Bloomberg Sports Anchor Rob Shaw and Analyst Alex Burwasser recap the top five shortstops this fantasy season as well as the top three busts.
TOP FIVE PERFORMERS
5. Starlin Castro, SS, Cubs
After a fantastic sophomore campaign in the big leagues which saw him lead the league in hits (207) and make the All-Star team, Starlin Castro put together another solid year for the Cubs. He did not hit .300 this year but he hit a very respectable .283 while stealing a career-high 25 bases. A good sign going forward for him is his consistency against left and right-handed pitching, hitting over .280 against both this year. However, an area where Castro needs work is his plate discipline, where for the third straight year he drew less than 40 walks (36).
4. Jose Reyes, SS, Marlins
It would have been really difficult for Jose Reyes to duplicate his 2011 season when he won the NL batting title. A season that turned out to be his last with the Mets when he signed as a free agent with the new-look Marlins. A lot was expected of Reyes and the Miami team as a whole moving into a brand new ballpark and it seemed both were wilting under those expectations. Unlike the team, however, Reyes redeemed himself by hitting .312 after the All-Star break and ending the season with his standard double-digit triples (12) and 40 steals. In fact, he was hitting in the three hole for the Marlins by the end of the year, so if that continues in 2013, expect even more production for Reyes.
3. Ian Desmond, SS, Nationals
One of the best stories in baseball this year was the Washington Nationals, and one of the leading characters in that story was 26 year old shortstop Ian Desmond taking the next step and becoming an All-Star player. Not only did his batting average drastically improve from last year moving from .253 to .292 but he had an enormous spike in power hitting 25 home runs this year as compared to only 8 in 2011. Added with his speed, swiping over 20 bases for the second year in a row (21), Desmond looks like he is a player on the rise for the Nationals and possibly for your fantasy leaderboards next year.
2. Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees
Derek Jeter has been around the top of this list for basically the past fifteen years, so why would 2012 be any different? He had 216 hits this season, which was his most since 1999, as well as 47 extra base hits which was his most since 2007. He also hit over .300 (.316) for amazingly the twelfth time in his sure-to-be Hall of Fame career. The only question with Jeter is how long he can possibly keep this up, especially given his unfortunate ankle injury in the ALCS against Detroit, but it would be hard to start counting him out now.
1. Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies
Jimmy Rollins, much like Derek Jeter, has been at the top of this list for over a decade now, but Rollins went mostly under-the-radar this season because his team was such a huge disappointment. Obviously, Rollins was not the reason why, blasting his most home runs since his MVP season of 2007 (23) as well as knocking in a solid 68 RBI. A very underrated part of Rollins game has always been his speed, and that was certainly on display this year when he stole 30 bases for the second year in a row and added over a hundred runs scored (102). Rollins is only 33 years old, so there could be a few more years of these type of numbers coming from a premium fantasy position like shortstop.
TOP THREE BUSTS
3. Jhonny Peralta, SS, Tigers
A first time All-Star in 2011, Jhonny Peralta had his best season as a pro for Detroit hitting just under .300 (.299) while providing some serious power with 21 home runs and driving in 86 runs as his Tigers won the AL Central. Detroit again won the AL Central again in 2012 but Peralta was not nearly as big a factor seeing his batting average dip 60 points to .239 as well as his home runs (13) and RBI (63). Peralta needs to hit for power and drive in runs to provide any fantasy value whatsoever because he does not steal bases or hit for a high average.
2. Yunel Escobar, SS, Jays
In a somewhat surprising move given his potential, the Braves traded Yunel Escobar to the Jays after a disappointing start to the 2010 season. It was looking like a steal of a trade for Toronto after a 2011 season that saw him hit .290 with 11 home runs and 77 runs scored. However, he really declined this past season when his average dropped 37 points to .253, but what was most alarming were his walks almost being cut in half from 61 to 35 which left his on-base percentage at a measly .300. For a player expected to be at the top of the lineup for years to come, getting on base three out of ten times will just not cut it for the Jays and for your fantasy team.
