When David Lee Roth left Van Halen for the first time in 1985, my prepubescent world was turned upside-down. No more skyward leg kicks. No more ear-piercing "Panama" shrieks. No more ambiguous on-stage antics in leather and Lycra. It seemed the synthesizer hook in "Jump" had lost its best friend.
Luckily when the chest-belting sounds of curly-haired Sammy Hagar came aboard a year later, one of the greatest bands of the big haired age of hard rock hardly missed a beat.
What on earth does Van Halen have to do with shortstops in fantasy baseball?
Alex Rodriguez is fantasy baseball's equivalent of David Lee Roth.
The exit of the finest five-tooled player the position has ever known three years ago had Jamie, and fantasy followers everywhere, cryin'.
In his swan song as a qualified shortstop in 2004, A-Rod cracked 36 homers, drove in 106 runs, scored 112 times and stole 28 bases. Despite a banner effort from Miguel Tejada that year (34 HR, 150 RBI), even in a mediocre offensive season by A-Rod's standards, he led the position in homers and finished in the top-five in three other categories (RBI, R, and SB).
After a couple of mundane seasons, a host of Sammy Hagars injected a revitalized energy back into the position in 2006. Led by speed-demon Jose Reyes, in all, 14 shortstops finished in the Yahoo! top-150 in mixed leagues, up four from 2005.
Not the guitar-pick thin spot it once was, shortstop has become an early-round darling in '07 drafts. Unbelievably, in an expert's draft I participated in about a month ago, seven shortstops went in the first 30 picks (Reyes, Jeter, Rollins, Tejada, Ramirez, Young and Furcal). In 12 years of fantasy, never have I witnessed that kind of out-of-the-gate run on shortstops.
Here are the risers, fallers and baby crawlers at short this season:
|2007 Shortstops: On the Rise|
|Outlook: Before anyone sends me a vitriolic email complaining that J-Ro is a "no duh!" tier-two shortstop hear me out: 2007 will be Rollins' finest fantasy campaign of his career. Steals instructor extraordinaire – and cookie duster connoisseur – Davey Lopes was brought in to jump-start a Phillies base game in need of a jolt. Lopes said recently he is confident Rollins could "break 50 steals without a problem." If you thought his '06 leap in power was a shocker, wait until you see his stolen base totals this year. With an ADP near 26, Rollins is a draft-day steal – anticipate .290 BA, 22 HR, 81 RBI, 125 R, 48 SB.|
|2||Troy Glaus||Tor||3B, SS||85.7||$13|
|Outlook: Along with Beyonce's surprise appearance in this year's Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, I'm very thankful for Glaus' eight games played at shortstop in 2006. Undoubtedly the top power source at short, Toronto's cleanup hitter has vaulted up Y! drafts going around pick 52 in 12-team leagues. Despite a dismal sub-.260 BA, Glaus has averaged 37.5 homers and 100.5 RBI the past two seasons. Still in his prime years at age 30, his 80-plus walks and .358 OBP mark since 2005 arrows to another 35 homer, 100 RBI effort. But consistent-thinking owners need to be wary. Glaus was a fantasy two-face who thrived at home (285 at-bats, .270 BA, 25 HR, 62 RBI), while struggling across the border (255 at-bats, .231 BA, 13 HR, 42 RBI).|
|Outlook: Let's pray he inherited the healthy Drew genes. The younger brother of Boston's brittle J.D., Stephen earned a promotion last season in mid-July when Craig Counsell was forced to the DL with a broken rib. Although a bit overmatched at times, Drew showed flashes of brilliance, finishing with a stout .315 BA in 209 at-bats. Eventually, he'll develop into a consistent .300 BA, 20-25 homer bat. This season, anticipate some growing pains, but once his eye sharpens, his power surge will follow suit. Projected to bat second in the D-Backs lineup, look for him to finisher around .290 BA, 15 HR, 65 RBI, 75 R.|
|Outlook: On pace to surpass 20 homers for the first time in his career, a sprained finger in early August eliminated any hopes of a breakout for the blonde-locked Greene in '06. Back to 100 percent and entering his fourth full season, Greene could finish with top-five power numbers among shortstops. An excellent blend of thunder and lightning, if Greene can stay healthy, and be less conservative on the base-paths, a 25-homer, 12-steals spike is possible.|
|Outlook: Who says sophomore slumps don't exist? In his second full season in the Majors, Peralta's fantasy numbers failed to beat the tribal drum. Interestingly, Peralta posted near identical walk totals from 2005 last year, but a sharp decrease in contact rates caused his strikeout totals to soar 8.5 percent. Determined to get back to his '05 level, Peralta underwent LASIK eye surgery and worked on lower body-conditioning this winter to improve his awareness, footwork and balance. If everything clicks: .285 BA, 20 HR, 80 RBI, 85 R.|
|2007 Shortstops: On the Decline|
|Outlook: Coming over along with Cincinnati's Austin Kearns in a deal last July, Lopez went nuts on the basepaths under Frank Robinson's loose reigns. Now with the more conservative Manny Acta in command, Lopez's stolen base totals could sag slightly this season. His keen-eyed 81 walks from a year ago and relatively young age (25) imply a minimum of 30 steals, but, because of Acta, a return to 44 swipes is unrealistic. Expected to bat lead-off for an abysmal Nationals offense, look for his power totals to level off in the 10-15 range with 80-90 runs and 35 steals.|
