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10 Bold Predictions: Shortstop

Before we continue with the predictions, our 2012 Preseason Draft Guide is now available. Get your copy right now!

We continue with our Bold Predictions series at the “6″ position — shortstop. Boy, does it get ugly quick here, but as you will see there are a couple of nice sleeper options later in the draft with some nice category specialists. Let’s get to the predictions!

1. Eduardo Nunez will score 75 runs and steal 30 bases.

Odds: 25 percent

The Yankees have Alex Rodriguez at third base, Derek Jeter at shortstop and Raul Ibanez as a part-time designated hitter. That’s three old players that will need regular rest if New York wants to see them playing deep into October, which means plenty of opportunities for the 24-year-old to swipe some bases. Last year he had just 338 plate appearances, but finished with 22 steals. He figures to split time between shortstop and third base while also getting some time in the outfield, much like last year. The Yankees like what he brings to the table offensively and will find him enough plate appearances. Then there’s always the chance of a prolonged DL stint by either A-Rod or Jeter, which will give Nunez even more value.

2. Dee Gordon will steal 70 bases.

Odds: 15 percent

He may not be able to hit for any power (his highest ISO was .100 in Rookie Ball) and he can’t draw a walk to save his life (3.0 BB% last year), but boy can he run. He stole 24 bases in only 233 plate appearances and he attempted 31 steals. According to Baseball Reference, Gordon had 103 opportunities to steal a base and attempted a theft 30.1 percent of the time. That bested steals leader Michael Bourn by a cool 6.6 percentage points. If you extrapolate those numbers over 700 plate appearances you get 309 stolen base opportunities, which means 94 stolen base attempts. To steal 70 bases he would need just a 74.5 percent success rate.

3. Elvis Andrus will hit 10 home runs.

Odds: 20 percent

I truly believe there’s some power hidden in Andrus’ six-foot, 200-pound frame. He’s proven that he can put a charge into the ball with his career 21.3 LD%, but he only hits fly balls 21.1 percent of the time. It’s hard to hit a lot of home runs with that approach, but he’s still only 23 years old so the power has yet to develop. He made some nice strides last year by almost doubling his 18 extra base hits from 2010 (35 XBH in 2011) and if he can keep that trend going upwards he should be able to hit a couple extra home runs in 2012. Ten might be a stretch, but it’s not completely inconceivable.

4. Asdrubal Cabrera will come back down to earth and hit 11 home runs.

Odds: 25 percent

There’s been a lot of talk about whether Cabrera can reproduce his 25 home runs from last year considering his previous career high was six homers. Here’s the problem: 15 of his 25 home runs (60%) were classified as “just enough,” which means the ball cleared the fence by less than 10 vertical feet OR that it landed less than one fence height past the fence. On average, “just enough” home runs should make up around 25 percent of a player’s home runs. Don’t pay for the home runs because they may never come.

5. Emilio Bonifacio will finish as a top 75 player (current ADP: 172.9)

Odds: 25 percent

The perfect storm is brewing for Bonifacio down in Miami; he’s coming off a breakout season where he stole 40 bases in almost a full season’s worth of at bats. He will have a starting job again in 2012, and this time he’ll have a manager in Ozzie Guillen who loves to run. Last season, he put up a .296-78-5-36-40 line that pegged him 62nd overall in our PSR ranks. To add to that line, he improved his walk rate to 9.2 percent which should help him easily replicate that line. Hitting second behind a healthy Hanley Ramirez, Giancarlo “Don’t call me Mike” Stanton and Logan Morrison should give him a good chance to score even more runs than before.

6. Stephen Drew bounces back with a .280-80-15-70-10 season.

Odds: 20 percent

This one doesn’t take a lot of thinking or statistical analysis — just a medical report. Before Drew went down with that gruesome ankle injury, these are the exact types of seasons he was putting up. Of course, now there are reports that he’s going to miss Opening Day and there’s no timetable for when he will start doing baseball activities (this is why the odds are only at 20 percent). While he probably won’t meet that exact line, I expect him to produce at a similar pace once he can get on the field, making him a great second-half sleeper this year.

7. Derek Jeter will finish outside the top 15 among shortstops.

Odds: 25 percent

This ties in with my first bold prediction, but this is going to be the year Jeter finally goes down. I actually wanted to predict him to finish outside the top 20, but the shortstop position is so bad that it might be impossible.

8. Erick Aybar will score 100 runs.

Odds: 15 percent

Aybar spent some time batting leadoff last season, 42.6 percent of his at-bats to be exact, and when he did he lead off (237 at-bats) he batted .287 with 27 runs and 17 steals.  He was taken out of the leadoff spot occasionally because his average against lefties was a putrid .216, but his three-year average is .263 so I expect a bounce back in that department. If he can get at least 450 at-bats as a leadoff hitter in front of hitters like Howie Kendrick, Albert Pujols and possibly Kendrys Morales, he’ll be a cheap source of steals and runs.

9. Starlin Castro will steal over 30 bases.

Odds: 20 percent

The knock on Castro is that he doesn’t really dominate a category (average aside), but my fellow readers, the potential is there. If you look at speed score, which is a measure of not only a player’s speed, but also his baserunning ability, Castro’s 6.3 mark is right there with fellow shortstop Elvis Andrus (6.4). Now, Andrus is touted as a 40-steal threat while Castro is being projected in the low 20s. Here’s why I think Castro makes the jump in 2012:

He was 21 years old last year and had a 65 percent success rate at swiping bags. That might fly if you’re a veteran, but I bet his confidence and opportunities dwindled at times. He attempted a steal only on 10.2 percent of his opportunities according to Baseball Reference. We know he has the speed, he has 14 triples and 32 steals in two seasons (283 games), now he just needs the confidence and the green light. Dale Sveum, the new Chicago manager, likes to run more than former Cubs manager Mike Quade.

10. J.J. Hardy will hit 30 home runs again.

Odds: 30 percent

It’s no secret that Hardy has a lot of power for a shorstop as his career ISO is .172. The major issue with him is staying on the field, something he’s had trouble with since the 2008 season. Since then, he has averaged only 115 games per season and you just aren’t going to hit 30 home runs often in that few games. Not when you’re name is J.J. Hardy at least. So what’s my point? He did it last year in 129 games and has the benefit of playing in a very favorable home park (.856 OPS, .232 ISO at home last year). It’s clear that the question here is health, not skill, and I’m banking on Hardy giving us another season with 130-ish games of that sweet, sweet power.

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About the author: George graduated with a degree in Journalism, but instead of walking at his graduation, he walked down the aisle at his wedding. He’s been playing fantasy baseball for over a decade and his interest and knowledge in the sport is as big and growing as his eyebrows are bushy…and growing. (@BaseballProf)

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