Derek Jeter is the Hallmark greeting card of fantasy shortstops.
And that isn’t a good thing.
You see, Hallmark is the crème de la crème of greeting cards, according to some. From birthdays to bah mitzvahs, if you want to show that you truly care, only a Hallmark will do … or so the commercials insinuate.
And, of course, if you are going to give the “very best,” you better expect to pay the very best. It’s nothing to cough up $4 to $8 for a general Hallmark card, even if the messages are shorter than the whiskers on Derek Jeter’s face.
For those who are less enamored with name-brand price mark-ups, Wal-Mart and other discount stores offer a rack of $0.99 greeting cards. They’re just as colorful and wordy and witty as a Hallmark. They’re just missing the trademark Hallmark crown logo.
How does this all relate to the New York Yankees’ captain and media darling shortstop in pinstrips? If you plan on getting him onto your fantasy squad, you better be prepared to sacrifice a pick in the top four rounds of your draft.
Now I’m a huge Jeter fan. He’s my favorite player on my favorite team. My family even named our dog after him. The problem is that he offers little true fantasy value.
Sure, some may argue, Jeter is coming off one of his best seasons ever. He batted .334 with 18 home runs and 30 stolen bases. All were three-year highs for No. 2.
The problem is that people draft Jeter as though he’s still in his prime with potential as high as cirrus clouds on a hot summer day.
Sure he’s basically a shoo-in for a .300-plus average at the plate. Yes, he still has one of the most feared lineup of big-swinging sticks behind him. But anyone who thinks he’ll meet or surpass last year’s numbers has been hitting the moonshine a little too hard.
For comparison, Tampa Bay’s Jason Bartlett, who was barely drafted on fantasy teams last season, hit just four less long-balls than Jeter, stole just as many bases, batted in exactly the same amount of runs and posted just a slight lower batting average (.320). Bartlett is the player Jeter used to be. He’s on the verge of becoming a top-5 shortstop … and that’s only if he replicates his numbers from last season.
The extra bonus here is that while Bartlett was almost equally impressive as Jeter last season, those who doubt he can repeat at an elite level. Those people have forgotten that the year before last, Bartlett was named the team’s MVP during its World Series run. This kid is not going away, and a much better value late in your draft than Jeter is in the fourth round. In fact, out of the two major fantasy baseball magazines I now own, Bartlett is ranked ninth in one and 14th in the other among all shortstops.
So go ahead and sell the farm for a Hallmark … I’ll be scouring the discount racks for Bartlett and these other extreme bargains:
Everth Cabrera played 103 games for the Padres in 2009 as a rookie, swiping 25 bases and showing that he could become a solid source of steals over an entire season. He’s still young and prone to inconsistency at the plate, but worth a late, late flyer as a stopgap with upside. Check out ep’s sleepers to watch for more on Cabrera’s upside.
Elvis Andrus was a sleeper candidate last year as a rookie for the Rangers … a rookie who forced Texas’ hand in moving ss fixture Michael Young to third base. Andrus had some growing pains, but he still led all shortstops with 33 steals. He is only 21 years old and hitting on top of a potent Rangers lineup. The sky’s the limit with Andrus, who should be a fantasy starter at a backup’s price.
Another deep sleeper? How about the guy who’s replacing J.J. Hardy in the Brewers’ infield this year. Alcides Escobar is projected to fill the starting role for the Brew Crew, and has plenty of potential. How much? He hit .298 with four home runs and 42 stolen bases last year in AAA ball. If Escobar winds up on top of a lineup that features both Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, he could see a serious stat explosion. He’s also one of ep’s sleepers to watch.
Asdrubal Cabrera for some reason is usually lumped in with the second basemen, but many forget that Cabrera is eligible at ss, too. He’s coming off a decent 2009 campaign that saw him swipe a career-high 17 bags and hit a solid .308 average – thanks especially to a .370 average in the month of August alone. That was during a season that saw him miss time with a shoulder injury in June. Cabrera’s star is on the rise, and his dual-eligibility is a big asset, too.
Who are you targeting as a value shortstop this year? Let us know in the comments below. Also, don’t miss my less-than-sexy catcher drafting strategy, along with sleepers at first base, second base and third base.