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Deep League Thoughts: The somehow underrated Stephen Drew

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The New York middle infielder was barely a big-leaguer a few months ago, but things have changed lately.

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Years ago, I had a strategy in my fantasy leagues. Or part of one, at least. I would fill out my lineup, my bench, my pitching staff. And then, in the last three or four rounds, I'd fill out my last starter: My shortstop. For something like four, five years in a row, my starting fantasy shortstop was Stephen Drew.

When Drew was with Arizona, he was basically an everyday player. From his 2006 rookie year to 2010, he put up a .272/.332/.448 line. At the time, in that offensive era, it was only a so-so line, but considering it was an end-of-the-draft starter, it worked. Take out his randomly frustrating 2007 (71 OPS+), and the other four years were more than palatable. He was almost always available super-late in drafts. I argued for a while he was the game's most underrated player, at least from a fantasy perspective.

In recent years, what marginal fantasy value Drew once had kind of vanished. Other than a dead-cat 2013, he hasn't had an OPS+ above average since 2010 in Arizona. Last year, when he went unsigned for part of the season because of Boston's qualifying offer, Drew's partial season was a complete fall-apart disaster, with a .162 average. This year started out the same, with Drew floating around in the .160-to-.180 range. It inspired a Twitter account (@IsDrewOver200) that is nearing 1,000 followers. It briefly brought Robert Refsnyder to the majors. It created talk of Chase Utley, New York Yankee.

And it ended a little while ago. Drew sat at .179/.256/.367 July 22. Since then, in 34 games, he's hit .286/.342/.495. He's over .200! For the season now, he has 17 home runs (four off his career best, already his second-highest total, and in a generally strong Yankee lineup, he has 42 runs and 44 RBI.

Drew isn't a true-value .837 OPS guy. This hot streak has taken him from unusable to "oh, maybe." With eligibility at second and shortstop (and of course middle infield), he still has the position helpfulness, and that comes with lower offensive standards.

My old strategy of draft Drew as my starter at the very end of a draft would no longer work. He was just good enough for it to work then, and he isn't even that good now. But he's owned in only two percent of Yahoo! leagues. While he's no longer underrated in the same way I once said he was, the dude is still underrated, and he can be useful in deep leagues.