Our final stop around the horn is shortstop where we can find some power early and plenty of speed late. Who makes the cut as a sleeper and who may have trouble living up to expectations? Let’s take a look…
Asdrubal Cabrera – (Also in 2B sleepers) In 523 at-bats last season, Cabrera hit six home runs, scored 81 runs and stole 17 bases. Entering 2010, he’ll take over everyday duties at shortstop for the tribe and take over as the team’s new leadoff hitter, moving Grady Sizemore down one spot. These moves could pay huge dividends for Cabrera’s fantasy value. As the everyday leadoff hitter, Cabrera should easily top his 523 at-bats from last season and even surpass the 600 at-bat mark, which could lead to somewhere around 100 runs scored and 20-plus stolen bases. His SS/2B eligibility only adds to the reasons to target him on draft day.
Elvis Andrus – While Andrus may not end up a .290-.300 hitter, his speed alone will justify a late round draft pick in 2010. Andrus stole 33 bases last season in only 145 games and 541 plate appearances. He stole 54 bases in only 118 games and 535 plate appearances at double-A in 2008. This season Andrus should see an increase in playing time at short allowing him to cross the 600 plate appearance plateau. That should translate easily into around 40 stolen bases and there is a chance he approaches 45-50.
Alcides Escobar – Speaking of speed, Alcides Escobar has some good stolen base skills of his own. In 487 triple-A plate appearances last season Escobar stole a whopping 42 bases and was only caught 10 times; good for an 81% success rate. Even in a Brewers system that doesn’t run much, that success rate should help his chances for achieving at least 30-plus steals over a full season. The big question is if Escobar can hit for AVG in his first full big league season. Though he hit .298 last season at triple-A and .304 in 125 Major League at-bats, his lack of plate discipline could create some struggles over the long-haul of the season. Hopefully his good contact skills and speed will make up for his swing at anything approach and keep his AVG at .280 or higher.
Everth Cabrera – What’s that you say? You want MORE speed? Well, Everth Cabrera is your man then. While I would vote Cabrera “Least likely to hit for AVG” in this group, his speed can match any of the names above. Cabrera stole 25 bases in only 103 games and 438 plate appearances last season with the Padres. Two years ago he stole 73 bases in single-A. His strikeout rate does concern me, however, as it has consistently been above 20 percent at any level in which he has received over 300 at-bats. That means he might struggle to hit much above .260. Cabrera will likely hit toward the bottom of the Padres order, which limits his runs potential as well. As a last round pick at a somewhat thin position, Cabrera should retain value, but I’d much rather snag one of the names listed above.
Ian Desmond – While Desmond will likely start 2010 at triple-A, it shouldn’t be long before he replaces either Christian Guzman or Adam Kennedy. When he does arrive in Washington, he’ll be a good add for his 20-plus stolen base and 10-15 home run potential.
Jose Reyes – Hamstring problems are never a good thing when it comes to players whose value comes in stolen bases and Jose Reyes has had such problems more than once in his career. The good thing is that the last time Reyes came back from hamstring issues he was fine. That could very well be the case in 2010 and early spring workouts have looked good, but there is another issue that might hinder his fantasy value: Jerry Manuel. Manuel is toying around with the idea of hitting Reyes third in the lineup in 2010 (He did this last spring too). Such a permanent move could affect Reyes’s stolen base total (see: Ramirez, Hanley circa 2009). The bottom line is that Reyes should be able to steal 40-plus bases with the upside for 50-plus.
Stephen Drew – With a 2009 season that was filled with injuries and up and down production, Drew looks to return to his 2008 form this season. That may not exactly happen, but if he falls far enough on draft day, he could be a nice value. Drew has the power to approach 20 home runs once again and his AVG should rise a bit after a .288 BABIP last season.
Jason Bartlett – I’m not keen on drafting players after a career year, especially when it costs a mid-round draft pick to get them. In 2009, Jason Bartlett set career highs in BABIP, line drive rate and HR/FB rate. That is to say a regression is almost a lock. I’d expect a .290-ish AVG with 20 or so steals. Good, but not worth a top ten round pick given the speed available late in this year’s draft.
Rafael Furcal – Furcal was a bust last season, yet mock draft numbers seem to suggest that there are some owners that believe he will bounce back. I am not one of them. At age 32 in 2010, his speed seems to be slipping away and he has battled back problems in the past. As I stated above with regards to drafting Jason Bartlett, there is plenty of young speed late in this draft, which makes taking a mid-round pick on a risky Rafael Furcal inadvisable.
Miguel Tejada – Tejada not only moves from the NL to the AL in 2010, but he moves into his age 35/36 season as well, which could result in a significant decline. Plus, I just don’t like this steroid taking (allegedly), age lierer (made up word) d-bag.