Player Profile: Ben Zobrist
Ben Zobrist saw his OBP and SLG go down in 2013 when compared to 2012. He also saw his HR, RBI, runs scored and stolen base totals decline. So he's a downer for 2013 and someone to avoid in 2014? Don't be so quick to judge...
Zobrist has always had value because he plays multiple positions on the diamond, and that always buttresses a guys value in the fantasy game. Here are his games played totals for 2013 listed by games with games started in parenthesis.
Second base: 125 games (117 starts) Shortstop: 21 (11) Outfield: 44 (26)
If you are in a league with a 20 game minimum you are at least looking at a guy who will qualify at second and the outfield. Check your league rules though. While he did appear in 21 games at shortstop only 11 of those games were starts so make sure you check to see if it's total games or starts that matter in your league. Anyone who qualifies at two or three spots is worth something extra on draft day because injuries are such a huge part of fantasy sports, so having a guy like Zobrist around to offer you cover is huge. It should also be noted that Zobrist has appeared in at least 151 games each of the past five years and 156 or more the last three. He doesn't miss games.
My biggest concern with Zobrist is his wheels. Here are his steal totals the past four seasons: 24, 19, 14 and 11. That's a trend that makes sense as a player ages, but not one we want to see. The good news is that after being caught 15 times in 2011-12 he was only caught three times last season. If he continues to be discerning like that you should feel pretty solid that you'll still be getting double-digit thefts.
Zobrist isn't a big average guy, never has been and never will be. He is someone who won't kill you though (he is no Dan Uggla). Zobrist owns a .263 career batting average an in each of the past three years his average has been between .269 and .275. Oh yeah, he also had a 19.7 line drive rate and .303 BABIP in 2013. His career marks? How about 19.6 and .291. At least he's consistent.
Zobrist has also been solid for the majority of his career in controlling the strike zone. After a career worst 128 punchouts in 2011 he's reduced that number to 103 and 91 the past two seasons. Love to see that. He also walks a fair amount, at least 72 walks each of the past past five seasons, and that has helped him to post solid OBPs even though his average is never impressive. The last three years he's had marks of .353, .377 and .354. His career rate is .354. Again, extremely consistent.
The power dip is something though. We can toss out the 27 homers in 2009 as an outlier. I tend to think his total of 12 in 2013 was also an outlier after back-to-back seasons of 20 homers, but he did go deep only 10 times in 2010. Did his GB/FB rate change in 2013? Nope. It was 1.14 compared to his 1.19 career mark. Did his fly ball rate change? Nope. It was 37.5 percent compared to 36.7 for his career. That damn HR/F rate then? You got it. After marks of 12.4 and 12.5 in 2011-12 the mark fell to 6.1 percent last season. One would expect that number to creep back up, he posted marks of 17 percent in 2008 and 2009, but there's still that 6.0 percent mark in 2010 to consider. Expect 15 homers in 2014 and be hopeful for a run at 20.
Because he always gets on base he scores a lot of runs. The past five seasons he's never scored fewer than 77 times. He's also a solid run producer because of his moderate power (he's hit at least 36 doubles the past three years) and the fact that he plays everyday. That has led to 5-straight years of at least 71 RBIs. Add both of those categories together and Zobrist has gone for 71 RBIs and 77 runs scored each of the past five seasons. Only five men have done that: Robinson Cano, Matt Holliday, Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Zobrist. Add in that Zobrist has also stolen at least 11 bases each year and Ben Zobrist is the only man in baseball to have 71 RBIs, 77 runs and 11 steals each of the past five years.
Zobrist isn't elite in any category. He's not likely to improve much in 2014. Still, he's one of my favorite players. He's always on the field. He qualifies at multiple positions. He's extremely consistent offensively an is an across the board contributor. Add in that he's likely to be viewed in a somewhat down manner by many because of his dip in homers and steals and 2014 is shaping up to be a nice time to target Zobrist for inclusion on your fantasy baseball squad.
By Ray Flowers
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The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: Mon-Fri 7-10 PM EDT), Ray also hosts his own show Sunday night (7-10 PM EDT). Ray has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. Specializing in baseball, football and hockey, some consider him an expert in all three.
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