Tagged: shortstops

Lopez in Lieu of Furcal?

Not long after the trade deadline had passed, Nationals’ GM Jim Bowden gave C/1B/OF, Paul Lo Duca and 2B/SS, Felipe Lopez their walking papers. As many Dodger fans know, Lo Duca was an all-star not too long ago and Lopez really wasn’t all that far behind in terms of talent. Obviously, the Dodgers don’t have a need for Lo Duca (and even if they did, I highly doubt they’d turn to him after the way his production has declined and the way his name’s been dragged thru the mud the last couple of years) but they do have a need for a shortstop due to the near season-ending injury suffered by star shortstop, Rafael Furcal. By no means is Lopez a long-term answer at shortstop… he’s not even a guarantee to hit at all but could be worth taking a chance on if the price is right (because even if he doesn’t pan out, he’d be a nice option to have waiting in the minors). He’s really only had one good (or great) season and pretty much fell off the map after that but he was always viewed as a player with big potential and could find his form in a new setting. To give you a glimpse of what he is capable of…take a look at his numbers in ’05:

Felipe Lopez in 2005
.291 batting average
.352 on base %
.486 slugging %
23 homeruns
85 runs batted in
97 runs scored
15 stolen bases
34 doubles
169 hits
Needless to say, those are some pretty nice numbers. After a season like that he had many a’scouts salivating over his potential. He had speed, power and a good contact rate. His OBP% could’ve been higher but really wasn’t all that bad. Strikeouts were a bit of a problem (111) but plate disciplined can be honed over time. At the time he was only 25 years old and it looked like the sky was the limit…and then he was sent from the Reds to the Nationals in what was a controversial trade at the time and hasn’t been the same ever since. Perhaps ’05 was a fluke but  he actually played pretty well in the half season when he first got to Washington posting a .281 average and scoring 43 runs. His power was sapped by what many assumed were the large confines of the ancient RFK Stadium in DC but the move to the smaller stadium hasn’t seemed to have had much of an impact on his power numbers. He really fell off the map the following season in ’07, hitting .245 with 9 HRs and has since then lost his starting job and served as a backup this season, hitting .234 with 2 HRs in 325 at-bats. 
Maybe he really is the .234 hitter that we just saw in DC but for what is mere chump change is baseball terms, isn’t he worth taking a chance on given our pressing need for a shortstop? Best case scenario is we get a revival of the ’05 version of his former self and a solid addition to our lineup. Realize that unless Edgar Renteria is put on waivers, he may be the best chance we’ll get a decent shortstop after the non-waiver trade deadline. At least we’d know that he has more pop in his bat than Angel Berroa… It’s just a thought. 

