach base enough to keep hitting leadoff, he could steal 50 bases and challenge for the league lead in steals. Cabrera is one of several guys who can provide a lot of speed very late in fantasy drafts. Don’t completely ignore speed early, but keep in mind that there is a lot of it late.
18. Jurickson Profar | SS | TEX
Profar is our featured prospect in our ongoing “30 Prospects in 30 Days” series. Check out John Hoey’s take on the stud prospect here.
19. Zack Cozart | SS | CIN
Again, let’s start with batting average. Cozart’s .246 average from his rookie campaign was somewhat disappointing, but he’s got the potential to improve. As he developed in the upper levels of the minors, he began to drive the ball more and that carried over to the majors as he had a line drive rate of 20% last season. He also has a nice contact rate, so he doesn’t strike out too much. He could learn to take a walk a little bit better, but he has the skills to hit .260 or even a tad higher.
As for the other stuff, Cozart puts enough balls in the air to get back to 15 homers. He could even hit 20 with some luck. And there’s some speed potential. He stole 30 bases in AAA in 2010. Hell, he only got caught four times. So it seems the like the guy knows how to take a base. But he only stole four bases in 600 plate appearances last year (and was a perfect four-for-four). You obviously can’t expect 30 steals, but maybe double digits is reasonable? If so, Cozart is another nice power/speed combo available late in drafts for your middle infield slot.
You can follow Brett on Twitter @TheRealTAL.
As always, thanks to Fangraphs.com. And a special thanks to firstinning.com for the batted ball information on minor leaguers.