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February 7, 2014

Fantasy Players to Avoid

Shortstops

by BP Fantasy Staff

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For the previous installments in this series, click below:

Shortstop isn't as shallow as you think for fantasy purposes. So don't mess up by taking a shortstop who isn't good. This is the analysis you came here for.

Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians
Cabrera is a confusing player to forecast from an analytics point of view. He's increased his line-drive percentage over the past few seasons, yet his BABIP has been worse. He's hitting more fly balls, yet fewer of them are going for home runs and his ISO has seen a sharp drop from his glory days of 2011. He's stealing fewer bases, striking out a bit mor,e and walking a bit less, and his batting average has fallen in each of the past five seasons.

That being said, Cabrera is entering his age-28 season and as my colleague Mike Gianella pointed out in the counterpart to this piece, Cabrera will still have some value in 2014. I think his days of hitting anywhere near .300 or challenging for 20 homers are well in the past, though, and what we're left with is a MI-type in standard leagues with little upside and declining speed. Unfortunately, his peak season probably came early. —Ben Carsley

Starlin Castro, Cubs
There are a lot of questions revolving around whether or not Castro will rebound, but forget about all of that for a moment. The two biggest concerns surrounding Castro involve whether or not he’ll run again and whether or not that Cubs lineup will produce enough for him to see much of a jump in runs/RBI at all. If Castro doesn’t run and is only good for 10-12 steals in 2014, you’re drafting a shortstop who is probably going to hit 12-14 home runs with a .280-.290 average even if he does bounce back. That’s solid—and definitely would be an improvement from his moribund 2013—but it pushes him well out of the realm of elite performers at the position. —Mike Gianella

Alcides Escobar, Royals
Escobar has his selling points—namely speed—as he went 22-for-22 in stolen bases last year. Still, that was a marked drop from his 35 swipes the year before, and with Norichika Aoki in town, it’s unlikely he’ll benefit from batting atop the Royals’ potent lineup, something he did in 49 percent of his plate appearances last season. While his batting average should receive a bump thanks to some better BABIP luck, it won’t be enough to offset the minimal power he offers, combined with the lower counting stats he’ll get at the bottom of the lineup. Given that he was already under 60 runs and RBI, that’s a hit he can’t really afford to take. Stolen bases are worth plenty, and they’re worth more as the run game continues to decline, but given where you’re going to take Escobar, there are better options available. —Craig Goldstein

Derek Jeter, Yankees
This is perhaps shooting fish in the barrel, but if for any reason you have any inclination to try to trust the name that accompanies the current iteration of Derek Jeter, don’t. I would hazard a guess that over the next few weeks, you’ll read story after story detailing the Captain’s batting practice sessions and how he’s hitting the ball with more authority. The myth surrounding Jeter will obfuscate the reality that is Jeter. He’ll be 40 in June, he’s coming back off a severe injury, and he plays a highly demanding position. It’s likely that he already had his HoFer late-career boon with a surprising 2012, and it’s irresponsible to expect him to do it again at an advanced age. Sure, heroes get remembered and legends never die, but not even the Babe could outrun the cruel claws of age. —Mauricio Rubio

Alexei Ramirez, White Sox
Ramirez was a nice surprise for a White Sox team that finished with a fourth-worst .299 wOBA. In terms of fantasy, it was the shortstop’s best season since 2010, when he smacked 18 home runs and swiped 13 bags. He’s no longer someone you can trust with the long ball, however, with declining ISOs over the previous four seasons, from .146 in 2010 to .096 in 2013. His home run total fell to just six a year ago, and—with only 68 runs and 48 RBI—Ramirez’s value was tied almost entirely to a career-best 30 steals. I’m very skeptical he can reach that level again, as the shortstop stole 27 bases the previous two seasons combined. Ramirez enters 2014 at age 32, and—thanks to the work of FanGraphs’ Jeff Zimmerman—we know steals at that age often see a steep decline. The batting average will be fine, but if he’s not giving you 20 or more steals, Ramirez is a middling middle-infield option on a below-average offense. —Alex Kantecki

Jimmy Rollins, Phillies
This is more of a "keep your expectations in a whole bunch of check" advisory than an out-and-out "avoid." It's awful tempting to look at Rollins' 2013 and dismiss it almost entirely given the track record and severity of just how bad he was last year - especially since he hit 23 homers and stole 30 bases as recently as 2012. But counting on a rebound to previous production levels, or really anything close to them, is a pretty significant risk, and owners should not be paying for Rollins as an upside play this year.

His contact rate is on the wrong side of a fairly prototypical career bell curve, bottoming out at 86.8 percent last year—his worst effort since 2003. His swinging strike rate is also in the midst of a four-year increase, indicating some very probable age-related erosion to his bat speed. For a player who’s historically a tenuous AVG play it’s a troubling combination. And while last year's 3.3 percent HR:FB rate was likely a significant outlier to his career 7.7 percent mark, he did lose almost 20 feet per fly ball, and that’s a huge number. Ten to 12 homers is probably an appropriate ceiling to expect.

Finally, he ran less often last year, with a stolen base attempt in only 4.2 percent of his plate appearances—well below his 5.8 percent career mark and the continuation of a three-year decline. His success rate, while remaining strong enough, was nonetheless down as well, and at age 35, it’s more likely those numbers continue down than rebound up. A guy with a ceiling of .245/11/20 and mediocre R/RBI production is not terrible, and certainly playable in most standard 14-16-team leagues. But it also offers little room for return on investment from a player currently going 15th overall among shortstops. Buyers should be aware of what they’re paying for if they invest in Rollins this year. —Wilson Karaman

Jean Segura, Brewers
This feels a bit vanilla, and yet I am still seeing him valued as the third or fourth shortstop in a lot of spots. He got worse every month of the season. Of cours, when you start as hot as he did in April and May, it makes sense to regress, but he collapsed. He hit 67 percent of his home runs and drove in 43 percent of his runs in those first two months. He hit one home run in the final three months, including an impossibly bad August and September with zero homers and just seven RBI.

The only thing that salvaged his value in the summer was his consistent speed. A repeat of 12 homers would be a massive surprise; I honestly think half of that total would be a win. I’m seeing more of a .280-72-6-52-38 season from him, and that is definitely good, especially at shortstop, but not worth the current price. I’ve still got him in the top 10, but it’s toward the back end of the list. —Paul Sporer

BP Fantasy Staff is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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