By Simon Jones
Happy New Year to you all. Now that 2012 is here, my fantasy thoughts have turned to the drafts coming around in two or three month’s time. My Trade Counsel columns will return once the season comes around, but in the meantime I will be focussing on a new set of articles under the title “Devil’s Advocate”.
When I look around the fantasy baseball world, one word comes up again and again – upside. Upside is treated like gold dust. Writers and commentators fall over themselves talking about upside and players who exhibit this magical word. The way that it is talked about, you would think upside is a bankable asset. I am half expecting to see upside as a new Roto category within the next couple of years.
Looking at the multitude of early 2012 fantasy rankings around the internet I can already see the “upside” madness in full effect. Already I’ve seen Dee Gordon ranked in certain shortstop lists just outside the top 10. One writer ranks him above Derek Jeter and Erick Aybar whilst another has him above guys like Hardy and Peralta.
Now just to clarify, I’m not down on Dee Gordon. He does have a load of potential and there is a real chance he could end up as a Top 10 shortstop by the end of 2012. However that potential seems to be blinding people to the facts.
Dee Gordon only has 233 big league plate appearances. In that time he hit for a .304 average and swiped 24 bags. In isolation this looks great. However this headline obscures some warning signs. Firstly, the average was supported by .345 BABIP. Also, although the average looks good, his inability to draw a walk meant he still only posted a .325 OBP. However the biggest worry for me is that he posted pretty much all his good numbers in one stellar month and that was September – a month where some teams are resting guys for the playoffs, trying out untested rookie call-ups or having fatigued pitchers going through the motions when their team is out of the running. Gordon’s September line is crazy, 119 PAs resulting in a .372 average and 12 stolen bases. However this was on the back of an unrepeatable .404 BABIP. If you look earlier in the year, he couldn’t even muster a .260 OBP and was quickly demoted back to the minors.
At best, Gordon is only going to contribute in three categories as his power is non-existent. Many people are ranking him as if a .300 average, 40+ stolen bases and 500+ at bats are pretty much guaranteed. This definitely might happen, but there is also a very real possibility that he struggles in April and May and doesn’t even get 300 ABs in 2012.
If anyone needs a reminder of when upside doesn’t translate into results, you only need to look back to the 2010 season and another young shortstop full of potential. Everth Cabrera had stolen 73 bases in the minors in 2008 and he stole 25 for the Padres in 2009 with an average of .255 and OBP of .342. He was drafted by many in 2010 anticipating a great source of speed at a low price. In reality, Cabrera struggled mightily and only stole 10 bases in 212 ABs and posted a less than impressive .279 OBP. He then only played two games in the majors in 2011.
Now Gordon may not suffer the same fate as Cabrera, but come draft day I’m likely to choose a safer shortstop option at the point where I would need to spend a pick on Gordon.
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