|2||Bill Hall||Mil||SS, 3B, OF||61.3||$15|
|Outlook: As mom use to say: Never run around the house with scissors and never pay for a career year. Hall took a gigantic leap last season, doubling his 2005 homer totals in only 36 more at-bats. His Swiss Army knife versatility drives his sticker price, but his alarming 162 strikeouts in '06 is a red flag the homer honeymoon won't last. No longer a nomad in the infield, Ned Yost plans to move Hall permanently to center. With an ADP more bloated than South Park's Eric Cartman, in reality, he should be selected some twenty picks later.|
|Outlook: Guillen's '06 numbers turned a healthy profit for his owners, setting new career highs in hits (174), walks (87), runs (100) and, most shockingly, stolen bases (20). As Guillen's juggernaut spike showed us, when healthy, he can be one of the finer fantasy contributors around. However, the odds of duplicated health success are long. Other than last year, Guillen has only had one season of 500-plus at-bats (2004) in his nine-year career. Even if he avoids the DL, anticipate a slight regression in numbers: .310 BA, 17 HR, 78 RBI, 90 R, 12 SB.|
|Outlook: Infield leader of the San Francisco geriatrics, at 39, you'd think Vizquel would have one foot in the grave. Undeniably one of most alert-eyed players in the game (51:56 K:BB in '06), the slick-gloved Vizquel had a career resurgence last year notching a .295 BA with 88 runs and 24 steals. Although his contact rates and OBP numbers will sustain, the days of 20-plus steals – where his fantasy bread is buttered – seem destined to expire. Pay for a younger bat with upside before Vizquel leaves your heart in San Francisco.|
|Outlook: Somehow, and in some way, Crosby must be related to J.D. Drew. Crippled by a chronic back, once again, the much-maligned Oakland shortstop spent a plethora of days in the clubhouse spa. Once a highly touted prospect after a 20-20 season at Triple-A Sacramento four short years ago, Crosby's value has found the clearance rack. The ultimate "what if" player, Crosby turns the magical age of 27 this year, which means, if his balky back isn't covered in Icy-Hot patches, 20-25 homers are foreseeable. Unfortunately, he's already complained of some lower back stiffness. Count on him only as a bench option in 12-team leagues.|
|2007 Shortstops: Top Prospects|
|Outlook: Rapidly advancing through the Rockies minor league system in only two seasons, Tulowitzki, the seventh overall pick in 2005, is expected to start everyday at short for Clint Hurdle's bunch. At a tender 21, Tulowitzki is a future middle-of-the-order hitter who could produce slightly watered-down Miguel Tejada numbers in his prime. After a taste of big league action in September of '06, he hit a sparkling .329 in Arizona Fall League play. If he can control his aggressiveness at the plate, 15-20 homers are possible at Coors – humidor or no humidor.|
|2||Brandon Wood||LAA||SS, 3B||N/A||$2|
|Outlook: Wood is set to begin '07 at Triple-A Salt Lake City after an eye-popping .276 BA, 25 HR, 83 RBI, 19 SB effort at Double-A Arkansas last year. With an enormous amount of middle infield depth in their farm system, the Angels have designs of moving Wood to third to get his bat to the bigs quicker. If that does occur, in the event the youngster lives up to his minor league billing, Chone Figgins would have to become a nomad. For now, the future perennial fantasy all-star will have to wait his turn until trades and/or injuries occur. My gut says he'll make his debut no later than July.|
|Outlook: The subject of ample trade rumors in July last year, Aybar is a Major League ready player blocked by Orlando Cabrera. A contact switch-hitter (36:21 K:BB in 389 '06 Triple-A at-bats) with limited power, Aybar is a .300 BA staple who should be a terrific source of 30-40 steals with regular work. Because the Angels infield is overcrowded, Aybar will spend most of '07 wallowing in Triple-A unless a trade, which seems very likely, occurs.|
|4||Ryan Theriot||ChC||2B, SS||N/A||$3|
|Outlook: The former LSU Tiger will scratch and claw his way to 300-plus at-bats this season. Lou Piniella wants to use the versatile sparkplug wherever needed, possibly at short, second and occasionally in center. Known as an ideal contact hitter who draws walks and is capable of 15-20 steals, if his .412 OBP in 134 at-bats was a sign of things to come, he could overtake Cesar Izturis at short in the event of an injury or inept play. For now, NL-only owners in search of a flexible source of steals should bid an extra buck when the stacks of green begin to dwindle.|
|Outlook: AL-only players need to get familiar with Brignac. Another homegrown product in the talent-rich D-Rays farm system, the 21-year-old stitch-ripper is a future .300 BA, 25 HR, 15 SB stud. Committing a sloppy 70 errors over the past two seasons, he will need to refine his defensive skills this season at Double-A before getting a promotion. Current Tampa shortstop Ben Zobrist excites little offensively, but is handy with the glove. If Brignac curtails the grounder kicks, he could see big league action as soon as September.|