Of all the positions this year, shortstop is by far the toughest spot to predict a sleeper being that the tiers of talent are so obvious. However, I’m going to identify the players that offer the best value for the position despite the extreme disparity between the elite shortstops and everyone else. This is in large part because of a gradual decline in talent at the position and a large group of players that define mediocrity.
In a pool of players that yields Troy Tulowitzki, Jose Reyes, Starlin Castro and Hanley Ramirez, it’s hard to pass on them early with guys like Ben Zobrist, Elvis Andrus andJimmy Rollins slotted right behind them. Of course there are good players available beyond that first four, but what matters most is the value at which you allow your shortstop to have. Noticing the difference in talent level is crucial in deciding who wins and who loses in fantasy baseball.
In most drafts, Zobrist, Andrus and Rollins would be the guys most likely to disappear from the list of shortstops after that first select few. Having the patience to wait and get guys who will finish with similar numbers at the end of the season will allow you the opportunity to build on other positions while someone else essentially wasted a pick. If you would rather put your picks to use, draft one of those first four guys mentioned or draft one of the following:
Alcides Escobar, Kansas City Royals
Alcides Escobar, 26, didn’t do much for fantasy owners in his first two years in the majors, but found himself getting the attention of some last year. If it weren’t for his location in Kansas City, Escobar would have been an even hotter commodity in a place like Boston or Los Angeles.
A big part of this turnaround was his consistency. After hitting .235 in 2010 and .254 in 2011, Alcides hit .293 last season to go along with 68 runs, 52 RBIs and 35 stolen bases. Although he has as much power as an AA battery, he is a guy that can hit for extra bases with 30 doubles and seven triples last season.
To put these numbers in a bit of perspective, Escober hit one less double and two less triples than Rangers’ shortstop Elvis Andrus. Escobar also had 19 more stolen bases, two more home runs and a better batting average than Andrus. Although I expect an average a little closer to the one he had in his first two seasons, Escobar is definitely worth a good look as he is going in rounds 15 and beyond, while Andrus is somehow going as early as the ninth round.
Andrelton Simmons, Atlanta Braves
Andrelton Simmons, 24, is a guy who can be drafted later than Escobar, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he should be. Despite a small sample size of 49 games in 2012, Simmons showed the Braves that he was a viable option for the club at shortstop as he is expected to be given as good a chance as any, most likely leading off (with Michael Bourn gone) for a team batting ahead of Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman and the Upton brothers.
In the 166 at bats that Simmons was given last year, he hit .289 with three home runs, two triples, 17 runs and 19 RBIs. With a full season to work with, Simmons should be able to hit 25-to-30 doubles, 5-10 triples and double-digit home runs. If he hits around the .290 clip that he did last year, it’s hard to imagine a season that Simmons doesn’t drive in around 65 RBIs and cross home plate around that same amount of times, if not more. I would also expect a few more steal attempts than the one he had in 2012. Simmons has plenty of speed and should be given the green light much more this season.
On average, Simmons is going in the 23rd round besides the likes of Kevin Youkilis, Dayan Viciedo and Emilio Bonificacio, but don’t expect this to be the case in a few weeks when you draft. Keep an eye on his stock over the next couple weeks and plan accordingly.
If you slept on Simmons or Escobar in this year’s draft, here are a few more guys worth drafting in the later rounds of the 2013 fantasy baseball draft:
- Jean Segura, Milwaukee Braves
- Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds
- Hiroyuki Nakajima, Oakland Athletics
Click here to read all of our 2013 fantasy baseball sleeper articles. Have any questions or disagree with my take? Let me know what’s on your mind on Twitter@ThisJustM or leave a comment below.