Nothing Short of Sensational!
The Best: Jose Reyes, Mets
It’s not a bad time to be Jose Reyes’ agent. The Mets shortstop was supposed to be a middle-tier free agent well behind Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols this off-season, but instead the speedster may be the most in demand. Reyes is on pace for some pretty historic statistics: 130 runs, 30 triples, 60 steals, and a .352 average.
Mets owner Fred Wilpon said early in the season that Jose Reyes was nuts for expecting Carl Crawford type money. It turns out Reyes would be crazy to accept Crawford-type money. He is younger, plays a more difficult positions, and this year proved that he has a higher ceiling than the Red Sox outfielder.
The Surprise: Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians
Entering this season Asdrubal Cabrera had never before hit as many as seven home runs in a season. At the half-way point in the season, he is currently sitting on 13 dingers with 47 RBI, 12 steals, and a .296 average.
Just 25-years old, Cabrera is thriving for the surprise Cleveland Indians. While the career-season is impressive, it is not necessarily shocking. After all, Cabrera did belt 42 doubles in 2009 despite missing 31 games due to injuries.
The Bust: Hanley Ramirez, Marlins
Coming into the season a hot debate was who to draft with the first oversall pick Hanley Ramirez or Albert Pujols. As it turns out neither big talent has been worthy of the top pick. While Pujols struggled then endured a fractured wrist, Hanley Ramirez has been downright awful.
Ramirez took a minor step backwards last season, as his average slipped from .342 to .300. However, no one could have predicted that his average would decline to .221 mid-way through the season. Ramirez has at least shown some signs of life over the last 10 games raising his average 21 points. However, it will take a major bounce back over the next few months for Ramirez’s production to return to its normal standards.
The 2nd Half Sleeper: Stephen Drew, Diamondbacks
Stephen Drew has always been a strong second half batter. In fact, his .282 average following the All-Star break is 20 points better than his career first-half statistics. At the moment, Drew is having an up-and-down season. Drew’s 43 runs and 43 RBI are solid, considering he spent the first week of the season injured. However, his five home runs and four steals are a bit pedestrian considering this a player that blasted 15 home runs with 10 steals last season. Expect Drew to heat up as the season progresses, perhaps reaching 100 runs and 100 RBI by season’s end.
by Eno Sarris //
When you’re in the middle of a cross-country move, you can be forgiven for making some quick decisions about your lineup. Actually, if you ask a certain spouse, you will not be forgiven for ‘wasting time on your fantasy teams when you could be helping with the move.’ Pfft. This is important work here.
In one league, the Fantasy Lounge Roto Champs League, I’ve won two of the past three years — but my team is struggling a little right now. I drafted Alcides Escobar as my shortstop, and even though it took such a late pick that the rest of my team is reasonably strong (up to sixth from last), I’ve been struggling at shortstop and replaced Escobar with Ian Desmond recently. Someone dropped Stephen Drew the other day, though, so I immediately put in the claim for Drew, washed my hands of Desmond, and felt like my team had just gotten much better.
Should I have taken a longer look? These two players sport different approaches and different experience levels. But the results have been very similar. Take a look at the comparison on the right from Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Tools and you’ll see that these are both bottom-echelon fantasy options in standard 12-team mixed leagues. Bloomberg Sports’ new
Trade Analyzer rates the move as an average one that improves my team in only two stats.
Desmond is hitting just .247 for the year, with four home runs and six steals to date. It’s not luck on the batted ball keeping him down, as his BABIP is about neutral (.295).
Stephen Drew has fared slightly better from a fantasy perspective. He leads Desmond by a comfortable margin in batting average (.268). The rest of the numbers look similar, though: steals (Desmond leads six to five), runs scored (Drew leads 36 to 27), RBI (Desmond leads 33 to 28) and homers (both have four). Like Desmond, Drew can’t blame his low batting average on BABIP, as he sits at .315. Sound familiar?
While their fantasy stats look alike, there are different players under the hood here. Drew walks twice as much as Desmond and has a track record as a superior power hitter. Drew has a .143 isolated power number (ISO, or slugging percentage minus batting average) while Desmond has put up a .124 ISO. Desmond has struck out at a higher rate (20.7% to 18.0%, ML average is 20.5%) and is reaching outside the zone at a much higher rate (34.9% to 24.7%, ML average is 28.4%). The two players’ 2010 triple-slash stats tell the story:
Frustratingly, though, walk rate is not positively correlated with batting average. So though we know that Drew has more real-life value because of his walks, and we can appreciate his selective approach, we cannot say that a player that walks like he does will necessarily put up a high batting average. Look at Adam Dunn for an anecdotal piece of evidence in that regard. We also know that while Drew has more ISO this year and in the past (.172 career ISO), he’s on a three-year decline in that statistic.
