February 2, 2015
Fantasy Players to Target
Previous articles in this series:
If you were to compare these shortstops to other shortstops, we’d tell you we like these shortstops better, comparatively.
Erick Aybar, Angels
Aybar earned $15 in standard 5x5 mixed leagues last year, according to valuation expert Mike Gianella, finishing as the eighth most valuable shortstop in the game (and with Dee Gordon losing eligibility only seven remain). His current NFBC ADP is 202 as Aybar is being drafted as if he’s the 14th-best shortstop available, which is about as low as one can be on Aybar.
While the acquisition of Matt Joyce might negatively impact Aybar’s run total of 77 from last year, he’s still a very consistent fantasy shortstop who will produce across all categories. It’s nice to have Alcides Escobar when he produces a BABIP above .320—you can also name your team Alcides Soundsystem—but when he didn’t in 2013 it wrecked not only his AVG but also his steals and runs.
Last year, Escobar earned just $2 more than Aybar while Elvis Andrus, who has a similar BABIP-dependent profile, earned $4 less. Andrus’ steady career walk rate of nearly eight percent and top spot in the Rangers order gives him the highest floor of the trio for both runs and stolen bases, but he’s being drafted 77 spots ahead of Aybar. If you miss out on the shortstop you desire early or don’t love the values, don’t be afraid to wait on Aybar, who’ll probably still be hanging out around pick 200. —Nick Shlain
Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: Bogaerts hit just .240/.297/.362 last season with 12 homers and two steals. That’s not quite what anyone was projecting for last year’s consensus top-three prospect, and his strugglers were a bit shocking when compared to the poise he showed in the 2013 World Series. Bogaerts had a miserable time hitting sliders, appeared too patient at times, clearly allowed a brief move to third base to impact his offensive game and was prone to long slumps. Bogaerts hit quite well in April, May and September, but from June through August, he was essentially useless.
The good news, however, is that Bogaerts did eventually show an ability to pull himself out of his slump, and Boston’s offseason moves solidify that he should be a shortstop for the next several years. Is he going to tear up the league in 2015? Probably not. But right now he’s being drafted behind Danny Santana, Javier Baez, and Alcides Escobar, and to me, that ain’t right. Bogaerts makes a great MI in mixed leagues and a solid starting shortstop in 14-team leagues, and I think we can expect something along the lines of .275 with 15-plus homers and good R and RBI totals next year. Bogaerts’ 2014 season provides a solid cautionary tale in expecting prospects to thrive immediately, but at 22 years old, he’s far from a bust. —Ben Carsley
Starlin Castro, Cubs
While Castro’s stolen base production has been declining for years and is not something to count on in the future, Castro demonstrated more power than ever before in 2014, posting the highest slugging percentage (.438) of his career. With all the previous talk of the Cubs trying to change Castro as a hitter, Castro did show modest approach improvements in 2014, but it looks like they manifested themselves via the previously mentioned power.
Castro swung less at pitches out of the zone and swung at fewer fastballs. This resulted in Castro doing more damage with the fastballs he selected, blowing past previous career highs in slugging percentage (.431) and isolated power (.137) against hard stuff by posting .517 and .176 marks, respectively. To put this in perspective relative to the rest of the league’s shortstops, Castro finished tied for sixth (with Hanley Ramirez) among all shortstops in extra base hits with 48 (and obviously Troy Tulowitzki would have blown past this number if health was not a factor). Jhonny Peralta (59), Ian Desmond (53), Alexi Ramirez (52), and Asdrubal Cabrera (49) had more extra base hits but played 23, 20, 28, and 13 more games respectively than Castro did last year.
When we combine Castro’s newfound approach to driving the ball with authority with a hit tool unmatched by any of the previously listed players (not including Hanley and Tulo), Castro is a player that should be targeted ahead of his current 108 NFBC ADP. —Jeff Quinton
Jhonny Peralta, Cardinals
All of the right things happened last year with Peralta, from an underlying statistical standpoint. He lowered his strikeout rate, raised his walk rate and raised his isolated power—all in his first year in the senior circuit. Being only 32 years old on Opening Day, there shouldn’t be much of a step back projected from Peralta, yet what looks to be a .270-hitting shortstop with 15-plus homers (conservatively) is being undersold because there just may not be enough attention given to just how bad the bottom tier of shortstops are in mixed leagues. There are a whole slew of shortstops with upside lower than Peralta’s projection, and plenty of risk that they never even get close.
Additionally, the Cardinals’ lineup looks like a strong one for RBI opportunities down lineup. They had the fourth best team OBP last year in the National League (ninth in the majors), and adding Jason Heyward will likely only help move that number upwards (along with less playing time for Peter Bourjos). Peralta is just one of a whole slew of veterans who will be passed over on draft day because they are not superstars—an epidemic that affects owners every year. Of course, this is more useful in deeper mixed leagues, as Peralta’s steadiness is less of a factor in shallow formats. However, strong reliability is a good game plan anywhere. —Bret Sayre
Jean Segura, Brewers
2014 was a difficult year all around for Segura. Mired in a hitting slump in the early going, Segura was bumped from second to seventh in the Brewers batting order in late April, and just a week later, he took a Ryan Braun practice swing off the face and needed plastic surgery. This was followed by the terrible news of the death of his nine-month-old son in July. Despite all of this, the 24-year-old played on, missing just 16 games last year, and posted the worst statistical season of his eight-year career in professional baseball.
The metrics suggest Segura’s down year was due in part to suffering through a .274 BABIP, which was a 51-point drop from his previous season. We typically see players of Segura’s ilk sport higher BABIPs than the norm, based on the speed factor and extreme ground-ball rates. That not only held true during his 2013 breakout season, but has been the case for his professional career as well, evident from his career BABIP numbers in the minors. As such, the data suggests a normalization of his BABIP should be in store for 2015. Let’s also not forget Segura hit at every level he played in the minor leagues (career .313/.367/.439 slash line), and did so in leagues where he was younger than each league’s average age. Segura’s .246/.289/.326 line in 2014 seems more like the outlier considering his career scan.
What was interesting last year about Segura’s splits was his ineffectiveness against LHP. In his 2013 season, he slashed .317/.358/.507 vs. southpaws, yet he put up an abysmal .182/.274/.236 line against lefties last year. The Brewers worked with Segura to address his hitting mechanics near the end of last season, so these adjustments may help him recapture his stroke against LHP. He did finish strong, sporting a .319/.364/.389 line in the season’s last month, which is certainly a promising sign heading into 2015.
While Segura may not reach his 2013 levels, signs point to him rebounding nicely in 2015 as he enters his age-25 season. With 2014 now behind him, expect a healthy bump in batting average and 30-plus steals, making him a top 10-12 shortstop in mixed leagues. —Keith Cromer