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Saturday, December 19, 2015

2016 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT BUST: BEN ZOBRIST

You would never think on paper that brand new Chicago Cubs free agent signee Ben Zobrist would ever find himself as the subject of a 2016 fantasy baseball bust post after the veteran infielder was quite possibly the most sought after player on open market this winter.  If so many teams were bending over backwards in trying to get Zobrist to sign on the dotted line, he must remain one of the better players in the game and well worth an early fantasy baseball draft selection.  Well in actuality, Zobrist serves as the classic example of a better real-life player than a fantasy baseball.  With a reputation for being a clutch hitter, a tremendous clubhouse guy, and having the ability to play all over the field, Zobrist no doubt offers a lot to his major league employer.  However in fantasy baseball where it is all about the numbers, Zobrist comes up short no matter if you stick him at second base, third base, or the outfield.  With that said, let's discuss why Zobrist is in fact a bust candidate for next season.

Of course it wasn't always this way in terms of Zobrist being labeled by this publication as a draft bust.  Earlier in his career, Zobrist was very valuable in our make believe game and not only due to his extreme versatility that at times also included shortstop.  From 2009 through the 2012 seasons, Zobrist proved himself as a very good power/speed asset who hit as many as 27 home runs in a year (2009) and also took as many as 24 bases (2010).  A 20/19 campaign in 2011 further cemented Zobrist as a very good power/speed player at some very shallow fantasy baseball positions, while he also cemented his status as an intangibles guy as well. 

As always in these situations, age eventually plays a role in determining numbers and turning 35 in May, Zobrist is surely on the back nine of his career.  We started seeing the effects of age on Zobrist staring in the 2013 season when he hit only 12 home runs and stole just 11 bases while hitting .275.  Not a bust campaign by any means but sliding numbers nonetheless.  It was even slightly worse in 2014 as Zobrist went only 10/10 in the home run/steals categories, while batting just. 272.  Finally, Zobrist inched the power back up a bit in 2015 with 13 home runs but his speed looked like it was gone for good as he swiped just 3 bases.  Again at the age of 34 going on 35 we can safely assume the stolen bases are no longer a bankable asset when it comes to Zobrist's fantasy baseball game.  The power also is ebbing clearly as Zobrist can't be counted on for much more than the 13 he hit last season, although a run at 15 is possible given his new home run-leaning ballpark with the Cubs. 

As far as the rest of the numbers are concerned, Zobrist could be batting in the number 2 spot this season which means 80-plus runs and 60-plus RBI.  Reverse those numbers if he bats fifth.  Rounding out things, Zobrist is just a career .265 hitter who will be near or a bit above that number this season.

Thus when you evaluate Ben Zobrist for 2016 fantasy baseball, be sure not to live in his stolen base past and also don't get caught up in the offseason hype.  The guy is a fine major league player but a bunch less in terms of fantasy baseball impact.  His most value will lie at the second base spot given the dearth of talent there but even there he is arguably not even in the top-12 conversation this season.

2015 PROJECTION:  .275 14 HR 65 RBI 78 R 7 SB 

 

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