So if you can’t depend on Drew for a strong batting average, his power has been on a decline, and he doesn’t own as much natural speed as Desmond, why is picking up Drew and dropping Desmond a no-brainer? Well, for one, strikeout rate is negatively correlated with batting average, so there’s a notch in Drew’s belt. Another reason has to do with track record. As we wrote in the preseason, Drew has shown the ability to hit for power and batting average in his short career, and at 27 years old, he shouldn’t yet be in his decline.
Finally, Drew’s aggregate offensive numbers, and defense, point to a much better real-life player at this stage of their respective careers. While Desmond and Drew sport similar UZR figures, UZR only becomes a reliable indicator of defensive ability once you have three years of data to peruse. What we do know right now is that Desmond is on pace for more than 40 errors this season, including a recent game in which his sloppy D cost Stephen Strasburg a win. The fact that Desmond is also a rookie means there’s a non-zero chance he’ll be sent back to the minors if he keeps struggling too.
If you’re looking for a fill-in shortstop in shallower leagues, or a player to hold in deeper ones, choose Drew over Desmond.
For more on Ian Desmond, Stephen Drew, Alcides Escobar, and other shortstop options, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.
by Eno Sarris
We continue our way around the infield after examining the post-hype prognoses for Chris Davis and Rickie Weeks. It’s about time that I admit my dark secret – I actually own a fantasy team that features all of these players around the horn on the infield. As I joked on this podcast with the folks at BaseballPress, this is not a strategy to try at home, and it’s only the particulars of this league that forced me into a corner. On the other hand, finding an undervalued player that has shown elite skills in the past for a bargain price is useful in any league.
So does Stephen Drew count? He has certainly shown plenty of strong attributes at the plate – but not in the same season. If he puts these disparate parts of his game together, though, he could become an impact player at shortstop. It’s been shown by researcher Tom Tango that a player’s peak age range is 27 through 29. Lo and behold, Drew is 27. Could this be his year?
There’s a bit of a split between Bloomberg Sports’ projections for Drew and the wisdom of the crowd on this one. The Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Kit projects Drew for an underwhelming .268 batting average, albeit with 18 home runs. Shown graphically to the left, these numbers don’t combine to instill confidence. In what is perhaps a nod to the fact that manager A.J. Hinch is thinking of batting Drew second this year, he is projected for a decent 80 runs. Are those runs scored combined with the poor batting average and mediocre home run total enough to make fantasy owners right for drafting him more than 100 spots earlier than his B-Rank (B-Rank 229, ADP 127.6)?
There’s obviously some value in his complete package of skills. His skills looks better on a Bloomberg Sports spider graph, where you can see how he stacks up in the offensively-challenged position of shortstop. Even that graph might be selling Drew short, though.
Take his batting average. Not only has he hit .291 before (in 2008), but he’s shown the different components of being able to do it again. Check out his reach rates (the percentage of swings at pitches outside of the zone) since he hit the majors: 30.6%, 21.8%, 28.2%, 22.3%. It may not be a surprise that his walk rate has oscillated similarly: 6.2%, 9.7%, 6.2%, 8.2%. On the plus side, one element of his game has steadily improved: His contact rate has risen from a poor 74.3% to a solid 84.2%.
What does it all mean for his batting average? it means that Drew is struggling with his aggressiveness but is making more and more contact as he figures it out. The recipe for a good year might just include a nice middle ground for his reach rate (say around 25%), an average walk rate (last year the ML average was 8.9%) and an above-average contact rate (the ML average was 80.5% last year). He’s done each piece before – it follows that he could hit each benchmark again, ideally in the same season.
Because he’s not a speedster (19 career stolen bases), the power is the other attractive part of Drew’s profile. His isolated power (slugging percentage minus batting average) has also jumped around more than Ozzie Guillen after a liter of Red Bull: .201, .133, .211, .167 (ML average is usually around .155). This is probably related to another component stat that Drew is struggling to harness: his line drive percentage (23.8%, 16.5%, 22.6%, 18.9%). It seems that his power rises and falls with his line drives. The lesson here is that he’s had nice line drive rates twice before – he can do it again.
Why would this year be the year that he once again puts together a good line drive rate with a strong approach at the plate and gives us something that looks like 2008 (or better)? Well, spring training stats are obviously a small sample size, but sometimes those mere 40 or 50 at-bats can give us hope. It is also worth mentioning that John Dewan has shown that about 75% of players that improve their slugging percentage by more than .200 in spring training go on to perform better than their career average during the upcoming season. Drew’s close. His slugging percentage this spring? .609. His career number? .445.
For more information on Stephen Drew and his fellow shortstops this year, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kit for yourself.