FLB Updated SS Rankings ’08

1. Hanley Ramirez, FLA
I’m not alone when I say that I think Hanley Ramirez is the best player in baseball. He may not have 50 HR power but is capable of stealing 50+ bases with 30+ HR power (and may reach a 50 HR plateau in the future). No matter which way you look at it, Ramirez is an elite fantasy player. He’s off to a hot start this season and is showing no signs of slowing down. On top of that, he’s also led his team to the best record in the NL East…something that very few (if any) analysts predicted. Who knows if the Marlins can hang on to first place all year? That’s hardly a guarantee but one thing you can rely on is the fact that Hanley Ramirez will be ranked as the top SS in baseball by the end of the season. 
Adjusted Projection: .313/35/97/51
2. Jimmy Rollins, PHI
For reasons that elude me, many of you would probably rank Jose Reyes in this spot, right? For the life of me, I can’t understand why Reyes is more popular than Rollins in fantasy circles. After all, Reyes is virtually a glorified Brian Roberts or Ryan Theriot. He may steal a lot of bases but what else do you get? That’s the beauty of J-Roll. He’s a complete offensive shortstop and will hit for power, average and will steal plenty of bases. I’ll take Rollins over Reyes 10 times out of 10. If it wasn’t for an ankle injury that caused him to miss the first several weeks of the season, Rollins numbers would obviously look even better than they currently do. Last season’s MVP is a fairly safe bet to finish the season as the #2 ranked fantasy shortstop in baseball, right behind Hanley. 
AP: .298/26/88/38
3. Jose Reyes, NYM
As you can probably tell by my J-Roll entry, I’m not nearly as high on Reyes as most are but it does appear as if the much awaited power surge may finally be upon us. He’s no Ryan Howard but he does have 6 HRs as I write this entry. I’m not sure if I believe it or not, after all, it wouldn’t totally surprise me if he finished the season with 10-12 HRs. However, he is on pace to hit at least 15. If he can maintain the power numbers and reach the 20 HR plateau, this could finally be the year that fantasy owners will be justified by drafting him so high over the years. The power is essential because if he only steals bases, he’s really nothing more than a vastly overrated, 1 dimensional, base stealer. 
AP: .277/16/79/64
4. Rafael Furcal, LAD
The case could be made to rank Furcal ahead of Reyes this season, until recurring health concerns took their toll. Furcal was just as hot as any player in baseball to start the season when he came roaring out of the gate, hitting .366 with 5 HRs, 8 SBs and 34 runs scored before he succumbed to injury. He was literally the driving force behind the Dodgers when they won 10 out of 12 games early in the month. Since Furcal has been on the DL, the Dodgers have missed their table setter and have had a much harder time putting runs on the board. It’s unlikely that Furcal (or anyone for that matter) can maintain such a torrid pace throughout such a long season but there’s no doubt that he’s playing with a certain fire this year that was absent from his game during the injury-riddled ’07 season. Hopefully the injury that he’s dealing with right now will turn out to be nothing serious because if it does effect his game like it did last year, he may be in trouble going forward. 
AP: .312/16/60/32                 
5. Miguel Tejada, HOU
Coming into this season, many had written off Miguel Tejada as a washed-up has-been who was in for a rough year in the wake of the Mitchell Report fiasco. However, those fears were quickly quelled after Tejada thrived in his new Texan environment, hitting .343 with 5 HRs and 31 RBIs up to this point. Looks like he might still have something left in the tank afterall. A big concern about him heading into the seaso
n was what seemed to be his declining power production. Moving to a hitter’s park like Minutemade should go a long ways to remedy that problem. I’m not saying that he’s going to be the Miguel Tejada of old but he’s still capable of hitting for a very high average with better than average power numbers (for ****). This looks like it’s going to be a big year for him. 
AP: .323/24/106
6. Yunel Escobar, ATL
So far this season, Escobar is having a “breakout year”. He’s hitting over .300, is displaying good power and is proving to be a potent run scorer and better than average run producer (for his position). There’s a bit of a drop-off between Escobar and Tejada but he makes for an excellent keeper and should post double-digit HRs and steals before all is said and done. He may not excel in any particular category but is well rounded enough to help contribute in all 5 offensive categories. As time moves one, he’s only going to get better. Within the next few years as his game continues to grow, we could have an elite SS on our hands…at least that’s what the Braves are hoping for. 