1. Dee Gordon, SS, Dodgers
Every year fantasy owners seem to fall into the trap of falling in love with a player who comes up from the minors and excels at a particular statistical category whether it is home runs or strikeouts. In Dee Gordon’s case, it was stolen bases. After being called up in June 2011, he burst onto the scene by hitting .304 and stealing 24 bases in 56 games for the Dodgers. In 2012, he was the opening day starter at shortstop for the Dodgers but he never really got off the ground getting sent to the minors in early July after hitting only .228. He still has a ton of speed — he stole 32 bases — but he cannot provide any value if he cannot get on base in the future.
For more fantasy insight, visit BloombergSports.com.
Bloomberg Sports Anchors Rob Shaw and Julie Alexandria break down four players who have struggled mightily over the first quarter of the season:
Eric Hosmer, 1B, Royals
Last year a 1-4 performance was ho-hum for Royal phenom Eric Hosmer. These days it’s cause for celebration as it lifts his batting average further above the Mendoza line. The 6 home runs and 25 RBI aren’t all that bad for Hosmer, but with an average of .204, the former top three pick has been a major bust. Also, his power and patience have declined this month, as he boasts just one home run and six walks in May. I still do not suggest dropping Hosmer, because his struggles are not isolated. The entire Royals roster has pretty much struggled, and once guys like Alex Gordon, Jeff Francouer, and other start hitting, there will be more runners on base and more fastballs in the middle of the plate. I am buying low on Hosmer, and have confidence that he will turn this season around.
Dee Gordon, SS, Dodgers
Similar to former Rangers prospect Julio Borbon a few years ago, Dee Gordon gained some fantasy interest with a strong finish to the season, most notably 24 steals in 56 games. However the scouting report is now out on Gordon and you can’t steal bases if you can’t reach base. With a .225 average and .269 on base percentage, Gordon is not getting on base nearly enough. As a result, he is not scoring runs and not getting enough steals to warrant fantasy value. I’m not buying on Gordon in fear that he is a bit more one dimensional than people thought.
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Diamondbacks
Billed as the next prolific power hitter to thrive in the desert, Paul Goldschmidt was predicted to blast as many as 30 home runs this season Instead, he has just three round-trippers a quarter of the way through the season. The lack of homers as well as the 19 RBI will be enough for some fantasy managers to drop the bopper. Instead, they should focus on the 12 doubles, which projects to more than 40. Again, you can’t blame Goldschmidt for the fact that his teammates are struggling to reach base. Once those doubles turn to home runs, all will be forgiven.
Ike Davis, 1B, Mets
Finally, Ike Davis makes the list for all the wrong reasons. To his credit, Davis has driven in six RBI over the last six games, but his average is well below the Mendoza line and it will take a heck of a hot streak to return to respectability. The problem for Davis is that he is returning from nearly a full year off from baseball and his timing isn’t where it should be. Furthermore, the opposition is exploiting Davis with junk, throwing him more off-speed itches than anyone else in baseball. The Mets have decided to keep Davis at the Big League level, and this is largely because he remains a better threat than anyone else that they can put in the lineup. I don’t know when, but I do think that Davis will eventually bounce back and end up with a batting average closer to .240 by season’s end.
BY ROB SHAW
The top stolen base threat will be Braves outfielder Michael Bourn. Bloomberg Sports forecasts that he is the only speedster who will surpass 50 stolen bases this season. Though he has little power, Bourn has evolved into a fine fantasy option with a high average and as many as 61 stolen bases in a season. In 53 games with the Braves last season following a trade, Bourn swiped 22 bases.
Next, the Yankees and Red Sox both have speedsters as Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner are next on the list. Ellsbury will again be an MVP candidate while Gardner’s value depends upon where he is in the lineup.
