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Sleepers & Busts: Shortstop Speedsters

Elvis Andrus, TEX - ADP 130

One year ago, Andrus entered the season ranked as a Top 5 shortstop by most rankings. A year later, he's dropped to the No. 8 shortstop over at Mock Draft Central, and while that's more accurate, I still feel like if you draft him at his current position you're paying for the name more than the production.

Andrus' average has risen steadily each of the past three years, but that doesn't mean it's safe to expect growth from last year's .286. Andrus' jump from 2010-11 was the result of a markedly increased line-drive rate (19.3 percent to 23.1 percent) and a reduction in his infield pop-ups. Both of those numbers took steps back last season, but his average leapt again based on his .332 BABIP. That's a healthy jump from the .312 mark he carried into last season.

Andrus' stolen base total dropped to 21, and it did so thanks to a paltry 67.7 percent success rate in 31 attempts. Since going 33-for-39 (84.6 percent) in his rookie season, Andrus has gone 90-for-127 (70.8 percent) from 2010-12. While he runs a lot, he's not exactly a great base stealer, and last season was the worst of them all.

He'll also lose the added benefit of Josh Hamilton driving him in. Mike Napoli, too, is gone. The Rangers' lineup in general doesn't look as threatening as it once did, given Hamilton's departure and an aging Nelson Cruz. It's still solid, but it's fair to expect a decrease in runs for Andrus given the changes.

Elvis is still just 24 years old, so he could surprise with some power, but over four years he's basically been a steals-and-runs shortstop, and there's plenty of reason to believe he'll disappoint in both of those categories in 2013. Still, he comes off the board before Dan Haren, Greg Holland, Matt Moore, Salvador Perez and a host other players, including the comparable Alcides Escobar. I'd pass at his current slot.

Final Ruling: Bust

Alcides Escobar, KC - ADP 215

Speaking of Alcides, he's coming off the board a full 85 picks later. That's seven full rounds of difference between shortstops who went .293-68-5-52-35 (Escobar) and .286-85-3-62-21 (Andrus).

Andrus clearly wins in the runs and RBI departments, but Escobar stands to make up a lot of ground as the Royals' projected No. 2 hitter in 2013. After spending the first three months of the year primarily in the 7, 8 and 9 spots for Kansas City, Escobar jumped to the two-hole and never looked back on July 1. He scored 39 of his 68 runs in those 81 games (58 percent) and picked up 32 of his 52 RBIs (62 percent).

Unlike Andrus, Escobar is an 81.3 percent base stealer since being traded to Kansas City (61-for-75), and last season's 35-for-40 (87.5 percent) effort was remarkable. It's fair to expect a step back in last year's 23 percent line-drive rate, which would lower his .344 BABIP and .293 average. Still, Escobar finds himself coming off the board in the late 17th round -- after the likes of Hisashi Iwakuma, Trevor Cahill, Wade Miley, Mark Reynolds, Justin Ruggiano and Dustin Ackley. If you're looking for a shortstop and/or speed in the tenth round, wait back and grab Escobar three or four rounds later instead of taking Andrus. 

Final Ruling: Sleeper

Everth Cabrera, SD - ADP 269

Cabrera is primarily a one-trick pony in his own right, but it's quite the trick. The 25-year-old led the National League in stolen bases last season despite playing in just 115 games. Cabrera swiped 44 bases in 48 (!) attempts -- good for a mind-blowing 91.6 percent success rate.

Cabrera only hit .246 last season, but he did so with a solid enough 9.6 percent walk rate that he got on base at a .324 clip. Even if he repeats his ho-hum batting average, he'll reach enough to burn up the base paths and set the table for Chase Headley, Carlos Quentin and possibly Jedd Gyorko.

There's reason for optimism with Cabrera's average, though. He's a strict line-drive (19.1 percent) and ground-ball (60.7 percent) hitter. Cabrera only hit fly balls 20.2 percent of the time -- an excellent trait for someone with his skill set. Granted, it means he's not likely to take advantage Petco Park's new hitter-friendly right field dimensions, but if you're drafting E-Cab with power in mind you've erred somewhere along the way.

Cabrera's .702 batting average on liners last season was below the league average. If he can raise that number and cut down on his strikeouts as he did in Triple-A (17.3 percent K-rate vs. 24.5 percent in the Majors), there's room for him to improve his average. His main problem is that he simply needs to be more aggressive. Cabrera doesn't swing outside the zone because he simply doesn't swing much at all. He swung at just 41.2 percent of the league's offerings (46 is average).

With a full season near the top of the order, Cabrera could surpass 70 runs and 50 steals. With an uptick in average, he has a great shot to outperform his 22nd-round ranking. Yet Cabrera is coming off the board around the same time as minor leaguers Mike Olt, Leonys Martin and Travis d'Arnaud; non-closers David Hernandez and Vinnie Pestano; and innings eaters like Jason Vargas and Brett Myers. He's worth reaching on several rounds early, as the upside is far greater than most of his peers at that stage in the draft.

Final Ruling: Sleeper




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