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Second thoughts about shortstops

By Al Melchior | Data Analyst

Ian Desmond's combination of power and durability is unique among the current crop of shortstops. (USATSI)
Ian Desmond's combination of power and durability is unique among the current crop of shortstops. (USATSI)

This past weekend, I was offered a trade in a Rotisserie league that initially looked like a slam dunk: the other owner's Jose Reyes for my Ian Desmond. I needed steals, and I've had Reyes ahead of Desmond in my Roto rankings all season long.

Then I started to think...what if Reyes hits the disabled list yet again? If he misses time, he won't help me with steals much more than Desmond might. Worse yet, even if he stays healthy, Reyes won't produce home runs or RBI like Desmond will.

Just a few weeks ago, I moved Desmond down in my rankings because of poor plate discipline, fearing that he won't raise his abysmal batting average and on-base percentage much, if at all. My hesitation to trade him for Reyes made me realize that, even with his shortcomings, I had something special in Desmond. How many shortstops consistently provide power and aren't chronic injury risks? If we're generous, we can count three of them: Desmond, J.J. Hardy and Ben Zobrist. And neither Hardy nor Zobrist have hit for power this season (and Zobrist didn't last season either).

I turned down the offer, and while I didn't move Reyes in my Head-to-Head rankings, I did move Desmond up from seventh to fourth. Then I leapfrogged Desmond over Reyes in my Roto rankings, as his high strikeout rate is less of a liability in that format (especially if he can increase his batting average by way of a higher line drive rate, as he did last season).

Also on my to-do list was to revisit my ranking for Andrelton Simmons. I have kept him in my top 10 among shortstops all season, but I was tiring of his subpar batting average, on-base percentage and run production. I had projected him for a .275 batting average, 14 home runs, 67 RBI and 83 runs. Even though he has maintained a miniscule strikeout rate, Simmons' average is a mere .252. His 19 RBI put him a bit behind his projected pace, but his 17 runs are nowhere close to what I expected.

At some point, I figured Simmons would hit near the top of the Braves' order, but he has batted in one of the top two spots a combined four times. The Braves' offensive ineptitude is also partly responsible for Simmons' lack of run production, and there's not much he can do about that.

However, a deeper look at Simmons' stats revealed that there are reasons to hope he can approach his projected batting average, and in turn, increase his run and RBI rate. He has reduced his popup rate from 12.1 percent from a year ago to 6.6 percent this season, but the improvement is not showing up in his .263 BABIP. And as Atlanta Journal-Constitution beat writer David O'Brien recently noted, Simmons is hitting the ball the opposite way more often this season. His spray charts on FanGraphs.com show the same trend rather dramatically.

Simmons is becoming a more complete hitter, and it just may be a matter of time before Fantasy owners start to see the benefit. So for now, Simmons remains in my top 10.

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