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A Look Back at the 2013 Draft: AL Shortstops

I generally hate self-promotion, but I did a series of articles on the new process of voting for Gold Gloves over at bigleaguesmag.com. I mention that because there are a lot of concepts that bleed over between evaluating fielding and fantasy baseball. The main one is that while the WAR revolution has generally been good, it is not necessarily always good as it pertains to fantasy baseball.

With the Gold Gloves we often notice that the Gold Glove award goes to either the best hitter or one of the better hitters at the position. Brendan Ryan has been the best fielder at shortstop for the past several seasons, but he has never won the award. He can’t hit his way out of a paper bag. What this has to do with fielding I will never know, but it seems to  have an impact on the voting. In a similar way, our overall perception of a player (often seen in WAR) affects how we percieve them in a fantasy sense.

This is one of the reasons why total run index was invented. WAR collects elements of fielding, hitting, and base running, but those elements are not transparent in the final number. There certainly is a lot of value (particularly to teams) in looking at the total player in one unit, but for us, we cannot afford to mix fielding with hitting and baserunning. TRI keeps those elements separate (although we combined hitting and base running for the positional totals). The combination of skills in our own mind has created yet another layer of inefficiency that we explored with the third basemen.

Owned

TAV

BR

RC

Elvis Andrus

95

.255

-3.8

82

Jose Reyes

92

.286

7.7

98

Jed Lowrie

90

.279

5.1

51

Asdrubal Cabrera

86

.267

9.0

75

Alcides Escobar

81

.253

-1.8

78

J.J. Hardy

65

.234

-18.4

67

Derek Jeter

59

.274

14.8

98

Alexei Ramirez

57

.234

-21.4

57

Erick Aybar

56

.281

3.7

68

Jhonny Peralta

37

.244

-9.4

56

Marwin Gonzalez

12

.217

-8.9

15

Stephen Drew

8

.246

-8.1

32

Yunel Escobar

6

.232

-17.4

53

Eduardo Nunez

6

.275

-0.8

13

Mike Aviles

3

.244

-16.7

54

Pedro Florimon

1

.216

-7.2

10

Eduardo Escobar

1

.194

-9.1

10

Brendan Ryan

1

.225

-21.6

32

Tyler Greene

1

.243

-7.4

32

Sean Rodriguez

1

.228

-11.7

27

Jose Iglesias

1

.152

-8.7

1

Median

—-

.244

-8.1

53

In this case, we see that Elvis Andrus is a below average offensive player overall. His numbers do exceed the median at short, so he should be owned, but he should not be the top shortstop on the board. To be perfectly fair, four different NL shortstops have a higher ownership percentage, but fifth among the entire position still seems a bit extreme for a player of his caliber. Here are his rankings in the three key categories above amongst all full-time shortstops in 2012.

  • Total Average: .255 (11th)
  • Batter Runs: -3.8 (11th)
  • Runs Created: 82 (5th)

While these numbers don’t highlight Andrus’ strength (speed), they do highlight what he is as a hitter overall. The Ballpark at Arlington does help production overall, but Andrus is largely being overdrafted due to his reputation as an overall player. The Rangers were well within reason to consider that when giving him his extension, but you should not consider defense at all.

Admittedly, Derek Jeter is out for an extended period, so while he was a superior offensive shortstop last season, it makes perfect sense for him to be owned by fewer folks. Still, the implication above is that Andrus is not the fifth or even sixth best offensive shortstop in baseball. Yet, he is being treated as such by fantasy owners. Andrus is clearly among the top three or four defensive shortstops in the game, so one has to wonder how much of that is entering into people’s minds on draft day.

We see similar issues arise when J.J. Hardy and Alexei Ramirez come up. Both offer fantasy players some advantages (power in the case of Hardy), but were overdrafted largely because of defensive reputations. The oversight can’t be seen directly in the table above because the shortstop crop in the AL is anorexic in terms of depth. Yet, when we add in the NL list we see a number of guys that should go before them.

If you are looking for bargains in the American League (for those AL only owners) you should look at players that will play often. Marwin Gonzalez seems to have won the primary shortstop job in Houston. He might not hit better than .250 with minimal power, but something is better than nothing at the shortstop position.

Furthermore, there are players with pedigrees that are unowned at the moment. Yunel Escobar and Stephen Drew have histories of decent offensive performance even if they didn’t do it in 2012 (and have yet to do it in 2013). They will get the bulk of playing time for their teams and likely will end up being as productive overall as Hardy and Ramirez.

If you are simply looking for bench filler, Brendan Ryan and Pedro Florimon Jr. should be decent options. Eric Wedge has started experimenting with Robert Andino at shortstop, but that experiment is doomed to fail. Ryan is simply too good with the glove not to play regularly. Similarly, the Twins have limited options at the position. Neither will hit with any regularity, but having them as depth might be a good idea in AL only leagues.

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