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February 4, 2014 posted by Chuck Anderson

2014 Fantasy Baseball Better Off … Hardy v. Ramirez

2014 Fantasy Baseball Better Off … Hardy v. Ramirez
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Alexei Ramirez experienced a fantasy renaissance in 2013 by finishing seventh in fantasy value among shortstops.  He came on the scene in 2008 as a multi-category contributor, but provided the bulk of his value in 2013 with a career high 30 stolen bases.  J.J. Hardy had another steady year.  His stats have not varied much since he landed in Baltimore.  There is not a massive difference in their draft position, but they will both be picked so early in MI leagues that the gulf is significant.

ESPN Mock Draft Central FantasyGameday Mock
Alexei Ramirez 10th SS / 115th overall 15 / 198 Round 13, Pick 11
J.J. Hardy 12th / 140th 21 / 258 17, 4

Generally undervalued because he does not steal bases, Hardy was worth less than Ramirez in 2013 but is the better bet in 2014.

With a career 1.37 GB/FB and above average speed one would think that Ramirez had consistently high BABIPs.  Surprisingly, last year’s .309 mark was his career best.  He makes enough contact to keep a decent average even if his BABIP sinks.  Still, he hardly walks so his OBP stays comparatively low – just .315 for his career.  The last two years have brought significant increases in his swing and chase rates.  He was one of the ten most aggressive hitters in baseball in 2013.  Where patience can lead to power, the inverse can also be true.  Ramirez’ ISO is on a steady path down and his average fly ball / line drive distance was a measly 262.74 feet (data via Baseball Heat Maps).  On the Baseball Heat Maps leaderboard that is 265th out of 300.  His power is showing no signs of returning and with his plate discipline eroding Ramirez owners are counting on a repeat of last year’s stolen base totals.

J.J. Hardy does not hit many line drives nor does he feature great speed.  His BABIPs are consistently below average, but helping to steady his batting average is an improving contact rate.  His strikeout rate might not stay as low as 2013’s 11.3%, but if the trends hold it will stay south of 15%.  Like Ramirez he takes few free passes so his OBP is rather low – .312 career.  Unlike the South Sider, Hardy’s power appears steady.  His HR/FB distance has only the slightest drop over the last four years (again, h/t to Baseball Heat Maps).  In the last three he has arguably been the best source of power among shortstops.  He has the most home runs, tied for the most RBI, and is #3 in ISO behind Troy Tulowitzki and Hanley Ramirez.

 

Alexei Ramirez, SS, Chicago White Sox

Alexei Ramirez, SS, Chicago White Sox

Power has more of an influence over other fantasy scoring categories than speed does.  Add up Runs and RBI and Hardy beat Ramirez every year in the last three (156 – 151 in 2011, 153 – 132 in 2012, and 142 – 116 in 2013).  Considering Chicago’s suffering offense last year it is no shock that the difference is greatest.  The case between these two can be boiled down to a few simple questions:

 

–       Which will hold up better, Hardy’s power or Ramirez’ speed?

–       Which lineup is more trustworthy in contributing to team-dependent stats?  The one featuring Chris Davis, Manny Machado, and Adam Jones or the one featuring Adam Dunn, Jose Abreu, and … Gordon Beckham?

–       Is it wise to pay for a career high is steals from a player who is over 30?

 

The intelligent move would be to grab a quick outfielder a little later and enjoy the extra thump that Hardy can offer.

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