AP: .309/15/68/12
7. Michael Young, TEX
Simply put, Young has always been overrated in fantasy. Ever since he hit 22 and 24 HRs in the ’04 and ’05 seasons respectively, fantasy owners have been drafting him as if that’s the type of player he is, even though he’s hit 14 and 9 HRs in the two seasons since. Playing homes games in that bandbox in Arlington would lead one to believe that his power numbers are being inflated, making the underwhelming totals from the previous two seasons even less impressive. The two things that you can consistently count on him for are batting average and RBIs (surprisingly). But how valuable is batting average in a roto league? It tends to be one of the easier categories to fill due to the most owner’s reluctance to add guys who don’t hit for power or steal bases. RBIs is a different story. If anything, that’s what gives him his value and justifies spending a high pick on him. Not many SS out there can knock in 90+ RBIs. So even if the power is not there this year (HRs), the underlying power numbers most likely will be (RBIs). 
AP: .305/11/92/8
8. Edgar Renteria, DET
This year I decided to overate Renteria instead of Jeter. I’m not much of a fan of either players as far as fantasy is concerned and you can make the case that any number of shortstops deserve to be ranked ahead of them but I decided to play it safe. Renteria clearly played over his head last year and is a longshot to come close to those numbers this year. With that being said, he can still produce some pretty nice numbers for a shortstop. The Tigers have been pretty massive underachievers so far this season but you have to think that they’ll get it going eventually. Their pitching may continue to struggle but they have elite bats throughout their lineup that have been consistent throughout their career. Renteria isn’t necessarily one of them but it is nice to know that there are guys around him that can drive him in. He’ll come back down to Earth this year but you can expect the standard output he’s produced since he’s been in the league. 
AP: .274/12/63/11
9. Derek Jeter, NYY
Most seasons I would’ve ranked Jeter ahead of the normally unremarkable Edgar Renteria but Jeter just hasn’t had it this year. He’s one of those players that’s always vastly overrated on draft day but he’s taking it to a new level this year. Sure, he’s pretty much a lock to hit .300 and score a good number of runs but this year his power and speed have disappeared. Not good in fantasy. I’ve seen this coming for a few years now, after all, he is 33 now (which is pretty old in baseball years). It’s plain to see that his career is on the decline. However, a declining Jeter can still be useful. Like I said, the average and runs are still in tact and he does tend to knock in more RBIs than most shortstops so he’s not a total bust. In all honesty, a guy like Theriot, Drew or Peralta should probably be ranked in this spot but this may be the last season that I can get away with ranking Jeter in the top 10 at his position…not that I really care one way or the other but I thought I’d take it easy on the old guy. He could always find himself in the middle of a hot streak and be back on par with the Jeter we used to know. 
AP: .312/8/72/10
10. Stephen Drew, ARZ
Fantasy owners have been overrating Drew ever since he was called up to the big leagues several years ago. The younger brother of perennial underachiever JD, Stephen is finally starting to realize his potential this season. It was common knowledge that if Drew ever did get the hang of hitting big league pitching, he’d have much more power than the average shortstop and could hit for a decent average as well. He’s still not the superstar that he’s been billed as but that doesn’t seem so far off anymore. In only 178 at-bats this season he’s already hit 7 HRs which should put him on track for around 20 HRs or so by the end of the season, give or take a few. 
AP: .281/19/78/4
11. Ryan Theriot, CHC
AP: .309/5/50/34
12. Jhonny Peralta, CLE
AP: .239/23/76/5
13. Christian Guzman, WAS
AP: .291/12/62/12
14. Orlando Cabrera, CWS
AP: .266/8/54/18
15. Khalil Greene, SD
AP: .233/16/68/6
16. Bobby Crosby, OAK
AP: .267/12/64/5
17. Julio Lugo, BOS
AP: .282/2/46/21
18. Troy Tulowitzki, COL
AP: .235/11/61/4
19. Erick Aybar, LAA
AP: .272/2/38/15
20. Clint Barmes, COL
AP: .290/10/42/6
21. Yuniesky Betancourt, SEA
AP: .287/6/59/5
22. Jason Bartlett, MIN
AP: .245/2/43/18
23. Jeff Keppinger, CIN
AP: .307/8/45/5
24. JJ Hardy, MIL
AP: .241/10/50/3
25. Jerry Hairston Jr., CIN
AP: .276/3/34/23
26. David Eckstein, TOR
AP: .255/3/41/8
27. Ramon Santiago, DET
AP: .322/3/36/2
28.  Ronny Cedeno, CHC
AP: .301/4/39/6
29. Omar Vizquel, SF
AP: .238/0/31/11
30. Brendan Ryan, STL
AP: .288/2/28/7