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February 4, 2014

Fantasy Team Discussion

Shortstops

by BP Fantasy Staff

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Before rankings are submitted for your consumption, the Baseball Prospectus fantasy team engages in an in-depth evaluation process debating the merits of the list an author submits. Shortstop is an especially interesting position because of its mix of player types, so our discussion of the shortstop tier rankings led to a fun exchange of ideas that we present to you here.

***THE INITIAL EMAIL***

Paul Sporer:

Good day team. What do y'all think of the following set up?

Five:

(Tulo has stopped running while Desmond has back-to-back 20-20s)

Four:

(Elvis is a good bet to finally top 100 R w/improved TEX offense; Everth has given full-season SB totals w/115 & 95 GP, imagine even 135 games, let alone >150; I'd listen to Segura as a three after that unsettling second half, but even giving back 75 percent of the HRs would still be pretty good w/.290 & 40 SB. Don't wanna react too heavily to the 2H just because it was more recen.

Three:

(This puts some buyback into Starlin, growth into Andrelton, and trust into Rollins, while Z, Aybar, and Alexei have just been steady Eddies.)

Two:

(Mixed bag with some solid, if unspectacular vets; a bet on Miller; I've always loved Lowrie, but this was his first healthy season, tough to feel super confident in him; some massive, but flawed speed; Jeter is really tough to rank because if we could be guaranteed health he's probably still a three)

One:

(Cozart has some pop, but his value in entirely driven by his inexplicable role as the no. 2 hitter; Mercer getting a full-time job should have some value just by volume; Drew never stays healthy and who knows where he'll be; Yunel just blah AL-only option; Aviles is a way better fantasy than real-life guy, but I could see CLE trading Asdrubal for SP reinforcements [they lost a lotta good IP that Kluber & Salazar can't cover on their own] giving Aviles a full role; hedging on Didi/Owings... if Owings wins it, he's probably a two; Iglesias can be an AL-only MI because his glove guarantees PT)

Let's talk!

Please correct me if you feel strongly about a switch. I'm more than willing to listen on anything of course, but not just "I feel X is better/worse.” In other words, show your work please. :) Thanks.

***Mike GianellaPaul Sporer responses in bolded italics.***

Hey Paul, gang.

It's a really strong/comprehensive list. I'm not going to come at you strong about any of these because if this is the list it's fine. Below is just my two cents.

E. Cabrera is a three-star for me. He's a one-trick pony, and even though he's one of the best in the league at performing that trick, I'm reluctant to include a SB king in the four-star tier, particularly one with a limited history of providing batting average help.

It's the being the best at the trick that sells and protects against the batting average not being legit. Additionally, I see some latent power (like 7 HR, nothing crazy) coming for him. That's more a hunch than anything else, so I won't go to the mat on the power.

Rollins looked his age last year. 35 certainly isn't ancient, but I'm not convinced the power is coming back and he's always going to be a subpar BA guy. Down to two star.

Fair point, what left him 3-star for me is that he still popped 36 2B and he managed 16 HR in 2011 with a sub-.400 SLG so I could see him crawling back to double-digit. Throw in a 3% HR/FB and I'm willing to double his HR total pretty comfortably.

Just like I'm not sold on Rollins' power coming back, I'm not sold on Aybar's speed bouncing back to anything better than 20. He's kind of borderline for me in a mixed. Down to two star.

For me, Aybar is the boring-but-steady, while Asdrubal has been boring-but-declining so I'm more apt to favor Aybar in that instance even without a return of the speed (he still earned $16 per HQ, down just $3 from 2012).

I'd move A Cabrera and Lowrie up to three star. Cabrera is boring but provides a little bit of everything across the board and I'm convinced last year's poor BA was a BABIP dip. Lowrie also looks legit to me. The park hurts him, but I'd rather take Lowrie/Cabrera than SB only SS.

I don't question Lowrie's talent, I heavily question his health profile and one season isn't enough for me to say he's over it. So it's a 3-star talent, but 0-star health profile and that will be notated in the piece.

Man, I really hate Jeter this year. If he plays a full season he could reach 3-star but I have zero faith in that happening. Down to one star.

Not particularly confident, either, but he can limp his way to 2-star as long as he's actually on the field, IMO.

Just a general question, Paul: did you change your philosophy on SB this year? In the past, I know that you've dinged players who are steals-only types. I'm okay with the shift in philosophy (I remember you challenging my thinking on SB-only guys in mixed leagues) but just wanted to confirm if there is actually a shift in philosophy or just a perception on my part.

