With shortstop week ending today, it's time to turn our attention to some options available later in deep mixed leagues, as well as alternative starting options in AL only formats. Today I'll profile 3 players. One is a late 20's short stop who struggles to stay healthy, the second provides power and should bounce back in the batting average category, and the third can provide owners with cheap speed if his club would just give him a shot at a natural opening. Let's take a look.
Jed Lowrie, HOU
2012 offered a glimpse of the potential Jed Lowrie could provide fantasy owners with as early as 2013. Unfortunately the 97 games Lowrie appeared in last year was a career high. Between a wrist injury, case of mono, and an ankle injury last year, Lowrie just can't stay on the field. It's nice to see the injuries are not recurring soft tissue type injuries, but the fact remains, we're still waiting for a full season of stats from the former 1st round pick. In those 97 games last year, Lowrie hit 16 long balls, while maintaining a BB% of 11.1 with a K% of 16.8. Lowrie will be hitting in the middle of the Astros' line up, and if healthy should challenge 20 homers in 2013. The runs and RBI's will be limited some due to his surrounding cast, and he's not a speedster by any means (5 stolen bases for his career), but should see improvement in his batting average. He'll make a solid upside MI pick for mixed league managers, and is starter material in AL only leagues (just make sure you have a decent backup in AL only formats)
J.J. Hardy, BAL
After hitting a career high 30 homers in 2011, Hardy owners saw that number drop to 22 this past season. This wasn't out of the blue as his HR/FB rate of 15.7% was well above his career rate of 11.3%. Hardy's FB% of 43.4 was also expected to regress towards his career rate (38.9%). While Hardy lost some homers, he still mashed 30 doubles, while scoring 85 runs hitting primarily out of the 2 hole in Baltimore. What surprised me about Hardy's season was the .238 batting average. After hitting .269 in 2011 (xBA of .292 that year) I had projected Hardy to stay right around the .270-.275 range in 2012. It appears bad luck played a role in the lower average this year, as his xBABIP sat at .287. While Hardy won't provide owners with any stolen bases, I expect 19-20 homers, decent counting stats and a .260 batting average. If owners are scared off by the drop in average and power from last year, take advantage of the buying opportunity on draft day this season.
Eduardo Nunez, NYY
"I look at him as a shortstop." This quote from Brian Cashman is the only thing holding Nunez back from being a viable speed option for fantasy owners in 2013. With news that Alex Rodriguez will have hip surgery and miss "X" amount of time, and free agents such as Eric Chavez and Jeff Keppinger signing else where, the fit is perfect. Well it would be if Cashman would play ball and start Nunez at third while Arod is on the shelf. In 38 games with the Yankees last year (100 plate appearances) Eduardo swiped 11 bags. On top of that Eduardo stole another 17 while playing in the minors in 2012. When given more playing time in 2011 (112 games, 338 plate appearances) Nunez racked up 22 stolen bases. The speed is there, he just needs a chance to play. While he should see some time at shortstop with Jeter recovering from ankle surgery, as well as more frequent rest days for the 38 year old captain, Nunez could fly up sleeper rankings if the Yankees are unable to land another option at third. It's a situation worth monitoring as the off season unfolds. He's worth a stash in all AL only formats, and could become mixed league relevant down the road.