It’s no secret amongst my baseball loving colleagues that I have had what you might call an advanced stat man crush on Ben Zobrist for several seasons now. And quite frankly can you blame me? Okay well, maybe don’t answer that question, I suppose. The point of the matter is Zobrist is an advanced stat stud and in my mind could be one of the most underrated fantasy, maybe even real life, baseball players around. Now sure, you could easily argue that his real life value is greater than his fantasy value and that is a valid argument. But that don’t sway the man crush. As you may know, Zobs has recently started getting playing time at shortstop for Joe Maddon, which only enhances his real life, and more importantly, fantasy value. Already eligible at the somewhat shallow second baseman position, the addition of shortstop eligibility makes him a world class fantasy asset allowing flexibility on whatever fantasy roster he may be on. But what many fantasy owners may not even realize is the added shortstop eligibility alone is not what should be making them take notice and commence salivating. Oh no, no. If any salivating should occur, it should be at how well he stacks up against the shortstop field this season. But first off, just for kicks, let’s take a look at his value at the cornerstone.
As a two-bagger, he is ranked in the top ten fantasy wise, which is decent . I mean, that’s better than two-thirds of second baseman out there. Among second basemen this season he is tied for 5th in runs scored, 10th in RBIs and tied for 4th in homers. Now as you may or may not know, I am not so down with the counting stats, but that’s not a bad showing for Zorilla. He certainly will drop a little in the ranks because of his average hovering in the .260s, which has actually been a ton better since his slow start to the season (.203 average through May) in that department. But here’s why I really love Zorilla; his advanced stat goodness. Amongst second baseman this year with at least 200 plate appearances he is second in OBP (.373), 3rd in SLG (.460) and OPS (.833). Oh and his ISO of .199 is also third amongst those same second baseman and his .365 wOBA? That also ranks 3rd. The only second basemen with better numbers in these categories would be Robinson Cano and Aaron Hill. Well with the exception of OBP, where he only trails the immortal Skip Schumaker. So overall he’s already pretty valuable at a week fantasy position, but I know what you are all wondering, ” but Will, how does he stack up against other shortstops this season?” Why I thought you’d never ask!
You see with Troy Tulowitzki missing a good chunk of the season, shortstop has been a tad bit weak. A good spot for a fantasy team to pick up runs, steals maybe some batting average, with not a ton of pop or all-around help, for the most part. Enter the Mighty Zorilla! Zobs very well has the potential to be the best fantasy shortstop down the stretch. At the very least he is probably the most underrated. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at these numbers stacked up against the other shortstops with at least 200 plate appearances this season:
Starlin Castro (CHC)- 61
Ian Desmond (WAS)- 53
Mike Aviles (BOS)- 52
Alexei Ramirez (CWS)- 52
Asdrubal Cabrera (CLE)- 51
Ben Zobrist (TBR)- 49
Elvis Andrus (TEX)- 49
Jhonny Peralta (DET)- 49
JJ Hardy (BAL)- 49
Okay not necessarily eye-popping numbers I suppose, and yes, again, this is wihout Troy Tulowitzki thrown in there, but you may notice the mighty Zorilla is the only one in the top six in all three of these categories, which is none too shabby. Of course it should also be noted that Hanley Ramirez is not included, but looks to be headed towards being shortstop eligible once again next season and would top Zobs in homers and RBIs. But if you’re in a league with some cooler, hipper, non-counting stats, and by gum you should be, than you may want a bit more here, right? I mean, quite honestly who could blame you? Go on, tell me? No one? That’s right! So let me throw you some numbers that will show you why Zobs is gonna be a fantasy shortstop gem and a half for the rest of this season and into next.
That sexy .373 OBP Zobs is putting on the table? That is higher than every single shortstop with at least 200 plate appearances this season, and this is including Hanley Ramirez. Also, only Ian Desmond and Tulo have higher slugging percentages than Zorilla and only Tulo has a higher OPS. Oh and in case you were curious, Jed Lowrie and Ian Desmond are the only shortstops with a higher ISO and the only other shortstop with an ISO even over .175 is Tulo, who is tied with Zobs with an ISO of .199.
So while other shortstops can always pop out of the woodwork, I would say Zobs could very well end up being a top five fantasy shortstop for 2013. Now sure, wOBA, ISO, OBP and OPS do not always necessarily translate into fantasy awesomeness, but you have to like the potential, especially where you will probably be able to draft Zobs. Fact of the matter is, I’m guessing he still falls behind some of your more well known commodities when draft day rolls around, so you can probably still grab him a bit on the cheaper side. With the potential to be a top five fantasy shortstop next season, he could very well fall behind at least eight or nine shortstops, second baseman as well for that matter, come draft day. So jump on the Ben Zobrist man crush bandwagon while you can my friends!