I've been more open to rewarding transcendent speed if it comes with a real chance of not being the only trick, particularly at positions like SS, 2B, and even OF. Plus speed jumped down a lot last year, way more than power. So while power is still desirable, speed isn't as readily available as many are suggesting (though I believe I've seen you in particular point out the speed dip).

Thanks,

MG

Later…

That all makes sense/all fair points. The only thing I'd push back on is I don't see A. Cabrera at age 28 in a decline, though admittedly I probably am higher on him in general than most.

Agree on the speed. Just wanted clarification. It will help going forward when I put together the bid limits. We have the advantage this year of being able to work through these exercises as a team and I want to try and make the bid limits dovetail with the tier articles as much as possible.

MG (Mike Gianella)

***RANKING XANDER BOGAERTS***

Ben Carsley:

I think this is really strong, and the four-tier group is well thought-out. I'd strongly advocate adding Bogaerts to the second-tier, though.

Paul Sporer:

I was torn on Bogy because he won't open there year with SS qualification, right? We didn't put Miggy at 1B (even though his value is markedly higher at 3B anyway) so I was assuming we aren't putting guys in the rank of their assumed position, but only their qualified one.

Ben Carsley:

I assumed we were ranking Cabrera at 3B because it was his more valuable position. Bogaerts should be SS-eligible everywhere by May (barring a Drew miracle reunion), if not sooner. Bret, what say you? Paul, if Xander was eligible where would you rank him?

Paul Sporer:

Probably a back-end three (I’m a bit drooly with him), but very open to a douse of cold water that says he needs to be a two. Look what we built Brett Lawrie up to after 150 AB? Bogy has 50 PA and some impressive playoff work. In fact, I may have convinced myself with just that sentence to make him an upper two.

Mike Gianella:

There are some leagues (Peter Kreutzer's American Dreams league, for example) that use combined major/minor-league eligibility from the previous year. If you do this, then Bogaerts is SS-only in 2014. So, yes, he will be SS-eligible in some leagues in 2014. I would argue against including him here (with maybe a note about this) but think that we should be consistent and go by what the most common rule is.

Bret Sayre:

I think it's an interesting call because if we don't rank him at SS here, do we also not rank him there for the three-year or dynasty ranks? I think we just need to note it (and for the record, my vote would be X in the 3B 2014 ranks and SS in the others.

Paul Sporer:

I think Bogy definitely gets included at SS on the future stuff. Trust me, I'm all for projection on those lists. But don't tell people that some guys might not catch down the line, they'll go bonkers.

***DISCUSSING ALCIDES ESCOBAR***

Craig Goldstein:

Is it impossible to put Alcides in the one star because of the stolen bases? This is a real question, and I suspect the answer is yes. I know he'll steal 20 bags but is upside is positive impact in two categories (ba/SB) but a negative impact in at least home runs if not RBI (depends where he hits and the ESPN player rater was down for me). His downside is 20-plus stolen bases with little else. I'm just not sure the rest of the package is worth those stolen bases, but I guess that's basically my question.

Paul Sporer:

That's absolutely fair (and yeah, ESPN PR is down, which suuucks). We saw that downside last year and he earned just $11 (BHQ), which is definitely one-star material. Do we put Villar there as well, then? Or was his speed good enough in his small sample to suggest that even a rough season elsewhere would still deliver game-changing speed (and they have no real reason NOT to play him).

Craig Goldstein:

It’s a good question. I think Villar can have a little more pop than Alcides and has at least 40-plus bags if he's starting all year, which is why two star doesn't bother me even with the negatives. Anyone else agree? Disagree?

Mike Gianella:

The argument for Villar in the one-star is stronger for me than Escobar. Villar has half a season under his belt and outside of the speed did next to nothing. Escobar tanked last year, but it's hard to see a .264 BABIP repeat given that he duplicated his 23 percent line-drive rate from 2012 and has enough speed that he should be exceeding his .318 xBABIP anyway. I'm not suggesting 2012 is a possibility, but a repeat of 2013 seems as unrealistic in the other direction.

It's all a matter of separation for me/where you draw your lines. Villar is either bottom of the two-star or top of the one-star. Color me agnostic.

Later…

Although you made me take a second look at Villar. Didn't realize he had as much power in the minors as he did.

These discussions are very useful.

Bret Sayre:

Yea—I love these conversations. Villar's biggest issue as a prospect was his rawness in his overall game and that tied in with the questions about the hit tool. He was a grade-50 power potential guy, so I won't be surprised if he has a season w/ nearly 20 homers in that park (if he plays enough..)

BP Fantasy Staff is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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