Position Battles – Shortstop Edition

Week 4 – Shortstop
It’s been an ugly year for shortstops. Real ugly. Only four shortstops currently rank among the top-100 players in Yahoo! Leagues, with none sitting in the top-40.  Three of those guys — Derek Jeter, Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes — are having down years, while the fourth, Troy Tulowitzki, missed over a month with an injury. Ben Zobrist and his .179 average since July 1 has been a massive disappointment, Elvis Andrus hasn’t stolen a base since August 1, Rafael Furcal can’t get back on the field, Stephen Drew is a disaster and Jason Bartlett has resumed being Jason Bartlett. 
There’s been a lot of talk about promoting a Grenade Free America lately, and apparently Major League shortstops are on board — only five of them have blasted double-digit bombs this season. Really, there are only seven or eight guys at the position who have put up acceptable fantasy numbers, and that’s begrudgingly including Juan Uribe, Alex Gonzalez and the injured Furcal. That leaves plenty of waiver wire scavengers in 12-team mixed leagues, and right now there’s a couple of widely available guys raking enough to be relevant in this season’s bare crop.
The Champ:  Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians – .287-2-16, 4 SB in 237 at-bats
42 percent owned in Yahoo! Leagues
The Skinny

t1_asdrubalcabrera.jpg

Cabrera headed into the year on plenty of mixed-league rosters after an impressive .308-6-68 campaign with 17 swipes in 2009. A lackluster first 35 games and then a fractured forearm on May 17 cause his ownership to plummet, as the fourth-year switch-hitter missed the next two months recovering. He scuffled initially after returning on July 20, but turned it on when the calendar turned to August with a .339 average plus nine ribbies, three steals and a long ball thus far. Things got even better over the past week, as Cabrera ran off a string of four consecutive two-hit efforts and has gone 14-for-31 (.452) over a current eight-game hit streak.
The Challenger:  Ian Desmond, Nationals – .267-9-49, 14 SB in 371 at-bats
26 percent owned in Yahoo! Leagues
The Skinny

280px-6TH_Ian_Desmond.jpg

It took a few months, but the talented rookie has finally started to figure out Major League pitching. He’s hit .302 since July 1, and an even more impressive .352 with six steals over his last 21 games. After shuffling around different the lineup during an up-and-down first half, Desmond is now firmly entrenched in the Nationals’ two-hole. With five swipes in his last 11 contest and a two-homer game on August 11, the righty batsmen is starting to truly flash the five-tool ability that Washington expected when they named him the starter on Opening Day over veteran Christian Guzman.
Root-ability
These two share plenty of similarities. Both are 24-year-olds batting in the two-hole for non-contending teams. Desmond has the always-tantalizing power-speed combo going for him, while Asdrubal is the slicker fielder who recently made one of the season’s most incredible plays — a barehanded grab and throw while basically on his back. What really separates these two? ASDRUBAL, ASDRUBAL, ASDRUBAL. It’s really one of the coolest names in sports, and the extremely childish play on it, which doesn’t need repeating, is even more entertaining. And of course, with Desmond there’s that adage about never trusting a guy with two first names (yea, really trying here). So while its not a very convincing victory, Asdrubal scratches out the lead here.
Future
Desmond’s stretch has been very impressive over the past six weeks, and he now has a solid .269-13-61 line with 15 steals in 453 career at-bats dating back to last season. While it’ll be tough for him to continue his plus-.300 clip, Desmond has the higher ceiling and his power-speed capabilities hold a lot of value. On the other hand, Asdrubal has the track record and is a sure bet to hit close to .300 the rest of the way. But when it comes down to it, he doesn’t offer enough speed or score enough with the weak lineup behind him to offset his complete lack of power. With Desmond’s recent revelation on the base paths, you know you’re getting plus production in at least one category, while Cabrera doesn’t truly excel in any. In the end, Desmond just offers more and is ultimately the guy to grab.
Winner:  Ian Desmond

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