Ellsbury is projected to again surpass 20 home runs this season with 40-plus steals. The fact that he offers an all-around game has taken away from his stolen bases, but fantasy managers should have no gripes. Gardner, on the other hand, is more of a one-trick pony who relies on stolen bases. If the Yankees wish to take advantage of his high OBP they could have him bat leadoff, which would lead to more runs, but Yankees Manager Joe Girardi seemed to like having him at the back of the lineup last season.
The Oakland A’s will have no need for speed with Coco Crisp on their team. He is a bit injury-prone, but steals with the best of them. Crisp also has a little pop, twice hitting 15 or more home runs in a season. If the A’s lineup shows some improvement you should expect many more runs coming from Crisp.
Finally, BJ Upton has yet to meet his lofty expectations but he does pack some power and should steal close to 40 bases. Last season Upton shined in four categories with 80-plus runs, 80-plus RBI, 20-plus HR, and 35-plus steals. Unfortunately, he only hit .243. There remains some hope he can be the complete package as the 27-year-old once hit .300 for a full season. On the other hand, Upton has finished with an average less than .245 in three straight seasons.
The ultimate sleeper is Dodgers middle infielder Dee Gordon, while his teammate Matt Kemp predicts that he will go 50-50 for the first time in baseball history.
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While the recent trend of middle infielders is to hit the ball with power, a la Chase Utley, Ian Kinsler, and Dan Uggla, there is a new group of young up-and-comers int he infield who are making their mark with speed:
Dee Gordon, SS, Dodgers
Just 23-years old, Dee Gordon is making the most out of his second stint in the Big Leagues. He has recorded multiple hits in four of his last six games and has swiped six bases over the last 10 games. Similar to a lot of young and up-and-coming middle infielders he lacks power, but he can make up for it with speed. So if in need for some stolen bases over the final few weeks of the season, Dee Gordon is your target.
Cliff Pennington, SS, A’s
After a slow start, Cliff Pennington has really picked up his game since the All-Star break. Since then he is hitting .324 with four home runs and 32 RBI. He has also made Billy Beane proud with a .393 OBP. This performance shouldn’t be too surprising, after all, Pennington was drafted by the A’s with the 21st overall pick of the 2005 draft. However, the franchise will not be content until he can post solid numbers throughout a full 162 games, helping the A’s offense get out of a decade long swoon.
Jemile Weeks, 2B, A’s
One of the top rookies in baseball this season has been A’s second baseman Jemile Weeks. Though he does not have the power of his brother Rickie in Milwaukee, Jemile is a line drive machine with an average over .300 and how about those 41 runs and 21 steals through exactly a half season’s worth of games. Weeks has shown some signs of burgeoning power, with 22 doubles and eight triples. He could improve his patience at the plate, but he’s definitely worth owning in all fantasy leagues.
Scott Sizemore, 3B/2B, A’s
A former top prospect with the Detroit Tigers, Sizemore never did work out in Mo-Town and is now in Oakland. There he has been a source for some much-needed power. His .243 average is nothing to write home about, but his nine home runs and 46 RBI would be doubled over a full 150 games worth of at bats. At 26-years old, Sizemore has shed the top prospect label, but he is still young enough to earn regular playing time as a middle or corner infielder. You would imagine that he’d be able to crack as many as 25 home runs should he escape the pitcher-friendly confines of Oakland Coliseum.
Ruben Tejada, SS/2B, Mets
He has yet to hit a home run this season, but the Mets are fine with that as long as Ruben Tejada offers solid defense and line drives. Tejada is batting .278 right now, which is .065 points better than his .213 mark last season. He does have 12 doubles and an impressive 31 walks, so he is not getting outmatched in the Big Leagues. I would like to see some speed from the 21-year-old middle infielder, and the reason you should pay attention o him right now is that he could end up replacing Jose Reyes, should the Mets sensation depart as a free agent this off-season.