Key Stats: The old argument is that people draft a veteran player that is on the decline too early because of name recognition. With Derek Jeter it’s gotten to the point where the name recognition is so big that the reverse can happen and people are actually underestimating his value. Obviously Jeter isn’t the player he was a decade ago, but he still gets the numbers. Last year when the wind and grind of a 162-game season should have gotten the best of him, Jeter hit .327 in the second half of the season. Among shortstops he was 6th in runs scored, 9th in RBI, 11th in steals, and 5th in batting average. The only category he was hurting in was home runs, but he was killed by a career worst HR:FB%. He basically won’t hurt you in any category in mixed leagues.
Skeptics Say: It’s the same question that always gets asked of his teammates Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera. Can he keep doing it? After seven straight seasons with at least 150 games played and 9 out of 10 seasons with at least 150 games played, Jeter only played 131 games last year. Only catchers and pitchers face a tougher grind than a shortstop, and we saw how Posada came apart last year even as a DH. So at 38, we have to wonder if Jeter can still handle that grind.
Peer Comparison: Here’s a look back at some Hall of Fame shortstops and what they did at age 38 versus an average season:
Honus Wager: +8 in runs scored, +2 in home runs, + 19 in RBI, +8 in SBs, – 4 points in AVG
Ernie Banks: – 9 in runs scored, – 4 in home runs, + 20 in RBI, – 3 in SBs, – 21 points in AVG
Phil Rizzuto: Played in only 31 games in what would be his last season.
Cal Ripken Jr.: Played in only 86 games, but did finish with 18 home runs and a .340 AVG
Pee Wee Reese: Average fell 45 points off career average and he missed more than 50 games.
Ozzie Smith: Stole 21 bases, played 141 games, and still hit for an average that was 26 points above his career average.
Of the 21 players that are in the Hall as shortstops, 6 including Robin Yount were retired by age 38. Cal Ripken and Ernie Banks were no longer shortstops at age 38.
Lineup Outlook: The New York fans and media have a tendency to be vocal. One of the largest out cries from that contingent of people last season was to move Jeter out of the leadoff spot and Brett Gardner into the leadoff spot. It is interesting to note that in significantly less at-bats last season, Jeter did hit 68 points better batting second than he did leading off. For his career he has the most experience batting second and has performed slightly better. The problem with hitting Gardner leadoff exclusively is that he struggles against lefties. Whatever Joe Girardi ends up deciding it doesn’t appear that Jeter will be moved to any spot other than first or second which is good for fantasy teams. The one issue I have with hitting Jeter second as a potential fantasy owner is that he will have to watch good pitches go by if Gardner is on first (something that might happen after the first inning anyway if Gardner hits in the bottom of the order).
Projection: All indications are that Jeter is in teriffic shape and there is certainly a precedent for players succeeding at his age (in addition to failing). Even at his age, he is a safer play than many of the up-and-coming players.
80 R 10 HR 62 RBI 14 SB .288 AVG .348 OBP .752 OPS in 550 at-bats